REVIEW: CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

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CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019)

 

Latest MCU film begins with the tale of Vers (Brie Larson), an elite warrior for the Kree Starforce who are fighting an invasion by shape-shifting beings known as Skrulls. Vers is captured by the Skrulls and upon escaping her imprisonment, finds out they are looking for a woman named Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), a scientist on planet D-53…Earth. Vers crash lands on Earth, where it’s the year 1995 and soon finds all is not what it seems and her strange dreams may be memories from her life there, as Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With her team commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) out of reach and Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) in hot pursuit, can Vers/Carol find out who she really is and how she got her powers?

Superhero epic is directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck from a script and story by they, Meg LeFauve, Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Nicole Perlman. Five people on a screenplay is rarely good news and too many cooks do spoil the soup here. The story is choppy and feels like exactly what it is, a script Frankenstein-ed together by five different writers. Add to that, it is one of the most flatly directed of the Marvel epics and you have a disappointing first adventure for Carol Danvers. The action is bland and routine, there is little suspense or excitement and the 90s nostalgia is overdone, with too many songs shoehorned into the soundtrack and far too many pop culture references for it’s own good. The film seems to stop dead sometimes to almost scream out “Hey, look…it’s the 90s”. It’s obtrusive. Even Captain Marvel’s spectacular powers are presented without any of the awe and wonder they need to give them impact. The only thing that elevates this by-the-numbers epic is the veteran cast.

Here is where Captain Marvel gets it’s only luster. Oscar winner Brie Larson is a great choice to play Danvers and her confident swagger and disarming smile really help the audience warm up to her and she’s very likable despite a mediocre maiden voyage. She also is solid in the action scenes and we wish that action were more worthy of it’s leading lady’s charm and spinning back-kicks. She has a great chemistry with her Kong: Skull Island co-star Samuel L. Jackson, who returns as a younger, and somewhat less hardened Nick Fury. Jackson is jackson and he seems to be having a good time as Larson’s second banana. Ben Mendelsohn is good as Talos and the Skrull has a disarming sarcasm to his delivery and a few secrets of his own. Bening, Jude Law and Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg, all do well despite underwritten parts. We even get a few brief moments from Lee Pace returning as Guardians of the Galaxy’s Ronan The Accuser, along with his henchmen Korath, again played by Djimon Hounsou…and let’s not forget “Goose” the cat.

Overall, this is one of Marvel’s lesser efforts and sometimes feels thrown together just to introduce the Captain before she returns to kick Thanos ass in Avengers: Endgame. It’s bland and very routine and it’s only a stellar effort by the film’s cast that elevates it above an outright failure. You know a movie is in trouble when it’s mid-credits and post-credits scenes are better than the movie that precedes them. At least the film opens with a wonderful goodbye to Stan Lee, where images from all his Marvel cameos replace the usual heroes in the Marvel logo sequence. A very touching moment and one wishes the rest of the movie had as much heart.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) Marvels.

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SUGAR HILL (1974)

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SUGAR HILL (1974)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

70’s Blaxsploitation flick from producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and the legendary American International Pictures isn’t one of the best of that era, but certainly isn’t among the worst. Sugar Hill tells the supernatural story of Diana Hill (Marki Bey) who is known to everyone as Sugar. Sugar’s boyfriend, Langston (Larry D. Johnson) is murdered by gangsters and the distraught woman turns to voodoo to exact revenge. Soon the men of crime boss Morgan (Robert Quarry) start to fall, as Sugar and her army of zombies hunt them down one by one and gruesomely murder them.

Flick is the one directorial effort from prolific producer and writer Paul Maslansky from a script by Tim Kelly. It’s directed a bit by-the-numbers and has a somewhat slow pace even for a 90 minute film. Sugar Hill does benefit now from it’s nostalgic charm, but that doesn’t totally get us past that some of the acting is a bit too bad to enjoy at times and the dialogue a bit too badly written to really laugh at. Don Pedro Colley’s Baron Samedi, for example, is almost comical, despite the film’s dead serious tone. There are some amusingly cheesy SPFX…especially the make-up on the zombies…and a few spooky moments, too, such as when they first rise. If that doesn’t add some entertainment to it, there are always some of gangster Morgan’s outfits to provide nostalgia and chuckles. It is also of interest to see how racist, misogynist and sexist a movie could be in that era without raising a ruckus, as in today’s politically correct times. Not to mention, as well, how much PG rated films got away with before the ratings system became more conservative in the 80s. Lastly, this story of a woman who uses voodoo to avenge her lover’s murder has it’s heroine become so gleeful at slaughtering the mobsters who beat her fiancé to death, that sometimes it’s hard to root for her. Sure the bad guys deserve it, but she is now just as bloodthirsty, or more so, than the men she stalks and kills. It’s a thin line, but sometimes it’s hard to get behind someone who’d work perfectly as the villain in another movie. Then again, Sugar Hill is not a morality play, but simple exploitation entertainment.

Overall, this is an amusing example of a distinct era of filmmaking, but not quite one of the best, though there are those that might argue that. Sugar Hill is certainly worth seeking out by those interested in Blaxsploitation cinema and does have it’s entertainment value. Also stars Richard Lawson, who appeared as “Willis” in Scream Blacula Scream, as Det. Valentine and Zara Cully as voodoo priestess Mama Maitresse.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) sexy, vengeful Sugars.

 

 

 

 

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAR 1-3

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!

1. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” $30 Million

2. “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” $27 Million

3. “Alita: Battle Angel” $7 Million

4. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” $6.6 Million

5. “Green Book” $4.7 Million

6. “Fighting with My Family” $4.7 Million

7. “Isn’t It Romantic” $4.6 Million

8. “Greta” $4.5 Million

9. “What Men Want” $2.7 Million

10. “Happy Death Day 2U” $2.5 Million

 

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE AXIOM (2017) review and NEW HELLBOY TRAILER

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THE AXIOM (2017)

Indie horror finds pretty McKenzie (Hattie Smith) and her brother Mark (Zac Titus) traveling with friends to the expansive Cinder Park to find their lost sister Marylyn (Maria Granberg). They are told by local bar owner, Leon (William Kircher) that Marylyn has gone through a portal in the woods that leads to an alternate dimension called “The Axiom”. Desperate to find her sister, McKenzie follows his directions, despite her disbelief and soon she and her friends find out The Axiom exists and it is a dangerous place indeed.

Alternate dimension spin on the traditional cabin in the woods horror…and there is a cabin…is written and directed by the aptly named Nicholas Woods. It’s a low budget indie, but one that tries to freshen up the traditional deep woods horror with some inventive twists. It has some effective moments, as our group of five meet some strange beings in this otherworldly place and experience delusion and madness amongst themselves. There is a vague explanation as to how this portal got there and director Woods knows not to let his ambitions exceed his budget. There is some effective violence and bloodshed and the sparse seen occupants of The Axiom are well rendered, mostly with practical effects. The cast try hard, with Hattie Smith making a very suitable final girl. Add in murder, betrayal and a last act that goes in an interestingly different direction and it’s an offbeat and imaginative effort that’s definitely worth a look. Also stars Taylor Flowers, Nicole Dambro and Michael Peter Harrison as Edgar, Darcy and Gerrik, respectively, the rest of the group of friends.

You can fInd The Axiom on Amazon Prime.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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A new and bloody red band trailer has arrived for the upcoming Hellboy reboot. Looks like it could be fun and I am a fan of director Neil Marshall, but still am of the old school thinking that if you are going to spend money on a new Hellboy flick, let Del Toro finish his trilogy with Perlman. New flick opens 4/12/19 stars David Harbour as Big Red and Milla Jovovich as the villain.
-MonsterZero NJ
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DARK PHOENIX GETS A NEW TRAILER!

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The latest X-MEN film, Dark Phoenix gets a new and intense trailer. The film follows psychic mutant Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) evolving into the powerful Dark Phoenix character from the comics. The film opens 6/7/19 and is directed this time by Simon Kinberg.

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source: Youtube

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REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)

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SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (2018)

Fun animated film not only spotlights new Spider-Man, Miles Morales, who took over from Peter Parker in the comics in 2011, but it’s alternate universe plot cleverly gives us five other versions of the classic character, too.

The story finds the villainous Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber) building a particle accelerator with Dr. Olivia Octavius, a female Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn), to go to a parallel universe to retrieve his dead wife and son…deaths he blames Spider-Man for. This not only brings a radioactive spider into this universe to bite Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), but Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) with her robot “SP//dr” and Spider-Man Noir (a perfectly cast Nicholas Cage), who only appears in black and white. The newly empowered Miles must now, somehow, learn to be a hero, stop the Kingpin before he destroys NYC and return the five spider-variations to their appropriate dimensions.

The plot synopsis above sounds complicated, but flows very easily thanks to a clever script by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman. The film is also very well directed by the trio of Rothman, Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti, who bring an energetic and colorful style to the proceedings. They capture the old fashioned heroics, but with a very contemporary and eye-catching visual presentation. It uses both traditional and innovative animation, mixing styles and techniques while providing an involving story. With Marvel now making Spider-Man movies with Tom Holland as Parker, it would be interesting to see a Sony led series with Miles as Spidey, animated or not. There is also a nice mix of music to go along with the almost non-stop action and the film doesn’t forget to slow down, here and there, to gives us some emotional resonance between characters. The stuff be tween Miles and his dad (Brian Tyree Henry) really works and we can see how Miles gets his sense of right and wrong from his policeman father. It gives the film a nice emotional core, which adds weight to the drama and action. With six films…and a seventh on the way…and two roles in other movies, that’s eight appearances of the Spider-Man character in the new millennium alone. Spider-Verse finds a way to make the character fresh, again…and that’s quite an accomplishment.

The vocal cast are all superb with Moore doing a wonderful job as Miles and Jake Johnson ditto as the older, grumpier Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld again proves a star in the making as the spunky Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, while Cage is perfectly fitting here as the gloomy Spider-Man Noir, a cross between Philip Marlowe and Spidey. We also get an array of Spider-Man villains along with Kingpin and Doc Ock, such as Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone), Tombstone ( Marvin Jones III), The Scorpion (Joaquín Cosio) and The Prowler (a surprise reveal). An eclectic, but very solid voice cast. Interesting how they made such a large cast of characters work when the big budget live-action films just seemed bloated and overcrowded.

Overall, this flick was a lot of fun and didn’t skimp on substance and emotional depth for it’s story. That story flows very well, thanks to skilled direction and a sharp script and the mix of animation styles is exceptionally well done. A solid effort all around that’s a real treat for Spider-Man fans and better than some of the recent live-action flicks. Watch till the end of the credits for a hilarious extra scene.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) webs.

 

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BARE BONES: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2018)

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ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2018)

Flick may be the first zombie Christmas musical ever, but, aside from that honor, it’s also quite fun. Story takes place at Christmas time and finds Anna (a delightful Ella Hunt), soon to graduate high school and dealing with things most girls her age deal with. Anna’s life, in the small town of Little Haven, is turned upside-down, however, as a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Now Anna and her dwindling number of friends must fight for survival with guts, determination…and song.

Film is directed by John McPhail from a script by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, based on Henry’s Zombie Musical short film. It is surprisingly bloody and takes it’s zombie subject seriously, while also providing some laughs and quite a few catchy musical numbers. Star Ella Hunt is quite charming in the role of Anna and even when the tone darkens, as the zombie outbreak intensifies, Hunt’s Anna remains buoyant and hopeful…and so do we. A cute, fun movie that is both musical and comedy, yet remains a horror flick, too. Mixing genres isn’t easy and this flick does it right. Very entertaining.

SONG LIST *

1.”Christmas Means Nothing Without You”-Shonagh Murray

2.”Break Away”-Ella Hunt, Sarah Swire and Malcolm Cumming

3.”Hollywood Ending”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

4.”The Fish Wrap”-Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly and John McPhail

5.”It’s That Time of Year”-Marli Siu

6.”Turning My Life Around”-Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming

7.”Human Voice”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

8.”Soldier at War”-Ben Wiggins

9.”Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”-Paul Kaye

10.”Give Them a Show”-Ella Hunt and Paul Kaye

11.”I Will Believe”-Ella Hunt and Mark Benton

12.”What a Time to Be Alive”-Ryan Joseph Burns

13.”What a Time to Be Alive (Orchestral Version)”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

 

*as per wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES FEB 22-24

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Complete estimates are in for the weekend box office

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to the reviews here at The Movie Madhouse!

1. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” $55.5 Million

2. “Alita: Battle Angel” $12 Million

3. “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part” $10 Million

4. “Fighting with My Family” $8 Million

5. “Isn’t It Romantic” $7.5 Million

6. “What Men Want” $5.2 Million

7. “Happy Death Day 2U” $4.9 Million

8. “Cold Pursuit” $3.3 Million

9. “The Upside” $3.2 Million

10. “Run the Race” $2.2 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE (2018)

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THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE (2018)

Megan Reed (Shay Mitchell) is an ex-cop still traumatized over freezing up and allowing a perpetrator to kill her partner. It’s turned her into a recovering addict who gets a graveyard shift job at the morgue. Makes sense! Along comes the body of Hannah Grace (Kirby Johnson), a young girl killed during a botched exorcism. The demonic entity that inhabits Hannah’s body hasn’t left yet and supernatural hi-jinx ensue. 

Film is directed by someone named Diederik Van Rooijen from an uninspired script from Brian Sieve. It offers almost nothing new to the possession sub-genre and pulls out every lame cliché demonic themed flicks have to offer. Any new wrinkles are few, far between and silly…like Hannah’s demon infested corpse being able to regenerate itself with each person it kills. What? It’s also hard to believe a former cop who is suffering from depression over the death of her partner would choose a morgue as a new place of work. Mitchell makes a solid enough heroine, but is let down by the movie surrounding her. Hannah Grace made almost four times it’s budget back at the box office, so someone thought this drivel was cool.

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

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ONE DARK NIGHT (1983)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

One Dark Night is a rare PG rated 80s horror featuring 80s movie icon E. G. Daily (billed as Elizabeth Dailey) and legendary “Batman” Adam West. The story finds pretty high school student Julie (Meg Tilly) wanting to join an elite club and having to spend the night in a mausoleum to do it. “The Sisters” (Daily, Leslie Speights and Robin Evans) plan to scare her, but that is the least of her troubles. The corpse of Raymar, who studied the occult, has recently been laid to rest there, but the man suspected of “psychic vampirism” may not be quite at rest at all.

Flick is directed by Tom (Friday the 13th part VI: Jason Lives) McLoughlin from a script by he and Michael Hawes. With it’s kid friendly rating this is obviously a fairly tame flick, though PG films did get away with a lot more back in the day. No better example of this than a face melting that comes later in the film. It can be atmospheric and has some spooky moments and the material is played straight, even by West. Legendary FX man Tom Burman made the legion of corpses levitated by our undead villain and filming is said to have taken place in an actual mausoleum which terrified a then 19 year-old Meg Tilly*. On the downside, it is a bit slow moving and takes till it’s last twenty minutes or so for burial chambers to start popping open and Raymar and his army of corpses to make their appearance. The 80s nostalgia helps and watching Adam West pretentiously roll his eyes to the term “psychic vampirism” is worth watching for alone.

Not a great movie, but it is fun at times, especially in a nostalgic sense. It’s very tame, considering most flicks were gore heavy at the time, and there is none of the sex that was also a staple of 80s horror. Meg Tilly makes a fine enough heroine, before The Big Chill and Psycho II got her more mainstream attention later that year, and Raymar is effective even if entirely made of rubber and plastic. It is refreshing that someone made something other than a slasher at this point in the 80s and being suffocated under a pile of corpses is a creepy way to go.

*according to Wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 Raymars (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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