MUSIC REVIEW: THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-UNDER YOUR SPELL (2017)

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THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE-UNDER YOUR SPELL (2017)

The Birthday Massacre is one of my favorite bands and they have released their latest album, Under Your Spell, three years after 2014’s awesome Superstition and it is another solid album from a band that have yet to disappoint. The Canadian Goth rockers lead by front woman…and now, author…Sara “Chibi” Taylor deliver 11 solid tunes in the Birthday Massacre style that should delight their fans just as the previous album did. This album is named after the second track on the disc, a beautiful and melodic song about a painful love and the regret that comes with it. It is one of the best tunes on a consistently engaging album. The album starts out with the moody One before giving us our title song and then moves on to the slightly more guitar heavy All Of Nothing before launching into the remaining tunes. While each song is worthy of being a favorite, other stand-out tunes are Counterpane, Games, Hex, No Tomorrow and the final track Endless, another personal favorite on this album and a great way to close it out. The songs are once again produced by band members Rainbow and Michael Falcore, who co-wrote them along with Chibi and Aaron J. Cunningham with Matthew O’Halloran contributing as well. The songs are filled with darkly poetic lyrics, such as “A bed of nails beneath these sheets” and “You were like a dream because you never came true”, that not only tell a somber tale but evoke haunting imagery when listened to with the lights dimmed and the mind free of distraction. Chibi’s vocal range is used to full effect again taking us from soulful, to haunting, to a chilling growl…like on No Tomorrow…depending on what she needs to convey. Her musicians’ contributions are all strongly present with current line-up: Rainbow on rhythm guitar and vocals, M. Falcore on lead guitars, Rhim on Drums, Owen on keyboards and Nate Manor on bass. All first-rate musicians who collaborate to form this gothic/rock band’s unique and multi-layered sound that once again permeates Under Your Spell. Another quality disc from a band who have, so far, delivered on each album they’ve released…and are great live, if you are interested in checking them out!

-MonsterZero NJ

Track Listing

1.”One”  3:35

2.”Under Your Spell”  4:31

3.”All Of Nothing”  3:31

4.”Without You”  4:42

5.”Counterpane”  3:32

6.”Unkind”  3:56

7.”Games”  3:40

8.”Hex”  3:37

9.”No Tomorrow”  3:20

10.”The Lowest Low”  3:54

11. “Endless” 3:14

3 and 1/2 guitars

guitar rating

The Birthday Massacre

Check out my review for Sara “Chibi” Taylor’s tale of death metal and revenge Boring Girls by clicking on the highlighted title or the photo below!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 9-11

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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. “Wonder Woman” $57.2 Million

2. “The Mummy” $32.2 Million

3. “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” $12.3 Million

4. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” $10.7 Million

5. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” $6.2 Million

6. “It Comes At Night” $6 Million

7. “Baywatch” $4.6 Million

8. “Megan Leavey” $3.7 Million

9. “Alien: Covenant” $1.8 Million

10. “Everything, Everything” $1.6 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. ADAM WEST!

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ADAM WEST 1928-2017

These past few years have been very hard on classic film, TV and music icons and tonight we sadly bid farewell and RIP to TV’s first Batman and a true legend of TV, Adam West. The 88 year-old actor passed away yesterday after a battle with leukemia. His Batman will always be remembered as one of the most beloved portrayals of all time.

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: internet

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLUE MONKEY (1987)

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BLUE MONKEY (1987)

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

Giant insect thriller is definitely Alien inspired as it has an elderly man being admitted to a hospital after receiving a prick on the hand from an exotic plant owned by his neighbor. The bacterial infection spreads to others and soon the old coot is coughing up a slimy larvae that has the hospital staff baffled. Meanwhile the outbreak gets the hospital sealed off for quarantine and some pesky kids from the pediatric ward feed the larvae some growth hormones…still with me, folks? The insect-like creature grows to human size and hooks up with another critter to mate…all with patients and doctors alike trapped inside the hospital with it. Now it’s up to a pretty doctor (Gwynyth Walsh) and a hard nosed detective (Steve Railsback) to stop this critter before it multiplies.

Aside from the 80s nostalgia this is a dull Alien retread where this big bug goes around cocooning hospital staff and patients so it’s mate can feed them to her young…and maybe I blinked and missed it, but how the giant bug happened upon an equally giant female is a bit of a mystery…to me anyway. In my defense the movie had trouble holding my attention. The flick gets it’s odd name from a comment made by one of the children and certainly is confusing to anyone actually hoping for a blue anthropoid as their main bad guy. This rip-off, more wisely called Insect in other parts of the globe, is credited to writers George Goldsmith and Chris Koseluk who’s unimaginative script is directed very by-the-numbers by William Fruet, who also directed the low key but more effective Funeral Home. There is little suspense and most of the action comes in the last act. There is some OK gore and the creature FX are delightfully plastic looking, but at least creature actor Ivan E. Roth is given top billing in the end credits. Most of the time FX actors are usually a footnote somewhere, so give the filmmakers credit for that. The rest of the acting, including that of veteran John Vernon, is strictly pedestrian so why not give the creature guy top credit, anyway.

Obviously, I wasn’t impressed when I first watched this many years ago as not much registered on this revisit. The film is very dull and even the rubbery make-up and monster FX couldn’t add much charm to this Ridley Scott rip-off. There is a touch of 80s nostalgia, but otherwise this was kind of a snooze-fest despite generous helpings of monster action in the second half. Probably would have been a lot more fun if the critters actually were blue monkeys!

-MonsterZero NJ

2 larvae.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: TANK 432 (2015)

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TANK 432 (2015)

Mildly spooky thriller has a group of mercenaries coming under heavy fire and taking shelter in a tank. The longer they stay locked inside, the more they begin to realize the enemy outside is the least of their worries.

Written and directed by Nick Gillespie this is a fairly routine horror that sadly becomes more familiar the more it tries to be clever. We can guess the Twilight Zone-ish reveal coming a mile away and despite a few spooky moments, we definitely get the feeling we’ve seen this all before…though, admit-tingly not in a tank. The cast are all fine, though none really make an impression and Gillespie never really takes full advantage of the claustrophobic tank interior setting. Forgettable despite what could have been an intriguing premise.

-MonsterZero NJ

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FIRST LOOK AT “ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 3!

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It’s been a slow week here at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse, but at least the man, the myth, the legend, Bruce Campbell has posted our first look at Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead season three with the caption “You should see the other guy.” It’s not much, but we’ll take it, as the first two seasons of this show have been a blast!

Obviously, Bruce Campbell is back for season three as are Ray Santiago as Pablo, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby with Aussie actress Arielle Carver-O’Neill joining the cast as a new regular. Can’t wait till the Fall! Groovy!

Sources: Twitter/Arrow in the Head.com

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BARE BONES: THE TALL MAN (2012)

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THE TALL MAN (2012)

Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs was a brutal, shocking, visceral horror that grabbed the horror film community by the balls when released in 2008. Laugier returned to the writer/director’s chair in 2012 with The Tall Man and while it’s nowhere near as brutal or horrifying as his previous flick, Tall Man shows Laugier is a skilled filmmaker that can turn the tables on you and surprise you at will. He makes you think your watching something and that you know exactly what’s going on…then proves just how wrong you are.

The story here begins in the desolate, rural town of Cold Rock, WA., a dying town where the children are disappearing at an alarming rate and a supernatural figure known as The Tall Man is held responsible. A recently widowed doctor (a mesmerizing performance by Jessica Biel) is suddenly thrust in the middle of this urban legend when her son is abducted in the middle of the night. To say anymore would be to ruin a really intense viewing where the rug is pulled out from under you many times and you won’t see it coming. Yes, it’s more of a thriller than a horror film, but Laugier keeps you guessing and keeps you surprised and gives us something quite different, but no less effective, than his 2008 shocker. Laugier is no fluke. Highly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 2-4

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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. “Wonder Woman” $100.5 Million

2. “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” $23.5 Million

3. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” $21.6 Million

4. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” $9.7 Million

5. “Baywatch” $8.5 Million

6. “Alien: Covenant” $4 Million

7. “Everything, Everything” $3.3 Million

8. “Snatched” $1.3 Million

9. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” $1.2 Million

10. “King Arthur:Legend of the Sword” $1.17 Million

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: WONDER WOMAN (2017)

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WONDER WOMAN (2017)

After appearing in last year’s Batman v. Superman and stealing that film away from her male co-stars, the comics’ leading female superhero is getting her own solo movie and it’s an origin film at that.

The movie opens with Diana aka Wonder Woman as a child (Emily Carey) on the Amazon home island of Themyscira. She is daughter to Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and being trained in the fighting arts by her aunt, General Antiope (Robin Wright). One day, as she has grown to adulthood (Gal Gadot), a plane carrying American spy, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the island and he is rescued by Diana. A boatload of German soldiers is following him and soon the warrior women of Themyscira learn of the horrors of mankind’s war, specifically WWI. Diana is horrified and believes only the God Of War, Ares could be responsible. She returns to Europe with Trevor planning to defeat Ares, but along the way learns that people can really suck.

Third film in the DC movie universe is pretty much like the last two in that there is a lot to like and yet, there are some glaring problems, too, that keep it from really clicking. One of the biggest is that this series of films takes itself a little too seriously and there are some gloomy moments and heavy atmosphere here in Wonder Woman. Another is that they are a bit overloaded, where a more streamlined story would do. It’s refreshing that they want to have a different style and tone than the Marvel flicks, but all three films (Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman) have been very bombastic and story heavy, though at least here director Patty Jenkins shows some restraint until the now DC traditional over-indulgent CGI climax. The script by Allan Heinberg, from a story by he, Jason Fuchs and Zack Snyder, still tries to cover too much ground with an origin story, a story about the horrors of war, a story about feminism and a story about battling gods. It makes the film feel choppy, especially as the origin seems rushed, as does Diana’s decision to go to war. Once we get to Europe, the film then heads to it’s climax trying to cram all the story elements in the remaining hour. Even at 141 minutes there seems to be a lot of stuff left on the cutting room floor and this keeps the film from having a smooth narrative flow which doesn’t help as the flick already has a more moderate pace than the average superhero saga. The film never really finds it’s groove. It also keeps us from getting to know any of the supporting characters, especially the villains (Danny Houston as a sadistic general and Elena Anaya as an equally sadistic scientist), who come across as bland. What keeps one interested is that there are some nice moments between Gadot and Pine and once Gadot finally suits up, about an hour into the film, Wonder Woman’s first scene soars…then we go back to the dreary horrors of war stuff till she has her showdown with Ares. The film does have a hard time maintaining it’s momentum, even with some very strong moments of our heroine in action, which are actually few and far between. It’s more about Diana learning about the real world than Wonder Woman saving the day. The mix could have been more even.

Biggest plus in this film’s favor is Gal Gadot who is wonderful as both Diana and Wonder Woman. She really nails the fish out of water aspect and the almost naive nature of a goddess among men for the first time. She also maintains a sense of dignity and strength which really cranks up to 11 when she suits up. She has grown as an actress and really fits the role like a glove in just her second outing. She’s perfectly cast. Chris Pine is fun here too, though seems to be playing a slightly toned down version of his Kirk. He and Gadot do have a great chemistry together and it is some of their little character exchanges that really entertain. Sadly their romance is also rushed and we never really get to feel the emotional resonance of it to give certain scenes impact. As stated Danny Houston plays stereotypical sadistic German general, Ludendorff. Houston is kind of bland here, though not really his fault, as is Elena Anaya as his equally underwritten right hand, Doctor Isabel “Dr. Poison” Maru. David Thewliss also appears as a British Intelligence officer who supports Trevor’s plans to go after Ludendorff on the eve of an impending armistice.

In conclusion, this film sadly suffers some of the same overloaded and over-indulgent aspects of the last two DCU films, though director Patty Jenkins does reign it in a bit and makes good use out of her leading lady’s dead-on performance and the chemistry between her two leads. Gadot’s first scene as Wonder Woman is worth the price of admission alone and it makes us wish Jenkins didn’t go all Zack Snyder (who also produced) for the over-blown CGI slug-fest with Ares. There was enough story for two or three films and the flick rushes to fit it all it, though there are some nice humorous bits in between the heavy-handed melodrama. Jenkins does balance the messages about the evils that men do and women’s rights in nicely without allowing them to become obtrusive and the film’s flaws aside Gadot is an awesome Wonder Woman.

The DCU is slowly headed in the right direction, though will audiences be patient enough for them to really lock in the right mix of elements, hopefully in one of the upcoming planned flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Wonder Women cause Gadot was great!

 

 

 

 

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CHARACTER AUTOPSY: REGGIE from the PHANTASM FRANCHISE

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Van Helsing, Dr. Loomis, Ash and…Reggie?

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PHANTASM’S REGGIE: IS A “BALDING, MIDDLE-AGED ICE CREAM MAN ” ONE OF HORROR’S GREATEST HEROES?

When one thinks of horror’s greatest heroes, the names that come to mind are those of Van Helsing, Dr. Loomis and Ash Williams…but what about Reggie? You may not think a “balding, middle-aged ice cream man”…as Mike so gently put it in Phantasm II…could be one of horror films’ greatest heroes, but let’s take a look at the man and the Phantasm films and see how this supporting character took center stage and became the true focus…and hero…of this legendary franchise!

CAUTION: There are major spoilers to the Phantasm films needed to discuss Reggie in detail. If you haven’t seen all the chapters of this franchise, you have been warned!

He does have a cool ride!

The character of Reggie (Reggie Bannister) started out in the original Phantasm as a supporting character, a close friend of Jody (Bill Thornbury) and Mike’s (A. Michael Baldwin) who gets drawn into their otherworldly adventures at the Morningside Cemetery due to his biggest and best quality…his loyalty. Reggie heard tales of grave robbing, killer dwarves and the supernatural Tall Man (the late, great Angus Scrimm) and still followed his friends through the gates of hell themselves to get their backs. Even after the destruction of his beloved ice cream truck, Reggie wades into battle with the fiendish Tall Man and it even cost him his life at the hands of the mysterious and sexy Lady in Lavender (Kathy Lester). But that wasn’t the end for Reggie. Phantasm’s epilogue revealed Reggie was alive and this may all have been in Mike’s head, a way of dealing with the death of older brother Jody in a car wreck. Now it’s just Mike and Reggie left to deal with The Tall Man who the last scene reveals may not be a figment of Mike’s grieving imagination after all!

He’s got balls!

Phantasm II starts off right where the first film ends with Reggie and Mike narrowly escaping The Tall Man. Mike is institutionalized, while Reggie has convinced himself it never happened. The story then jumps to years later with an adult Mike (James LeGros) being released and vowing to hunt down and destroy The Tall Man once and for all. Loyal friend and comrade-in-arms Reggie goes with him and tracks the villain to Perigord, another in a series of towns the otherworldly fiend is decimating. Here we see Reggie transform into a four-barreled shotgun wielding warrior who charges into battle alongside Mike, guns and chainsaws blazing. No longer is he the timid and cautious ice cream man of the first film. Here he is a soldier against the forces of evil and Mike’s equal. We also get to see a bit of Reggie the ladies man as he puts the moves on sexy hitchhiker Alchemy (Samantha Phillips). Reggie is no longer a supporting character, but a lead character and an ass-kicker!..though still providing some welcome comic relief as he is still Reggie after all.

He gets the ladies!

Phantasm III found Reggie as the main character with Mike (A. Michael Baldwin returning to the role) being taken by The Tall Man and the loyal Reggie loading up the Hemi-Cuda in hot pursuit. Reggie battles zombies, looters and those pesky silver spheres to rescue his lifelong friend. He picks up a few allies in Rocky and Tim (Gloria Lynne Henry and Kevin Connors) and even finds time to put the moves on Rocky when not battling The Tall Man and his minions. If anyone is becoming a thorn in The Tall Man’s side, it’s Reggie. Things look bad for Reggie at the climax, but this is one ice cream man you shouldn’t underestimate.

He rocks!

The fourth film, Phantasm IV: Oblivion, again finds Reggie again in pursuit of Mike. This time Mike is fleeing of his own accord as The Tall Man is trying to turn him into one of his minions. Reggie once again is in hot pursuit in his Hemi Cuda and this installment shows that the Tall Man is quite aware of Reggie as a threat to his plans, as he sends minions to stop him. Reggie must contend with such threats as a zombie state trooper (Bubba Ho-tep himself, Bob Ivy), a foxy blonde (Heidi Marnhout) who is not quite what she seems and even possibly the spirit of dead friend Jody, who might now be under the Tall Man’s control. The fact that the Tall Man feels the need to stop the loyal Reggie from finding his prey first, proves Reggie has gone from the timid ice cream man of the first film to a warrior that gives the alien mortician cause to be concerned. 

He’s not afraid to look death in the eye!

Phantasm: Ravager has apparently brought the series to a close, as Angus Scrimm is sadly no longer with us, but also nails the concept that Reggie, not Mike, has become the main character. Not only is Reggie once more hunting for the elusive Mike, but there is a subplot that features Reggie as an old man in an institution suffering from dementia. He is visited by Mike who tells him the whole saga of The Tall Man and his flying spheres are just a delusion and all the years of battling the fiend are in his head. As this series is known for it’s surreal narrative, we’re never quite sure if this is true, or one of The Tall Man’s mind games that he has played for years. The film even features Reggie coming face to face with The Tall Man and being offered a truce…if this isn’t recognizing Reggie as a true threat, than what is? The final chapter leaves us with a very apocalyptic end showing Jody, Reggie, Mike and even Rocky reunited to continue battling The Tall Man, even with his appears to have finally taken over the Earth. It’s a fitting end as no film in the Phantasm series ever let one “rest in peace” with an all conclusive finish and shows Reggie willing to fight until the end.He’s possibly the only human that keeps The Tall Man up at night!

So, there you have it. A character that started out as a humble ice cream man and supporting character, took center stage and grew from timid comic relief to an ass-kicking freedom fighter who gave even The Tall Man cause to beware. He is a fighter…though sometimes a bumbling one…and a lover, as in each film, no matter the peril, Reggie takes time to pursue the ladies…with mixed results. He is a loyal friend to Mike and his brother Jody and it is his loyalty that makes him so lovable as his tenacity makes him admirable. As the series comes to a close, it is Reggie’s journey that we have really been watching and it has been a journey from guitar-playing, ice cream man to gun-toting soldier in the fight against evil. A true hero if there ever was one.

The man behind the character…Reggie Bannister is a talented actor and legendary horror icon who should rightfully take his place along with Peter Cushing’s Abraham Van Helsing and Bruce Campbell’s Ash Williams as one of horror’s greatest heroes!

-MonsterZero NJ

You can take a look at our reviews of each installment of this legendary franchise by clicking on the respective title: Phantasm Phantasm IIPhantasm III, Phantasm IV: Oblivion and Phantasm: Ravager!

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