CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: YÛKO MORIYAMA!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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YÛKO MORIYAMA

photo by Kouki Nishida

This installment of Cult Classic Cuties, much like our focus on Daniela Doria, is going to profile an actress who starred in three genre films for the same director during the course of her short film career. Yûko Moriyama was a Japanese TV and movie actress who had a brief acting career from 1991 to 2000. She had Japanese anime girl looks and at only five foot four could convey a toughness and strength that made her believable as an action star. She worked for Keita Amemiya in three films ranging from 1991 to 1997, including his breakaway hit, Zeiram. In all three she played women warriors and that seemed to get her typecast as such for the rest of her short career. She made an impression, however, that has earned her Cult Classic Cutie status, despite acting for less than a decade.

(You can read my full reviews for her three collaborations with Keita Amemiya by clicking the highlighted titles below!)

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As sexy, alien bounty hunter Iria in Zeiram!…

Reprising her role as Iria with a slightly new look in Zeiram 2!…

As aliens Abira, Marien and Kuzto (in that order) in Moon Over Tao!…

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photo by Kouki Nishida

Moriyama apparently retired from acting after 2000 with her final film being a Hong Kong flick set partially in Japan called Tokyo Raiders. The actress is still a cult favorite among fans for her portrayal of Iria and it’s disappointing that she left acting so soon and never reunited with Amemiya at least one more time to make the Zeiram flicks a trilogy.

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here for the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES JUNE 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. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” $29.2 Million

2. “Deadpool 2” $23.3 Million

3. “Adrift” $11.5 Million

4. “Avengers: Infinity War” $10.3 Million

5. “Book Club” $6.8 Million

6. “Upgrade” $4.45 Million

7. “Life of the Party” $3.45 Million

8. “Breaking In” $2.8 Million

9. “Action Point” $2.3 Million

10. “Overboard” $1.9 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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BARE BONES: THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT and HUNTING EMMA

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THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT (2018)

Sequel to the disturbing The Strangers, finds couple Cindy and Mike (Christina Hendricks and Martin Henderson) going with son Luke (Lewis Pullman) on a road trip to bring troublesome daughter Kinsey (Bailee Madison) to boarding school. They stop at an uncle’s trailer park for the night and soon find themselves hunted by three masked individuals.

Original film director Bryan Bertino steps aide and lets Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down) take the helm, though he does write the script with Ben Ketai. The result is a more routine slasher flick, but one that does have some effective scenes, especially in the last act When Kinsey goes on the offensive. It’s entertaining enough and has some very violent moments, though is held back by characters doing some very dumb things…even for a horror flick. It’s also hard to believe that a character afraid to pull the trigger in one scene, would suddenly find the balls to stab someone repeatedly a scene later. In fact, why introduce the gun into the scenario at all when it’s never fired, lost quickly, and doesn’t become a factor? Roberts does direct competently and as slashers go, it gets the job done well enough, but is nothing memorable like the original home invasion flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HUNTING EMMA (2017)

South African thriller finds peace-loving, school teacher Emma (Leandie du Randt) heading across the Karoo to go visit her father (Tertius Meintjes). When her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, she happens across the murder in progress of a police officer (Drikus Volschenk) by a gang of six vicious drug dealers. Now Emma finds herself pursued across the wilderness by the gang, who don’t realize that Emma’s father was a special forces soldier and he taught his daughter everything he knows.

Very similar to the recent Revenge, this flick is directed solidly by Bryon Davis, though from a weak script by Deon Meyer. The script has not once but twice, a male character having the advantage over Emma, but putting down his weapon to teach her a lesson either bare-fisted or by engaging in an old school, Western-style gunfight. It’s silly. At these points in the film, Emma’s proven she’s dangerous. Are these guys that in need of macho validation? Secondly, the script assumes we’re too dumb to get the point and after numerous flashbacks of Emma learning survival tactics from her dad, there is a painstakingly long exposition scene with her dad explaining this all to a friend (Albert Maritz) in explicit detail. We already got that she’s a bit of a Rambo in Daisy Dukes, it’s completely unnecessary and adds ten minutes to a film that would have benefited from a slightly tighter edit job. The bad guys are quite routine, though the film does entertain and leading lady du Randt is solid and likable as the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Emma. A tighter script that didn’t insult our intelligence would have made this a lot better as the action and violence is effective.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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FAREWELL AND R.I.P. FRANK DOUBLEDAY!

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FRANK DOUBLEDAY 1945-2018

Actor Frank Doubleday played “Romero” one of Escape From N.Y.’s most infamous characters and the “White Warlord” in John Carpenter’s earlier Assault on Precinct 13. Sad word came out tonight, via his wife, that he passed away on March 3rd after a battle with cancer. His characterization of the eccentric Manhattan Island Prison inmate in Carpenter’s classic set the tone for the entire film and instantly made him an 80s movie icon. Doubleday, who was 73, also appeared in the 1985 action sequel Avenging Angel.

-MonsterZero NJ

Source: internet

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: FERAL (2017)

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FERAL (2017)

Flick has a group of six grad students taking a hiking trip deep in the woods. Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) has brought her new girlfriend Jules (Olivia Luccardi) and officially come out to her friends, not all who take her pronouncement well. None of them, however, are prepared when a vicious and animalistic man attacks them in the night, wounding one and killing another. On route back to get their friend help, they encounter mysterious, lone woodsman Talbot (Lew Temple) who takes them to his cabin. After some provocation, Talbot warns them that what they encountered carries a virus that kills it’s host and takes over the body…and their wounded friend will eventually turn. Alice and company soon start to wonder how he knows so much and if he is possibly more dangerous than what now hunts them from outside.

A zombie is a zombie and whether it runs or walks, whether you call it a virus or if it’s supernatural in origin, it’s still a zombie. The creatures in Mark Young’s film, that he co-wrote with Adam Frazier, kill their prey, who themselves reanimate at night, vicious and hungry. Physically they more resemble the creatures from Neil Marshall’s The Descent, but otherwise, they are the living dead. Young and Frazier do try to freshen them up a bit, like the virus being dormant in the daytime and the creatures seeming to have animal-like intelligence, but at the core they are still zombies who need to be shot in the head to be put down. Even so, the attack scenes are still very effective, there is some nice tension and the flick gets quite gruesome, as the camping friends are besieged by these “feral” creatures of the night. The horror elements here are familiar, though still work well. What makes this film even more interesting, though, is strong characters, particularly lead Scout Taylor-Compton as Alice and the very effective sub-plot involving her and her girlfriend Jules. Taylor-Compton is a real bad-ass here, yet she is a caring one who is trying to protect her friends. Before the first “feral” creature appears, there is some tension as Alice is concerned for how her religious parents will react to her new relationship and her friend Jesse (Brock Kelly) is very un-excepting of her announcing she’s gay. Obviously Jesse focuses his anger on Jules and it’s no surprise at one point there will be a confrontation between the two. Young is a competent filmmaker and does use the familiar tropes solidly, but it is his characters and the insertion of some topical human drama that makes this undead chiller stand out a bit from the pack.

We have a good cast here. Mark Young uses Rob Zombie film vets Taylor-Compton and Lew Temple very well. Scout Taylor-Compton gives us a very strong and intelligent young woman, but one with a heart. She fights hard for her friends and loved ones and while it’s a bit convenient that she is a med student and from a “family of hunters”, she is a very strong final girl. She conveys a toughness and a sensitivity. She also has very good on-screen chemistry with Olivia Luccardi (It Follows) as Jules. They come across as a believable couple and it helps make their characters endearing. There is also some interesting tension between them, as differing opinions on dealing with infected friends causes conflict between the lovers. Temple is good as the woodsman who knows far more about these creatures than he first lets on. He has a dark secret and the actor keeps us curious till it’s revealed. It’s not anything we haven’t figured out, but Temple plays it well. Renee Olstead is fine as the injured Brienne, Landry Allbright is a standout as Gina, George Finn is likable as the ill-fated Matt and Brock Kelly conveys the anger and ignorance of Jesse very well. A good cast.

In conclusion, while still a zombie film at it’s core, it’s solidly directed by Mark Young. The horror scenes are gory and effective, and he and co-writer Adam Frazier try to make their zombies a bit different, which begs the question why they needed to be zombies at all and not just infected and crazed humans. What makes the film really worth a look is strong character interaction, a solid heroine in Scout Taylor-Compton’s Alice and an interesting story element finding a young woman opening up to her friends about being gay and the mixed reactions she and her girlfriend get. The dynamic of Alice fighting to save her friends, especially Jules, gives the film a fiery spark that adds something beyond good use of very familiar tropes. Definitely worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 bullets so you can shoot ’em in the head!

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 25-27

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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. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” $83.3 Million

2. “Deadpool 2” $42.7 Million

3. “Avengers: Infinity War” $16.5 Million

4. “Book Club” $9.45 Million

5. “Life of the Party” $5.1 Million

6. “Breaking In” $4 Million

7. “Show Dogs” $3.07 Million

8. “Overboard” $3 Million

9. “A Quiet Place” $2.2 Million

10. “RBG” $1.1 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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REVIEW: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

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SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

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

Latest Star Wars flick is an unnecessary origin story for iconic pilot Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich). It gives us brief glimpses of his life as a street thief, to his days as an imperial trooper, to meeting Chewbacca and finally his start as a smuggler, including his legendary Kessel Run. And as far as a story, that’s kinda it.

Written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, the film was a troubled production that saw original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller leave the project to be replaced by Ron Howard, who did a lot of re-shoots. While the resulting film is not the mess once might anticipate, it’s also an underwhelming flick that never finds it’s footing or feels like the making of a legend it should. First problem is that actor Alden Ehrenreich never evokes Han Solo. If not for Chewbacca standing by his side and eventually getting in the pilot seat of the Millennium Falcon, he could be any generic space hero. Secondly, with all the iconic moments that are presented, such as getting his name and his gun and meeting his famous furry co-pilot, none of them are presented with much weight. The story also seems to be a bunch of set pieces strung together and thus we have no emotional involvement as the rebooted Han goes from place to place, meeting scoundrels like Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), villains like Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) and his sweetheart turned criminal arm-piece Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). It’s almost like they were making it up as they went along. None of it has any emotional resonance and aside from a few fun action scenes, none of it is very memorable. It rarely feels like a Star Wars film though having a bit of a different look and a grittier tone, was, at least, refreshing.

The cast all try hard, but no one really shines in what probably was a difficult shoot. As stated, Alden Ehrenreich never evokes the legendary character he plays and is a bit too much of a pretty boy to be the space pirate we all know and love. Harrelson phones in his Tobias Beckett, which is a shame as Woody is usually the one to add life to a movie. Clarke is pretty, but doesn’t generate much heat or make her character very memorable. She’s a generic love interest trying and failing to be a bit of a femme fatale. Her character just comes off as flat. Bettany is also very bland as villain Vos. He could be a generic gangster from any movie. The only person who generates some life is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian and he, sadly, isn’t given all that much to do.

So, it’s not quite the disaster early word was predicting, but is still disappointingly mediocre. Rebooting a character this iconic has to be done just right…like J.J. Abrams Star Trek casting. Here Alden Ehrenreich falls short. The rest of the cast, Glover aside, phone in their performances and the story is too thin to get one emotionally involved. There is some fun action, though the film fails to make it’s iconic moments…well, iconic. A disappointing attempt to prequelize one of cinema’s most beloved scoundrels.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 Millennium Falcons.

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BARE BONES: THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

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THOROUGHBREDS (2018)

Story takes place in a wealthy suburb in Connecticut and finds emotionally troubled Amanda (Olivia Cooke) facing trial for animal cruelty for brutally euthanizing her crippled horse. She is currently being tutored by Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) who hates her jerk of a new step-father Mark (Paul Sparks). Amanda suggests they kill him and Lily takes her up on the idea. When recruiting a local drug dealer (Anton Yelchin) to do the job fails, they begin to plot how to do it themselves.

Off-beat flick is written and stylishly directed by Cory Finley, but when all is said and done, doesn’t have much of a point. Unhappy kids plotting the murder of a parent or step-parent is nothing new and though it holds our attention, it ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere all that interesting. There is a bit of an unexpected twist towards it’s conclusion, but even that doesn’t add much overall to the scenario. Taylor-Joy and Cooke both deliver really good performances, especially Cooke’s emotionally detached Amanda, but Paul Sparks is just your stereotypical douche step-parent, though good at it. It’s bittersweet to see Yelchin in one of his last performances and his turn as delinquent Tim illustrates why he is sadly missed. Entertaining to a degree, but not unique enough to make a well-worn plot feel fresh and it comes to a conclusion that doesn’t feel like the film actually accomplished anything. Acting gives it a little extra in the rating.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE CHURCH (1989)

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THE CHURCH (1989)

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

Italian horror tells the story of a church that was built over the mass grave of devil worshipers, slaughtered by a squad of knights in medieval times…the era, not the restaurant. In modern day, new church librarian Evan (Tomas Arana) discovers the catacombs beneath the church floor and opens the seal. It unleashes the evil trapped below and locks everyone inside with it. Now possessions, demon manifestations and all sorts of demonic hi-jinx ensue as valiant Father Gus (Hugh Quarshie) tires to stop it.

This is a stylish, if not a tad silly, horror flick from Dario Argento protégé, Michele Soavi. The director and co-writer (along with Argento and Franco Ferrini) acted and worked behind the camera for both Argento and Fulci and at least visually, he learned well. The Church is never really scary and at times there are some unintentional chuckles, but design-wise there is some very creepy stuff here and some startling imagery. Soavi does give it some atmosphere, that is occasionally undone by the bad dialogue and sub-par acting, but also doesn’t skimp on the blood and isn’t afraid to show us some very disturbing sights. We have Evan pulling out his own heart, a man attacked by a fish creature in the holy water basin and a goat-headed demon having it’s way with pretty heroine Lisa (Barbara Cupisti). It’s an entertaining flick, though one probably must have a taste for Italian horror to really appreciate it. These spooky shenanigans are supposedly based on a book, The Treasure of Father Abbot Thomas by M.R. James, though after reading the synopsis, it doesn’t sound like there is much of a resemblance to the source material here.

There is no point discussing the acting to any degree, as no one here is going to win any awards. Hugh Quarsie is a noble enough hero as Father Gus, Tomas Arana is creepy as a possessed Evan and Barbara Cupisti is a cute and quite nubile heroine, who shows some alluring skin during her demon nookie sequence. There is also a small role by a very young Asia Argento as Lotte, the daughter of the church caretaker (Roberto Corbiletto).

Overall, this is creepy fun. It has some very effective imagery and atmosphere that helps even things out with the less than stellar dialogue and acting. There is some gore to go along with it’s demonic manifestations and director Soavi keeps things moving, so we don’t have much time to ponder too many questions. An entertaining Italian horror from the director of Cemetery Man.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 candles which are like everywhere in this movie.

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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE ESTIMATES MAY 18-20

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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. “Deadpool 2” $125 Million

2. “Avengers: Infinity War” $28.6 Million

3. “Book Club” $12.5 Million

4. “Life of the Party” $7.7 Million

5. “Breaking In” $6.4 Million

6. “Show Dogs” $6 Million

7. “Overboard” $4.7 Million

8. “A Quiet Place” $4 Million

9. “Rampage” $1.5 Million

10. “RBG” $1.3 Million

 

source: Box Office Mojo

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