NETFLIX’S “THE PUNISHER” GETS A TRAILER!

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Netflix may be keeping the release date for it’s new series The Punisher a secret for now, but they have finally released a trailer for the upcoming Marvel adaptation. Jon Bernthal stars as vigilante Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” who is avenging the death of his family.

Source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

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THE LAST WITCH HUNTER (2015)

Flick opens in the Middle Ages where witch hunter Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has hunted down the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) who has unleashed a plague and slaughtered Kaulder’s family. Before she is slain, she curses him with immortality so he may forever feel the loss of his loved ones. We then move forward to modern day where Kaulder works for the Axe and Cross, a church run organization which polices the witch population. All is well till an old enemy turns out not to be dead and seeks to exact a horrible revenge on Kaulder and the rest of the world.

Tedious and silly flick is directed very by-the-numbers by Breck Eisner from a barely coherent script by Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless and Cory Goodman. While the FX are decent and there is plenty of action, the plot is a completely nonsensical mess and even star Diesel does not seem like he wants to be there. There is no energy or urgency to any of the proceedings and it’s all rather dull and lifeless despite the heavy fantasy and action elements. It almost seems like no one involved really wanted to make this movie…or write it for that matter…as it has no heart or soul and all the performers are at paycheck level. Also stars Game Of Throne’s Rose Leslie, Lord Of The Rings’ Elijah Wood and the incomparable Michael Caine somehow got dragged into this forgettable mess as Kaulder’s handler, Dolan.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NIGHT CREW (2015)

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THE NIGHT CREW (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

While this flick is 95% action movie…and a bloody one at that…there is a bit of a horror film element that seems to exist to set up an even more interesting sequel/further adventure…and it kinda works.

The Night Crew has four hardened bounty hunters, Wade (Luke Blade 2 Goss), Ronnie (Paul Sloan), Crenshaw (Bokeem Woodbine) and Rose (Luciana Faulhaber) going deep inside Mexico to recover fugitive Mae (Chasty Girlhouse Ballesteros) and bring her back to the states for a big payoff. Unknown to them, Mae is also wanted by a powerful drug cartel and the four and their quarry find themselves surrounded by an army of vicious killers who want the girl back and them all dead. Adding to the already desperate situation, is that Mae is more than she appears…as is the drug lord (Danny Trejo) who hunts her.

Low budget action flick is actually a very satisfying bullet and blood-fest with an interesting supernatural twist thrown in by writer and star Paul Sloan and co-writer/director Christian Sesma. This ‘element’ not only adds something a little different to the story, but sets up an even more interesting direction if there is a sequel…and hopefully there is. The movie is competently directed by Sesma and while some of the elements are very traditional to testosterone fueled flicks like this, they are stylishly presented and Sesma does serve up a lot of intense and bloody action on his moderate budget. Add in some very pretty ladies in Faulhaber and Ballesteros and you have a fun and entertaining B-movie action flick with a touch of horror movie thrown in. The movie is not perfect. There are some plot holes and lapses in logic, but you watch a flick like this for the action and on a low budget level it delivers. The horror movie elements not only add something interesting to the characters involved, but Sesma and Sloan work it so it sets up a potentially more interesting and entertaining direction as well, if we see more of some of these characters. It’s just enough of a twist to give the more traditional action elements an off-beat angle and an air of mystery and that helps give this enough of a boost to lift it out of the routine. Sometimes entertainment is all you are craving and this flick does serve some up without trying to be more than it is.

The cast all work well in the context of the material. The underrated Goss is solid, as usual, as is his hard-nosed team of Sloan, Woodbine and sexy Luciana Faulhaber. The beautiful and exotic looking Ballesteros gives Mae the mystery and sensuality the character needs and she can be a badass, too, when she needs to be. The villains are appropriately slimy and vicious and Danny Trejo is…well, Danny Trejo…as the cartel king with an even darker aspect to his personality. There is also an amusing cameo by Jason Mews as a security guard who gets caught in the middle of a bullet-riddled bloodbath.

Is The Night Crew a classic…no. Is it an entertaining B-Movie with an intriguing horror element thrown in?…for sure! I liked this flick. It gives us a lot of intense action and spattering blood on a small budget. We get some tough guy anti-heroes and vicious villains and a couple of gorgeous ladies who can kick-ass, too. It won’t win any awards, but it will entertain you on a B-movie level and director Christian Sesma knows his material and delivers it in a no-nonsense way, yet not without a bit of style. A solid B-movie action flick made for a night on the couch and a few of your favorite brews. Also stars Don Swayze and there might be an uncredited cameo by cult favorite director Robert Rodriguez, but the camera never focused on the familiar looking bartender to tell for sure!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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REVIEW: LUCY (2014)

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LUCY (2014)

Lucy is an audaciously ridiculous sci-fi/action flick from writer/director Luc Besson based on the myth that we only use 10% of our brain capacity and what would happen to one young woman, when that changes. Science aside, it is a flick that is so brazenly off the wall that it is very enjoyable on a popcorn fun level, despite how silly it all is… and Besson knows it.

The film tells the overblown story of student Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) who is tricked into delivering a briefcase to dangerous drug lord Kang (Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik). Kang decides to use the terrified young woman as a drug mule to smuggle a new synthetic drug to it’s distributors. When the young woman is roughed up by one of the thugs, the bag breaks open and the experimental drug leaks into her body and begins to increase her brain capacity transforming Lucy into a superhuman who can control more and more with her mind as her brain function increases. But, as she tries to find a way to deal with her new abilities by seeking help from renown scientist, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman)… Kang is in hot pursuit to get back his drugs and avenge himself on her. Car chases, pseudo science and telekinetic activity ensues.

Besson’s flicks as both director and producer can be very hit or miss, with The Fifth Element and The Professional being his best. Lucy isn’t quite up to those two but, if you can go with it’s outlandish premise, it can be a fun 90 minutes of action and Star Trek level sci-fi. There is plenty of action throughout and a lot of colorful SPFX sequences too, especially the more powerful Lucy becomes and she gains control over the people and things around her. Besson is having a good time with his premise and let’s you know this is all in fun by adding in snippets of stock footage to accent what is going on on-screen, such as footage of a leopard stalking it’s prey inter-spliced with Lucy walking into the hotel to deliver the briefcase. It’s silly but, that’s the point. Mixed in with the silliness and the outrageous science techno-babble, Besson gives us some surprisingly bloody violence with a few fast-paced car chases and ballistic shoot-outs that he does do very well and always has. The action and FX are all top notch and despite the ridiculousness of the whole thing, the cast take it very seriously too and it helps us to go along with it as much as we do.

As for that cast, it’s Johansson’s show and she gives a very good performance as a woman coming to terms with her transformation into something more then human. She handles the action scenes well and in the brief time before her transformation, she gives us a glimpse of a very likable, if not slightly ditzy young woman. We continue to like Lucy even after she transforms into logical, uber-Spock/Carrie and stick with her even as she becomes more emotionally detached from the world. Besson appears to like strong female characters in his movies and Lucy is no different. Freeman is good, as always, creating a vastly intelligent man who meets Lucy and is drawn back into the boyish sense of wonder that probably got him interested in science to begin with. It’s fun to watch him stare in awe at Lucy as she does her telekinetic thing and the actor is charming as ever. Min-sik is a typical, vicious drug lord character but, does it well, as does Amr Waked who presents a noble policeman in his Del Rio, a cop who gets drawn into being Lucy’s ‘partner’. When dealing with a silly story like this, a solid cast goes along way in getting us to buy it, at least until the movie is over and we start thinking about it… but, by then it’s too late, we’ve had a fun time.

So, overall I liked Lucy. It’s outrageously ridiculous but, Besson knows it and keeps things moving fast and furious enough to keep us from thinking too much about it. It’s colorful, crazy and filled with a lot of action and SPFX and with a strong turn by Scarlett Johansson who really has come into her own with her performances in recent flicks like Don Jon, Her and Under The Skin. Sure when it sinks in, you realize what a dumb movie it is, but, for the rapid-fire 90 minutes that it’s blasting it’s action and imagery at you, it’s a bloody fun popcorn flick that knows exactly how ridiculous it is and runs with it. Overall, kinda forgettable?… maybe… a lot of fun?… yes, it is.

3 Scarletts.

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REVIEW: THE RAID 2 (2014)

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THE RAID 2 (2014)

The Raid was a vicious and high intensity Indonesian action thriller about a squad of cops who raid a drug dealer controlled tenement building and become trapped inside, fighting tooth and nail to get out alive. The film, which I referred to as a “Shaw Brothers movie on crack… and lot’s of it.” was brutally violent, but had a ferocious energy in it’s action scenes and became a hit and a sensation with movie fans. Director/writer Gareth Evans now returns with a sequel that finds surviving cop Rama (Iko Uwais) on a solo mission that may turn into a suicide mission as well.

The film picks up where the first one left off with Rama being asked by a clandestine police unit to go undercover in a mob family to weed out corrupt police officers, including corrupt police commissioner Reza (Roy Marten), who are hindering the efforts of bringing down mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). This means spending two years in prison as ‘Yuda’ a small time thug, to get close to Bangun’s imprisoned son Uco (Arifin Putra) who he befriends and goes to work for upon release. Now deep undercover in Bangun’s organization Rama/Yuda get’s more then he bargained for as Uco and a sadistic gangster named Bejo (Alex Abbad) plan a power coup that not only endanger Rama’s mission, but put him in the middle of a bloody internal mob war as well.

I liked this sequel, but not quite as much as I did the previous flick. Sure the film is filled with the hyper-active, savagely violent action sequences that this series is renown for, but at 150 minutes long, these sequences of video game style violence wear you out long before it’s over…though the climactic fight between Rama and an assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman) in a kitchen is something to behold. Action scenes aside, the plot is basically a routine ‘cop under deep cover’ crime drama and without all the crazy kinetic action, the film would be rather unremarkable story wise. When it comes to the cop undercover elements, we’ve seen it all before, from the yearning for missed loved ones to the blurred lines of loyalty. But Evans keeps things moving and while it doesn’t have quite the lasting intensity as the original flick, it still has some ballistic fights filled with Evans’ furiously moving camera. He gives a lot of energy to the largely hand to hand combat scenes with a mix of dazzling choreography, dizzying camera work and over the top blood spattering. It is effective though, as stated before, it wears you down after a while. His story does give you moments to breath, though not for too long, but there are only so many smashed faces and so much spurting blood one can take before it starts to lose it’s effect. A scene in a subway car with a vicious female assassin (Julie Estelle) wielding two hammers against a squad of Japanese bodyguards is both impressive and mind-numbing at the same time. The brutality just catches up to you long before the last act. Evans does gives us quite the last act, though and despite being numb at this point to all the violence, I will admit that Rama’s infiltration of Bejo’s stronghold held some really amazing fight scenes that did manage to wake me up out of that brutality induced stupor. The previously mentioned kitchen fight is a classic and Rama’s battle with assassins Hammer Girl (Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) is not too far behind. Despite a familiar and often used plot and a little too much brutality and bloodshed, Evans overall gives us a sequel that is different, yet still delivers the action we expect…even if he goes overboard with the savagery of it all.

The cast are all good with Uwais being not only a noble and very likable hero, but an equally effective human chainsaw with his hands and feet. Putra is solid as Uco, a character that is frustrated by his father’s refusal to give him more responsibility in the organization and is so blinded by his ambition as to trust the slimy Bejo who is also effectively played with malice by Alex Abbad. Tio Pakusadewo is also good and almost likable as old fashioned mob boss Bangun who still operates within a code that many see as outdated. Roy Marten is seen briefly, but effectively as dirty police commissioner Reza. Rahman, Estelle and Yulisman make for some very eccentric and lethal assassins that provide some the film’s most vicious and impressive fight scenes. A good cast that helps give some depth to all the over the top action and keep up well with the frantic choreography.

In conclusion, I liked Gareth Evans’ sequel to his ultra violent hit, though I did feel it fell a little short due to a really long running time and being bludgeoned somewhat by all the savage and gory violence. Still, despite a routine story, there are some truly impressive fight/action sequences, including a climactic kitchen fight that is an instant classic. If you liked The Raid then you’ll surely enjoy this but, how much is up to you.

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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REVIEW: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

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EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

Edge Of Tomorrow is a completely derivative yet, actually pretty enjoyable Sci-Fi/Action flick starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Manga All You Need Is Kill and tells the story of a not too distant future where an alien invasion force has landed and taken a strong foothold in Europe. The beings called ‘mimics’ seem to anticipate the united armed forces’ every move until a victory in Verdun, France, led by Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), gives the Earth a glimmer of hope that the enemy can be defeated. A U.S. military PR man Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is brought in to sell the world… though not sure why the world would need to be ‘sold’ when the situation is so dire… on a massive armed attack on the beaches of France by covering the attack from the front-lines to which the cowardly Cage protests and even tries to blackmail his way out of. This gets him arrested and busted down to foot soldier to now to join the invasion in actual combat… where he is killed within minutes. But, Cage wakes up from death the morning before when first being sent to his new squad and relives the day till being killed again… only to awaken 24 hours earlier once more. With full memory of the previous days, he gets better and better at staying alive until he runs into Sgt. Vrataski who knows what’s going on… it’s happened to her too! His encounter with the blood of a special alien drone known as an ‘Alpha’ has given Cage the alien ability to re-set time and now teamed up with “The Angel Of Verdun” Cage must keep dying till the two successfully destroy the hidden alien power source and stop the enemy before all is lost. But, the re-set power is not permanent and one of Cage’s deaths could be his last… if his own forces don’t lock him and Vrataski up for being crazy first.

Sure this flick is a Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles, and Aliens thrown in a blender with a bunch of other movies but, under Doug Liman’s direction it’s actually a lot of action-packed fun. The action is staged well and the film moves at a good, steady pace and really avoids becoming the mess it could have been with such a convoluted story. The SPFX are flawless and while the design of the film gives us little new, it is suspenseful and has enough of a sense of humor about itself to get past any familiarity. We also get some likable characters to become endeared to and they are well cast. Sure we may not like the cowardly Cage early on but, the more he grows as a soldier and a person the more we like him and are right there with him when he graduates to full blown hero. The time travel elements are also kept pretty basic and while there are always questions when time travel is concerned, Edge keeps the glaring problems to a minimum by not getting too over enthusiastic with it’s use and while certain story elements will fold under too much scrutiny, the film moves fast enough to keep you from thinking too much about it. Liman also gives us some intensity but, keeps the tone of the film from getting too dark and the mix blends just right to keep things on an entertaining level. The script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth never gets too complicated and is smart enough to change up the formula about half way through to avoid predictability or monotony even though we still have a good idea how things will work out. The only real stand-out flaw is a an ending that is a little too neat and convenient in order to keep this flick a crowd-pleaser but, it’s not bad enough to not go along with it or, seriously hurt the movie.

A big plus is a good cast that perfectly understand the material. Cruise has fun playing a sniveling coward for a while before transforming more into the action hero he is renown for. And once that happens he is as solid as always. Blunt is obviously enjoying being able to play such a badass but, one that doesn’t loose her humanity or femininity. Vrataski is tough but, very likable and sexy and we certainly wouldn’t mind a post battle celebration in her bunk after the war. We also have fan favorite Bill Paxton as a scenery chewing Southern Master Sergeant who leads Cruise’s platoon of misfits into battle over and over and refuses to believe him when Cage has said he’s done this before…. which leads to another small peeve, that in such a dire situation and despite how much foresight Cruise’s Cage seems to have, no one ever gives him or Vrataski even the slightest benefit of the doubt that they can end the war and defeat the invaders. No matter how much info they seem to know, they are completely dismissed. True, it’s a far fetched story but, the world is about to be lost you’d think someone would at least entertain their notions except for his oddball platoon, who are the ones least likely to believe him… especially when they have a physicist to back them up… but, even the physicist is cast aside despite his wealth of knowledge. Makes no sense.

But, despite it’s flaws and being basically a mash-up of things we’ve already seen, Edge Of Tomorrow is an entertaining 113 minutes and was far more satisfying then expected. Go in not expecting much and you might actually come out surprised and having had a good time. A fun Summer movie.

3 and 1/2 sexy sergeants.

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