COOL STUFF: Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale!

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Photo on 7-31-21 at 7.25 PM #2

Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale! 

Why did I wait so long to buy this book!? It’s filled with behind the scenes photos, storyboards, production sketches and designs from one of my favorite movies, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth! A film masterpiece! It’s a gorgeous book and a must have for fans of this brilliant film!

Got it here on Amazon!…

Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth: Inside the Creation of a Modern Fairy Tale: del Toro, Guillermo, Nunziata, Nick, Vaz, Mark Cotta: 9780062433893: Amazon.com: Books

 

MonsterZero NJ

 

BARE BONES: JOLT (2021)

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JOLT (2021)

Lindy (Kate Beckinsale) has a condition that only could happen in a movie like this. Not only does she have Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but also has excessive amounts of cortisol in her body, so when she does get enraged, it gives her augmented strength and agility. She has been studied and in therapy since childhood and now works as a bouncer. She finally meets a nice guy, Justin (Jai Courtney), who accepts her affliction, only to have him murdered just as she starts to care about him. Now Lindy uses her condition to her advantage, as she tracks down Justin’s killers to get revenge.

Yet another flick that wants to be hip while mixing hyper-violence and offbeat humor and fails miserably. Amazon Original is routinely directed by Tanya Wexler from an unimaginative script by Scott Wascha. It’s dull, even though filled with violent encounters, and almost all of the attempts at humor fall flat. The CGI blood spatters soften and lead Beckinsale seems to try hard as Lindy, but this flick shambles along from one dull fight to the next and even the surprise ending is exactly how we knew this would end up. Simply a waste of 90 minutes and a waste of Beckinsale, Courtney and Stanley Tucci, who plays Lindy’s therapist.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)

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THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)

Action flick has people from the future arriving in 2022 to reveal that a war is being waged in 2051 against a very aggressive alien species referred to as “Whitespikes”. Earth is losing that war and they’ve come back in time to recruit people to fight. One of those drafted, is former military man and current biology teacher Dan Forester (Chris Pratt). Dan is whisked thirty years into the future, where he teams with a squad of reluctant soldiers from his timeline and his own grown-up daughter, Muri (Yvonne Strahovski) to battle the invaders. As the war rages in the future, Dan may find the solution back in the past where his wife (Betty Gilpin) and family awaits.

Flick is energetically directed by Chris McKay from a script by Zach Dean. Story-wise it’s TerminatorAliensStarship Troopers, a dash of John Carpenter’s The Thing and a ton of clichés all thrown in a blender that’s cranked up to 11. It’s derivative as heck, but it’s also a lot of fun and the big action does come quickly and explosively with moments of schmaltzy melodrama in-between, so we can catch our breaths. It’s comparable tone-wise to a Fast and Furious movie for sci-fi geeks and that’s not a bad thing on a simple entertainment level. The cast are fine with Pratt making a solid hero, Strahovski a noble scientist, Gilpin is wasted as the wife left back in the past, though J.K. Simmons is fun as Dan’s warrior dad, James. Supporting cast are efficient, too. Overall, it’s silly, a bit overlong and incredibly derivative, but it’s reported $200 million budget is onscreen with lots of FX and spectacular action and even if you’ve seen it all before, it is a popcorn fun mash-up.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: SUMMER ’03 (2018)

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SUMMER ’03 (2018)

Summer ’03 is an indie coming of age movie that finds teen Jamie Winkle (Joey King) trying to deal with the backlash when her grandmother Dotty (June Squibb) bares her soul on her death bed, throwing the family into chaos. Her mother Shira (Andrea Savage) finds out what she knew all along, Dotty hated her because she is Jewish. Her father Ned (Paul Scheer) finds out the man he thought was his father…wasn’t…and Dotty’s advice to Jamie might seem a little inappropriate. Being a teen is hard enough, but with a family in chaos and a dysfunctional funeral looming, Jamie tries to find herself in the mess.

Delightfully honest and sometimes biting and raunchy comedy/drama is written and directed by Becca Gleason. It presents a more realistic view of families, especially when secrets are revealed and real feelings come out, surrounding the death of a family member. It is also a nicely un-PC view of a teenager’s angst, not only in moments of upheaval, but in everyday teen life. The flick is not afraid to “go there” especially in it’s portrayal of Jamie following grandma’s last words of advice and of a young girl at the point of becoming a young woman. It has a bit of a devious and sarcastic sense of humor that produces some laugh out loud moments, for those who appreciate such, yet has some nice poignant moments, too, as Jamie struggles to find herself amidst her family falling apart around her. It does follow the coming of age movie formula, but does so at the beat of it’s own drum. Add to all that, a firecracker performance by Joey King, who is surrounded by a very good supporting cast and you have a movie that more people should have been talking about when released in 2018. Highly recommend and a very impressive feature film debut from Becca Gleason. Also stars Jack Kilmer as a young priest in training and Stephen Ruffin as a classmate, two young men whose attentions Jamie seeks as she tries to deal with what’s going on around her.

Flick can be found streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: SON (2021)

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SON (2021)

Flick opens with Laura (Halloween 2018’s Andi Matichak) pregnant and escaping from a cult run by her father. She gives birth in a car while hiding from pursuit. Eight years later, she is a single mother of a boy David (Luke David Blumm) and a teacher. One night she sees a group of people, resembling cult members, in David’s room, but by the time the police arrive, there is no evidence anyone was there. David soon falls ill and the doctors have no explanation. The police detective on the case (Emile Hirsch) can find no evidence of a cult, as he digs into Laura’s disturbing past. As Laura fears something sinister is after them, she takes David and flees. Even worse, she discovers David’s illness can only be sated by something out of a nightmare. Is something demonic influencing her son, or is it all in Laura’s head?

RLJE Films production is directed by Ivan Kavanagh from his own script. This is a continually creepy and unsettling film, as the story unfolds and we question whether this is real, or all a product of Laura’s imagination, as a result of her troubled past. Is she responsible for some of the horrible things going on?…or is there something truly demonic coming to claim her son? The film has a consistent atmosphere of dread and some very gory sequences, as David’s illness is sated in a very disturbing and violent manner. The pace is more moderate, but that serves the slowly unfolding story. The cast are all good with Matichak being very strong as the emotionally troubled but loving mother, Laura. The flick comes to a chilling climax, that may not be totally unexpected, but will stay with you for a while, all the same. Son is available on streaming networks including Amazon Prime and is an unsettling film along the lines of The Dark and the Wicked.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE DJINN (2021)

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THE DJINN (2021)

Story takes place in 1989, with asthmatic and mute Dylan (Ezra Dewey) moving into a new house with his father (Rob Brownstein). In the house, he discovers an old book called The Book of Shadows. Upon reading the tome, he discovers a summoning spell that can call upon a Djinn, a being that can grant wishes. When his father goes to work and leaves him all alone, he does exactly that and now must face the fiendish creature (John Erickson) all by himself, as his wish will only be granted if he can stay alive against the Djinn till past midnight.

IFC Midnight release is written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell. It’s a well done and spooky flick, as the malevolent supernatural entity pursues the boy throughout the house in different forms, including Dylan’s deceased mother Michelle (Tevy Poe). The film is all the more effective thanks to the strong work by young Ezra Dewey in what is basically a one man/boy show. Dylan is a likable kid and his affliction makes him even more sympathetic, as is the use of his feelings of guilt over his mother’s suicide being used by the Djinn to wear the boy down. The story may not be all that original, with its cautionary tale of be careful what you wish for, but it’s suspenseful and spooky and establishes well the rules surrounding it’s deceptive, supernatural villain. While the Djinn itself reminds one of It Follow’s shape-shifting fiend, it is an effective and scary creature. There is also some nice atmospheric cinematography by Julian Estrada, an 80s-esque electronic score by Matthew James and it wastes little time at only 81 minutes in length. A solid and spooky flick with a great, young lead actor and some nice legitimate scares overcoming a familiar story. Available in both limited theatrical release and on Amazon Prime and other VOD platforms.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: INITIATION (2020)

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INITIATION (2020)

Initiation is another horror with a message about inappropriate sexual behavior towards women. The slasher focuses on a college campus where girls thought to be promiscuous are marked in texts with exclamation points by predatory males. Pretty Kylie (Isabella Gomez) finds herself waking up in a male student’s bedroom after passing out during a homecoming party and not sure of what happened to her. Soon, one of the boys possibly involved, star student Wes Scott (Froy Gutierrez), is brutally murdered. While Kylie struggles with what happened to her and Wes’ sister Ellery (Lindsay LaVanchy) struggles with the murder of her brother and what he’s accused of, a mirror masked killer begins stalking and murdering students.

Flick is stylishly directed by John Berardo from his script with Brian Frager and star LaVanchy. It finds inspiration not only from contemporary themes from the #metoo era, but classic slashers like Scream, and it’s visual style, with it’s mirror masked face killer and bold neon colors, hinting Berardo may have been a fan of Dario Argento, as well. The kills are quite vicious and there is some graphic bloodshed, as the stalker uses various tools to savagely kill his or her victims. It’s a very somber slasher for it’s first hour with it’s gruesome kills few and spaced out, while focusing on the emotional turmoil of both Kylie and Ellery. It cranks up the intensity for it’s climax, where we get a reveal which works in context of the story, though isn’t a complete surprise, as, at this point, there are not too many suspects left. Overall, this is an effective and stylish slasher with a more moderate pace, until the last act, which deftly applies some very topical themes with it’s subtext of young women being taken advantage of and more concern show for the victimizer than the victim. Worth a watch on streaming outlets like Amazon Prime and has a good cast that also stars veteran actress Yancy Butler, as a police detective and horror vet Lochlyn Munro (Freddy vs. Jason), as the university chancellor, who may be more concerned with reputations than justice.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: WILLY’S WONDERLAND (2021)

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WILLY’S WONDERLAND (2021)

When a tough loner (Nicolas Cage) gets his tires suspiciously blown out in the rural town of Hayesville, he’s coerced into paying off the repairs by spending the night cleaning up WIlly’s Wonderland, a shut down family restaurant looking to reopen. Once inside, the animatronic characters become lethally animated and “The Janitor” must fight for his life. He’s joined by a group of tough teens, led by the strong-willed Liv (Emily Tosta), who are looking to destroy the place once and for all. They inform him he has been tricked into being a human sacrifice to this now evil establishment founded by a Satan worshipping serial killer (Grant Cramer). Will any of them get out alive?

Flick is directed by Kevin Lewis from a script by G. O. Parsons and both script and director play this amusing premise straight and let the material provide the fun. It is a good time to see Cage as the silent loner…literally, he has no dialogue…who seems to be quite a match for the demonic animatronics. Our teens arrive to up the body count, though Liv is there to give exposition on how this place came to be a sacrificial killing ground and the town’s dark little secret. Emily Tosta actually makes a solid heroine as Liv and she keeps up with Cage quite nicely. It’s too bad she gets left out of the action in the last act, but it is Cage’s show. As for the veteran actor, he never goes too far over the top and the ambiguousness of his character works in the film’s favor. The flick makes no apologies, or excuses, for what it is…Nicolas Cage and a young hottie battling serial killer possessed animatronic puppets. It moves quickly at only 90 minutes and its fun and delightfully gory. It could have been a little more energetic, but is far better than the disappointing Banana Splits movie which was similar in story and tone. Also stars Beth Grant as the town’s sheriff and Ric Reitz as Willy’s current owner, Tex.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE FUNERAL HOME (2020)

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THE FUNERAL HOME aka LA FUNERARIA (2020)

It’s trouble enough for funeral home owner Bernardo (Luis Machín) to have a normal family life with having married abused widow Estela (Celeste Gerez) who has a rebellious daughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). It’s harder still, with the house being filled with the supernatural presences of those being given their final rest and having to appease them before they move on. A home filled with spirits is unsettling enough, but Bernardo and his new family now have to deal with a malevolent presence that has moved in with them. Who, or what, is it and why has it come here?

Argentine haunted house flick is chillingly written and directed by Mauro Iván Ojeda. It has loads of atmosphere and Ojeda fills his tale with some very spooky images and unnerving moments, as this already haunted family tries to find out why something darker has targeted them. There are some interesting reveals and the story evokes the recent horror tales from Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar, as it is filled with dark family secrets and occult activities, as a catalyst for the current supernatural hijinx. There are a lot of familiar elements and the basic story is nothing new, but Ojeda uses and presents them well and with his own slant. The film can also get a bit bloody, especially in the last act. Spooky flick is available to rent on Amazon Prime and also stars Susana Varela as Ramona, the family’s paranormal medium. Recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE RECKONING (2021)

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THE RECKONING (2021)

Period thriller takes place in 1665 during The Great Plague of London. Pretty wife and mother Grace (Charlotte Kirk) is widowed when the sickness takes her husband (Joe Anderson). Her landlord Squire Pendleton (Steven Waddington) requests a lecherous way for her to pay her rent and when she refuses, he accuses her of witchcraft and has her arrested. In the dungeons, a battle of wills thus takes place as cruel and sadistic inquisitor John Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) tries to get a resistant Grace to confess to the false charges.

Violent and tedious flick is directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent, Centurion) from his script along with star Charlotte Kirk and Edward Evers-Swindell. As such, it starts out interesting, but degenerates into a dull torture show, for the next hour, as Moorcroft gets crueler and crueler to get Grace to confess. There are some interesting nightmare sequences, which are effective, and like most Marshall flicks there is a healthy amount of blood and gore. There are even some feminist messages mixed in with all the cruelty, about the treatment of woman at that time and about abusive relationships. Flick does pick up a bit in the last act, when it turns into an action/revenge flick with Grace turning the tables and getting some payback. Charlotte Kirk and Sean Pertwee do give strong performances, which add a little weight, as does Christopher Drake’s strong score. Overall, kind of disappointing, considering Marshall’s previous flicks were all very entertaining to one degree or another and his Game of Thrones episodes were quite good, as well. Available on Amazon Prime, if you want to give it a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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