TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: RAW DEAL (1986)

MZNJ_New_TON

now playing

bars

RAW DEAL (1986)

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

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this 1986 crime drama as disgraced FBI agent turned small town sheriff Mark Kaminski. His former boss, FBI chief Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin), offers Kaminski a chance for a reprieve, by helping him get vengeance when his FBI agent son Blair (Steve Holt) is murdered in a mob hit. In an operation conducted outside the agency, Kaminski infiltrates the Chicago crime family of mob boss Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) as ambitious hood Joseph P. Brenner. Soon Kaminski/Brenner is chipping away at the organization from the inside, while getting close to beautiful mob moll Monique (Kathryn Harrold). His job won’t be easy, as he needs to convince Patrovita’s enforcer Rocca (Paul Shenar) that he is legit and Rocca’s sadistic henchmen Keller (Robert Davi), is not only highly suspicious of the new family member, but jealous of his budding relationship with Monique.

Raw Deal is one of Schwarzenegger’s lesser films, opening between larger hits like Commando and Predator. The film is directed by John Irvin from a script and story by four different people, despite a very simple ‘undercover in the mob’ plot. Irvin’s style is very workman-like and that suits this less bombastic Schwarzenegger vehicle, which is more crime drama than action flick. Maybe that is why it was a bit of a box office disappointment when first released, as Arnie doesn’t really crank up the body count till the last act. There are some gun fights and fisticuffs along the way, with Arnold delivering his usual one-liners after kicking butt. It is true to the 80s film style, even if toned down a bit, with Arnold effortlessly dodging bullets, yet mowing down his adversaries, until we need a bullet strike or two, so it doesn’t look too easy for the Austrian Oak. The action is well staged and the trio of Davi, Wanamaker and Shenar make suitable enough bad guys to Arnold’s noble hero, with Kathryn Harrold being very sexy and likable as the mob moll caught in the middle. If you think about the proceedings, though, as this isn’t an official FBI undercover assignment, Kaminski is actually being used as a straight-up assassin, by the vengeful Shannon. All the more amusing, that the film ties everything up in a neat bow by it’s conclusion when Kaminiski was basically carrying out vigilante justice and probably should have been arrested along with his former boss. But, hey…this was the 80s, however, and the action films then were far less concerned with reality, Miranda Rights, or legal consequences, when their heroes took out the bad guys. Either way, it is entertaining, but a very routine film for an action star at the top of his game and known for his more over-the-the top action flicks. 

Overall, the film underperformed in 1986, most likely because it was a dialed down flick when people expected more bang for the buck from it’s star. Arnold’s acting wasn’t quite honed enough to go the Goodfella’s route quite yet and it takes to the last act for him to really bring out the big guns…and even that is subdued compared to Commando’s one man army finale. It’s still an entertaining enough movie, just more of a routine action/crime thriller for Schwarzenegger, who rebounded at the box office the following year with the action classic Predator.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bullets.

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

bars

REVIEW: TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

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

Ironically, in Terminator fashion, this new chapter goes back in time to erase it’s past, eliminating, Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys from it’s timeline. The film opens in South America in 1998, a year after the averted Judgement Day was supposed to, but didn’t, occur. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is living there as a fugitive with John (Edward Furlong). They may have misjudged Skynet’s game plan, as another Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives to complete it’s mission. The story then moves to 2020, with a new kind of Terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), appearing in Mexico to hunt factory worker Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Arriving to protect her is technologically enhanced super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Intercepting Grace and Dani is Sarah Connor (Hamilton) who has been hunting and destroying Terminators since we last saw her decades earlier. The question is…if Skynet was destroyed, avoiding Judgement Day, who is sending new Terminators and why are they after Dani? Worse still, the answers may lie in the memory banks of an old enemy.

Direct sequel to T2 is directed very well by Tim Miller (Deadpool) from a script and story by six people, including producer James Cameron, who returns to the franchise. Usually that many writers is a problem, but the script works very well in explaining how new Terminators are coming from the future when Skynet does not exist. It works very well and Miller’s solid direction, especially in the action sequences, helps get past the familiarities. We are kept in suspense as to why Dani is now a target and are given glimpses of a future that is once again apocalyptic, though for a somewhat different reason. Having Grace upgraded for Terminator combat makes sense and the new Rev-9 makes the lethal machines scary again, despite the whole Terminator of the month feel at this point. The only thing that the six writers didn’t pull off so well, is the reason for Arnold’s T-800 to be an ally. He is now a drapery installer named “Carl” and has an adopted family who haven’t yet figured out he’s a machine. What? He also has developed a conscience being without any guidance from Skynet and want’s to right past wrongs by helping Sarah, Grace and Dani…again, WHAT? Despite this plot hiccup, Arnold has some solid action moments battling Luna’s Rev-9 and does provide some humor that the film needs after all the explosions and bloodletting, this is a hard R, after all. On a production level the effects are top notch, the Mexican and Southwestern US locations give the film a bit of a fresh look and feel and the finale is quite exciting and fitting. There is some crisp cinematography by Ken Seng and Tom Holkenborg provides a good score when Brad Fiedel’s original theme isn’t being used to give it that Terminator flavor.

Miller is supported by a good cast. Linda Hamilton is great as the angrier, older and even more bitter Sarah. Her arrival gives goosebumps and it should, as she is a legendary figure in modern cinematic pop culture. Pretty Natalia Reyes makes an impression as Dani. She starts out a terrified girl and transforms into a fighter over the course of the film, much like Sarah first did over three decades earlier. Mackenzie Davis is noble and strong as Grace. Sort of the “Kyle Reese” part, an enhanced soldier to protect Dani from harm. A welcome addition to the franchise. Gabriel Luna is an intimidating Terminator as the Rev-9. Each film tries to up the game with it’s new model, but here they concentrate more on his lethality than gimmicky abilities. It works. Rounding out, while the story behind Arnold’s T-800 “Carl” being present is the only thing that didn’t click here, It is a return to form in many ways and it’s fun to see him back in action. Still not sure why he’s become the source of humor in this franchise, when he was so formidable in the first flick, but Arnold pulls it off.

In conclusion, it’s still the best Terminator sequel since T2, even if a lot of the elements are still familiar. The script explains well how the story can continue after the events of T2, even if it’s subplot of Arnold as the T-800 comes across as silly and preposterous. Some solid action scenes, a good cast and some excellent effects combined with an intense and suspenseful climax, help it overcome any story issues and also helps one overlook some of the lesser entries that preceded it. At least for this entry, this franchise is back to being a well-oiled machine.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) T-800s.

 

 

 

 

 

**************************************************

 

bars

WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MZNJ_new_views

ww_predator

WITHOUT WARNING and PREDATOR: A COMPARISON IN HORROR!

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly compare these two films, I have to give DETAILED SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen Without Warning or Predator, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW for each film. You have been warned!

**************************************************

Last time around I compared the similarities in David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and John Carpenter’s Halloween (link here). Now, I’d like to have a little fun comparing the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Predator and Without Warning, a B-movie sci-fi/horror with a very similar plot that predates Predator by seven years. So, how does 1980’s Without Warning measure up to 1987’s Predator? Read on to find out!

(Click on the highlighted movie titles to go to the full length reviews and on the photos to enlarge them!)

THE STORY

Greydon Clark’s cult favorite Without Warning tells the story of a group of teens who go up to a mountain lake to party in an area that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. The surviving teens’ only hope is a local hunter named Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) whose own hunting skills make him a worthy adversary for the extraterrestrial big game hunter. This pits hunter vs. hunter in a battle for survival.

Directed by John McTiernan, Predator tells the tale of a group of special ops commandos who are dropped on a rescue mission into a section of the South American jungle that has been staked out as a hunting ground by an alien being, hunting humans for sport. As his squad dwindles, it’s up to team leader Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to use his every skill as a solider to try and stop this big game hunter from another world. This pits hunter vs. soldier in a battle for survival.

Except for some story details, the similarities in the basic plot are quite obvious between the two.

**************************************************

THE ANTAGONISTS

The alien hunter of the low budget Without Warning is a modest looking creature made by make-up FX legend Rick Baker and played by the late Kevin Peter Hall who was 7′ 3″ tall. The creature stalks it’s prey day or night and it’s only weapons are star-fish shaped creatures that it throws at it’s victims. These little buggers latch on to prey with their pointy fangs and finish them off by digging their tentacles deep under the victim’s skin. When wounded, the creature seems to be able to heal itself with a mere touch of it’s own hand, though, doesn’t really seem to feel pain anyway. It keeps the bodies of it’s victims, temporarily in an old shed, to keep as trophies…or possibly food. The creature is malicious and has no sense of honor and will attack basically anyone, whether they can defend themselves or not. The creature growls but never speaks.

The alien hunter of the larger budgeted Predator is a now iconic movie monster made by make-up FX legend Stan Winston and is also played by the late Kevin Peter Hall, who became a film icon himself for portraying such roles. The Predator hunts it’s victims day and night using a cloaking device to remain hidden. Once it has it’s prey in sight, the better equipt hunter uses a variety of retractable blades and laser weaponry to finish off it’s victims. When wounded, the predator has some impressive self-surgery skills to mend it’s wounds and keep on going, though, it does seem to feel pain and can be hurt. It keeps it’s prey’s skulls as trophies and leaves skinned bodies hanging around to evoke fear in potential game. It is a fair creature, that seems to like a challenge and will only attack prey that is armed and can put up a fight and defend itself. The creature doesn’t outright speak, but communicates by mimicking voices and phrases it’s heard.

While budget advantages make our Predator far more effective than the simply designed hunter of Without Warning, in terms of character, The Predator uses far more technology and weaponry than his 1980 counterpart and seems far more susceptible to pain and injury. Though in terms of the type of hunting they do, The Predator likes a challenge and only attacks armed prey, while Without Warning‘s alien hunter will attack anyone whether they are armed or not…though there is subtle implication that it does not consider children fair game.

 **************************************************

HEROES and FINAL GIRLS

Without Warning has both a hero, our local hunter Joe Taylor (Jack Palance) and a final girl, Sandy (Tarah Nutter). Joe is a bit of a recluse who has lived in the mountain area setting all his life. He’s a hunter who lives off the land and runs the small town’s only gas station. He seems to keep to himself, but has a strong sense of nobility and when the creature sets his sights on the helpless teens, Joe takes up his hunting rifle and takes on the alien invader who’s hunting on the local man’s turf. Final girl Sandy is a sweet girl brought on the lake excursion by her friend Beth (Lynn Thell) as a blind date for her boyfriend Tom’s (David Caruso) bud, Greg (Christopher S. Nelson). She’s sweet and timid, but does rise above being a damsel in distress, when placed in the middle of the life and death struggle between the hunters from different worlds.

Predator has a hero and a final girl (technically, the only girl), too. Our hero is Dutch, the leader of an elite black operative’s team played by action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is a highly skilled soldier and when faced with a creature more powerful and far better armed, Dutch must use every skill he has to outwit his alien adversary that is slaughtering his men. Our final girl is Anna (Elpidia Carrillo), a rebel soldier captured by Dutch’s team that has encountered the creature before. While she is a soldier, the film never let’s her rise about being a captive damsel as Arnie takes center stage for a one on one climactic confrontation with The Predator.

Joe and Dutch are from two different worlds (figuratively), but are the best at what they do in their respective ways of life. It’s in our ladies that there is a bit of a difference. Ironically, while she’s the far more timid character, Sandy gets to show a bit more moxie than Anna who is actually a resistance fighter, but never given a chance to show it in the film.

 **************************************************

THE SETTINGS

Here there are equal parts similarities and differences. Without Warning takes place in a rural mountain area, here in the U.S., surrounding a lake. There is a very small town located in it, but the alien creature seems to track and kill anyone that enters the surrounding woods only. The fact that the locals are unaware of it’s existence, except for crazy army vet Sarge (Martin Landau), it would seem that the creature avoids the town and only enters to pursue prey that has gotten away.

Predator takes place in the thick jungles of South America where there is a lot of military conflict going on between government soldiers and rebels with clandestine U.S. and Russian support on the opposite sides. The Predator not only uses the conflict to mask it’s presence, but to provide it with abundant and heavily armed targets to prey on. It’s also implied that the creature prefers the heat.

While both aliens hunt in remote, dense areas, Without Warning‘s hunter seems to prefer a quieter, less traveled place to secretly hunt while The Predator prefers it’s remote jungle to be a hotbed of chaotic activity and fighting, to cover up it’s big game hunt and provide a numerous selection of aggressive and armed adversaries to prey upon.

**************************************************

THE OPENING SCENES

The opening scenes for both movies are effective in their own way but vastly different.

Without Warningin 80s horror fashion, starts us off right away with the slaughter of an argumentative father and son (movie vet Cameron Mitchell and former child actor Darby Hinton) on a hunting trip. It establishes right away that there is something wrong in these woods and opens the flick with some blood, gore and a good glimpse at the star fish-like creatures our hunter uses. It sets the stage for what’s to come.

Predator opens with a quite different approach. It introduces us to Dutch and his team and then their insertion into the jungle. It takes a while for the film to start letting us know that there is something wrong here and quite sometime before we begin to realize that there is something otherworldly lurking in the trees. The air of mystery works very well at pulling us in and keeping us interested.

Both openings work in setting us up for what is to come, starting us off with an atmosphere of fear and foreboding. One film does it by showing it’s bloody hand right away, while the other, by keeping us in the dark as to what exactly isn’t right with the situation.

**************************************************

THE ENDINGS

Both films end with a bang, thought one is intentional, the other a final F*&K YOU from a defeated opponent.

After a cat and mouse chase in the woods, Without Warning has Joe Taylor rigging explosives to the shack where the alien is storing it’s trophies. When the alien returns, Joe sacrifices himself to lure the alien close enough for Sandy to blast it. The creature…and Joe…go up in a ball of flame.

The Predator, on the other hand activates a self-destruct device after being mortally wounded by Dutch during a vicious battle. Dutch barely escapes the conflagration as the alien hunter laughs at the prospect of having the last…well, laugh.

Both endings are dramatic and provide fireworks, but obviously Predator’s budget and star provide far more action than the very low budgeted Without Warning. Joe Taylor and the alien trade a few shots before the explosion and destruction of the shack and an obvious alien dummy. Predator treats us to a last act cat and mouse game between Dutch and The Predator before a brutal physical encounter which has the alien game hunter coming up short and detonating the surrounding jungle to take his victorious opponent with it. Either way, both films have their alien critter going boom.

 **************************************************

IN CONCLUSION

The similarities in these two flicks are extremely obvious. The biggest difference is that Without Warning is a very low budget B-Movie horror flick that plays more like a slasher movie while Predator is a big budgeted studio action film with a major star and gives us one of the screen’s most iconic monsters. Predator’s budget gives us much bigger and more extravagant action while Without Warning works with what it’s got and gives us a flick more like the slasher/horror flicks of it’s time…and it did come first. Greydon Clark was a fairly successful exploitation filmmaker (Satan’s Cheerleaders) while Predator’s John McTiernan would go on to become a renown action movie director with the classics Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October under his belt. Without Warning can’t compete with Predator for action or it’s make-up and gore effects, but does splatter the red stuff frequently and while it’s costume is much simpler, the alien does have some personality and menace. Kevin Peter Hall gave both creatures a presence and while Without Warning does’t have a big marquee name like Arnold, it does have long-time veteran actors like Palance and Landau (along with fellow vets Cameron Mitchell and Neville Brand) to ham it up just enough to make the proceedings fun. Two very similar movies made at different times and at different ends of the filmmaking spectrum, but both provide their own brand of entertainment in their own way. One is now a cult classic and the other a bonafide action movie classic. Win win for us!

 

-MonsterZero NJ

bars

REVIEW: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

Terminator_Genisys

bars

TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

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

31 years after his first appearance in the role that made him a star, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as the T-800 in this new reboot of The Terminator franchise. We do get a new Sarah Conner (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new timeline to reset things much like Star Trek did successfully in 2009…but, was it as successful as that redo?

The film opens in the war-torn future where we get yet another representation of the Skynet initiated Judgement Day and then the efforts of John Connor’s (Jason Clarke) rebel forces to take back the world from the machines. We see the discovery of the time displacement device and the sending of Kyle Reese back in time to save John’s mother Sarah from an incoming Terminator. At first the events unfold exactly as they did in James Cameron’s 1984 classic but, then we discover that not only is Sarah armed and ready for the Skynet sent cyborg attack but, the arriving Terminator is met by another Terminator (also Arnold) assigned to protect Sarah since she was a little girl. That and the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) that appeared in 1991 is already here in 1984. Reese soon finds out that this is a new timeline created by all this time traveling back and forth and the only way to stop Judgement Day now is to go back to the future…without Michael J. Fox! Still with me???

One of the things that really hurts this new attempt to breath life into this tired franchise is obviously, the convoluted plot that simply uses the alternate timeline excuse to rewrite the series lore but, instead of taking it to interesting new places, like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trekit just seems to be making things up as it goes along to reset deadlines and give our characters an excuse to leave the 80s and back into a contemporary setting. There are some other curves the film throws us, too, that actually should negate the whole plot, but, at this point you give up trying to figure it all out. One of the characters actually points this out and the question is blown off. The writers obviously didn’t have an answer either. And all this time travel mumbo jumbo would be fine if director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier gave us characters we cared about, a story with some suspense or intensity and one that went some in new directions that were at least fresher than what has come before. New dates and new faces but, it’s the same old song and dance. Taylor directs this very by-the-numbers and with a very moderate pace for a film in which we are supposed to feel like we are under some kind of pressure to avert the end of mankind. We never feel any real urgency and Clarke and Courtney never endear us as Sarah and Reese, so, we really don’t get emotionally invested in their struggle. On the plus side, the action scenes are fun but, the minute they are over, the film slows down and you go back to that emotional void. Schwarzenegger is a lot of fun as the grumpy old terminator and when he is on-screen the film does pick-up. There is also some wonderful recreations and revisions of scenes from the first movie that are a lot of nostalgic fun, but, once we leave the 80s, it becomes just another ho-hum popcorn action movie. It would have been more fun if they had stayed in the 80s and just had a good time playing with our expectations of what we thought we already knew. That was working. Once we are in 2017, it becomes another generic Sci-Fi action flick with humans against a big bad Artificial Intelligence…which we alread got this Summer in Age Of Ultron…and with less confusion.

Cast-wise, Schwarzenegger is obviously having fun and it shows. He plays The Terminator like a grumpy old tin man and it’s fun to watch. He has some fun lines but, nothing as memorable as those he repeats from past films. Emilia Clarke is physically a good match for Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner but, is just very cold in the role. She brings none of the fire and emotion Hamilton gave her Sarah or Clarke’s own Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones, for that matter. She and Jai Courtney also don’t have nearly the chemistry that Hamilton shared with Michael Biehn. As for Courtney, he is also playing it very by-the-numbers and his Reese seems as confused as we are as to what is going on and doesn’t have the edge of a battle-hardened soldier like Biehn. Jason Clarke has a bit more life as John Connor and his Connor does get to share a lot of screen time due to more time travel nonsense/Skyney hi-jinx. The only other person to liven things up like Arnold, is J.K. Simmons as a cop who witnesses The Terminator in the 80s and then re-enters the picture when our heroes show up in 2017. Too bad the character’s only purpose seems to be some comic relief as he really has no bearing on the plot, other than to give Sarah and Reese a temporary ally when they are arrested. Finally, Lee Byung-hun seems lethal enough as the T-1000 but, doesn’t quite have the relentless intensity of Robert Patrick.

Whether this film is still better than the last two attempts is basically a matter of taste and opinion. In mine it’s better than Salvation but, really not much better than Rise Of The Machines, which I feel is criticized a little too harshly at times. On a positive side it has Arnold having a good time and showing it and some really fun re-creations and re-mixes of classic scenes from the original film. There is some nice action at times but, nothing groundbreaking like in T2. On the downside, the film is directed very by-the-numbers and the script is a borderline mess of time travel hocus pocus used to take things in other but, equally stale directions. The re-cast classic characters have none of the life and intensity that made the originals the beloved characters they are and while the new actors are attractive, they share none of the heat and sexual tension either. Stay after the credits and if you didn’t like this, be prepared to groan in anguish.

-MonsterZero NJ

  2 and 1/2 terminators.

terminator genisys rating

 

 

 

 

bars

REVIEW: MAGGIE (2015)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

maggie

bars

MAGGIE (2015)

Maggie is a poignant, powerful and heartbreaking film with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin both giving the performances of their careers.

Drama starts out in a world being stricken by the Necronambulist Virus which is effecting crops and humans alike. Crops die while humans become vicious and violent with cannibalistic tendencies. In the middle of it all, teen Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin) runs away from her farm home to the city and is bitten by one of the infected. Her father Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger) pulls some strings to get his daughter out of hospital quarantine to bring her home. With maybe only days, Maggie is slowly turning into one of the infected and despite the danger she may soon become, Wade is determined to be by his daughters side…even if it means defying the authorities that would see Maggie back in quarantine and destroyed.

Those expecting to see the Austrian Oak wading into armies of zombies with some huge caliber weapon will be sorely disappointed. As written by John Scott III and directed by Henry Hobson this is not a horror movie, but a quiet story of a father’s unending love for his daughter under the most horrific of circumstances…and as such is a poignant and utterly heart-wrenching tale. Hobson sets up the desolation and hopelessness of the situation quickly with some impressive and effective shots of burning crops and deserted city streets. This establishes the pervading atmosphere as we meet Wade Vogel in the hospital trying to get his runaway daughter and bring her home. He is sending his younger children away and he and Maggie’s step-mother (Joely Richardson), bring her back home, prepared for the worst. Hobson then delivers a subtle yet powerful tale of a young woman changing into something out of a nightmare and a father who is already in that nightmare, but refuses to give up on his little girl. It is one of the most heartbreaking films I had seen in some time as we are shown the torment young Maggie suffers, as she knows what she is becoming and what she will be capable of, while her father suffers the anguish of watching it happen to one of the people he loves most. It is a story usually set for chills and thrills…though we get a lot of those…but instead is about unconditional love and sacrifice… and there is a subtle beauty to the emotional story at it’s core, despite the outer horror film trappings.

On a technical side the film is moderately paced and that works perfectly with the nature of the story. It also knows not to waste time or hang around too long at slightly over 90 minutes. The cinematography by Lukas Ettlin is perfectly moody, the make-up portraying Maggie’s slow and tortuous transformation are excellent and there is a simple and atmospheric score by David Wingo.

As for the cast…wow! Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the performance of his career. He is simply amazing, especially in comparison to the type of movies we are normally used to seeing him in. He has a smoldering intensity that is mixed perfectly with the pain and sadness of a parent watching his child slowly become something inhuman. He is absolutely haunting. Abigail Breslin is borderline brilliant as a young woman facing a horrible fate yet doing it with strength and dignity. She knows what she is to become and she conveys the fear, confusion and terror perfectly, yet not without compassion towards the ones she loves…as she knows full well what danger she will soon be to them. Equally haunting is that she is trying to enjoy the warm embrace of the people she loves and take solace from it as long as she can…even though it ultimately won’t help…and she knows it. Schwarzenegger and Breslin also have an onscreen chemistry together that is simply magic. As for the rest, Richardson is also strong as the step-mother who wants to be there, but whose love is becoming more overwhelmed by fear each day. Also really effective is Jodie Moore as Wade’s sympathetic doctor Vern, who buys time for the Vogels with the looming authorities and Douglas M. Griffin as the sheriff, who is an old family friend and also tries to give Wade the time he needs to say goodbye.

I was blown away by this movie. Not only are their some wonderful performances and direction, but the film carries an emotional intensity that is powerful and effecting. Maggie packs a punch despite operating in subtly and is all the more refreshing for it. This is not a zombie movie, nor an action movie, but an intimate portrayal of a slow and horrifying transformation and the effect it has on the subject and those around them. It’s a powerful and emotionally draining film with a movie icon, as we have never seen him before…and more good work from a star on the rise. A great indie movie with some remarkable performances. Henry Hobson is a filmmaker to watch for sure! One of the best movies of the year and I can’t recommend it enough.

-MonsterZero NJ

  No puns or jokes here, a solid 4 star movie.

four stars rating

bars

SCHWARZENEGGER ZOMBIE FLICK “MAGGIE” GETS A TRAILER!

MZNJ_NEW_news

1_ThePlaylist_Maggie-140813

Interesting looking Schwarzenegger flick has the Austrian Oak playing a Midwestern father trying to protect his daughter (Abigail Breslin) who has been infected during a zombie outbreak. Film is directed by Henry Hobson and written by John Scott 3. Maggie opens 5/22/15.

MonsterZero NJ

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE TERMINATOR and ROBOCOP

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

 double feature_TM_RC

bars

Watching this double feature tonight and thought I would share it with the rest of you!

Terminator1984movieposter

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

One of my favorite all time films. A wonderful example of how talent and imagination can accomplish a lot on a small budget. A tenacious little action film with a cool sci-fi premise. Simple and very effective. This is the film that really pushed Arnold into the spotlight and set director James Cameron on his course.

Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a waitress trying to make ends meet, but, unknown to her, she has been targeted for death by a machine sent back from the future to eliminate her. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent by a computer network in 2029 to kill Sarah as she will be mother to John Connor, the man who will rebel against these self aware computers, who have taken over the world of the future, and end their reign before they eliminate mankind. The rebels send back a soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect her and Sarah becomes a fugitive on the run as soldier and cyborg battle for the fate of the future in 1984 Los Angeles.

James Cameron’s lean mean fighting machine of a movie is as relentless as The Terminator itself. He crafts a fast paced action classic that never stops moving yet, still tells a good story and builds the characters so we are emotionally invested in them. He gets great work from his cast and brilliant work from his SPFX people who provide some really effective glimpses of an apocalyptic future and the carnage by our title villain in the present. From models to make-up, the film has top notch work on a low budget. The action is simple yet very intense with numerous chases and shoot-outs as the cybernetic assassin will stop at nothing and go through anyone to eliminate his prey.

A bonafide classic that set many careers in motion and started a film franchise that is still going decades later. If I had to make a top ten list of favorite movies, The Terminator would be on it. Also starring Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield as two cops caught in the middle of the conflict and the first acting role for a young Bill Paxton as a punk who unfortunately crosses The Terminator’s path.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Amusing to know that Arnold was originally pursued to play the hero, Kyle Reese, but convinced Cameron to let him play the title villain instead. Furthermore, OJ Simpson was being considered for the role of The Terminator, but director Cameron felt, ironically, that no one would believe a nice guy like OJ as a cold blooded killer. Co-star Lance Henriksen was also considered in early stages when Cameron wanted a Terminator who could blend into a crowd, but Arnold took over the role and the rest is cinema history.

 

 -MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 Terminator’s!

terminator rating

 

plus

robocop_1987

bars

ROBOCOP (1987)

Robocop is a bonifide classic, a movie that took me by surprise when I first saw it in 1987 as I thought it was going to be silly fun at best, but turned out to be a well crafted, satirical and delightfully blood-soaked good time with good performances across the board, especially from leading man Peter Weller. It is now one of my all time favorites. The story opens in a future Detroit where crime is rampant and corporations now run the police force, which is sadly being overwhelmed. Omni Consumer Products plans to build a new city, but needs crime put on a leash to insure new occupants. Devious executive Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) plans to use the walking tank, the ED 209 to bring law and order, but when it gruesomely malfunctions, junior executive Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) jumps in with his Robocop project. This plan focuses on using fatally wounded police officers in a Frankenstein-ish process to turn them into cyborg cops to do the job the ED 209 is failing to. Now they only need to wait till an officer is ‘volunteered’ as a subject… which in crime ridden Detroit, shouldn’t take long. Enter good cop and family man Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who is transferred to Old Detroit (by Morton who sees him as a high risk in the crime ridden area) and on his first day out with partner Lewis (Nancy Allen), is gunned down by ruthless crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and his henchmen. The deceased Murphy is taken and transformed into Robocop, a cyborg law enforcement agent who is sent out to clean up the streets of Old Detroit. But despite having his memory supposedly wiped, Robocop starts to have recollections of his previous life, memories of a wife and child and of the vicious criminals who gunned him down. With the help of Lewis, Robocop tries to regain his lost humanity and take down those responsible for his murder. But there is a conspiracy of high level executive and low life criminals that stands in his way and once he turns his attention towards them, they conspire to make sure the cybernetic police officer and the man buried deep inside him are destroyed once and for all.

With the combination of a sharp and satirical script by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner and the over the top, energetic directing style of Paul Vehoeven, Robocop is a deliriously fun Sci-Fi/action flick with a twisted sense of humor and a giddy use of blood and gore. No more evident then in the film’s gleefully gruesome opening moments when a malfunctioning ED 209 uses it’s massive guns to blast a poor junior executive into mulch during an ill-fated demonstration. There is plenty of fast-paced action as Robocop takes to the streets and then pursues bad guys Boddicker and Jones to bring them down and avenge himself. There is also a healthy dose of social satire woven in between as well, especially aimed at the theatricality and superficiality of the media, as we get to see news clips and commercials of the type that are commonplace in this shallow futuristic world. One can say Murphy’s battle to regain his humanity seems to echo a society where we have lost ours. And what makes this movie so much more then just an action flick, is just how well the social commentary blends in with the story and action. It’s never heavy handed or preachy and is often served with a biting sense of humor, so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the film. The same could be said about the theme of regaining humanity in a superficial society where excess is the order of the day. Murphy is symbolic of humanity being buried under such excess as he is buried under all the microchips and shiny alloy of his robotic armor. Yet, none of this overshadows that this is also a fast-paced and fun movie about a hero up against insurmountable odds, despite his steel skin and firepower and good fighting to triumph over evil. This is what makes Robocop such a great film, it is on the surface a dynamite popcorn movie, but with a very smart and soulful center. Rarely has a movie with a scathing message and a popcorn flick been blended so well as done here.

And Vehoeven gets great work from a good cast. Weller is perfect in his portrayal of a good cop and a good man who they try to turn into a soulless machine, but instead fights to become an extraordinary human being within his cybernetic shell. Allen is both tough and sweet as Lewis. She makes you believe she can kick your butt and is equally believable in her quest to help the man that is Murphy triumph over his computerized programing. Her joining him in a fight with overwhelming odds also gives her a nice nobility to add to an already likable character. Cox and Smith make a great team of scumbag bad guys with Cox making his Dick Jones the perfect corporate suit dirt-bag and Smith’s Boddicker, a twisted and sick criminal whose not without his charm and an equally twisted sense of humor to go with it. Ferrer is also very effective as an overambitious corporate douche who steps on the wrong toes. Strong heroes and equally strong bad guys are essential to a story like this and the film nails it along with everything else.

The FX are a little dated, but still very effective and add to the film’s nostalgia. We get some great make-up FX, as usual, from FX master Rob (The Thing) Bottin who also designed the Robocop suit and make-up for Weller and even some very charming stop motion model animation to bring the ED 209 to life by another FX legend, Phil Tippett. The FX and production design are unique, yet appear realistic as to how a near future city like Detroit might look and there is a fantastic score by the legendary composer Basil Poledouris to accent the film’s moments and add atmosphere. It is one of his best scores.

Overall, I can’t say enough about one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s recognized as a classic and is exactly that in every sense of the world. I am hard pressed to come up with any criticism about a film which is probably my favorite type of movie alongside Horror, one that is fiercely entertaining on the outside, but has something substantial going on underneath much like Cameron’s Terminator, Miller’s Road Warrior and Carpenter’s Escape From New York. All favorites and all Sci-Fi/action flicks with a solid emotional base and/or some scathing social commentary running beneath the explosions and gunfire. And there is nothing like a little butter for the popcorn. A true classic and one of my all time favorite movies. Also stars Dan (The Last StarfighterHalloween III) O’Herlihy as OCP’s CEO who appears to be a good guy here, but became one of the villains in the really disappointing sequel, Robocop 2.

 -MonsterZero NJ

4 classic Robocops.

robocop 1987 rating

 -MonsterZero NJ

bars

MONSTERZERO NJ’S THANKSGIVING EVE DOUBLE FEATURE: EXPENDABLES 2 and EXPENDABLES 3

MZNJ_SNDF

now playing

double feature_EX_2-3

bars

I know I’ve covered both these movies before but, I got my copy of The Expendables 3 in the mail and decided to make an Expendables night out of it!

 

expendables02

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

ex2 rating

plus

expendables 3

bars

THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

raid rating

bars

BARE BONES: LONE SURVIVOR and SABOTAGE

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

lone_survivor

LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

Writer /director Peter Berg hits all the marks with this incredibly intense and moving action/drama based on true events in Afghanistan. The film’s story sends a four man SEAL team (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsh and Ben Foster) behind enemy lines to track a Taliban leader for capture. When an unfortunate encounter with a local family alerts the enemy to their presence, the four SEALS must now fight for their very lives, surrounded and outgunned. Berg delivers drama and action that is equally riveting and even manages to slip in a message that not all perceived ‘enemies’ are bad people. An incredibly well-made, well-acted and nail-bitingly intense thriller that also contains a nice homage and tribute to the real men from the actual mission it honors/portrays. Also stars Eric Bana and is based on a book by author Patrick Robinson and ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell who is the real life soldier Mark Wahlberg’s character is based on and was on the mission the story is taken from. Highly recommended!

three and one half stars rating

Humerus-Bone1

sabotage

SABOTAGE (2014)

Arnie’s newest film is sadly a crude, vulgar and worst of all dull crime thriller that fails on pretty much every level except for a few intense action scenes. The blood-soaked story has Schwarzenegger playing John ‘Breacher’ Wharton, who is head of an undercover DEA unit accused of stealing $10 Million in drug money during a raid. But, now his team are being offed in gruesome fashion and Breacher and FBI investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) must find out if it’s cartel revenge or something else. Director and co-writer (with Skip Woods) David Ayer tries way too hard to make this a gritty, hard nose thriller and thus turns it into a gory, foul-mouthed mess that can’t decide if it’s a cop thriller or slasher movie. The acting is terrible on most fronts, the characters are borderline comic book level and the plot edges close to being a train wreck. I understand Arnold wanting to play a character that wasn’t necessarily a clean cut good guy for once and I liked that aspect of it but, it’s such a bad movie in terms of the script and the ‘trying too hard to be hip’ direction that it sinks the Austrian Oak’s attempt to do something new. Also stars Sam Worthington and current ‘man-babe’ Joe Manganiello. Terrible.

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1
bars

REVIEW: THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

expendables 3

bars

THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1. It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

raid rating

bars