REVIEW: GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

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GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019)

Sequel takes place five years after the events of Godzilla 2014 with Godzilla keeping a low profile and being monitored diligently by the Monarch organization. Other creatures, or “Titans” have been discovered across the globe and the military wants them all destroyed, while Monarch believes they represent a balance in nature. Eco-terrorist Colonel Alan Jonah (Charles Dance) feels the Titans should all be freed to restore that balance and plans to steal the Orca…a device capable of communicating with, and possibly controlling the monsters…to accomplish this. He kidnaps Orca creator Dr. Emma Russell (Verga Farmiga), her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) and her invention and thus sends Monarch and Emma’s estranged husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) in hot pursuit. But Jonah gets more than he bargained for, when he uses it to release the three-headed space monster Ghidorah from his icy prison and the beast challenges Godzilla for the title of King of the Monsters. Add in the Queen of the Monsters Mothra and the fire demon Rodan and earth soon becomes a monster sized war zone.

Trick r Treat director Michael Dougherty takes over from Gareth Edwards and seems to have a far better grasp of the material. He also does script duties along with Zach Shields, from a story by they and Max Borenstein. What we get is far closer to a Toho Godzilla film than the 2014 flick and one that is a lot more fun. Sure the plot is a bit goofy, but no goofier than an alien race building a robot Godzilla or a creature created completely from pollution. It’s filled not only with tons of fun references to Godzilla flicks of the past, but we get all the traditional story elements like devious villains, stalwart scientists, brave military types and a smarter than the adults kid. Not only are all the tropes proudly paraded out for those familiar with the series, but it has some of the most spectacular monster battles ever presented, as Godzilla, Ghidorah, Rodan and Mothra all converge to duke it out and destroy everything in their paths. The final showdown in the city of Boston is absolutely amazing and Yankee fans might even get a giggle over Godzilla and Ghidorah throwing down in the middle of Fenway Park. It’s also a true popcorn blockbuster, so even those not too familiar with the Big G and his 65 year history, can still enjoy the flick on a purely entertainment spectacle level and monstrously entertaining it is. Not to mention, the film’s final image is something every Godzilla fan has wanted to see from day one. On a technical level, the SPFX are amazing, the monsters are truly titanic and majestic and their destruction is on a totally massive scale. The score by Bear McCreary is far more fitting than Alexandre Desplat’s ho-hum score for Zilla 2014 and delightfully mixes in some of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla themes to add a nice touch of nostalgia to the film.

The cast are good and all of them get the material. They play it seriously…but not too seriously. Leads Farminga, Chandler, Brown and Dance all do well in essaying their roles. Vera Farming as the scientist with a personal reason to get involved, is solid and helps us understand her decisions, even when they are the wrong ones. Chandler is fun as the father and husband trying to get his estranged family back. He’s a good lead and his old fashioned character fits this kind of movie well. Charles Dance is impeccable as ever as the villainous Alan Jonah, who like Thanos, thinks he is doing the right thing by trying to unleash these creatures. Millie Bobby Brown is especially endearing as Madison and in many ways is the emotional center of the flick. The supporting cast are all good, too, especially Ken Watanabe returning as Dr. Ishirō Serizawa and Zhang Ziyi playing Dr. Ilene Chen, a character who pays tribute to a familiar Mothra trope in a very fun and clever way. A good cast that even give some very corny dialogue a little dramatic weight.

Overall, this was a really fun and action packed sequel to a film widely criticized for skimping on the monster action. It has monster battles to spare, but still gives us some people time along with a very Toho-esque storyline. Michael Dougherty keeps the 132 minute flick moving very fast and pays loving tribute to the classic Godzilla flicks in some fun and very clever ways. Stay through the credits for not only an end credits scene, but for some amusing interwoven news items that echo what is to come. A gargantuan blast of a good time!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) King of the Monsters.

 

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REVIEW: UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012)

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UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (2012)

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As a fan of the Underworld series I was both eager and apprehensive about this 4th installment, but as the credits rolled I had a smile on my face and had a good time. For starters, Kate Beckinsale is back in black latex returning as Death Dealer Selene. The story opens as man has discovered both Lycan and vampire and Selene has been separated from Michael, captured and cryogenically frozen as the war to cleanse the world of these supernatural species is underway. When released 12 years later, Selene finds a police state where Lycan and vampire are all but extinct and she has a 12 year old daughter (India Eisley) who’s unique nature makes her central to a sinister experiment. To save her daughter and her people, Selene finds herself with unexpected enemies and allies and that’s just fine with her.

Flick is directed this time by the duo of Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein from a script written by four people, including original series director Len Wiseman. At barely 90 minutes Underworld: Awakening is all about the action and there is plenty of it. It slows down to give us some story here and there and is surprisingly good at utilizing the time to move it along without stoping the momentum and the film does move quite fast. Selene is thrust into doing what she does best quite regularly and it is fairly well staged and gruesome at times. The only real weakness here is the CGI which was never very strong in this series. Otherwise it’s a brisk, fast paced fun time which won’t convert any new fans, but should please those there are.

Beckinsale is once again sexy and lethal returning as Selene. We do wish we got to know some of the new character’s a bit better such as Charles Dance’s vampire elder, filling the void of Bill Nighy’s Victor and Steven Rea’s bad guy scientist with a secret, is a fairly generic villain. Theo James is handsome and noble as David and Michael Ealy is fine as a human cop who may possible be being set-up as a human love interest for Selene. Too early to tell. Rounding out is India Eisley who is impressive as the young hybrid daughter that is a chip off the old block.

There are enough gun fights, explosions, spurting blood and shots of Kate Beckinsale’s perfectly shaped black latex wrapped bottom to keep everyone well entertained till the final scene, which hints that the sexy and lethal vampiress may not be hanging up her guns, or fetish gear, quite yet. And that’s fine with me.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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REVIEW: UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (2017)

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UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS (2017)

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At this point the makers of the Underworld series aren’t even trying to lure in new viewers, just keeping the loyal fan base of this franchise interested and happy. But even the most loyal viewer would have to admit that with this entry, entertaining as it may be, the saga is starting to run out of gas. Blood Wars finds vampire hottie, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) having abandoned her daughter, to keep her safe and now being pursued by Lycan and Vampire alike. The wolves want her hybrid daughter’s blood to become more formidable, to tip the scales in their war with the vampires. Vampire councilwoman Semira (Lara Pulver) wants the latex covered Selene’s powerful blood so she can overthrow her coven leaders and take over. Selene’s only allies are Vampire Elder, Thomas (Charles Dance) and his hunky son, David (Theo James), who gained heightened abilities when given some of sexy but dour Selene’s blood in Underworld: Awakening. Still with me? Of course new Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) is out eradicate the vampires once and for all and has some bloody secrets of his own to help him accomplish this and poor, curvy, quick-triggered Selene is caught in the middle of it all. What a bloody mess!

Fifth go-around is competently directed by newcomer Anna Foerster from a script and story by Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward and is entertaining enough to pass the time. You have to be a fan of this series to appreciate the theatrical melodrama mixed with bone crunching action, but even then, it’s getting far too familiar to really set this new chapter apart from the last one…or any of the others. The filmmakers have realized this stuff has more of a cult audience and this flick has half the budget of the previous flick and thus is smaller scaled and delivers far more of that melodrama than some of the previous entries. There is still a decent amount of action, though it is fairly by-the-numbers and is nothing beyond what we expect from this series by now. It’s in the Twilight-esque moments that the film is weakest, thought, thankfully, those moments are usually bookended with some blood-spattering as the rapid fire editing keeps things from stagnating and us from thinking too much about how silly it all is. That is also one of the film’s weaknesses as there is little time to let dramatic plot points resonate and sometimes the movie jumps forward a little too quick for it’s own good. Selene’s final confrontation with Marius is a good example, it’s just over too quickly to have impact, despite a shocking reveal in it’s midst. The editing can be choppy in spots, as if there was an effort to get to the action more quickly and the opening chase is hard to follow as a result of being a bit too rapidly cut…much like the opening chase in the James Bond epic A Quantum Of Solace. Foerster seems to have a good visual eye and the snow set scenes are especially eye-catching, but if the series is to continue…and there are indications it is going to…they need to really shake things up a bit and give the series some new blood…pun intended.

The cast all take this stuff very seriously and it helps us do the same. Beckinsale can basically play Selene in her sleep at this point and the story has her a bit more sullen than usual. Pouting over her lost daughter and love Michael (played in flashbacks by both original actor Scott Speedman and stand-in Trent Garrett, who looks nothing like him) Selene is quite the sourpuss here, although she still looks stunning in latex and seems to cheer up when blasting Lycans or ripping out their spines. Theo James is a fine hero as David. The actor does the vampire heartthrob thing adequately, although the character does seem to only have been added to lure in the Twilight crowd who have nothing new to watch. Charles Dance is regal and noble as Thomas. A class actor giving the role strength beyond the simple script. Tobias Menzies is menacing enough as Marius, though he could have used a bit more charisma and Lara Pulver gives leading lady Beckinsale a run for her sexy money as vampish vamp Semira.

Overall, the movie did entertain, but only for fans who have enjoyed the previous flicks and are forgiving to the familiar material. Even so, the series needs some freshness injected into it or it may start to lose even it’s most loyal followers. Perhaps have Beckinsale’s Selene pass the torch to her wayward daughter and let mom’s latex covered buns only cameo, because, to be honest, we’d miss those latex covered buns if they were gone completely…after all, bullets, blood and buns is why we watch these movies.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs for fans only.

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PHANTASM: RAVAGER GETS A POSTER AND UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS GETS A TEASER TRAILER

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The fifth and final installment of the Phantasm franchise is headed to theaters and VOD on October 7th and a cool new poster has been released!

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The fifth installment of the Underworld franchise is also headed to theaters, on January 6th 2017 and a new teaser has been released for Underworld: Blood Wars!

source Arrow In The Head/Youtube

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BARE BONES: APRIL APOCALYPSE, DRACULA UNTOLD and PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013)

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APRIL APOCALYPSE (2013)

I try to champion the indie filmmaker whenever possible but found very little to like about this incredibly derivative little movie. In a plot we’ve seen countless times, a dork (a bland Reece Thompson who also produced) falls in love with the hot girl next door (Rebekah Brandes from Midnight Movie) but, is too afraid to let her know how he feels. A horrific event…in this case a zombie outbreak…gives him the opportunity to find the courage to find and rescue her and be a hero. The film is just so familiar and is trying way too hard to emulate so many better movies, it’s annoying…and not to mention a bit smug. It’s like the makers saw Zombieland one too many times, as that’s the film it blatantly copies in it’s style most of the time. I wouldn’t mind the familiarity, though, if it was done inventively or in a refreshing way but, it’s not. And even at barely over 80 minutes the film stops dead…pun intended… for long dialogue scenes that go nowhere and don’t further the story. As directed by Jarret Tarnol and written by Brent Tarnol (who also stars as the stereotypical stoner Stevenson) this flick is sadly a chore to sit through, even though well under 90 minutes. At least Brandes is cute to watch as April. A disappointing effort that somehow got Aliens’ Mark Rolston and comedian George Lopez involved in small roles.

2 star rating

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DRACULA UNTOLD (2014)

It’s not that Dracula Untold is a badly made movie, it’s just that it’s a ridiculous one. Director Gary Shore movies things along well enough and the film looks good but, the story by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless is just plain silly. Tale takes the true-life character of Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) and thus the fictional vampire that is based on him and turns him into a superhero. Vlad’s kingdom is threated by the Turks who demand a thousand of his people’s children, including his own son. He seeks help from an old vampire (Charles Dance) living in a mountain cave to bestow him with his power so, he can save his people. He has three days with this power but, if he gives in to the blood thirst, he will remain a vampire forever. Vlad then goes up against thousands of soldiers like a gothic X-Man with the powers of bat control. It’s ridiculous. It takes one of literature and film’s greatest villains and turns him into Batman…literally. As an action movie it passes the time but, as a telling of the story of Dracula, it’s a silly movie that sadly had an interesting concept at it’s core with it’s origin of the legendary count.

2 star rating

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PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013)

On one hand, Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett’s found footage film is inventive in using a real life location  suspected of occult and paranormal activity, the ruins of St. Mary’s Church in Clophill, England and real interviews from witnesses. On the other hand though, they forget to make the film the least bit scary. The flick comes across as some random episode of some random ghost hunting show and as in those shows, very little actually happens amidst all the talk and conjecture. The film is only 88 minutes long and it isn’t until the 1 hr 17 min mark that something that could be considered even remotely scary happens. Seriously! Then the film climaxes ominously and quite open for a sequel. It’s a long-winded build-up with no real pay-off. Technically an 80 minute wait for the last 8 minutes which seems to only exist to set-up another movie to come. For the most part, an interesting idea squandered on a boring movie. Too bad. The mix of real-life history and paranormal thriller could have been fun if the makers knew what to do with it.

2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS (2013)

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PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS (2013)

Patrick: Evil Awakens is an Australian horror film that is a remake of Richard Franklin’s 1978 horror flick Patrick… which I must admit I haven’t scene until now but, that is being remedied as I write this. The story finds recently single nurse Kathy Jacquard (You’re Next’s Sharni Vinson) coming to work at a clinic specializing in the comatose and brain dead. The Roget Clinic is run by the brilliant but, cold hearted Dr. Roget (Charles  Dance) and his equally cold head nurse Matron Cassidy (Rachel Griffiths). Her only friend there is pretty and promiscuous Nurse Williams (Peta Sergeant) until she starts to feel sympathy toward a handsome brain dead patient named Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) who Roget uses as the focus of his experimental treatments… treatments Kathy finds cruel and unnecessary. But, Patrick may not be as brain dead as he seems and when he starts to communicate with Kathy through simple gestures and then through more advanced methods, she is delighted …until not only is Patrick’s true nature revealed but, the full force of his telekinetic power and his homicidal infatuation with her. Now she and anyone close to her are in mortal danger from a fiend whose mind is far from dead and whose intent is far from good.

Under the skilled direction of Mark Hartley, from a script by Justin King based on the original film, Patrick: Evil Awakens is a pleasant horror surprise that gives us a healthy does of chills and thrills and is loaded with heavy Gothic atmosphere that reminded me of the classic Hammer Horror films in their heyday. Even in it’s quieter moments, Hartley establishes an underlying tension far before Patrick reveals himself to be the powerful and demented fiend that his handsome, peaceful demeanor hides all too well. Patrick’s powers and intent are revealed slowly as first strange occurrences happen to injure the two men vying for Kathy’s attention, ex-husband Ed (Damon Gameau) and handsome Brian (Martin Crewes) and Patrick begins to communicate with her through electronic devices such as PC and cellphone. But, it’s not long before Patrick goes all Carrie and people start dying in gruesome ways and the film really takes off and has a blast with it’s story. And despite how outrageous things get and some weak FX betraying some of the more advanced applications of Patrick’s power, Hartley maintains the tension and dread while having a little over the top fun in his last act… and the last act is a blast of intense fun even with some borderline silly uses of telekinesis and the weak FX mentioned earlier. The film also has some sumptuous but, unsettling cinematography by Garry Richards and an atmospheric and very effective score by legendary Italian composer Pino Donaggio that help director Hartley deliver a horror that is both quaintly old fashioned and yet visceral, intense and modern. Not bad for a documentary filmmaker’s first flick!

The cast are exceptional, and go a long way in helping the preposterous scenario work, with Vinson once again playing a strong and resilient heroine but, with a very human and compassionate core. Charles Dance… a very underrated and skilled actor… creates a character that deftly walks the fine line between brilliant physician and obsessed Frankenstein in his Dr. Roget. He at first seems arrogant but, noble till, like Patrick, his true nature become clear. Rachel Griffiths also gives us a character that at first feels like just a cold-hearted bitch but, there are some interesting layers revealed as the plot progresses and Peta Sergeant is very lively and likable as Williams, the only person at the clinic that seems to have a heart aside from Kathy. The rest of the cast do well in establishing their characters despite not a lot of screen time and the work of the cast overall really helps make this the treat it is. They take their parts very seriously and along with director Hartley’s giving lots of respect to what could have turned out to be a silly story, give this horror the weight it needs even when it starts to go over the top.

So, Overall, I had a blast with Patrick: Evil Awakens. It’s a film which nostalgically reminded me of a Gothic Hammer Horror film yet very much a modern day chiller with a lot of visceral intensity and gore. The film isn’t afraid to go over the top but, wisely chooses when to do so and overcomes some weak FX while keeping the sillier uses of Patrick’s telekinesis from camp territory. It’s a fun and very effective horror and based on what I’ve seen while writing this, livelier and far more intense then the well made but, stuffy and low key original… and the remake honors that flick with some nice nods too. A very entertaining horror and a really effective feature film debut from director Mark Hartley. Sad this got dumped unceremoniously onto home media when it ranks as one of the better horror flicks I’ve seen so far this year.

3 and 1/2 nightmare thrown nurses.

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WARNING: Trailer is brief but, does give away a key character’s fate and one of the film’s better bits.

 

…AND THE ORIGINAL…

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So, watched the original PG-rated flick while writing my remake review and while it is well-made and basically follows the same story… not to mention stars 70s Brit cutie Susan Penhaligon who I was crushing on as a kid after first seeing her in The Land That Time Forgotit is basically very low key and works more in melodrama and subtlety with Patrick’s (here Robert Thompson) moments of telekinesis being a lot more grounded and all done in camera. It was an interesting film and well acted but, I prefer the remake’s more stylish and intense approach. The original was also very somber and humorless compared to the remake which had a more fun with it’s premise.

So, in this case, while I am not fond of the horror remake trend, this is an example of a good one where the original isn’t perfect and is expanded and improved upon in the redo.

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