BARE BONES: JUMANJI-THE NEXT LEVEL (2019)

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JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL (2019)

Sequel to the sequel/reboot of the 1995 book based flick finds Spencer (Alex Wolff) returning to Jumanji, because there he felt like a hero. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Martha (Morgan Turner) follow him in and inadvertently take Spencer’s grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) and Eddie’s friend Milo (Danny Glover) along with them. Meanwhile Bethany (Madison Iseman from Annabelle Comes Home) seeks help from Alex to help rescue her friends. Once inside, they find Jumanji once again in peril, this time from Jurgen the Brutal (Rory McCann). Also creating distress is that avatars have become mixed up and Eddie is now Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Milo is Mouse (Kevin Hart) Fridge is Professor Sheldon Oberon (Jack Black) with Bethany becoming a winged horse and Spencer becoming thief Ming Fleetfoot (Awkwafina). Martha is still Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan), however, and Alex is still Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (Nick Jonas). The group must again save Jumanji, somehow get their avatars straightened out and maybe get back home again.

Film is again directed by Jake Kasdan from a script by himself, Jeff Pinker and Scott Rosenberg. While not quite as lively as the last film, it’s still mindless and harmless fun. There is plenty of action and exotic settings, though does replay a lot of the gags from the Welcome To The Jungle. The cast are again having fun, especially Johnson and Hart, who get to play different characters whom their video game alter egos are representing. Johnson is fun echoing Danny DeVito, though Kevin Hart really steals the flick with his dead-on impression of Danny Glover. He’s hilarious. New addition Awkwafina is also fun as Spencer’s avatar Ming and when the gang gets their avatars realigned, she gets to have fun mimicking DeVito in the film’s second half. McCann makes a functional yet generic villain and it’s once again the character interaction that really makes it so enjoyable. Entertaining enough with a solid cast that overcomes a fairly pedestrian script.
-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: ALL THINGS MUST PASS (2015)

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ALL THINGS MUST PASS (2015)

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

Personal Note: It’s difficult for me to view this documentary completely objectively as I was an employee of Tower Records for nine years during the 90s. I started out as a clerk and then moved up to receiving clerk and then made video department manager in just two years in Tower’s Paramus N.J. store. It was probably the most fun ‘job’ I ever had and I met a lot of unique people there, some I am proud to still call friends. It is a time of my life that I miss and will never forget. -MZNJ

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My former place of employ, the long- gone Tower Records, Paramus N.J.

All Things Must Pass is a documentary from director (and actor) Colin Hanks and writer Steven Leckart about the rise and fall of one of the most recognized names in the retail music industry. The documentary follows the start of this legendary retail music chain from it’s humble beginnings in Sacramento, California at the pharmacy owned by founder Russ Solomon’s father. It then traces it’s illustrious history from Solomon opening the first Tower Records store on Watt Avenue in 1960 and then over the years as it became one of the largest and most unique music retailers ever to grace the planet. It then sadly unfolds a series of events and changes, both within the company and in the business itself, that caused it to ultimately close it’s doors in 2006.

As a history of this legendary store, Hanks’ documentary is very informative choosing wisely to let Tower’s story be told by Russ Solomon himself, as well as, a number of his former upper management team, who all started working for him as clerks in his first stores. They present a fun tale of a simple dream growing into something special that attracted the attention of the entire world. We get these reflections mixed with film, video and photos from former staff, as well as, from TV commercials and news coverage. Add to that some celebrity input, too, from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, David Grohl and Elton John, who were also loyal customers…or employees as in Grohl’s case…aside from having their music sold there. It almost plays out like a fairy tale, as soon Tower’s success spread across the country and then internationally, to Japan and other parts of the world…and that’s also part of it’s comeuppance, which is regretfully detailed by Solomon and his former managers. A sad tale of a changing market and a company spending money faster than they could make it. The testimony is quite frank and honest about how this once iconic retailer basically derailed it’s own dream and couldn’t keep up with the times.

If Colin Hanks makes any mistakes it’s in two ways. One, his documentary is very by-the-numbers and rather somber, even in the beginning stages when Tower was in it’s glory. He never really catches the true spirit of the place in the telling. We don’t get a real feel for what made this place truly special which is also in part due to the second mistake…never interviewing some of the former store employees. Having worked there, I experienced first-hand the wonderful and eclectic assortment of people that were Russ Solomon’s soldiers in the trenches. By not getting a more store level view from some of the wonderful variety of employees that graced Tower’s aisles, Hanks leaves out a vital part of what made this chain special…the unique individuals who worked there. His focus remains on the upper management and record company executives and celebrities, but never touches on the delightful diversity of the employees that made each individual store a unique experience. He only touches on it briefly when the upper management are telling about their beginnings, but never sought out testimony from those who made Tower their life and formed Russ Solomon’s loyal crew. As a former employee, this was a large part of what made the Tower Records experience what it was. A serious misstep by the first-time filmmaker, restricting the perspective solely to the corporate level.

Overall, this was an informative documentary and a very personally nostalgic one. It does provide a vivid history of this legendary music chain’s rise and fall, but does so a little too by-the-numbers considering the subject matter. Hanks also leaves out one of the most important details about what made this place special, aside from it’s deep catalog and that’s the diverse and passionate music and movie lovers who were Russ Solomon’s employees…and it’s that omission that left this documentary a little hollow despite the richness of the tale to be told.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Tower Tags… scanned from MonsterZero NJ’s own personal collection.

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ALONE WITH HER (2006)

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ALONE WITH HER (2006)

Written and directed by Eric Nicholas, Alone With Her is a creepy and disturbing little thriller, cleverly told through the surveillance cameras of stalker, Doug (Colin Hanks), as we watch him stalk and then spy on his intended victim, Amy (Ana Claudia Talancón) from within her apartment. The film effectively captures the illusion of someone being watched without their knowledge. It also slowly builds the chills as stalker Doug gradually invades the young girl’s life using what he has learned about her to get close to her. We then share Amy’s fear as she realizes something is wrong.

It’s not big on action but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a slow but exhilarating burn until the violent climax. The film even succeeds in hinting that Doug might have had within him the ability to win a girl like Amy, had his insecurities not deranged him into the disturbed person he is and that adds an even more tragic touch to the proceedings. Director Nicholas makes really good use of the found footage format and really touches on our fears of being watched by someone without our knowledge. Hanks gives a strong performance as Doug, not only making him creepy, but making him appear trustworthy to Amy as we shout at her to beware of him from our seat. Nicholas really uses the fact that we know Doug’s true nature to twist and turn the screws on us as Doug courts the unaware woman. Actress Talancón makes Amy a very likable character and thus we become more and more afraid for her as Doug slowly invades her life, which, also makes Director Nicholas’ formula work. His two leads really help this little thriller come together and he guides them well.

Not perfect, but I recommend it if you want to check out a found footage flick that is interesting, a little different, disturbing and skin crawlingly creepy… and a found footage flick made before Paranormal Activity arrived and re-ignited the genre.

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