BARE BONES: GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO (2022)

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GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO (2022)

Netflix streaming version of this classic tale is a darker and far more serious telling of the story. This Pinocchio takes place in fascist Italy where woodworker Geppetto (voiced by David Bradley) loses his ten-year-old son Carlo (Gregory Mann) during the first world war. Decades later he is a lonely man prone to drinking and when in his cups decides to build a new son out of wood. A wood sprite (Tilda Swinton) takes pity and brings the puppet to life dubbing him Pinocchio (also Gregory Mann) and giving charge of the puppet to cricket Sebastian (Ewan McGregor). Soon Pinocchio begins to get lots of attention, especially from greedy circus owner Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz) and the Podestà (Ron Perlman), a fascist official who sees Pinocchio’s ability to come back from the dead as an opportunity to turn him into the perfect soldier for the current war…and did I mention it is a musical?!

Stop-motion animated flick is directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson from a script and story by del Toro with Patrick McHale and Matthew Robbins, based on the original book by Carlo Collodi. On the plus side, the visuals and production design are absolutely stunning, as is the stop-motion animation and FX, absolutely amazing. What holds this version back is the dark and sometimes bleak telling of what was basically a children’s story. Not here, as del Toro and company’s version covers themes of death, loss, war and fascism. Some may appreciate the non-Disney approach, while others may find it very heavy-handed. This Pinocchio rises from the dead, which in all fairness, so did the Disney and book versions. He is killed multiple times, and as he is basically an enchanted being, he returns from the dead to live again. Here it becomes an actual plot point as this would make him a perfect soldier in the eyes of the fascist Podestà. Add in Geppetto’s bitter drunkenness, Pinocchio being trained to fight in a war and fascist Benito Mussolini (Tom Kenny) actually being a character in the film, and this is no kid flick! Not to mention that at 117 minutes it’s a bit too long, especially for it’s far too serious tone, and the musical numbers…yes there are songs…are not very memorable. Visually and technically, it is close to being a masterpiece, and has a great vocal cast. As a movie, though, it’s a bit too dreary, especially at two hours long, to really enjoy. Currently streaming on Netflix!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FILMS TO WATCH FOR LATIN HERITAGE MONTH!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 HORROR FILMS TO WATCH FOR LATIN HERITAGE MONTH!

September 15th to October 15th is Latin Heritage Month which reminds us of all the great horror flicks that have come from Latin culture and Latin filmmakers! So, without further ado, here are 10 horror films from Latin countries or by Latin filmmakers, to watch in honor of the Latin contribution to our favorite genre!

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BONUS: Here is a great Latin horror show definitely worth streaming!…

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-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2021)

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NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2021)

Del Toro’s latest is a remake of the 1947 film which is based on a book by William Lindsay Gresham. The story takes place in the early 1940s and finds man-with-a-secret Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) joining a carnival troop to survive hard times. There, he befriends a couple who perform feats of clairvoyance (Toni Collette and David Strathairn) and falls for the pretty Molly (Rooney Mara). He takes what he learns from the couple and leaves with Molly to start his own act that soon finds him the fame and fortune he seeks, conning the rich and gullible. When that is not enough, he tries to con the wealthy Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins), enlisting the help of Grindle’s femme fatale psychiatrist Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). This may be one con, however, where the hunter becomes the hunted.

Crime thriller is directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) from a script by he and Kim Morgan, based on Gresham’s book. It is a beautifully shot movie and very well made. The first hour is basically the set-up, then the second and third acts find Stanton and Molly as a grifting clairvoyant couple and thus leads to Stanton’s attempt to pull his biggest con yet, using a personal loss and pain to bilk Grindle out of a lot of his money. Then there is the mysterious Lilith Ritter, who seduces Stanton and may even be conning the con artist. It is very well directed and methodically paced and as with all of del Toro’s films, has its moments of brutal violence when things start to go bad. There is a wonderfully eclectic cast, also including Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe and Mary Steenburgen, with Cooper and Blanchett doing some of their best work. It’s an old-fashioned film noir with some contemporary touches and is sumptuously shot as with all del Toro’s movies. Very entertaining, if you get what the director is going for, though at this point, it also doesn’t seem like a film that one would necessarily need to continually revisit like some of his previous flicks.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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

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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

 

MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 MEXICAN HORROR FILMS TO WATCH ON CINCO DE MAYO!!!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 10 MEXICAN HORROR FILMS TO WATCH ON CINCO DE MAYO!!!

The annual celebration of the fifth of May reminds us of all the wonderful things that come from Mexican culture…including some great horror films! So, without further ado, here are 10 Mexican horror films to watch on Cinco de Mayo!

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A ghostly boy from Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: MIMIC (1997)

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MIMIC (1997)

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

The story tells of a deadly disease devastating New York City’s children and carried by it’s cockroaches. Entomologist Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) creates The Judas Breed, a new insect, genetically bred to destroy the infected cockroaches, then die-off themselves. The Judas Breed have other ideas and are not only thriving, but are soon growing, evolving and nesting in the city sewers. They are also now preying on humans. Susan, along with her husband, Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam), who is Deputy Director of the CDC, and reluctant subway cop, Officer Leonard Norton (Charles S. Dutton), find themselves in the fight of their lives, and the lives of everyone in the city, as they enter the catacombs of NYC’s massive subway system to find and destroy the The Judas Breed.

Film is directed by Guillermo del Toro from his script with Matthew Robbins, from the book of the same name by Donald A. Wollheim. It’s a solid, modern day sci-fi/horror, that is not without a nod to the giant bug movies of the 50s. It’s got a good story, a top notch cast, some good gore, excellent creature FX and there is enough carnage and action to satisfy the average monster/giant bug movie fan. The attack scenes are intense and suspenseful and Del Toro gives his creatures a nice air of mystery, till he’s ready to reveal them. When he does, they are menacing, vicious and have a character about them. He creates a lot of mystery and atmosphere and his visual style is gorgeous as usual. His visual eye makes good use of the underground subway system setting. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen is both colorful and filled with atmospheric shadows and the score by Marco Beltrami is very effective.

As said, there is a good cast here. Sorvino is a strong heroine as Susan. She has a hard time convincing the authorities of what she’s discovered and goes to investigate herself with only Peter on her side. Jeremy Northam is solid as Peter. He’s more concerned with having a baby than investigating Susan’s claims, at first, but comes to believe Susan is on to something. Charles S. Dutton is also really good as Officer Norton, a tough guy who is reluctantly dragged along on the giant bug hunt. The film also has a good supporting cast with Giancarlo Giannini as a shoe shiner whose autistic son (Alexander Goodwin) has an interest in the creatures, Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham, and, in a small role, Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus, as a department of sanitation employee who finds something very interesting in the garbage.

I’ve always liked monster movies and am a huge fan of Guillermo Del Toro, so it’s no surprise I champion his giant bug movie set in the sewers of NYC. I really do believe this is a good and very underrated monster movie that doesn’t get enough love. A director’s cut is now available on blu-ray, as Del Toro was unhappy with studio tinkering on the original release. It expands the story of Sorvino’s Entomologist and her husband, Peter as they try to have a baby, basically adding a bit more of a human element to already likable characters. Those looking for more creature stuff in the director’s cut will be sadly disappointed. A really good monster flick that doesn’t get the respect it deserves and was sadly a box office disappointment upon release in 1997.

-MonsterZero NJ

 Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Judas Breed Bugs!
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REVIEW: SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)

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SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)

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

Flick is based on the kids books by Alvin Schwartz and opens on Halloween night, 1968 in the small town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. Three friends Stella (Zoe Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush), Chuck (Austin Zajur) and new guy in town Ramón (Michael Garza) sneak into the supposedly haunted Bellows house, where Sarah Bellows is said to have poisoned a bunch of children after telling them scary stories. Stella finds and takes Sarah’s story book, which starts to write stories of it’s own, stories which come to life and deal out terrible fates to members of the group. Now the remaining friends must somehow find a way to save themselves, before they become just another scary story to be told in the dark.

The film is directed by André Øvredal (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe) from a script by Dan and Kevin Hageman. That script is based on a story by producer Guillermo del Toro, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan from Schwartz’s book. As such it’s a well made movie, but one that is not really all that scary, at least not consistently. There are a few spooky moments, but in between there is a lot of tedious and somewhat stale melodrama, as we get a very familiar ‘kids in supernatural peril trying to solve a mystery’ scenario, that we’ve seen so many times before. It’s nothing new and not presented in a fresh or innovative way. It was kinda dull. Maybe those endeared to the stories would find the film’s presentation of the material far more entertaining, but for the uninitiated, it’s very been there, done that. The PG-13 rating keeps things fairly tame, it is based on children’s stories after all, not that a film needs gore to be scary, as the recent Annabelle Comes Home proves. The make-up effects are very well done and the flick looks good, as Øvredal has a good eye, especially when represented by Roman Osin’s cinematography. The cast of young performers all play their roles well, as do the supporting adults. There is some atmosphere, especially in the opening Halloween segments, though it should have stayed set on Halloween night, as it looses some of it’s spookiness, once the story goes past All Hallow’s Eve.

Overall, it’s a well made movie, just not an overly scary one. To those not familiar with the books, the material is nothing we haven’t seen before and there are long stretches of tedium between the spooky parts. It looks good and is well acted by it’s cast, but really didn’t provide the chills the books, or Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for that matter, are famous for. A good horror flick for kids, or adults who scare easily, but hardcore horror fans might find themselves yawning through a lot of it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) books it’s based on.

 

 

 

 

 

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SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK GETS A NEW TRAILER and POSTER!

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Producer Guillermo del Toro and Autopsy of Jane Doe director André Øvredal are bringing Alvin Schwartz’s scary children’s stories to life on August 9, 2019 and scary stories they look indeed! Check out the latest trailer!

-MonsterZero NJ

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source: Youtube

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JULIA’S EYES (2010)

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JULIA’S EYES aka LOS OJOS DE JULIA (2010)

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

Julia’s Eyes is an occasionally effective and nicely photographed movie that tries to be a combination of Italian Giallo and Hitchcockian thriller, but doesn’t quite succeed at either. Eyes is the story of Julia (The Orphanage’s Belén Rueda) a woman with a degenerative sight condition who is investigating the suicide of her twin sister, who was also afflicted. What follows is a somewhat convoluted tale as Julia, with her rapidly diminishing sight, tries to track down an almost phantom like character who she feels is responsible for her sister’s death.

There are some very effective scenes in this Spanish thriller especially the spooky opening scene and the climactic confrontation, but there are a lot of slow spots in between and some of director and co-writer Guillem Morales’ ideas and plot directions border on the silly. Morales shows potential to be a good director, there is some nice atmosphere and everything is well framed and shot. There are some solid scenes of tension and he also gets good performances from his cast, especially from leading lady Rueda. Morales just needs to rein his scripts in a bit and try to not let his story stray outside of what is necessary to tell his tale. The flick feels about 10-15 minutes too long with some scenes playing out far longer than they seem like they need to. Perhaps at a tighter 90 minutes, Julia’s Eyes would have been more of the thriller he was going for.

Julia’s Eyes is produced by Guillermo del Toro and is still worth a look despite it’s flaws. Guillem Morales has worked only sporadically since, despite showing potential here, while ironically, co-writer Oriol Paulo has gone on to have a successful career as a writer and director.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) eyes

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HELLBOY II and BLADE II

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Been a long time since the last Saturday Night Double Feature, but with a Hellboy reboot on the way and talk of a new Blade film with Wesley Snipes, It’s time to revisit both series with their Guillermo del Toro directed entries…

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HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008)

Guillermo del Toro cranks things up for the Hellboy sequel which really scores with an amazing visual style and some stunning creature design. Del Toro this time brings a faster and more even pace to this one, as well as, a story that is a bit more Brothers Grimm than Lovecraft and that helps lighten the tone a bit, too. There’s a little more humor (Hellboy and Abe drunkenly singing Barry Manilow is sidesplitting), but the film never gets silly.

The story this time finds Hellboy (Ron Perlman) outing himself to the general public while a noble but vengeful elf prince, Nuada, (Played with dignity and strength by Luke Goss) plans to resurrect the mythic Golden Army to rid the world of mankind, so the creatures of fairy can return to their former glory. His twin sister, Nuala (Anna Walton) tries to thwart his efforts at genocide and allies herself with Hellboy and the team to protect pieces of a golden crown which can resurrect and control the goblin-made mechanical army. Can Hellboy defeat this powerful elven prince in order to protect the very humans who now seem to reject him, despite all he’s done to protect them?

Del Toro stages some absolutely beautiful set pieces with his trademark sumptuous visually style and design. Highlights of the film being The Troll Market scene and the following sequence featuring a giant plant elemental battling our heroes by the Brooklyn Bridge. They alone are worth the price of admission, not to mention the climactic battle against the Golden Army itself. There is an amazing assortment of supporting fantasy creatures that are incredibly designed and rendered and are worth the price of admission as well. Once again the mix of practical and CGI FX is truly breathtaking and elevate an already very entertaining film.

The cast are mostly all back except, Doug Jones now voices Abe himself and Agent Myers is absent. There is also new team member Johann Krauss, an ectoplasmic gas in a diving suit voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who butts heads…or glass bubbles…with the loose cannon, Hellboy.

Not only is Hellboy 2 a bigger and faster paced supernatural action flick, but it is a visual feast for the eyes and just plain loads of fun. A sequel that exceeds and improves on the entertaining original.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Hellboys!

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BLADE II (2002)

In my opinion Blade II is the best of the Blade series and is certainly my personal favorite in the comic book-based trilogy. Second adventure of the half human, half vampire hero Blade (Wesley Snipes) finds him hunting down Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who has been taken and turned by the vampires. Upon finding him and using his serum to effect a cure, Blade is contacted by the vampire hierarchy…and asked for help. It seems a vampire mutation strain has evolved creating vicious creatures called Reapers, who hunt vampires much like they hunt humans. The vampires’ reasoning is that once the vampires are wiped out by the rapidly multiplying Reapers, they will turn on the humans that Blade protects. Why not work together to destroy a common foe? Now the vampire slayer must join forces with his mortal enemies in order to defeat a threat that makes even vampires afraid of the dark…but can he trust his new allies?

As directed by Guillermo del Toro, Blade II has a great visual style, some fierce, gory action, a cool cast of supporting characters, along with a nasty and very effective foe in the Reapers. Where the first Blade was an action film with horror elements, Blade II is a horror film with lots of action…win, win!  Under Del Toro’s guidance, the cast all bring vivid life to their comic book-style characters. Wesley Snipes really takes control of the Blade character at this point, no more evident than in the scene where he first meets ‘The Bloodpack’, a team of vampire commandos who’s sole purpose is to kill him, but now must work with him against the Reapers. “Can you blush?” Luke Goss is fierce and yet noble as the Reaper leader Jared Nomak, a monster with some interesting secrets. Kris Kristofferson is cantankerous, as always, as Blade’s partner, mentor and weapon’s maker, Whistler. Leonor Valera is the beautiful Nyssa, a vampire aristocrat and warrior who steals Blade’s heart, despite being of a species he’s sworn to destroy. And Ron Perlman is effective and entertaining, as usual, as Bloodpack member Reinhard who is not happy with Blade as an ally and would love to take him down first chance he gets.

Blade II is a really fun flick and gives us some great and gory action set pieces, as when Blade and The Bloodpack take on the Reapers in a vampire night club, again in the catacombs underneath the city and finally, the climactic three-way showdown between Blade, Nomak and some double crossing vampires in the vampire stronghold. A really fast paced, delightfully gory and very entertaining action/horror with Blade at his best. Also stars Norman “Daryl Dixon” Reedus as Blade’s new sidekick, Scud and Hong Kong legend, Donnie Yen…who also choreographed the fight action…as Bloodpack member, Snowman. A really good movie and the best of this fun and far too short-lived series.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs!

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