BARE BONES: ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

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ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Action-fueled spy thriller takes place in 1989 in an unstable East Berlin as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is interrogated by her superiors over the events of the past few days. Her mission was to retrieve a list of all agents active in the area, including the traitorous Satchel, who was to be eliminated. As she relates her failure to capture this list, we go back and relive her problematic mission.

Neon drenched flick is directed by David Leitch from a script by Kurt Johnstad, that is based on a graphic novel called The Coldest City by by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. Despite a lot of intense and vicious fight scenes in which Theron gets to play a lethal bad-ass, the film is a bit dull and struggles to hold one’s interest. It’s also a flick that is trying way too hard to be hip and even overdoes it with it’s 80s soundtrack, which is almost impossible. Aside from the bone breaking action, the plot is extremely routine spy stuff and fails to really involve you when Theron isn’t snapping arms or breaking faces. A fairly forgettable movie despite a strong characterization by vet Theron and some very effective action sequences, which in themselves are worth watching. Also stars James McAvoy as her eccentric, Berlin MI6 contact and Sofia Boutella as a French agent and Theron’s love interest.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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REVIEW: KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017)

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KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2014)

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This new version of the King Kong legend takes place in 1973 at the end of the Viet Nam War when an uncharted island is discovered by satellite in the center of a perpetual storm system in the South Pacific. The monster hunting Monarch organization from Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla wants to send an expedition in, with the hopes of getting there before the Russians find out about it. Agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) heads the expedition team, including former SAS tracker, James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), combat photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a military escort lead by Lt. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). Immediately upon reaching the island, they find a hostile environment populated by hostile creatures and manage to piss off the ruling predator, a 100 foot tall ape the local natives and stranded WWII airman Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) call Kong. After a confrontation with Kong that leaves the military escort decimated and the expedition stranded, the group begin to plan their escape from the island…all but the vengeful Packard, who wants to finish what he and the enormous simian started. Little do they realize, that there is a greater threat living beneath the grounds of Skull Island and Kong may be their only hope of surviving it.

The entire reason this reboot exists is to set up the eventual collision between the giant ape and Godzilla, now that Warner Bros has the rights to both and is starting their proposed Marvel-esque “Monster-verse”. In a way it shows, as this flick is directed somewhat by-the-numbers by Jordan Vogt-Roberts from a script by three writers, no less, including Godzilla scribe Max Borenstein. This new interpretation is a fun monster movie that is loaded with action and filled with an assortment of critters, but by removing the tragic elements and the Beauty and The Beast angle from the original story, the makers remove the parts of the tale that resonated the most and gave it emotional depth. Now it’s just a routine monster movie and while it does entertain, it is also a bit forgettable once the credits finish rolling. Vogt-Roberts moves things fast enough, but never succeeds in giving the film a sense of wonder or an emotional center. Even Kong seems more of a generic monster here, though a bit of a noble one and we don’t endear to him like previous incarnations. The film is still a fun time, but not much is going to stick with you after it’s over. The FX are top notch and the monster scuffles are fast and furious, but the film lacks the heart and soul that the original classic…and even, to a lesser extent, Peter Jackson’s remake…had that made them memorable and endearing. Aside from re-introducing Kong in order to set up another movie with The Big G, there really isn’t a point to this version and despite the monster menagerie and some likable characters, it’s a bit shallow, when all is said and done.

The cast are all good, though and overcome some stale dialog to make their characters enjoyable to watch, aside from the big CGI ape. Hiddleston is solid as former military man Conrad and proves again he is leading man material. Here he plays a tough guy with a heart and does so very well. Brie Larson is also very charming and likable as seasoned photographer Mason Weaver. She can scrap and battle monsters with the boys and hold her own with both Kong and Samuel L. Jackson and not loose her girl-next-door appeal. She conveys a strength and grace that should bode well for her upcoming MCU turn playing Marvel super-heroine Captain Marvel. Goodman avoids the clichés that come with government operative characters and gives his Bill Randa a boyish sense of wonder at what he has found on Skull Island. While the character did keep secrets, he is never portrayed as a villain. Samuel L. Jackson is dead-on as the battle-hardened warrior who is not going to let a giant ape get away with wiping out his squad, especially after a disappointing exit from the Viet Nam conflict. Jackson’s bravado and intensity does make him a suitable adversary for the gigantic ape. Rounding out the leads is John C. Riley, who gives the film a little comic relief and some heart as a man who has been stranded on the primordial island since WWII and has bonded with the natives and learned how to survive it’s beastly population. His Hank Marlow provides us with some important exposition about Kong and his homeland, too. The supporting cast are all fine, as well and the strong cast helps make this as fun as it is.

Overall, this is a fun Saturday or Sunday matinee monster movie with plenty of creatures and numerous monster brawls to pass the time. The solid cast elevates a routine script and some stale dialog and the film is fast paced enough to keep us from thinking too much about things. The tragic soul of the original story is lacking and while there is a brief bonding moment between Kong and Larson’s Mason Weaver, the epic Beauty and the Beast element is missing as well. This Kong never gets to see New York or fall in love, but if he is still a growing boy as Hank Marlow seems to suggest, he should be big enough to lock horns with Godzilla as Warner Brothers plans them to do in 2020…which is the entire reason we got this movie. A fun, but forgettable monster mash.

Be sure to stay through the credits for a Marvel-esque post credit sequence that reveals Godzilla’s “co-stars” in the upcoming Michael Dougherty directed sequel Godzilla: King Of The Monsters due in 2019.

-MonsterZero NJ

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KONG: SKULL ISLAND GETS A NEW TRAILER!

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King Kong is Back! The new re-imagining of the classic character is scheduled to hit theaters on March 10th 2017 and this new trailer brings out the King and the critters! Flick stars Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson!

-MonsterZero NJ

source: Youtube

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REVIEW: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)

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10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016)

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

I’m not a big fan of the found footage, monster movie darling that is Cloverfield. It had some cool FX and the monster stuff was entertaining, but the acting was poor, the characters were super annoying and the shaky-cam way over-done. Now we have 10 Cloverfield Lane which may…or may not, be related to that film.

The story finds pretty Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) running away from her engagement and getting into a car accident in the middle of nowhere. She awakens to find herself in some kind of bomb shelter, her wounds treated, but apparently a prisoner of a man who introduces himself as Howard (John Goodman). Howard tells her he was on his way home when he found her and that there has been some kind of attack. Everyone outside the shelter is probably dead and the only way she and another ‘guest’ Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) are going to survive, is if they remain in the shelter with him. Michelle thinks he’s crazy, though there is compelling evidence to believe something has occurred outside in the world. Yet every time she starts to believe that there may be some truth to his claims, she discovers something that may also indicate that Howard is a psychopath and she and Emmet’s lives may be in grave danger. Where does the true danger lie?…outside…or locked inside with the possibly unstable Howard?

I won’t say if this is truly connected to Cloverfield or not, but will say you will be getting a very entertaining and suspenseful thriller from the script by Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken and Damiene Chazelle. The film is tensely and atmospherically directed by Dan Trachtenberg and really keeps us guessing as to whether Howard is really a looney or are Michelle and Emmet the two luckiest people at the end of the world. We get hints that something awful has happened above ground and yet every-time we start to believe Howard, we get thrown another clue that he may indeed be off his rocker. Which is it, savior or psychopath? Did he really rescue Michelle, or was he actually the cause of her accident? It’s a fun movie and Trachtenberg makes good use of his claustrophobic setting of the bomb shelter with the characters inside appearing to bond and yet being very suspicious of their host. Michelle never really comes to trust Howard, even when she sees direct evidence that danger may actually lurk outside the airlocks. It’s almost a cat and mouse game between the two, as she plots various escapes and yet Howard always seems to be one step ahead or able to cast doubt on what awaits outside. It’s actually very entertaining for a movie that takes place 90% in such a confined space. There is some clever dialog, a dark sense of humor and we are delightfully kept guessing till the final moments as to whether Howard is psycho or hero…and the answer still may not be what you expect. What is less surprising is what we finally get once we get back to the outside world. It wasn’t as impressive as the suspenseful build-up deserved. It’s kind of been done before and while it is well done and entertaining, it’s still a little disappointing.

What really makes this flick click so well are the performances. Mary Elizabeth Winstead once again proves she is a terribly underrated actress and gives a great performance as Michelle. Winstead paints a portrait of a gusty, resilient young woman and makes really good use of the depth the script gives her. Michelle is a really smart and strong heroine for us to root for and Winstead makes her a good match for Howard. As Howard, Goodman is not far behind performance-wise. He is really good at keeping us guessing whether the man is eccentric friend or dangerous foe. He makes Howard really likable and a bit sympathetic at times and then menacing and downright scary at others. He and Winstead play off each other well and we look forward to the confrontation we know this is all leading to. Our third cast member John Gallagher Jr. is likable as the simple but kind Emmet. He basically gets caught in the middle between the domineering and strange Howard and the ever distrusting Michelle. He’s a far more trusting sort than she is and also believes he saw something going on before begging Howard to let him in. Gallagher plays well Emmet’s desire to believe both his companions, though Michelle is wearing him down despite his also believing that something is amiss above ground. Excellent work by a very good cast.

Overall, I liked this thriller a lot. It was suspenseful, clever, well-acted and did deliver…something…when all is said and done. Whether using the word Cloverfield in the title is simply a marketing ploy, or if this flick is a distant cousin of that popular flick, is irrelevant. This is a highly entertaining thriller that keeps you guessing and gives some strong characters to pit against each other in a battle of wills that may…or may not…be between the last people on Earth. There is also some strong cinematography by Jeff Cutter and a great score by Bear McCreary to add to the atmosphere the film has.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 amazing actresses.

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CLOVERFIELD RELATED FLICK GETS A TRAILER AND POSTER!

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We’re not sure if it’s a prequel, sequel, spin-off or bastard cousin, but whatever this flick is in relation to the cult hit Cloverfield, it now has a poster and a trailer! Mystery film is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman and opens on 3/11/16!

-MonsterZero NJ

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: C.H.U.D. (1984)

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C.H.U.D. (1984)

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C.H.U.D. is another 80s flick that has earned a cult classic reputation and it is one that I actually saw in a theater back in 1984. One of the first films produced by New World Pictures after it was sold by Roger Corman, this monster flick tells the story of radioactive materials that are stored secretly by the government in the New York City sewer system that turns it’s underground homeless population into flesh eating monsters. As first the homeless and then more affluent citizens start to disappear… due to the creatures expanding their hunt for food… photographer Cooper (John Heard), street preacher Shepard (Daniel Stern) and police captain Bosch (Christopher Curry), whose wife is among the missing, are drawn together in an effort to battle the creatures and uncover and expose the conspiracy that created them.

If there is any main problem with this flick directed by Douglas Creek and written by Parnell Hall… from a story by Shepard Abbott… is that there is very little actual C.H.U.D. in a film called C.H.U.D. The filmmakers choose to focus instead on the drama between characters and the government conspiracy and cover-up than on the title creatures which appear very sporadically. Whether it was the restrictions from a fairly low budget or a writer and director trying to make more out of basically what is a simple monster movie, is not clear but, the flick definitely is scarce on delivering the monster goods and/or their carnage. There are lengthy and frankly dull dialogue sequences as the characters argue amongst each other or with slimy government bureaucrat Wilson (George Martin) and when the C.H.U.D. do appear, it’s briefly and most of their carnage happens off camera, such as a frustrating battle between the beasts and a squad of flame-thrower armed police that is seen for a few seconds on a video monitor and that’s it. We see bloody corpses long after the damage is done but, very little of the C.H.U.D. in action. It’s a shame because plot-wise this is a great B-Movie premise ripe for possibilities that chooses instead to focus on blandly written characters and cliche’ conspiracy situations than giving us the monster action the title and scenario promise. Cheek is not a skilled enough director to pull either the dialogue or monster scenes off well enough… though there are a few spooky scenes in the sewers…to make them really memorable and only the creatures’ cool design has helped them endure and earned them their rep. This is a movie that is a considered a classic more by nature of the potential of it’s plot than from it’s actual content. The film is shot well by cinematography Peter Stein and there is a cool electronic score by David A. Hughes, that reminded me of something that might accompany an Italian zombie movie. And, as stated, the monsters are pretty cool when they do appear which isn’t very often and the gore is well executed when seen. But, it’s not enough to make up for the minimal use of it’s title characters.

The cast are fairly dull, which doesn’t help. John Heard performs as if this was a paycheck job and it probably was. Stern overacts as the street preacher/soup kitchen manager but, it at least adds some life to the character. Curry is really bland as police Captain Bosch and Martin is a stereotypical government douche. At least Kim Greist adds a little sex appeal as Heard’s model wife but, her part is very small and she’s just there to become a damsel in distress in the last act. At least we get a small part by future star John Goodman as a cop in a diner that is besieged… again, off-camera… by the C.H.U.D.

Overall, despite it’s flaws I still find C.H.U.D. to be watchable but, even now it’s still a big disappointment considering the cool exploitation flick set-up. Had this been made when Corman ran New World Pictures, I’m sure we would have gotten the beasts, blood and gore we came for and probably got some boobs thrown in for good measure. The films’ creatures are cool despite their brief screen time and there are a few atmospheric scenes in the spooky sewers. But, sadly this is a monster film that chooses to focus more on it’s ho-hum drama than it’s cool critters… which makes me wonder why this is considered a classic and yet everyone picked on this year’s Godzilla for the same flaws…

2 and 1/2 CHUDs.

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