MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and THE ROAD WARRIOR

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This edition of MZNJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature has an apocalyptic theme, with two of MZNJ’s all-time favorite apocalyptic features!…

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)

Escape From New York is one of my all-time favorite B movies and a bonafide film classic. I instantly fell in love with this film upon seeing it opening night at the legendary Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and John Carpenter solidified himself as one of my favorite directors.

An outrageously original idea has New York City in a war torn, crime filled, future turned into a maximum-security prison, and legendary director Carpenter makes it work by taking his subject matter just seriously enough to make the audience buy it. Add to that a colorful cast of characters, including one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heros of all time, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), and you have the recipe for a B movie classic.

The story is simple, war hero turned outlaw, Snake Plissken has been captured and is about to be sentenced to life imprisonment in New York City Penitentiary. Fate intervenes and the President’s (Donald Pleasence) plane is hijacked on the way to a crucial peace summit and crashed inside the city. Former special forces soldier Plissken is the only man skilled enough to sneak in quietly and get him out alive, and Snake now has a chance at a full pardon for all his crimes if he takes the job. A vicious gang leader called The Duke Of New York (Isaac Hayes) has other ideas for both The President and Snake, who has less then 24 hours to complete his mission, or the world goes back to war and the micro explosives implanted in his neck to keep him compliant, will go off.

Director and co-writer (with Nick Castle) Carpenter creates some nice tension and suspense, and his visual eye is great at creating a gloomy hellhole out of the world’s greatest city. Dean Cundey’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful as it captures the world inside New York, which is very effectively portrayed on a small budget. Carpenter moves the film along well, although not as fast paced as today’s audience are used to, and there is plenty of action and chases to keep one entertained. Despite being released in 1981, this film may be the last film to have a real 70s feel to it before the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards changed action films forever. Another film that inspired many and was imitated many times and another great Carpenter film score to add to the atmosphere.

As for the cast… Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood as Snake and it’s only natural then to pair him up with Eastwood co-star Lee Van Cleef as Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk. Rounding out the cast is Halloween vet Donald Pleasence as the President, Harry Dean Stanton as Brain, Carpenter’s then wife, Adrienne Barbeau as Maggie, Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie and legendary soul man Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York. Not to forget, there is also genre favorite Tom Atkins as Hauk’s right-hand man, Rehme and frequent Carpenter collaborator Charles Cyphers as the Secretary of State. A simply classic B-movie sci-fi/action flick and one of my all-time favorites!

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  The studio wanted Charles Bronson as Snake, but Carpenter fought for his choice of former Disney child actor, Russell and the rest is history. Also, the SPFX were done in part by a then unknown James Cameron, who went on to direct Terminator and Titanic. And despite its setting, most of the film was lensed in St. Louis and L.A. with only one-night actual shooting in NYC at the Statue of Liberty.

One of the greatest B-movies of all time!

Rated a classic 4 (out of 4) Snakes

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THE ROAD WARRIOR aka MAD MAX 2 (1981)

Road Warrior is simply an action classic and one of my all-time favorite movies. It still holds up today even after over 40 years and is still better than most of the CGI filled action flicks that get churned out today. I was stunned upon leaving the theater after first seeing it at the Stanley Warner in Paramus, N.J. in 1981 and the film still has its magic when I watch it all these years later.

The film is set years after the events of 1979’s Mad Max and takes place after an apocalyptic collapse of society triggered by the drying up of fuel sources and the resulting panic. It follows ex-cop Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), who we last saw avenging the murder of his wife and child against a savage biker gang, and now wanders the wasteland fighting to survive amidst the scavengers, a once loving family man transformed into a ruthless survivor who looks out only for himself. Max stumbles across a small desert community that is manufacturing fuel but is also battling a large gang of thugs who want to take the gas and slaughter all those inside. Max’s need for fuel leads him to align himself with the embattled village but is it something more that makes him risk his life as the villagers make a desperate attempt to escape the ‘vermin on machines’ and find a better place to start a new life.

The Road Warrior is simply a great movie. One of the greatest action films ever made, the film that turned Gibson into a star and launched dozens of cheap imitations and still inspires filmmakers today (I recommend Neil Marshall’s outrageously fun homage Doomsday). George Miller creates a world that is an apocalyptic Sergio Leone western in S & M gear and features some of the most furious action/chase scenes ever committed to film. He populates this world with a cast of eccentric characters from the bizarre and whimsical Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) to the equally surreal gang leader Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his mohawked henchman Wes (Vernon Wells). Beneath all the leather and carnage, the film also has a heart and a soul and that’s what sets it apart. Ultimately it is about clinging to and regaining one’s humanity in the face of adversity. Not only is Max rediscovering he has a heart underneath the bodies of all those he has killed and all that he has lost but civilization as well is struggling to regain what’s been lost against those who would take advantage of its ruin. Amidst the bone-crushing action and blood-spattering violence there is a message of hope and that is really what makes this film so special and gives it so much substance. Director Miller mixes in his message perfectly with the action, offsetting the brutality with a quirky sense of humor, so the bleak nature of the film never wears you down. A perfect blend of elements if there ever was one. Miller also gives the film a look that would make Leone and Kurosawa proud and Dean Selmer’s cinematography brings it to life along with Norma Moriceau’s inventive costume design and, of course, all the amazing stunt work and action choreography. Wrap that up in Brian May’s pulse pounding score and you have a cinematic experience that is just as effective today as it was over 40 years ago. Miller co-wrote the script with Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant and the film was produced by Miller’s friend and Mad Max producer Byron Kennedy, who would tragically be killed 2 years later in a helicopter crash.

The cast really are perfect, especially for bringing such colorful and strange characters to life. Gibson is both samurai and gunslinger as the iconic Max, portraying a man who is deadly, cunning but still has a heart buried deep down that enables him to become a hero when there are those in need. His actions may seem selfish at first, but the cop and family man are still in there needing a good reason to re-emerge. Bruce Spence is a delight as the goofy Gyro Captain, a bizarre individual who flies a gyro copter over the vicious inhabitants of the wasteland and survives by his wits and the help of his pet snakes. A truly endearing and memorable character. Nilsson and Wells create formidable villains becoming the signature template for all the bad guys in practically every post-apocalyptic action rip-off that arose after this became a sensation. They are both oddballs and nut jobs but very lethal characters with Wells’ Wes practically stealing the show as the loose cannon, psychotic henchman. We also have Michael Preston who is a noble leader as the in-over-his-head Pappagallo, a man who believes civilization is not lost and plans to start again. Young Emil Minty is a hoot as the Feral Child, a stray dog of a little boy who communicates in growls and is quite resourceful and scrappy in a fight, and Virginia Hey is noble and strong as the simply named Warrior Woman, who fights just as hard as any man. There are many other supporting players and they all do well in establishing personalities for their offbeat characters. An almost perfect cast for a film masterpiece.

What else can I say. This film is a masterpiece of action and storytelling and is one of the most influential films of its time. It is one of my all-time favorites and a film that is just as effective today as it was in 1981. It is a clear example that action movies can have a story and a soul and still deliver mind blowing sequences without a lick of CGI. Often imitated but never equaled. A classic in every sense of the word.

Rated 4 (out of 4) warriors of the wasteland!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MEMORIES: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MEMORIES: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

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Big Trouble!

As it is the anniversary of its release, a look back at this now classic action fantasy…
Once again director John Carpenter was ahead of his time with this spin on the type of SPFX filled supernatural/martial arts flicks that were being made as part of the revisionist Hong Kong cinema of the 80s and 90s like Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain (1983). Unfortunately, like his masterpiece The ThingBig Trouble failed at the box office and would only years later be recognized and loved for the classic it is. As an avid fan of Carpenter, I was there opening night in 1986 and my friends and I loved it and immediately started quoting characters and making references, years before it got the attention it deserved. I’m proud to have championed this flick from the beginning. I had yet to see Zu, but heard enough and saw enough from the film, to know what Carpenter was doing. The Hong Kong cinema wouldn’t catch on here in the US till the early 90s and sadly it was only then when movie fans realized that Carpenter nailed the spirit and frantic fun of those movies perfectly with this deliriously entertaining flick!

 

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Don’t mess with Jack Burton!

 

Photos: 20th Century Fox

-MonsterZero NJ

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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BREAKING NEWS: FATHOM EVENTS TO FIX ASPECT RATIO FOR CARPENTER’S THE THING!

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After fan anger and disappointment was unleased online, led by filmmaker and horror expert Mick Garris, due to Fathom Events’ sub-par print of John Carpenter’s The Thing that was screened Sunday night, Fathom has responded! As stated in an article appearing on Variety’s website last night, Fathom Events will replace the shoddy print with a print in the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio for Wednesday’s scheduled screenings!
 
Fathom’s statement as per the Variety article…

 

“Your patronage and trust are of utmost importance to us. We know you come to theaters expecting the very best experience possible and we pride ourselves in being the provider of that experience,” the statement reads. “We are aware that the recent showing of ‘The Thing; wasn’t shown in its original aspect ratio and the disappointment it caused. Wednesday’s scheduled event will be shown in the proper aspect ratio, so you can see the film in theaters, as it was meant to be seen.”

Nothing was said about refunding or appeasing those, like myself, that saw it Sunday with the inferior print, but at least those seeing it at the Wednesday showings will get to see it as John Carpenter intended! Thank you, Mick Garris!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Variety and Mick Garris’ Instagram

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S MOVIE MEMORIES: HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)!

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The ill-fated crew of U.S. outpost #31 from John Carpenter’s The Thing!

John Carpenter’s production of The Thing turns 40 years old on 6/25/22 and I was fortunate to see it at a preview screening a week earlier at the long-gone Totowa Cinema in Totowa, N.J. At this point I was already a John Carpenter fan and The Thing from Another World, which is the first film adaptation John W. Campbell Jr’s Who Goes There?, was one of my childhood favorites. I was very excited and as there was no internet to spoil things, I didn’t know what to expect apart from a few stills posted in Starlog and a cast and crew with some familiar faces and names. I was wowed to say the least by this groundbreaking adaptation with some of the most amazing make-up FX I’d ever seen! There was no traditional monster such as in Alien, but a creature that changed shape and form every time you saw it and right before you eyes. I loved the flick and was actually mad when it opened officially a week later to bad reviews and even worse box office. I saw it at least twice more in a theater before it’s sadly brief theatrical run came to an end. now, after four decades I can be happy that the film is finally recognized and regarded as the classic that it is!

 

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Something not of this world has been unleashed from it’s icy tomb!

Last night John Carpenter’s flick, now rightfully recognized as the masterpiece it is, returned to theaters to commemorate it’s 40th anniversary thanks to AMC and Fathom Events. It was a bittersweet return as, sadly, it was an inferior print that was not only faded and sometimes a bit blurry but cropped from the film’s original 2:35 aspect ratio to something more resembling 1:85! WTF!? This totally betrayed Carpenter’s impeccable visual style and Dean Cundey’s masterful cinematography. On that level it was very disappointing. However, the heart and soul of this science fiction/horror was still intact, and it was still a blast and a good time to see Kurt Russell and co-stars up on the big screen once more battling Rob Bottin’s shape-shifting alien monstrosity. It brought back a lot of memories from my first screening in 1982 and proved this flick has lost none of its potency four decades later. It will always remain one of my all-time favorites and if you truly want to see it as intended, pick up Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. The print is a beautifully restored high definition transfer that presents this masterpiece of alien terror in all it’s gory glory!

 

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A last stand against the alien invader!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Photos: Universal Pictures

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COOL STUFF: JOHN WALSH’S ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILM!

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JOHN WALSH’S ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK: THE OFFICIAL STORY OF THE FILM!

Can’t wait to start reading this! Escape From New York is one of my all-time favorite movies since seeing it opening night at the Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ back in 1981. I have been waiting forty years for a book like this! LOL! Check out the book’s description from the product page on Amazon…

“Discover the thrilling story behind the making of Escape from New York and celebrate its legacy in this visually stunning, exclusive retrospective.

Over forty years after the release of the iconic hit, Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film delves into the archives to showcase the creation of the movie. Directed by John Carpenter and released in 1981, Escape from New York thrilled audiences worldwide with its memorable characters, gritty premise and creative special effects.
 
This must-have book is the ultimate retrospective to the cult-classic movie, illustrating the production process of the science-fiction blockbuster, plus the impact and influence in popular culture, as well as the costuming, special effects, music, posters, and much more. Featuring brand new interviews with cast and crew, plus a foreword written by award-winning filmmaker, Corin Hardy, this extraordinary collection of never-before-seen art will give fans exclusive insight into every aspect of the movie.”

Escape from New York: The Official Story of the Film can be purchased on Amazon.com!

MonsterZero NJ

HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken! One of the greatest and sadly underused movie anti-heroes of all-time!

40 years ago today the film world was introduced to Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) as John Carpenter’s Escape From New York was released in theaters! A little EFNY anniversary trivia: studio Avco Embassy Pictures wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for Plissken, but Carpenter held out for Kurt Russell and history was made! HAPPY 40th ANNIVERSARY ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK!

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The late, great Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. where I saw Escape From New York opening night! (Photo from the Mitchell Dvoskin collection)

-MonsterZero NJ

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE THING 2011 and THE THING (1982)

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In celebration of snagging what appears to be the last Target exclusive NECA MacReady action figure on the shelves, I’ve decided to make a double feature out of Carpenter’s classic and it’s prequel…

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THE THING (2011)

John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s a classic and arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece. So, I tried to put the audacity aside that someone would attempt a prequel and went in trying to view this film on it’s own merits as much as possible. Ultimately, since it’s trying to be part of that film’s story, you kind of have to compare and my mind constantly made such comparisons all throughout. Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, but also didn’t hate it and over time, it has grown on me as a sort of amusing companion piece. Still, obviously far from a classic like it’s predecessor.

2011’s The Thing takes place in the Norwegian camp that is seen briefly in Carpenter’s film in smoldering ruins. It details their finding of the alien ship and it’s passenger in the ice and it’s subsequent escape and infiltration of the camp and assimilation of various members. The Norwegians are joined by some American’s including Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Paleontologist Kate Lloyd, Eric Christian Olsen as scientist Adam Finch and Joel Edgerton as helicopter pilot Sam. Aside from Ulrich Thompson as lead scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson, the rest are interchangeable and generic characters that serve mostly as body count. Only Winstead really tries to make Kate a more rounded character, but she isn’t given much to do but look concerned, or scared, or both, till the last act.

This is where The Thing fails to assimilate the 1982 perfectly as it’s title creature would. Director Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. fails to generate much suspense or create the kind of paranoia that fueled the 82 classic. He does create a bit of a sense of dread, but for the most part, he directs this “prequel” competently, but very by-the-numbers. There’s very little of the kind of tension Carpenter built during his film, even though the situation is basically the same. Even if he was trying to craft a film that was more it’s own “thing” he still doesn’t have the directing chops to really pull it off. The film has a nice visual style, there are some well done action sequences and they did do a good job of matching sets and events to link up with the film this is a prequel to, but it still doesn’t come close to Thing ’82.

Heijningen doesn’t get that much help out of his actors either. Other than Winstead and Edgerton, most of them pretty much perform on ‘paycheck’ levels and there are none of the memorable characters like Carpenter’s eclectic bunch. Well, at least there should be some cool monster stuff, right? Not quite. All this talk of practical effects during production was nonsense, as 90% of what we see is CGI, or enhanced with CGI, and it’s only a few levels about your average SYFY channel movie. So even the monster evokes no emotion, because it looks like what it is, phony. And to be honest, the designs lack the impact of Rob Bottin’s now legendary work. Even at their weakest moments, Bottin’s creature transformations generated awe or disgust. You’d think they’d take advantage of almost 30 years of technological advancement in movie effects, yet the creatures have little impact. And, speaking of our alien star, we are never given much more information about the creature than we already know from Thing ’82. They totally blow the opportunity to add to the creature’s mythos.

I’ll admit, there were a few scenes I liked, especially toward the end where the camp is thrown into all out combat with our computer generated invader and there are some clever bits like one involving tooth fillings. I also liked Winstead’s Kate as our lead. I think Winstead is capable of strong roles and it’s too bad she’s wasn’t given stronger stuff till the last act here. She makes a credible heroine. The end credits nod to the Carpenter flick is the best stuff in the movie. At least the lead-in stuff worked very well and the film ends on a spooky note as we know what comes next…a far superior movie.

In conclusion, I didn’t hate this flick, but would only recommend it as an amusing curiosity or a mindless popcorn monster flick as long as you forget about it even trying to stack up to the Kurt Russell classic. The Thing 2011 did have almost impossible shoes to fill and while it falls far short of the mark, it’s also not the complete disaster it’s made out to be. Best “thing” about the movie is that it is a lead-in to Carpenter’s flick, so you can always watch that afterwards.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 (out of 4) flame thrower wielding cuties!

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THE THING (1982)

Arguably John Carpenter’s best film and his masterpiece, The Thing  was a remake of Howard Hawks’ 1951 classic The Thing From Another World, which was itself based on John W. Campbell’s story Who Goes There? Instead of using the 1951 film’s walking, blood sucking alien vegetable, he went back to Campbell’s story which featured an alien creature capable of imitating whatever it fed on.

Carpenter’s film opens with an isolated American research station in Antarctica being buzzed by a Norwegian helicopter that seems to be trying to gun down a lone sled dog. The incident results in the helicopter being destroyed and both raving occupants being killed, one by the station commander Gary (Donald Moffat) in defense of his crew. Now the team including helicopter pilot MacReady (Kurt Russell) are stuck with a bizarre mystery and the surviving sled dog. When MacReady and Doctor Copper (Richard Dysart) investigate the Norwegian camp, they find it destroyed, it’s occupants dead and a huge hollowed out block of ice…not to mention a burned corpse of something barely human. The investigating of the evidence indicates the Norwegians found a strange ship in the ice and brought a specimen back to their camp that apparently was not dead when thawed out. The real nightmare is yet to come as the Norwegian dog reveals itself to be something quite unworldly and that an alien creature with the ability to absorb and become it’s prey may now be among them…or worse, may be one or more of them already. The paranoia and terror grows as the team try to discover who may be a creature in disguise and the creature feeds their paranoia and seeks to eliminate any of the men with the scientific knowhow to unmask it. Can those still human stop it and if they fail, what will happen to the rest of humanity?

The Thing is both a masterpiece of suspense and tension, as well as, of visceral horror. Carpenter, along with Bill Lancaster’s script, perfectly creates the paranoia of not knowing who around you is human and who is not. The setting of isolation is made all that apparent as Carpenter seals his characters in an ice and snow surrounded maze of hallways and dark rooms where the 12 men are trapped with something very inhuman and they can’t even trust each other, as it could be anyone. The team all suspect each other, but as is human nature, turn to those they like for support and turn on those they may have not liked or not gotten along with before. We have 12 men who are social outcasts thrust into a situation where no one is coming to their rescue and they are forced to not only try to save themselves, but literally save the planet, as their failure to stop this creature will unleash it upon an unsuspecting world. Just so we fully understand the enormity of this creature’s threat, we are treated, via make-up FX master Rob Bottin (and Stan Winston who created the dog kennel creature), to some of the most gruesome creature transformation sequences ever filmed. Bottin convinced Carpenter to not go with a standard true form for the creature design, but an organism that is constantly changing and different once revealed and is made up of parts of all the beings it has absorbed during it’s journey through space. The results are visually horrifying and still hold their full impact even today. All this is brilliantly filmed by cinematographer Dean Cundey and accented by a haunting score by Ennio Morricone…who later voiced disapproval of how Carpenter used it. It is said the prominent electronic bits were actually written by Carpenter, though a lot of Morricone’s music is still used.

As for the human players, obviously this is Kurt Russell’s show, as he plays a man who is reluctantly forced to try to save a world he seems intent on hiding from and does so, honorably and selflessly. With 12 characters not everyone is given a lot of attention, but the cast all handle their roles well in presenting a bunch of eclectic social misfits who would rather be in the antarctic than with the rest of the world. The standouts aside from Russell’s MacReady are Dysart’s Dr. Copper, Moffat’s Gary, who crumbles when he really needs to take charge, forcing MacReady to lead the rest, Keith David’s Childs and Brimley’s scientist Blair. Ironic, as Brimley has voiced his complete distain for the film. Maybe he should have read the script before signing on? Rounding out a solid cast are Richard Masur as Clark, David Clennon as stoner Palmer, Charles Hallahan as the meek Norris, Joel Polis as the quiet scientist Fuchs, T.K. Carter as the smart-ass cook Nauls, Thomas G. Waites as cowardly radioman Windows and Peter Maloney as complainer Bennings. Carpenter’s wife at the time, actress Adrienne Barbeau, also has a vocal cameo as the voice of MacReady’s chess computer.

The history of this film is as legendary as the film itself. The flick was critically panned for it’s gruesome gore FX and grim tone and audiences stayed away…not me, though, I saw it at least 3 times back in the day…and it has taken decades for it to finally be recognized as the masterpiece and classic it truly is. Simply a great horror/sci-fi film that has yet to be equaled.

-MonsterZero NJ

A classic 4 (out of 4) Things!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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

It took 15 years, but in 1996 John Carpenter finally brought Snake Plissken back for another escape. This flick takes place in 2013 and finds Plissken (Kurt Russell) being caught gunfighting in Thailand and brought to the West Coast to be deposited in the lawless island of L.A. A massive earthquake, predicted by the United States’ right wing religious president (Cliff Robertson), has separated L.A. from the mainland and now any immoral or criminal individuals are deposited in this no man’s land. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) has rebelled and fled to L.A. into the arms of Peruvian terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) with a doomsday weapon. Like in New York, Plissken is offered his freedom and a pardon of all his crimes, if he infiltrates L.A., kills Cuervo and Utopia and returns the weapon to the U.S. president.

Escape from L.A. was a box office and critical disappointment back in 1996, but with a lot of John Carpenter’s lesser films, it grows on one and now, viewed all these years later, is an entertaining watch finally finding it’s fan base. Carpenter directed from a script by he, producer Debra Hill and star Kurt Russell. It’s lighter in tone and more colorful than Plissken’s apocalyptic first adventure and the characters are a bit more cartoonish than those Snake met in NYC. The budget is almost 4x as much, though bargain basement CGI FX make it look a lot cheaper than it’s 1981 predecessor. The story is a thin remake of the first film and is a bit more politically preachy, with it’s religious right president and police state where even smoking and red meat are criminal offenses. Thankfully Snake is still Snake and he’s cool as ice, even when surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda. The action is somewhat bigger than in EFNY, though a weak villain and too many disposable characters lessen the film’s overall impact. The flick follows the 1981 original’s template too closely to really resonate as a new adventure, but there is a lot of entertainment in watching Carpenter poke fun at politics and Hollywood, no more evident than the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Bruce Campbell) segment. It is a flawed movie, but with a little added nostalgia, at over two decades old, it can be fun…and at least we get to see Russell back in action as Snake, one more time.

Carpenter always assembles a good cast. Russell steps into Snake Plissken seamlessly and despite the outlaw being 15 years older, it seems like just yesterday, he was escaping New York City. Russell plays him very seriously despite the film’s lighter tone and Snake is ever the badass up until and including the very last shot. A classic character used far too sparsely. The only disappointment in the cast is Corraface as Cuervo Jones. The actor tries hard, but doesn’t have the presence or ferocity to make him a strong villain worthy of taking on Snake. He’s weak. Issac Hayes’ Duke of New York seemed far more deadly and dangerous. Langer is fine as the ditzy Utopia, though the character is too light to fit in a Plissken adventure. Same could be said of Buscemi’s ‘Map To The Stars’ Eddie. He’s a jokey substitute for Borgnine’s Cabbie and another character that feels out of place. Keach is good as Malloy who would be the Bob Hauk character, as is Robertson slimy as the religious zealot president. Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, the great Pam Grier and Peter Fonda are all fine in their supporting roles, as is Bruce Campbell a hoot as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. A good cast for the most part.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing when seen opening day 1996, especially to those of us who had been waiting 15 years for Carpenter to unleash Snake Plissken again. Decades later, now that the disappointment has abated and nostalgia has set in, it’s doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, it’s a bit too much of a remake to feel like a completely new adventure, but Russell is still awesome as Snake and at least we have two adventures to watch instead of just the one. There is a lot of action, aside from some sly political commentary and showbiz satire and some of it is more relevant now than back in the day. Not one of Carpenter’s best, but like many of his lesser titles, one that has actually aged better than expected…except for the awful CGI. Where was James Cameron and the New World Pictures FX crew and their model work when you needed them.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Snake Plisskens.

 

 

 

 

 

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RANDOM NONSENSE: MONSTERZERO NJ FAUX POSTER ART- ESCAPE FROM LAS VEGAS!

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MONSTERZERO NJ FAUX POSTER ART- ESCAPE FROM LAS VEGAS!

As many know, I am a photoshop artist and love doing faux posters! I haven’t done one in far too long and re-watching some John Carpenter classics on his birthday, gave me a fun idea.  What if in some alternate reality, Elvis Presley had not passed away in 1977 and in fact was a big fan of Carpenter’s Escape from New York. So much so, that the King of Rock n’ Roll, after seeing EFNY in 1981, approached Carpenter to do a sequel in which he would star. I envision Snake traveling to the walled no man’s land of Las Vegas for some kind of big heist and coming up against Presley as the ruling warlord “The King of Las Vegas.” As EFNY’s Cabbie would say, “Oh, that would have been so fine!” Yea, Cabbie, it would have! Enjoy…

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poster art: MonsterZero NJ

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REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a blast of fun and a big hit for Marvel, so it’s no surprise the oddball band of heroes are back for another go around, this time bringing movie legends Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone with them. The film opens with The Guardians saving the day for a race called The Sovereign, but getting on their bad side before the dust even settles. This sets them on the run and into the sights of a celestial being called Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father. Peter finds out he may have celestial powers of his own, but the more he bonds with his newfound father, the more Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) feel that daddy isn’t to be trusted. In the meantime, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Yondu (Michael Rooker) and “baby” Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) have to deal with mutinous Ravagers, angry Sovereigns and a vengeful Nebula (Karen Gillan).

Second adventure is an entertaining ride, thought not quite as much rapid-fire fun as it’s predecessor. Sequel is again written and directed by James Gunn, who returns with his quirky, sarcastic sense of humor that made the first flick stand out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a first film sometimes moved too fast, this film dials it back during it’s middle act to take time to allow Peter and Ego to bond and along the way deliver some backstory on more than one character. While father and son take long walks on Ego’s self-made world, Raccoon and Yondu also have some bonding moments as Ravager prisoners, where souls are bared and alliances made. It’s certainly not boring, but it does take a bit more time for the action to fire up again while we get some character development for characters both old and new. Ironically, the first film rushed the character development while this one makes it more the focus….maybe slightly too much for it’s own good at over 136 minutes. Once we discover daddy is a baddy and our displaced heroes reunite, then we get a spectacular and action packed finale that amusingly evokes the climax of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but with far better FX and a lot more fun. The before mentioned visuals and FX are truly stunning and the action is quite exhilarating once it comes and it comes in spades. There are some hilariously funny bits and some very funny exchanges between the characters, who still have that twisted love/hate relationship with each other. When the group is split into two separate plot lines, the film doesn’t quite have the same spark as when this bunch of self proclaimed “A-holes” are all together trying not to kill each other, or be killed. If there is a flaw with this worthy sequel, it is that it does disrupt the group chemistry by separating them for almost an hour. The film is at it’s most fun when they are all together and joined by new characters, like Pom Klementieff’s empathetic and naive Mantis and Sylvester Stallone’s veteran Ravager Stakar, who fit in quite well to the mythos. The film also has a touch more sentimental than we would expect from this delinquent group. It’s a bit corny at times, but it serves to cement the dysfunctional family unit that they are. This bunch is together for a reason…and they’re accompanied by another killer soundtrack of classic tunes!

The cast are all on point. Returning actors slip back into their now beloved characters flawlessly and as per the story, get to add a little depth to their roles, including the CGI Rocket and scene stealing baby Groot. The actors have a chemistry together and thus do the characters they bring to life. As for new faces, Kurt Russell is charming and charismatic as Ego. We almost believe, as does Quill, that he is the benevolent being he claims, looking finally to be a father to his estranged son. Once he reveals his true nature, Russell chews the scenery in just the right measures of megalomania. Sylvester Stallone also fits into the Guardian’s world well as a legendary Ravager named Stakar Ogord. He only has a few scenes but it is implied we haven’t seen the last of him and it’s nice to see Sly doing his larger than life thing in the Marvel universe. Adorable Pom Klementieff steals scenes as the delightfully ditzy empath called Mantis. She’s a fun and very likable character and never lets her performance go too over-the-top so that she becomes annoying. She fits in nicely and has some very funny scenes with Bautista’s all too literal Drax. The large cast of supporting and secondary characters also shine when they get their moments, too, such as Chris Sullivan’s boorish Taserface and a returning Sean Gunn as Rondu’s right hand, Kraglin. A solid cast with the usual funny cameo by you-know-who!

Overall, this was a fun adventure and a worthy sequel. It did slow down the pace down a bit for a more character driven middle act and may have had one too many sentimental moments for it’s own good, but there is still plenty of eye-popping special effects, hilariously sarcastic moments, rapid-fire action and some sumptuously rendered alien creatures and world’s. We get some of the character development that was a bit lacking in the first film, though do sacrifice some of that great group chemistry and dialog exchanges when the story chooses to separate them. Still highly recommended for fans of the original and a solid start to the summer 2017 movie season.

…oh…and, obviously stay through the fun credits for FIVE additional scenes!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cassettes.

 

 

 

 

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