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Movie is based on the book by John Bellairs and tells of young Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro), whose parents have recently been killed in a car accident. He’s sent to live with his eccentric uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) in a creepy old house and soon finds out Jonathan is a warlock. Lewis also discovers that there is a clock in the walls of the house and one that may have a sinister purpose. Can Lewis, his uncle and their witch of a neighbor Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) find out the clock’s true purpose and stop it from whatever evil it’s intended for?

Film is directed with surprising restraint by Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno), who is most known for his over-the-top gore flicks, though it could have used a bit of those flicks’ bombasity. The script is by Eric Kripke based on Bellairs’ book and while the cast give it their all, there is just something lacking from the proceedings. The film is slower paced than Roth’s usual fare and never really ignites the spark needed to make the film more fun. There is plenty of magic and the supernatural on hand and some very spooky imagery, but the film lacks a strong sense of charm or wonder. It’s a decent enough watch and you can tell Black and Blanchett especially are having a good time with the material, but the movie itself never really takes off running as the popcorn entertainment it’s intended to be. Even the last act confrontation with Kyle MacLachlan’s re-animated warlock villain never reaches the excitement, or suspense, level it needs. Overall, Eli Roth shows he can direct with some restraint, but maybe it’s not that good an idea here, as the film is a bit too laid back to entertain more than just moderately.


-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating




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One of my favorite all time films. A wonderful example of how talent and imagination can accomplish a lot on a small budget. A tenacious little action film with a cool sci-fi premise. Simple and very effective. This is the film that really pushed Arnold into the spotlight and set director James Cameron on his course.

Terminator tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a waitress trying to make ends meet, but, unknown to her, she has been targeted for death by a machine sent back from the future to eliminate her. The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been sent by a computer network in 2029 to kill Sarah as she will be mother to John Connor, the man who will rebel against these self aware computers, who have taken over the world of the future, and end their reign before they eliminate mankind. The rebels send back a soldier, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect her and Sarah becomes a fugitive on the run as soldier and cyborg battle for the fate of the future in 1984 Los Angeles.

James Cameron’s lean mean fighting machine of a movie is as relentless as The Terminator itself. He crafts a fast paced action classic that never stops moving yet, still tells a good story and builds the characters so we are emotionally invested in them. He gets great work from his cast and brilliant work from his SPFX people who provide some really effective glimpses of an apocalyptic future and the carnage by our title villain in the present. From models to make-up, the film has top notch work on a low budget. The action is simple yet very intense with numerous chases and shoot-outs as the cybernetic assassin will stop at nothing and go through anyone to eliminate his prey.

A bonafide classic that set many careers in motion and started a film franchise that is still going decades later. If I had to make a top ten list of favorite movies, The Terminator would be on it. Also starring Lance Henriksen and Paul Winfield as two cops caught in the middle of the conflict and the first acting role for a young Bill Paxton as a punk who unfortunately crosses The Terminator’s path.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA: Amusing to know that Arnold was originally pursued to play the hero, Kyle Reese, but convinced Cameron to let him play the title villain instead. Furthermore, OJ Simpson was being considered for the role of The Terminator, but director Cameron felt, ironically, that no one would believe a nice guy like OJ as a cold blooded killer. Co-star Lance Henriksen was also considered in early stages when Cameron wanted a Terminator who could blend into a crowd, but Arnold took over the role and the rest is cinema history.

A classic 4 Terminator’s!

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Another of my favorite 80s guilty pleasures, The Hidden is basically The Thing, Lethal Weapon and The Terminator all rolled into one, as a body stealing extraterrestrial criminal is pursued on earth by an alien lawman and an earth cop with most of L.A. caught in the crossfire. Michael Nouri exudes tough guy charm as hard-nose cop Tom Beck who is teamed on a bizarre crime spree case with strange federal agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan). Soon Beck finds that there may be something unearthly going on and his “partner” may not be what he seems either.

Hidden is a fun sci-fi action thriller that is well directed and furiously paced by Jack Shoulder. Shoulder keeps Jim Kouf’s clever script moving fast and keeps the audience’s attention with plenty of blood, bullets and chase scenes. But Shoulder doesn’t move things too quickly that we don’t get to know our lead characters and a little about what makes them tick. While we rarely see the alien creature, the FX depicting it are good as is the carnage it leaves behind. The action scenes and stunt work are all top notch as well, for such a modest production and there is plenty of action to be had.

The cast are all good in their roles including supporting players Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross and Richard Brooks as Beck’s fellow officers. Leads Nouri and MacLachlan make a good team and work well off each other and it’s fun to watch Nouri’s Beck try to figure out his weird Fed partner then start to warm up to him even after finding out he’s not from around here.

The Hidden is a mash-up of genres and movies that would have made Roger Corman proud had it been one of his productions and it does play much like one of Corman’s flicks. The film still holds up today as a fun Terminator style action flick and the added 80s nostalgia doesn’t hurt it either. Definitely a film to be enjoyed with a few beers and a few friends.

3 and 1/2 homicidal hookers

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