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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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NIGHT CREW (2015)

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THE NIGHT CREW (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

While this flick is 95% action movie…and a bloody one at that…there is a bit of a horror film element that seems to exist to set up an even more interesting sequel/further adventure…and it kinda works.

The Night Crew has four hardened bounty hunters, Wade (Luke Blade 2 Goss), Ronnie (Paul Sloan), Crenshaw (Bokeem Woodbine) and Rose (Luciana Faulhaber) going deep inside Mexico to recover fugitive Mae (Chasty Girlhouse Ballesteros) and bring her back to the states for a big payoff. Unknown to them, Mae is also wanted by a powerful drug cartel and the four and their quarry find themselves surrounded by an army of vicious killers who want the girl back and them all dead. Adding to the already desperate situation, is that Mae is more than she appears…as is the drug lord (Danny Trejo) who hunts her.

Low budget action flick is actually a very satisfying bullet and blood-fest with an interesting supernatural twist thrown in by writer and star Paul Sloan and co-writer/director Christian Sesma. This ‘element’ not only adds something a little different to the story, but sets up an even more interesting direction if there is a sequel…and hopefully there is. The movie is competently directed by Sesma and while some of the elements are very traditional to testosterone fueled flicks like this, they are stylishly presented and Sesma does serve up a lot of intense and bloody action on his moderate budget. Add in some very pretty ladies in Faulhaber and Ballesteros and you have a fun and entertaining B-movie action flick with a touch of horror movie thrown in. The movie is not perfect. There are some plot holes and lapses in logic, but you watch a flick like this for the action and on a low budget level it delivers. The horror movie elements not only add something interesting to the characters involved, but Sesma and Sloan work it so it sets up a potentially more interesting and entertaining direction as well, if we see more of some of these characters. It’s just enough of a twist to give the more traditional action elements an off-beat angle and an air of mystery and that helps give this enough of a boost to lift it out of the routine. Sometimes entertainment is all you are craving and this flick does serve some up without trying to be more than it is.

The cast all work well in the context of the material. The underrated Goss is solid, as usual, as is his hard-nosed team of Sloan, Woodbine and sexy Luciana Faulhaber. The beautiful and exotic looking Ballesteros gives Mae the mystery and sensuality the character needs and she can be a badass, too, when she needs to be. The villains are appropriately slimy and vicious and Danny Trejo is…well, Danny Trejo…as the cartel king with an even darker aspect to his personality. There is also an amusing cameo by Jason Mews as a security guard who gets caught in the middle of a bullet-riddled bloodbath.

Is The Night Crew a classic…no. Is it an entertaining B-Movie with an intriguing horror element thrown in?…for sure! I liked this flick. It gives us a lot of intense action and spattering blood on a small budget. We get some tough guy anti-heroes and vicious villains and a couple of gorgeous ladies who can kick-ass, too. It won’t win any awards, but it will entertain you on a B-movie level and director Christian Sesma knows his material and delivers it in a no-nonsense way, yet not without a bit of style. A solid B-movie action flick made for a night on the couch and a few of your favorite brews. Also stars Don Swayze and there might be an uncredited cameo by cult favorite director Robert Rodriguez, but the camera never focused on the familiar looking bartender to tell for sure!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

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

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 I am a big fan of the Blade film series and even enjoy the much maligned third entry and while each film is directed by a different director and has it’s own style, I do feel the second…my personal favorite…and the third, fit together far better as a double feature. Maybe it’s because the first is the most grounded of the three…if such can be said about a vampire movie which includes a ‘blood god’…and has the most down to earth directorial style. Either way, this is a fun double feature starring Wesley Snipes in one of his most famous roles and a role he fits quite well!

 

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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.

3 and 1/2 fangs!

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BLADE:TRINITY (2004)

I always felt the third in the Blade series gets a bit of a bum rap. It is the lesser of the three and has it’s shares of problems, but I think, despite it’s flaws, it still has enough of what makes this comic book-based series fun and entertaining. Trinity finds the vampires, led by Danica Talos (Parker Posey), initiating their ‘end game’ which includes outing Blade (Wesley Snipes) and framing him in the public eye as a serial killer and locating and reviving Dracula (Dominic Purcell) himself, the very first and most powerful vampire, to kill Blade. Now not only must Blade battle the usual vampires, but Dracula…who goes by the name of Drake now…and the pursuing FBI agents who want to end his ‘killing spree’.  Blade has killed enough human familiars (vampire slaves) to qualify for their most wanted list. Hope is not lost as a vampire hunting team know as the Nightstalkers come to Blade’s aid and with them, their own ‘end game’, a virus known as Daystar that has the potential to wipe out the vampires for good. Are Blade and The Nightstalkers enough to take down the legendary Dracula and his vampire legions?

One of the problems with Blade:Trinity is that series writer David Goyer took the director’s reigns this time and his inexperience as a director gives the film, an uneven tone, an uneven pace and the editing is a bit choppy…though the longer running director’s cut is ironically a bit smother and a much better movie, in my opinion. The film is also a bit too obvious a set-up for a Nightstalkers spin-off and Blade shares the spotlight or takes a back seat a bit too often for the liking of series fans. There are a lot of good things about this flick too. There is still plenty of action, cool SPFX and gore and their are some very colorful villains like Posey, who is having an over the top good time as Danica Talos, WWE wrestler Triple H’s obnoxious vampire henchman Jarko Grimwood and Dominic Purcell’s soft-spoken warrior take on Dracula. As for the good guys, Snipes is cooler than cool as always and is once again solid as the Daywalker. His final confrontation with Drake/Dracula is a lot of fun and comes off as a superhero version of a final duel from an old Samurai flick. Jessica Biel is red hot as Abigail, Whistler’s daughter and one of the Nightstalkers. She is simply a badass and sexy vampire killer and she and Snipes work very well together and she gives her character some nice depth. Ryan Reynolds is fun as vampire hunter Hannibal King. He gets the best lines, though I will admit his joke cracking gets to be a bit much at times and you can actually believe Blade’s impatience with him. We also get Natasha Lyonne as a blind scientist aiding the Nightstalkers and the creator of the ‘Daystar’ virus. James Remar as an FBI agent determined to get Blade and John Michael Higgins as a vampire familiar…and let’s not forget the feisty and ornery Kris Kristofferson as Whistler.

Overall, I do enjoy this flick despite it’s flaws and I think there is a lot of fun to be had and it is still cool to watch Snipes in action as Blade. Biel and Reynolds do make a good pair and do work well with Snipes even if Reynolds’ King is a bit too much of an obnoxious smart-ass for his own good. There is plenty of action and some interesting ideas here, as well as, an original take on Dracula which is refreshing. Lesser of the series, yes…but not quite deserving of it’s overly negative reputation. If you haven’t seen it, give it a chance, cut it some slack and enjoy what may be Blade’s last cinematic adventure with Snipes as the character.

3 fangs!

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