TV REVIEW: THE PUNISHER (2017)

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THE PUNISHER (2017)

Spin-off series from season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil finds ex-soldier Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” (Jon Bernthal) thinking he’s finished his mission of revenge and hanging up his skull adorned bulletproof vest under the new identity of loner, construction worker Pete Castellini. Upon being contacted by a whistle blower thought dead named Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Castle finds that there is a deeper conspiracy responsible for the murder of his family, one that involves high ranking military personal, dirty CIA agents and unknowingly himself. Castle returns to the road for revenge, but only now he has a tenacious Homeland Security agent on his tail (Amber Rose Revah) who has her own score to settle.

The Punisher solo series’ first season leaves some mixed feelings. Bernthal is still a great Frank Castle/Punisher and there is certainly a lot of the bone-crushing, brutal action like the character was involved in on Daredevil. The problems here are some sub-plots that don’t seem necessary or to add much to the proceedings and the fact that it once again takes nearly the whole season for The Punisher to really re-emerge. It’s more of a conspiracy show, a la the X-Files, which would be fine if it stuck to the conspiracy and it’s attention didn’t wander to sub-plots like a growing relationship with Micro’s “widow” (Jaime Ray Newman) and kids (Kobi Frumer and Ripley Sobo) and an emotionally disturbed young vet turned terrorist named Lewis (Daniel Webber). These sub-plots seem more like plot devices, one to keep his relationship with Micro antagonistic and the other to wrongfully out him to the world as a terrorist. At times they feel a bit like filler to stretch the series out to it’s 13 episodes when maybe a more streamlined 10 would have served it better and kept to the main story. Sometimes the violence seems a bit too over the top and Frank seems to bounce back from severe wounds or beatings far too quickly to be believable. If the show wants to ground itself in reality, which it does, than it’s hard to swallow a man entering physical combat mere days after being beaten practically to death. Still the show is well done and the acting is strong across the board, especially from Bernthal, Moss-Bachrach and Revah. Paul Schulze makes a detestable bad guy as rogue CIA director William Rawlins, one of the season’s main villains. There are also some returning characters From DDse02, such as Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page and Clancy Brown as Major Schoonover. While there are generous amounts of action throughout, once The Punisher suits up again there are some really intense action set-pieces, which illustrate just how bad-ass this incarnation of the character is. The show does have a kind of Sons of Anarchy vibe, it handled the theme of a combat vet’s life back home very well and a more focused second season could really fire on all cylinders for the character.

Overall, the first season for Marvel’s gun-toting vigilante wasn’t exactly on target, but has enough going for it to look forward to more. Now that the revenge and conspiracy elements are taken care of, season two can get down to The Punisher doing what he does best. Not a great first season, but one that shows a lot of potential if season 2 can lock it down.

EPISODE LIST

  1. 3 AM – directed by Tom Shankland and written by Steve Lightfoot
  2. Two Dead Men – directed by Tom Shankland and written by Steve Lightfoot
  3. Kandahar – directed by Andy Goddard and written by Steve Lightfoot
  4. Resupply – directed by Karl Skogland and written by Dario Scardapane
  5. Gunner – directed by Dearbhla Walsh written by Michael Jones-Morales
  6. The Judas Goat – directed by Jeremy Webb and written by Christine Boylan
  7. Crosshairs – directed by Andy Goddard and written by Bruce Marshall Romans
  8. Cold Steel – directed by Antonio Campos and written by Felicia D. Henderson
  9. Front Toward Enemy – directed by Marc Jobst and written by Angela LaManna
  10. Virtue of the Vicious – directed by Jim O’hanlon and written by Ken Kristensen
  11. Danger Close – directed by Kevin Hooks and written by Felicia D. Henderson
  12. Home – directed by Jet Wilkinson and written by Dario Scardapane
  13. Memento Mori- directed by Stephen Surjik and written by Steve Lightfoot

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE BABYSITTER (2017)

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THE BABYSITTER (2017)

Netflix original movie finds nerdy twelve year-old Cole (Judah Lewis) spending the weekend with his hot  babysitter Bee (Samara Weaving from Ash vs Evil Dead season 1) when his parents go away. The much picked-on tween thinks his got it made, until he wakes up one night to find Bee and her friends murdering another teen for some satanic ceremony. Now Cole has to somehow survive the night as his once beloved babysitter and her friends find out he knows too much.

Horror/comedy is directed with an over-the-top style by McG (Charlie’s Angels, Terminator: Salvation) from a script by Brian Duffield and is a lot of fun. It’s got a hip sense of humor and has a good time with some of the clichés of the horror genre, while spilling quite a lot of blood in giddy fashion. Cole and Bee actually have a very sweet friendship, especially considering how Cole is treated by his peers and it makes it much more effective when she turns all “big bad” on the kid. It’s fun to watch Cole uses his cleverness to evade and sometimes unintentionally off Bee’s fellow cultists and even if it’s not the most original story, it has fun with it’s oft told premise. The cast are having a good time here and Weaving makes a solid femme fatale, as much as, Lewis a charming young hero. A fun 90 minutes of blood, pop culture references and playfully poking the horror genre in the ribs. Also stars Leslie Bibb and Ken Marino as Cole’s oblivious parents and Robbie Armell and Bella Thorne as two of Bee’s sinister group.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR TV YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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STRANGER THINGS season 2 (2017)

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

Stranger Things returns with nine new episodes on Netflix that take place a year later, delightfully around Halloween. The story returns us to Hawkins, Indiana, now in 1984 with new trouble brewing. Our four heroes, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp), are a year older, though still feeling the effects of their encounter with the Upside Down, especially Will. Unknown to the gang, a new threat is emerging from that paranormal dimension and has it’s sights set on Will. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has escaped and is now being hidden by police chief Hopper (David Harbour) from the Hawkins Laboratory folks who are still messing in otherworldly matters. While the group start to realize Will is once again in danger, Eleven goes on a journey to discover her real name and find her birth mother (Aimee Mullins) and half-sister (Linnea Berthelsen). Obviously all the characters’ stories will collide before the season is over.

Second season is just as good as the first and in some ways even more effective as now we are emotionally invested in the familiar characters. Ross and Matt Duffer (Hidden) again pay homage and give plentiful references to the sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s, while still giving Stranger Things is very own heart and soul. They mange to expand the story, while keeping it familiar, also introducing us to some new characters like new gang member Maxine “Max” Hargrove (Sadie Sink) and her enormous jerk of a brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery from Better Watch Out). The Duffer Brothers still manage to blend in so many 80s references and yet without them being intrusive or overwhelming, or becoming the main focus. There is another great soundtrack of 80s tunes and the original score, again by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, really adds atmosphere as it did for season one. The FX are top notch, like last time and this season helps give the proceedings a bit bigger scale to go with it’s massive monster. There’s plenty of action, suspense, drama and otherworldly critters to keep it’s core audience happy while rooting for our favorite characters to battle evil once more.

The cast are just as good as last time with new facets being added to the characters. Winona Ryder is again solid as Will’s mother, who is now a bit overprotective, but more of a fighter when her boy is again in danger. Millie Bobby Brown really shines as Eleven, who is now frustrated at being kept from her friends and needing to find out who she really is and where her lost relatives are. As the gang, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, Schnapp and McLaughlin all are really strong and get to play the characters a year older, but still the lovable nerds we last saw, but now with an added strength of being heroes. Schnapp especially gets to show his stuff with Will being a far more present character this season with a strong connection to our story. Harbour is again, a good hero as police chief Hopper, who is going to great lengths to protect Eleven and has made a deal with the Devil, per say, to keep the bad guys out of Hawkins. The rest of the supporting cast get more to do and do it well and the new faces such as Sink, Montgomery and veteran Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens, a shady scientist, all add to the character mix quite nicely. The Duffers juggle a lot of characters, but everyone gets their moment.

This was another solid and very entertaining season. The 80s nostalgia was again very enjoyable as was the recreation of the look and feel of the 80s decade. It took the story in new directions, introduced new characters, yet never lost that Stranger Things feel. The cast are all good, both new and returning and the FX were top notch. There were plenty of chills, suspense, thrills and surprises and some cool critters, too. Can’t wait for season 3 and now there is little doubt the Duffer Brothers can deliver the goods.

EPISODE LIST

  1. MADMAX – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  2. Trick or Treat, Freak – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  3. The Pollywog – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jessica Mecklenburg
  4. Will the Wise – directed by Shawn Levy and written by Paul Dichter
  5. Dig Dug – directed by Andrew Stanton written by Jessie Nickson-Lopez
  6. The Spy – directed by Andrew Stanton and written by Kate Trefry
  7. The Lost Sister – directed by Rebbeca Thomas and written by Justin Doble
  8. The Mind Flayer – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers
  9. The Gate – directed and written by The Duffer Brothers

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 mysterious and powerful little girls.
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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GERALD’S GAME (2017)

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GERALD’S GAME (2017)

Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name that many felt was almost impossible to adapt. Along comes Hush and Oculus director Mike Flanagan to prove those naysayers wrong. Story finds Jessie (Carla Gugino) and husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) going up to a secluded lake house to put some spark back in their marriage. Gerald’s idea of turning up the heat is to handcuff Jessie to the bed. When his sex game gets a little too rough for Jessie, she protests and struggles and the ensuing argument…plus the effects of the Viagra Gerald took…gives the man a fatal heart attack. Now trapped by the bonds of the intended sex game, Jessie is unable to get free, left alone with only the manifestations of a panicking mind, haunting memories from her past and a hungry stray dog to keep her company.

Flanagan once again delivers one of the best horror films of the year, as well as, one of the best Stephen King adaptations. His script with Jeff Howard brilliantly comes up with a way to portray Jessie’s inner monologue by using a trick he used briefly in Hush, by having Gugino and Greenwood basically play different trains of thought going on in her head. It works tremendously in letting us know what is going on in Jessie’s frightened mind as her imprisonment drags on for days and she engages in conversation with herself and her dead husband, revealing her fears and the painful memories her current situation drags up. If the inner terror isn’t enough…and some of these dialogue bits are intense and disturbing…there is the hungry mutt who is snacking on Gerald and a ghoulish phantom figure Jessie keeps seeing at night, at least one of which being a very real threat. The result is a very terrifying and nail-biting story of a woman basically left by happenstance to die and what goes on in her head during the ordeal. If the film falters a little…and it’s only a little…is that the last ten minutes deviates a bit into the subject of Jessie’s possible creeper and it feels like it’s part of a different movie, despite being basically from the book. It still brings us to a satisfying conclusion, but just felt a little out of place when compared to the preceding 90 minutes, which was dark and gripping on an intimate scale, taking place up to that point in the Burlingame bedroom.

Flanagan may have indeed masterfully directed this tale of terror, but his success would not be without two Oscar caliber performances from leads Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Both actors play themselves and manifestations of Jessie’s fears and mental breakdown and as such these actors are superb. Gugino has always been a good actress and here she delivers one of the best performances of her career. As Jessie, she vividly portrays a woman harboring some dark memories and secrets which come bubbling to the surface as she left alone and helpless to a horrible fate. The actress is simply amazing as both Jessie and the manifestation of Jessie’s subconscious. The same could be said of Greenwood, who plays not only her husband, who has a bit of a dark side himself, but also the manifestations of Jessie’s fears and weaknesses. The two actors’ performances are unbelievably in-sync especially when playing off each other as conflicting patterns of thought in the terrified woman’s head. Fantastic work. There are some supporting actors as well, such as Henry Thomas and Hush‘s Kate Siegel  as Jessie mom and dad in flashbacks and Carel Struycken as the phantom figure Jessie interprets as death coming to take her.

Mike Flanagan has yet to disappoint and here he delivers one of his strongest films yet. He and co-writer Jeff Howard have a script that borders on brilliant at times in it’s adapting of a story that many felt was impossible to adapt. The film is terrifying and disturbing and doesn’t pull punches or turn away from some of the more intense subject matter…and there is a bit of effective gore, too. The last few scenes may feel a bit out of place from the previous nail-biting sequences, but they remain faithful to King’s story and certainly don’t tarnish one of the best horror films of the year. The teaming of Flanagan and Netflix has produced two really top notch horror flicks and it makes one eagerly anticipate The Haunting of Hill House series Flanagan has upcoming on the network.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 and 1/2 handcuffs.

 

 

 

 

 

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NETFLIX’S “THE PUNISHER” GETS A TRAILER!

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Netflix may be keeping the release date for it’s new series The Punisher a secret for now, but they have finally released a trailer for the upcoming Marvel adaptation. Jon Bernthal stars as vigilante Frank Castle aka “The Punisher” who is avenging the death of his family.

Source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: LITTLE EVIL (2017)

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LITTLE EVIL (2017)

Little Evil is a Netflix horror/comedy that has likable schlep Gary (Adam Scott) marrying pretty mom Samantha (Evangeline Lilly) and soon suspecting her six year-old son Lucas (Owen Atlas) might be the spawn of Satan…literally. And that’s kinda it.

There is little to recommend about Little Evil as it is a dreadfully unfunny attempt to spoof the bad seed/demon child scenario. Most of the jokes fall flat and the film takes itself a little too seriously anyway, which would be fine if the derivative horror elements worked at all. We’ve seen it all before and that would be fine if the flick was funny enough to laugh at the familiar tropes. It’s not. Scott is once again a dull lead and at least Lilly is perky as the oblivious mom and young Owen Atlas is suitably creepy as devil child Lucas. Other than that, the direction from Eli Craig is as pedestrian as his script is uninspired and both lack the cleverness, style or laughs to make a spoof/homage like this work. A bore from start to it’s cliché finish. Also stars Clancy Brown as a priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

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MIKE FLANAGAN’S GERALD’S GAME ADAPTATION GETS A TRAILER!

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Mike Flanagan, who has brought us Absentia, Oculus and Hush, has now adapted Stephen King’s novel  Gerald’s Game for Netflix and they have just released a trailer. Schedule to air September 29th, 2017, the flick stars Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood. Gerald’s Game is directed by Flanagan from a script by he and Jeff Howard. Can’t wait!

Source: Youtube

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BARE BONES: TAKE ME (2017)

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TAKE ME (2017)

Indie comedy has the interesting premise of a man named Ray (Pat Healy) who performs kidnap scenarios at a client’s request. He has recently relocated to his family home in California and is quite down on his luck. He gets an opportunity for financial redemption when a client named Anna St. Blair (Taylor Schilling) contacts him for a $5,000 weekend scenario with all the trimmings. But once Ray has Anna in his clutches, he starts to get the impression that something is very wrong and this kidnapping may be far more real than even he bargained for, as the lines between fantasy and reality start to blur.

Flick is directed by star Healy from a fairly clever script by Mike Makowsky. Actor Healy is a first time director here, who also has to star in the production and maybe this was a bit much as his first flick could have used a bit more spark. It does have an intriguing premise and does throw us some fun twists that make one wonder if Ray has the right victim, or if she is far too into her own fantasy than even he can handle. With this novel plot, though, we do feel Makowsky could have gotten more use out of some elements of the scenario, such as a police visit that could have taken things a bit further. And while it’s amusing to see it all play out, we do wish the flick had just a touch more fun with it’s story. Healy and Schilling work well together and have a nice chemistry. Healy keeps Ray somewhat likable despite being a bit of a creep and Schilling has a blast keeping us guessing if she is a real victim or way too into what’s going on. It’s amusing to watch her turn the tables on a man who is used to being in control. Not a great movie, but entertaining enough thanks to an amusing premise and a good cast.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TV REVIEW: GLOW (2017)

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GLOW (2017)

Glow is a fun and nostalgic 2017 Netflix original show based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling tv program that ran from 1986-1990. The original show featured a bevy of female wrestlers performing cartoon-ish stereotype characters and soap opera-esque story-lines along with in-ring matches…which isn’t too much removed from professional wrestling in general. This ten episode Netflix series fictionalizes the creation of the show when struggling exploitation director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) agrees to put an all girl wrestling show together for wannabe producer Sebastian (Chris Lowell) who has a rich mother. Sam’s actual goal is to get “Bash” to fund his next flick. Answering the audition call for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are down-on-her-luck actress Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), her former best friend and ex-soap opera actress Debbie (Betty Gilpin), along with ten other women. The show mixes comedy and drama as it chronicles Sam and the ladies’ struggle to train, come up with their characters and get along, without killing the show, or each other, before they even step into the ring.

Glow starts off a bit shaky, but after a few episodes hits it’s stride quite nicely. The shaky start is due to the need to get the story moving quickly as there are only ten, half-hour episodes to tell it. The show needs to establish Ruth and Debbie as friends, turn them into enemies…when Ruth sleeps with Debbie’s husband (Rich Sommer)…and then thrust them back together as they become the show’s intended star rivals. This is hastily done in the first two episodes and doesn’t quite gel as we never get a feel for them as friends before they are at each others throats, literally. Ruth’s motivations for sleeping with her friend’s husband are never really convincing either. Just not enough time to really make it work. Once this occurs, the show kicks into gear as the production seems doomed from the start, yet the group start to come together like a dysfunctional family to try to make it happen. Not everything works, like an abortion sub-plot that literally lasts for one episode and seems to add nothing, and occasionally some of the humor falls flat, though mostly it works. Otherwise, this is a lot of nostalgic fun, especially if you remember the actual show that inspired it, or are a fan of everything 80s. The finishing touch is that it’s all wrapped in some awesome 80s tunes across it’s ten episodes and the whole thing leaves us wanting more.

The cast work really well and as a character driven show that is important. Alison Brie has shown a flair for comedy in the TV sitcom Community and some of her recent film roles and she shines here as Ruth. Ruth sees herself as an actress and it takes a while for her to get used to this brand of acting, but once she does she dives in with both feet. Brie works very well in the part of a woman desperate to find her place and is adept as the physical comedy, too. Gilpin is solid as Debbie. A respected TV actress who left her soap opera role to be a wife and mother and now finds that home broken by Ruth and that she has a need to be more than a babysitter. Gilpin portrays well a woman with an axe to grind who wants to be star of the show and does so without making her unlikable. Marc Maron is perfectly cast as the somewhat sleazy filmmaker, who does have a heart underneath all that cynicism and sarcasm. He really does good work here at making the guy very likable, even when he’s being a bit of an ass. The supporting cast all are strong, including Sydelle Noel as “Cherry” who becomes the groups trainer, as well as, one of the wrestlers know as “Junkchain” and Britney Young as a gentle giant of a women who only wants to prove she can be a wrestler like her famous father and brothers. A well rounded and well cast group of eccentric and eclectic characters.

So, the show does have a few flaws…and most shows take at least one season to hit their stride…but it overcomes them to become quite engaging. It’s a fun, nostalgic and clever look back not only an era, but one example of that era’s outrageousness. It’s well cast, has some fun moments and mixes the drama and comedy very well nicely. Another fun, entertaining and original show from Netflix!

The cast of Glow

EPISODE LIST

  1. Pilot – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  2. Slouch. Submit – directed by Wendey Stanzier and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  3. The Wrath of Kuntar – directed by Claire Scanlon and written by Nick Jones
  4. The Dusty Spur – directed by Melanie Mayron and written Sascha Rothchild
  5. Debbie Does Something – directed by Phil Abraham and written by Rachel Shukert
  6. This Is One Of Those Moments – directed by Kate Dennis and written by Jenji Kohan
  7. Live Studio Audience – directed by Jesse Peretz and written by Rachel Shukert
  8. Maybe It’s All The Disco – directed by Sian Heder and written by Nick Jones
  9. The Liberal Chokehold – directed by Lynn Shelton and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch
  10. Money’s In The Chase – directed by Tristram Shapeero and written by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch

-MonsterZero NJ

3 wrestling rings!
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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 25 HORRORS CURRENTLY ON NETFLIX THAT ARE WORTH WATCHING!

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Jay screams for her life in It Follows!

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 25 HORRORS CURRENTLY ON NETFLIX THAT ARE WORTH WATCHING!

Netflix seems to be the go-to place to watch horror movies these days, so MonsterZero NJ has put together a list of twenty-five worth watching fright flicks screaming…oops, streaming…right now!

 

(for reviews of all these flicks pop the title in the search engine above to get MZNJ’s full review!)

 

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Deaf mute Maddie unaware a killer lurks outside her door in Hush!

-MonsterZero NJbars