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

Housebound is a New Zealand horror/comedy/mystery that has gotten a lot of high praise at festivals, even a passionate rave from Peter Jackson himself. Personally I think it’s become tradition to over-hype things seen at film festivals and while Housebound is enjoyable, especially in it’s last act, I really wasn’t knocked-out by it, as those who saw it at the South By South-West film festival seem to have been.

The story finds failed ATM thief with a chip on her shoulder, Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) sent back to her childhood home for an 8 month sentence of house arrest and therapy. Kylie finds out rather quickly that her mother (Rima Te Wiata) thinks the house is haunted and after a few things go bump in the night, the skeptical Kylie begins to agree with her. Kylie decides to get to the bottom of things with the help of her supervising security officer, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru), who is also a paranormal investigator. Together they find out that the house used to be a former insane asylum and that a young girl was murdered there. Is it her spirit that lurks in the shadows or the killer who was never caught?

Written and directed by Gerard Johnstone, there is a lot to like about this off-beat flick though it’s not quite the masterpiece it’s been made out to be. On the downside it’s not nearly as scary as it’s reputation suggests, thought there are some spooky bits, nor is it as funny. It also takes a while to really get going and deliver the goods. It was never boring but, there are scenes of exposition that have you checking your watch. The dialogue is well-written but, there’s only so much of Kylie being mean and resentful to her mother and step-father that we need to see to get the point that she’s anti-social and unappreciative. Another minor point that bugged me was Amos deactivating/ignoring her ankle monitor so she can go about investigating the neighboring homes. What was the point of having the character on house arrest if she can be conveniently freed by her security officer turned partner to roam about? Once the investigation goes full swing then the film gets moving and we are treated to some fun bits and a third act that really delivers as Kylie’s detective work rattles the right, or wrong depending on your point of view, cage. There is some fun off-beat humor, though not all of it works and some surprisingly bloody moments considering the lighter tone of a lot of it. The film looks great. Johnstone has a nice visual style that cinematographer Simon Riera captures nicely and there is an effective score by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper.

The cast also go a long way to making this fun, too. Morgana O’Reilly is a firecracker and she is really good as the sarcastic and anti-social Kylie and the actress makes her transformation into a more caring person work very well. Equally effective is Rima Te Wiata as her constantly blabbering mother. She may sound like she’s uttering nonsense but, if you listen carefully there is a deft logic at work and she knows more than she appears to. Glen-Paul Waru is fun as Amos who is in charge of monitoring Kylie’s ankle bracelet and becomes her partner in ghost hunting/mystery solving. He makes an engaging character. Rounding out is Ross Harper as Kylie’s step-father Graeme who seems to just want to be left to himself and Cameron Rhodes as Kylie’s creepy putz of a counselor. A very good cast.

So, I did like this movie but, didn’t fall head over heels in love like many seem to. It was fun and had some really strong performances/characterizations but, took a long time to get going and wasn’t as scary or funny as it could have been. I still certainly recommend it to those interested to take a look but, be wary of the high praise coming out of film festivals and directors looking to give their fellow Kiwis a boost. An entertaining flick but, not something that had my inner fan-boy in an uproar.

-MonsterZero NJ

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Anyone who has read my reviews for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug know that while I enjoyed them to a good degree, I definitely had some problems with all the obvious filler added to pad a moderately sized book into 3 lengthy films. Thankfully the third and final installment of this trilogy, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendary prequel to his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, not only never feels padded but, is a powerful and spectacular conclusion that ranks as one of the best of his Middle Earth films.

The story picks up where the last chapter left off with Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) venting his rage on Lake Town, which leads to Thorin (Richard Armitage) reclaiming the Lonely Mountain. But, Thorin has acquired ‘The Dragon Sickness” and is becoming as greedy as it’s previous occupant and turns his back on his allies leaving the Lake Town survivors at his door begging for aid. The elves have come in force to also claim what is their’s and they join forces with Bard (Luke Evans) and his people to form an army to lay siege  to the fortress with Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the 12 dwarves inside. And this plays them all right into The Defiler Azog’s (Manu Bennett) hands as the orc has assembled a massive army and now can crush dwarf, elf and human together, all at once. But, sometimes common foes can make allies out of enemies and all may not be lost as Bilbo and Gandalf (Ian McKellan) try to convince the former allies to reunite against the hordes of evil that are knocking at their door.

I loved this movie. After being a little disappointed at how much the first two flicks were padded and drawn-out to create a trilogy out of a single book, this… the shortest of the 3 films at 144 minutes… gets right to it and gives us a conclusion that is as emotionally strong as it is action packed and visually spectacular. The film never drags it’s feet, as the others did in spots, and none of the action scenes feel like they have overstayed their welcome like the second film’s fun but, overlong barrel chase. Jackson returns to the intense emotions of his Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the film has some powerful moments both triumphant and heartbreaking, heralding some of the Rings trilogy’s finest moments. Yes, this entry is that good and makes the weaknesses of the previous films all the more apparent. It’s amazing what 20 less minutes can do to trim the fat while keeping the meat. As with all these films they are technical and artistic marvels of top-of-the-line SPFX and design. This film looks as spectacular as it’s action and we get treated to some new creations not seen in previous films and go deeper into some of the places previously visited. The score by Howard Shore is his best of this trilogy and the cinematography of Andrew Lesnie captures everything not computer generated, splendidly.

One problem I never had with this series is the cast. It is obviously a considerably large and talented cast and Jackson has gotten good work out of all of them. Martin Freeman shines as Bilbo, again, though it almost seemed like Richard Armitage’s Thorin took center stage this time. Armitage skillfully takes his nobel warrior into a state of selfish greed and then reawakens the proud dwarf within when the story calls for it. McKellen is masterful, as always, as Gandalf and Luke Evans is thankfully given lots more to do here and makes far more of an impact with his Bard. Evangeline Lilly once again steals hearts and slays orcs as elven warrior Tauriel and she gets some nice emotionally strong moments and handles them quite well. Orlando Bloom brings back beloved Legolas to action and it was great seeing him in battle once more as it was to see Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Ian Holm and the legendary Christopher Lee one more time in Middle Earth. The rest of the cast all do good work bringing their fantasy characters to life whether under make-up or CGI and it enhances the film even more.

What can I say, I had a great time here! Jackson delivers an epic conclusion that makes up for the indulgent enhancing of a classic tale in the first two parts and delivers spectacle and drama on the level of his LOTR trilogy that seemed to be lacking in the first two chapters of this prequel trilogy… though, The Hobbit is a less intense book to begin with. It’s got massive battles, incredible visuals, stunning special FX and some dramatic intensity to back it up. And if all else had failed… and it sure doesn’t… we get to see Evangeline Lilly’s enchanting elf one last time.

4 Elven hotties.

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The third and final (?) Hobbit film arrives in December and now we have a full trailer in all it’s glory. I absolutely love Jackson’s LordOf The Rings trilogy but, have not been so endeared to the Hobbit films, which I feel are unnecessarily filled with filler to stretch a moderately sized book into three movies (My reviews for An  Unexpected Journey and Desolation Of Smaug). Check out the trailer for The Battle Of The Five Armies here…





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I’ll start off by saying that J.R.R. Tolkien’s tales of Middle Earth are among my favorite books and, understandably, Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy are among my favorite films. That being said, I still feel there is no reason to take a single book and stretch it out into three movies despite how much I love the story and characters. And with THAT being said, there is no reason then for each of those three movies to be almost three hours long. And it is exactly that reason that I feel something’s missing from Jackson’s Hobbit films… or should I say there’s something too much as there is a lot of filler added to turn one book into three movies… and it’s obvious. And this filler, as well as, middle film syndrome is exactly what keeps The Desolation Of Smaug from shining despite some sumptuous production design and some really fun action sequences. There is a lot of filler in this middle installment and sometimes it’s tediously obvious as once it’s over, you realize the story hasn’t really gone very far. The film picks up where the last left off with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the band of Dwarves on their way to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the vile dragon Smaug. They are still being hunted by a band of Orcs and not only clash with them continually but, battle giant spiders and suspicious Elves as well. Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) goes off to investigate his fears of a great evil returning… and we know exactly who, since we have already seen The Lord Of The Rings… and even the Dwarf party are split as they near their destination and their showdown with Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Can they succeed or shall they fall before the onslaught of the Orcs and the mighty dragon? Even if you haven’t seen The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, this is a middle film in a trilogy so, it’s no spoiler to tell you to expect not only an open ending but, a cliffhanger as well. And it just leaves one a bit unsatisfied. The first Hobbit film at least ended at a satisfying point and while I felt it took way too long to get going (again, a lot of filler) it was really fun and moved very quickly once it did. Smaug feels like a 90 minute film stretched into almost 3 hours as there is just a lot of dialog sequences and scenes that really don’t advance the story… the sequences in Lake-town are especially tedious and accomplish little and even the sequences that do matter, seem drawn out. And the fact that the tone here is a lot more somber, also darkens the proceedings. But, there are some saving graces that elevate the film from being an outright disappointment. There are some really fun action sequences such as the battle against the giant spiders and a thrilling chase involving river barrels and pursuing Orcs and Elves, not to mention the climactic confrontation with Smaug himself. There is the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and with him a new character who is an invention of Jackson’s named Tauriel who is played with equal parts fire and foxy by the beautiful Evangeline Lilly. Tauriel is one of the film’s real treats and Lilly creates a very endearing and strong character. She caught this fanboy’s attention instantly. I have never seen Lost but, I am impressed now. Sadly, I cannot say the same for Luke Evan’s Bard whose character really doesn’t make an impression and hopefully the talented Evan’s has a bigger impact in the next film as Bard didn’t have much to do here but look dour. The same goes for Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) who’s appearance is barely… or should I say bear-ly… more then a cameo. The SPFX are spectacular as are the visuals, thought the 48 fps can look a bit off at times especially with the barrel chase sequence. Smaug is very impressive and is greatly aided by the vocals of Cumberbatch who also voices The Necromancer. Jackson gets good work from all his cast with Freeman making Bilbo as endearing as Frodo and Sam in the previous trilogy and Mckellan is a delight as always. Richard Armitage is strong and noble as Thorin and the rest of the actors performing the dwarves all do nice work giving their characters personality despite performing as a group with little spotlight on them individually. Bloom is welcome back as Legolas though he is a bit more serious here and, as stated, Lilly gives nice life to a character created solely for the film. The score by Howard Shore obviously evokes his LOTR score but, to be honest, I don’t think it has the same resonance in the Hobbit films as it did there. So, in conclusion, Smaug is plagued not only by the added and unnecessary filler needed to make this one book tale a trilogy but, also suffers from middle trilogy syndrome in that it doesn’t have a satisfying ending and comes across as exactly that, the middle part of a bigger story. But, it’s saving graces are some really fun and exciting action sequences, some stunning visuals and  the continued good work of the cast and director Jackson at making the characters endearing… not to mention a sassy and sexy she-Elf who will be an instant fanboy favorite. I did like it but, didn’t love it as I wanted to.

3 Dwarven axes!

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Evangeline Lilly’s sexy and deadly Turiel.




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For this Sunday night’s entertainment, I’ve chosen to revisit the first in Peter Jackson’s new Hobbit trilogy!

I will start off by saying that there is no reason to spread a single book into 3 movies (actually there is, greed.) and since you are doing so, there is no reason for any of those 3 movies to be almost 3 hours long. And this overindulgence and it’s effect on the film’s pacing is the only problem I have with the first of this new trilogy of movies based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit as it would have been better served and better paced if kept well under 2 and 1/2 hours. That being said, I did enjoy the film quite a bit once we get past the slow first half set up and get to the adventuring. The film is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit which is set 60 years before The Lord Of The Rings saga and tells the story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman in younger days and Ian Holm as the older Bilbo) as he is given the task by Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen) to aid a band of dwarves in retaking their kingdom from the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). It’s a simple story that would have made a great single film but, director Peter Jackson and crew have overindulgently chosen to pad the story and drag it out over 3 apparently long movies and the first half of this flick suffers for it. It’s 40 minutes before Bilbo even leaves his home. But, Jackson still packs the film with enough visual majesty and pulse pounding thrills to win us over, despite making a mountain out of a molehill. His Middle Earth is still a wonder to behold and we get to visit new places and meet a horde of new characters. The second half picks up speed and we get the action and adventure we came for and it doesn’t disappoint. The last act in particular never stops moving and has some spectacular action sequences as our band meet some of Middle Earth’s more fearsome inhabitants and make some nasty enemies. It’s all well staged and as with the last series of films, the special effects are spectacular and the visuals are breathtaking. Despite the negatives, there is still a lot to enjoy about this story which by nature is lighter in tone then the trilogy it precedes. There are also some appearances by now favorite characters and it was nice to see them back especially since we know where they are headed. Maybe now that the set up is over and the quest has begun, the pacing will be much more in line with the Rings trilogy for the next two movies. Overall I enjoyed the first segment of this Hobbit trilogy and anxiously await the next part, The Desolation Of Smaug but, hopefully Peter Jackson spends a bit more time in the editing room and cuts some of the overindulgent fat and sticks to the lean meat of this classic tale for the final two installments.

3 and 1/2 generous Dwarven war axes as the second half of this flick more then makes up for the slower pace of the first half!

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