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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BARE BONES: SKIN TRADE, BIG GAME and GRUDGE MATCH

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SKIN TRADE (2014)

Routine action adventure pairs action icon Dolph Lundgren (who also produced and co-wrote) with Thailand action sensation Tony Jaa. Lundgren is Newark, N.J. cop Nick Cassidy who teams with Thailand cop Tony Vitayaku (Jaa) to take down crime lord and human trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). There is nothing we haven’t seen before in this fast paced and sometimes ludicrous action flick, directed by Thailand director Ekachai Uekrongtham, but, there is a B-Movie entertainment to be had and it’s fun to see Lundgren pair with someone who speaks English far worse than he does. There is also fun in seeing Lundgren and Jaa together and against Ron Perlman, no less. The action itself is routine for the most part, as is the plot, but go in expecting that and it can provide some fun and unintentional chuckles. Also stars Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BIG GAME (2014)

Offbeat Finnish action adventure is based on a comic book and tells of young teen Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is sent into the woods, with bow and arrow, as part of a coming of age hunting trip to prove himself a man. At the same time a terrorist (Mehmet Kurtuluş) and a traitorous Secret Service agent (Ray Stevenson) take down Air Force One over those same woods and are on the hunt for the escaped President Of The U.S. (Samuel L. Jackson). Obviosuly, he is found by Oskari first, who vows to prove his manhood by delivering the President to safety, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by his pursuers. Directed by Jalmari Helander and co-written by he and Petri Jokiranta, this is actually a fun little movie despite being preposterous and silly. Jackson and young Onni Tommila get along well and are a fun team. It’s not to be taken too seriously and doesn’t holdup to today’s Hollywood blockbusters, but it has it’s heart in the right place and can be lighthearted, if not forgettable, fun.

3 star rating

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GRUDGE MATCH (2014)

On paper, making a movie about Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone playing two over-the-hill boxing rivals who get together for one more tie-breaking fight, must have sounded like a great idea…and it could have been. But the film takes itself far too seriously, instead of just having a good time with the silly premise and just going with it. Director Peter Segal (who’s made a career out of mediocre and mundane comedies) directs with a leaden hand from the script by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, a script which makes the mistake of downplaying the humor and tries to make a fairly serious flick out of this nonsense. De Niro and Stallone do the best they can with the weak soap opera-level material, but neither really acts like they are completely onboard with this. It’s a shame, the premise could have been a lot of fun with writers and a director who recognized it’s real potential. Also stars Kevin Hart as the son of a Don King-like fight promoter and Kim Basinger as the girl who got between the two boxers back in the day. Snooze Match is more like it.

2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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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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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: HELLBOY and HELLBOY 2

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HELLBOY (2004)

While I’m not familiar with the comic that this is based on, I do know it was created by Mike Mignola and is about a demon who battles other paranormal creatures. Guillermo del Toro’s film adaptation opens during World War II where American commandos thwart the opening of an otherworldly dimension by the Nazis and the Russian monk Rasputin (Karel Roden). Before the rift is closed, occult expect Trevor Bruttenholm (Kevin Trainor during the WWII scenes and John Hurt as an older man), discovers something came through…a red baby demon with a huge stone hand. 60 years later “Hellboy” (a perfectly cast Ron Perlman) has been raised by Bruttenholm and is now part of the Bureau Of Paranormal Research And Defense, battling other paranormal threats to keep us safe. He fights along with fish-man, Abe Sapien (performed by Doug Jones but voiced by David Hyde Pierce), fire-starter and girlfriend, Liz (Selma Blair) and freshman Agent Myers (Rupert Evans). Rasputin has been resurrected and is now lurking about trying to awaken the Lovecraftian Ogdru Jahad and bring them into our world…and he needs to unlock Hellboy’s true demon nature to do it. Can Hellboy and Co. defeat Rasputin when Hellboy himself is the secret to the success of his plans to destroy our world?

As guided by del Toro, Hellboy is a visually cool and fun supernatural superhero story with some really good action set pieces and plenty of equally creepy monsters and characters. His design work is captivating and the action moves at a good clip as we go from some skirmishes with otherworldly beasties in New York to it’s fun and gooey climax in Russia. And the SPFX are for the most part flawless with both practical and CGI FX used to bring del Toro’s vision of Mignola’s world to the screen.

The cast are all good for the most part with Perlman stealing the show and the supporting cast backing him up well. What brought this down a bit for me was Rasputin was kind of a standard villain with Karel Roden really not seeming to get the material as did the rest of the cast. He seems to take things a bit too seriously and to be honest, is a bit bland. Even the supporting villains were a bit more matched with the material such as the blade wielding zombie, Karl Kroenen (Ladislav Beran). The pacing can be a little off at times too, a subplot involving a rivalry for Liz’s affections with Myers kinda slows things down a bit, but overall, it’s a fun and colorful fantasy flick that paved the way for an even better sequel.

A solid 3 Hellboys!

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HELLBOY 2: 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.

3 and 1/2 Hellboys!

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