REVIEW: GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

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GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

Ghostbuster: Afterlife opens with down on her luck single mom Cassie (Carrie Coon) receiving word her estranged and eccentric father has died and she has no choice but to move to his broken-down farm in Summerville, Oklahoma with her kids Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Upon arrival, science nerd Phoebe begins to sense a presence in the house and soon discovers her grandfather was Ghostbuster Egon Spengler and that he was out there trying to stop the next prophesied coming of Gozer the Gozerian (a cameo that won’t be spoiled here). Now Phoebe, Trevor, new friend Podcast (Logan Kim) and teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd) must get those proton packs working and save the world, like their grandfather did thirty-seven years ago.

Sequel is directed wonderfully by Jason Reitman from his script with Gil Kenan and obviously based on the 1984 film. It is not just a sequel though, but a heartfelt love letter to not only the iconic pop culture classic, but 80s coming of age adventures as well. As such, Reitman gives us a very likable bunch of characters to populate this film with, especially Phoebe, and links it back to and pays homage to Ghostbusters in many clever and nostalgic ways. He films the flick like one of those coming-of-age movies and delivers some nice goosebumps when Phoebe, led by a certain spirit, begins to find the hidden away ghostbusting equipment, as Trevor finds and repairs the Ecto-1. The trail leads the kids to an old mine and soon some familiar sites and ghoulish faces start to surface, as the clock counts down to Gozer’s return. The tone is a bit more serious than the original, with some drama between mother and kids, especially since Cassie is still bitter towards her father for leaving her. It lightens up as Rudd’s Gooberson becomes a romantic interest for her and a believing friend for Phoebe, and the kids slowly transform into a new generation of Ghostbusters. Technically, film is nicely shot with some really solid visuals, from Egon’s spooky old house, the Midwest farm country setting, and the Gozer temple within the mine that was delightfully nostalgic. The SPFX are top notch and even if it is a little slow to get started, it delivers a fun and tear-jerking climax with Ghostbusters old and new facing the paranormal threat. A film with a big heart that knows when to be subtle and when to let the ectoplasm fly.

Reitman has assembled a great cast. Grace McKenna is simply wonderful as nerdy genius Phoebe and she evokes the great Harold Ramis as Egon nicely, while being totally her own character. Wolfhard is good as the more cynical Trevor, who is struggling to just be a normal teenager. Carrie Coon is also very good as their bitter and angry mom, who’s still hurting over Egon’s abandonment of his family. Rudd is fun as summer school teacher and science nerd Mr. Grooberson. He adds a little levity to the proceedings early on, when the film is at its most dramatic. We also have Celeste O’Connor as Trevor love interest Lucky, Bokeem Woodbine as her sheriff father, and Logan Kim is fun as the eager to help Podcast. As for the appearances from original cast members, everyone who does appear fits back into their roles with nostalgic fun and see if you can recognize a certain actress as Gozer the Gozarian. A great cast.

Overall, this was a delightful and very sincere tribute to and continuation of a true comedy classic. It was great to see returning familiar faces, and the new editions were very welcome ones. It starts out a little slowly, with a more serious tone, but once its momentum starts, it’s a blast of fun as it pays homage to both Ghostbusters and the coming-of-age flicks of the 80s. The climax is simply wonderful and will find any fan of this franchise getting a little choked up. Highly recommended and watch through the entire credits!

On a more personal note…I was there in 1984 on opening night when I saw the original Ghostbusters and it became an important and much beloved film in my movie loving life. There are so many parts of Ghostbusters: Afterlife that made me smile, gave me nostalgic goosebumps and yea, that ending had me crying life a schoolgirl. Thank you, Jason Reitman for bringing back the magic that Ghostbusters fans thought was long past! -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 swords

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REVIEW: A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

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A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Film by Orphanage director J. A. Bayona is the sad tale of Connor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) who is dealing with not only the terminal illness that is slowly taking his divorced mother (Felicity Jones) from him, but having to live with his stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) with whom he has a tenuous relationship, as well. His father is now living in the U.S. with his new family and he has no one to turn to…until a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) appears and says he will tell Connor three stories, but only if the boy agrees to tell the fourth, which is to relate a reoccurring nightmare Connor is having. The boy reluctantly agrees, but soon finds these tales have more in common with his current situation than he could have imagined.

Flick is written by Patrick Ness based on his book that was inspired by writer Siobhan Dowd, who came up with the idea during her own illness, one she sadly did not live to write herself. It is excellently directed by Bayona, though is a very somber and sad story when all is said and done. The film certainly has a strong emotional core, as we watch a young boy trying to deal with the fact that his mother is dying and there is nothing he can do about it. Is the monster there as an imaginary way of sorting through his emotions, or an actual being only Connor can see, that is there to help the boy sort things out? Bayona and Ness aren’t eager top let us find out and the film does have a sort of magic because of it, despite the dour tone. Much like Orphanage J. A. Bayona gives this the feel of a sort of dark fairy tale and it boldly deals with the theme of a child facing the death of a loved one, without sugar coating it or giving it an unrealistic wrap up. That’s one of the things that also holds it back a bit, is that it is overall, a very sad film and contains some very serious subject matter despite having a young child as it’s central focus. On a production level, the FX are excellent, especially in the rendition of the tree-like monster, and the hand drawn illustrations that relate the creature’s tales are full of charm. The film has a wonderful visual style, that does not betray the serious tone, from the eye of it’s director. It also adds loads of atmosphere from Orphanage cinematographer Óscar Faura and an equally appropriate score from Orphanage composer Fernando Velázquez. A heartbreaking yet very well made film.

The cast also contributes much with exceptional performances all around. Young Lewis MacDougall is simply amazing with all the emotions he needs to convey as Connor. He presents a sweet natured young boy who must deal with a turmoil of feelings, including anger, with his mother slowly dying before his eyes and having to deal with both his stern grandmother and a bully at school, as well. The young actor is simply wonderful in a very emotionally heavy role. Felicity Jones will break your heart as the young mother trying to stay strong for her son. The actress gives a truly noble and endearing performance as a woman who will leave when she’s good and ready. Weaver is also very good as his grandmother. She’s is a tough women, but not a villain. Weaver let’s us see the pain she is in, watching her own child fading away and somehow having to deal with that and now raise her grandson. It’s a difficult place her character is in and while she may not handle every situation the right way, we do appreciate her position. Neeson, of course does top-notch work giving the monster both a nobility and a ferocity. He is a creature not without a bit of a heart, fierce as he can be. Neeson also appears in a photo as Connor’s grandfather who we assume is gone as well. Actor Tony Kebbell also has a minor role as Connor’s estranged dad.

In conclusion, this is a very well done and emotionally engaging movie. It is also, however, a very sad film and despite having a young boy as it’s focus, tackles that child facing some very adult decisions and emotions. The cast is exceptional and the film looks sumptuous and the movie works very well, despite it’s somber tone, thanks to a director who knows how to tell this kind of tale…with heart, albeit a broken one.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 books on which this film is based.

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NEW TRAILER FOR J. A. BAYONA’S “A MONSTER CALLS”

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There is a cool new trailer for Orphanage director  J. A. Bayona’s new fantasy thriller A Monster Calls. Film is written by Patrick Ness from his book about a young boy (Lewis MacDougall) who is visited by a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) while dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness. It also stars Sigourney Weaver as the boy’s grandmother. The film from Focus Features is slated for release on 10/21/16 here in the U.S.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: CHAPPIE, BLACK WATER VAMPIRE and THE DAMNED

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CHAPPIE (2015)

Neil Blomkamp’s third feature, co-written by Terri Tatchell is entertaining enough, but the originality that made his District 9 so enjoyable and even his lesser effort Elysium entertaining, is substituted for a Short Circuit meets Robocop mash-up that has heart, but a severely cloned one. Movie tells the story of a very near future Johannesburg, which is plagued by crime and is patrolled by robot police officers. When one of those is damaged, it’s maker (Dev Patel) uses it to experiment with an artificial intelligence and the robot dubbed “Chappie” becomes self-aware. Add to it that, Chappie has been taken by a street gang to be used in criminal activities, gives the child-like robot some very conflicting emotions to sort through as he tries to learn right from wrong. There are some fun moments in the film, but it is far too familiar to embrace completely with some scenes lifted directly from Verhoeven’s Robocop including Chappie’s battle with a large battle drone. It also has some severe tonal shifts as it is on a children’s film level one minute and spattering the screen with bloody violence the next. I wanted to like this more, but Blomkamp recycles too much and resorts to clichés too often. Also stars Sigourney Weaver, Hugh Jackman and Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley as the voice and movements of Chappie. FX are top notch as always in Blomkamp’s films.

3 star rating

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BLACK WATER VAMPIRE (2014)

Flick is a shameless rip-off of The Blair Witch Project substituting the witch for a vampire-like creature. Film has amateur filmmaker Danielle (Danielle Lozeau) wanting to investigate and make a documentary about a series of killings of young women that take place once every ten years in the woods surrounding the rural town of Black Water, WA. In each case the victim is left with large bite wounds and a complete loss of blood. Danielle and her crew (Andrea Monier, Robin Steffen and Anthony Fanelli) enter the woods and obviously, find far more than they bargained for. Written and directed by Evan Tramel, this found footage horror rips-off scenes directly from the previously mentioned Blair Witch, [REC] and even a bit of The Last Exorcism and doesn’t even do it with any style or inventiveness, so you cut the flick some slack. The acting and dialog are sub-par and the few effective scenes it has don’t make-up up for the laziness of everything else. Creature looked cool, I’ll give it that.

2 star rating

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THE DAMNED (2013)

By-the-numbers and dull supernatural horror has a group of people in rural Bogota, Columbia getting into a car accident during a bad storm and finding refuge in an old, closed-down hotel. Once there, they are greeted by a very odd man (Gustavo Angarita) and soon find he has a little girl locked up in the cellar. Against his protests, they free her only to find out she has been locked up for almost 40 years and is possessed by a vengeful witch who has the power to take over people’s bodies. Directed by Victor Garcia and written by Richard D’Ovido, this is a very routine possession/supernatural horror that does nothing new with it’s oft told tale of possession, revenge and murder. The FX are fine and location atmospheric, but the execution is very mundane and the cast, except for Brit cutie Sophia Myles, are equally dull. A few moments here and there, but very formula and very predictable. Also stars Nathalia Ramos and Peter Facinelli.

2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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