Saturday, February 14, 2015

BloodRayne (2005)

REVIEW BY: Michael Banno


COMPANY: Boll KG Productions

RUNTIME: 94 minutes  

FORMAT: BluRay 

PLOT: A Dhampir named Rayne hunts down vampires and ultimately seeks revenge against the man that attacked her mother and made her the way she is.

REVIEW: I won't lie, Uwe Boll is a bad filmmaker. He makes cheap video game movies and about all of them have been terrible, to say the least. But despite that, I have to admit that I do personally like a few of them, even going as far as owning them, and chief among those is the BloodRayne trilogy.

BloodRayne is based off a video game about a half-human/half-vampire, or Dhamphir, named Rayne who, much like the infamous Blade, uses her vampiric super powers and abilities to kill vampires and rise up against the vampire master that originally made her. The video game that this movie is based off of however takes place during World War II and that's one of the main differences, a disappointing one at that, between this movie and the game.


The movie itself takes place in medieval times, when the Brimstone Society, an organization present in the video games that is sworn to protect the world from supernatural threats, is in its infancy and still weak. Kagen, a Master Vampire, is the most powerful in the realm. There is, however, Rayne, a young Dhamphir who may be a threat to him, and to make things worse for Kagen this Dhamphir is his daughter and she does not have him in her favor, and is currently in the midst of a one woman war of revenge against him for murdering her mother.

The story is interesting and had the potential to be pretty epic, but unfortunately it's not executed to the best of its abilities. Depending on what kind of movie you were looking for, you may end up ultimately disappointed with it here, as it takes lots of pointless side-detours that doesn't really have much to do with the main plot, and even though the movie is a quick 90-odd minutes, the entire thing feels overly stretched and even unnecessarily convoluted by the end. It really felt like Uwe Boll was trying to make this big fantasy/horror epic, but on a miniscule budget that just couldn't match up to his intentions for the movie.


The acting is on the bland side, and that's putting it mildly. It may not be the worst acting in a movie like this, but its not particularly anything resembling good either, especially from big names that you've come to expect much better work from, like Ben Kingsley and Michelle Rodriguez, who is known for roles like Resident Evil and the Fast and Furious franchise. But at least neither of them were anywhere near the annoyingly bad levels that Michael Madsen brings to the table here, a man that I usually enjoy watching but in this movie it was downright painful every time he spoke. The sole exception to this is  Kristanna Loken from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines as the title character. I actually found she did pretty decent with the role, however it's not like much was required of it as the role was written to be pretty one-note and didn't give her a whole lot to work with, emotion-wise.

But at least in a movie about a half-vampire and a team of monster hunters teaming up to fight a vampire lord and his minions, the action must at least be entertaining. Well one could think that, but one would be wrong. The action in this movie is, unfortunately, rather stiff. Don't expect excellent swordplay from this film, as it's all pretty wooden and slowly-acted out, as if the actors were still just rehearsing the choreograph among themselves and didn't realize the cameras were rolling yet.


No beating around the bush or sugar coating anything here, BloodRayne is just not a good movie. However, if you like cheap-looking, badly-acted, laughable sword fights kind of B-Movies, even if it is technically a theatrical movie in origin, than I say go ahead and give this one a try. It was clearly successful enough to spawn two even-cheaper sequels, and admittedly there were some rather nice practical effects in this movie; The vampires all have their fangs and even sometimes show monstrous faces to show that they are in fact Vampires, and those scenes looked pretty cool, and there's even moments when someone gets bitten when you see veins revealed in their skin by way of a pretty nifty special effect, so the movie has that stuff going for it, plus a pretty entertaining overall plot, so I suppose it's not all bad.

There's also a certain level of so-bad-it-entertaining in a 'sit around some rainy weekend night with some friends and a few beer and have fun laughing at how bad this movie is' kind of way, and really, the entire point of a movie is to be entertaining and that's a pretty entertaining evening right there, even if it's not the kind of entertainment the movie set out to make.

4/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Jurassic City (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: Little Dragon Productions

RUNTIME: 88 minutes  

FORMAT: DVD

PLOT: A truckload of secret experimented raptors is rerouted to a nearby prison where they escape and it's up to the security guards, a group of sorority sisters in the drunk tank for the night, and a few inmates to stop these creatures from escaping out into the city.

REVIEW: Jurassic City (previously Jurassic Lockdown and Jurassic Block) was one of those movies I paid close attention to during production, simply because it had dinosaurs in it and I'm always hankering for a new good dinosaur B-Movie, since dinosaurs are pretty much my favourite thing ever and dinosaur B-Movies are my favourite type of B-Movie.

Unfortunately, to my disappointment, Jurassic City is not that new good dinosaur B-Movie I was hoping for. Not even close.


That's not to say there's nothing positive here, because there is quite a few aspects of it that I did enjoy. The overall plot itself, of a pack of raptors loose in a prison is a pretty interesting one, and the prison setting and layout was used to great effect. Many movies pride themselves on taking place in a unique setting but then they end up doing nothing unique with that setting so it essentially could take place anywhere, but this one actually makes great use with the prison setting, incorporating many aspects that can only be done in a prison. One scene in particular comes to mind where they have to try to use a pay phone, but travel from their block to that one in such a way that the raptors can't get to them, and they never have to run too far to escape the raptors' clutches because there's always prison doors around just about every corner that they can lock behind them, leaving the raptors stuck to find other ways to get in to them. Actually, the movie has a few 'fun' scenes like those that I found myself enjoying quite a bit, such as one where a raptor loose in the city attacks a couple teens out for a swim in their backyard pool or when they first break out of their transport van and attack the soldiers guarding them, to list just a couple more of them.

And while Vernon Wells and Ray Wise don't really have much to do other than stand around their respective offices and talk to other characters, both of them own their roles quite well and were the highlights of this movie, acting-wise, with Jack Forcinito playing his part pretty well of looking bad ass while hunting down dinosaurs (though admittedly not really a role that requires much range).

Unfortunately though, that's about all I enjoyed. While Vernon Wells, Ray Wise, and Jack Forcinito were all enjoyable to watch in their limited capacities, most everyone else in this movie was just downright terrible. Perhaps a few line deliveries or moments here and there were good, but on a whole I was not impressed at all, and a couple characters were just painful to have to watch, reminding me of some of the worst character-related aspects of Raptor Ranch, aka The Dinosaur Experiment. Though it's not like any of the characters were made out to be likeable or relatable anyway, nor it's not like the dialogue they had to work with from the script gave them much choice either. There were far too many moments where conversations didn't even seem to make much sense, as if they switched from one conversation to a completely different one, mid-convo without any sort of hint that they were going to and a couple times I even found myself wondering out loud 'Just what the hell are they even talking about here?'. It also doesn't help that some characters motives aren’t fleshed out at all, like in the instance of Vernon Wells' character; So let me get this straight, his entire master plan was to go through the trouble and money and research in bringing dinosaurs back to life, to purposely set them loose, in order to come in, kill them all, save the day, and appear to be a hero? If he wanted to give the illusion of being a fake hero, I'm sure there would have been much easier ways to go about it than bringing dinosaurs back to life, just to kill them. And the prison attack was supposed to be some kind of test run, but he doesn't even wait for it to be over before launching his actual plan, so again, much of this movie on a script level, from the dialogue to character motivations, to the plot itself, just left me scratching my head.


But hey, nobody watches a dinosaur B-Movie for the acting or dialogue anyway, so what about the dinosaurs themselves? While it's true there were a handful of fun scenes dealing with them, that in theory had the potential to be great, it's mostly all undone by the fact that these CGI dinosaurs are among the worst CGI I've seen in a B-Movie in a long time. As someone that watches just about every SyFy Channel Original Movie and Asylum-made mockbuster, even I found the effects here to be nothing short of dreadful, and pretty much totally took me out of the movie every single time they were on-screen. What really surprises me with this though is that Asylum-regular Joseph Lawson did the special effects for this one, and usually his work is far and above the level that it is here. I always look forward to Asylum movies more when I notice he's doing the effects for them cause they always turn out to be the best the company has done, on a visual effects level, each and every time, so I was actually outright shocked when I looked on IMDB and saw he did them for this movie, after having seen just how terrible they were here. The sole exception to this is one very quick scene toward the end where the soldiers hunting the escaped raptor through the city end up getting caught in an unexpected stampede of escaped raptors, and admittedly that scene actually looked pretty cool and a touch creepy.

I hope you aren’t expecting a lot of those kinds of scenes though, because everything about this movie’s title and cover art is simply false advertising. The city scenes take up about 5 minutes of movie time, spread out over two or three short scenes throughout the entire movie, most of which is just soldiers hunting for an escaped raptor, and just when we think we might actually finally be getting to the meat of the advertised movie when all sorts of dinosaurs start running amok and causing chaos in the city...the movie ends. It literally ends with the dinosaurs escaping and starting to run through the city, right as we're getting to what we really want to see, and on top of that it ends without any sort of conclusion or wrap-up to anything, as if this was simply an over-long prologue to a much larger story. And for any T. Rex fans out there, I feel bad for you. Despite having a Rex front and center on the poster art, they're in the movie long enough to be seen (badly rendered at that) walking down a street while one of the characters drives by. That's it.


Jurassic City was one of those movies I had been anxiously waiting for that, unfortunately, didn't even come close to living up to those expectations. The false advertising of the cover art and title itself certainly doesn't help, and probably would have been better off sticking with one of it's original titles, Jurassic Block or Jurassic Lockdown as they would have been far more accurate and, quite honestly there was nothing wrong with either of those titles to begin with so I have no idea why it was even changed, other than to blatantly capitalize on the upcoming release of Jurassic World.

Of course it would take more than a title change to save this movie, since most of the acting was meh, special effects painful, and just about everything on a script level abysmal. Any one of these things on their own probably wouldn't even bother me too much, but it's the combination of all of them together that made for this being a pretty hard-to-sit-through viewing. Even as a B-Movie fan, I would recommend just skipping this one as the few entertaining scenes and overall interesting idea of raptors loose in a prison just aren't enough to make up for all that's done wrong. There's other better recent dinosaur B-Movies out there like Age of Dinosaurs, Jurassic Attack (Rise of the Dinosaurs), and The Dinosaur Project that are more worth the time to watch them than this one was.

3/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Alien Outpost (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: Bigscope Films  

RUNTIME: 90 minutes

FORMAT: Itunes

PLOT: A documentary crew follows an elite unit of soldiers in the wake of an alien invasion.

REVIEW: Alien Outpost came out this past Friday on the usual Video-on-Demand locations such as Itunes, Vudu, and the like, and the trailer looked so interesting to me I had to order a digital copy and check it out as soon as I got home from work that day. Now, the original title that some people may know it under from news articles in the past was Outpost 37, but I feel that, for once, the name change is actually beneficial and Alien Outpost is the much better title. Usually I find last minute B-Movie title changes to be annoying in that they always change it from something great to something 'meh', but Outpost 37 was so plain and generic and didn't really help portray what kind of movie it is, so in that regard I feel Alien Outpost was a well-needed upgrade.

This one was brought to us via IFC Midnight, which is a pretty well-known VOD-distribution company for those who run in these circles. They've acquired and released many great fun genre titles in the last several years, such as Alien Abduction, Extraterrestrial, Dark Summer, The Pact and its sequel, Inner Demons, The Babadook, and Hangar 10 just to list but a few in their vast catalogue of acquisitions. I actually really enjoy a lot of what these VOD-distribution companies put out, and among them IFC Midnight is easily one of my top favourites, sharing the spot only with the equally-awesome Magnet, which is the company responsible for bringing to our T.V.'s and computers such modern classics as The Troll Hunter, the [REC] movies, the VHS trilogy, The Last Days on Mars, Stage Fright, and The Protector 2, to name a few in their equally-vast library of titles. I seriously cannot get enough of either IFC or Magnet and always look forward to whatever they release next. And luckily for me, IFC's most recent, Alien Outpost, also turned out to be one of my favourites! 


Alien Outpost picks up ten years after an invasion by aliens dubbed The Heavies happened and they were held off and eventually retreated, leaving many of their kind behind. Various Outposts were set up around the world to monitor for and seek out the remaining Heavies and the movie takes place at one such outpost, located in Afghanistan. If any of you have seen the war documentary Restrepo, this movie is pretty much a cross between that and District 9, in that this was made in the style of a finished and polished faux-documentary, very similar to Europa Report, complete with a very effective musical score, talking head interviews, overlaying text narration, and clips of news reports, but, you know, with aliens.

I love found footage in general, but some movies I feel just don't need it and could have been even better had it been a traditionally-shot movie. The Dinosaur Project and Frankenstein's Army are two other such ones I feel that way about, and there were many times during this movie that I was thinking to myself that, while as cool and fun as this flick is, there was almost no reason for it to be found footage-esque and could have been even better had it just been a regular movie. With that said, the first person camera perspective here really helps make you feel right there in the war zone alongside these soldiers, with bullets whizzing by and explosions going off all around, and the fact that it's not so much found footage per sey, but done as a finished documentary, helps make it feel a bit more fresh and professional than the average found footage fare.

This 'documentary' follows one military unit as they arrive at the rundown outpost that's been left in disrepair, and after they get hazed in by the current soldiers stationed there they start bonding with them and play various games and goof off and do whatever other activities they can come up with to pass away their boredom in between their regular patrols of the area as the days go on, during which time we kind of get to come to know many of these soldiers and start feeling attached to them. Because of that, we actually give a shit when, during a routine patrol, the platoon is ambushed by the Heavies and their commanding officer is taken prisoner, and in another part of the movie one of the younger characters is taken by surprise and suddenly killed off with no warning. Very often in these kind of flicks you just don't care much about what happens to the characters on screen, but this movie went above and beyond to make you get to know these people and care about them. Of course that wouldn't be possible if the actors were crap or eye-rollingly bad, but they were all actually really damn good and believable. There's not a wide range of characters outside army soldiers and a couple cameramen, but everyone played their roles well, never once taking me out of the moment. I also love how the one Japanese character was nicknamed Zilla, which is an obvious and comedic (though perhaps somewhat racist) nod to Godzilla.

These soldiers spend the next chunk of the movie trying to find where their C.O. that was taken prisoner and, after that, the remainder of the movie deals with a platoon of Heavies, teamed with a large group of mind-controlled humans, launching an assault on the outpost on their way to marching onwards to invade the main HQ in the next town over, and it's up to our main cast of soldiers to stop them at the outpost before that can happen. Following that, they launch an off-mission counter attack on a nearby alien fortress where...will let's just say a good handful of those soldiers we've come to enjoy watching during the movie don't exactly make it out alive.


One of the things I loved most about this movie is that even though it takes place in the year 2030 or thereabouts, give or take a couple years, most most of the uniforms, weapons, vehicles, and other gear are very modern-day, at least from the human side of things, giving the entire movie a modern war movie kind of vibe, but with aliens, which only adds to the realism factor. Interesting to note though, that the lasers of the Heavies have sound effects that sound almost identical to the Covenant Needle Guns of the Halo games. Actually, more than once this movie will remind you of the Halo games, for many reasons.

Of course none of that would matter much if the movie dropped the ball on the special effects like so many B-Movies do, but surprisingly they were top-notch here for the most part. Both the CGI stuff as well as the practical were all above and beyond what you would expect from a direct-to-video 'found footage' style movie, and I was constantly kept amazed at the level of effects work throughout. The only moments of effects that weren’t really up to snuff with everything else were any scenes with that god-awful CGI smoke that felt really out of place with how well all the rest of the CGI is, and one scene where a captured Heavy has it's head blown off at close range was laughably bad.

That one shot of the Heavy having its head blown off aside, what we see of the aliens are really really good and well-done, easily the best effects work I've seen in such a low budget affair in a long time. Unfortunately the aliens themselves, outside of some news footage scattered around here and there and a couple quick shots, are hardly even in the movie for the majority of it. I suppose that's a testament to how good the movie actually is though, and how engaging the human characters are to watch, because it took me until the last 20 minutes of the movie before I realized that the aliens have hardly even been in it up to that point. Luckily though those last 20 minutes are heavily action-packed and exciting, and unlike most found footage style movies, the action is actually quite well-shot and really easy to follow.


Sure, I may have a few minor nitpicks with it, but really, the positives here heavily overshadow any minor nitpicks and I was pleasantly surprised with just how good Alien Outpost turned out, both from an entertainment standpoint as well as in terms of how well it was made.

It's certainly not the light-hearted, fluffy, turn-your-brain off, cheesy kind of B-Movie that the SyFy Channel airs or The Asylum makes, this is a far cry from the Sharktopuses and Mega this vs Gigantic Thats of the genre, so if that's what you're looking for you won't find it here, but if instead you're hankering for some down and gritty serious war action, something closer to Restrepo or Black Hawk Down but with aliens, this is where you can look and, if you're anything like me, you'll have a blast with it.

9/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hansel vs Gretel (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 86 minutes

FORMAT: DVD

PLOT: A year after their victory over, and escape from, the clutches of the evil witch Lilith, Gretel falls under a dark spell and organizes a coven of witches of her own, leaving Hansel to find the courage to fight his twin sister and the sinister forces controlling her.

REVIEW: I always heavily anticipate each new Asylum release. I don't review all of them because A, I just don't have the time and B, I find I always look at movies more critically when I go into them knowing I'll be reviewing them and sometimes I'd like to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie without having to think about the review I'll have to write after and so for those reasons I tend to just pick and choose ahead of time which Asylum movies I'll be reviewing and which ones I probably won't. With that said, this movie had a really catchy poster, unique premise, and I'm a big fan of director Ben Demaree's cinematography work with other Asylum movies, such as the Sharknado movies, Apocalypse Pompeii, 3 Musketeers, and Age of Tomorrow among many many others, which made me really curious how he would handle his first directing gig for the company. In addition, I'm an even bigger fan of screenwriter Jose Prendes, who has worked on pretty much my favorite Asylum horror flicks such as Haunting of Whaley House and Haunting of Winchester House, in addition to last year's excellent Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark.

Now I should preface this with the fact that Hansel vs Gretel is a direct sequel to Asylum's 2013 modern day-set adaptation of Hansel & Gretel, a fact that I did not realize when I was first going into this movie, so I guess I'm following the trend started by regular B-Movie Shelf contributor Michael Banno, since that seems to happen to him fairly often. Because of this, there are aspects here that harken back to that movie and moments that reference that movie that I was kind of lost at since I never did watch that one. You can still watch this movie without knowledge of that one and follow it just fine, seeing as how that's exactly what I did, but there will be moments that you might be left slightly confused at, and I'm sure you'll get much more out of this movie if you've seen the previous one first.


The only actor to return for this movie was Brent Lydic as Hansel. Since I never saw the first one I can't compare his work here to how he did in that one, but looking at his low amount of IMDB credits (most of which are Shorts), I was surprised that he was as good as he was here, and that he was always a pleasure to watch whether it was slaying witches or just so much as firing off witty lines or delivering little bits of witch-lore exposition. This version of the character, as played by this actor, would fit perfectly at home on an adventure with the infamous Winchester brothers of Supernatural fame, and seeing him do what he does best, I.E. slay witches, you would be hard pressed to find another actor that fits the epitome of 'smooth', 'cool' and 'witch hunter' better than Brent Lydic. And oh yes, there is plenty of witch slaying action to be had in this movie.

Actually, the movie had quite the high number of gore shots, both directed towards the witches in addition to at the hands of the witches. Right within the first couple minutes, we get a head smashed in with a boot, followed by opening credits cutting back and forth between human meat being cut up and hanging on hooks, and during the rest of the movie we get such classics as a witch ripping a bone out of her own body to cut the ropes she's tied with, a not-so-dead skinned rabbit in a tub of its own blood jumping to life, and plenty of witch-slaying beheadings, guttings, eye-gougings, and burnings just to mention a few of the many offerings this movie has for gore hounds. Luckily it's also not just all-gore-no-substance, ohhh nooo, there are also quite a few nice creepy scenes of genuine tension and nicely-built atmosphere to boot, such as one scene where a character is walking down a long underground hallway with leaking pipes and dimmed lights, hearing a witch cackling from somewhere nearby, or a scene where a witch is stalking her prey in a room filled with thick smoke and gas and toying with their heads as she does so. This movie certainly has no shortage on scenes built around gore in addition to scenes built around creepy atmosphere, and sometimes, when we're lucky, scenes built around both at the same time.

 
Alongside Brent Lydic is a relative unknown, Lili Baross, playing the role of Gretel. She's new to the role in this movie, taking over from Stephanie Greco who played the role in the previous movie. Since I never saw that one I can't compare how she did compared to the previous actress, but for her time in this movie she did pretty good. There were a few moments where her inexperience came through a bit more obviously than during the rest, but for the most part she did pretty good, and she handled the scenes where she had to flip back and forth between acting evil and acting sweet and innocent masterfully.

However, that flip flopping of Gretel is also cause for one of my big complaints about this movie. The fact that Gretel is now a witch herself acts as a big revealing plot twist part way through the movie...except for the fact that I have no idea why they bothered to make such a big deal out of it as if it was supposed to be a surprise, when the plot synopsis and even the very title of the movie itself totally gives it all away. Despite acting like we weren’t supposed to already know, we obviously do and because of that I would have liked to see her evil reveal much sooner in the movie than we do, cause most of that first half we're just waiting around for it to happen, and during pretty much the entire movie save for the last ten minutes or so, we're waiting for Hansel, who is meandering about town trying to solve these witch crimes, to finally clue in to what the viewers already know the entire time. It's a pet peeve of mine when a movie is built around characters trying to figure out what we, as viewers, already know because we get antsy and impatient waiting, since each new big reveal the characters come across, we already know about. It's always much more engaging when we're on that journey right alongside the characters, finding twists and turns and information out as they themselves do. And to make it worse, this movie doubles up on that, as Hansel spends pretty much the entire runtime trying to figure out who the main witch is here when we already know it's Gretel, and likewise the Coven of witches that take her in under their wing spend the entire runtime thinking they're in charge of her when really, we know from pretty much the beginning that she's actually the one that's playing them the entire time. Both aspects would have made for amazing twists had we found those things out alongside the characters themselves, but instead we know all this right from the onset and spend the entire movie watching the characters flounder around trying to find it out for themselves.


All in all, Hansel vs Gretel is one really fun addition to Asylum's library. It's not perfect, and the ending really annoyed me for reasons I can't go into without major major spoilers, but the fun non-stop witch slaying action, above-average performance by Brent Lydic, pleasing amounts of gore and creepy atmosphere, and a pulse-pounding action-packed musical score used at all the right moments really help this one overcome it's downfalls, most of which could have been fixed with just a little tweaking of the screenplay here and there.

Having not yet seen the first movie in this series, I admit that some aspects of things in the movie may have been previously explained in Hansel & Gretel (such as exactly why Gretel is so interested in being a witch all of a sudden; that never gets even touched upon here), so I need to make a point of going back and watching that one ASAP. As it is, despite that, I still mostly had a blast with this movie and wouldn't mind seeing just one more in the series to cover what happens next after that very sudden and annoyingly-unresolved ending.

7/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The 10 Best B-Movies of 2014



Like with 2011, 2012, and then 2013 this is my Annual list of my personal favorite B-Movie releases of the last year. There is still plenty of movies from this past year that I haven't yet seen, so it's possible I've potentially skipped over a few diamonds in the rough due to that, since this list is based off what I've actually watched myself. Also, this list is solely based off what has hit home video formats and Video On Demand services in 2014, so movies that aired on TV stations like Lifetime or the SyFy Channel this year, but never came out on DVD, BluRay, and VOD services yet, does not count for this. I want this as a list of movies that you could potentially pick up yourself or have easy access to legally obtaining. Likewise, some of these movies may have aired on TV in previous years, but didn't actually get released on home video formats or VOD until 2014, thus I count them as 2014 movies for that reason.

The following list won't be in any specific order, as I clearly love all of them for them to even be on the list to begin with, so putting them in any kind of ranking order beyond that is a bit moot.


- Mercenaries was Asylum's all-female jab at cashing in on The Expendables 3, and I'm glad they did as it turned out to be one of my all-time favorite movies by them. Good action scenes, funny one-liners, great chemistry between the all-star female cast (made up of Kristanna Loken, Zoe Bell, Vivica A. Fox, and Nicole Bilderback) all come together to make this a really entertaining and fun action flick. I would love to see director Chris Olen Ray make further adventures with this ragtag team of badass chick mercenaries.


 - The generically-titled Scarecrow was one of those SyFy Originals that seemed to have come and gone and has left most people's memories, yet for some reason I seemed to love it and find myself going back to from time to time. Unique supernatural creature design, fun kills, good characterization and acting, entertaining action set pieces, nice amount of different locations and environments, and some decent twists, this one has everything I look for in a supernatural killer-themed SyFy Original.


- Extraterrestrial was surprisingly creepy, but also had an even mix of comedic scenes thrown in, made possible by a well-acted and likeable lead cast that actually made you care about what happens to them. Throw in cameo scenes by fan favorites Michael Ironside and Emily Perkins, some really good, truly creepy scenes of the cast being stalked, hunted, and eventually abducted by these well-designed aliens, a fun back and forth between found footage and traditional-shot styles, and some interesting unique auditory cues and it's easy to see why this one is on my favorites list.


 - You didn't think I'd have a Best Of list without the most infamous of the 2014 B-Movies, did you? The cult phenomenon surrounding Asylum's Sharknado series is arguably even more interesting than anything in the wacky movies themselves. Still, right off the bat it's pretty easy to see why this sequel obtained it's pop culture status, and that's because the movie is as insanely stupid... and awesome... as it sounds, and B-Movie fans are sure to love every minute of it as Sharknado 2: The Second One is even cheesier and crazier than the original. You can read B-Movie Shelf contributor Michael Banno's full previously-posted review of this one here.


 - Ragnarok is a foreign action/adventure creature feature from Norway that's an even mix of Jurassic Park, Anaconda, and Indiana Jones as a struggling single father has to drag his kids along to uncharted wilderness with himself, his friend, and their attractive female guide while they search for ancient viking artifacts and find not only what they're looking for, but also a deadly giant snake monster guarding it.The fun character dynamics, thrill-ride Jurassic Park-style action scenes, and really well-made CGI snake monster makes this one a must-watch for any monster movie fan.


- Airplane vs Volcano, starring Dean Cain, is way better and more engaging than it has any right to be. An airplane stuck in the middle of a giant ash cloud made by a ring of erupting volcanoes is where the majority of the action takes place, but oddly enough the movie not only holds your interest but has you on the edge of your seat, thanks largely in part to the phenomenal special effects, above-average acting, and just the total insanity of the plot and the scenes of destruction that come with it.


- Age of Tomorrow is one of those Asylum mockbusters that just blew me away with it's sheer ambition and scope. We follow unrelated groups of characters through a city being invaded, a jungle-centric alien homeworld, a mothership disguised as an asteroid, and culminating in an epic space battle. Truly nobody is safe in this one as it's filled with tons of great twists. CGI effects are also great and add to the fun. You can read my full previously-posted review of this one right here.


- Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero was a prequel I was initially not looking forward to after the abysmal Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Luckily my fears were unfounded as the movie was a fun, gory, and at times genuinely creepy and well-shot entry in the Cabin Fever saga, playing things mostly straight instead of comedic, minus a couple choice scenes such as two women cat fighting each other amidst both of them decaying away. Plenty to love here for both Cabin Fever fans and horror fans in general.


- The Babadook was a refreshingly chilling, gothic, and fresh kind of story that played out more as a character drama/thriller than actual horror movie, yet has enough horror-ish scenes and themes in there to please any fan of the genre. Inventing a brand new and unique 'boogeyman' of sorts, the Babadook 'creature' itself will go down in history alongside the other memorable greats of horror movie history, and will more than likely be the cause of sleeping with your lights on that night.


- Asylum's RoboCop mockbuster, Android Cop, was a nice little surprise filled with great effects, great acting, great characterization, and a surprisingly great story that had more meat on it's bones than what you'd expect from an Asylum production. And to top it all off it was just a genuinely good fun time, made up of some hilarious one-liners and comedic beats, mixed in with well-shot and well-choreographed action. You can read my full previously-posted review of this one here.



All in all, another great year for B-Movie fans, so much so that I actually had the hardest time yet compiling my year-end list and narrowing it down to just ten movies. And while these are just my personal favorite ten, there are still plenty of other good, fun, worthy B-Movies from this past year that fans can sink their teeth into as well.

Actually, below you'll find three such movies that almost made my list but, for one reason or another, just couldn't quite be included.


 HONORABLE MENTIONS


- The third and final entry in the Mega Shark saga, Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, saw not only the most well-made and fun entry in the series thus far, but also the return of one of the main cast from the original movie, the one and only Debbie Gibson! The new cast also brought lots of fun to the table as well, and quite honestly the only reason this wasn't included in the above list was that with only ten movies being included, and wanting some variety so that it wasn't all just Asylum movies, I had to draw a line and cut some out. You can read my full previously-posted review of this one here.


- Exists was the found footage killer Bigfoot movie that Willow Creek should have been but wasn't. Made by one half of the duo behind The Blair Witch Project and the equally-creepy Altered, this one was fun and creepy, brought down a few points though only by some of the more unintentionally funny moments such as a Sasquatch using what seemed like wrestling moves on a character and other similar questionable moments sprinkled throughout.



 - At The Devil's Door was a creepy atmospheric 'demon baby' movie that took the unique choice of following three separate mini-stories, if you will, of three separate women, who all got the unfortunate curse of being pregnant with this demon baby and proceeded to be stalked and haunted by the demon that put it in them. Only thing stopping this underrated gem from being on my Best Of list is the fact that it ends on a horribly disappointing anti-climatic note, and is filled from beginning to end with absolutely painfully dreadful acting, taking you out of an otherwise great little horror movie more often then should be allowed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood (2012)

REVIEW BY: Bobby Lepire


COMPANY: DigiDreams Studios

RUNTIME: 100 mins

FORMAT: DVD

PLOT:
While battling the Nottingham Sheriff, Robin Hood and his band of merry men are slain. Distraught over these horrific turn of events, Marian and Little John attempt to resurrect Robin and his comrades. In doing so they inadvertently turned the one-time heroes into the living dead and worse, the ghostly reincarnations are now out for blood.

REVIEW:
This film is so inept and idiotic that even its title is wrong - Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood has no ghosts whatsoever. This bit of easily avoidable stupidity is indicative of the sheer laziness of the production as a whole, and is the least dumb thing about the movie. Yes my friends, this movie is so damned awful that its inaccurate title isn’t even close to being in the top fifty list of the movie’s biggest sins.

Shall the torture begin?


The most glaring issue, besides everything else, is that it’s shot on shiteo; I have seen iPhone videos that have higher quality to them. Whatever camera was used to shoot this was not worth the money used to buy (or rent) it. Add to that the brazen incompetency of cinematographers Kamil Hertwig and Matthias Michel, neither of whom presumably had any contact with any sort of video recording device until Day One of production for “Robin Hood Fails At Everything”. Seriously, this is an ugly, garish, and simply displeasing flick to look at. I understand the low quality of the video is due to low budget and all that jazz, but the blocking of the actors’ that cut off half their heads from the shot and camera compositions with tree branches right in the line of sight of the main action are inexcusable, and both present throughout.

Martin Thon is the on-screen Robin Hood, and possesses the same screen presence as random tree moss - there, something to look at, and completely forgotten about in two seconds. Continually forgetting that the title character is in a scene is a bad sign! I specified on-screen, as he is very poorly dubbed over (in the English version. I do not know about in the native German) by Ben Bledsoe. Whilst Thon can barely register as existing in front of the camera, Bledsoe is the worse of the two. Each bit of dialogue is stated in a detached monotone, the very definition of just ‘reading lines’ as opposed to acting the emotional context for each line.

Maid Marian is portrayed by Ramona Kuen. She’s slightly better than Thon because she appears to be exerting some effort. It’s all for naught mind you, as her acting skills are abysmal, but some effort was put in, which might actually make her the best actress in the whole damned affair. Schaukje Konning has the albatross wearing feat of being the dubbed voice. Again, it’s painful. All her lines are stilted, as if forced out of her mouth while being gagged, after just learning how to say them phonetically.

The fun part with the dubbing is that just about everyone, excluding Tom freaking Savini (I have no clue why he’s slumming so damned low here), and their dub causes horrendous ear infections in the viewer - the dub is just that bad! It doesn’t even bother to make an attempt to sync with the actors’ mouths. This is worse than a bundle of cheap 1970s kaiju films!


Tom Savini is one of the most talented and impressive special effects make-up artists still working today. He did makeup on the original Dawn Of The Dead, Friday The 13th, and Two Evil Eyes, among many others. He has also built up a decent acting filmography, typically in supporting roles in such genre fare as The Dead Matter and Beyond The Wall Of Sleep. While never outstanding, he usually can hold his own and deliver something engaging. His performance here on the other hand, as with everything else in this god forsaken cinematic failure pile, is rubbish of the grimiest kind. Boorish is literally the only thing I can conjure up about the character. That’s right! The only thing of note about Savini’s Sheriff of Nottingham is the same characterization he has been given in every other adaptation of Robin Hood ever made. Not a good sign.

We start the movie with shots of random bodies strewn across the director’s backyard, accompanied by an off-screen dialogue exchange. This is a minute or two long, and is the worst conceivable way of starting this movie. Since we haven’t met anyone yet, and therefore have no context for where we are in the story during the opening shot, having two characters, whom we don’t know, exchange pleasantries over dead bodies and flashbacks leading up to the fight, which is when the dialogue ends. We are then left with terrible sound effects, metal swords sounding like a branch breaking off another branch, and footsteps falling on tile as oppose to the grassy knoll they are in. The sound mixing doesn’t match with when they should happen, trailing by about half a second.

Seeing a pattern yet?

The Merry Men’s village/ hideout is just a few bales of hay near a small brook. At this point, I am questioning if this movie even had a budget. Was this all just filmed in the producer’s backyard because he and his buddies were bored one weekend? Actually, more than a one-day production is giving the movie too much leeway. No one involved cared enough to work on this for more than a day. They don’t even store their loot near them, but in an unguarded cage a little ways down stream, so any old wanderer could stumble in there and take it. Every character is officially now the dumbest character in the movie. I don’t care if that doesn’t make sense! It’s too dumb for real logic!

With Marian’s help, Robin and his men decide to raid Nottingham’s castle, for a huge score to give back to the poor. The castle portion is so geographically confusing and poorly lit I am unable to describe what happened and how. All that matters is the end result- some men get captured and Robin goes back to save them. This attempted rescue is what allows the slumming Savini as the Sheriff of Nottingham to gravely injury Robin Hood.

Marian and Friar Tuck dragged Robin’s bleeding body to a witch, because those exist now - no setup needed. She gives him a potion, and he wakes up. After some gobbley gook about the misuse of magic and destiny, the witch gives Robin some potions to take and give to his fallen men. After giving the potion to them all, some bullshit I don’t understand causes them to fall down, die and resurrect as bloody hungry zombies.


I know I am making this movie sound like a quick ride, even when it’s full of stupid, but it feels endless. I am simply going over the main plot points, ignoring all the padding that is everywhere. Five minute dinner scene of the Sheriff oogling and being creepy toward Marian for no reason? Seeing Marian and Friar Tuck drag Robin Hood the entire way to the witch’s place? The pointless discussion of the treasure cave, which never comes back up? This movie is more padded than a sanitarium room made of moon bounces!

Every solitary part of this film is poorly executed. Every single actor/actress is the worst one on screen. Every action scene is painful and fails to elicit even the most basic of interest. Everything that happens makes no sense.

This is one of the worst films of all time.

0/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward