Sunday, April 26, 2015

Anaconda 3: Offspring (2008) and Anacondas: Trail of Blood (2009)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: Hollywood Media Bridge

RUNTIME: 91 minutes (Anaconda 3: Offspring), 89 minutes (Anacondas: Trail of Blood) 


PLOT: A mercenary-for-hire accepts a mission from a billionaire to capture some dangerous snakes that could possibly help cure a terminal illness. (Anaconda 3: OffSpring)

A genetically-created Anaconda that can regenerate itself due to the Blood Orchid has escaped and must be stopped before it wrecks havoc. (Anacondas: Trail of Blood)

REVIEW: With SyFy's upcoming airing of Lake Placid vs Anaconda I figured I'd try my hand at covering all the other SyFy sequels from both series' leading up to this killer animal mash-up, obviously excluding the three larger-budget theatrical entries in the series (the first Lake Placid and the first two Anaconda movies). But for those dying to know my thoughts on those ones (I know I know, all two of you), I will just say that I personally love all three, with Lake Placid being my top favorite, followed closely by Anaconadas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid, and lastly the first Anaconda.

Now, SyFy has had it's hand in plenty of other big killer snake movies over the years, many of which I've also enjoyed immensely (Python 1 and 2, Boa, Boa vs Python, Mega Snake, and Asylum's Mega Python vs Gatoroid just to name a few). So what sets Anaconda 3: Offspring and Anacondas: Trail of Blood (also known as Anaconda 4: Trail of Blood in parts of the world) apart from those ones, you may ask? Sadly, nothing at all. To the point where they almost fit better as a Python or Boa sequel than they do an Anaconda one, simply for the fact that the snakes in these entries are genetically-engineered and enhanced to include unnatural abilities such as a scythe-like tail and near-instant regeneration – something that would be much more in-line with the Boa or Python movies but feels really tacky and out of place in an Anaconda sequel. I actually prefer to not even think of these as Anaconda sequels so much as just their own separate unrelated series, because that's pretty much what they are anyway.

For instance, there's really no relation or mention of anything whatsoever from the two theatrical entries other than the use of the Blood Orchid flower from the second movie, which is used again in these sequels and is essentially what the main corporation in these are doing tests and experiments on in order to create a 'Fountain of Youth' drug to help cure cancer and other such diseases, something that the President of the corporation (played wonderfully by Sliders Professor John Rhys-Davies) needs for himself as he's dying from a rare disease and doesn't have much time left. Something that works out good for the heroes of the movies simply because he's essentially the main villain of these flicks and as you can imagine, by the end of the second of these SyFy sequels he gets exactly what's coming to him.

Other notable actors in these movies alongside him is Crystal Allen as our main protagonist, who plays the zoo keeper of sorts that looks after the ever-growing snakes for this corporation and tags along with the team of mercenaries that gets hired to track them down after they inevitably escape from the lab and then, continuing into the second of the sequels, is on a one-woman war against the corporation and tries to destroy the last of their research and the last of their snakes before any further harm can come to the residents that live in the area, in addition to B-Movie legend and Baywatch star David Hasselhoff as a rogue mercenary that gets hired by the corporation to hunt down the escaped snakes in Anaconda 3. Oddly enough, The Hoff is pretty much the only interesting and truly fun character across both movies, which makes it all the more disappointing that he's only in the first of the two.

The plots of the movies themselves are pretty mundane and generic as well, which combined with the lack of interesting or fun-to-watch characters really makes it kind of a chore to get through these movies, especially when watching them back-to-back. Offspring had some pretty good potential at times, mostly in the first chunk of the movie when the snakes initially break free of their containments and are sneakily slithering around the researching facility, killing any guard or poor employee that they come across while the building is on lock-down. My first viewing of the movie I thought that the majority of the film would deal with this stuff, and I was A-Ok with that; I LOVE killer animal B-Movies that deal with people trapped in a dimly-lit building or compound with the creature-of-note lurking around and taking them out one-by-one, but to my dismay this portion really only took up about ten minutes of the movie, at most. After that the snakes break free out into the nearby forest and it's essentially just another generic 'soldiers hunt down killer animal in the woods' SyFy movie with little to no plot and, as mentioned above, no real interesting or fun characters to follow aside from The Hoff, who doesn't even really show up to join in the hunt until halfway through the movie. I thought that maybe Trail of Blood would prove more entertaining in that area, and while it's true that it's slightly (only slightly) better due to some well-staged attack and death scenes and a couple more interesting set locations, overall it's essentially the exact same movie just with a group of university students stuck in the middle of everything, but on the flip side it also has the absence of the Hoff around to cheese things up a bit. 

As for the giant killer super-powered anacondas that plague our characters across these two movies, the CGI models for them in Offspring are just terrible, and they're integrated so horribly with the actors and environments that it was just painful to watch at times. Hell, the trees and foliage never even move when the snakes move through them! There are times where it almost seems like the snakes are actually ghost snakes with the way they interact with the surrounding environments. I know SyFy Original Movies usually don't have the best of CGI effects, especially when it comes to them interacting with things, and honestly that's usually one of the cheesy aspects I enjoy about their movies, but in this one there was nothing fun or cheesy about it - it really was that painfully bad. Luckily though they stepped it up a bit for Trail of Blood. Still not quite to the level I would prefer, even with these kinds of movies, but certainly better than in Offspring, and it also helps that the design itself of the snake looks a lot more unique and interesting in Trail of Blood than the design of the ones featured in Offspring. And while I bagged earlier on the fact that they, for some reason, felt the need to give these snakes special powers, I have to admit that it did pave the way for some rather fun and bloody death scenes (the sickle-tail is only present on the snakes in the first of these movies while the regeneration was present only on the snake in the second of these movies, but the snake in the second still got some really fun kills in, including one decapitation-by-squeezing).

I guess for those B-Movie SyFy Original fans that are only looking for some mindless admittedly-fun-at-times killer snake action, they'll be able to enjoy Anaconda 3: Offspring and Anacondas: Trail of Blood far more than I did, but for me personally, Hoffman and some pretty fun kills aside, I had a rough time making it through both of these movies, especially where I watched them back-to-back. With that said, the second of these movies was ever so slightly easier to sit through just because the snake design and CGI effects were a bit better than in the previous one, making the scenes featuring the animal a bit more entertaining and easier to get into, plus without all the sickle-tail deaths it felt a little more like a traditional Anaconda movie (well, regeneration aside, that is).

Although now that I think about it, the titles of these movies themselves in fact make little to no sense. 'Anaconda' 3: Offspring features multiple snakes while on the flip side 'Anacondas': Trail of Blood features only the one snake. I honestly can't think of any reason as to why they went that route with the titles, instead of just switching them, or simply do what some other countries in the world did and just call the fourth one Anaconda 4.

4/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward (Anaconda 3: Offspring)

4/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward (Anacondas: Trail of Blood)



Saturday, April 25, 2015

BloodRayne: The Third Reich (2011)

REVIEW BY: Michael Banno

COMPANY: Brightlight Pictures

RUNTIME: 79 minutes


PLOT: Immortal half-vampire/half-human vampire slayer Rayne takes her war against the Vampires into World War II, where she must stop a recently-turned Nazi commander from creating an army of Nazi Vampires for Hitler.

REVIEW: Well better late then never, but finally here's my review of the third Uwe Boll BloodRayne epic, BloodRayne: The Third Reich. It's interesting to note that these movies, along with the In the Name of the King trilogy, are some of his more successful film franchises with three films each. Some others, such as Alone in the Dark, Seed, and Rampage, got at least one sequel but these two franchises got three each. 

I may be putting myself before the firing squad here, but I'm actually a bit of a Uwe Boll fan myself, even though I can admit there's probably no reason why I should like them, considering they are in no shape, way, or form good movies, but admittedly they're pretty fun for me to watch.

The story to this BloodRayne entry, while told in a different time period and setting, is actually pretty similar to BloodRayne 2: Deliverance in which the main Big Bad of the movie, which happens to be a vampire, wants to create an army of Vampires. In Deliverance it was Billy the Kid, and he wanted to spread Vampirism around the good 'ol US of A, and here in The Third Reich it's a Vampire Nazi who, realizing the potential of Rayne's blood, wants to use it to create an army of half-human/half-vampire Damphirs to aid Hitler and the Nazi army in the war. Its an okay storyline but with it coming right on the heels of the second movie, I'm sure using a near identical plot can get a bit boring and repetitive for audiences, especially since Boll pulled similar stunt with In the Name of the King 2: Two Worlds and In The Name of the King 3: The Last Mission.

Repetitive plot aside, the action in this one is actually pretty decent and helps to hold your interest since the plot doesn't have much going for it. In this go-around, and unlike in the second movie, Rayne in fact gets to use blades a lot more, which is always a good bonus for me since I love those weapons. Though there is one thing different here regarding those weapons than in the past two films - The blades this time around actually look like just regular generic swords compared to the unique design they had in the previous two movies. It almost feels like Boll decided to switch things around and redesigned them for this entry, though why he thought that was a good idea is beyond me, since I liked them so much more with their original and unique design. Rayne herself also never has the same design throughout these films; She had a nice leather outfit in the first movie, than understandably she had her cowboy look in the second, and here she's got not only another new set of clothes, but also gone is her trademark fiery red hair as well, replaced with a dark jet-black dye job, though there is still a throwback to the red by way of red streaks. Though in all fairness, I'm pretty sure such hair dye didn't actually exist back then, but oh well. You can't really apply such real-world logic to these kinds of movies anyway without the B-Movie gods threatening to smite you down.

I remember during pre-production on this one there were rumors that Uwe Boll was trying to get Kristanna Loken back to reprise the role of Rayne from the first movie, but apparently that never happened as Natassia Malthe from the second movie ended up being the one to return, and as much of a fan of Loken that I am, I'm actually perfectly fine with that outcome as Malthe is equally as enjoyable to watch, and certainly not hard on the eyes either. And trust me, the eyes get quite a lot of her here as this movie has no less than two pretty hot and heavy sex scenes that, rather admittedly, only happen just for the sake of having them. They serve no purpose to the story whatsoever and actually feel tacked on and totally out of place. They were pretty much just an excuse to see Natassia Malthe naked. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about having to see such a beautiful woman naked in some hot steamy sex scenes, but I'd really rather it wasn't at the sacrifice of the flow of the movie. Find some reasonable reason to include them in than that's fine, but if not than don't even bother has always been my philosophy.

Moving on though, much like with the second movie there's very little here by way of CGI effects. Most of what we get pretty much consists of vampires turning to ash when they die, and the lead Big Bad vampire having a few CGI veins showing once or twice after drinking Rayne's blood. That's pretty much it. Not that such a thing is a negative, as the movie's plot isn't really one that calls for much CGI, but still worth noting all the same.

Overall BloodRayne: The Third Reich is definitely an interesting entry in the series. While slow to start, it does pick up it's pace before long, and I for one was definitely entertained during it's brief runtime. Actually, I may be wrong here but this one I think is actually the shortest of the BloodRayne movies at a brisk 1 hour and 19 minutes long. And that's actually another complaint I have, mainly because it feels very rushed and almost like it's an edited-for-TV version (story-wise I mean, certainly not for blood, swearing, or nudity, of which the movie has in spades), seeming like chunks are missing here and there. It very easily could have been extended, even by just 10-15 minutes, and it could have helped make the movie feel more...full. The worst damage though that I feel is done to the movie by this aspect is where the ending of the movie is concerned - It ends so abruptly at what is clearly the start of essentially the climatic action scene, thus leading us to feel robbed of it and like there's still more to be had with Rayne and her band of friends fighting these Nazis.

And truthfully, I do sincerely hope we get it. While these may not be the greatest movies ever made, they are quite a guilty pleasure of mine and I would love to see Rayne return for a fourth movie in the franchise, something that has been long-rumored but still yet to see fruition.

6/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bigfoot Wars (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: Edgen Films

RUNTIME: 70 minutes  


PLOT: A small town becomes the focal point of a brutal clash between man and legendary beast.

REVIEW: It's no secret that here at the B-Movie Shelf I love me some killer Bigfoot movies. Honestly, they're one of my favorite sub-genres, so of course a movie with the title of Bigfoot Wars would capture my attention pretty easily. With some very quick digging upon the initial announcement I discovered it was based off a novel by Eric S. Brown called Bigfoot War, so of course I seeked out the Ebook version and gave it a quick read, which really wasn't difficult since the 'novel' is a scant 120 pages.

And honestly, that was probably for the better because it was just not very good, at all. The plot was an interesting one, that being a large tribe of Sasquatches, angered by the humans of the nearby town Babble Creek, come out in-force and wage war on the town inhabitants, but the writing was, to put it bluntly, just downright terrible; Spelling mistakes and typos aplenty, character names constantly getting mixed up, repeated phrases and sentences of descriptions by the dozens, and just an awkward to read writing style that didn't really feel like it flowed naturally most of the time. Not to mention that characterization was non-existent, and there was no proper story structure to speak of, mostly just one scene of savage Bigfoot-caused mayhem and destruction after another that all kind of ran together and became extremely repetitive really quickly.

That's not to say there weren't some fun scenes in the bunch, because there was, but the few we got just couldn't make up for everything else, especially when even the scenes I enjoyed and had fun with, were written so terribly. The guy has like a gazillion sequels out but after forcing myself to finish the first, which from what I can gather from reviews is supposed to be the best one anyway, I just can't put myself through the torture of reading the rest.

In a way, the movie is a perfect visual representation of the novel. Sure, the only relation it really has to the novel is the title (Well, close enough. The movie is called Bigfoot Wars and the novel is simply Bigfoot War), and the very basic idea of a tribe of Sasquatches attacking residents of a small town, and that's about all it has in common with the story of the book, but all my issues with the book translated to the movie in the film equivalents of said issues.

Just like the novel is barely a novel at 120 pages, this is barely a movie at an hour and ten minutes long, but like the novel that's also for the best as, again quite frankly, the movie is just not very well-made at all. The editing is terrible, the audio is equally as bad (there are way too many scenes that have an annoying static hiss in the background every time the actors speak and the dialog was constantly coming in and out at different audio levels, sometimes so quietly you can't even her what's being said), and there is barely a plot to speak of as, again just like the novel, it's mostly scenes of the Sasquatches savagely attacking someone, followed by the police investigating the aftermath, and just repeat that for most of the movie's runtime until they go hunting the Sasquatches in the forest for the last 15 minutes or so. Even most of the acting is pretty abysmal, save for just a couple of the characters. There's a news anchor character and her camera man that even though they're only in a few scenes together they were actually really enjoyable to watch, and of course C. Thomas Howell playing a mouthy rude redneck hunter brings his A-Game here, even though the rest of the movie isn't worthy of it. That man chews the scenery here in a league only matched by Billy Zane in Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption and Lisa Houle in Ejecta. Even though he doesn't even come in until halfway through the movie, C. Thomas Howell alone makes everything else here bearable, that's how entertaining his performance is.

Again following suit from the book though, there is the scattered genuinely fun scene here and there, with my favorite being when a Sasquatch randomly interrupts a drive-in movie by chasing after one of the characters, although the scene itself makes no sense as to why it seemed like nobody even noticed this big hulking furry Sasquatch running between the parked cars, other than the character it was chasing. Sadly however, unlike the books this time, there's not really any assault on the town itself by the Sasquatches. In the book it was essentially a city zombie apocalypse kind of scenario, but with large, strong, fast, and savage Sasquatches instead of zombies, but in the movie the only scene that even has a Sasquatch within the town itself is the aforementioned drive-in movie theater scene, the rest of the Sasquatch action takes place out in the forests surrounding the town, thus essentially removing the one aspect of the book that I actually enjoyed.

The Sasquatches themselves were pretty decent though. I mean, yeah, they looked cheap as hell, don't get me wrong there, but at least they were practical man-in-suit effects (unlike the cartoony CGI hulk-jumping Sasquatches of Happy Camp, the overly-exaggerated King Kong-sized Sasquatch of Asylum's Bigfoot, or the totally-never-on-screen Sasquatches of Willow Creek) and they actually looked like Sasquatches (as opposed to the just-really-hairy-men Sasquatches of the 2010 film Boggy Creek), and they certainly looked frightening and menacing, so proper kudos has to be given to the costume department here, although maybe a few less lingering shots of the laughably-bad face masks could have been in order though.

Bigfoot Wars (and also the novel it's based upon, Bigfoot War) should have been a hundred times better than it was, but unfortunately a really interesting story idea is destroyed by total ineptitude, leaving the movie (and novel as well) full with technical (and literary) errors that should just not be allowed in a finished, polished, product that you're asking people to pay money for. In addition there's no real plot to speak of, horrible actors making it painful to watch, and god-awful dialog make this a rough viewing. The only saving graces that managed to get me through to the end of this movie's short runtime is the fact that the Sasquatches actually genuinely looked menacing and C. Thomas Howell's amazing performance of camp. That's pretty much about it.

Despite the title, Bigfoot Wars is nowhere near as fun of a movie as you may be led to believe. Even the most diehard Killer Bigfoot fans may want to just steer clear of this one, and probably its equally-as-terrible novel series as well. 

2/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Monday, March 16, 2015

Boogeyman (2012)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: UFO International

RUNTIME: 85 minutes  

FORMAT: Netflix

PLOT: A single dad cop in a small town and his female partner are called to the scene of the death of a mean recluse. Shortly after, a number of bizarre deaths around town begin to occur at the hands of a big supernatural disfigured monster that is actually a demonic form of Cain, of Cain and Abel of the bible, who has needed a "brother" to be his keeper ever since he killed Abel, and now that his previous keeper has died, he's free to search for someone worthy of being his new "brother".

REVIEW: It was really interesting to see SyFy tackle a different beast (so to speak) with Boogeyman, opting to go instead with a slower, atmospheric, supernatural teen slasher style movie as opposed to their usual fare of killer animals, giant monsters, and global disasters. Sure, since this movie originally aired in 2012 they've done many more similar style movies, with varying degrees of success, with Haunted High (aka Ghostquake), American Horror House (aka Sorority Horror House), Scarecrow, Ghost Storm, and Grave Halloween just to name a few off the top of my head, but at the time this was kind of a First for them in this genre, at least to my knowledge.

Sadly, the overall end result was not as good as it should have been.

To start things off, I actually really enjoyed the biblical angle on the origin of the Boogeyman here, with it actually being an immortal Cain, cursed to wander the Earth forever as a decaying corpse due to him murdering his brother Abel as told in the Bible, forever seeking a new keeper, aka "brother" to keep him company and to replace the one he killed. I felt that was something new and unique to the 'Boogeyman Genre', and was one of the few aspects that kept my interest throughout, especially watching this now, since the awesome TV show Supernatural has been dealing with a very similar storyline for the last season or so and both this movie and Supernatural deal pretty heavily with the Mark of Cain and various lore surrounding that.

The biggest error the movie makes though, is that they really tried to go for nerve-racking scary, but they totally did themselves a disservice by showing the Boogeyman creature/killer/whatever, in-­full, during broad daylight, within the first 5 minutes of the movie. I know SyFy has an audience to keep, and they're famous for having a pretty strict set of rules (must of which are kinda stupid) that their movies have to follow, but if that's the way they're going to go about it than it's best to not even attempt to try making things scary because by doing that, they're revealing way too much way too soon and thus nothing that follows ends up being nearly as scary as it could have been without that proper build-­up and slow reveal. Plus having already seen the Boogeyman in broad daylight in all its badly-­done make­up effects glory also totally takes away from the fear they attempt to establish during the rest of the movie, as they could have better hid the bad costuming and such in the shadows of the darker scenes. And it's a shame that the look of the Boogeyman turned out so bad in-practice because the design is actually kind of a nice creepy one, but just seeing it all done, in-motion, looked really cheap, rushed, and badly done.

That's not to say there weren’t some decent creepy scenes though – Two scenes in particular, one with a group of teens partying in the woods when the Boogeyman decides to crash it and a scene with a classic 'Boogeyman under the bed' angle are easily the two stand­out scenes in the creepy department here, it's just they could have been so much better (and other scenes that kind of dropped the ball a bit could have been a bit better as well) had we not already seen good solid long-lasting daytime looks at the Boogeyman creature. If it had been kept hidden and restrained to just the darker scenes and the shadows, these scenes would have been so much more effective. Luckily the one area the movie does excel at is the blood and guts department, as there was some pretty good gore throughout, especially for a TV movie. Taking the cake would have to be a really gory decapitation during the Boogeyman's assault on the police station, and a scene where a little girl sees the creature rip her mom apart in her bedroom, spraying the room with blood.

Another detractor to the whole affair though is that most of the characters are not very likeable and most of the actors are not very good. Amy Bailey as the rookie cop was hardly ever around when she was needed and it was obvious she was keeping a secret from the get-go, the drunk old guy that refuses to help everyone, the mean old hermit that the kids deal with near the beginning, the annoying bratty self-centered kid characters themselves, the cops at the police station that refuse to believe the kids, the Chief of Police played by Emma Samms that seemed to have a stick up her ass the entire time,  pretty much everyone here was completely unlikable, with the sole exception being Eddie McClintock's character - he totally stole the movie as the wise­cracking goofy father and cop that always manages to have something funny to say. Sadly, that's also exactly how he played his character on the TV show Warehouse 13, so it was constantly taking me out of the movie and making me think of that show instead of this movie, so in that regards I would have preferred to see him play the character differently then he did, but as things are in terms of characters I at least enjoyed him whenever he was on-screen. And admittedly, Emma Samms as the Chief of Police, while unlikable for most of the runtime, definitely had me come around on her character in her final moments before her death scene.

Kudos to SyFy for trying something different and new at the time, and while the effort is appreciated I feel the end result wasn't as good as it could have been. The movie itself isn't that bad, as there is enough decent-­to-­good stuff to make it worth at least a one-­time watch - for instance the basic premise is interesting, the gore is really good, there is indeed a few stand­out scenes, and Eddie McClintock's whole schtick is always entertaining to watch - but the rewatchability factor with this one is pretty nil, and the whole package isn't nearly as good as it could have been with only a few small tweaks that could have had a large positive impact.

As for how you can actually watch Boogeyman for yourself outside of holding your breath for a rare and possibly non-existant SyFy re-airing, sadly it's never been released on DVD or BluRay anywhere in the world as far as I can tell, however if you currently reside in or are visiting Brazil or Mexico you can access it via their Netflix, or if you have a way of accessing a different country's Netflix (I won't say how here but a quick Google search will yield you good results there) than just sign onto Brazil's or Mexico's as that is, as far as I can tell, currently the only way to catch this one now.

5/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Early Review: Avengers Grimm (2015)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long

COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 90 minutes  

FORMAT: Screener

PLOT: When Rumpelstiltskin destroys the Magic Mirror and escapes to the modern world, the four princesses of "Once Upon a Time"- Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel - are sucked through the portal too. Well-trained and endowed with magical powers, the four women must fight Rumpelstiltskin and his army of zombie thralls before he enslaves everyone on Earth.

REVIEW: I know this is becoming a recurring thing with me (all the more reason why I always accept Guest Reviews), but my life has been crazy busy lately, hence why a lack of reviews on my part this last month. Between starting a new position at work and some crazy personal life stuff, I just haven't had the time to watch many B-Movies lately and the few that I have were done purely for relaxation reasons and thus I didn't really want to 'make a job' out of reviewing them. However, with that said, whenever the fine folks at The Asylum are kind enough to send a screener copy of one of their movies my way for early review, I figure the least I could do to show my appreciation is to actually, ya know, take the time to review it.

With Avengers Grimm, they have the evil Rumpelstiltskin use the Magic Mirror to transport himself to A Land Without Magic so that he may bring his magic with him and take over that world, aka our world, and Snow White pursues him in order to stop him and seek revenge for Rumple killing her husband. When Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel arrive in Snow's kingdom to seek her out and find out what happened they, along with Red Riding Hood on her own mission of vengeance against Rumple's Right Hand man The Wolf, also travel to our world where they eventually meet up with Snow, find out that Rumple is now the mayor of Los Angeles and has turned the city into a scummy corrupt cesspool and plans to use a shard of the mirror that came over with them in order to re-open the portal and unleash his armies onto the world. Now only the combined powers of the Fairy Tale world Princesses can stop him and save the world.

The acting here is kind of all across the board, with some people pulling it off better than others. However, the one consistently great performance that was always an immense joy to watch whenever he was on-screen and chewing the scenery was Casper Van Dien as the villainous Rumpelstiltskin, totally stealing the show every chance he got. I can't recall ever seeing Casper as a villain before, and it's the kind of role I would love to see him do more often from here on out as it was a total surprise and a nice change-up from his usual 'leading hero' kind of roles and he was able to showcase his range far better than he can in his constricted main lead style roles. Alongside him and playing Gang-Leader-turned-Metal-Golem-Henchman is Lou Ferrigno in a larger, more substantial, and much more rewarding part than his 'role' (if it can even be called that) in the disappointing Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power. Even though he only plays a side character here he actually had more of an actual character arc than any of the main characters did, and it made me genuinely care about where this character goes during the movie. Usually Asylum, as much as I love them, is very cookie cutter when it comes to their characters, so it was an appreciated breath of fresh air to see them give such a great full character arc to, essentially, a half-minor side character. Actually, quite a lot more focus was put on pretty much all the more minor side characters here than in the usual Asylum fare, and I really enjoyed that.

As for the Fairy Tale Princesses, to be honest most of them, while played their roles well and were entertaining to watch for sure, were just not very good in the acting department. Elizabeth Peterson as Red Riding Hood was probably my favorite of the group, and most consistent with her acting abilities, the others were either just not very good or seemed to go up and down depending on the scene. To be fair though none were downright terrible or groan worthy, and there were actually quite a lot of moments where Lauren Parkinson, who played Snow White here, entertainingly seemed to be channelling Lana Parrilla's mannerisms and way of speaking as The Evil Queen from the hit TV show (and a personal guilty pleasure of mine) Once Upon A Time. 

However, while all the actresses looked unique from one another and I was never confused as to which actress was which in that regards, I was very confused for a good chunk of the first half of the movie as to which actress was supposed to be which character. Snow White and Red Riding Hood were easy enough as their names were said early on and often, and Red was also dressed in, well, a red cloak, but as for Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty it was much more difficult because neither were obvious from their looks (actually the one I thought was Rapunzel was really Sleeping Beauty) and unless I missed it their names are hardly ever even mentioned during the entire movie and it's not until about a half hour or so in that you can kind of start figuring out who is who based off their Princess-based Super Powers (Snow White can create ice, Red is an ace archer, Sleeping Beauty can put people to sleep or into a kind of slave trance, Rapunzel can control her hair like living vines or as a whip, and Cinderella...well I'm not quite sure what hers was exactly because it seemed to change from scene to scene depending on what was needed. For instance one time she turns a gun into a bouquet of flowers, in another scene her eyes glowed and she pulled someone back from being a mindless slave zombie, and at another point she used her mind to turn an incoming arrow into ash). Don't get me wrong, I loved the idea of the super powers and they made for some really great fight scenes, but a little bit more clarification as to which characters were which earlier on would have been great.

Now up to this point I know it sounds like I didn't like the movie much, but it's actually the opposite, I enjoyed it quite a bit, early-on confusion over characters and some of the acting aside. The story of the movie was actually pretty engaging and is probably the best comic book/super hero style story that Asylum has put out yet, and the action scenes (of which there are plenty) were all highly entertaining. Usually in Asylum movies the action, especially when it comes to close quarters combat or martial arts, is very obviously choreographed and looks like exactly what it is – people pretending to fight. But here the action was all well-shot and engaging and, especially when it came to the martial arts moves, looked great. While their acting may not have been the best, all of the female leads here looked phenomenal doing their action scenes and martial arts, especially during the fight between Red and Cinderella when, much like in the actual Avengers movie, the ace archer of the team gets placed under a spell by the villain and used against the main heroes for a chunk of the movie. Quite honestly if I had to choose one or the other in a B-Movie like this, I'd take engaging and well-done fight scenes over acting every single time.

Complimenting the action scenes (and pretty much every other scene as well), as is par for the course and pretty much expected by this point, is Chris Ridenhour's fantastic musical score, always adding to the scenes and giving them that extra oomph. I know I've said it before but I'll say it again, this guy really deserves to work on big budget theatrical movies because his scores are always great and always end up being one of my favorite things in an Asylum release, even in the movies I don't end up caring for much.

I have a feeling that, much like with 2014, 2015 is going to be a fantastic year for Asylum releases. I still need to catch Bound (Jared Cohn's mockbuster of 50 Shades of Grey with Charisma Carpenter in it - yum!) but so far between Hansel vs Gretel and now Avengers Grimm, Asylum has themselves off to a pretty damn good start for this year. It's true that Avengers Grimm may not be perfect, even by B-Movie standards, but it is a hell of a lot of fun, which is all I ever ask for from these kinds of movies, and it goes above and beyond what was expected of it on a script level, making us actually care about what happens to many of the more minor side characters. The action scenes are also all engaging with some genuinely-impressive showcasing of martial arts from the main actresses, and one of the most entertaining scenery-chewing performances that Casper Van Dien has ever given us also contributes to this movie's enjoyability. Things end off a little open-ended and cliffhangery, even though the main threat gets wrapped up, so I hope that means a sequel is being planned for down the line because I would love to see what happens next in this story.

If you want to check this one out for yourself (and really, if you're a fan of either Asylum's catalog or Casper Van Dien than why the heck wouldn't you?), it may not be out on home video formats until April 21st, but you can find it via Video-on-Demand services and in select theaters in various U.S. cities starting March 17th.

7/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward

Monday, March 9, 2015

BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (2007)

REVIEW BY: Michael Banno

COMPANY: Pitch Black Pictures

RUNTIME: 99 minutes  


PLOT: A Dhampir named Rayne continues her ageless war against the vampires, this time in the wild west where she takes on a vampiric Billy the Kid.

REVIEW: BloodRayne is a trilogy of films that I actually kind of like from Uwe Boll. I've seen each of them at least once and, to be honest,. I'm not even entirely sure why I like them. Technically Boll has never made an actual *good* movie, but at least there seems to be a fan base for them, however small, and I know I personally can have fun with some of his Video Game adaptations like this series and In the Name of the King series.

Thus here I am with BloodRayne 2: Deliverance. This takes place a good deal of centuries after the first BloodRayne, which took place in the Medieval ages. This one takes on a Western vibe as it takes place in the Wild West era where outlaws like Billy the Kid lived. Which brings us to our main villain of this Horror Western, Billy the Kid himself. In this he's a Vampire bent on spreading Vampirism around the country thanks to the train system and one of it's stop offs, the peaceful town of Deliverance, as ground zero. Using the town's kids as hostages so that he can keep the town running like normal so that outsiders are none the wiser, Billy hopes to turn those who come into Deliverance via the railroad system into Vampires.

The story here is rather interesting to me, and I thought executed nicely. We're thrown into Billy's actions rather early and that's before our title character even appears, so we know what's up from the get-go. From there we're introduced to the town of Deliverance and its various range of citizens and it's not long after that Rayne comes to town and we get to see just how bad things have gotten in this town since Billy arrived. The big action set pieces get started shortly after her arrival, and from there its officially on as Rayne needs to find a way to get things back to normal and stop the spread of Vampirism from getting outside the town.

One of the major things to note for this go-around is that Rayne is not played by Kristanna Loken like in the first movie. This time Natassia Malthe (who was in another of my personal favorite Video Game adaptations, DoA: Dead or Alive) takes over the role and dare I say I actually enjoyed her slightly more than I did Loken in the first movie. In addition, Billy the Kid is played by Zack Ward, who you may recognize from other films such as Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys, in addition to a few other of Uwe Boll's movies as well. 

The action in this one is pretty simplistic and nothing that really stands out, however considering this is mostly a western setting, the fight sequences are mostly just gunfights anyway. Rayne herself does not even use her iconic blades most of the time except for maybe once or twice to kill a vampire here and there, and the big sword fight that people expect out of a BloodRayne movie doesn't even come until the very climax of the movie where Rayne finally gets to have her one-on-one with Billy the Kid, and even then it's mostly about Rayne getting her ass kicked until the very end of it when, as you can probably guess, she turns the tides of the battle at the last second.

The special effects are rather nice though, if again a bit simplistic. There's not a lot of vamping out in this one like there was in the first movie; mostly the vampires show their fanged teeth and that's it, where-as the first movie also included facial changes as well. There's a few moments where you see the vampires change colors as they die and turn to ash, but that's pretty much it where the special effects are concerned. Like I said, not much but the little that we do get looks perfectly fine.

On the whole this is a pretty good solid entry in the BloodRayne trilogy. I had seen this partially once before and never finished it, and my memory seems to have me believe that I found it rather boring, hence why I never finished it. However when I sat down to watch the entire trilogy recently I found myself enjoying this one quite a bit, and dare I say even a bit more than the first BloodRayne.

With that said, it's probably best to detach yourself from the fact that this is a Video Game adaptation as, apart from the character of Rayne herself, this has nothing to do with the games. But if you can do that, than BloodRayne 2: Deliverance is a pretty fun low budget Vampire Western flick that requires no experience of having seen the first movie in order to enjoy it.

6/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward