Early Screener Review: Avengers Grimm (2015)
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