Movie Review – Primitive (2011)

Primitive
Directed by Benjamin Cooper
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Original Release Date: 2011
DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013

primitive

It is said that everyone battles their own inner demons every day. But what if those demons can suddenly take physical form and wreak the havoc our subconscious minds want them to? That is the question Lionsgate’s upcoming release, PRIMITIVE, will look into next week. This film, while not perfect, is very entertaining and will make you question the events that occur in the world around you.

If you are not familiar with PRIMITIVE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

After being forced to visit a hypnotist, Martin receives news of his estranged mother’s passing. He returns home for the funeral, and before long, people begin dropping dead. The victims – brutally torn apart by what appears to be a predatory monster – convince the local police that Martin is somehow responsible, and soon he comes to believe it too, as all the victims are connected to the evil within him.

I found the title of this film very appropriate. The ‘inner demons’ that Martin has to face are basically primal urges that have manifested themselves in physical form. But the title does not just refer to them; I took it as also a description of how much we truly know about the brain and the way it works. In regard to that, we are a primitive species.

PRIMITIVE is shot well and the production value looks pretty high. I particularly like the scenes that are displayed during the opening credits. They are shots of woodland areas, but the way they are shot gives them an eerie feeling.

The acting is ok, although it could have been better. I do enjoy seeing Reggie Bannister onscreen; horror fans will recognize his trademark ponytail from classic films like the PHANTASM series and BUBBA HO-TEP. And as for the special effects, they’re pretty good overall. The creature looks a little hokey, but not too badly. And the gore is pretty nice.

The story is intriguing and I especially like how the pacing of the plot divulges just what you need to know as the movie progresses. The ‘big reveal’ at the end is well done and it almost put a smile on my face. I have to tip my hat to the screenwriter, Kenneth L. Province Jr. He does a great job, and I look forward to his work in the future.

All in all, PRIMITIVE is a fun film and I recommend it to anyone looking for some low-budget entertainment. The film hits store shelves next week, so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – Manifesto UF (2013)

Manifesto UF
Edited by Tim Marquitz & Tyson Mauermann
Release Date: September 8, 2013
Publisher: Angelic Knight Press

Manifesto-UF

I have to commend Angelic Knight Press; they just keep getting things right. Every book they release is great. And no, I’m not just saying this because I am one of their published authors. The proof is in the reviews. Go to Amazon or Good Reads and look up any one of their titles. You will see an average of 4+ stars on almost all of them. The readers have spoken…and they like what they’re reading. MANIFESTO UF is one of these books, and it definitely needs to be in your collection.

If you are not familiar with MANIFESTO UF, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Angelic Knight Press:

From angels to vampires, dragons to wizards, Manifesto brings together twenty-three stories full of action, snark, and unadulterated badassery. Featuring stories from Lucy A. Snyder, Jeff Salyards, William Meikle, Teresa Frohock, Zachary Jernigan, Betsy Dornbusch, and more. The time has come to make a statement, to define a genre. This is our manifesto.

In case you didn’t catch it, the UF in the title stands for Urban Fantasy. By definition, Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many of these stories are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements, however there’s no set designation for time period.

And there’s plenty of diversity in MANIFESTO UF. I would daresay that there’s something for everyone here. As mentioned above, you’ll find vampires, angels, werewolves (sort of), changelings and much, much more inside these pages.

Each story is written well and flows nicely. The unique voices from each author help to create a nice mixture of talent here, and the result is a collection that never grows stale. If I were forced to find a flaw with this group, I simply couldn’t.

One of my favorite stories is titled “Beneath a Scalding Moon” by Jeff Salyards. In this tale, a single mom takes a young man home from a bar…only to discover her sexual appetite has awakened something primal deep inside of her…something deadly. She is actually a lycanthrope, but didn’t realize until it is too late. This story is well written and even has a smidgen of wry humor to it. My favorite line in this story is this: “She couldn’t believe she had two “times of the month” to keep track of now.”

MANIFESTO UF is a definite win for me and I suggest snatching up a copy as soon as possible. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Ip Man: The Final Fight (2013)

Ip Man: The Final Fight
Directed by Herman Yau
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: November 12, 2013

Ip Man

Sometimes, simplicity is best. This must have been the philosophy behind IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT. Whereas many martial arts films nowadays use wirework and vivid imagery to tell their stories, this film cuts right to the base roots of the subject matter and gives an action-filled movie that uses neither. The result is a top notch action film with heart that pays great respect to the legendary Wing Chun master, Ip Man.

If you are not familiar with IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

In postwar Hong Kong, legendary Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man is reluctantly called into action once more. What began as simple challenges from rival kung fu schools soon finds him drawn into the dark and dangerous underworld of the Triads. Now, to defend life and honor, Ip Man has no choice but to fight – one last time.

I don’t believe this film is a continuation of Donnie Yen’s characterization of Ip Man. I think this is a stand alone series. But regardless, it is still very good and definitely worth checking out. In this film, Ip Man is portrayed by Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, a legendary martial arts actor that I first saw way back in 1992 in John Woo’s HARD BOILED.

IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT is shot well and looks good onscreen. The sets are simple but effective. And the story moves along at a nice pace.

The fight scenes are done well and very entertaining. As I mentioned, they don’t rely on a lot of wirework, but instead are point-blank rapid fire slug-fests. My sole complaint is that there are simply not very many in the film. More time is spent on building the circumstances around Ip Man’s life in Hong Kong.

I completely understand this lack of fights, as this is a biopic of sorts, and I certainly don’t want to dissuade anyone from seeing this movie. On the contrary, I am certainly recommending this one. But I don’t want folks going into this thinking it’s a nonstop action extravaganza.

IP MAN: THE FINAL FIGHT is a heck of a movie and is worth seeing if you are any kind of martial arts fan. It hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – An American Hippie in Israel (1972)

An American Hippie in Israel
Directed by Amos Sefer
Courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing & CAV Distributing Corporation
Original Release Date: 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: September 10, 2013

An American Hippie

Don’t let the title of this movie fool you; it’s not just a peace-preaching hippie flick. It’s actually much more than what you would probably give it credit for at first glance. In fact, the last thirty minutes turn the film into a decent sort of horror flick (I use ‘horror’ loosely in this context). Although it is certainly dated, AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL is entertaining ‘throwback’ fun.

If you are not familiar with AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the CAV Distributing website:

Grindhouse Releasing is proud to present the highly-anticipated release of one of cult cinema’s legendary lost classics. Machine gun wielding mimes, robots, blood thirsty sharks, free loving debauchery and poignant anti-war monologues by raving mad hippies, all this and more is present in writer-director-prophet Amos Sefer’s allegorical independent film, AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL. Far out!

Let me preface this review by stating up front that this film will not be for everyone. It’s a low budget feature for sure, and the proof is onscreen. But if you take the film for what it is, you’ll enjoy it.

AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL is not shot well and the acting is atrocious…but both of those aspects are part of the fun. The title itself tells you not to go into this film expecting great things and, well, you shouldn’t. But there’s something about this 40-year old grindhouse legend that draws the viewer in. I couldn’t stop watching it, and that should tell you something.

The obvious anti-war messages are there in both subtle and blatant form. At one point, Mike (the main character) turns towards the camera and proceeds to call everyone offscreen ‘Fools’ for pushing their buttons and starting wars. I chuckled at this, not for the message, but for how it is conveyed; it’s just hard for anyone from my generation to take a guy like this seriously.

But when things start going downhill on the island, that’s when I got really interested. I have to admit that the sharks looked horribly fake, but I can overlook that. I also don’t think that people would regress back to their animalistic sides after a single day of no food or water, but I might be wrong. Still, these aspects only drew me into the film even more so.

AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL won’t be for everyone, but I liked it. It’s a classic throwback film that reminds us of how social and political statements used to be made. And it’s simply fun. If you give this one a look, be sure to snag the 3-Disc Special Edition. In addition to superior picture quality and sound, you’ll get a limited edition DVD copy of director Amos Sefer’s film THE HITCHHIKER; this DVD is not available anywhere else, so don’t miss your chance to snatch this one up. You will also get a slew of Special Features, including:

* Six Controversial Scenes Deleted From The Original Release
* In-depth Interviews With Stars Asher Tzarfati And Shmuel Wolf
* Asher Tzarfati – An Israeli Actor In Israel – Bonus Featurette
* Interview With Production Manager Moshe Berman
* Interview With Singer/Co-Star Susan Devore
* Channel 10 Tel Avi News Segment
* A Cult Is Born – Featurette On Revival In Tel Aviv
* 16mm Screen Tests
* Be Careful Children – Amos Sefer 16mm Short Film
* Bonus 5.1 Audio Track – The Beverly Cinema Experience
* Liner Notes By Acclaimed Horror Novelist John Skipp
* Still Galleries, Trailer, Filmographies

MSB

Movie Review – The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue (2013)

The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue
Directed by Mike Bradecich & John LaFlamboy
Courtesy of Level 33 Entertainment
Release Date: September 10, 2013

Mole Man

I am so glad that the horror-comedy genre is exploding with new faces. This sub-genre has become a staple of film, and that thrills me to no end; I love to laugh, but I love to be scared so this is a win-win for me all the way around. And speaking of winning, THE MOLE MAN OF BELMONT AVENUE takes the gold if you’re looking for laughs and scares. This low-budget feature will have you rolling with fits of laughter and then cringing the next minute in fear!

If you are not familiar with THE MOLE MAN OF BELMONT AVENUE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Level 33 Entertainment:

Two years ago, the Mugg Brothers, who have never worked a day in their lives, inherited a brownstone apartment building. In that short time, their slacker ways have run the building into the ground. Tenants are moving out, no one drinks at the bar down stairs, and the building’s pets are going missing. If all that isn’t enough to make them sit up and take notice, they soon discover a mysterious creature is hiding in the basement and trying to eat every living thing in the building one by one. Now it’s up to them to stop this creature, before it eats all of their paying tenants!

This film is so much fun. I liked it from the second it started and continued on through its entirety. I can say without a doubt that it’s good from start to finish.

THE MOLE MAN OF BELMONT AVENUE is shot well and the production value looks high even though IMDB estimates the budget was only around $350k. The team made good use of their funds, though, and the result is a great looking film.

The acting is first rate, with directors Mike Bradecich and John LaFlamboy headlining a great cast. I am impressed with this duo’s versatility, as they portray excellent characters but then coordinate the film shoot as well. Throw in the talents of a horror icon like Robert Englund and you’ve got the ingredients for one hell of a film. I also have to give a special shout out to one of the actors I know, T.J. Jagodowski. He plays a stoner named Paulie and owns his character with true flair. T.J. was a summer counselor for a pre-college program I was in way back in 1992, so I’m proud to see him on the big screen.

THE MOLE MAN OF BELMONT AVENUE is full of comedy, but the horror is intense, too. There are plenty of jumps and a few scares to go along with the funnies. But I found myself chuckling more than I did jumping. This is certainly not a bad thing, either, as I like my horror-comedies full of fun.

THE MOLE MAN OF BELMONT AVENUE is a definite win for me and I highly recommend it. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – As Night Falls (2010)

As Night Falls
Directed by Joe Davison
Courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures
Original Release Date: 2010
Release Date: November 12, 2013

As Night Falls

It’s really sad when the best thing you can say about a film is that it has a great soundtrack. This pretty much sums up my review of AS NIGHT FALLS, the upcoming release from Breaking Glass Pictures. Although it tries hard, the film falls way short on many levels. As a result, this unentertaining movie is not worth checking out…unless you’re simply looking for some great music.

If you’re not familiar with AS NIGHT FALLS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures:

10 year old Amelia’s parents think it’s time for her to go to sleep permanently, leaving her broken body in a silent shallow grave. 50 years later, Mommy and Daddy are back from hell, intent on wreaking the same deadly discipline on anyone not in bed by nightfall. Sisters Holly and Elizabeth are losing their minds, and their friends are losing their heads. Something evil has crashed the party, but no-one knows what they are fighting. When the girl’s brother, Charlie, arrives, he completes the family group and the kids start to find out what firm parenting really means.

This film starts off almost a hundred years ago with a man and woman chasing their daughter through the woods. After a moment of pursuit, the father hacks into his little girl with an ax. Then, we cut to modern day times…and nothing much makes sense afterwards.

AS NIGHT FALLS is not shot very well and looks like it was made with a home movie camera. I know this is a low budget feature, but the production crew doesn’t seem to try very hard to disguise that fact. Even a small attempt would have been good. The sound quality is horrible, and it’s so bad in parts (like when the ghost girl is speaking) that you cannot hear her. I still don’t know what she said or what her explanation of the plot was.

The acting is pretty bad as well. Debbie Rochon, who I always enjoy, only has a bit part in this film so I would call her role a cameo. But the rest of the cast is terrible, delivering their lines with barely any emotion or passion.

I can’t put all the blame on the actors, though. The writing in this film is lacking…a lot. The dialogue is hokey, the scares are not there at all, and there’s really no plot to speak of (again, I couldn’t hear what the little girl was explaining, so maybe I just missed it).

Overall, AS NIGHT FALLS is not a film that I can recommend on any level, but I will say that I enjoyed the soundtrack. I particularly enjoyed the music by Dirty Black Halo, including the title track, “As Night Falls’. I might have to look up more of their stuff. Otherwise, I would give this movie a pass.

MSB

Book Review – Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions

Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions
by Guillermo del Toro & Marc Zicree
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Harper Design

Cabinet

If you are a fan of Shattered Ravings, then you know already that I love Special Features. Watching the Making Of and other featurettes lets me get into the minds of the directors and other creative forces behind these productions and see where their inspirations come from. This is one of my favorite things. So when I learned one of my idols, Guillermo del Toro, had put out a book that featured some of his private notebooks, I knew I had to check it out. And I’m so thankful I got the opportunity to do so. This huge book is the Holy Grail of a genius filmmaker and lets us peek into one of the most imaginative minds of the new century.

If you are not familiar with CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: MY NOTEBOOKS, COLLECTIONS, AND OTHER OBSESSIONS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Harper Design:

Over the last two decades, writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own, astonishing audiences with Cronos, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and a host of other films and creative endeavors. Now, for the first time, del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium is every bit as inspired as del Toro is himself. Contains a foreword by James Cameron, an afterword by Tom Cruise, and contributions from other luminaries, including Neil Gaiman and John Landis, among others.

When this book came in the mail, I was almost stunned by its size. I knew it was a big book, but wow…I didn’t know it was this big. And that is certainly not a complaint, either. There’s a wealth of knowledge crammed into this tome and it is something every fan of cinema should own.

CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is not just a collection of sketches or notes about del Toro’s films; it is something far better. This is a glimpse into a master’s mind, a small sliver of the place where PACIFIC RIM, PAN’S LABYRINTH, and CRONOS came from. And it is amazing. While reading through this book, I felt like Alice as she ventured through Wonderland: I didn’t know what to expect around the next bend or corner, but I knew it would be extraordinary.

In addition to reading excerpts from his journals about each film he’s made, we also get to explore his house and see what inspires his muse. Then, towards the end of the book, we get to see a bit of his Unfinished Projects collection, where he houses up and coming titles that have yet to be completed. I don’t want to say too much more about this book, because you simply have to read through it to understand why I’m gushing about it.

CABINET OF CURIOSITIES is an awesome book, and every aspiring filmmaker and/or writer should own a copy of it. Not only do we get an inside look at del Toro’s brain, but we get a behind the scenes glance at where he makes his magic as well. If you’re a fan of cinema or simply good storytelling, snatch this one up today. You won’t be disappointed.

MSB

Movie Review – The Frozen Ground (2013)

The Frozen Ground
Directed by Scott Walker
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: October 1, 2013

frozen-ground-blu-ray-cover-05

I enjoy films that are based on true events, especially when the film adaptations are horror or thrillers. THE FROZEN GROUND is a dash of both, and this adaptation is very entertaining. It also stars a couple of actors that I really like: Nicolas Cage and John Cusack. Both do an excellent job in this flick, and the result is a great film worthy of your attention.

If you are not familiar with THE FROZEN GROUND, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

THE FROZEN GROUND is inspired by the incredible true story that follows Alaskan State Trooper Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) as he sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has gone unnoticed for 13 years. As the bodies of street girls start to pile up in Anchorage, fear strikes a chord with the public. Risking his life, Halcombe goes on a personal manhunt to find the killer before the next body surfaces. When a seventeen year old escapee (Vanessa Hudgens) reveals key information about the case, Halcombe is finally on the trail of the killer. But will he catch him in time to save the next victim?

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one. I knew what it was about, but I wasn’t sure if a full movie could be made about the topic, especially since the audience would already know who the killer was going into it. But I’m happy to report the writer and production team do a fantastic job of weaving an intense tale within this film. It never once lags nor disappoints in any way.

THE FROZEN GROUND is shot well and looks amazing onscreen. I tip my hat to the cinematography crew for capturing the majesty of Alaska (the film is shot on-location in and around Anchorage); the backdrops alone are enough of a reason to watch this movie.

But the story and characters are truly what drive this picture. Set in 1983, the film is a powerhouse of emotional turmoil and undulating suspense as it recreates the events that led up to the capture of Robert Hansen. The cast does an amazing job in their roles (and yes, I am one of the minority of people who thinks Nicholas Cage can act). I am particularly impressed with Vanessa Hudgens, who portrays the young prostitute that escapes Hansen’s captivity; she owns her role with the zeal and talent of a veteran screen actress.

If I were forced to find a flaw with THE FROZEN GROUND, I simply could not do so. There’s nothing wrong with the film in my opinion. It looks great, the acting is top notch, and the story moves at a perfect pace. For these reasons, I recommend giving this film a look. It is suspenseful and powerful, a perfect flick to warm up these chilly nights. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Documentary Review – Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th
Directed by Daniel Farrands
Courtesy of 1428 Films and CAV Distribution
Release Date: September 13, 2013

crystal lake

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of special features and behind-the-scenes documentaries. For this reason, I therefore loved films like NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY and MORE BRAINS!: A RETURN TO THE LIVING DEAD. The fine folks at 1428 Films and CAV Distributing have released yet another film documentary that every horror fan will want to own–CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH. This definitive look at one of horror’s most iconic series is a real treat for anyone that has seen or even heard of Jason Voorhees.

If you are not familiar with CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of CAV Distribution:

For more than thirty years, FRIDAY THE 13TH has proven to be as unstoppable at the box office as its hockey-masked villain JASON VOORHEES, having spawned twelve feature films (and counting!), a syndicated television series and an extensive line of books, merchandise and collectibles. For its creators, FRIDAY THE 13TH has been anything but “bad luck,” generating nearly $600 million in domestic box office receipts and turning an unstoppable, machete-wielding madman into a true pop-culture icon. Inspired by the critically-acclaimed book, CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF FRIDAY THE 13TH takes viewers behind the mask on an epic journey into the making of the landmark horror franchise — from its humble beginnings in 1980 at a New Jersey summer camp to the blockbuster release of its 2009 “reboot.” Combining hundreds of rare and never-before-seen photographs, film clips, outtakes, archival documents, conceptual art and behind-the-scenes footage, and featuring interviews with more than 150 cast and crew members spanning all twelve films and the television series, CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES is the ultimate tribute to one of horror’s most iconic and enduring franchises.

I cannot begin to tell you how exhaustive this documentary is. The run-time clocks in at over 400 minutes, which is 6+ hours long! But it’s worth every minute. I sat and watched this film through in a single day, pausing only a couple of times when needed. It is simply THAT enthralling.

CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES is shot well and is presented nicely onscreen. The format for the documentary is superb, combining cast and crew interviews with screenshots from the films as well as snapshots taken during production. It is truly a real treat to see the cast now that they are older, and it’s fascinating to hear their insights into the productions themselves.

I say ‘productions’ because this film chronicles ALL of the films, not just the first one. It also includes non-traditional aspects of the series as well, such as FREDDY VS. JASON and the reboot produced by Michael Bay in 2009. Basically, as you can see, this documentary covers almost every aspect of the Friday the 13th franchise.

CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES is an excellent film and it is one that every single horror fan must own. If you don’t like behind-the-scenes footage, it won’t matter…there’s something for everyone here in this flick. I highly recommend this one and suggest you check it out soon! Just make sure to clear your calendar for a few hours so you can enjoy this with no interruptions.

MSB