Movie Review – Ritual (2013)

Ritual
Directed by Mickey Keating
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: December 31, 2013

Ritual_DVD_3Dskew

Despite a couple of recent misses, Lionsgate is one of those companies that just keeps getting things right. Much like Anchor Bay, these guys know what horror fans want, and they don’t hesitate to deliver. Today’s movie, RITUAL, is a perfect example. This low-budget flick has a pretty basic premise but is crammed full of intensity and drama, along with a smidgen of nice gore. The result is a top notch horror film that is fast-paced and entertaining.

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

A long time ago, Tom and Lovely were married and everything was perfect. But that’s over. When Lovely kills a man after he tries to drug and kidnap her, she calls Tom for help and while cleaning up, they find a VHS tape that depicts a satanic ritual in which a woman is murdered. When they’re forced to return to the scene, they discover just how far this cult will go to perform their ritual.

The press release for this film really drew me in for some reason. As I mentioned, the plot doesn’t sound like much, but it has a lot of potential and could go in many directions. I am particularly pleased with the route writer/director Mickey Keating took, and I feel very satisfied with the film as a whole.

RITUAL is shot pretty well, although there are some shaky camera angles that don’t work too well. But this is a minor observation and does not really change my perception of the film at all. It looks good onscreen too, as if it had a high production budget. IMDB does not have an estimated budget, but it looks good nonetheless.

The acting is good, too. At first, I was afraid the actors were going to be overly dramatic and therefore ruin the plot…but this is not the case at all. The whole cast does a great job, with Dean Cates and Lisa Marie Summerscales stealing the show as the film’s main protagonists. Both Cates and Summerscales bring a sincere quality to their roles and deliver likable characters that are emotional and believable.

But the intensity in RITUAL is what really makes this such a fun film. It grabs you from the opening scenes and doesn’t let go. When the credits started, I couldn’t believe that almost 90 minutes had already passed.

If I were forced to find a flaw with this film, it would have to be a couple of lengthy ‘transition’ scenes that aren’t needed. Specifically, there are a couple of shots of vehicles driving on the highway that drag on way too long. Thankfully, this only happens twice, so it’s not enough to really detract from the film…however, I do feel it worthy to mention.

RITUAL is a great horror flick, and it’s one that ever horror fan will enjoy. It hits store shelves on the 31st, so make a note to check it out.

MSB

My posts are going to be sporadic for a couple of weeks…

Please be patient. I am in the process of renovating a house that we are getting ready to move in to. As such, I’m spending most of my waking hours working on it and packing up here. So I’m not taking a break from Shattered Ravings per se…I’m just spacing my posts out more than I normally do. Forgive me…and check back often to see when I start posting on a regular basis; it won’t be too long, I promise.

MSB

Movie Review – The Secret Village (2013)

The Secret Village
Directed by Swamy M. Kandan
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: December 17, 2013

The secret village

When I watch a movie for review, I usually categorize it in one of several ways. For example, there are some movies that blow me away; they are well made, the acting is good, and the story is excellent. There are also films that are mediocre overall but still good because the production was top notch or the story was original. Then there are films that are so bad, they’re good. And finally, there are those movies that just outright suck, usually because there is no continuity to the story or even no story at all.

I’m not sure where to classify THE SECRET VILLAGE. It is not a good movie at all, however it does not even really qualify as a ‘so bad it’s good’ sort of film. I guess I should just call it a dud all the way across the board.

If you are not familiar with THE SECRET VILLAGE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Vertical Entertainment:

In this chilling suspense thriller, a journalist Rachel is determined to unravel the mystery behind an outbreak of strange events in a small town. She meets with a local who is willing to share the events which are reminiscent of the Salem ergot poisonings. However, with the local’s sudden death, and her friend’s disappearance, all leads come to a dead end. Rachel is left alone to unravel the villagers secret.

It pains me to say this movie is a miss. I really wanted to like it. The plot synopsis makes it sound dark and sinister…but unfortunately, the film is neither. The result is a bland, lifeless production that looks like it came from a high school AV class.

THE SECRET VILLAGE is shot ok, although there are barely any moving camera shots, and the stationary scenes begin to drag on after a while. The production value looks very low, and while I’m sympathetic to low-budget films, this didn’t feel like even that for some reason. The whole film just felt…odd.

The acting is almost nonexistent, with the actor’s portrayals coming across as cardboard caricatures. There’s no real reason to be vested in them at all, which makes the ‘plight’ that Rachel endures ho-hum and not intense in the least. And speaking of tension in the film, there is none. I literally fell asleep twice during the film and had to rewind it to catch what I missed…which was, well, nothing.

The story of THE SECRET VILLAGE is a convoluted mess that flips back and forth between the past and present with no rhyme or reason. Whereas some might call this art, I call it confusing and boring. There are elements never used or even explained in the film (like all the people in black robes that are never explained or fleshed out), and the big ‘twist’ at the end of the film is almost a cop-out.

The promo for THE SECRET VILLAGE says it is inspired by real-life events, but I couldn’t imagine what the basis for this film was. I would daresay that is just a marketing ploy, however I cannot confirm that. In my opinion, this film is one secret that should be kept and never shared with the rest of the world.

The film is available next week if you want to check it out.

MSB

Movie Review – Saving General Yang (2013)

Saving General Yang
Directed by Ronny Yu
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: December 10, 2013

Saving

I have been curious about SAVING GENERAL YANG for a while now, ever since I discovered Ronny Yu directed it. Yu is an iconic director who has a couple of nice, cult horror hits under his belt, including BRIDE OF CHUCKY and one of my favorites, FREDDY VS. JASON. I was expecting great things with this film, and I’m very happy to report it blew my expectations away.

If you are not familiar with SAVING GENERAL YANG, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

Northeast China, early Northern Song dynasty, AD 986. The Khitan army takes its revenge for a past massacre, abducting General Yang Ye (Adam Cheng) and leaving his wife and seven sons to rescue him – and fall into their deadly trap. Led by the first son (Ekin Cheng), the seven – two of whom have never seen combat – set out with a small band of fighters to face an army of thousands, brave the treacherous Wolf Mountain, face the nemesis of their shared history, and find the way back alive – all to bring their father home.

This is one of the best Well Go USA titles I’ve seen this year. It is a gripping story with believable characters and intense action. But it is also a compelling period piece that shows the value of family and honor. In short, the film is epic in scope and vision, as well as execution.

SAVING GENERAL YANG is shot very well and looks stunning onscreen. The cinematography is a big part of what makes this movie so excellent from a visual standpoint. It also helps convey the importance of key scenes and adds to the intensity of the battles.

The acting is superb as well. The actors portraying the seven sons each do an outstanding job and bring their characters to life with vivid detail. Their emotional performances lend a huge amount of credibility to the onscreen drama and set the tone for the film as a whole.

The battle sequences in SAVING GENERAL YANG are also amazing, with (in my opinion) realistic depictions of what open-field combat would probably be like. There’s martial-arts action, but it’s not the wire-work-filled displays that modern day audiences are used to; this is not a bad thing, as I love those kinds of movies as well. But the lack of over-exaggerated fight scenes makes this movie even more believable.

SAVING GENERAL YANG is a huge win for me and I highly recommend it. The film is available tomorrow in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece by Jason Bailey

Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino’s Masterpiece
by Jason Bailey
Release Date: November 11, 2013
Publisher: Voyageur Press

pulp

Movie geeks like me were thrilled beyond words when Tarantino first arrived on the movie scene back in 1992. With RESERVOIR DOGS, he showed us that filmmaking didn’t have to be bland and lifeless; it could be violent, vibrant, and saturated with dramatic intensity. I’m sure there are very few people in the industry that would argue the fact that he truly helped to reinvent American cinema. As a result, a whole new era of filmmaking was brought forth, and the entertainment world will never be the same.

Tarantino’s second film, PULP FICTION, would become his magnus opus and forever solidify his name as an iconic filmmaker. This film is the focus of Jason Bailey’s recent release, an epic undertaking that shows us the methodology behind the madness that is PULP FICTION. This amazing inside look lets us peek into Tarantino’s mind and show us the inner-workings within.

If you are not familiar with PULP FICTION: THE COMPLETE STORY OF QUENTIN TARANTINO’S MASTERPIECE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Voyageur Press:

In this first-ever complete history of the movie dubbed “nothing less than the reinvention of mainstream American cinema” by Entertainment Weekly, discover everything about Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant 1994 film—from its origins to its sensational release (screaming women! fainting men!) to its phenomenal effect on how movies are both made and seen. We’ll get down to brass tacks, describing what Marsellus Wallace looks like (and what might be in his briefcase), why hamburgers—preferably Big Kahuna burgers—are the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast, and much more. The book is illustrated throughout with glorious Pulp-inspired artwork, images of movies and cultural touchstones that influenced Tarantino, and a stunning selection of movie stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the film’s production—included thanks to the generous cooperation and support of Quentin Tarantino and Miramax Films.

If you are any kind of fan of Tarantino’s films, then this book will be a must-own for you. It doesn’t just show behind-the-scenes footage of the film, it lets you into Tarantino’s psyche. It describes his inspirations, his ambitions, and more. One might even say it is semi-biographical, as it relates how specific milestones in his life can be found reflected in his films.

PULP FICTION: THE COMPLETE STORY OF QUENTIN TARANTINO’S MASTERPIECE is amazingly thorough and chocked full of articles and photos related to PULP FICTION and Tarantino himself. My favorite aspect of this book is how it shows the influence the film has had on everyday life, not just in the movie industry. The impact it has had on pop culture is almost immeasurable. From quotes to gestures to facial expressions, we can see this film almost everywhere in both subtle and straightforward features.

PULP FICTION: THE COMPLETE STORY OF QUENTIN TARANTINO’S MASTERPIECE is not just a tome devoted to a movie…it is a chronicle of a generation-inspiring film that filmmakers for generations to come will study and analyze. I highly recommend this book and suggest you pick it up asap. It is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – The King of the Streets (2013)

The King of the Streets
Directed by Yue Song
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: August 6, 2013

The-King-of-the-Streets-Cover-818x1024

When it comes to martial-arts movies, there’s not much that hasn’t been done. As a result, some of the fight scenes in newer movies come across as bland and, in some cases, even cliche. This is not to say that these movies are not worth watching; on the contrary, some have excellent drama to fill in the gaps. Such is the case with THE KING OF THE STREETS. While its fight scenes are mediocre, the drama that surrounds them is definitely worth the watch.

If you are not familiar with THE KING OF THE STREETS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

Yue Feng (Yue Song) is a young thug with exceptional streetfighting abilities. He will stop at nothing to defeat all challengers – until, in an tragic accident, he kills a fellow competitor and is sent to prison. Eight years later, Yue Feng emerges a changed man. He no longer fights and is looking for a new life of peace and fulfillment. But it’s brutal on the streets, and redemption doesn’t come easy. His brotherhood is destroyed, family members murdered, and a loved one humiliated – a deadly chain reaction that leaves him no choice but to unleash his power in the name of justice. KING OF THE STREETS, China’s first street-fighting movie, pits real-life martial artist Yue Song against more than 10 of the world’s top contenders in MMA, Jiu-jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, Sanda, and Muay Thai boxing.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this movie is not bad by any means. It is shot well, looks great onscreen, and the acting is good, too. But the fight scenes are just sorta ‘blah’. They are ok for the most part, but the don’t bring anything new to the table.

THE KING OF THE STREETS has a great story and is all about a man on his quest for redemption after taking the life of another fighter eight years before. Personally, I think the death was justified, since his opponent pulled a knife and tried to stab him with it. But, I guess there wouldn’t have been a movie without it.

Yue Feng and his inner-dilemma as to whether or not defend the orphanage is the true gem of this film. Whereas the fight scenes are bit lackluster, the turmoil involved with his decision is what makes for good entertainment. Actor Yue Song gives an excellent performance in this role and makes the movie for me.

THE KING OF THE STREETS will probably not win any awards, but it’s worth checking out, especially if you are not looking for a traditional martial-arts film. But don’t go into this one looking for amazing fight scenes. They are decent but not enough to carry the whole film.

MSB

Movie Review – Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)

Silent Night, Bloody Night
Directed by Theodore Gershuny
Courtesy of Film Chest Media
Original Release Date: 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 10, 2013

silent night

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is one of those films that I had heard about for a long, long time and had even seen in video stores…but for some reason, I never picked it up. I’m not sure why because it has a big cult following, which means it’s right up my alley. The fine folks at Film Chest Media sent me a copy to review, so I eagerly threw it into my player. While not perfect, it’s a great horror film that any genre enthusiast will no doubt enjoy.

If you are not familiar with SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Film Chest Media:

A young man inherits a house in which his grandfather died in a fire, that was once used as an insane asylum. When he puts it up for sale, an axe wielding madman is hiding there and threatening anyone who comes near the house. Who is this deranged murderer and why do the local townspeople act so strange? In the 70s, Silent Night, Bloody Night was primarily a drive-in theater B movie before disappearing into obscurity. However, in the mid-1980s the film was featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre where its exposure would begin a cult following.

Before you sit down to watch this film, you have to remind yourself the era in which it was made. Back in 1973, Hammer horror was on the decline and many American studios were trying to skirt past the dark, Gothic undertones that had made the style so popular. As a result, these studios looked to push the envelope in areas previously made famous by hammer. You might say this is ultimately what led to the slasher-flick craze.

Which is basically what SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is…a stylized slasher-flick. But keep in mind: this was one of the first. Up to this point, the formula for horror was a mish-mash of nuclear-test scares and overdone ‘legendary monster’ tropes. This film sorta broke the mold for that and introduced an almost Hitchcock-like style to the modern horror film.

The cinematography in the film is ok, but pretty basic. The same can be said for the acting. But again, we’re talking about the early 70s here, so a bit of forgiveness should be allowed. I am impressed by the gore, however. When the killer enters the bedroom and starts wailing on two people with an axe, the blood goes flying…and it looks great. Even their death throes are believable.

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is an obscure title, but I suggest checking it out if you’re looking for some nostalgic horror. It won’t be for everyone, but if you can look past the grainy picture and the static-filled sound, you’re in for a treat. This remastered Film Chest Media version will be available next week, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – The Starving Games (2013)

The Starving Games
Directed by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
Courtesy of Ketchup Entertainment
Release Date: November 8, 2013

the-starving-games

As you can probably tell from the title, this is NOT the big-budget adaptation of the hit YA book starring Jennifer Lawrence. This is actually a spoof of that series, and I have to admit that it’s a pretty good one. From what I’ve read and heard, most people either love or hate spoofs…there’s not much gray area in between. For me, I enjoy them for the most part and will continue to watch them as long as they’re made. Although not perfect, THE STARVING GAMES is a fun spoof, chocked full of quirky gags and raunchy humor.

If you are not familiar with THE STARVING GAMES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arc Entertainment:

The Starving Games follows Kantmiss a young girl who lives in one of the poorest districts of a futuristic society. Chosen to participate in the Starving Games, a barbaric yearly competition where teenagers are pitted against one another in a brutal death match, she must fight and claw her way to survive. The latest spoof comedy by duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer includes hilarious, non-stop shout outs to some of the biggest recent events in pop culture and cinematic adventures including The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes, and the Harry Potter saga.

I suppose I should preface this review by stating this: if you don’t like stupid humor, then don’t watch this film. You will hate it. But if you like oddball comedy, like Monty Python or Benny Hill, then you should definitely give this one a look.

THE STARVING GAMES is not really low-budget (IMDB estimates the budget at $4.5 million), but it won’t win any awards for elaborate special effects or set designs. That is part of the film’s allure, though. Many of the gags and jokes would simply fall flat if more realism had been put into the film.

But although I found this film entertaining, it does have a few flaws. For example, some of the attempts at humor are simply not funny. Toilet humor is way overdone in this day and age, and it surprises me that directors still resort to it. It fails here.

Still, THE STARVING GAMES does not pretend to be anything other than a zany, homage-bending ode to many recent staples in cinematic pop culture. Many movies are spoofed here, not just THE HUNGER GAMES. I particularly enjoyed seeing THE EXPENDABLES show up, and the actor that did the Sylvester Stallone impersonation is amazing.

This film will not be for everyone, but if you enjoy the SCARY MOVIE franchise, then put this one on your list. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
Directed by Jonathan Levine
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 2006
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 3, 2013

all the boys

When I first heard about this film a couple of years ago, I thought it was a rape-revenge flick. Given the title and the vague images I saw (which were just shots of Mandy’s face), I didn’t have much to go on; the film had only an overseas presence but not much of one here in the U.S. So when I heard Anchor Bay was releasing it after seven long years of waiting, I jumped on the chance to watch it. And wow…was I wrong about the premise! I wasn’t even close. This is a slasher flick true-and-through, and although my initial perceptions were wrong, this is a great movie and worth checking out!

If you are not familiar with ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay:

Sixteen-year-old Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) has been courted by every available man in her small Texas town to no avail. When the normally reclusive enchantress reluctantly agrees to accompany her new friends on a weekend getaway, the initially irritating adolescent advances made toward her rapidly turn menacing. As the sun falls behind the hills a volatile mix of drugs, alcohol, and hormones turns explosive. While the festivities rage on, the number of party-goers begins to mysteriously drop one at a time.

I could tell after the first 10 minutes that I was going to like this film. It’s darkly comedic in some aspects, however I don’t think that was director Jonathan Levine’s intention. Still, it’s hard not to find humor when you have a motley crew of characters like in this film.

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is shot well and looks good from a production standpoint. The acting is sharp with Amber Heard portraying the titular character. I’ve enjoyed her work for several years, and I hope to see her career continue to flourish. I also like seeing Anson Mount onscreen as well; my wife and I watch HELL ON WHEELS every now and then, so he’s always a pleasure to see in a show.

The special effects in the film are also good. There’s some nice bloodshed, and gore-hounds will like several scenes in this film. My particular favorite occurs when the killer shoves a shotgun barrel into a girl’s mouth and then rams it forward; the resulting jaw-break is pretty impressive and it even made me cringe a bit!

Although ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is entertaining and well made, it does have its flaws. For one, there’s no real resolution. **SPOILER ALERT** We get to see Mandy and Emmett meet up, but then they start discussing the suicide plan, and she refuses to follow through with it. I never understood why she would do the killings to begin with, let alone why she would off herself afterwards.

But the movie itself is definitely a watcher, and I suppose you could make your own decision about why the events happened like they did. I am recommending this one, and I suggest you check out director Levine’s blockbuster hit WARM BODIES after you watch this one. It’s interesting to see how he has grown as a director since this 2006 film.

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE hits stores today.

MSB