Movie Review – Battle of the Damned (2014)

Battle of the Damned
Directed by Christopher Hatton
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: February 18, 2014

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What do you get when you combine robots, zombies, and ass-kicking? BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, a new action-thriller starring Dolph Lundgren. These three aspects are some of my favorite things to see in a movie, so when I heard this flick was a combo of them, I knew it was a must-see. And although it’s not an excellent flick, it’s still fun and worth checking out.

If you are not familiar with BATTLE OF THE DAMNED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

When a deadly virus is accidentally released into a major city, its population is quarantined by military blockade. And for a wealthy industrialist desperate to rescue his daughter from inside the rabid chaos, his only hope is former commando Max Gatling (Dolph Lundgren). Now Gatling has one day to bust in, blast through hordes of the undead, find the girl, and hunt for a way to get them both out alive. But will a small band of survivors and an army of killer robots turn his mission into maximum slaughter? Matt Doran (The Matrix) and David Field (Chopper) co-star in this intense action shocker!

This film will add fuel to the fire in the debate between slow or fast zombies. These biters are fast and lethal, much like those in 28 DAYS LATER. But these ’zombies’ are actually infected people that now crave flesh. As such, the term ‘zombies’ might not actually apply. But regardless, people should run when they see them!

The cinematography in BATTLE OF THE DAMNED is ok, but it’s not great. There are several shaky action shots that will make you grit your teeth, but otherwise the camera angles are ok. Likewise, the production value looks pretty good overall as well. I believe this was filmed on location in Southeast Asia, so the credibility of the plot (as credible as it can be for a zombie flick) is certainly boosted by that aspect.

The action doesn’t disappoint. Lundgren, for being almost 60 years old, is still pretty physical, so the fight scenes are nothing at which to scoff. I will confess that he constantly looks like he’s in pain when he runs, though; maybe his action sequences should just involve fighting instead. But he can bash a zombie’s brains out like the best of them, so he works quite well for this film.

The special effects are pretty good, as well. Most of the zombies are only seen close-up in the fighting sequences, and even then we only get glimpses of them. This is a good thing, because there’s not much make-up used for the most part, it seems. This works well for the way the film is shot. The CG used for the robots is not bad, however there are a few scenes where you can definitely tell it’s animation. I suppose this is a result of budget constraints.

For as much as I enjoyed it, I do have a big complaint about BATTLE OF THE DAMNED. The killer robots seem to be thrown in as an afterthought. The movie really wouldn’t have been much different without them. They do help the concept, I suppose…but they really should have been introduced much earlier in the film.

Still, BATTLE OF THE DAMNED is a fun flick, and I recommend giving it a shot if you like Dolph Lundgren and/or low-budget action flicks. The film will be available next week, so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – Demons & Devilry (2013)

Demons & Devilry
Edited by Stuart Young
Release Date: September 25, 2013
Publisher: Hersham Horror Books

Demons-Devilry

I am constantly amazed at the number of small presses out there that keep churning out hit titles. These independent companies show versatility and strength with their selections, but they also keep the bigger publishing houses on their toes. Hersham Horror Books is a perfect example. The owner, Peter Mark May, is a heck of an author and a nice guy to boot; likewise, his company puts out excellent anthologies that are well written and entertaining. DEMONS & DEVILRY is the latest addition to their impressive canon.

If you are not familiar with DEMONS & DEVILRY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Hersham Horror Books:

Hersham Horror Books Presents five original stories from the minds of:

Peter Mark May
Thana Niveau
John Llewellyn Probert
David Williamson
Stuart Young

The Fourth anthology in our PentAnth range brings you five more satanic and demonic tales that hearkens back to an age when Dennis Wheatley was the king of horror.

In case you are unfamiliar with Dennis Wheatley, he was an author in the early and mid 20th century who wrote a series of ‘black magic’ books. These titles were considered controversial for the subject matters they embraced. They contained things like sadism (directed primarily at women), Satanism, vulgar racism, and many other topics considered taboo. For this reason, many consider him the founding father of Satanic horror writing.

I’m a sucker for stories about demons and devils; they just draw me in and captivate me for some reason. Heck, the first short film I ever made was a horror short titled CALL NOT THE DEVIL, based on an old Danish proverb. So as you can see…the subject matter is one I enjoy.

Every story in DEMONS & DEVILRY is written well and flows at a nice pace. The authors go to great lengths to convey a lot of story in such a small space, and they each do a first rate job. And as with Hersham’s previous titles, the quality of writing is superb. Each tale is carefully crafted and each writing voice unique.

My favorite story in this collection is “Little Devils” by Thana Niveau. In this piece, a small group of kids disobey instructions and enter a construction worksite to trek around an unfinished building. What they didn’t count on, however, was interrupting an unholy ritual. Niveau does a perfect job of blending the innocence of childhood and pre-teen adolescence with dark and unknown forces. The result is an engrossing tale that will make you squirm.

DEMONS & DEVILRY is an excellent collection of stories, and every horror fan should add this title to their libraries for sure. But be warned: you might not be the same after you read these terrifying tales of the occult! The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – SEAL Patrol (2014)

SEAL Patrol
Directed by Nicolas Mezzanatto
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: February 11, 2014

seal patrol

If you read the title of this film and assumed it was going to deal with Navy SEALs in combat or something similar, you are not alone; I, too, assumed the same. And when I read the plot synopsis below, I was even more certain I was on the right path. But wow…was I wrong! The plot of this film somewhat resembles the description, but there’s so much more to it as well. The title SEAL PATROL may sound generic, but it’s an entertaining flick with some nice gore and even an intriguing science-fiction/horror storyline to go with it!

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

In an effort to capitalize on tactics learned in the elite special unit known as the Navy SEALs, Navy veteran Lewis Locke forms a private team of ex-military contractors hired to extract “high-value assets” worldwide. What follows is a mission these war veterans will never forget.

This is the plot description from the back of the DVD case. Very vague, right? I agree…but it piqued my interest nonetheless. But check out how the Lionsgate website describes the storyline:

After losing contact with a clandestine energy-research facility, a powerful venture capitalist contracts an elite team of operatives to retrieve the physicist who holds the key to an unprecedented alternate energy source. Upon arrival, the operatives are ambushed by an extra-dimensional creature that has mutilated the onsite personnel. The team must develop a new brand of warfare if there is to be any hope of making it out alive.

Sounds a hell of a lot better, right? Yeah, I thought so, too. Interestingly enough, I didn’t read this until after I had started watching the movie. Needless to say, my mouth started watering, and I watched the film with renewed interest.

I’m always intrigued when a production company gives their film a name that has nothing to do with the movie itself, though. And yes, SEAL PATROL is one of those films. I’m not sure why they chose to name it so, because the group in this film are no longer in the military, nor is there any mention of them being SEALS prior to their current station (as private contractor operatives). Granted, they are obviously Spec Ops of some sort, and one of them is a Brit. But there are SO many other titles the film company could have used.

All of that aside, SEAL PATROL is a lot of fun. It is shot fairly well, especially so for being a low budget film, and the acting is pretty solid as well. I particularly enjoyed Rich McDonald, who is basically the main character in the film. I am only familiar with one of his prior works, as a Mason on the Call of Duty: Black Ops II video game, but he gives a great performance and is very believable as a Spec Ops operator.

The special effects in the film are pretty good well. There’s some very nice gore here and there, including an excellent shot of a bloody torso that has had its head torn in half; the only visible ‘clear’ evidence of the head is a single tooth that is still stuck in the jaw. Excellent visual. My complaint about the effects, however, is that the creature is primarily CG. The graphics are pretty good, but you can still definitely tell it’s animation.

But even that complaint is not enough to sink SEAL PATROL. I give this movie a thumbs up and recommend giving it a look. Don’t expect a massive Michael Bay-type budget, but be prepared to be entertained nonetheless. The film hits store shelves (with a limited theatrical release as well) tomorrow.

MSB

Movie Review – Sorority Party Massacre (2012)

Sorority Party Massacre
Directed by Chris W. Freeman & Justin Jones
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 2012
DVD Release Date: February 11, 2014

sorority-party-massacre

If you like your horror-comedies served up funny and gory with sexy women in the mix, then you are certainly in luck. SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE combines all three aspects, and the result is a fun and humorous slasher. And just like the title suggests, there’s plenty of bodies to go around!

If you are not familiar with SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

An isolated town full of sexy college girls. A tough big-city cop investigating a series of unsolved disappearances. A psychotic killer with a taste for terror, torture and sorority sister torment. But when this party gets started, will all of them receive an advanced degree in extreme horror? Tom Downey, Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”), Ed O’Ross (“Six Feet Under”), Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Reject), Richard Moll (House), adult film legend Ron Jeremy and new Scream Queens Marissa Skell, Eve Mauro and Yvette Yates co-star in this twisted shocker!

Ok, confession time: I didn’t realize this was a horror-comedy until about 20 minutes in to the film. I honestly thought it was supposed to be serious horror…even with Ron Jeremy’s name in the credits! But, once I realized what it was, the film was much easier to enjoy.

SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE is one of those films that is perfect to watch with a group of friends. I found myself laughing at certain scenes and then yelling at the characters to warn them in the next; while not a perfect or high budget film, it is still entertaining and immersive, a movie that you and your friends will enjoy yelling at together.

The acting is pretty good and the titular ladies in the film are all beautiful. I particularly like how the casting crew found so many different types of personalities to play the leads. From butch and powerful to cunning and petite, each girl brings a different persona to the table. And as a result, the cat fights are almost as much fun to watch as the killings.

The special effects are not bad however we don’t get to see too much carnage. Even in a horror-comedy, I still enjoy a nice dose of gore. There are some nice shots of a bee-sting victim and even some grisly acid burn effects…but there could have been sooooo much more as well. Still, this is not a huge detractor, but more of a personal preference.

The story in SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE is pretty good as well, although a couple of the twists are just thrown in for comedic effect. Since this film does not take itself too seriously, they work well for the plot and are fun to see unfold. My sole complaint about the plot is that some of it is left unexplained, although it’s nothing that will keep you up at night.

SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE is a fun, low-key film that fans of horror-comedies should enjoy. I recommend it, although I can tell you right now that this won’t be for everyone. The film hits store shelves next week if you want to give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Bad Milo! (2013)

Bad Milo!
Directed by Jacob Vaughan
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: January 21, 2014

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If you have never heard of this film, chances are you will very soon. Why, you may ask? Well, aside from the fact that it’s an excellent, laugh-out-loud horror-comedy, it is also somewhat, um, unique in its subject matter. I mean, how many movies about demons living in a guy’s bowels can there be? BAD MILO! is a bizarre but amazing film that will have even the heartiest of gore-hounds laughing as they cringe. Push your reservations away, and check out this film as soon as you can.

If you are not familiar with BAD MILO!, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

Duncan’s (Ken Marino) mounting stress starts to trigger an insufferable gastrointestinal reaction. Out of ideas and at the end of his rope, Duncan seeks the help of a hypnotherapist, who helps him discover the root of his unusual stomach pain: a pint-sized demon living in his intestine that, triggered by excessive anxiety, forces its way out and slaughters the people who have caused Duncan stress. Out of fear that his intestinal gremlin may target its wrath on the wrong person, Duncan attempts to befriend it, naming it Milo and indulging it to keep its seemingly insatiable appetite at bay.

You might expect a movie with this type of plot to be full of bad one-liners and poop jokes. Surprisingly, it’s not. The production team handles this concept very delicately and instead finds humor everywhere else. I am very impressed with how they did this, and the end result has to be seen to believed.

BAD MILO! is shot very well and features some inventive camerawork to capture the “ins and outs” of Milo’s experience. His host, Duncan, obviously endures a bit of uncomfortableness, but that’s to be expected given Milo’s living arrangements. The film is even shot on a RED camera, which makes the vivid picture even more extraordinary.

The special effects are excellent. The production crew uses practical effects for Milo, which makes this a more than noteworthy creature-feature. Too many flicks today rely on CG, which lessens the believability factor of a monster. Not so, here; thanks to realistic effects, Milo is slick and creepy…but with a hint of a sick cuteness factor as well.

The acting in BAD MILO! is also very good, but the story itself is what really wins the prize for me. Inventive and original, this is one of those films that only comes along once in a great while. While the subject matter may make some folks cringe, it’s not nearly as grotesque as it sounds on paper. You just simply have to see it to appreciate it.

BAD MILO! is a huge win for me, and I recommend snatching this one up ASAP. Be sure and get it on Blu-ray if you can; the enhanced picture and sound quality are worth it. There are also a nice batch of Special Features to go along with the film, including an extended outtake reel (they show a few outtakes during the credits), a deleted scene, and a couple of behind the scenes featurettes. Regardless of what format you choose, give this one a look for sure. It is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (2014)

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon
Directed by Hark Tsui
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: February 11, 2014

Young Dee

A couple of years ago, I reviewed an excellent movie titled DETECTIVE DEE: MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME. The review was lost when my blog crashed over a year ago, but my impression of the film still remains; it is an eye-popping masterpiece that dazzles and delights. Director Hark Tsui is back with a prequel to that film, and although Detective Dee is younger in this one, he does not fail to impress. Much like it’s predecessor, YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON is a fast-paced, action-filled masterpiece that entertains on several levels.

If you are not familiar with YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

From legendary action director Tsui Hark and the creators of international smash hit DETECTIVE DEE: MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME comes the captivating tale of Dee Renjie s beginnings in the Imperial police force. His very first case, investigating reports of a sea monster terrorizing the town, reveals a sinister conspiracy of treachery and betrayal, leading to the highest reaches of the Imperial family.

Because this is a prequel, the same actor could not portray Detective Dee. Andy Lau did an excellent job of bringing Dee to life in the first one, and actor Mark Chao continues this tradition with this film. Both men have unique traits and characteristics that help define the legendary inspector, and both do a great job in this role.

YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON is shot well and looks amazing onscreen. I don’t use this phrase much, but this film is literally a visual feast for the eyes. It uses a lot of CG, which is interwoven with the live-action almost flawlessly. This, therefore, allows for deeper immersion into the story and thus a more entertaining experience.

As with the previous film, the action in this one is intense, and the fight scenes are full of ‘wow’-inducing moves. The wire-work continues to impress, not to mention the fight choreography itself. You just basically can’t ask for better in a martial-arts film.

The storyline of YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON is also impressive. The narrative never drops off nor does it grow stale; the story moves at a nice pace and there are no dull moments or stalled dialogue. Whereas my sole complaint about the previous film was that it was a bit long, that is not the case here. This film is right where it needs to be in length and dazzles from start to finish.

YOUNG DETECTIVE DEE: RISE OF THE SEA DRAGON is a definite win for me, and I highly suggest you give it a look. It hits store shelves next week, so make a note to check it out.

MSB

Movie Review – Scorned (2013)

Scorned
Directed by Mark Jones
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: February 4, 2014

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Prior to watching SCORNED, I checked out its IMDB page and was quite surprised to discover the director was the same guy that did LEPRECHAUN way back in the early 90s. I immediately began to wonder if I was making a mistake by watching this new film; after all, LEPRECHAUN is about as schlocky as you can get. But I knew I had to give the film a chance; the plot sounded solid, and I was definitely intrigued. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded; SCORNED is a lot of fun and definitely worth watching.

If you are not familiar with SCORNED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Films:

If you’re going to cheat on your lover, don’t get caught. And if you do get caught, you’d better hope your lover isn’t secretly insane. Kevin (Billy Zane of TITANIC) learns the hard way when his girlfriend Sadie (AnnaLynne McCord of “90210”) discovers that he’s having a scorching affair with her best friend (Viva Bianca of “Spartacus”). Now Sadie has planned a romantic weekend getaway for just the three of them, complete with terror, torture and twisted psychosexual games. The trap is set. The party has begun. And tonight, hell hath no fury like a woman SCORNED.

I will confess that SCORNED is not an excellent movie, but it is still very good. I recommend giving it a shot, however it won’t be for everyone. It would certainly make a great PSA for staying faithful to your spouse!

SCORNED is shot well and looks good onscreen overall. I particularly like the set of the house in which the drama unfolds. It is a hilltop estate that is nothing short of amazing. This makes a fitting backdrop for the vengeance that Sadie unleashes.

The acting is good, although Billy Zane and Viva Bianca are kept drugged so much that they really don’t get much time to actually perform. This still works well, though, and lets Annalynne McCord’s character get downright vicious. Some of the things she puts these two through will make you cringe.

Yet, that is part of the downside to this film for me. Sadie is definitely crazy…however the tortures that she inflicts upon the cheating pair aren’t really as gruesomely depicted as I was hoping. Or maybe it’s the fact that the special effects team didn’t get very liberal with the blood. There’s just something missing, some spark of insanity that should set the film off.

But a solid story keeps SCORNED on the right track. The ending made me smile, and I feel it certainly does justice to the movie as a whole. I just hope they don’t ruin this one by making a sequel.

SCORNED is an entertaining movie, and I suggesting giving it a look. Even if you’ve never cheated or been cheated on, this film will make those who are considering doing it reconsider. You never know how crazy the person you’re with is…so be warned! SCORNED is available today in a variety of formats.

MSB

TV Show Review – The White Queen, season 1

The White Queen, season 1
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: February 4, 2014

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I don’t think I’ve mentioned this much, but I LOVE historical shows that are set in medieval times. That particular period of time in history has always drawn me for some reason…I’m not sure why. Thankfully, there are plenty of titles available to keep my interest sharp: PILLARS OF THE EARTH, THE TUDORS, just to mention a couple, and now THE WHITE QUEEN. I have to admit, though: of all the titles I’ve watched, THE WHITE QUEEN is now one of my favorites!

If you are not familiar with THE WHITE QUEEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Starz:

The White Queen is a riveting portrayal of one of the most dramatic and turbulent times in English history. A story of love and lust, seduction and deception, betrayal and murder, it is uniquely told through the perspective of three different, yet equally relentless women – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Anne Neville. In their quest for power, they will scheme, manipulate and seduce their way onto the English throne.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this series as much as I do. It is gripping and raw, just like the subject matter of which it is about. And the production value appears very high, which in turn makes for a more believable, and therefore enjoyable, series.

THE WHITE QUEEN is shot well and looks great onscreen. There’s no doubt Starz spares no expense when it comes to this show, and the result is a realistic depiction of a dark time in Europe’s history. There’s more throne-hopping and power-grab attempts in this show than a soap opera. And, what’s even better: this show is based on fact.

I cannot say just how much of the show is based on true events, but I have done enough research to know the primary basis itself is sound. These events did happen and involved the characters that we get to see onscreen. But as for the particulars…the writers might have taken a few liberties here and there…I’m just not sure. Regardless, this show is full of drama, backstabbing, power clashes, battles, and romance. You just can’t ask for much more!

The acting in THE WHITE QUEEN is superb, with Rebecca Ferguson portraying the titular character. Ferguson does an amazing job with her role, giving a fully convincing version of Queen Elizabeth. The rest of the cast is stellar as well, with particularly memorable performances by James Frain as Lord Warwick “The Kingmaker”, Max Irons as King Edward, and Janet McTeer as Elizabeth’s mother, Jacquetta Woodville.

My sole complaint about the show is that it starts off pretty fast-paced before it finally slows down around the third episode or so. This is a minor complaint, and I understand why it is done: the events that lead up to the turmoil are only secondary in the show, and the production team has to quickly set the tone and basis for the show itself. Still, I do feel it worth mentioning, just so you’re not caught off guard should you give the show a look.

And I highly recommend that you do. THE WHITE QUEEN is one of my favorite shows out right now, and I am looking forward to season two. This season hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note. And be sure to check it out on Blu-ray. In addition to the HD sound and video, you’ll get a slew of Special Features, including:

* The Making of The White Queen
* Series Overview
* Book To Series
* The History Behind The White Queen
* The White Queen: Set Tour

and more!

MSB