Interview with the filmmakers of THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL

Today we have the pleasure of speaking to Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates, the duo who brought us THE ZOMBIE DIARIES 1 & 2, and now THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL, a documentary-style horror flick.

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(If you have not seen THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL, check out my review here). Michael and Kevin were kind enough to answer a few questions about the movie for us.

1-Where did you get the idea for Clophill? Is it REALLY based on true events?

YES, THE EVENTS ARE WELL DOCUMENTED AND WE EVEN INTERVIEWED THE ORIGINAL EYEWITNESSES AND CITIZENS OF CLOPHILL. THE IDEA CAME FROM LOOKING AT OTHER FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS AND BEING DISSATISFIED WITH THE FACT THEY NEVER FELT REAL DUE TO THE ACTING. IT IS NOT SO EASY TO MAKE PERFECT PERFORMANCES, ESPECIALLY WHEN WORKING ON LOW BUDGETS WHERE YOU WON’T NECESSARILY HAVE ACCESS TO THE BEST ACTORS. WE FIGURED THE RIGHT APPROACH WAS TO MAKE AS MUCH OF IT LEGITIMATE AS POSSIBLE. WE WERE INSPIRED BY THE BBC SHOW ‘GHOST WATCH’ WHICH FOOLED RESIDENTS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM WITH A NARRATIVE SHOW THAT WAS MASKED AS A LIVE TV EVENT. WE WANTED TO TRY AND DO SOMETHING SIMILAR BUT, INSTEAD, HAVE NOBODY IN ON THE TRUTH THAT THIS WAS A REAL INVESTIGATION WHERE KEVIN AND I WERE GOING TO MISDIRECT THE “ACTORS” (SOME OF WHOM WERE JUST REGULAR PEOPLE). WE ADDED THE DOCUMENTARY ELEMENT IN TO FURTHER ENHANCE THE REALISM AND WORLD THAT THIS FILM OCCUPIES.

2-The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill is quite a bit removed from Zombie Diaries. What made you switch from zombies to supernatural terror?

WE ACTUALLY SHOT CLOPHILL BEFORE ZOMBIE DIARIES 2. KEVIN AND I WERE BECOMING FRUSTRATED WITH THE RED TAPE SURROUNDING THE FINANCING OF ZOMBIE DIARIES 2 SO WE DECIDED TO JUST GO BACK TO OUR ROOTS AND MAKE A FILM THAT DID NOT INVOLVE OTHER STAKEHOLDERS WHO COULD POTENTIALLY SLOW DOWN THE GREENLIGHT PROCESS. KEVIN AND I LOVE THE HORROR AND SUSPENSE GENRES AND I HAD BEEN A BIG ADVOCATE FOR STEERING AWAY FROM DOING A SECOND ZOMBIE DIARIES FILM, MAINLY AS I WAS CONCERNED THAT WE WOULD BECOME TYPE-CAST AS FILMMAKERS WHO ONLY MADE FILMS OF THAT GENRE. SINCE WE HAD NOBODY TO ANSWER TO IN TERMS OF DELIVERY, WE SPENT 3 YEARS ON FURTHER RESEARCH AND EDITING SO THE FINAL PRODUCT HAD OUR 100% SEAL OF APPROVAL (AS DID THE FIRST ZOMBIE DIARIES) BEFORE GOING INTO THE MARKET PLACE.

3-How has the film been received by those who are fans of Zombie Diaries?

IT IS TOUGH TO KNOW IF THE REVIEWS (BOTH GOOD AND BAD) THAT WE ARE GETTING ARE FROM FANS OR NOT. WE HAVE FRIENDS WHO LIKED THE ZOMBIE FLICKS THAT LIKED PARANORMAL AND ACTUALLY MANY OF THEM GREATLY PREFER CLOPHILL OVER TZD2 – A FILM THAT WAS PLAGUED WITH PROBLEMS FROM DAY 1. I THINK PEOPLE WHO ARE FANS OF THE WAY WE MAKE FILMS AND THE TONES OF OUR FILMS (LITTLE VERY COMEDY, VERY BLEAK) WILL ENJOY.

4-How do you respond to critics who say this is just another film trying to cash in on the found footage sub-genTIre of horror?

EVERY PROJECT THAT ONES MAKES IN THIS CLIMATE (ESPECIALLY NOW IN 2014 WITH THE DVD MARKET COLLAPSING) HAS TO BE CLEVERLY POSITIONED. IF BIRD FLU IS THE BIG TALKING POINT (AS IT WAS BACK IN 2005 WHEN WE MADE ZOMBIE DIARIES) THEN YOU ARE WISE TO INTEGRATE THAT. IF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY IS THE MOST SUCCESSFUL INDIE IN RECENT MEMORY AND YOU ARE MAKING A FILM AROUND THE TIME OF ITS RELEASE, YOU ARE WISE TO GIVE YOUR FILM PARANORMAL VIBES. I’M NOT SAYING YOUNG FILMMAKERS SHOULD BE COPY CATS. I WOULD ARGUE THAT THREE OF THE FILMS WE’VE MADE (ZOMBIE DIARIES 1, PARANORMAL DIARIES AND TREEHOUSE) BRING NEW AND FRESH IDEAS TO THE GENRE. I REALLY DESPISE A LACK OF ORIGINALITY AND IT STILL HAUNTS ME TO THIS DAY THAT I AGREED TO DIRECT ZOMBIE DIARIES 2 UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES I DID. BUT IF YOU ARE MAKING SOMETHING TRULY ORIGINAL JUST TRY AND THINK ABOUT HOW THE FILM WILL BE SOLD LATER. YOU ALWAYS KNOW A GOOD PITCH IF YOU CAN SEE THE POSTER AND TRAILER IN YOUR HEAD. AS FAR AS FOUNF FOOTAGE GOES, I DON’T CONSIDER IT A CASH IN. MAYBE THE DISTRIBUTORS AND SALES AGENT WILL CASH IN, BUT CERTAINLY NOT US WITH A NO-NAME FILM THAT TOOK 3 YEARS IN POST PRODUCTION AND KEVIN AND I WORKING FOR FREE. WE MADE THIS FILM BECAUSE WE WANTED TO DO SOMETHING ORIGINAL AND INSPIRED BY GHOST WATCH.

5-What’s next for you? Can we expect more horror?

KEVIN IS PREPPING A SECOND FILM IN THE PARANORMAL DIARIES FRANCHISE. I DIRECTED TREEHOUSE FOR STRONG OAK PICTURES AND THAT IS ABOUT TO HIT UK SHELVES THIS HALLOWEEN. AFTER THIS WE’D LIKE TO BRANCH OUT OF HORROR INTO OTHER THINGS. TREEHOUSE IS MORE OF A SUSPENSE THRILLER THAN A HORROR. IT’S MORE LIKE THE ORIGINAL DUTCH VERSION OF THE VANISHING. BUT RIGHT NOW, UNTIL VOD STABILIZES, HORROR IS THE BREAD AND BUTTER THAT WILL SEE US THROUGH THESE DIFFICULT TIMES.

Thanks so much, guys. It has been a pleasure.

THE ZOMBIE DIARIES, THE ZOMBIE DIARIES 2, and THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL are all available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill (2014)

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill
Directed by Michael Bartlett & Kevin Gates
Courtesy of Image Entertainment
Release Date: September 30, 2014

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I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy found-footage style horror movies, IF they are done well. There are many of these out there, yet only a small percentage are worth watching. A new trend is on the rise, however, a similar subgenre that is catching fire in filmmaking circles: documentary-style horror. This subgenre has been around for a while, but is experiencing a new surge in activity. It is very close to found-footage, in that it’s shot with handheld cameras and in an on-the-fly method…however, the footage is not presented as ‘discovered’. THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL is a recent addition to this category, and while it is not perfect, it is still a fun film that can be entertaining.

If you are not familiar with THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Image Entertainment:

Based on true events, six investigators head to one of the world’s most haunted places to uncover the source of supernatural sightings and phenomena. Known for centuries as a notorious magnet for grave robbers, body snatchers, Satanists and cultists since the time of The Black Death, the ruined St. Mary’s Church at Clophill plays host to filmmaker Kevin Gates and his team of researchers. Obsessed with unraveling the secrets of this “unholy ground,” they venture into the murky darkness armed with cameras, curiosity and a need to expose the truth. However, some secrets were meant to stay buried – permanently. Over the course of three chilling nights, it becomes clear that they have unleashed something ancient and evil that has long been hungry to escape into this world.

I’ve seen a couple of documentary-style horror films over the years that I really enjoyed, including TROLLHUNTER. When done right, these movies can be very engaging and even frightening.

THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL has some pretty decent cinematography, especially when you consider the type of film it is. I am particularly impressed with the lighting. Many handheld films lack in the lighting department, and therefore the action is difficult to make out. Not so here. I never had a problem seeing anything onscreen.

The acting is pretty good, too. Most of the cast portray themselves, so they are technically just pretending in a paranormal scenario. There are no real standout performances to speak of, but they do a good job as a whole.

Unfortunately, the scares in THE PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL never really materialize. There are some intense scenes here and there, and the production team does a great job of building suspense, but for the most part I was left wanting more. The concept of the Black Mass and occultists is cool (don’t worry…no spoilers here), however I think they should have been fleshed out more.

Still, you can certainly see the heart that was put into this film. It is not a boring movie at all, and it plays out like an actual documentary would. If you’re looking for hard-edged horror, you will probably want to give this one a pass. But if you’re a fan of GHOST HUNTERS or shows of that nature, I would definitely give this one a look. It is available today in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Monika (2014)

Monika
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Courtesy of Inception Media Group
Release Date: September 9, 2014

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I love modern day movies that have a grindhouse feel to them. And I don’t mean films that can make the picture grainy, to look as if it’s being played on a cheap reel. I’m talking about movies that capture the heart of the grindhouse genre. Movies like PLANET TERROR and CHILLERAMA are just a couple of titles that spring to mind. The latest film release from director Steven R. Monroe, simply titled MONIKA, fits nicely into this classification as well. And while it’s not perfect (ok, grindhouse films were far from it), the film is still very enjoyable and entertaining.

If you are not familiar with MONIKA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Inception Media Group:

Reagan Tyler is a man troubled by visions and premonitions. In a cheap Las Vegas motel, he meets Monika, a beautiful young woman with seduction and revenge on her mind. Their brief encounter draws Regan into a surreal cat and mouse hunt for the hit-man who had earlier murdered Monika s sister. In the best tradition of grind-house action, Monika takes Reagan on her mission for justice and she isn t afraid to spill blood along the way. In this full throttle assassin meets assassin showdown, Monika packs a secret more powerful than her guns…she just may be invincible.

Monroe is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. I absolutely LOVED his remake of I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and I’ve enjoyed several of his lower-budget creature-features as well, including MONGOLIAN DEATH WORM, WYVERN, and IT WAITS. I had the pleasure of seeing him at Texas Frightmare Weekend a few years ago, and he was a real class act. I hope to see many more features from him in the future.

MONIKA is shot with a very grindhouse-like style. There are not many moving camera angles, but there are a lot of singular, stationary shots. Also, there are many scenes where the color seems to be diminished. This could be due in part to the desert shooting locations, but it might be intentional as well. Either way, the look enhances the film experience and helps to set the movie’s overall tone.

The acting is great, and I am very impressed with the whole cast. Jason Wiles and Cerina Vincent do a stellar job in their roles. I find this especially impressive when considering Cerina Vincent’s earliest role was Yellow Galaxy Ranger Maya in POWER RANGERS: LOST GALAXY. This surprised me, but she has come a long way. I will admit I was leery about seeing C. Thomas Howell onscreen (he doesn’t usually show up in the best of films), however he does a fine job here.

But for as entertaining as MONIKA is, the film does have some flaws. The plot will most likely be confusing to some (as the premonitions aspect of Wiles’ character will throw some viewers off). I personally enjoyed how this all plays out, but I can see some viewers reacting differently after discovering how the movie ends. Also, you can’t expect much substance out of this film. It is what it is, and it pretty much tells you up front what to expect. If you can keep that mindset going in, you should enjoy watching it.

For me, MONIKA is a win. I recommend it, however I know some of you will not like it. Still, if you’re a fan of grindhouse like me, you should welcome this flick with open arms. The film is available now if you want to check it out.

MSB

Book Review – Zombies on Film by Ozzy Inguanzo

Zombies on Film: The Definitive Story of Undead Cinema
by Ozzy Inguanzo
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Rizzoli Publishing

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Any fan of zombie flicks can tell you there are hundreds, if not thousands, of zombie movies out there from which to choose. Some are great, yet some are so bad they can’t be resurrected by anything. How do you tell the good from the bad? If you’re a stranger to the living dead in cinema, I would recommend getting a guide. ZOMBIES ON FILM: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF UNDEAD CINEMA is an excellent place to start. Author Ozzy Inguanzo has compiled a very impressive look at zombies in the movies, and the result is an excellent guide even the heartiest of dead-fans will want to own.

If you are not familiar with ZOMBIES ON FILM, here is the book’s synopsis courtesy of Rizzoli:

ZOMBIES ON FILM chronicles popular culture’s greatest and most terrifyingly intriguing monsters in the very medium their shuffling, rotting, flesh-eating characteristics were shaped—at the movies! Spanning nearly a century, the zombie genre has been built by a creative and cultural transfer of influences from generation to generation of storytellers, filmmakers, and artists. This book tells the remarkable true story behind the creative and independent-spirit that shaped a legacy, from its cinematic inception and evolution to its ultimate rise to pop culture prominence, covering the most popular, most influential, most overlooked—and of course, the most gory and terrifying—films featuring zombies.

Author Ozzy Inguanzo’s insightful, witty, and informative text is complemented by more than 300 photographs, movie posters, and behind-the-scenes images spanning nine decades of classic films including Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie (1932), George Romero’s landmark Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Lucio Fulci’s cult classic Zombie (1979), as well as offerings from blockbuster directors such as Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1990), Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (2004), and more recent entries like the breakthrough series The Walking Dead (2010) and the international sensation World War Z (2013).

Expertly curated and filled with images spanning the breadth of cinematic history, ZOMBIES ON FILM is ideal for film fans, students, and pop culture junkies.

I’ve reviewed many zombie film companions over the years, but this is by far one of the best. Chocked full of pictures (some of which are full spreads that cover two pages), you will be hard-pressed to find a more revealing book than this one.

ZOMBIES ON FILM is at times witty, however it is always informative. I like how Inguanzo gives a brief discussion of each film as he mentions it. Some of his views are a bit different than mine, however I find he hits the mark most of the time.

But the snapshots are the best part of this book. Some are simple shots of the movie posters used to promote the films, while others are huge HD images taken straight from the movies themselves. This alone is a good enough reason to buy this guide.

ZOMBIES ON FILM is a big win for me, and I recommend any movie-lover or zombie-fan to snatch this one up immediately. The book will also make an excellent Christmas gift for the living-dead-lover in your life. It is available now, so make a note.

Here is the book’s official trailer (it is amazing!):

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Doctor Mordrid: Master of the Unknown (1992)

Doctor Mordrid: Master of the Unknown
Directed by Albert Band & Charles Band
Courtesy of Full Moon Features
Original Release Date: 1992
Blu-ray Release Date: September 16, 2014

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I think I can state with utmost certainty that Jeffrey Combs can do no wrong. Much like Bruce Campbell, Combs is one of those actors who will always be remembered for giving 100% in every role he undertakes. And, like Campbell, he will always be known for certain characters he brought to life. One of these for Combs is Doctor Mordrid, a sorcerer from another dimension who has vowed to protect Earth. And regardless of whether you are a fan of magic or not, you’ll love seeing Combs don his blue wizard’s robes for battle.

If you are not familiar with DOCTOR MORDRID, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Full Moon Features:

Two beings from another dimension; two sorcerers with immeasurable powers. One has sworn to destroy the Earth; the other has vowed to protect it. Their timeless battle has crossed over from the fourth dimension and only one man will reign in the end…

Doctor Mordrid (JEFFREY COMBS) is the chosen guardian who can protect the Earth from eternal darkness; Kabal (BRIAN THOMPSON) is his vengeful enemy whose implacable wrath has escalated with time. Kabal has arrived on Earth and is planning to use his infinite powers to unleash a horde of hellish demons to devour and destroy humankind. Bound by hate and a mystical amulet that holds the powers of life and death, the immortal wizards will meet for the last time. Their centuries-old rivalry has matured into the ancient struggle of good versus evil. Now, their battle takes on majestic proportions as Mordrid and Kabal give life to prehistoric skeletons and begin their final conflict… Doctor Mordrid has been remastered in high-definition and looks better than ever!

I read somewhere Charles Band had the option back in 1992 to make a Doctor Strange movie, based on the Marvel comic character, but the option expired before production could begin. As a result, Band rewrote the script, made many changes, and wound up making this film instead. I’m glad he did, too, because I think I enjoy this one much more than I would a Doctor Strange adaptation.

DOCTOR MORDRID is shot well and looks much like many of the Full Moon films from back in that day. The sets and the production design are obviously lower budget, but they still look great. I particularly like the floating castle where Kabal was imprisoned. This looks wicked onscreen, and the set pieces that accompany it are nice as well.

The acting is pretty good, although Combs certainly steals the show. I do have to give credit to Yvette Nipar, however, for she plays a great love interest for Combs’ character. And, screen vet Brian Thompson gives his usual over-the-top performance as the psychotic Kabal.

The special effects in DOCTOR MORDRID are very good for this time period, with several magic-casting scenes that are impressive displays of technical wizardry. Keep in mind, this film came out prior to CG, so the filmmakers had to use practical effects and camera tricks to achieve their goals. As such, this is a great-looking piece of filmmaking.

My sole complaint about DOCTOR MORDRID is the ending. I won’t give away specifics, however I will say it is kinda abrupt. Everything is wrapped up, however I would have liked to have seen a longer resolution.

But don’t let that dissuade you from seeing this film. DOCTOR MORDRID is a lot of fun, and fans of Full Moon will definitely want to snatch this up. I’ve never seen the DVD or VHS versions, however I can tell you the HD quality on the Blu-ray is superb. The Blu-ray is also loaded with special features, like:

-Brand new audio commentary with star Jeffrey Combs and producer/director Charles Band
-Original VideoZone making-of featurette
-Rare William Shatner interview with Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton
-Uncut behind-the-scenes footage from the Full Moon Vault

The Doctor Mordrid Blu-ray is now available on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Mordrid-Jeffrey-Combs/dp/B00NABSZ12

MSB

Book Review – Hell Hole by Hunter Shea

Hell Hole
by Hunter Shea
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

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I would seriously like to peek inside author Hunter Shea’s head. Seriously, I would. I want to see the bizarre and wondrous landscape that is his brain. It must be a sight to see because it comes up with some crazy-fun horror ideas. Take Shea’s latest release, HELL HOLE; part western, part horror, but all fun, this thrilling tale will take you on a joyride into darkness you won’t ever forget.

If you are not familiar with HELL HOLE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

Deep in a Wyoming mine, hell awaits.

Former cattle driver, Rough Rider and current New York City cop Nat Blackburn is given an offer he can’t refuse by President Teddy Roosevelt. Tales of gold in the abandoned mining town of Hecla, in the Deep Rock Hills, abound. The only problem–those who go seeking their fortune never return.

Along with his constant companion, Teta, a hired gun with a thirst for adventure, Nat travels to a barren land where even animals dare not tread. But the remnants of Hecla are far from empty. Black-eyed children, strange lights and ferocious wild men venture from the deep, dark mine…as well as a force so sinister Nat’s and Teta’s very souls are in jeopardy.

There’s a mystery in Hecla thousands of years old. Solving it could spell the end of the world.

‘Wildly imaginative’ is the phrase that keeps popping up in my mind when I think about this book. I mentioned Shea’s impressive imagination in my review of one of his earlier novels, SINISTER ENTITY, last year, and I’m happy to report that nothing seems to have changed. His mind is still coming up with inventive ways to scare his readers.

HELL HOLE is written well and chocked full of creepy, gory goodness. As with his previous work, Shea keeps the impressive metaphors flowing as the plot unfolds. Here is an example: “I was about to say something when a deep, chest-rumbling blast of noise ripped the morning in two.” This sentence is a great sample of how well Shea can convey a lot of action and description with minimal effort.

The characters in HELL HOLE are believable and fleshed out well. Likewise, so are the antagonists (I will not go into detail so as to keep the surprise alive). I particularly like how Shea manages to make his cast damaged but likable.

The story is fresh and original, a nice gust of wind across a mottled plain of overdone western horror concepts. Just when you think you know what’s going on in the story, Shea changes gears and redirects, making you rethink what you thought you knew. I love this aspect of his storytelling, as it keeps me on my toes.

HELL HOLE is a major win for me, and it’s another horrifying feather in Hunter Shea’s cap. I can’t wait to see what other slimy horrors crawl out of that mind of his. HELL HOLE is available now in a variety of formats, so be sure and get your copy today.

MSB

TV Show Review – Spartacus: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

Spartacus: The Complete Series
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment & Starz
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Spartacus

Over the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of reviewing a few of the Spartacus seasons. I say ‘privilege’ because the opportunity was just that. I fell in love with this show after the first episode of the first season (Blood and Sand), and I will state it is still one of my favorite titles to date. It should come as no surprise, then, to hear SPARTACUS: THE COMPLETE SERIES is the Holy Grail for me. This epic Blu-ray set is a must-own for existing fans of the show and even newbies who have never watched it.

If you are not familiar with SPARTACUS, here is the plot synopsis of the show courtesy of Starz:

SPARTACUS: THE COMPLETE SERIES is the classic tale of Spartacus, the Republic’s most infamous rebel who comes alive in the first season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand.” Then comes “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena,” the prequel that explores the deadly history before the arrival of Spartacus, and the death he now carries with him. The second season, “Spartacus: Vengeance,” continues to follow Spartacus as he is faced with a choice to either satisfy his personal need for vengeance, or make the sacrifices necessary to keep his growing army from breaking apart at the seams. Finally, in “Spartacus: War of the Damned,” Spartacus will carve his name into history as he plots to avenge his wife’s death and leads Batiatus’ slaves in a bloody uprising that will not be forgotten or equaled.

The fine folks at Starz definitely knew what they were doing when they first premiered this epic series. Spartacus strikes a chord with everybody because of the timeless themes it covers. Rebellion, love, loyalty, revenge…these are all present in this series and form the foundation on which the drama builds.

As I’ve stated before, SPARTACUS: THE COMPLETE SERIES is impressive on many levels. It is visually amazing, the bloodshed and gore are superb, the drama is intense, and the acting is top notch. But the storyline never gets old, either. The plot moves at a rapid pace, but not so fast as to lose the audience. The result is an amazing show that is as engrossing as it is vicious.

This collection also features several new Special Features that you can only get here. Included in this are new audio commentaries and a Bonus Disc the features:

* SPARTACUS Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre
* Scoring A Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca
* An Eye Full: Roger Murray
* SPARTACUS: Paul Grinder
* The Last Word: John Hannah

SPARTACUS: THE COMPLETE SERIES is a huge win for me, and I’m so thankful to have been given the chance to cover it. If you’re an existing fan, you will want to snatch this collection up immediately. And if you’re new to the show, this will be a great way to binge-watch all of the seasons in a single weekend. Regardless, add this to your Must Buy list today.

MSB

Movie Review – The Rover (2014)

The Rover
Directed by David Michod
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: September 23, 2014

the rover

When I first heard about THE ROVER, I immediately thought of Mad Max. I mean, Australia…post-apocalyptic…who wouldn’t make that connection, right? But after watching the film, I have to report it bears no resemblance to the leather-clad Mel Gibson franchise. THE ROVER is a slick thriller that entertains on many levels. And while you might be hesitant to give it a look, you should take my advice and watch it. I’ll bet you will be glad you did.

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

Set in a world 10 years into the general collapse of society, THE ROVER follows hardened loner Eric as he travels the desolate towns and roads of the Outback. When a gang of theives steals his car, they leave behind a wounded Rey. Forcing Rey to help track the gang, Eric will go to any lengths to take back the one thing that still matters to him.

THE ROVER caught me off guard; I wasn’t expecting the film to be this good. But it grabbed my attention and captivated me throughout its entirety. Granted, it is a slow-burner of a film (meaning it takes a little while to build up), but once it gets going it doesn’t let go.

The film itself looks great onscreen and has some amazing backdrops. The landscape is bleak and barren, but it still manages to inspire a sense of curious beauty at the same time. These images are enhanced by the HD picture on the Blu-ray; I am so glad I watched this in HD, and I recommend you do so as well.

The acting in THE ROVER is top notch. I have to confess I was interested to see Robert Pattinson in a role that didn’t have anything to do with teen-vampire flicks. I’ve heard and read good things about his abilities as an actor, but I had never seen him in anything else prior to this. Thankfully, he does an excellent job in this film. I am truly impressed with the range of his talent, and I hope to see him in more roles like this one. Guy Pearce does not disappoint, either. I have always enjoyed his work, and this is just one more role to add to his impressive canon of films.

My sole complaint about the film is more of a raised eyebrow than an actual gripe. The end of the film (don’t worry…no spoilers here) is riddled with ambiguity. I think I know what Eric is doing, but I’m not positive. And he if IS doing what I think he is, then I’m left scratching my head.

Still, THE ROVER is one heck of a good film, and I recommend giving it a shot. It starts off with a spark instead of a bang, but it soon builds up to a great climax. If you decide to check this one out, be sure to stop back by here and let us know what you think about it. The film hits shelves tomorrow.

MSB

Book Review – American Monsters by Linda S. Godfrey

American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America
by Linda S. Godfrey
Release Date: August 28, 2014
Publisher: Tarcher Books

American-Monsters

Because I am a staunch horror fan, a part of me believes some monsters in our lore might be real. Bigfoot is a perfect example of this. There have been way too many sightings and photos to deny something exists out there in the woods…it might not be what we think, but there’s something there. It’s this fact-based optimism that drives author Linda S. Godfrey’s latest book, AMERICAN MONSTERS: A HISTORY OF MONSTER LORE, LEGENDS, AND SIGHTINGS IN AMERICA. Chocked full of information and fact with only a hint of speculation, this tome is a cryptozoologist’s dream.

If you are not familiar with AMERICAN MONSTERS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Tarcher Books:

From pre-Columbian legends to modern-day eyewitness accounts, this comprehensive guide covers the history, sightings and lore surrounding the most mysterious monsters in America—including Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and more.

Bigfoot, the chupacabra, and thunderbirds aren’t just figments of our overactive imaginations—according to thousands of eyewitnesses, they exist, in every corner of the United States. Throughout America’s history, shocked onlookers have seen unbelievable creatures of every stripe—from sea serpents to apelike beings, giant bats to monkeymen—in every region.

Author, investigator, and creature expert Linda S. Godfrey brings the same fearless reporting she lent to Real Wolfmen to this essential guide, using historical record, present-day news reports, and eyewitness interviews to examine this hidden menagerie of America’s homegrown beasts.

I’ve studied some of the more common monsters known in American folklore, however Godfrey introduces several in this book that I am not familiar with. I love this aspect, as it opened my eyes to new mysteries of the unknown. But in addition, she gives a few fresh takes on some existing creatures as well. This diversity is a big part of the draw for this title and one of the biggest points for its promotion.

AMERICAN MONSTERS is written well. It is not stiff and dry like a text book, but instead is presented more like short tales from a storyteller. This informal tone makes the book a much more enjoyable read, and it helps present the information in a lighter manner.

The book is broken up into three sections: Monsters By Air, Monsters By Sea, and Monsters By Land. Each section is then spliced into several smaller chunks, which are based on specific creatures and/or regions in which the creature is located. My favorite area in this book is the Monsters By Sea section. Sea sightings seem to be older and have more witnesses than any other type of sighting. For this reason, I find they are the most plausible.

AMERICAN MONSTERS is a definite win for me, and I recommend picking it up. Whether you are a veteran cryptozoologist or just a hobby reader, chances are this book will enlighten you in some form or fashion. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road by Michael A. Stackpole

Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road
by Michael A. Stackpole
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Paizo Publishing

pathfinder

The fine folks at Paizo definitely know what fantasy-lovers want, and they are not hesitant to deliver. When I think of fantasy, I think of sword-wielding adventurers and pitch-black dungeons…monstrous creatures and wizened mages…epic adventures and smoke-filled taverns…well, you get the picture. I would wager most other fantasy-lovers do, too. The Pathfinder Tales series is an engaging compliment to Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG series, and any lover of high fantasy will want to check it out immediately. THE CRUSADER ROAD is author Michael A. Stackpole’s latest entry into this collection. And while it is his first foray into this alluring franchise, I’ll bet it won’t be his last.

If you are not familiar with THE CRUSADER ROAD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of

When the aristocratic Vishov family is banished from their native Ustalav due to underhanded politics, they’re faced with a choice: fade slowly into obscurity, or strike out for the nearby River Kingdoms and establish a new holding on the untamed frontier. For Lady Tyressa Vishov, the decision is simple. Together with her children and loyal retainers, she’ll forge a new life in the infamous Echo Wood, and neither bloodthirsty monsters nor local despots will stop her from reclaiming her family honor. Yet the shadow of Ustalavic politics is long, and even in a remote and lawless territory, there may be those determined to see the Vishov family fail… From New York Times bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole comes a new novel of frontier adventure set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the new Pathfinder Online massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

Stackpole is no stranger to fantasy. In the 1980s, he designed roleplaying games for both the tabletop and PC formats. Later, he started writing fiction. He published his first books in the BattleTech series and then moved into the Star Wars universe. Shortly after that, he started in with actual fantasy and published many titles within the genre. As you can see, Stackpole has more than enough qualifications to publish a Pathfinder Tales novel.

THE CRUSADER ROAD is written well and fits perfectly within the Pathfinder universe. Stackpole’s prose flows smoothly, and the story he tells is riveting and engaging. I was consistently immersed within it and had no problems believing it was actually happening.

The characters are vivid and detailed. They are flawed, but believable, which makes them more likable. I particularly like Lady Tyressa Vishov, Jerrad’s mother. She is the epitome of strength in the face of overwhelming odds.

THE CRUSADER ROAD is a definite win for me, and I suggest you give it a read yourself. Even if you’re not already familiar with the Pathfinder realm, you’ll quickly learn it as you read this book. And then continue the adventure later on with future Pathfinder Tales, as Paizo is releasing several more very soon.

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