Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, amidst the hustle and bustle of family gatherings and Black Friday prepping, be sure and take a few minutes to give thanks for all that you have. I have been abundantly blessed, and I am so very thankful for everything in my life. I try to make it a point to remember these things throughout the year, but today is specifically set up to do so…thus, I say Thank You, Lord, for all you have blessed me with.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Thanks for supporting Shattered Ravings. Have a great Turkey Day, and be safe!

MSB

Book Review – The World on Fire by Sheldon Woodbury

The World on Fire
by Sheldon Woodbury
Publisher: James Ward Kirk Publishing
Release Date: August 16, 2014

The World on Fire

I don’t know about you, but when I hear book titles like THE WORLD ON FIRE, my curiosity flag is immediately raised. Does the title mean the world is literally on fire? Or is it insinuating something metaphorical? These and many other questions race through my mind. Obviously, a title like this is a great way to spark interest. Add to that some intriguing cover art, and you’ve got a winning marketing combination.

I’m very pleased to report the story within the book is just as solid and interesting as the title and cover. THE WORLD ON FIRE is a horror-thriller unlike anything I’ve read before. And although the plot synopsis is a bit vague, don’t let that fool you; it is done on purpose. This is a complex tale that blurs the line between right and wrong and makes you reconsider what you know about good and evil.

If you are not familiar with THE WORLD ON FIRE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of James Ward Kirk Publishing:

A serial-killing-arsonist called the “Angel of Death” is captured and sent to the infamous Spookhouse, a maximum security prison in the middle of the desert where the most horrific criminals are kept. But the impossible happens when he escapes with a journalist and six other psychos from death-row. They embark on an apocalyptic road trip that reveals a scary underground America that’s both mythic and haunting. This is an action packed thriller that will keep you up all night until the knock-out ending.

Author Sheldon Woodbury has a surefire hit on his hands. This book is a delight to read, and it poses some interesting questions. I will not flesh them out in detail during the review because I do not want to give anything away. But I can guarantee this story will make you look at the world differently.

THE WORLD ON FIRE is written well and flows at a smooth pace. The sentence structure and writing style is solid, and Woodbury does a good job of not overstuffing his paragraphs with exaggerated descriptions. I really like this aspect, as it lets the story move along quickly. If it was bogged down with too much exposition, the tale would not have nearly the impact on the reader.

The characters are all damaged but believable, with many too reprehensible to even care about. But that’s almost the point: you shouldn’t like them because of their past crimes, and you certainly won’t like them for what they do in the story. Still, Louis (a.k.a. the Angel of Death) elicits a sort of sympathy from the reader as he spouts his psychotic philosophy of a world ruled by chaos. As a result, he becomes almost likable at certain points…however, he quickly destroys that likability by committing some atrocious act that further solidifies his insanity.

My sole complaint about THE WORLD ON FIRE is a very minor one, and it is more of an observation than a gripe. I found several editing errors, including a couple of sentences with omitted words and one instance where the wrong word was used. This is by no means a reflection of the story at all; I just mention them because some folks are like me, in that these simply take us out of the immersion in the story.

THE WORLD ON FIRE is a major win for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a nice dose of mayhem to go with their chaos. Thoughtful, well constructed and downright terrifying, this book will be a treat for anyone looking to get their hands dirty, so to speak. It is available now in a variety of formats, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – Soulmate (2014)

Soulmate
Directed by Axelle Carolyn
Courtesy of Revolver Entertainment
Release Date: October 28, 2014

Soulmate-VOD-Art

I am a huge fan of any director who can bring a unique vision to the big screen or even introduce a new twist to an existing concept. I’m an even bigger fan of directors who can do both. As such, I’m happy to report Axelle Carolyn has become one of my favorite filmmakers to date. Her recent release, SOULMATE, is a poetic ghost story that brings forth many different emotions and injects a nice dose of originality into the traditional spirit narrative.

If you are not familiar with SOULMATE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Revolver Entertainment:

Recently widowed Audrey Barker moves to the Welsh countryside in a last ditch effort to get back on her feet after a failed suicide attempt. From the first few nights, she hears unexplainable noises coming from the living room and from a locked-off attic. She soon realizes the cottage she s renting is haunted; her presence has awakened a dormant spirit. Against all odds, she decides to stay, hoping to confront her fears and find comfort in the presence of the ghost, whose very existence is proof of an afterlife where she may some day be reunited with her husband. The spirit’s past oddly mirrors hers, and a strange relationship develops between them… But is she really safe?

Ghost stories have always fascinated me, and I love to see movies about them. Granted, there are hundreds of thousands of different tales about spirits, but they all seem to share a few central themes. A couple of these are fleshed out in this film, and Carolyn does a great job of bringing them to life (pardon the pun).

SOULMATE is shot well and looks great onscreen. The dreary Welsh landscape helps set a dark tone, and the mood continues throughout the film. I think this aspect is a major part of what makes the movie so viable. I don’t think it would have been as powerful if the location had been somewhere in America.

The acting is superb, with Anna Walton and Tom Wisdom portraying the leads. I’ve enjoyed Walton’s work since I saw her in HELLBOY 2 and MUTANT CHRONICLES back in 2008. Wisdom is a primary character on one of my favorite new TV shows, DOMINION (on Syfy), and I really enjoy his work as well.

But the story is the real winner for SOULMATE. It is very well written and plays out nicely onscreen. I will not divulge any secrets, but I will say that I really liked the ending and how everything winds up.

SOULMATE is a win for me, and I recommend it. The film is not really a horror movie, but more of a dramatic thriller. It touches on different topics, such as love and loss, and how they can affect us both negatively and positively. In short, it’s a movie that most of us can relate to in one way or another. The film is available now, so give it a look.

Amazon Link – Soulmate
iTunes Link – Soulmate

MSB

Movie Review – Cannibal (2014)

Cannibal
Directed by Manuel Martin Cuenca
Courtesy of Film Movement
Release Date: October 21, 2014

Cannibal_Poster_final - 300dpi

There are few things in the world more taboo than cannibalism. The concept of dining on one’s own species ignites a deeply rooted, primal fear and repulsion that rivals only a small list of phobias. As such, it makes a perfect device for a movie. There are many films out there with ‘cannibal’ in the title, however director Manuel Martin Cuenca’s CANNIBAL is a study in contrast. While the underlying theme of eating human beings haunts almost every scene, the movie is about so much more than just that. The result is a lengthy however emotional glimpse into the life of a reclusive individual who is simply looking for love.

If you are not familiar with CANNIBAL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Film Movement:

Carlos is the most prestigious tailor in Granada, Spain. His life is a study in details, from the meticulous suits he creates for wealthy clients to the macabre murders he executes in the shadows. He performs these gruesome acts, including dining on the women he kills, without guilt or remorse. When Nina, a beautiful young immigrant from Romania, comes looking for her missing twin sister, she awakens in Carlos a kind of love he’d long since written off. As their relationship builds, based on secrets and deception, Nina’s pure innocence will become undeniable, even by Carlos, a man driven by a dark secret. Cannibal is, in the end, a demon’s love story.

This film is not what I was expecting it to be. It’s labeled as a thriller, however it’s more of a slow-burn drama that climaxes with a quiet whisper than a bang. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is a nice deviation from overdone tropes regarding cannibalism. However, the length of the movie is what hurts it in the end.

CANNIBAL is shot very well and looks great onscreen. The cinematography is more a visual display of artistry rather than a simple Hollywood-esque way of telling a story. I admit this style takes a while to get used to (there are many single-angle shots of long scenes), however once you are acclimated to it, you’ll find it actually enhances the film.

I am a bit up in the air in regard to the acting. I like both of the main performers…however this film and script do not do a stellar job of showcasing their talents. Not that this is a bad script by any means. However, because of the nature of his character, titular human-carnivore Antonio de la Torre delivers almost every line with the same simplistic, almost monotonic style. The actor never has a chance to show us anything else.

The storyline of CANNIBAL is a dramatically-infused mystery of sorts that takes a while to get going. But once it picks up speed (about an hour into the film), things start to get interesting. Unfortunately, during the time it takes to get to that point, not much happens. There are a couple of false starts, where I thought something was going to happen…however, nothing did.

Still, I cannot deny how much I enjoyed CANNIBAL once it took off. And I actually liked the ending, although I will wager some viewers will not. I recommend giving this film a look. However, be warned: there is no English dubover; it is just Spanish language with subtitles, so if you don’t like reading, I would steer clear. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Monster Codex

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Monster Codex
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Paizo Publishing

pathfinder

One of my favorite aspects about roleplaying games is the constant stream of update publications that are released to supplement the main game. These publications usually contain new and/or updated content that allows the RPG world to change and evolve, much like the real world itself. The result is a more entertaining and immersive experience for both new and veteran gamers alike. The fine folks at Paizo recently released the MONSTER CODEX, a book that takes 20 iconic Pathfinder beasties and breaks them down into deeper, more complex categories. If you are any kind of gamer, this book is a Must Have for you.

If you are not familiar with the PATHFINDER ROLEPLAYING GAME: MONSTER CODEX, here is the synopsis courtesy of Paizo Publishing:

Take Monsters beyond the basics! The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Codex takes 20 of fantasy’s most iconic monsters and gives you a mountain of new rules and pre-made stat blocks to challenge your heroes. Perfect for busy Game Masters, this invaluable tome gives a wide range of challenges for a variety of foes, from the nefarious drow to ruthless orcs. Each monster includes an in-depth look at its society and ecology, new rules like feats and spells designed to compliment the race, and archetypes built to give monsters a new edge. From a simple encounter to an entire campaign, this book gives you everything you need to make these monsters the center of the action!

I’ve been playing RPGs off and on for almost 30 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that there’s always something new to learn about the world you are playing in, no matter how thoroughly you’ve studied it. The game creators are always looking for new ways to throw twists into the existing lore of each world, which is a sure-fire way to bring new hazards into your campaigns, and therefore more fun.

The MONSTER CODEX does just that. It gives a deeper insight into these 20 monster races, fleshing them out for a broader, more realistic feel. And the result is fantastic. Many of us RPG players take monsters for granted, viewing them as just one more obstacle to overcome in order to obtain our goals. But there is more to many of these beasties than meets the eye. This book divulges a whole new level of depth for these creatures, and in turn gives you the opportunity to look at them in a new light.

The MONSTER CODEX includes:

* Pages upon pages of specialized entries for 20 classic monstrous races, from goblins and drow to kobolds and trolls. Face off against such formidable foes as gnoll packlords, ratfolk sages, and dinosaur-riding lizardfolk champions!
* Detailed information on the ecologies and societies of these formidable creatures.
* New feats, equipment, spells, and archetypes to help you customize all 20 monstrous races—and the adventurers who fight or trade with them.
* A horrific new monster associated with each race—allies, thralls, and variants.
* Sample encounters ready to challenge raw recruits and experienced adventurers alike.
* AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!

I highly recommend the MONSTER CODEX, and I suggest you add it to your library as soon as possible. It will help you create more havoc and more interesting encounters for your players, and you will probably never look at these 20 monster classes the same way again. The book is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – The Expendables 3 (2014)

The Expendables 3
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: November 25, 2014

the expendables 3

I can’t figure out how anybody could dislike THE EXPENDABLES franchise, especially if they are a child of the 80s, like me. Seeing some of my favorite action heroes from that period back on the silver screen, doing what they do best, is a huge treat. Sylvester Stallone has truly created an epic comeback for himself and many of these other aging film icons. The latest installment, THE EXPENDABLES 3, is probably my favorite of the trilogy, and I hope it has laid the groundwork for future films.

If you are not familiar with THE EXPENDABLES 3, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

In THE EXPENDABLES 3, Barney (Stallone) faces off with an old enemy and must fight old blood with new blood, bringing in a new era of Expendables who are younger and faster. The latest mission becomes a clash of classic old-school style versus high-tech expertise in The Expendables’ most personal battle yet.

There are so many things to like about this franchise. But the nostalgia factor is one of its biggest assets. The filmographies of the cast would total several hundred strong (probably closer to a thousand, to be honest), and that is a true testament to the talent this trilogy contains.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 is shot very well and looks excellent onscreen. The production value appears to be very high, which is certainly good because anything less would ruin the film. I particularly like the variety of shooting locations this film boasts, which includes Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the United States.

The acting is exactly the way it should be: cheeky but intense. Every star gives an exceptional performance, both with the dramatic and action roles. This is part of what makes the series so successful; it’s not just about gunfire and explosions…it has a heart as well.

But the action is definitely what makes THE EXPENDABLES 3 so fun. This third installment does not disappoint in that area at all. There’s plenty of battle scenes, and they are as monumental in scope as they are in entertainment. But the fights do not just consist of people shooting at each other. These are complex, carefully orchestrated encounters that combine hand-to-hand combat with gunfire and explosives. The result is an amazing experience that will take your breath away.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 is a huge win for me, and I highly recommend it to everyone. The action is intense, the fighting is gritty, and the characters are likable, even the bad guys! You just can’t ask for much more out of an action film. If you’ve never checked out THE EXPENDABLES franchise before, now is the perfect time to get involved. This film hits store shelves next week, so that gives you plenty of time to tear through the first two. You won’t be disappointed.

MSB

Movie Review – Ragnarok (2014)

Ragnarok
Directed by Mikkel Braenne Sandemose
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: November 18, 2014

ragnarok

Prior to watching RAGNAROK, I did something very uncommon: I read reviews about it. Usually, I’ll go into a movie like this with a blank slate, so as not to have any preconceived notions about it. I do this so I can review films objectively, with little or no bias. But I was really excited about this one, and I was curious as to what other people were saying about it. Reviews were mixed, however most stated the film was enjoyable and family-friendly. This upped my interest even more.

I just finished RAGNAROK, and I have to tell you: those reviews were spot on. This is a heck of a film, full of intensity and fun. And, it’s almost perfectly clean…I think there were two very minor profanities in the whole movie. So if you’re looking for an entertaining, suspenseful flick the whole family can enjoy, then look no further!

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

Archeologist Sigurd Svendsen (Pål Sverre Hagen) has for years been obsessed with the Oseberg Viking ship. The only inscription found on the ship is the enigmatic ´man knows little` written in runes. Sigurd is sure that the Oseberg ship contains the answer to the mystery of Ragnarok, the end of days in Norse mythology. When his friend Allan finds similar runes on a stone from the north of Norway, Sigurd becomes convinced that the runes are in fact a treasure map. Together they mount an expedition group and their adventure leads to “No man’s Land” between Norway and Russia, which has been deserted for decades. Here Sigurd learns the true meaning of the runes – a secret more terrifying than he could possibly imagine.

I can’t say enough positive things about this film. It is simply that good! And I plan on letting my kids watch it soon. I don’t say that very often on here, as most of what I watch is not kid-friendly…but this one is a big win in the family-friendly fun department.

RAGNAROK is shot well and looks amazing onscreen. The film is shot in both Norway and Sweden, and the cinematography does a stellar job of capturing the beauty and majesty of both lands. I was interested in visiting both countries prior to watching this film, but I want to go even more so now.

The acting is excellent, although I am not familiar with any of the actors, unfortunately. The special effects are also superb; the CG is blended perfectly, and I never once thought anything looked askew. The story is intriguing and compelling, a perfect hybrid of mystery and adventure.

RAGNAROK is a huge win for me, and I recommend anyone and everyone giving it a look. Some of the intensity might be too much for younger viewers (which is why the film has a PG-13 rating), so parents of smaller kids might want to check this one out beforehand. But otherwise, this a family-friendly movie that packs a punch! It hits store shelves next week, so make a note.

MSB

TV Show Review – Ancient Aliens, The Complete Seasons 1-6

Ancient Aliens
Courtesy of Lionsgate and The History Channel
Release Date: November 11, 2014

ancient aliens

The concept of extraterrestrials influencing mankind’s evolution has been around for many years. Scientists have theorized about it while science-fiction authors have written about it off and on for decades. Still, there has never been a comprehensive analysis of the facts involved…until now. The fine folks at The History Channel have teamed up with Lionsgate to release ANCIENT ALIENS: THE COMPLETE SEASONS 1-6 on DVD. This 23-disc collection is a Must Have for fans of riveting documentary television or anyone who has ever questioned our history books. And regardless of whether or not you are new to the show, this series will definitely make you question a few things about everyday life.

If you are not familiar with ANCIENT ALIENS, here is the series’ plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

HISTORY® takes you on a mind-bending journey into our deep past with the monumental gift set, ANCIENT ALIENS®: SEASONS 1–6. From 75 million years of the most credible evidence unearthed, we’ll explore the ancient and mysterious, from sacred relics, artifacts, and wall carvings to technologies, places, and lore, all in a search for the humankind’s origins and even the secrets of the universe. New interpretations of ancient texts reveal new historical possibilities: Were ancient gods really aliens? Was Satan really humanity’s ally in the Bible? This groundbreaking HISTORY® series also uncovers the alien dimension within secret codes, deadly cults, mega-disasters, and plagues; alien connections to dinosaurs, NASA, and even the Third Reich; and considers time travel, underwater UFO activity, ancient martian civilizations, the possibility that some children have alien DNA — and if you can believe it, much more. Experience the trip of a lifetime (or many) in this mother of all gift sets.

I have to confess I had only watched ANCIENT ALIENS a couple of times prior to receiving this complete set. I liked what I saw, which is what prompted me to check out the whole series. And I’m certainly glad I did! This is an amazing show, chocked full of informative facts and intelligent speculation.

Each episode is carefully crafted around specific subjects, such as Mysterious Places, Aliens and Mysterious Rituals, The NASA Connection, and much, much more. The evidence is presented in an easy-to-understand way, which allows for more learning and less frustration; there’s nothing worse than struggling to understand an interesting topic because the information is given in a manner way above the layperson’s head. That is not an issue at all here, thankfully.

I think what impresses me the most about this collection is how it ALL ties in together. Despite the hundreds of individual topics and speculations presented throughout the show, the data all seems to circle back to the singular, primary theme: we have been visited before. Every episode tackles tough-to-answer questions, but the end result is the same.

Another big draw for this ANCIENT ALIENS set is the packaging. Yes, this might sound strange, but this set is impressive to look at on the shelf. Some collections are just sold in rinky-dink packages that don’t hold up. But the case for this one is thick and holds the 23 discs easily. This will make an amazing gift to give someone for any reason.

ANCIENT ALIENS: THE COMPLETE SEASONS 1-6 is a huge win for me, and I recommend picking this up immediately. Even if you’ve never watched the show before and are just curious, this is the definitive look into a complex theory. The collection is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – A Haunting at Preston Castle (2014)

A Haunting at Preston Castle
Directed by Martin Rosenberg
Courtesy of Inception Media Group
Release Date: October 7, 2014

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When I first read the premise for A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE, I was ready to roll my eyes and sigh. The overall concept is not a new one by any means, and some fans of the horror genre might even say it has been overdone to the point of absurdity. But, ever the optimist, I decided to give this on a look anyway; after all, sometimes you can find a true gem amidst all the duds, right? Unfortunately, this film does not bring anything new to the table, nor does it even shine among the hundreds of haunted-building titles on the market today. Even so, it does have a few scares and some intensity that carries through to the end.

If you are not familiar with A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Inception Media Group:

When Liz (Mackenzie Firgens) returns home on a college break, her best friend Ashley (Heather Tocquigny) coaxes her out for a rendezvous with ex-boyfriend Danny (Jake White) at PRESTON CASTLE, an abandoned boys correctional institute with a gruesome past. What begins as a dare for the three teens seeking weekend excitement, turns into a grisly nightmare as they try to escape an evil presence still lurking on the terrifying grounds. As they probe the decaying depths and shadows of PRESTON CASTLE, they find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble with no way out from the maze of rooms and locked doors. Trapped inside, they’re caught in a horrifying life and death struggle with the unstoppable evil. Will they all survive the night? Based on real events.

I was hoping this film would be much more than it is. Sadly, it’s just a rehashing of the same things we’ve already seen: teens go into a building rumored to be haunted, bad things happen, the lights go out, and then everybody disappears in one way or another. That’s pretty much it. Granted, that’s the formula for MANY horror movies…but I am looking for something more unique.

A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE is shot well for the most part, however I do have to comment on the not-so-subtle use of zooming in on two characters while they are in the middle of their dialogue. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind this, but it happens several times in the film. If it’s meant to be artistic, it’s not…it’s simply annoying more than anything else.

The acting is so-so, with a mediocre cast that can’t decide whether or not to like each other. I think this is my biggest problem with the characterizations. At first, they’re all buddy-buddy. But when they reach the castle, the two girls quickly turn into hateful wenches, while the guy turns into a piddling wuss. This complete reversal made me go “Huh?” and then lose all interest into whether or not the characters survived.

The special effects in A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE are not too bad, although they look cheap in certain places when compared to other films. Still, they are a big reason for the few jump-scenes that occur. I actually smiled once, after one of these images startled me when I wasn’t expecting it. This small fright was a nice break from the tedium of watching the characters bicker at each other.

A HAUNTING AT PRESTON CASTLE is nothing you have not seen before if you are a horror fan, and the few surprises it does contain are not enough to carry it as a heavyweight fright flick. While it’s not the worst film I’ve seen this year, I am not recommending it, unless this kind of movie is your thing. It is available now in a variety of formats if you choose to take a chance on it.

MSB