Documentary Review – Video Games: The Movie (2015)

Video Games: The Movie
Directed by Jeremy Snead
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: February 3, 2015

videogame-the-movie-cover

I am proud to say I have been a gamer for a large portion of my life. My folks brought home an Atari 2600 when I was around eight years-old, and I have been addicted to video games ever since. I say this with a certain amount of pride, because I feel like games have helped shape who I am. My passion for science fiction, fantasy, and horror probably stems in part from them, and my vivid imagination is a result of them as well. But even though I’ve been a fan for a long time, I’ve never bothered to look into the history of this multi-billion dollar industry. VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is an informative 90-minute documentary that shows the rise of this continuously changing art form and its influence on modern-day culture.

If you are not familiar with VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE, here is the synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

From nerd niche to a multi-billion dollar industry, this is the story of video games from the minds of their greatest creators and super-players. Featuring your favorite industry, gamer and geek icons including Zach Braff, Chris Hardwick and Sean Astin.

I am a huge geek for things like this. I’m one of those guys that likes to know where my passions come from, whether its the origins of horror movies or the rise of our current video game society. Appreciating the how and the why of something makes the love for it even greater, I believe.

VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is shot well, in traditional documentary form, but it is also crammed full of clips and snippets from hundreds of popular and obscure video games. In addition, the film includes interviews with many industry experts, including company heads, game designers, storyline creators, players, and more. These are all combined with a massive, digital timeline that chronicles the birth and rise of the gaming industry and its evolution over the years.

The information contained within this documentary is tremendous. It gives insight into several facets of the industry, including technological advances, immersion via virtual reality, progressive storylines vs. linear gameplay, and much more. You would be hard pressed to find a documentary as extensive as this one.

VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE is a huge win for me, and every gamer out there should give this a look. Part informative and part nostalgia, this film will bring back memories and reinstate your yearning for gaming. It is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Exists (2015)

Exists
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: February 3, 2015

exists

Director Eduardo Sanchez is a man of many talents, and he is responsible for several excellent films I’ve seen of late. Although he is most well-known for the infamous BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which is one of my favorite horror flicks, he has also done a diversity of horror-related projects. These include ALTERED, his 2006 take on alien abduction; a segment in V/H/S/2 titled “A Ride in the Park”, in which a bicycle enthusiast runs into a group of zombies and the audience gets to enjoy the chaos courtesy of his GoPro camera; and today’s featured review, EXISTS, a visceral excursion into eastern Texas horror. I am proud to say EXISTS is a hell of a movie, and it makes Bigfoot scary again!

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

For five friends, it was a chance for a summer getaway— a weekend of camping in the Texas Big Thicket. But visions of a carefree vacation are shattered with an accident on a dark and desolate country road. In the wake of the accident, a bloodcurdling force of nature is unleashed—something not exactly human, but not completely animal— an urban legend come to terrifying life…and seeking murderous revenge.

When will distribution companies learn that you DO NOT put the monster/creature/antagonist on the cover artwork?? This is supposed to be a ‘big reveal’ in most horror flicks. That is my sole complaint about the packaging for this film. And what makes it even worse is the image on the cover is not even what the creature looks like in the film! But, you should never judge a movie solely by its cover, so we’ll move on past that.

EXISTS is shot well, even considering it is from a first-person perspective. This works for the film, as it did in BLAIR WITCH and countless other films, because it helps heighten the intensity and, therefore, the terror. I love ‘found-footage’ films when they are done well for this very fact alone, and EXISTS utilizes this film style to its full advantage.

The acting in EXISTS is good for the most part, although the characters are never fully fleshed out. Granted, in the short time we get to know them, we DO find a few things to like about them overall, but I would have liked to have more backstory on them, so I could feel more for them once the horrific events start to happen. This isn’t a huge drawback, but just something I feel is of note.

The special effects are great, although there’s not a whole lot of gore. Instead, director Sanchez relies more on practical scares than vivid carnage. And while I’m a fan of gore, I’m also a big fan of being scared regardless, therefore this is a huge selling point for me on the film. I also like the creature effects. The special effects team makes Bigfoot look very realistic, a point of emphasis on which every creature-feature should focus. As I mentioned above, EXISTS makes this myth terrifying once again, and the appearance of the creature itself is a big reason for this.

EXISTS is a definite win for me, and I highly recommend this film to anyone who likes their monsters beastly and vicious. The film is available now, so check it out.

MSB

Movie Review – Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard (2015)

Zombie Killers: Elephant’s Graveyard
Directed by Harrison Smith
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: February 3, 2015

zombie-killers

I wasn’t sure what to expect with ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD because the title is a bit, um, “different” than what you would expect from a zombie flick. To be honest, I was downright confused. What do elephants or even an elephant’s graveyard have to do with the walking dead? I hoped the film would explain, and thankfully, it does. As it turns out, the title is a nifty description for an aspect of the zombie apocalypse in this film. And while ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD is not an excellent entry into the genre, it is still a fun film that fans of the living dead will want to check out.

If you are not familiar with ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

The rural town of Elwood has become a “bubble” against the backdrop of a global infection where humans don’t die, but instead roam the land looking to spread the sickness in a grisly, horrific way. The “Zombie Killers,” a small band of young adults, trained by military vet, Seiler (Billy Zane) have sworn to protect the town and aim for the head if anything threatens Elwood’s last survivors.

Ok, now it’s confession time: I like Billy Zane as an actor. I’ve liked him for a long time, stretching as far back as 1995, when I first saw him in TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT. So when I heard he was in this film, I knew I had to give it a look. I’m happy to report he gives a good performance in this film.

ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD is shot well and looks decent onscreen. The production value appears somewhat low, but that is understandable, given the low-budget nature of the film. My sole complaint about the production is that everything in the film looks too clean; I would assume in a zombie apocalypse that clean clothing and nice houses with well-kept yards would be things of the past. Not so here.

The acting is pretty good overall, although it does come with the expected mishmash of talent which is common for indie films. Dee Wallace is always excellent onscreen, and Mischa Barton does a great job with her role…but a few of the younger zombie killers are lifeless with their line deliveries, making them almost nonexistent to me in the film. This doesn’t actually detract too much from the film, however, as it can be easily overlooked.

The special effects in ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD are also a mixed bag. The zombie effects are nice and there’s even some great gore. However the CG in the film almost looks laughable at times. Of particular note is when the infected fish are jumping out of the water at one of the zombie killers. This looked so cheesy, I think I would have preferred rubber fish being thrown at the actress instead.

The storyline is good, however it is not fully fleshed out. I like the concept behind the zombie outbreak, and I see where the director is trying to go…but the plot never fully reaches its potential. As a result, there are some confusing loose ends left. I would wager, just by the ending, that a sequel is in the works (I hope so…I would like to see where this goes), but I cannot confirm that.

Still, despite its shortcomings, ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD is a zombie flick with bite and a lot of heart. You can tell this film is made by a true zombie fan who is striving to get things right. And while it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I recommend ZOMBIE KILLERS: ELEPHANT’S GRAVEYARD to anyone looking for a decent indie zombie flick. It is available today in a variety of formats.

MSB