Blu-ray Movie Review – The Creeping Garden

The Creeping Garden
Directed by Tim Grabham & Jasper Sharp
Courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 2014
Release Date: March 28, 2017

I’ve seen some interesting, fascinating, and downright freaky stuff in my 40+ years on this planet, but I am continuously impressed with the amount of new material that pops up to fit that bill on a daily basis these days. It seems like many of these noteworthy tidbits are in the realm of science, and probably rightfully so: we create new ways to study the world around us at about the same rate that we learn things about it.

THE CREEPING GARDEN is a captivating look at a little-known aspect of the world beneath us: slime molds. If you have never heard of slime molds, you are not alone; this uncommon branch of mycology (the study of fungi) is a newly emerging field, and as such, information about it has been slow to reach the general public. THE CREEPING GARDEN offers a unique and entertaining glimpse into this fascinating world.

If you are not familiar with THE CREEPING GARDEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution:

A REAL-LIFE SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIE EXPLORING A WORLD CREEPING RIGHT BENEATH OUR FEET, WHERE TIME AND SPACE ARE MAGNIFIED AND INTELLIGENCE REDEFINED.

The Creeping Garden is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mould as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them.

Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction. The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us.

Co-directed by the artist film-maker Tim Grabham (KanZeOn) and author and film critic Jasper Sharp, with an original soundtrack composed by celebrated musician and producer Jim O Rourke (Sonic Youth, Grizzly Man), The Creeping Garden is a unique exploration into a hitherto untapped subject matter, immersing the viewer within the worlds of the observers and the observed.

This documentary is one of the most visually appealing works I’ve seen in a long time. The imagery it presents is bizarre and abstract but beautiful and mysterious at the same time. If you watch this film, and I suggest you do, be prepared for a chromatic feast.

THE CREEPING GARDEN is shot well and, as mentioned, offers high definition, vivid visuals to accentuate the information it presents. I can see why some viewers have called this a true-life science fiction film because it offers a spectacle much like a Kubrick film.

The subject matter is approached cautiously, so as to inform as well as entertain. This is one of the big reasons I enjoyed the film so much; I didn’t feel at all like it was talking down to me, and I didn’t too difficult of a time understanding what was being explained. I’m not sure how well I could relay what I learned, but I feel more knowledgeable about slime molds and the like than before.

THE CREEPING GARDEN is a beautiful and entrancing film, and I recommend it. The striking imagery is accompanied nicely with a new-age style soundtrack, which is available on a separate disk in this set. Also included are some interesting special features that include:

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
* Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
* Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first biocomputer music system, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mould
* Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens
* Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime moulds
* Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009), Rotten (2012) and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)
* Angela Mele’s animated slime moulds
* Gallery
* US theatrical trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
* THE CREEPING GARDEN SOUNDTRACK [Limited Edition Exclusive]
* Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to The Creeping Garden by legendary producer and musician Jim O’Rourke
PLUS… FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet containing writing on the film by Jasper Sharp

THE CREEPING GARDEN is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Minutes Past Midnight (2017)

Minutes Past Midnight
Directed by Various Directors
Courtesy of Unstable Ground
Release Date: February 7, 2017

I never tire of anthologies, and I seriously doubt if I ever will. They are quick shots of entertainment that, if done right, can be fun and satisfying. On the flip side, if they are crappy in quality, then they are over fairly quickly and the viewer can move on to something else.

I’m very happy to report MINUTES PAST MIDNIGHT is an excellent foray into this short film territory, chocked full of a wide variety of terror and mayhem. The collection contains nine films, and they each have merit for inclusion here. With originality, humor, and several hefty slices of horror, this is a collection every horror fan will want to pick up soon.

If you are not familiar with MINUTES PAST MIDNIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of

As midnight falls, all manner of terror invades the Earth. Demons, cannibals, killers, ghosts and monsters swarm the world in these tales of the supernatural, the fantastic, and the just plain horrific. Featuring nine stories of horror, curated from Rue Morgue and Unstable Ground’s Little Terrors film festival.

This anthology contains a lot of talent, and I wager we will be seeing these filmmakers again in the future. In fact, a couple of these shorts have great set-ups for feature length films. I’d love to see how well they could be fleshed out with a bigger budget.

Each film in MINUTES PAST MIDNIGHT is a spectacle in its own right. They are all shot well, look great onscreen, and offer a nice assortment of entertainment options: from horror comedy to dramatic horror to downright, sweat-inducing terror. I will admit there are a few I enjoyed more than others, but that’s pretty much the case in every anthology I run across.

“Never Tear Us Apart” is a great looking short with a nice twist I didn’t see coming. It also has some of the best gore effects in the whole anthology.

“Awake” is a chilling look into a warped mind, but I don’t understand it completely. I think I know where the filmmaker was going, but I never fully made the connection. Still, this one will haunt you after its done.

“Crazy for You” is the story of a young man who falls in love with a woman, but a major obstacle is destined to keep them apart: the man is a serial killer. This witty short is a classic love story gone awry.

“The Mill at Calder’s End” is a Tim Burton-esque short that skillfully employs puppets to tell its tale. I like the visual style of this film and how it relays the story.

“Roid Rage” is a humorous story that jumps around a bit, but I like the play on words (you’ll have to watch it to understand). This also has some nice (albeit campy in places) gore.

“Timothy” regales a young boy’s obsession with a fictional television rabbit…and the unpleasantness that ensues when the boy’s babysitter discovers the rabbit is actually real. This one has some nice intensity.

“Horrific” is another humorous entry, however this one goes out of its way to be campy. In this story, a backwoods local is accosted by a pesky chupacabra, which results in a lot of broken furniture and bones.

My two favorites in this collection are “Feeder” and “Ghost Train.”

“Feeder” shows how the cost of success can be more than you bargained for at first. This film is moody and atmospheric, and the story is intense.

“Ghost Train” is a tale of two men who meet at an abandoned carnival ride at the same time every year to honor the loss of their friend, who vanished on the same ride years ago. This year, however, things take a different turn. This one is probably my absolute favorite because the ending is beyond shocking, and it still haunts me.

MINUTES PAST MIDNIGHT is a great collection of films, and I highly recommend it to horror fans of every caliber. It is available now.

MSB

I’m not dead…I promise!

As some of you might have noticed, the blog has been idle for a few ideas. For those of you that did NOT notice, we will have a separate (and more violent) discussion later.

I had surgery last week, but all is well. I’m recovering nicely, and I’ve had some extra time to watch a few extra screeners. So…I’ll start posting reviews again soon, perhaps even later today. Until then, peruse Shattered Ravings for older posts…go back and read some that you might have overlooked. I’ve got years worth of information on here, so dig in!

We will return to our regularly scheduled reviewing very soon.

MSB

TV Show Review – The Starlost: The Complete Series (1973)

The Starlost: The Complete Series
Courtesy of VCI Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 1973
DVD Release Date: September 30, 2008

You’re probably thinking that you won’t care anything about this review because this title is so old.

Well think again!

If you are any kind of science fiction fan, you owe it to yourself to check out THE STARLOST. Sure, it’s obviously dated (it came out a year before I was born, so that tells you something!), but look past the corny costumes and outlandish hairstyles. If you do, you’ll find a gripping and enthralling show that will hook you from the start!

If you are not familiar with THE STARLOST, here is the show’s plot synopsis courtesy of VCI Entertainment:

After an Earth-destroying threat endangers the planet, Mankind builds a gigantic Earthship Ark spacecraft to save the last of humanity. After an accident takes place and kills the crew, the airlocks connecting the ship’s domes are sealed. Cut off from the outside world, many communities simply forgot that they were on a spacecraft. As the centuries pass, each culture evolves in an enclosed society, each a world unto itself that is fifty miles in diameter. Unbeknownst to the ARK’s inhabitants, they are drifting through deep space on a collision course with a sun. In 2790 A.D., a young man named Devon (Keir Dullea from “2001: A Space Odyssey”), a resident of a biosphere called Cypress Corners, discovers that his world is much larger than he was taught to believe and uncovers the Ark’s fate. Devon and friends Rachel (Gay Rowan) and Garth (Robin Ward) must learn all they can about the Ark if they are to save it and the colonists aboard. The Starlost was a Canadian-produced science fiction television series that broadcasted in 1973 on CTV in Canada and on NBC in the United States. Now for the first time all 16 episodes are available in this collection. Some of these episodes have not been seen since their original airdates.

As I mentioned above, this show is obviously dated from the hairstyles and the clothing, but don’t let that dissuade you from watching. Those are minor observations that peek through; the story itself and the drama that unfolds are why you should give this a look.

THE STARLOST is shot fairly well and looks pretty good, all things considered. The show definitely has a “DOCTOR WHO” style vibe, but that’s not a bad thing. If anything, it helps add to the series’ charm. I am impressed with what the production crew accomplished for their time period.

The acting is a little on the hammy side, but that’s primarily due to the script. Some of the dialogue is hokey, although again, it is forgivable. I don’t think anybody will win any awards for their performances, so don’t expect Academy Award level talent.

The special effects are impressive in some aspects, but lacking in others. The outside shots of the ship are excellent. I had no trouble believing this was an actual starship in space. But the rest of the effects, such as the interior shots of the ship, are a bit lacking. Once again, I am trying to take into consideration the time period; back in those days, low budget meant LOW budget…they did not have anywhere near the access to cheap technology that we do today.

But the plotline is why you should watch this show. It is chocked full of mystery and intensity. The concept reminds me of STARGATE: UNIVERSE, which is one of the primary reasons I wanted to watch this one. And it does not disappoint. I really enjoyed it, and I recommend it anyone looking for vintage science fiction. The complete series is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Sing (2017)

Sing
Directed by Christophe Lourdelet & Garth Jennings
Courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2017

I have to confess: I didn’t have high expectations prior to watching SING. I thought, “Oh yay…another film about a singing contest.” With numerous such movies like PITCH PERFECT and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, along with TV shows like GLEE, I figured this was yet another attempt to exploit a saturated market. But my wife and son saw SING in the theater, and they liked it…so I figured I might as well give it a look.

Oh man…am I glad I did!!

SING is nothing like any of those other titles I mentioned, and that is definitely a good thing. Despite its simplistic plot, the film is a look at the complexities involved with a group of (nonhuman) characters who are trying to put aside the rigors of their normal lives and fulfill a dream. And if you think you’ve seen movies like this before, you’re in for a real treat: SING blows them all out of the water.

If you are not familiar with SING, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment:

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Illumination Entertainment’s SING stars Buster Moon (Academy Award Winner Matthew McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-great theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

A big part of what makes this film so entertaining is, well, the singing. This might sound overtly obvious, but the talented, big-name cast members do a fantastic job performing their songs. The result is a comedic and toe-tapping foray into fun.

SING looks amazing onscreen, thanks to the 4K Ultra Hd. The colors are vivid and vibrant, and they blast off the screen. Similarly, the Dolby Atmos configured soundtrack is superb. The ambient sound is crisp, and the songs blaze through the speakers as if you were standing right there in front of the singers. I highly recommend watching this in 4K if at all possible.

The acting is excellent, with the whole cast doing an outstanding job, both with their roles and their singing. Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson shine as Rosita and Ash, while Seth MacFarlane shows his talented range as the mouse, Mike. Brit Taron Egerton even does a fine job as Johnny, the gorilla. Matthew McConaughey doesn’t sing, but he’s top-notch and very funny as Buster. But Tori Kelly steals the show as Meena, the shy elephant with a huge voice.

The laughs are bountiful and the music is enchanting in SING, a fantastic movie the whole family will enjoy. I highly recommend SING, and I suggest checking it out in 4K Ultra HD, if possible. But regardless of what format you choose, give this one a look (and listen) for sure. SING hits store shelves next week.

MSB

Movie Review – Officer Downe (2017)

Officer Downe
Directed by Shawn Crahan
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: February 28, 2017

You’re going to hate OFFICER DOWNE.

Or, you’re going to love it.

There’s pretty much no in between. And I know this because I’ve done some digging online. After I finished the movie, I started surfing some of my regular sites and reading reviews. Folks appear to be very opinionated on the film, either for the good or the bad.

Personally, I enjoyed OFFICER DOWNE. It’s campy and cheesy, and it’s certainly over the top…and those are the very reasons I like it. Granted, I’ve never read the graphic novel, so I’m not sure if that’s the way it’s supposed to come across. But as for the film, it works. If you don’t go into this expecting a serious film, and take the movie for what it is, you’ll love it.

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

Take a ride along in a hyper-real Los Angeles for the story of a savage L.A. policeman who is repeatedly resurrected and returned to active duty through dark science technology. When a rookie officer is recruited as backup, he discovers there’s much more to the reputed super-cop than a mindless law enforcement drone warring against a twisted rogue gallery of over-the-top super-villains. From the graphic novel by Joe Casey and Chris Burnham.

OFFICER DOWNE is one of those films you’ll probably watch several times through, just to see if you missed anything. It’s a chaotic, gun-slinging romp with a massive body count and fountains of blood-sprays…you can’t ask for much more out of a movie like this.

OFFICER DOWNE is shot well and looks great onscreen. It is filmed in a sort of hyper-realism style, similar to the way 300 looks, which greatly enhances the fun. The special effects look even more exaggerated in super-HD, and that fits perfectly with this film.

And speaking of special effects, they are pretty good as a whole. Several shots depict definite CG images, but they still blend fairly well into the film; only a couple stand out as obvious. There’s quite a bit of gore, including some phenomenal death scenes. One in particular that stands out takes place during a firefight with gun-dealing nuns; Downe slides through her legs and shoots upward, into her crotch. The resulting impact looks like a grenade goes off in her pocket. It’s crazy good.

The acting is a bit campy, but again…that’s what this movie is about. Kim Coates shines as Officer Downe. He is supported by a decent cast, although nobody gives any award-winning performances.

That’s perfectly fine, though, because OFFICER DOWNE still entertained me, and I found it to be a lot of fun to behold. If you keep your expectations in check and give this one a look, it’ll take you on quirky but enjoyable ride.

MSB

Adult Coloring Book Review – Call of Cthulhu: The Coloring Book by Andrey Fetisov

Call of Cthulhu: The Coloring Book
By Andrey Fetisov
Courtesy of Chaosium
Release Date: Available Now

If you’ve followed my ramblings on here for any length of time, then you already know how much I love Lovecraft’s work, particularly the Cthulhu mythos. As I’ve stated up-teen times, the man was a genius and way ahead of his time. The truth in this statement can be proven by the number of authors and artists who pay homage to his work even now.

Such is the case with Andrey Fetisov’s CALL OF CTHULHU: THE COLORING BOOK. With this collection, Fetisov and the fine folks at Chaosium offer up a nice variety of scenes to color from several of Lovecraft’s tales. Even if you’re not a fan of the author, or if you’re not interested in horror, this assemblage is still a must-have for any coloring enthusiast looking for originality and fun.

If you’re not familiar with CALL OF CTHULHU: THE COLORING BOOK, here is the book’s description courtesy of Chaosium:

Enjoy coloring an amazing array of scenes, with striking images from H.P. Lovecraft’s stories¬—and the Call of Cthulhu RPG his imagination inspired (Horror on the Orient Express, Masks of Nyarlathotep, The Fungi from Yuggoth and more).

I was going to color a few pages to post with this review, but my coloring skills are greatly lacking, and therefore the impact of the pictures would be lost. Thus, you’ll have to be content with checking out the uncolored shots instead.


[Click to enlarge]

The pictures in this book are brought to life with striking and vivid detail. Each tells a story within itself, but it also complements the source material to a striking degree.


[Click to enlarge]

As you can see, the pictures have a high degree of fine points, and they do a fantastic job conveying Lovecraft’s dark themes.


[Click to enlarge]

As a rabid fan of his work, I’m proud to share this coloring book with you, and I suggest you snag a copy while you can. I wager these will be highly sought after, and therefore there’s no telling how long they will be available. Click the link above to head over to Chaosium’s website and get your copy today!

MSB

Book Review – Nightwalk 2 by D. Nathan Hilliard

Nightwalk 2
by D. Nathan Hilliard
Courtesy of the author
Release Date: December 17, 2016

For anybody who has ever wondered what Hell on Earth might be like, allow me to introduce you to D. Nathan Hilliard’s NIGHTWALK books. I just finished the most recent release, which is book 2, and I have to say: Hilliard knows how to entertain, and then some! The concept he unravels in this one is simply brilliant, and it is an excellent complement to its predecessor. If you like original, inventive horror, give the NIGHTWALK books a try!

If you are not familiar with NIGHTWALK 2, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the author:

Mark Garrett is about to go home again…
Two years have passed since the disaster at Coventry Woods, and Mark has made a good effort at recovering from the ordeal. He has published a new novel, replaced his lost belongings, and bought a new house in New Mexico. Life is finally moving on. He’s hidden the few scars that remain, and with Casey having left for college he looks forward to a comfortable future with his wife.

But the past is not done with Mark Garrett.

The enigmatic man in white has returned and announced the world is doomed. Another survivor of Coventry Woods has sealed its fate. The future’s only hope is for Mark to go back to that terrible night, and once again navigate his way through a death infested hell. Only this time he won’t be trying to escape. His mission is to intercept and kill a man he’s never met.

Now the clock is ticking as Mark races against a nuclear deadline. He must save the future, while at the same time trying to minimize his impact on a past that will not hesitate to eat him alive. And as he soon discovers, any change he makes can cause unexpected complications…especially when he gets stuck with the last travelling companion he would have ever wanted.

I had the honor of reviewing book one back in 2015 (click here to read that review), and I’m so, so glad I got to review this one as well. Indie authors sometimes have a hard time spreading the word about their work, therefore I’m always glad to help promote those titles that are worthy. Such is the case with Hilliard’s work; if you’ve never read him, get on the boat NOW! Check out Amazon or even his author page for details on ordering. And if you’re already a fan, then get ready for some fun…NIGHTWALK 2 is going to take you on a unique ride!

Just like every book before, NIGHTWALK 2 is written very well and flows at a nice pace. Hilliard does an excellent job of pulling the reader in from the start and never letting go.

The characters are once again vibrant and real. I mentioned in my review of book one that there are no stereotypes in the story; that statement is still true here. Too many books are ruined because of poor characterization. Thankfully, Hilliard has a firm grasp on making characters that readers will relate to and find interesting.

The story in NIGHTWALK 2 is absolutely amazing. I have to give major kudos to the author for coming up with such an original concept: the main character of a previous book reliving the same events, but from a different perspective…this is wildly fun, particularly when things don’t go as planned. As a result, although the scenario is technically the same, the happenings have a completely different outcome. I don’t want to go into details, as that will spoil the story. But needless to say, you’ll be captivated until the end!

NIGHTWALK 2 is another major win for me, and I CANNOT WAIT to see what Hilliard has in store for us avid fans next. NIGHTWALK 2 is available now in a variety of formats. Add this to your reading list now!

MSB

Movie Review – Bad Kids of Crestview Academy (2017)

Bad Kids of Crestview Academy
Directed by Ben Browder
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 7, 2017

Movies that are based on comic books and graphic novels are very hit-and-miss these days. Some adaptations are excellent, such as most Marvel movies made in the past decade, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, and even THE WALKING DEAD. Others, however, miss the mark completely; I’m talking specifically about films like BATMAN & ROBIN, FANTASTIC FOUR (both films), and SPAWN.

Thankfully, the recent film adaptation of BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY is on the first list. I confess I didn’t see the previous film, BAD KIDS GO TO HELL (also based on a graphic novel), however you needn’t see it before watching this one; it works perfectly well as a stand-alone.

BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY is a darkly humorous trek into violence and revenge. It’s got some great gore and some inventive ways of “offing” people. And while I’d technically classify it as a horror-comedy, it’s still a fun, cringe-inducing, and vicious foray into madness.

If you are not familiar with BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:

Based on the best-selling graphic novel series, a group of spoiled “bad kids” have been placed in Saturday detention at the prestigious Crestview Academy. After one of the kids locks away their teacher, they find themselves trapped in school with no way out, wondering who (or what) set them up. Their ranks quickly dwindle as each falls victim to a gruesome “accident” while trying to escape.

I had A LOT of fun with this film. Prior to watching it, I was vaguely familiar with the comic, therefore I knew a little bit of what to expect. But nothing could prepare me for the all-out mayhem that ensues right from the start.

BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY is shot well and looks great onscreen. The production value appears high, and the crew seems to do a great job utilizing the budget. I like how they didn’t spare much expense on the special effects. The gore is nice and effective, which in turn makes the movie more fun.

The acting is adequate for the film, although I don’t think anybody will win any awards for it. Sammi Hanratty does a fine job as the main character, Siouxsie. Drake Bell, who fans of Nickelodeon will remember from Drake & Josh, is pretty good as slacker Ben. Even Sean Astin, who plays Headmaster Nash, does a decent job. But even so, nobody really shines.

That doesn’t detract much from the film, because BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY is all about being bad, and the kids from Crestview are good at it. I love how the traditional stereotypes are all present in the cast, yet no one is safe from having an “accident”. And when the fatalities happen, they are over-the-top and entertaining. There’s a nice dose of carnage for gore-hounds, while fans of the “whodunit” aspect should also be entertained.

BAD KIDS OF CRESTVIEW ACADEMY is a win for me, and I recommend giving it a look. It’s schlocky, dark-hearted fun, so be prepared to wince as you laugh. The film is available today in a variety of formats.

MSB