Television Review: The Walking Dead Season 5 (2014)

norman-reedus-steven-yeun-the-walking-dead-season-5-01-2000x1000The fifth season of The Walking Dead picks up quickly from where the previous finale left off with our survivors discovering the terrible truth behind Terminus and quickly marches ahead almost like an odyssey through the zombie infested wasteland as characters meet tragic fates and an almost too good to be true opportunity tests their resolves as they struggle with the reconciliation with what life has made each of them over the last two years do to survive and whether they could ever reintegrate within civil society again. The zombie threat continues to be great as some characters are graphically eaten alive with shockingly greater amounts of gore than has been previously exhibited before. Perhaps it not really more gory, but it is the close ups in particular with one character that is simply disturbing because the actor playing the victim was the star of a popular sitcom on American broadcast television for several years.

The performances and casting are all up to the same quality we have come to expect from the previous seasons and one is left with great wonder for the sixth season to come which will debut in the States on AMC this October of 2015. All sixteen episodes are spread out across four Blu-Ray Discs with the majority of the extra value features found on the fifth disc. Each episode is presented in a gorgeous (1.78:1) broadcasts aspect ratio in full 1080p24fps, (where available), high definition resolution and English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Sound as well as a French Language Dubbed Dolby Surround Soundtrack with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles encoded as options too.

The audio commentaries are informative and in some cases were recorded during the production of the sixth season with speakers sounding like they are in the same room despite very often the participants may be talking with one or more in Los Angeles and the rest on location in Georgia where the series is shot. The fifth season premiere features two episode length audio commentaries. One with Executive Producer Scott M. Completely and Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd while Makeup Effects Master and Series Director Gregory Nicotero does the other track with Actress Melissa McBride. On disc two, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Christian Serratos, Lauren Cohan, Josh McDermitt, and Allanna Masterson participate in the commentary for the episode, “Self Help.”

wd5Chad Coleman and Gregory Nicotero deliver a screen specific audio commentary on disc three for the episode “What Happened and What’s Going On” while Norman Reedus, Sonequa Martin-Green participate with series Director Julius Ramsay participate in an episode commentary track and a third audio commentary with Greg Nicotero Tom Luse and Danai Gurrira making it a total of three episode length audio commentaries on disc three. The season finale episode features optional audio commentary with Gregory Nicotero and Scott M. Gimple on disc four.

A reel of deleted scenes (16:01), sixteen making of spots as well as sixteen inside featurettes are also included along with featurettes covering the making of Alexandria (9:45), the character arcs of Beth (4:20), Bob (4:54), Noah (4:28) and Tyreese (6:33), featurettes of a day on the set for Actors Michael Cudlitz (7:58) and Josh McDermitt (7:56) and the liquified walkers sequence (4:35) encompass what is on the fifth disc. A few short AMC TV spots for the upcoming season premieres of Comic Book Men and The Walking Dead and series premieres of Fear The Walking Dead and Into The Badlands are on the first disc too. The interactive menus are all well rendered and easy to navigate. An insert containing a limited time only redemption code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of Season Five of The Walking Dead and a twenty page booklet of tie-in merchandise are included within the blue BD case too.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season is available now at retailers on and offline either on Blu-Ray Disc or DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Movie Review: Final Girl (2015)

Final GirlAbigail Breslin portrays a young would be assassin trained from childhood by her mentor (Wes Bentley), who is assigned the task of killing a bunch of tuxedo wearing high school sadists who every night hunt young blond women for sport. This is her first assignment where she will be flying solo as they say and she must use were wits to lure in and single handedly defeat each boy. Final Girl was directed by renowned celebrity photographer Tyler Shields, who wanted to make a thriller without any CGI and instead uses evocative lighting and atmosphere to bring the surreal world to life. Visually the forest scenes look great and there are some bizarre instances where characters imagine things they think are in the forest to torment that lend gravitas to the film. The problem here is while Shields creates a surreal world of barren training grounds, nostalgic diners, and spooky moonlit woods, the story suffers from a lack of meaningful momentum. We know very little to practically nothing about Breslin’s or Bentley’s characters and we know even less about the boys other than they pick up and target young blonds out of what appears to be the same diner over and over again while wearing tuxedos and then take them into a clearing where they give the girl a head start while the boys, who one must keep in mind are still wearing immaculate tuxedos follow each with their weapon of choice.

One boys uses a bat, another carries an axe, one carries a gun while the other seems to prefer using his bear hands to strangle the women. How no one would have caught these for teenage murderers by now is never explained. They certainly stick out like soar thumbs. Instead they are basically singled out to be hunted by Beslin’s character as her graduation assignment. Thus there is really not much to like or care about here because the film’s title says it all. Last Girl. Life she fails then she will be another victim. However since we know little about her and her trainer, we can root for her to beat the boys, but the film puts the odds in her favor early on so the killers really never have a chance and the viewer always know the girl will be triumphant. What would have been more interesting is to have her capture the boys and bring them to justice instead of just killing them one by one with the help of psychedelics the killers have no idea they have ingested.

So the boys hallucinate and Breslin’s character takes them out one by one and that is basically it. No revelation or payoff. Just a straight flat line with a slither of a story and flat characters. Final Girl is nothing but style over substance with the exception of Abigail Breslin’s performance. She can look scared and make it believable without coming off like a scream queen. Bentley just sleep walks his way through the film and his talent seems wasted.

Final Girl opened both theatrically and on Video On Demand on August 14, 2015.

Check out the Final Girl trailer:

Movie Review: Harbinger Down (2015)

harbinger-down-posterNearly thirty years ago a ship crashed somewhere in the arctic. Now the crew of the a crab fishing ship Harbinger has discovered the remains without realizing the deadly organism that is aboard. Harbinger Down is a science fiction horror film directed by Alec Gillis as an homage to classics of the cinematic sub genre such as Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing. The film also calls to mind some lesser films in the sub genre like Leviathan and Virus. In 2012 Oscar winning Character FX studio Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc., posted a video of their animatronic effects that were cut from the film The Thing 2011. Their incredible work had been replaced with CGI. ADI co-owner and writer/director of Harbinger Down took note of the fan outrage. Through Kickstarter the film became the highest publicly funded science fiction and horror picture in the history of Kickstarter. The film as cast well with Lance Henriksen, leading the ensemble, which also includes Camille Balasamo, Matt Winston, Reid Collums, Milla Bjorn, Winston James Francis, Mike Esteem, Giovannie Samuels and Edwin H. Bravo. Tom Woodruff Jr. serves as a Producer.

While the cast tries their best to engage the viewer, the majority are little more than flat “Red Shirts” and the monster is a disappointment because in trying to make a film that celebrates practical effects, what they deliver is a largely generic looking mess and forget that monsters don’t have to be beautiful, but in addition to being scary, they should look cool and spark the audience’s imagination such as the Yautja in Predator, the Xenkmorph in the Alien franchise and chameleon monstrosity of John Carpenter’s The Thing. The creature isn’t really scary and since the characters are flat, one doesn’t feel heavily invested in them aside from the faces one recognizes, but when one thinks back to the characters in the films this motion picture pays homage too, we only saw glimpses of the monster and each glimpse made the audience want to see more until the final terrifying reveal. The characters in the films even if they were not always three dimensional, they had a distinct quality to them and each character had a certain look that added personality and thus even if we don’t know who it is that is being devoured, we at least can remember who they were by face and it did not matter if the cast had one or two recognizable stars and the rest were largely unknowns.

HD2The monster should have been interesting. The characters should have been more distinctive and the story should have been scary. Considering Amalgamated Dynamics is one of the best practical effects producers in the world, I expect a lot better than what was presented here. Writing a story and developing distinctive characters does not cost anything except time. So despite the best intentions, I am afraid what should have been a showcase for practical effects relevancy in modern cinema ends up being a squandered opportunity that should have been thought out more.

Harbinger Down opens in theaters and VOD on Friday, August 7, 2015 and will be followed with a DVD release on September 1, 2015.

Check out the trailer!

Movie Review: Sharknado 3 (2015)

sharknado 3The Asylum has made a name for itself by creating silly knockoffs of pop culture films as well as pitting monsters against each other and the world, but none of it’s creations captured the pop culture B-movie zeitgeist quite like Sharknado in 2013. The film spawned a sequel set in New York last summer and now they are back again to reek havoc on the U.S. east coast following a tooth filled twister in Washington D.C. and now Ian Ziering and Tara Reid return to save the world along with another cast of cameos and surprises that include Mark Cuban and Ann Coulter as the President and First Lady as well as Frankie Muniz and David Hasselhoff, who plays a space shuttle pilot, (could the next chapter be space sharks?) Other cameos include U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, Lou Ferrigno, Jackie Collins, Playboy playmates Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson as well as former U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachman; Jerry Springer, and Bo Derek.

It is what it is as far as what one should expect. More of the same with a larger canvass and a ton of guest appearances to match the ton of airborne sharks. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! will debut on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 9PM (ET)/8PM (CT) only on Syfy.

Movie Review: The Drownsman (2015)

Drownsman-posterAfter a year of torment following a trauma wherein a young woman almost drowned, her friends decide to do a seance with the hope the terrifying visions she is suffering from will cease. Unfortunately the supernatural events only intensify as the vision begins to seize them one by one never to return. The Drownsman combines modern supernatural horror with a traditional 1980s horror flair that is quite entertaining.

On Blu-Ray Disc, The Drownsman is presented in a widescreen (2.35:1) aspect ratio with full and clear 1080p full HD picture quality.  A vibrant and effective English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Soundtrack is provided along with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles encoded as options. There are no extra value features directly related to this film on Blu-Ray Disc.

The Drownsman was released at retailers on and offline on Blu-Ray Disc on March 12, 2015 courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Movie Review: Rec 4: Apocalypse (2014)

rec4The fourth entry in the REC franchise is now available on DVD-Video courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and is a step above the this installment because it confines it’s horror to a ship and ditched the found footage for a more traditional narrative style with a high production value and plenty of thrills too. After a brief prologue that takes the viewer back to the building and details the protagonist’s rescue follow by the destruction of the building, we now see Angela has been transferred to a ship where an infected monkey starts the whole chain reaction again. Jaume Balaguero returns to direct this installment, which is sold online at retailers like Amazon on demand only.

Otherwise the 16 by 9 widescreen aspect ratio looks spot on and a making of featurette is also included. The DVD can also be purchased at brick and mortar stores like Best Buy and online at Best Buy too.

Movie Review: We Are Still Here (2015)

We-Are-Still-Here-posterBarbara Crampton and Andrew Sensenig star as parents who move into an old New England house in a seemingly quaint little town following the untimely death of their college age son. Following some eerie happenings and accidents around the home, the parents call upon two New Age friends of theirs whose son attended the same college as their’s. Together they discover that not only is there a secret being kept in the town, but their home may be built upon a gateway to a malevolence far more terrifying than whatever else may exist there.
we are still here still 1We Are Still Here is an above average spooky story that delivers on creating a true sense of gloom and doom while delivering well cast performances from talent that also includes Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden, and Monte Markham. There are some legitimate chills and great atmosphere created in part from the film’s score and songs chosen for the soundtrack. The makeup and gore effects appear spot on. The film at times may ask the viewer to suspend their disbelief a bit more than they may be inclined it only because the story uses classic elements that have become self referential by default because horror filmmakers in the past have been deconstructing themselves for the last twenty years. This is not a film that deconstructs the genre, but horror film fans may find certain elements to be predictable though for the most part the film is very fresh and entertaining and it moves at a good pace too. The story, while short, also has enough mystery to it that first time Director Ted Geoghegan knows what should .
be left over to one’s imagination while keeping  the viewer focused and entertained throughout.
We Are Still Here will premiere theatrically and on VOD on June 5, 2015 courtesy of Dark Sky Films.

Movie Review: The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence (2015)

hc3 posterFilmmaker Tom Six completes his own three segment cinematic centipede exactly as he intended and with no compromises artistically. While some may regard his trilogy as torture or splatter porn, I would argue that much like Tobe Hooper’s original classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a lot of what you think you saw in the original was what you, the viewer projected onto the film itself and not necessary what occurs on the screen. With each installment following the original, Mr. Six has taken an entirely different approach to dramatizing his vision from the at times sterile, but almost dreamlike like setting in the original that suited the unimaginable inhumanity that befalls the characters as contrasted to the orderly world of the mad Doctor (Dieter Laser), who like all mad scientists takes great pleasure and subsequent loathing to his unprecedented creation. Is it not a sad fact that there is a part to the human condition where sometimes we may love something just as much as we may come to hate it or grow to hate what we love? I would wager that a great deal of the divorces that occur every year began as relationships where the participants truly were in love with each other. As for loving what one hates, turn on any popular successful dramatic TV show and very often in the more operatic kind, viewers will gravitate toward the villain almost as much if not more than the hero because a well written villain is in someways more interesting than a hero. This can be seen in many television programs, movies and works of classic literature.

hc3 stillThis brings us to the the second installment and here is where Tom Six begins to subtly break the fourth wall by continuing his story right at the moment where the previous film concluded and through the use of grainy, yet stark black and white photography that is evocative of the classic Germain expressionist style of filmmaking, we are brought into the world of his new protagonist and antihero of sorts, Martin (Lawrence R. Harvey), who is our window into the world outside of the world of the first film where Martin’s obsession with the original film prompts him to take control of his life. Just not the way most of us would because Martin is a depraved victim and like any victim of severe abuse over a life time from many people who should be a part of his support group, Martin tortures the seemingly innocent and puts people into his own centipede nearly indiscriminately. It was with the inclusion Ashlyn Yennie, one of the protagonists from the first film, playing a characterized version of herself, who thinks she is going to audition for Quentin Tarantino, that Six takes a step beyond meta fiction and self referencing pop culture. It was here that I personally knew this was as much a parody of the first film and I then began to truly see Tom Six as more than a filmmaker. He is an artist.

HC3The question now is what would Six do for his encore. Metaphorically and literally Tom Six completes his cinematic centipede by fulfilling a promise he made going back to the first film. For like the second, The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence Six begins at the end of the second film and brings us into a different exaggerated and satirical world that is sun drenched and natural as Mr. Six brings back Dieter Laser and Lawrence R. Harvey along with alumni from the first two films all as different characters that include Akihiro Kitamura, Bill Hutchens, and Peter Blankenstein. Tom Six even joins the cast playing himself as what started out as a horror film completely becomes both a very dark and extreme comedy that parodies the entire trilogy without ever falling into slapstick. Joining the cast for this final installment are Eric Roberts, Bree Olsen, Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Robert LaSardo, Clayton Rohner and Hamzah Saman. In a role that is even more over the top that Dennis Hopper’s role in the David Lynch film, Blue Velvet, Dieter Laser plays an insane Prison Warden, who through coaxing from his Accountant (Lawrence R. Harvey), is convinced that to save their jobs they must create a five hundred prisoner long human centipede that would not only be cheaper to house and easier to imprison, but who could stand as such a horrible example of punishment that it could be the ultimate criminal deterrent.

hc3 still 2Nothing and nearly no one is too sacred to satirize here whether it is Tom Six making fun of himself, the veteran actors from the previous films calling subtle cues that will remind fans of the previous installments and together with the new cast for this final segment. They all genuinely look like they are in on the joke, but never does it get too far that we see any tongue in cheek or winking at the camera type of gags. The intensity of the gore remains consistent with the previous film, but oddly enough the most cringing moment is not gory at all, but it is graphic. To reveal it I feel would be giving away a big spoiler and would be unfair to everyone. All I can say is Tom Six lays it all out for us and puts it in our face in what could be the ultimate way of breaking the fourth wall in the film series short of having the characters address the audience directly. Fans of Dieter Laser should definitely check out this film because I think his performance is absolutely masterful. Remaining true to his vision, Tom Six deserved praise for creating a trilogy that is truly a work of art on every level with no compromises. I think these films will be studied by student filmmakers the way films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Todd Browning’s Freaks, and the works of Lars Von Trier are studied and celebrated in academia and on home video. This is more than a cult film. Always remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and art does not have to be pretty. The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence will debut in select theaters and on demand courtesy of IFC Films on Friday, May 22, 2015.

Movie Review: Maggie (2015)

Maggie PosterArnold Schwarzenegger stars along side Abigail Breslin, who plays his daughter and Joely Richardson, who plays his second wife in the drama Maggie. While Maggie has the typical elements that appear in zombie horror films like slow moving zombies that eat human flesh, a person going into a convenience store alone when one knows anytime characters split up in horror films, usually something bad is going to happen. It also has apocalyptic scenes of cities smoldering in the horizon and there is even a reference to I guess one could say might be “prayer” even though the word God is not used. Instead it is a variation on the “no one is listening” line used in some zombie films like John Leguizamo’s quip in George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead, where his character says, “God left the phone off the hook.” No one ever says the word “zombie” either, which I think would have been refreshing to hear for a change in a zombie film, especially a drama like this. Instead they are called the “infected,” which seems kind of lame since the term is used already in better films and television, hence my reason for thinking they should drop the pretentiousness and just call it what it is, a zombie.

There is a scene of men wearing gas masks and armed with automatic weapons breaking through a door as Martial Law has been declared due to the global pandemic and there are people who try to shelter the infected despite the danger because they hope for a touch of humanity to still be within their loved ones and there is lots and lots of brooding and the typical radio broadcasts revealing tidbits about what is going on in the world beyond the scope of our core characters.

Yet despite all these common traits, Maggie is really a tragic drama about loss that could have made a great one shot set of webisodes for The Walking Dead even though The Walking Dead has covered similar territory with greater depth and a lot more action and gore than anything you will see here.Yet as long as you know what you are getting into, I think Maggie is an okay film though make no mistake, this is a bleak story. Schwarzenegger’s character of a father who wants to savor every last moment with his doomed daughter even after it seems everyone has deserted him has moments that are genuinely emotional even though I think Abigail Breslin carried Schwarzenegger a bit and made him look good, but Arnold is a father and so he can in so much of his range will let him, show a gentler side most people have never seen before because he is a father in real life. It is a good move on his part and I hope he continues to explore different kinds of roles outside of his action pictures and the comedy collaborations he did with Ivan Reitman.

At times the film is a bit slow and there are a few elements that could have been more interesting if they were hinted at instead of just building something up that ultimately feels anticlimactic at times. The skies are always overcast and there is often scenes with smoke in the horizon as well as fires and abandoned homes with messages left behind for whoever reads them. The conclusion though bleak is not as frustrating than the feeling that the ending seems flat and more could have been done as a whole to make the film get across it’s points in a more interesting way.

maggieThen there are inconsistencies too like what appears to be a reinforced metal or heavy duty wood door with a big bolt across it and yet the rest of the house has wide open widows one
could walk through, which is almost as bad as honking a horn in a zombie film. At times I felt that certain things just would not happen like parents allowing high school age children to hangout outside in the open at night with infected people who could turn very soon just so they can have one last night out. I mean if I had a child, I wouldn’t let my kids out when the dead could be anywhere.

Caveats aside however, Maggie at least tries to reach for something different, but whether or not their reach exceeded their grasp is at best extremely relative. Maggie is now playing at select theaters and is available for rental on demand.

Maggie 2ADDENDUM: I do not usually state things like this because once I have reviewed a film then that is it, but sometimes after viewing a picture, it sticks with you and so I gave it a second look and upon screening it a second time, I have to state that Maggie plays better upon second viewing and I do think it deserves a place among one’s zombie horror collection provided one realizes that this is still a drama and probably one of the bleakest films I have ever seen since Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Despite the PG-13 rating, I highly recommend parental guidance before, during and or after viewing Maggie on the big screen or small. Adults who fantasize about the zombie apocalypse and think of it as some kind of survival adventure should see Maggie if only to get into one’s mind that survival under such circumstances would be about as likely and fun as trying to survive nuclear fallout after a war. Worse than anything you may have seen dramatize before. So put the video games down for two hours and prepare for a sobering reality check and be thankful it was just a movie.

Check out the Maggie trailer:

Movie Review: These Final Hours (2013)

These Final Hours. Director/writer: Zak Hilditch. Starring Sarah Snook, Jessica De Gouw, Nathan Phillips. Production company 8th In Line.

These Final Hours posterThese Final Hours is an Australian post apocalyptic end of the world film that was released in 2013 and after acclaim at Cannes, the film is finally being given an official USA theatrical release on March 6, 2015. An asteroid capable of destroying all life on the planet has crashed in the North Atlantic and created a blast wave that will cover the entire planet and incinerate all life as know it in the process.

In Perth, the citizens have been notified that they have 12 hours of life left to live. James, a troubled twenty-something man, just wants to numb the pain by taking as much drugs and booze as he can and spending his final hours with his girlfriend. However as society begins to fall apart around him he saves a young girl named Rose from being raped. With no one else to take her to her family, James keeps her in tow and together they realize how they want to spend their moments.

 

Directed by Zak Hilditch and filmed on location in Perth, These Final Hours covers familiar ground covered in other end of the world thrillers, but unlike some movies which tend to focus too much on a few characters without giving any sense of the greater picture at hand, Hilditch manages to pull off both with clever editing, a good use of radio voice over and an excellent cast of Australian actors. The film has a very natural feel to it, too. Characters lament about how painful being incinerated alive will be, which while morbid it is still something I have never heard any characters address in a film like this. Besides the fear of death, the possibility of it being a painful one is never once mentioned in most end of the world movies, but I think it is something we all have in our minds.

 

“Even if it were for just a second, would we feel anything?” Like getting a shot at the doctor’s office where despite having received vaccinations and having blood drawn from us many times, once in a while we feel that pinch from the injection and it hurts. The film also does not try and candy coat the bleakness of the situation and yet it doesn’t dwell on it. The characters we meet are well developed even if they only get a few minutes of screen-time. Like most films in this sub-genre, the story is about redemption, but unlike many others it does not feel preachy and despite the bleak situation. There is a certain human comfort reached by the viewer as though one were watching another’s journey in the face of death and because the characters are very human and are largely neither good or bad, the film accepts the human condition as the individual presents his or herself and allows the viewer to do the same and have empathy for them.

I liked this movie a lot more than I expected. Would I want to watch it over and over again, no.

However I would not mind sharing the experience of seeing a screening of These Final Hours with one who has not seen it yet. Then be thankful and hope nothing like that ever comes to pass.

Once again These Final Hours will open in the USA on March 6, 2015. Additional information can be found at www.wellgousa.com.

Check out the trailer: