Saturday, February 22, 2014

Full-Length Fan Film, Star Wars: Threads of Destiny (2014), is NOW ONLINE!

Written by friends across Canada and the U.S., filmed in Sweden, and worked on by hundreds of fans around the World, Star Wars: Threads of Destiny, is finally seeing the light of day!


I know this isn't the usual fare for this blog. For one, Star Wars: Threads of Destiny is not a B-Movie but a fanfilm. For two, this isn't a review but an announcement post with some interesting little inside tidbits and info. The reason I'm making this exception though is because I co-wrote the script for this fanfilm with fellow B-Movie Shelf reviewer, Michael Banno, so I'm pretty excited to get the word out...

...especially when you take into account that it took NINE YEARS to get this fanfilm made. Yes, that would be 9 damn years, so you'll excuse me if my excitement level is pretty high at this finally coming out, hahaha.

The script was written, and the bulk of the filming, was all done 9 years ago, but the CGI is what held this movie up. Remember, this is a FAN film, which means it was all done for free, in everyone's spare time. This is a full-length fanfilm, set in the Star Wars universe. As you can imagine, there is a lot of CGI work that needed to go into this thing. So much so actually, that an entire action scene ultimately had to be cut out of the final cut of the movie because that was the last scene left that needed CGI work done on it, but to do so would have delayed the movie yet another year, if not longer. While the scene is one that I personally loved, ultimately it really didn't add anything new to the movie that isn't already presented in other scenes, so I totally understand and agree with the director's choice to cut it in favor of releasing the movie now. After 9 years, I think the people that have been looking forward to watching this have waited long enough anyway.


Another thing to make note of, is that it was filmed in Sweden, so the majority of actors don't actually speak English. However, the director knew that the majority of people watching it would be from America most likely and thus decided to film it in English, which means most of the actors are actually getting through their lines phonetically, so I admit there will be quite a lot of iffy points throughout when it comes to the acting, but please keep in mind the circumstances behind that.

Threads of Destiny was written to be Part 1 in a pre-planned trilogy, and while we have notes, ideas, and treatments written for Parts 2 and 3, seeing as how it took 9 years for this one to come out, I honestly have no idea what the plan is now. Most of the actors have moved on to other things and probably will be unreachable or not really wanting to return to do another two fanfilms (for instance, the actress for Princess Arianna is now actually an award-winning journalist in Sweden). However, I really hope the director decides to go ahead with the other two parts and manages to find a way to make it work, because as someone on the inside, I can assure you that this first movie only touches the surface of what this extensive and ambitious fanfilm project has to offer.


 As for the plot:

"94 years after The Battle of Yavin, the New Republic has been resurrected and democracy once again rules the galaxy. The Jedi Order has been re-established on the planet Yavin IV, and has continued to train new Jedi Knights in the art of peace and justice. But all is not peaceful in this new world. With the fall of the Dark Empire, the ancient Skenvi Empire now comes out of the shadow to make its move. The Skenvi oppose the New Republic for control over the galaxy with their aggressively growing empire. The Skenvi seek to seize control of all the galaxy's most valuable resources to cripple their enemies, and if a planet refuses to join them, they have been known to take very aggressive actions.

Caught in between this struggle over the fate of the galaxy is the little planet of Coreign. The planet possesses a very powerful resource that would greatly favor the side that has access to it if a galactic war was to emerge. In its eagerness to gain access to Coreign's resources, the Skenvi Empire sends its most infamous negotiator, Lord Siege. He is a man who is known throughout the galaxy for seeing that the Skenvi Empire gets what it wants by any means necessary. The New Republic sends two of its Jedi ambassadors, Master Soran Darr and his padawan, Raven Darkham to handle the situation.
"

As you can tell, this ignores ALL Expanded Universe stuff. The only things we took as cannon for this is strictly what's in the 6 movies and that's it. We didn't want to feel constricted by decades of novels and comics, and Clone Wars just didn't exist back when we initially wrote this. Hell, if memory serves me correctly, Revenge of the Sith hadn't even been released yet when we started on this project.


Without further adieu, below you can find all the links you'll possibly need if you're interested in checking this full-length fanfilm out: The full movie, the official site, the Facebook and Twitter pages, ect. Below that however, if you're still interested in knowing more about the behind the scenes project, you can find two interviews that Michael Banno conducted for his own website, one with myself and one with the director.

Star Wars: Threads of Destiny Official Website
Star Wars: Threads of Destiny Facebook Page
Star Wars: Threads of Destiny Twitter Account

Watch the full Star Wars: Threads of Destiny movie right here!



The following interviews were conducted by Michael Banno, the original creator of this entire project, for his personal blog, The Mike Blog. The formatting is a bit weird however, and he apologizes for that. Neither him nor myself can figure out what Blogger did to his formatting and every time he tries to fix it, Blogger just doesn't let him. But if you don't mind the weird formatting of the interviews, you will find tons of nuggets of behind the scenes information on how the project came to be and the off-screen trials and tribulations that faced the project.

Michael Banno's Behind The Scenes On His Conception of the Project and His Interview With Co-Writer Jeffrey Long

Michael Banno's Interview With Director Rasmus Tirzitis

I hope you all enjoy what you see when you watch the film. It's been 9 years in the making, a very long 9 years, but 9 years filled with nothing but the utmost love and genuine passion by everyone involved. And if you end up enjoying what you see and you would like to see Chapters II and III get made, be sure to be vocal about it on the Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube pages. The more interest there is in the sequels, the better chance that the director will decide to try and get them made!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Puppet Master II (1991)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


Company: Full Moon Entertainment

Runtime: 88 mins

Format: BluRay

Plot: The living puppets return to the Bodega Bay Inn and this time they're hunting some Paranormal Researchers to take their brain fluid for the Undead puppet master, Andre Toulon.


Review:
Recently I decided to do a re-watch of the entire Puppet Master saga, leading up to my first-time watch of Puppet Master X: Axis Rising. Even though the rest of the series is a re-watch, I've only seen most of them once before and it was a long time ago, so I remember very little about most of the movies, so it's almost like a first-time watch for the majority of them all over again. With the first movie having gotten a review about a month ago, tonight's movie was the second in the series, Puppet Master II, with the sometimes-subtitle of His Unholy Creations.


Puppet Master II is one of those near-perfect horror sequels, much like Friday the 13th, Part II – It takes what we know from the first movie and builds upon it, extending our knowledge on various things in this universe (in this case the the evil living puppets and how they actually work), while also ultimately being an all-around better, more entertaining movie. For starters, they fixed my biggest problem with the first movie – they wrote out the survivors of that with a few lines of dialog, and replaced them with brand new characters that are much more likable, more relatable, and were competently acted. These characters I didn't mind spending time with at all, so the parts of the movie that weren’t focused on the puppets were still enjoyable and not as difficult to sit through as they were in the first movie (except that really awkward, out of nowhere tacked-on romance subplot that felt pretty disjointed with the rest of the movie).

This time around the human characters are Paranormal Researchers who arrive at the Bodega Bay Inn hotel after hearing about the events of the first movie, to investigate the mysterious going-ons, which is actually an excellent entry in the series to watch this day in age, what with programs like Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Destination Truth, and other such being all the rage – Full Moon was ahead of the curb with this one! Of course it isn't long before the evil living puppets come out of the woodwork to cause mayhem for our Paranormal Investigators, and the bloodshed starts all over again. I was also thrilled to discover that this entry returns to the awesome location of the empty shutdown hotel of the first movie, as I felt that that creepy location was one of that entry's strongest aspects and it continues to be a great setting once again here. I actually love the Bodega Bay Inn as a horror setting so much that I honestly wouldn't mind it at all if every entry took place there.

As for the puppets themselves, thankfully they get more screentime in this entry than in the last, and they are much more the focus of the movie, as opposed to last time where they played second and even third fiddle for the majority of it. They still look amazing and move realistically, and all the puppets from the first movie return, plus even a really awesome new one (who oddly enough never shows up ever again in the series, I believe. Also, where was he during the events of Part 1? He just shows up with no explanation and disappears from the series after this entry just as mysteriously).


Even though at this stage in the Puppet Master series the puppets are currently evil, it was still pretty sad to see a couple of them get destroyed as over the course of just these two movies alone, you really start to get a good feel of their personalities and character traits, and it was so easy to fall in love with each of these little critters. But don't let that fool you too much – these are still vicious killing machines that once again are the cause of quite a few excellent blood-filled death scenes that any horror fan should be proud of. Hell, that new puppet I previously mentioned got one of the best kills of the movie – burning a snotty little kid alive with its flamethrower arm; This series does not shy away from child killing like many horror movies do, and even the ending of the movie seemed to hint pretty heavily that the puppets were on their way to a mental institution for children to start causing their murderous mayhem there (an ending that, sadly, gets 100% ignored in all future sequels).

While Puppet Master II is indeed a huge improvement over the first, it's still not quite perfect as I felt it fumbled the ball a little bit with one of its subplots: The original creator of the puppets, Andre' Toulon from the intro of the first movie, is back from the dead here and having the puppets kill our human characters in order to obtain brain fluid from them that he needs to complete the 'puppet master formula' as it's called, basically whatever the secret formula he uses to bring the puppets to life, he's using to bring himself back to life and he needs so much of that brain fluid to complete it and allow him to transition his soul into a life-size doll replica of himself so he can live forever. Thing is, he treats the puppets with such utter hate and disrespect, which is in complete contrast with what little we saw of him in the first movie (and what we will come to see of him in all future entries) – in everything else we see of him, he was a kind and gentle soul that loved those puppets as if they were his children, not the evil hateful creature he seems to be here. Of course you can explain that away by going the 'what's dead should stay dead because when you bring them back, they're not truly who they were before but now something evil' route, but it would have been nice to get some actual in-movie explanation of that being the case. As it stands, it remains an aspect of the movie that I heavily dislike and it stands in the way of making this a perfect entry in the series.


The misstep with Toulon's return aside, as well as that tacked-on out of place romance subplot that came with it, everything good from the first movie is carried over to this one while everything bad about it was greatly improved, in addition to taking the time to add to the overall mythos of the puppets and how they came to be. Puppet Master 2 can go into the books as one of the few horror sequels that manages to not only stand side-by-side its first entry, but completely surpass it.

9/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: The Asylum

RUNTIME: 85 mins

FORMAT: BluRay

PLOT: When the Mega Shark emerges to terrorize the seas once more, the U.S. government comes prepared with a giant mechanical shark to combat the threat one last time.

REVIEW: Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark (an obvious play on the classic Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla) is easily one of my most anticipated B-Movie releases for 2014, so I'm really glad it's being released right at the front of the year so I don't have to wait even longer for it, hahaha. The first movie, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, a couple choice scenes aside, failed to live up to the full cheesy potential that the title implied; Ultimately it was 'ok', but nowhere near what I was expecting from it. The second movie, Mega Shark vs Crocosaurus may have had even lower caliber of CG effects than the previous movie had (which itself was pretty low as it was), but everything else about it was exactly what I had been hoping that the first movie was. Sure, it was beyond stupid but it was a fun kind of stupid and I loved every minute of it, and even now after several re-watches I still love every minute of it.

A year or so back, Asylum announced that if they got so many new Twitter followers by a certain date than they would push ahead on production of a third Mega Shark movie. That goal was unfortunately not met, however it seems they had a change of heart as a half year ago they officially announced Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, the third and final movie in the series – one last brawl between two gigantic titans, one a mechanical monster and the other a giant man-eating shark with a bad attitude.

After all this anticipation, and after the near-perfect fun romp that the previous middle chapter turned out to be, how did Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark stack up? Let's just say that if Asylum continues down the road that this movie set for 2014 for them, than we're in for one hell of a good year for Asylum releases. Between this movie, Android Cop, and Jailbait (due out later this month), The Asylum is batting three for three in the New Year and it just makes me more excited to see what they have coming down the line.


After the previous two movies, I just love that the entire world is now pretty much always prepared for another Mega Shark rampage. Like in the later Godzilla movies where they now have contingency plans put in place in case Godzilla shows up, we see that here as well they temporarily ban all non-military boating and flight routes that go near or over the suspected feeding grounds areas of the Mega Shark, essentially putting the entire world in lockdown for the time being, evacuate any coastal cities that it may go near, in addition to the immediate deployment of the ultimate Mega Shark hunter – the Mecha Shark!

As for how the Mega Shark survived its battle plunge into the exploding volcano at the end of last movie...well...I think this is actually a different shark, which begs the question as to why, if they were just going to definitively kill it at the end anyway and mark this as the last movie in the series, would they even bother having a new shark for this movie and not another return of the shark from the first two movies? It could have formed quite the nice little trilogy for the big guy, capping it off with this swan song outing for him. And what makes it all the more weird is that the characters talk about it as if it is the same Megalodon, having such conversations that mention how this is now the third time the Mega Shark has appeared and seemingly escaped death, yet it very clearly isn't the same shark since we see this one get thawed out of the ice at the beginning, just like how the original Megalodon came to be in the very first movie, and last we left the previous one it was falling into a volcano – hardly the freezing chunk of ice this one starts off in. So really, I have no idea but the vibe I got from the beginning was that this was a brand new Megalodon, so I really kind of wish all of that was made more clear.

Likewise, there's not really any reason as to why they decided to build a Mecha Shark or why they thought such a thing would be a good idea; The movie just starts off with it having already been built and ready to go for if the Mega Shark ever returned, and that's pretty much that in terms of explanations. However, that's not to say it wasn't put to good use regardless, because it most certainly was, and it even ended up being an equal threat to that of the Mega Shark, seeing as how it's pilot, as played by Angel and Heroes regular Elisabeth Röhm (also was in the equally-awesome Lake Placid 4: The Final Chapter) kept making massive human errors with it that resulted in many deaths on more than one occasion, which also makes one wonder why anyone in this movie thought she was trained in piloting this thing since it was made quite clear that she's really rather terrible at it. Hell, even the loveable A.I program of the machine thought she was such a terrible and useless pilot that it ended up taking over, which of course eventually leads to something going wrong, as it always does in these things, and we get some very awesome solo-Mecha Shark carnage, such as a scene where it leaves the ocean on tank treads and moves throughout the Australian city of Sydney causing destruction and mayham in it's rampage. It's this stuff where the movie gets really good, as much of what we see up to that point is stuff we've seen in the series multiple times already – Mega Shark munches down on this ship over here, Mega Shark slaps around that ship over there, military suits standing around and arguing with the main characters over this and that, a debate about if nukes should be used, a few technobable conversations scattered around, and than a couple quick generic underwater battle scenes between the Mega Shark and second title 'creature' of note. But have we seen a terrible Mech pilot keep making inexcusable human errors time after time to the point where it was becoming far more comedic than it was probably meant to? Or how about a gigantic robot shark driving through a city, knocking buildings over and mowing down civilians while you have a character totally jumping over it on a crappy motorcycle while shouting "Come get me, big boy!" in slow-motion? This is the kind of new flavor of cheese you have to look forward to in this movie! And trust me – there is plenty of it.

This entry also boasts the best CGI in the trilogy thus far. Yeah, there's still some pretty questionable moments here and there, mostly with the sharks surfacing from under the water and submerging again, and sure, it's still massively guilty of annoying size-changing (one minute the Mega Shark is smaller than a ship but the next it can practically eat one in a single bite), but when it comes to the creature models themselves, this one far outdoes the first two movies; you can see individual scars and chunks missing from the Mega Shark, and the Mecha Shark is simply a thing of beauty in most scenes. One of the only major issues I had with the second movie was that the CG creature models were quite below that of the first movie (which itself didn't exactly have good CG to begin with), but luckily the series ends off on a high note here, as more often than not I was quite impressed with the effects work. In regards to the Mecha Shark though, it was pretty odd seeing that from the outside the robot was as large as the Mega Shark, yet when it cut to the interior, it was this tiny cramped place that can only fit a single person. I suppose it kind of like a reverse Tardis effect – Ha!


Anybody who was a fan of the first two movies (and honestly, if you weren’t than why are you even bothering with this one?) you'll find plenty of little easter egg homages scattered around, so keep your eyes open for those. We have a scene where a military aircraft carrier is attracting the Mega Shark to it via the high-frequency emitters which was a large aspect of the plot for the second movie, and even a scene of the Mega Shark essentially playing leap frog with a military vessel, just like in the second movie. However, it's the various throwbacks to the very first movie that got the most giddy schoolgirl-level excited out of me – The first movie had the Giant Octopus tearing down an oil platform while we have an almost identical scene in this movie but with the Mega Shark doing it, in addition to another scene similar to the first movie where the Mega Shark leaps out of the water to take down a passenger jet flying high up in the air...except this time the results are drastically different and one of the best sequences of the entire movie (I'm just disappointed that it was spoiled in the trailer, as that would have made an awesome surprise, not knowing it was coming). Other quick scenes that go back to the first movie include the smaller prototype of the Mecha Shark fighting a couple of large Octopuses (octopi?) and the highlight of the homages – Debbie Gibson returning from the first movie for a series of cameo scenes! 

Another of my very few issues with the second movie was that Debbie Gibson's character was nowhere to be found, not even as a consultant, which was weird considering that up to that point she was the only other person who had experience dealing with this creature. While her screentime here is simply as a recurring cameo only, it was still a very welcomed addition, having the characters here constantly relying on her experience and her knowledge to help them. Like I said, it was only a few short cameo scenes so don't get your hopes up too much, but they added a lot to my personal preference in what I want from these sequels and it makes up for her absence from the second movie.

The main characters this go-around are Christopher Judge from Stargate SG-1 as the designer of the Mecha Shark and it's hilarious A.I. program, and his wife and Mecha Shark pilot, the previously-mentioned Elisabeth Rohm. Both played very well off each other, with their highlight moments being any time they bickered back and forth, and the fact that they were a married couple added a whole new dynamic, in addition to an extra emotional level, that I'm not used to seeing in these movies. In both previous Mega Shark movies, as well as most Asylum monster movies in general, the main male and female leads end up getting together at the very end of the movie (whether doing so even makes sense within the context of the movie or not is another story), but for this one they're already together and married, so we don't need to worry about that whole 'will they/won't they' aspect that admittedly has gotten pretty tiresome in these movies by this point. What I did feel was missing though, was the fun wackiness of Gary Stretch's character from the previous movie, as he was a large part of the reason that the second movie was as much fun as it was. Debbie Gibson made a few short, albeit awesome cameos, so I kind of wish they had him do one or two cameo scenes as well, or at the very least include a new character in this movie that brought the same level of unfiltered wacky as he did to that movie. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the characters we got, especially their interplay between one another, but they were pretty much both the same kind of character, with the same kind of personality, and it was only really the A.I. of the Mecha Shark that brought a bit of variety to that aspect of the movie.

By this point, like with most modern Asylum productions, it goes without saying that the musical score was pretty amazing and catchy, and it always amps up the action scenes and adds another layer of character, if you will, to the slower and more emotional scenes. It's at the point now where each time I load up a new Asylum movie into my BluRay player, I'm almost just as excited to discover the musical score for the movie as I am to watch the movie itself. Usually Asylum scores are done by the very-talented Chris Ridenhour, who even puts a lot of his Asylum scores up on Itunes and Soundcloud, however I was surprised to see that this movie was actually done by an Isaac Sprintis, who has done mostly only Shorts and Documentaries before, and nothing at all for Asylum. Hopefully he sticks around though, because between him and Chris, The Asylum has themselves a couple of very talented low-budget B-Movie composers on their hands. Likewise, the movie was directed by first-timer Emile Edwin Smith and you would never think this was his first movie. I mean, it's obviously no Jurassic Park in the directing department, but as far as Direct-to-Video B-Movies go, it was good enough and certainly done far better than the first Mega Shark movie was. Doing the script for this was also Jose Prendes, who is no stranger to The Asylum as he's written a very large chunk of their movies and even directed Haunting of Whaley House – my personal favorite Asylum-made Haunted House horror movie.


With the level of talent behind Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, both behind the scenes and on-screen, it's no wonder it turned out as fun as it did. A slight bit of confusion in regards to the Mega Shark itself aside, most of my issues are only minor, and more-so of the 'wish they had done this/would have been nice to see that' variety as opposed to actual outright complaints with the movie. In regards to where it falls within the Mega Shark trilogy, it is most definitely leaps and bounds better than the semi-disappointing first movie, and I would venture to say slightly better than second – while there were some things I felt the second movie did a bit better, mostly in regards to its characters, there were just as many other things that I felt this movie did better, plus it has some pretty unique new stuff, thanks mostly to the Mecha Shark aspect, in addition to some familiar easter eggs for longtime fans of the series, that the level of campiness on display here equals that of any other high point in the previous movies. Also, be sure to tune in to the very end of the credits for an admittedly pretty pointless, but still absolutely hilarious, short stinger scene.

Asylum has stated in the past that this will probably be the final Mega Shark movie, and if that's the case than I am perfectly fine with it as it's going out on a really high note, with a definitive ending this time for the title creature himself, regardless of if it was the same shark as the first two movies or a brand new one – either way, this shark is not coming back from what happens to it, thus bringing to an end what has been a great Trilogy of Mega Shark-Flavored Cheese.

R.I.P
Mega Shark
2009-2014
You were loved by many and hated by probably many more. Your fans stuck by you and you always kept them entertained. May the clouds of Heaven be large enough to contain you, and may the number of Angels be plentiful enough to satisfy your hunger.

10/10 rooms in the Psych Ward
 


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Early Review of Android Cop (2014)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


Company: The Asylum

Runtime: 86 mins

Format: Screener

Plot: In the year 2045, a Los Angeles Police Department detective and his new Android partner enter the Zone, a forbidden section of the city plagued with an unknown disease. There, they discover the source of the illness and uncover a troubling Government Conspiracy at the center.


Review: I'm still anxiously awaiting for my BluRay copy of Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, the third movie in the infamous Mega Shark series, to arrive in the mail, however in the meantime the fine folks at Asylum sent my way a screener of another new movie of theirs to review, Android Cop, set to be released this upcoming Tuesday on February 4th.

As you might guess, Android Cop is very much Asylum's glorious return to mockbusters by riffing on the upcoming RoboCop remake. Asylum has landed themselves in plenty of legal troubles over the last couple years because of their mockbusters (The Day The Earth Stopped, Age of Hobbits aka Clash of the Empires, and American Battleship aka American Warships being the top guilty parties), and because of that it seems lately they just don't do as many mockbusters as they once did. In fact, off the top of my head, the last one I can remember them doing was the After Earth mockbuster, Apocalypse Earth, and that was almost a full year ago in just a couple more months. I love their original stuff as well, don't get me wrong, but I've always held a special place in my heart for Asylum's mockbusters. For one, it was what originally led me to them way back in the days of Snakes on a Train, H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, and Transmorphers. Secondly, it's always fun to see just how close to the real Hollywood blockbuster it turns out and in turn which one ends up being more entertaining. So yeah, of course I was pretty excited to come home from a crappy day at work to find a screener waiting for me for Asylum's much-anticipated return to mockbusting by way of Android Cop.


Much like with Universal Soldiers, we're kind of just plucked down into the middle of the story without much backstory to go off of, which has always been an annoying story format that I hate. We have to kind of figure out the characters and their relationships with one another on our own, in addition to having to pick up on little throw-away dialog lines here and there in order to grasp just what's going on at the point in the story that we're dropped into. From what I could gather in the opening minutes, Android Cop takes place in a semi-post apocalyptic future. I say semi because we do see shots and have scenes that take place in bustling, glistening, beautiful cities of glass, however this portion of the movie takes place in the rubble and debris of a destroyed and radiation-infected Los Angeles, dubbed "The Zone" by our lead cop character as played by Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Arrow, and Spawn starer Michael Jai White. He and his partner are on some kind of mission into The Zone in search of a specific suspect that is moving among the leftover homeless people, crime lords, and mutated cannibals that reside in what's left of the city. During this mission, something malfunctions with a computer-controlled sentry gun at the border and it accidentally shoots and kills Michael Jai White's partner, thus leading to his distrust of anything computerized and mechanical that isn't fully operated by a human.

Before even the 6 minute mark he's retrieved from The Zone, only to be sent right back in with another team for backup where, once again, they're almost all taken out, this time by street gangs, until a new mysterious robotic police officer shows up, decked out in black body armor gear and a tinted helmet visor – the title character himself, the low-rent RoboCop wannabe with no personality and a strong unwavering attitude against law-breakers, Android Cop (named Andy, but honestly Android Cop sounds so much cooler, so that's what I'll be referring to him as for the review). Of course there's distrust towards him on the part of Michael Jai White's character because he simply just does not trust machines anymore, which frustrates him all the more once they reach back to the precinct in the city and he finds out that this Android Cop, the first prototype in what the higher-ups hope will be the future of Law Enforcement, is to be his new partner.

As you can probably already tell since all that makes up only the first 10 minutes or so, the movie moves at breakneck speed, starting off right in the thick of things and hardly letting you even have a moment to breath till the end. The rest of the movie plays out pretty much as you can expect, with the two of them working together on a top secret case that leads them through the underbelly of their city and out into the anarchy-ridden Zone, with Michael Jai White learning along the way to accept his robotic partner and even, eventually, trust him while the Android Cop finds his humanity, as these things tend to go in these movies, while also inadvertently uncovering a vast Government conspiracy that also involves some of the top-ranking officers in the police force and their very own Mayor.


So yeah, the movie is pretty generic, but it still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun, largely in part cause of the fast pace of it but also because it's another example of an Asylum mockbuster done right. It has tastes of what it's mockbusting (really, the whole robotic cop angle and most of the subplots dealing with that is obviously directly lifted from RoboCop, and the fact that its body is black, as is the new upcoming reboot of RoboCop's, so that isn't fooling anyone), but there's so much more to the movie that it does separate from all that - For example, there's a subplot in here where they discover that when citizens are in life-threatening accidents and are rendered unconscious, their bodies are kept on life-support while their consciousness are secretly transported into replica android bodies, but without their knowledge so they never know (a debate as to the legalities and moral issues of that also pops up), meaning there could be potentially hundreds if not thousands of sleeper Androids walking around, just ready to be activated by a corrupt person in a position to do so. Stuff like that in this movie actually reminded me quite a bit of the final few episodes of Power Rangers RPM (sorry, spoiler for those not caught up on a 5-year old TV show). Hell, there was even a plot twist in regards to that, late into the movie that I initially called earlier on, but totally forgot that I had called while the movie went on, so it still came as a surprise to me when it happened, and it was a very logical and welcomed plot twist at that.

Even the CGI effects, though there's not much with this one, which is an odd thing to say about an Asylum movie as they're usually all decked out in crappy-but-fun CGI money shots, the few we do get consist of some very well-done futuristic flying vehicles and a couple decent explosions. The rest of this movie was done with practical effects, from the Android Cop himself to the Mad Max-style spiked cars and mutant cannibalistic savages that populate The Zone. In matter of fact, while on the topic here, it's pretty safe to say that more than RoboCop gets mockbusted, as there are plenty of shades of movies and shows I've already mentioned, such as Mad Max and even Power Rangers RPM (though I'm doubtful that last one was on purpose), while I also got some vibes reminiscent of The Terminator, Nemesis, and even Lethal Weapon at times. Even if for some strange reason the movie is not keeping your interest on it's own, you should at least be able to have a fun game of 'Guess That Homage/Rip-Off' with your pals, which will keep you occupied right to the end.


The acting was also filled with lots of good stuff to entertain – Michael Jai White especially was in top form, as he always is, and was just as good here as he is in anything else. A lot of bigger named actors, when in movies such as this, tend to not really bother trying I find, but Michael Jai White, I tell ya, really seems to be a professional when it comes to these things. He also had excellent, and at times humorous, chemistry with his Android partner, which is saying something considering one of them purposely had no personality of their own. They only part of their partnership I wasn't a fan of, was the actor they got to play the Android Cop, Randy Wayne of Honey 2 and Dukes of Hazard: The Beginning fame. It's not that he was bad at it, on the contrary he played the role perfectly and put into the buddy-cop chemistry just as well as Michael Jai White did, but my issue comes down to the fact that he's just so short and scrawny, especially when standing next to Michael Jai White, that even with the thick robotic body armor on, he came across like a pipsqueak when on-screen at the same time as him, and that guy only had to bring himself to the table to look pretty threatening. There were times when criminals were sweating off their fear when face-to-face with the Android Cop and I was just left wondering... Why? If anything they should have busted a gut laughing at the visual gag that is this duo of a tall muscular man in nothing but a tight t-shirt and this short skinny guy decked out in thick body armor, yet the level of intimidation being felt by them was reversed from how it should be.

Admittedly though, he did look pretty damn cool whenever he was firing guns off, but considering this is a sci-fi action movie, I wouldn't expect anything less when it comes to the gunplay scenes (of which there are plenty). Other than that, the only times in the movie that he actually came across as looking all that badass and intimidating, was when he had his tinted-visored helmet on, something that doesn't happen very often; He's wearing it when he's first introduced and then he doesn't put it back on again until far later into the movie, however it's in a scene that is almost cheer-worthy when he finally does pick it back up and put it on, because you know he's about to kick some ass and shit is gonna get real.

In addition, Charles S. Dutton even shines nicely here as the corrupt Mayor and plays the role with such gusto that I'm sure he probably thought he was in a theatrical movie, because I can just not see such an established actor putting that much effort to good use in such a low budget B-Movie. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - I'll never, ever, complain about top-notch acting in a B-Movie.


Sure, the movie has a bit rushed and sloppy of a beginning, and the Android Cop himself may have been slightly miscast when it comes to his size and overall visual intimidation level, but there is so much other stuff to love in this movie, and so much more of it that's done surprisingly well, that it's easy to overlook those minor issues and not really be bothered by them come the time the credits roll at the end. Android Cop is more than just a good, fun, entertaining return to mockbusting for The Asylum, it's an all around good, fun, entertaining movie, period. I know that unless the word 'shark' is in the title somewhere than it seems like Asylum never does sequels anymore, but I would love to see a second movie with these characters on another case and foiling another conspiracy of some sort.

If this is the caliber of movies we can be expecting from The Asylum during 2014, than this is going to be one hell of an awesome year to be an Asylum fan.

Dead or Alive, you're coming with... oops, sorry, wrong movie.

9/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



Friday, January 31, 2014

Teenage Space Vampires/Darkness: The Teen Space Vampire Saga (1999)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


COMPANY: Full Moon Entertainment/Moonbeam Entertainment

RUNTIME: 86 mins

FORMAT: Full Moon Streaming


PLOT:
Bill, a dorky high school student and avid horror movie fan, witnesses a UFO flying over his town. When the ship lands the next day, Bill and a team from SETI discover that the alien is a strange vampire creature who wants to cast the Earth into darkness so that he and his people can colonize it for themselves.

REVIEW: I got anxious while waiting for Asylum's newest release, Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark, the third movie in the infamous Mega Shark series, to arrive in the mail so to help pass the time until then, I signed up for Full Moon Streaming - an online streaming service for the full catalog of Full Moon Entertainment movies, both old classics in addition to brand new stuff, and everything in between.

Now, I do plan to get back to my Puppet Master series rewatch here shortly, but I was really in the mood this evening for something I hadn't ever seen before, so I went to Full Moon's Moonbeam subsection (their side-company for 80's and 90's family friendly-aimed movies such as Prehysteria, Pet Shop, and the Josh Kirby: Time Warrior saga – none of which are actually up on the site yet, but were among my favorites of theirs while growing up) and came across a nifty-sounding little diddy that I had never even heard of before, the awesomely-titled Teenage Space Vampires, or the even cheesier (and obvious Twilight cash-grab) renaming it's been given in recent DVD re-releases, Darkness: The Teen Space Vampire Saga! I figured this would be the perfect kind of movie to watch for the first time and do a review on.


The first thing you have to realize, is that this is indeed a family-friendly 'horror' movie, so there's no swearing or gore of any kind, and there's no other kinds of questionable content in that regard, if you're a parent wondering if this movie is ok for your child to watch. With that said, there are indeed a few scenes that children might find a bit creepy or scary so you may want to watch it with them if they're sensitive to those kinds of things. For example, there's a scene that consist of the Turned football players and cheerleaders (among which are a couple of main characters) vamping out mid-game to cause a feeding frenzy and chow down on the other team and the spectators in the stands, or in one scene in particular that reminded me of The Lost Boys we have a group of teens around a campfire at night that get ambushed by a gang of the vampires. In addition to those, we also have a couple scenes that take place in dark underground mines that deal with a nest of vampires lurking in the shadows and led by the Master Vampire that looks far more monstrous than the rest of his minions, so as I said, if your child is sensitive to that kind of stuff, than maybe this isn't the movie for them after all, at least not without you watching it with them to remind them that it is just a movie.

However, in terms of the horror aspect, that's really all there is. Most of the vampire effects are extremely goofy-looking and made worse by the extremely-bad glowing CGI eyes and overly-large and overly-obvious fake rubber teeth. Honestly, everything from the special effects to some of the acting to the production values are all what you would expect from a mid-90s Direct-to-Video low budget children's movie. Actually, anybody that grew up with the Goosebumps TV show already knows what to expect from this in that regard as it pretty much plays out, complete with the all-around general cheesiness expected of such, of the average 22-minute Goosebumps episode, but spread out for feature-length.
 

Making the acting come across as even worse than it probably initially was, is some distractingly-bad ADR dubbing. It's not present in every scene, but the ones that it is, it really takes you out of the moment as it's delivered in such an incredibly dull and boring way, which is usually in complete contrast with how the character looks as they're saying it. That issue aside though, there is still some decent acting to be found, mostly via Robin Dunn (Species 3, The Skulls 2, Cruel Intentions 2) as the main character of the movie and the always-beautiful Lindy Booth (Wrong Turn, Dawn of the Dead remake, Kick Ass 2) as his older cheerleader sister. The one truly honest-to-god great actor though, that I actually always enjoyed when he was on-screen, was the mostly-unknown James Kee as the leader of the SETI team that comes out to investigate the mysterious going-ons in the town.

I suppose I should step back a bit and explain a little of the plot. The movie starts with a bang (literally) as Robin Dunn's character is woken up in the middle of the night by some mysterious explosion that also set off car alarms in the area and drives the dogs bonkers. Even though his character doesn't look or even really act like it during the movie, we're told he's a dweeb and dork that gets picked on a lot, which only intensifies when he comes across a spaceship in a neighbor's back property – a spaceship that is guarded by several stone gargoyles that seem to be alive (a totally pointless addition as they never even once do anything other than turn their heads to look around). Of course nobody believes him except his goofy best friend, and it isn't long until he starts noticing that his neighbors and classmates are all, one-by-one, starting to act strange and differently. That's when a research team from SETI arrives in town, having noticed the mysterious falling object and wanting to investigate it. They team up with Robin Dunn's character to get to the bottom of things and eventually discover that the town has been invaded and partly-taken over by vampires, which are actually an alien race. They're in this specific town to locate an ancient mystical amulet that when used in the proper ritual can harvest the energy from the sun and moon and plunge the entire Earth into a total never-ending darkness – a vampire's wet dream.


The plot of the movie actually isn't half-bad. At first it seemed a bit sloppily written, seeing as how we see plenty of vampires out during the day thus making the entire evil plan pointless, but they actually explain that away fairly well, as those are only vampire fledglings and aren’t yet full alien vampires, so they don't quite have all their strengths but also don't quite have all their weaknesses yet either. Where the movie kind of comes undone is the above-mentioned bad effects, terrible ADR dubbing, the unbelievability that the main character is a picked-on dweeb (seriously, the guy is taller and more buff than half the 'jocks' in the movie are) and just all around general cheap feel of everything (again, think a feature-length Goosebumps episode on the same budget of the average Goosebumps episode). Luckily the movie is saved a bit by decent to good acting from the core main characters (even if a lot of the dialog they have to work with is pretty terrible), a well-made monster suit for the Master Vampire, and a pretty fun overall plot. It also seems that director/writer Martin Wood has perfected his talents since his time doing this movie, seeing as how he has since gone on to be a main writer and director on such Canadian TV shows as Sanctuary, Andromeda, Primeval: New World, and the various Stargate shows.

Die-hard horror hounds and just adults in general may scoff at this one and roll their eyes during most of it, and I honestly can't blame them because there's not much in this one for that demographic, but for young boys and girls looking to dabble into some family-friendly horror, Teenage Space Vampires, aka Darkness: The Teen Space Vampire Saga is a pretty decent hour and a half, and it's low budget and cheesiness may also help lighten the mood for them a bit when it comes to the few darker, scarier scenes that some kids may find a little troubling.

5/10 rooms in the Psych Ward



Friday, January 24, 2014

The Prophecy II (1998)

REVIEW BY: Jeffrey Long


Company: Overseas FilmGroup

Runtime: 83 mins

Format: BluRay

Plot: Arch Angel Gabriel returns to try to destroy the future hope for the human race he despises so much, with the help of a suicidal teen girl and the opposition of the angel Danyael.

Review: There's just something about religious thrillers that I love. I'm not particularly a very religious person, but I love all that mythology that we hear about while growing up, and its for that reason that, a few issues aside, I really loved the first Prophecy movie (Or God's Army, depending on where you live in the world). That first one was theatrical and all following entries (and there are quite a nice handful of them) were Direct-to-Video, so that probably means they can't stack up to it, right?

Well you could kind of say that I suppose, but then you would be wrong. In The Prophecy II (sometimes found with the subtitle Ashtown and sometimes not), Lucifer spits disgraced Arch Angel Gabriel (as played to perfection by Christopher Walken returning to the role, not scared by the lower budget) out of Hell for reasons that are never really touched upon other than “Not even Hell will have you.”, and the fallen angel resumes his War on Heaven, where he left off in the previous movie. This time, he's after a woman pregnant with a Nephilim, which is a baby born of both human and Angel, as it has been foretold in a new Prophecy made by Elias Koteas' character from the first movie (but played by a different actor here, and back being a monk again) that a Nephilim will end the Second War in Heaven and return peace to the Universe. However, the woman is being aided by the Warrior Angel Danyael, who was the one that actually impregnated her.


Initially I never liked this Terminator-wannabe of an entry nearly as much as I did the first movie, but over the years and upon several re-watches it really grew on me to the point where I actually now enjoy it a bit more, but just by a sliver.

With the first movie I couldn't really argue with anyone that felt it was very slow-moving and boring, however The Prophecy 2 is a much more action-packed and fast-paced entry, as this one is essentially just one long movie-length chase scene. As mentioned, this is the 'Terminator' entry in the series, what with Gabriel chasing a mild-mannered woman through the city during the night in order to kill her before she gives birth to mankind's savior, and the entire movie is pretty much 'run, hide, get found by the methodical bad guy, run, hide, get found by the methodical bad guy, and just keep repeating'. I know that doesn't sound very interesting, and the repetitiveness of it was one of the reasons that I didn't like it very much my first time watching it, but over time and during the course of several re-watches, I grew to appreciate the faster pace of the 'cat-and-mouse' plot because, as repetitive as it gets, there's at least always something exciting happening and the movie never gets dull, making it easier to digest for the average person than the slower-paced first movie probably is.

It also helps, at least for me, that despite the faster pace it still manages to expand upon the excellent world-building mythology that I loved so much in the first movie and couldn't say enough good things about in my review for that one. The strongest point of the entire Prophecy movie series, to me, is the excellent world-building background mythology that keeps getting fed to us in each movie. So much so in fact, that I'm still picking up on missed morsels of it in dialog here and there each movie, even after umpteen rewatches, that just keeps adding to the experience for me and gives me something new each time I watch them. Even after five movies, I feel the potential of this series has only just begun to be tapped and this is a movie universe I would love to keep getting more sequels for, so I can spend more time exploring it.


The characters that populate this movie also keep it interesting and, if anything, I think I actually like more than the characters in the first movie. Once again everyone acts their part perfectly, but this time Christopher Walken, while just as badass as ever, is matched in terms of acting by some of the other actors, who mostly all turn in better performances than you would expect to find in a Direct-to-Video sequel. Jennifer Beals plays the main female lead and while she was pretty bland and forgettable at the start of the movie, once the action really starts getting going and she gets into the thick of the Terminator-esque plot, that's when she really starts to shine, with my favorite moments of her being when she goes head to head against Christopher Walken's Gabriel himself, as those two played off of one another so well. Also, a young Brittney Murphy did an excellent and very enjoyable job for one of her first starring roles, taking on the role of Gabriel's undead slave that he brings back to life after she tries to commit suicide with her boyfriend, as he still yet can't comprehend human technology, nor how to drive a vehicle and needs her assistance, culminating in some pretty hilarious moments. Even Eric Roberts pops up in the second half of the movie as the fellow-famed Arch Angel, Michael – you know, the one that ultimately beat back Lucifer and sent him down to Hell during the first War? Now he's in charge of looking after the supposed-safe haven of the infamous 'Garden' of Eden, which has since gotten a modern-day industrial makeover, and he plays the role in such a way that you're not quite sure if he can be trusted or not, and it leads to one of my favorite and more suspenseful sequences in the entire movie.

This entry is also much darker then the first movie was, both in tone as well as the filming style. Where that one took place primarily during day scenes, this one takes place entirely over the course of one night, and even though in the end when the good guys win, we as viewers (in addition to the characters themselves) are still left with a sense of foreboding doom to come, and ends things off on a bit of a bleak cliffhanger that won't be resolved until the third movie (and final movie for this specific story arc, as The Prophecy 4 and 5 deal with entirely all-new characters and an entirely all-new story). I also still really love the portrayal of the Angels in these movies. For those familiar with the hit TV show Supernatural, they are almost identical to that of how they are portrayed in that show, which is one of the reasons I love them on Supernatural (especially in Season 4 when they were first introduced, it was essentially a season-long crossover between Supernatural and The Prophecy, however now in Season 9 I'm feeling they're dragging the bottom of that well a bit, but I suppose all of that is for a different type of review).

My only big complaint is that with the runtime so short and the movie so fast-paced, it zoomed by and was over before I really had time to process most of what I had just watched, which means it definitely requires multiple viewings to pick everything up, especially where that excellent world-building dialogue is concerned. An extra 10-15 minutes would have been nice to break up the frequency, in addition to the repetitiveness, of the chase scenes and perhaps that time could have been used to give the human characters a tad bit more solid characterization; While the Angels and the whole concept of the various wars in Heaven were all given more-than-satisfactory backstories and characterizations, the human characters were left in the dust a little bit and felt a tad underdeveloped.


While The Prophecy II still has a few faults of it's own, despite my initial gut reaction the very first time I watched it, I actually now feel it's an even stronger and more enjoyable movie than the first Prophecy flick, if only slightly, which is saying quite a bit considering that one went to Theaters and this one was Direct-to-Video. A faster pace, better characters, further world-building, and yet another excellent portrayal of the main villain by Christopher Walken all make this a very worthy sequel in the Prophecy series.

After tying up a couple loose ends from the first movie that promises to make the next entry different from anything that's come in these first two installments, and ending things off on a sort of cliffhanger-style note of forebodingness to come, I really can't see how anyone that enjoyed these first two movies wouldn't be excited to see how the conclusion to this first story arc will play out in The Prophecy 3: The Ascent.

8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward


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