An Asylum for Zombies & Dragons

I love zombies and apocalyptic stories.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies and 2012: Zombie Apocalypse are both available on instant Netflix.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) – Not rated

“Not to be confused with the big-screen, vampire hunting mashup, this direct-to-video horror flick has the Great Emancipator battling to save the Union from an attacking horde of Confederate zombies.”

Well it starts off with “The Asylum Presents” so I almost turned it off immediately. Instead I gave it a few minutes because the title is amusing (even though it rips off Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter). This turned out to be a futile effort as the first scene is typical Asylum quality. AVOID

2012: Zombie Apocalypse (2011) – Rated R

“In this indie horror flick, a group of humans who’ve survived a zombie pestilence desperately try to get to safety on an island off the coast of California. But the flesh-eating undead are hot on their trail.”

Well I really liked Ving Rhames in the Dawn of the Dead remake so I thought I would give 2012: Zombie Apocalypse a try. It started with Syfy Presents – definitely not a good sign but at least not Asylum. Moments later (enough time to see the quality) – Asylum Presents. *Click*

After wasting so much time on Asylum productions, I thought I’d go looking for some others to steer you away from.

The Amityville Haunting (2011)

“Thirty years after the brutal slayings in Amityville, a new troubled family moves into the home. One month later, police uncover recordings made by the young son, which document the supernatural terror they faced before their gruesome deaths.”

Quoting from a review on Netflix – “Yes, I ignored the ratings and comments. Yes, I watched the entire movie. Yes, I regret it. “

11/11/11 (2011) – Rated R

In this chilling horror movie, Melissa and Jack — once an ordinary couple — watch in shock as their son slowly morphs into a hellish harbinger of the Apocalypse, set to engulf the Earth on the devil-boy’s own birthday, 11/11/11.”

This is Asylum’s ripoff of 11-11-11: The Prophecy. I’m not sure if 11-11-11 is worth your time but 11/11/11 sure isn’t.

Dragon Crusaders (2011) – Rated R

“In this sword-and-sorcery extravaganza, a group of marauding Knights Templar suffers a curse that transforms them into monsters, driving them to square off against an evil dragon obsessed with annihilating the entire world.”

Seriously just avoid these movies and anything following “The Asylum Presents”.

Captain America

Captain America just became available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: An earnest family-friendly superhero adventure that is a little long and a little slow but quite enjoyable.

Captain America (2011) – Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

“It is 1942, America has entered World War II, and sickly but determined Steve Rogers is frustrated at being rejected yet again for military service. Everything changes when Dr. Erskine recruits him for the secret Project Rebirth. Proving his extraordinary courage, wits and conscience, Rogers undergoes the experiment and his weak body is suddenly enhanced into the maximum human potential. When Dr. Erskine is then immediately assassinated by an agent of Nazi Germany’s head of its secret HYDRA research department, Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull, Rogers is left as a unique man who is initially misused as a propaganda mascot. However, when his comrades need him, Rogers goes on a successful adventure that truly makes him Captain America and his war against Schmidt begins. “

I find Joe Johnston to be a very problematic director. His Jurassic Park III was a quick fun romp but it had very little of the majesty that infused the two Spielberg outings. Johnston’s The Wolfman had some very good scenes and actors but was ultimately a mess. On the other hand, way back in 1991, he directed the adorable pre-WWII saga, The Rocketeer and did a very good job of bringing the Dave Stevens graphic novel to the screen.

The Rocketeer would seem to make Johnston the ideal choice for Captain America as the stories are not all that different. A naive but earnest young man discovers a rocket pack/secret formula that allows him to fight Nazis as a masked superhero.

Chris Evans is great as Steve Rogers/ Captain America. I love the visual wizardry used to portray him as the proverbial 98-lb. weakling prior to his transformation. In the after shots, you will be wondering if those abs are real. Evans does a fine job of being earnest and brave and a little naive.

One of the biggest problems I had with Captain America was actually one of the things I had most been looking forward to. Hugo Weaving is a fantastic orator and his creations of Elrond (from the LOTR trilogy) and Mr. Smith (from The Matrix trilogy) are indelibly etched in my mind as is his voice in V for Vendetta. Unfortunately Hugo Weaving appears to have studied his German accent so hard here that his dramatic cadences are lost. His version of The Red Skull is good but just doesn’t quite gel.

Hydra is the villain organization and they have an army of Nazis with laser rifles. This also doesn’t gel well and comes across as silly in some of the scenes. Thankfully, Toby Jones is great as The Red Skull’s underling, Arnim Zola.

Stanley Tucci is excellent as always as the erstwhile Dr. Erskine but has very little screen time. Tommy Lee Jones is his usual fun craggy self as Colonel Chester Phillips. Hayley Atwell and Sebastian Stan are okay as Rogers’ best gal and pal respectively.

Pacing is a little uneven. I appreciate the logic behind using Captain America to sell war bonds but it sidelines him for too much of the movie and the battle montages will either make you shrug your shoulders or wish that they had included the actual battle. Corporate pressure from Marvel may have had an effect here as Captain America had to be ready and in the present for The Avengers this year – thus limiting his time in World War II.

Joe Johnston does a great job of conveying the feel of the time and characters (without the terrible Hollywood shorthand of sepia-toning everything). There is very little cursing and everyone is so earnest and not snarky.

Marvel fans will have plenty to umm marvel at. We get a look at Tony Stark’s father Howard (Dominic Cooper) in action as well as Dum-Dum Dugan (Neal McDonough) and the requisite appearance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). There is a great visual joke with Arnim Zola and the plot revolves around the cosmic cube/ tesseract. Don’t forget to stay for the post-credits sequence.

Future Watch: Although Joe Johnston will not be back for it, look for Captain America: Winter Soldier in theaters April 4th, 2014 (Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan and Samuel L. Jackson will be reprising their roles). Joe Johnston is rumored to be working on Jurassic Park IV. Hugo Weaving will once again be seen as Elrond in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey this Christmas.

Inkubus

Inkubus is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Se7en + Storm of the Century + Assault on Precinct 13 = Stinkubus.

Inkubus (2011) – Rated R for horror violence/gore, some language and sexuality.

“A group of cops stuck on the night shift find themselves thrust into a world of supernatural brutality when a man claiming to be a demon named Inkubus wanders into the precinct house, holding a bloody severed head and looking to settle an old score.”

“I like the inverted k. It separates me from all the other Inkubi. They’re such rabble.”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a man walks into a police station holding a severed head. Inkubus is written, directed, and produced by Glenn Ciano.This means of course that all blame or praise can be laid at his feet.

The sets all look like generic sets. Here is a hint – if you want to replicate a hospital or police station, go into one and take some photos for a reference. The hospital sequence starting the film is fairly incoherent. They then ‘borrow’ from John Carpenter’s far better Assault on Precinct 13 by setting the film in a closing, semi-deserted police station. The gore effects are terrible – either poorly done, poorly filmed or both.

It appears as though Glenn Ciano spent all his money to have four recognizable faces in the movie. Robert Englund is the titular character here. He can play this type of role in his sleep – and here he does just that. Actually Englund looks like he is having a lot of fun here playing a Freddy substitute without all the makeup.

For cops we have Joey Fatone – yes NSYNC Joey – and Jonathan (Weekend at Bernie’s) Silverman. Noted character actor William Forsythe (Raising Arizona, The Rock) shows up as a retired detective. All are able to read their lines without derision so they have some talent.

The basic idea is sound: have someone come into a police station and confess to a series of crimes while carrying out some diabolical plan. It was called Se7en. It worked much better when the killer was a nobody and not a gloating demon.

In Inkubus, you have a demon who can do anything (cuffs do nothing, hitting him has no effect, he can teleport) and he can switch places with any one at any time. That would seem to indicate that this would be a very short movie.

Indeed it is a short movie at one hour and nineteen minutes including credits but it feels much longer because you can’t really care about anything that happens. Even at that they pad the running time with (terrible) flashbacks and (worse) flash-forwards.

Inkubus has no idea where to begin or how to end and that part in the middle is pretty bad too. Ugh. Just ugh.

FREE August Movies in Asheville

Every Thursday, Carolina Cinemas Asheville has a FREE horror movie in the cinema lounge. The movie begins at 8 p.m. with a serial starting about 7:30.

8/2 The Mangler (1995, Tobe Hooper)

8/9 Timecrimes (2007, Nacho Vigalondo)

8/16 Doctor X (1932, Michael Curtiz)

8/23 Big Trouble in Little China (1986, John Carpenter)

8/30 Planet Terror (2007, Robert Rodriguez)

Every Tuesday, the Asheville Film Society puts on a FREE show in the Carolina Cinemas cinema lounge. Membership is not required and the feature begins at 8.

8/7 Love & Death (1975, Woody Allen)

8/14 The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933, Fritz Lang)

8/21 The Knack…and how to get it (1965, Richard Lester)

8/28 Modern Times (1936, Charles Chaplin)

August 7th is the last of Cinebarre’s FREE outdoor showings. Across the Universe begins at dusk.

Netflix and Amazon Prime are Hell on Wheels

* For those who want to know numbers, Netflix has 3 million paying customers for its international streaming service. Contrast this with the 22.69 million domestic streaming customers and you can see that foreign growth has a vast potential for Netflix. Netflix is beating Lovefilm and has Sky as the goal target.

* Gizmodo recenty posited the question of whether Netflix or Amazon Prime is the best streaming service. Simple numbers always put Amazon Prime to shame. I would love to see them be a contender but they will have to stop clinging so tightly to their by-the-movie pricing model and pony up some money for content. On the other hand FREE two-day Amazon shipping is a nice perk.

* That said Amazon Prime recently signed not only a deal with Warner Bros. but much more importantly an EXCLUSIVE deal. Fringe and The West Wing will be available exclusively on Amazon Prime for the summer. This deal makes other shows available as well (though not exclusively). Titles included are Alcatraz, Dark Blue, and The Whole Truth.

* DirecTV and Viacom have finally ended their spat (well, until the new contract is up anyway) so DirecTV customers can watch The Daily Show again. Personally that is what I have Hulu Plus for and I’m sure the $7.99 a month I pay is far less than what DirecTV charges a month.

I don’t miss cable or satellite TV at all. I have far more than I can possibly watch with Netflix and Hulu Plus. My wife and I are trying to finish Downton Abbey season 2 before moving on to the Titanic miniseries and Breaking Bad season 4.

* In spite of being overloaded at the moment I’m looking forward to watching AMC’s Hell on Wheels. The first season is supposed to be available through Netflix instant on 7/29.

Metal Tornado

Metal Tornado is currently available on instant Netflix.

One Line Review: Gone with the Wind this ain’t but it is marginally better than an Asylum movie.

Metal Tornado (2011) – Rated PG

“After a research project goes awry, a scientist and his team race to stop the monstrous magnetic tornadoes their experiment spawned. But fueled by infinite energy and shredding everything in sight, the trillion-watt twisters may prove unstoppable.”

As you can tell I get sucked in by the title (again). I did watch to see if it was an Asylum movie so that I could just turn it off when the opening credits rolled, but no such luck. The description by Netflix is really terrible – they aren’t really trying to stop multiple tornadoes (sort of), they aren’t fueled by infinite energy, by team they mean family members, etc. Essentially no part of the description is accurate but hey that hardly matters here anyway.

The Syfy formula is to pack as many former stars from any list as possible and ship them to Eastern Europe (the new Thailand) to film with extras who double as underpaid stunt people. They then throw a gloss of cheap CGI over top and half bake it at 350 for ninety minutes. It is also preferable if the name actors have some connection with Syfy.

Lou Diamond Phillips is the headliner here. His connection to Syfy is the short-lived Wolf Lake series and a twenty-episode run on Stargate Universe. Here he plays scientist Michael Edwards. I think I lost half my audience there but I’ll continue for the rest of you.

Nicole de Boer (of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and Dead Zone) plays our requisite love interest and co-worker Rebecca. 24-year-old Stephen MacDonald plays the high school age son of Michael, Nick Edwards. Greg Evigan is the final ‘star’ and yes that would be B.J. of B.J. and the Bear fame. All of the actors are able to read their lines fairly well.

I did look this up and instead of Bulgaria, this was filmed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It is a step above The Asylum productions in all respects but it is still pretty terrible. There are many wonderful cheap horror and science fiction productions to come out of Canada (Cube, Ginger Snaps) but this is not one of them.

The basic idea is fun but the magnetic tornado sucks down ferrous and non-ferrous items alike. Not only that but lightweight items appear to be sucked in at about the same rate as cars. The science may have you pounding your head in frustration and apparently there were no actual experiments before this program went into full production with three satellites (six I suppose if you count the French facility).

The CGI is serviceably terrible – in other words you understand what is depicted but at no point are you fooled into believing that the CGI is the real deal. The script is terrible and the plot is by-the-numbers. All of the creativity was used up on the concept – not even on the title. What was the matter? Was MagnetoStorm taken? Resistor Twister?

 

The Dark Knight, Punisher, Luke Cage and YouTube

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of fan-made stuff on YouTube.

* Try The Dark Knight & 60s Robin for a funnier approach to The Dark Knight Rises. The same people also put out a mumblemouth version of Bane but since that’s what we get in The Dark Knight Rises, it isn’t much of a parody. Yes they cleared up a lot of Bane’s dialogue (in The Dark Knight Rises) but I missed quite a bit of what he said on my first viewing. Maybe it was all a plan for repeat business.

* Try Batman: Dead End for a much more serious fan film. This was released at ComiCon in 2003 and was so well received that the creator (Sandy Collora) created another fan short, World’s Finest as well as directing an interesting feature film, Hunter Prey.

* So you say you enjoyed Thomas Jane as The Punisher but liked the grittiness of Punisher: War Zone? Try the short Dirty Laundry on Youtube.

* Isaiah Mustafa (The Old Spice guy) cut a serious albeit fake trailer for Luke Cage. I think he looks good in it but I’d really like to see Michael Jai White as Luke Cage (or T’Challa).

* I do have to give Isaiah props though for he also cut this silly video combining his Luke Cage persona with his Old Spice commercials.

* I also got to enjoy watching an old Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing film that I hadn’t seen since I was a child. Night of the Big Heat (Island of the Burning Damned here in the U.S.) turned out to be nowhere near as good as I remembered it being but was still fun.

I noticed Youtube had a number of other ‘abandoned’ films (Island of Terror, The Legend of the Werewolf, The Uncanny, Blood Beach, etc.). I cannot imagine that they are out of copyright or Mill Creek and all the other public domain moviehouses would have cranked out DVDs but no one appears to be defending the rights and there has never been a U.S. DVD release for any of those films.

The Dark Knight Rises 2 – Addendum

Wow! I just went to check Fandango for other showtimes at the Regal Biltmore Grande. The 6:30 Dark Knight marathon in their RPX (Regal Premium Experience – basically their best of the best theater) has sold out and they are selling tickets to a non-RPX marathon. In addition four of their other midnight Dark Knight Rises showings (not including the one in the marathon) are sold out. They have tickets available for a fifth/sixth midnight showing and a C-R-A-Z-Y 3:30 A.M. showing.

This is one of the perks of converting to full digital – you can add as many showings as you have theaters.

I think that I had better arrive early!

The Dark Knight Rises – Regal, Best Buy, and Rotten Tomatoes

I am so looking forward to going to the Dark Knight marathon tonight. The funny thing is, I’m only going to see the first two movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The theater is over half an hour from my house and The Dark Knight Rises won’t begin until 12:01. Fandango clocks The Dark Knight Rises at two hours and forty-five minutes so I wouldn’t be home until after 3:30 in the morning. Sadly I passed my twenties half a lifetime ago so I’ll catch the first two and then catch some sleep. Besides, I have a date with the mecca of used books and movies on Friday.

I will catch The Dark Knight Rises in the next week. Thanks to Best Buy, I have four coupons, each for $5 off an admission ticket. I used their upgrade and save promotion and turned in five DVDs. For a whopping $25 and tax, I got the Batman Begins steelbook blu-ray, The Dark Knight steelbook blu-ray, the Constantine Blu-ray, the Blade blu-ray, and the Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol blu-ray/DVD combo pack. All but Mission Impossible had $5 off coupons for The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises has already grossed $25 million in pre-sale tickets. Will it set new records? Can it beat The Avengers juggernaut? The Man of Steel trailer premieres in front of it. I may be tempted to stay long enough after The Dark Knight to catch that but what if I’m lured into the full movie?

The Dark Knight Rises has already generated some controversy over on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Several people had already rated The Dark Knight Rises very highly in spite of not having seen it. When someone came along and gave it a bad rating (again not having seen it), they actually received death threats from the fanboys. Rotten Tomatoes, for the first time ever, turned off the comments section. Too bad they don’t actually turn off reviews until a movie has been viewed by people not involved with making it.

Mid-Month Update 3 – It’s the End of the World!

Netflix has unleashed the apocalypse on instant. Five similarly themed television miniseries and a movie just became available for streaming.

The Apocalypse Watch (1997)

“Based on the best-selling novel by Robert Ludlum, this captivating thriller follows CIA analyst Drew (Patrick Bergin), who has taken over a case from his brother, a field agent who was killed in the line of duty. With the help of the brother’s former partner and girlfriend, Karin (Virginia Madsen), Drew conducts an investigation that leads him to discover a sinister neo-Fascist movement that has been plotting to poison the world’s reservoirs.”

Category 6: Day of Destruction (2004)

“In this miniseries, meteorologist Andy Goodman (Brian Dennehy) begins tracking a trio of nasty storms brewing in the United States. Meanwhile, Chicago is battling a record heat wave, but residents have no idea the worst storm in history is about to pummel them as the three weather systems collide over the area. This sets off a deadly chain of events leading to the national power grid’s collapse and potentially massive damage.”

Category 7: The End of the World (2005)

“In this gripping follow-up to the made-for-television movie Category 6: Day of Destruction, Gina Gershon stars as beleaguered FEMA director Judith Carr, whose worst nightmares play out when severe “superstorms” envelop the planet. Millions of people need her organization’s help, and she’s assisted by outcast scientist Faith (Shannen Doherty) and storm chaser Tommy (Randy Quaid) in trying to learn how and why the destruction is happening.”

10.5 (2004)

“A 7.9 magnitude earthquake devastates Seattle, Wash. — and as a follow-up, the 8.4 aftershock wreaks even more havoc, even swallowing a moving train, with potentially more devastating aftershocks to come. Dr. Samantha Hill (Kim Delaney), an expert on hidden fault lines, and the president of the United States (Beau Bridges) must work together and race against the clock to save millions of Americans in harm’s way.”

Final Days of Planet Earth (2005)

“Archaeologist Lloyd suspects foul play after the government shuts down his dig, and after more excavation, he unearths an alien plot to wipe out humanity. The ringleader is Liz, a blood-sucking space creature masquerading as a city official.”

11:11:11: The Prophecy (2011)

“After the death of his wife and child, an author travels to Barcelona to see his estranged brother and dying father, where he learns that his life is plagued by events that occur on 11/11/11.”

Not to be confused with 11/11/11.