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The Movie You Didn’t Know Existed: NINJAS VS. ZOMBIES Reviewed!

26

Feb

Posted by Steve

I am not a film maker.  I’m not a screenwriter.  I’m not a director, producer, or even a gaffer.  I’m not even a best boy.   My experience with making movies is limited to being made to hold the camera for my dad on Christmas morning.   Whenever I review movies on this site, it’s less about being critical of a film and more about celebrating what I enjoy about a film.  I don’t feel like I have any real ground to stand on and be critical of the work that someone else does.  I know what I enjoy and I know what I don’t enjoy.  So, more often than not, I try to just talk about what I enjoy. 

So, it was with great hesitation that put in this particular movie, knowing I had been asked to review it on the site.  What if I didn’t like it?  What right do I have to get online and tell my three readers that they shouldn’t give something a chance?  What if I really like it, but everyone else hates it and stops reading my blog or listening to my podcast because I’m stupid?  What if no one ever sends me a screener again because I didn’t like this movie? 

I put way too much thought into this.  At the end of the day, we’re talking about a movie that’s about ninjas fighting zombies, and you know what?  It works.  It really does.

NVZ_poster.jpg Without attempting to spoil too much of this thing, I will say that what Justin Timpane and friends have come up with here is a fun little romp through a truly independent film. This is a pretty gutsy endeavor by Timpane and crew in that, they did all the footwork, raised all the money and put it all out there on this one film. That’s an independent film. While it may not win any Independent Spirit awards or be recognized by the Golden Globes, it’s definitely worth checking out. Especially if you’re a fan of zombies, ninjas, or magic-oriented tales.

The story starts out with one of our lead characters, Randall (Dan Guy), employing magic to raise his brother Eric (PJ Megaw) from the dead. He is interupted by a guy who is very remniscent of Rick Moranis’ character from GHOSTBUSTERS. It’s a very funny bit to cap off a weird opening. Unfortunately, Eric is raised from the dead, but he returns as quite evil. He begins to go around sucking former friends souls from their bodies and turning them into zombie, using the energy of their souls to give him power.

I guess many zombie enthusiasts may have a problem with the origins of zombies in this movie, but as someone who is only peripherally interested in the genre, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it.

From there, it becomes clear that something is going to have to be done about Eric’s evil tirade. So it is that Randall, and his friends Cole (Cory Eskridge Okouchi), Kyle (Daniel Ross), and Fitz (Daniel Mascarello) have to step it up to take on Eric and his zombie minions. It’s from this decision to fight Eric that we get Ninjas. Randall uses his magic to make his friends accomplished ninjas. From there it’s an all out romp.

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.

The sound design leaves much to be desired. Some of the acting falls a bit flat (maybe a result of time constraints and an inability to do too many retakes.) The cinematography is obviously crippled by budget. The special effects are things we’ve seen hundreds of amateurs put to use on YouTube videos. But, none of that matters because it all plays into being part of the charm of this movie.

And this movie does have a certain charm to it.

This is a movie made by people who love movies. They’re not going for the next big artistic, thought provoking, independent film. Rather, the film makers accomplished what they set out to do. Entertain.

While one or two of the fight scenes feels a little like a homemade Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fight scene, there are a couple of good fights. Particularly the climatctic battle between Eric and the gang. 

Whenever the zombies start to come in full force, Timpane and crew do a wonderful job of creating the claustrophobic feeling that most zombie movies lend themselves to.  To me, that’s the scariest part of the zombie genre – the feeling of being closed in by all of these creatures that cannot be reasoned with on any level.   This is done particularly well in a final fight with Zombies in a crawl space under a house.

While some of the plot points fall a little flat or don’t seem to have any real place in the movie, this movie does have heart.   The enjoyment of the actors and crew in making this movie oozes through the screen in every shot.  These people are like the proverbial kid in a candy store.   The sheer pleasure of making a film that is such a fun project comes out in nearly every shot.

Stealing the show is PJ Megaw as Eric.  He delivers a performance that is memorable and does a great job.  Eric carries himself with a dark humor that is at once compelling and off putting.  Megaw walks that line perfectly until at the end he is through joking (almost) and unleashes his pure evil on the heroes.  One of the funniest lines comes in the final battle as Eric declares he’s sucked so many souls that he’s too powerful to stop.  To which Cole replies, “You definitely have sucked.”  Eric muses, “I walked right into that one didn’t I?” and the fight resumes.  Megaw stands out among the rest of the cast.  None of whom are “bad” per se, Megaw seems to be able to do the most with what he’s given.  It may be that he’s that good, or it could be the classic case of the villain being the easiest character to get into.   Whatever the reason, Megaw, from his first moment on screen right up through the end steals the show whenever he’s doing his thing.

The comedy of the film is probably more well done than anything else.  (I feel like funny is something I can speak to pretty well.)  There are a few points where the timing of the delivery is a little off and while the joke is funny, the delivery lessens the punch a bit.  However, there are some funny bits right from the outset.   A few memorable one’s include:

-”I thought Dungeons and Dragons was tomorrow night.  Why are you dressed like this with all the candles lit?”  “I’m…uh…practicing.”  ”You’re the coolest guy I know.”

-After being told to think about what they want to look like and the book will transform them Kyle tells Randall no on the grounds of “HAVEN’T YOU SEEN GHOSTBUSTERS?”

- Cole, in a job interview quotes Han Solo, and it’s an obscure enough quote from the original trilogy that it fits in the scene and makes a Star Wars fan smile.

- Fitz’ uniform to go fight zombies, and what happens once he’s suited up.

Those are just a handful of the laughs I got from the film, and there are some others.

Can I recommend this film?  I think I can.  If you’re willing to sit down, have a good time, and not put on your “I’m an amateur film critic” glasses, then I think this is a movie that is easy to enjoy.

I’d be interested to see what Timpane could do given a substantial budget and time to make something similar to this.  Who knows?  Maybe one day we will see just that.  In the meantime, look for Ninjas vs. Zombies and at least give it a rent.  As I’ve told people since I first watched the movie, we’re either looking at one of the next great cult classics, or watching a train wreck, either way…it’s worth looking.

In fact, head over to www.nvzmovie.com to check out a trailer and get some more info on the movie.

I have to honestly give this move a 3 out of 5.   I think it’s definitely worth the time taken to sit down and enjoy.

Scarlett Letters – Batman and the Outsiders Reviewed

25

Feb

Posted by Steve

Amie (aka ScarlettLynn) is back with another review.  This time it’s her take on the Batman and the Outsiders Special One Shot Special taking place in the aftermath of Batman R.I.P.  Can anything good come out of R.I.P.?  Read on to find out:

705949_batmanoutsidersspec001_super.jpgBatman’s sort of dead right now. It’s a long story and if you’ve attempted to read “R.I.P.” or “Final Crisis” then you’ll know it’s not the clearest of stories either. Basically all you need to know is that as far as many members of the DCU are concerned, Batman’s gone to that great big cave in the sky. (Sort of.) That means that things are definitely in flux for the team known as the Outsiders and it might be a good place to jump onto the series if you’re interested.
The team that comprised the Outsiders during the current run of “Batman and the Outsiders” has basically fallen apart. But if there’s one thing that Bruce Wayne has always been… it’s prepared. The man always has a plan. And a plan if that plan doesn’t work. And a backup plan. And a secondary backup plan to backup the backup plan. Bruce never believed he was immortal and he’s planned accordingly for the day that Grant Morrison’s acid trip would leave him (sort of) dead.
The story opens with Alfred at the graves of Thomas and Martha Wayne. He’s mourning the loss of Bruce, not just as a friend or employee but as a fellow parent. Later, Alfred is awoken by an automated message from Bruce in the event of his death. Were I a guy I might feel the need to explain that I shed a few “man-tears”. Luckily, however, I am a girl and am therefore at liberty to cry at commercials or whatever else I’d like, so I can just say that I cried at this exchange. These are a few very heartfelt pages and as someone who has always enjoyed the character of Alfred in his many incarnations they are completely welcome.
Then it’s back to business and Bruce begins to explain to Alfred the reasons behind his forming The Outsiders and the current task he’s asking Alfred to undertake. Long before this current incarnation of the Outsiders there had been a “Batman and the Outsiders” back in the 80s. Bruce’s first order of business is to have Alfred put the old band back together and round up that original team with a few new additions.
We follow Alfred’s journey as he travels the world to bring together Geo-Force, Roy Raymond Jr., Black Lightning, Halo, Katana, Metamorpho and Creeper. I’ve only had limited exposure to the character of Creeper but from what I can tell he makes Jim Carry in “The Mask” appear like a stoic narcoleptic. It’s at this point I wondered if perhaps Bruce had recorded that message while sampling some of Grant Morrison’s stash and was only moments away from putting on the Technicolor-Batsuit-of-Crazy but instead I’ve chosen to trust he had his reasons.
During Bruce’s message to Alfred he alluded to why he “really started The Outsiders” and “why they’re needed now most of all.” We didn’t get filled in on those details but it’s likely to have something to do with the scenes that finish out this issue. Elsewhere, wherever that may be, we see a very creepy assemblage of… oh, let’s call them… “people” gathered together in a semi-circle as a man climbs some stairs from “the depths”. He’s apparently been there for 52 years and can no longer fulfill his duties as “Thrasher”. The guy is quite literally torn up about this fact and a really unappetizing banquet ensues. Whatever comes next for the team it seems that these folks are going to be in their future.

STORY: 3 1/2 out of 5 – I like getting into a story on the ground floor and that’s exactly what this special issue feels like. When the next issue of this series comes out it’s going to simply be called “The Outsiders” instead of “Batman and the Outsiders”. Picking up with issue #15 we’re going to follow the team we watched get assembled here and I like that they’ve provided a nice, smooth access point for the series.
There’s a few mysteries put into play with this issue. We see a new Owlman on the cover with the rest of the group but he’s nowhere in the actual issue leaving a question as to who that character is. The purposes behind the mysterious group at the end are left very vague, as is how much Bruce actually knew about them.
I’m not very familiar with most of the characters that make up this team. And there wasn’t much here yet to make me really care about what happens to them next. Although I think they all got a good, brief introduction it feels as though it might take a couple of issues to really get a stake in the characters. For me, the appeal of this series is definitely going to be Alfred. Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth is a great character and I am really looking forward to see him work with, or even run, the Outsiders.
The heart of this issue is the goodbye between Bruce and Alfred. Despite all the things I didn’t enjoy about “R.I.P.” and the death of Bruce Wayne, I have been an absolute sucker for the fallout. A bunch of writers are telling some really compelling stories about Gotham after Batman and this one, by Peter J. Tomasi, was definitely one of them.

ART: 4 out of 5 – From the bats flying through, above and around every page to the unique layouts given to each character’s introduction – I though the art was really solid throughout this issue. I especially liked the very narrow, very tall slivered panels for the character of Katana – evoking her sword with every glimpse of her. I also really liked the quick look at the classic Outsiders team. (Oh, Black Lightning… how you must regret that groovy super-suit.)

COVER: 4 out of 5 – I really liked this cover. All the faces of the team members being placed to form the bat is symbolic of all of these people being brought together to help fill the void left by Batman. The image is still fractured and unfinished as the team has not yet fully come together. Aside from that it also just looks cool. Plus if you happen to look really closely at the hand (or more specifically the cufflink) in the picture then it actually gave a little preview to the story within.

MEMORABLE LINES/QUOTES:
Alfred: “And though it will not provide your spirits any solace, I want you to know that I grieve as a parent… for he was my son too.”
Bruce: “I always thought you were like a father to me, but I was wrong… you’re not like a father — You are my father, Alfred.”

No Comics Needed – Wonder Woman #28 Reviewed

15

Feb

Posted by Steve

In an effort to get Geek Out Online more regular in the posting area, I am assembling a team.  (Yep, just like Nick Fury.)   The first member of said team I want to introduce to you is Amie-Lynn also known as ScarlettLynn (her name on the forums).  Scarlett is a comic book reader and knows her stuff.  You can find her waxing eloquent in the comic books section of the forums and you’ll find she knows her stuff.  In her first outing here at Geek Out Online, she tackles a book that yous truly doesn’t really pick up, so it’s nice to have a different take on things.  Here’s ScarlettLynn’s review of Wonder Woman #28.

704353_wonder_woman_028_pg_00_super.jpg When Steve asked if there were any comics I was interested in reviewing for Geek Out Online my thoughts instantly went to “Wonder Woman.” While Superman and Batman might be getting all of the attention lately for their storylines, Wonder Woman is now three issues into her current big story: “Rise of the Olympian”. And if I might be so bold as to borrow an expression from the gracious host of Geek Out Loud (the official podcast of Geek Out Online.com)… Oh. My. Lanta!

In Diana’s first confrontation with Genocide she was badly beaten, injured, had her lasso stolen and was left bound with rebar to the rubble of what was once a downtown shopping mall in Washington, DC. Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Tom Tresser and Etta Candy are all trying to help the fallen Wonder Woman. Though injured and weakened Diana knows that she has to go back to fight the creature because no one, not even the Justice League, knows what her lasso is truly capable of.

The creature was created by Dr. Morrow and others at the Secret Society of Super Villains but despite Cheetah’s insistence that the “experiment” was his idea, he is horrified and believes the idea came from Satan. When it stole her lasso it went back to the Society and had them surgically implant it in its body. Despite apparently being an experiment of the Society, Diana felt that the creature was a god during their battle. Cheetah doesn’t seem to have any qualms about ordering it around, however, and sends it to attack the Department of Metahuman Affairs (where Diana works in the guise of her secret identity, Agent Diana Prince). Despite the combined efforts of Black Canary, John Stewart, Red Tornado, Vixen and Firestorm the creature is easily defeating them all.

Meanwhile, the Olympian gods have returned to Olympus to discover that Darkseid’s crew didn’t exactly take good care of the place while they were gone. (Mercury doesn’t elaborate on what they did to the throne room but we get the idea that it ain’t pretty.) Much like their home isn’t in the best of condition the gods themselves aren’t quite at their peak either. Many do not remember much of the past. Athena remembers a bit more than the others, however, and decides that they’ve lived past their time of relevance and they are no longer needed in the world. Though they’ve fought in the past, when Athena decides to renounce her immortality and die, she asks Zeus to look out for her Amazons and help them in their mission for peace. And in classically less-than-helpful fashion Zeus promises… except his idea of helping them is granting them the gift of the eternal peace of death. (Pretty sure that’s not what she meant, Zeus.)

When this issue starts Diana is back at her place in D.C. putting on her battle armor. And let me just say this right now: this issue is cover-to-cover images of Diana looking incredibly heroic, determined and formidable and in every image you also see just how vulnerable she is because you see the cuts and scrapes and injuries from her fight with Genocide. Tom Tresser, her boyfriend and partner at the DMA, is trying to talk her out of going back into battle with a creature that was able to defeat her when she wasn’t already suffering from internal injuries. She can’t be talked out of it though and before she goes off to war she sweeps him into a big romantic kiss reminiscent of any “soldier kissing his woman before going into battle” image… except this time she’s the one doing the sweeping. (Though he is definitely not complaining about that.) Even though he doesn’t want her to go, there’s no way that he’s not going with her.

Just before she goes downstairs he delivers one of my favorite lines: “You, Mademoiselle… might be the worst ever at keeping a secret identity.” One of my favorite things about Gail Simone is her ability to keep the humor and wit in the dialog and story. Even when things are at their darkest… Wonder Woman about to face her possible death… she injects a touch of lightness or sarcasm that keeps things feeling natural and real.

But it’s back to business now as downstairs she assembles her Gorilla Knights and they prepare for battle. (The simple fact that Diana lives in Washington, D.C. with an army of loyal gorilla knights as roommates while trying to maintain a secret identity is one of the many things I love about this book.)

At the DMA headquarters Director Steel has headed down to the prisoner cells where Doctor Psycho is being kept. Steel has been acting like he’s lost his mind. He’s killed one of his agents for conspiring with the Amazons and the metas, he’s locked down the DMA not allowing anyone to escape and now he’s headed down to Psycho’s cell to kill him. Genocide had been looking for him but Steel’s apparently not about to let him get found alive and points a gun at Psycho’s head.

The Justice League is having no luck with Genocide. She’d already taken out John Stewart and Red Tornado in the previous issue. She’s done the same to Firestorm. Just as she’s about to take out Black Canary and Vixen we see three small panels with someone speaking… a pair of pinkish-bronze armored boots (“Well, well, well…”), a silver lasso hanging off of the belt of someone clad in stars (“Hello, monster.”), and the battle axe we’d seen Wonder Woman carrying (“We meet again.”)

And then… Wow. Turn the page to this incredible two page spread of Wonder Woman in her gold battle armor, battle axe in hand and sword at her side. Donna Troy at her right in her armor that’s a combination of silver and her characteristic star-field with a silver lasso and her hand on the hilt of her sword. At Diana’s left is Cassie, Wonder Girl, with her pink-bronze armor and sword in hand. Behind the three Wonders are her armored Gorilla Knights and Tom in his DMA uniform, spear in hand. It is one simply awesome, bad ass hero shot of them towering over Genocide as they stand atop some rubble and Wonder Woman saying: “Will wonders never cease?” I think if this book was only those two pages long I would have still paid full price for it and been talking about how awesome it was.

The fight begins and it’s brutal. For a moment though you almost believe that the tide has turned in Diana’s favor and that she’s going to win. And then Genocide reveals the lasso that is looped throughout her flesh and bone and slips it onto Diana’s wrist. Wonder Woman screams and simply thinks: “She… she has ruined it. My lasso.” It’s surprisingly chilling how disturbing it can be for Wonder Woman to sound so weak and defeated even if it’s for just a moment. Donna leaps to her sister’s rescue. Wonder Girl rallies Vixen and Black Canary to get back into the fray and the battle continues.

Cheetah arrives at Psycho’s cell and they remove the inhibitor from Doctor Psycho’s head revealing that he is actually Director Steel who has been trapped in Psycho’s body while Psycho has stolen his. Steel is confident that his agents will be able to stop them but Cheetah assures him that they won’t. She’s planned all of this and says his ridiculous organization only has a couple more moments on this earth.

At that moment Diana finally gets in this one strong blow that is able to knock the mask from Genocide’s eyes. From far enough away they might just look like solid, reddish-brown eyes but we get a close up and can see the detail. It’s eyes are made of countless corpses and skeletons. It says “Do you like what you see at the end of your life?” and we cut to the various horrified expressions of Diana, Tom, Vixen, Donna, etc and the sneering face of Cheetah who simply says “Checkmate” before we get a shot of the entire building exploding.

Director Steel had been acting oddly for a while now but I never expected that he was really Psycho. It was such a great reveal. Doctor Psycho is one nasty villain and adding him to the situation just makes everything even worse. So far all Diana’s had to deal with has been the threat in front of her in the form of Genocide, which has been formidable enough. All the machinations of Cheetah and Psycho haven’t even gotten on her radar yet. Plus, there’s still the entire situation with Zeus which has been intercut through this story.

As Diana’s been fighting for her life, Zeus has been giving his new Olympians a tour of their new island home. Rivers of gold, a city of crystal and the only woman allowed on its soil is a statue of the goddess Athena. The one whom Zeus has chosen to lead is Jason (as in Jason and the Argonauts) and he tells him he plans to create a son for him. (Sheesh, Zeus, plagiarize much?) All the other Olympians will be men who died in battle so that they understand the value of peace. However, according to Zeus, peace will come in the form of them killing every dictator and warmonger in the world. The very final page of the comic is Jason leading his men in his ancient looking ship as they prepare to sink a modern American battleship

704352_wonder_woman_028_pg_01_super.jpg
STORY: 4 1/2 out of 5 – I love what Gail Simone has been doing with this story.

Wonder Woman is going through these hellish battles with Genocide and it’s been taking everything out of her to just survive these fights. If that was simply the story it would be amazing and exciting and more than enough. Instead she doesn’t even know yet that Doctor Psycho has taken over her boss, Director Steel. She doesn’t know that Cheetah is masterminding this plot with the Secret Society of Super Villains. Worst of all she doesn’t know anything about Zeus’ plans for her, her people and the world. Whenever she’s fighting Genocide you get so sucked into the the intensity of the battle you almost forget that she’s only reached the tip of the iceberg of what she’s about to face in rest of this story. When you cut away to all the other forces that are conspiring against her you really get a sense of peril for Wonder Woman. You actually don’t know how she’s going to survive this.

They’ve also been laying hints that there’s more to come as they begin to examine exactly what her lasso is capable of and I’m really curious to see where they’re going with it. Basically I just can’t wait for the next issue and I think that’s the hallmark of a great story.

ART: 5 out of 5 – I can’t say enough good things about the art in this issue. This entire story arc has been good, but especially in this issue. There are so many great visual moments that completely stayed with me and made the already great story even better. The best had to be the two-page spread of Wonder Woman with Donna Troy and Wonder Girl at her side – all in full battle armor – and her gorilla army and boyfriend, Tom, providing back up. And the removal of Genocide’s mask? So disturbing. The big thing for me when it comes to art is the faces of the characters. Aaron Lopresti can really sell the emotion, tone and intent of the characters through his art and it really works for me.

(Plus the man owns me for life now that he’s drawn that hella-awesome panel of Diana in full battle armor sweeping her man into her arms and leaning him back into one heck of a kiss.)

COVERS:

Faces of Evil Cover: 4 out of 5 - This is the cover on the issue I have. I wasn’t even aware of the variant until later but I’m happy with the cover I’ve got. There’s a great, menacing look on Cheetah’s face as she looks out, off the cover, at the reader while torching the Department of Metahuman Affairs. The whole cover just draws you straight to her eyes. (Although I’m sure a few eyes drifted south with her standing at that particular angle.) The artist, Aaron Lopresti (with Hi-Fi), captures her moment of triumph with her smirking expression and arched eyebrows. The way she’s standing there with her hand outstretched looks like she’s a puppet-master, pulling the strings of everyone in the building below her. (Which is exactly what it turns out she’s doing.) The bottom half of the cover – her setting fire to what looks like a small model of the DMA with a match – isn’t quite as interesting but the way she’s lit from the flames looks great. No one can say it’s not emblematic of what’s happening in this issue.

Variant Cover: 3 out of 5 – I like its simplicity. The gold and the muted colors on her costume are nice. But the shield is just a little bit gigantic. Plus this is issue three of a larger arc and while it’s a nice picture… it’s just too calm and serene for the chaos and hell being unleashed in the story.

MEMORABLE LINES/MOMENTS:

Tom: “There’s one last thing I have to tell you.”
Diana: “Yes?”
Tom: “You, Mademoiselle… might just be the worst ever at keeping a secret identity.”
Diana: “Noted.”

Diana: “Will Wonders never cease?”

Gorilla Knight: “Do you know how to use that weapon, Mate of the Princess?”
Tom (holding a spear): “Not a clue. Isn’t it just sorta plug and play?”
Gorilla Knight: *silence* … “Stay behind me as best you can.”

Diana: “Steel your nerves and find your courage, for tonight we fight a god!”

Wonder Girl: “You guys ready for some hardtime smackdown uglygirl payback?”