Burt Gummer Neutralizes EVIL Graboids in “Tremors: Shrieker Island” reviewed! (Universal 1440 Entertainment / Digital Screener)

A wildlife preservation maintains categorizing and tracking of native elephants, but when one of the company’s philanthropist turns his private island, just across the water from the preservation campsite, into a game reserve for apex predators, nothing will stop him from wagering the thrill of the hunt on expensive, top-of-the-line game.  That is until the graboids he’s illegally bred and genetically modified starts to hunt the wealthy trophy gamers back, especially when the Precambrian lifeforms metamorphize into the fast-spawning shriekers.  With an island full of graboids and shriekers that contributed to already one death, graboid expert and arms enthusiast-survivalist, Burt Gummer, is tracked down and brought out of retirement to once again battle his longtime killing machine adversary.  With no munition weapons, an obstinate playboy’s maniacal urge to hunt the fierce predator, and the most powerful of the graboids bred on the island able to wriggle underneath the sea floor between land masses, Gummer and a team of preservationists must band together to stop the graboids from being an invasive and unstoppable species. 

From an icy Canadian landscape in “Tremors:  A Cold Day in Hell” to the tropical beaches of Thailand, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” is the seventh feature film in the Tremor’s 30-year franchise.  Heading straight to video on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, including Streaming and VOD platforms come this October 2020, the subterranean monster action-comedy is steered by serial sequel director Don Michael Paul, who directed the last two “Tremors” installments, off a Paul script co-written with Brian Brightly that set sights on expanding the graboid footprint even farther East and surrounded by the seas of Thailand, further more distancing itself from the dust bowls of Perfection, Nevada and Mexico into new and unexplored terror-itories.  Universal Pictures’ off-shoot subsidiary banner, Universal 1440 Entertainment, and Living Films serves as the presiding production companies. 

 

The smart-mouth, quick-wit, arms-toting Burt Gummer has become, dare I say it, the Ash Williams of the Tremors’ franchise as a perpetually dragged back hero into monstrous circumstances to battle graboids and their offspring on land, air, and in the pits of hell of the innate underground habitat.  Aside from Bruce Campbell, there are not too many heroes in a genre that usually has a villainous backbone and so Michael Gross is the longest lasting reoccurring actor, spanning now 30-years, to return as an original hero who first encountered and killed the bastard creature who “broke into the wrong God damn rec room” in Perfection, Nevada.  Gross, now gray with a few more wrinkles sporting his iconic Gummer mustache, fits into the military-esque attire under his ball cap to square off alongside a ragtag team of unprepared, unqualified, and novice graboid hunters in Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Jackie Cruz (“Orange is the New Black”), Caroline Langrishe, and Richard Brake (“31”).  Heder fills in for the Jamie Kennedy role of Burt Gummer’s son, Travis, from the two previous installments and though Travis is mentioned briefly, the character’s presence is extended through Caroline Langrishe as Travis’s mother and preservation camp leader.  Heder and Langrishe complete that entangled trio that has been a trope present in nearly all the Tremor Films, starting with Val McKee, Earl Basset, and Rhona LeBeck, battling side-by-side to overcome the odds.  Cruz and Brake offer a serious side dish of badass on a polar opposite spectrum.  Jackie Cruz as Freddie, an entrenched team member of elephant tracking, is the Latina MacGuyer and is a weapon in herself that only someone like Burt Gummer would fully appreciate while Richard Brake, with his trademark sinister smile as obsessed game hunter Bill, relishes the role, pulling a watered down, PG-13 version of his typical bad guy motif from the more violent-venomous Rob Zombie films.  However, a minority of characters fall through character development cracks, such as Anna played by the up and coming Cassie Clare (“Death Race 4:  Beyond Anarchy”).  The archery expert Clare is a pertinent show off with a bow and arrow and is Bill’s right hand, but the Anna, under Cassie’s muscular thin frame and ironclad persona direction, has an inclined built up that goes to naught as she’s snubbed-shoved to a lesser role without having a significant impact in the latter half.   The reverse can said for Heder’s Jimmy character with first impressions of a top class scientist with lower class ambitions; yet, in an instant, Jimmy becomes a battle-worn graboid and shrieker killer while more experienced hunters, especially one wielding a mini gun, have less of a handle on the situation. 

While it’s neat and cool and nostalgic to see graboids and Burt Gummer back in action, much like the disconnect with lopsided arch able characters left to be graboid-fodder, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” falls short of earlier predecessors, replacing personal filmmaking style over story substance.  For one, graboids just haven’t been the same since going from practical applications to computer imagery since “Bloodlines” on that has radically evolved the creatures from a less-is-more model to a complete overhaul of their veneer, resembling the dark and slimy man-eating tentacles of “Deep Rising,” and as well an overhaul of the creature mechanics that lead graboids to leap out of the ground and into the air like a flying fish, spiraling and twisting back into their dirt environment.   The graboid burrowing irks me as well as the ground explodes 10-15 feet up into the air in a blatant uses of detonating charges by the effects team to create the earthworm moving effect instead of just a perpetual hump and collapse of the ground that’s more of a menacing effect. Nuances run amok, causing subtle points of frustration in how Paul’s direction is really more a passive glance than a serious absorption of the franchise. Meandering people on the ground when they fully well know graboids are attracted by movement, half the film scaled back to slow motion to accentuate big money explosions, and the mother of all graboids able to target Burt Gummer for a mano on monstro showdown are just more examples of the charmless details in, what is, a palpable comedy with Earth dwelling monsters. “Tremors: Shrieker Island” is the equivalent of “Jaws: The Revenge;” the story may not make sense, but watching gigantic monsters cause mortal destruction is pure creature feature bliss.

What may be Burt Gummer’s last ride (or so they said in the last film), “Tremors: Shrieker Island” tunnels onto Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD come October 20th, 2020 and soon to be streaming on Netflix shortly after. The BD50 Blu-ray will feature an anamorphic widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, with an English language DTIS-HD Master Audio 5.1 while the DVD9 is presented in a widescreen 16:9 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Both formats will include optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 as well as a dubbed French, and Spanish DTIS Digital Surround 5.1 with a slew of option subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, French European, and Latin American Spanish. Since the film was reviewed on a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be critiqued. The exclusive bonus features listed on all physical and VOD include a Burt Gummer narrated “The Monster of Tremors” that gives you everything you need know about the diabolical monsters, “Tremors Top 30 Moments” that hone in on 30 years worth of scenes that provide laughs, Burtisms, and some of the most gory moments in graboid history, and, lastly, “The Legend of the Burt Gummer” that focuses on the iconic graboid hunter character told by his persona creator himself, Michael Gross. Richard Brake, once again, nails the villain, Jackie Cruz stuns as a resourceful Gummer-ite, and Michael Gross fleshes out one more commando swashbuckling Burt Gummer in the zany seventh installment of the unstoppable “Tremors” franchise.

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EVIL’s a Little Furball Wielding a Submachine Gun in “Killer Raccoons! 2! reviewed! (Digital Screener / Indican Pictures)


Ten years after the campsite mayhem of a raccoon attack that supposedly killed everyone and incarcerated Ty Smallwood for a decade in the wake of a governmental coverup, Ty, who now goes by the name Casey, is released from Prison located in Independence, Colorado and meets up with his pen pal Darlene, the younger sister of Ty’s girlfriend who was murdered by the killer raccoons. The two board a train on Christmas Eve heading toward Washington D.C. where Casey will attempt to explain to Darlene just how his sister died, but the thought dead former camp counselors, conscripted by the sinister Ranger Rick Danger, team up with elite mercenary raccoons to hijack the train to usurp a military weaponized satellite manned by a trained raccoon astronaut to inflate their offshore bank accounts. With the assistance of a train porter, Casey must recall his raccoon stopping abilities in a convergence that reunites enemies and friends back together in once again a diabolical raccoon assault.

The not-so highly, yet enthusiastically wish granted anticipated sequel you never knew you wanted to “Coons: Night of the Bandits of the Night” is here! “Killer Raccoons! 2!” dusts off the taxidermized black masked and ringed tailed trash can diggers for another round of loco-motional chaos, written and directed by Travis Irvine. Though the two stories span only ten years apart, the precursor film and its predecessor are released 15 years apart with “Coons” being released in 2005, hitting under the radar of retail shelves by the indie distributor, Troma Entertainment. Irvine’s follow up film, which is also known by “Killer Raccoons 2: Dark Christmas in the Dark,” is a hot take spoof on one particular insane Steven Seagal action film from the mid-90’s, when the 7th-dan black belt in Aikido Steven Seagal still had his slim build and audiences still took him seriously, also while giving minor homage to iconic action films over the decades. Irvine’s Ohio based production company, Overbites Pictures, finances an over-the-top critter action clash with ample dick jokes and a crude sense of admiration.

On any given sequel, returning actors would step back into their character shoes, donning, once again, the persona woven specifically for that role to reignite the same soul for a new plot, but with a few titled “Killer Raccoons! 2!” the customary guidelines and conventional means of filmmaking become shot out of the sky by a giant dick shaped laser orbiting in space. Thus, comedic actor-writer Yang Miller replaces Lehr Beidelschies as Ty Smallwood, James Myers replaces Nic Maier as the camp counselor turned eunuch and number one bad guy, and Mitch Rose replaces Brian Kamerer, being the best Eric Bogosian impersonator that can be. I bet now you can guess with Seagal flick Irvine spoofs! Yet, some of the original cast returns, such as Zach Riedemaier, Kasey Cooper, Colin Scianamblo, and Tom Lyons, bracing themselves for another interspecies skirmish. The new and old cast offer a seamless one-two punch of thirst quenching pasquinade, but in all fairness, I never saw “Coons: Night of the Bandits of the Night” and don’t really have a point of reference, but the confluence of confidence surrounding these outlandish performances doesn’t perpetrate a sense of disconnect. New roles played by new blood also courses through the sequel’s jiggly veins and what better way to fight raccoons than with a hedgehog; legendary porn star Ron Jeremy harnesses the dim-wit power of Lord Helmet from Space Balls, becoming military brass with a gaudy general’s cap and an aloof sense of what’s going on. The sequel rounds out with Briscott Stevenson, Michelle Weiser, James Adomian as a version of the presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, and comedian actor Ron Lynch as General Negligence.

By now, if you haven’t guessed, “Killer Raccoons! 2!” is a rumpus-raccoon mockery of Steven Seagal’s all aboard follow-up of anti-terrorist tactics in “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.” At first, Irvine sets up Ty Smallwood’s eventual release from prison and coming to know his pen pal, Darlene, while also running into a few other character to which one conversation leads into how prison turns you into a completely different person, a poke in humor at itself for having not the same actor play the lead. The initial backstory ran through the typical “Airplane!” farce with a few more dick jokes, such as the satellite being christened PEN15. Get it? Once the train chugs along and the introduction dust settles, Irvine nearly does a scene for scene with the Seagal sequel, capturing almost identical shots within a familiar storyline. This hilarious reenactment flatters the only way a low budget knows how with poor composite effects that add to the hilarity and Mitch Rose really nailing Eric Bogosian; I can’t stress that enough. There are some performances that are too over over-the-top, stepping more toward terribly mindless and silly of unintentional inimical aftertastes. “Killer Raccoons! 2!” doesn’t take itself seriously and we shouldn’t take it seriously either in this fun feed error Xerox copy of “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” run amok by pesky raccoons!

The fury-bandito train ferociously pulls into the action-packed and explosive station come October 1st onto DVD from Indican Pictures. Already released theatrically in the mid-west and on digital platforms from this past July, “Killer Raccoons! 21” will claw and scratch a foundation before physical format that will resonate more older audiences familiar with the 1995 Seagal film, but potential viewers should trust in the diversity Indican Pictures strive for and know that “Holy Hell” was an equally profanely funny feature raising eyebrows and regurgitating laughs. Since the screener is digital, there will be no critique on the A/V and there were no bonus material available from the forthcoming DVD, but there is a short bonus scene after the end credits. The broad-based humor of “Killer Raccoons! 2!” can cause long-lasting laughter from that cull the most mediocre action film and serve it up as the base for a critter-infested gun-toting comedy-thriller!

Available to rent on Prime Video!

EVIL’s a Face-Off to the Death! “Guns Akimbo” reviewed! (Saban Films / Screener)


Miles, a thirtysomething video game developer, remains stuck in an unfulfilling and lonely existence where being an internet troll gives him his only taste of dominance over those who normally succeed above him in all other life aspects. When he pokes and prods a popular and sadistic underground death match known as Schism, the virally trending sensation sweeping the internet nation comes knocking at his apartment door to officially install him into the next melee bout. With guns crudely surgically bolted to both hands, Miles, whose used to running from just about everything, now has to nut up against Schism’s most prolific killer, Nix, and save his kidnapped ex-girlfriend from the deviants behind the game.

Social commentary runs amok in this grisly balls to the wall, gunplay stimulating action-comedy, “Guns Akimbo,” from the New Zealander, “Deathgasm” writer-director Jason Lei Howden. Trading in doom metal horror for a crass bullet ruckus, Howden barrels down with an on fleek supercharged story like a runaway freight train or a 6,000 round per minute minigun, shredding through a high body count like in a high occupancy round of a first person shooter. Under the production wing of Occupant Entertainment and distributed by Saban Films, who released films such as “The Girl with All the Gifts” and Rob Zombie’s “31” and “3 From Hell”, “Guns Akimbo’s” edgy dystopian air gangling along nerdy humor scraps “Robocop” utilitarian veneer for a fresh coat of millennial trivialities, fleshing out, in a ream of firepower, relevant societal topics and facing their adversarial shades head on in a barrage of blood soaked bullets.

Spearheading “Guns Akimbo” is Daniel Radcliffe, who seemingly continues to distance himself from the world of wizardry of “Harry Potter” and focusing his current career on off-Hollywood and chic films that has gained Radcliffe a cult following alongside his cache of wizards and witches fandom. Feeling content stagnant, Miles lounges comfortably in the power of being a keyboard warrior and Radcliffe leads the non-exuberant charge until pushes comes to guns bolted to my and someone is trying to kill me-shove. Opposite Radcliffe is Samara Weaving as a brashly confident and hard-hitting character of familiar skin that’s similar to her Melanie Cross role in Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem.” Instead of being a mild-mannered woman infected to be a savage, floor-clearing combat artist, Weaving bares no dissuasion embodying another uncaged killer becoming the nitty-gritty, tattooed, and uncouth Nix, hard-nosed with violent tendencies stemmed by the fiery murder of her family. Together, Weaving and Radcliffe make engaging adversaries and friendlies who both end up on working on themselves while working with each other in a do-or-die game. Ned Dennehy plays the creator of Schism and overall bad guy Riktor. The Irish actor, who recently had a role in Nicholas Cage’s “Mandy,” finds himself just as tatted up as Nix, waving a nihilistic-revolutionist banner like its something to be proud of, but despite Dennehy’s best efforts in alleviating his cynical nature with a few sarcastic quips, Riktor comes off as bland and unfulfilled as a story’s aortic villain; instead, I found myself more curious about his fascinating short-lived henchmen played by Mark Rowley as a Zangief Street Fighter doppelganger, Racheal Ofori shelling out with double barrels, and Set Sjöstrand as a gimp mask wearing Fuckface. The international cast rounds out with Natasha Liu Bordizzo (“Hotel Mumbai”), a once in a lifetime hilarious homeless man act by funny man Rhys Darby, Grant Bowler, and Edwin Wright (“Turbo Kid”).

“Guns Akimbo” could have been pulled straight from the crimson flashy illustrated pages of a popular graphic novel and, most definitely, would have worked as one too, soon to come for sure, but as a feature film is concerned, as fun as Howden drapers it with explosions, expletives, and executions, “Guns Akimbo” ultimately shakes at the knees with acute breakneck, 24-hour speed that clocks in at a 95 minute runtime. While that’s the standard runtime of choice for movies, average around 90 to 100 minutes, consequences from flying through backstories (Miles, Schism, Riktor, Nix) in a blink of an eye at the story’s expense to hastily push for gun blazing glory puts all the pressure on the viewer to keep up. The story’s non-linear moments also factor into being an onerous barrier for audiences which are shiplapped together egregiously just for the sake of going against the atypical plot structure design and interspersed with flash backs and wishful thinking near death pipe dreams all jam and crammed packed into the sardine can that is the very eye-candy combat of “Guns Akimbo.” Yet, enough time was mustered for symbolism where Miles finds himself ensnared in the sticky negativity that is the social media sludge, fueled by the sadistic voyeurs enjoying the show in a violence-porn tapestry. From troll to titan, Miles rises as the unlikely gladiator presence in Schism, pushing him toward being a viral sensation from which he can’t escape despite the lack of enthusiasm to anything related to Schism and his skyrocketing social media status. The whole showdown thrusts him into controlling his own life whether he likes it or not, a kick in the ass for a lack of a better phrase, to get him motivated.

Come February 28th, Saban Films’ “Gun Akimbo,” produced by Occupant Films’ Joe Neurauter, Felipe Marino, and New Zealand film producer Tom Hern, will go full blown trigger happy into select theaters, on demand, and on digital. Since this movie is yet to be officially released, is a screener, and doesn’t have a home video release just quite yet, there will be no audio and video critique portion of this review nor were there bonus material. There have been many great dual wielding action heros in our lifetime, including John Weston from “Equilibrium,” Selene from “Underworld,” and even that Counter-Strike terrorist avatar with the option to wield Dual Berettas. Now, we have Miles from “Guns Akimbo,” an immense ball of New Zealand vitality, un-tapered exploitation, and twofold in gun fun.

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Death Fears No EVIL in Takashi Miike’s “First Love” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)


Orphaned boxer Leo grows up to be an up-and-coming star in the sport. After losing a match by TKO from a soft punch, Leo is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that sends himself into despair. In another part of town, the established yakuza and the imported Chinese mafia boil toward an inevitable war over turf and drugs. When Kase, a junior enforcer, betrays his yakuza family, scheming with a crooked cop to steal drugs for profitable gain, the tide turns blood red as the yakuza naively blames the Chinese. Caught in the middle is a drug addicted prostitute named Monica, a slave to the yakuza for her father’s past mishaps, who is kept locked away in a small apartment overseen by a yakuza lackeys, romantic couple Yasu and Julie, that also use the apartment to control drug flow. When Kase plan to raid the apartment and steal the drugs goes array, Yasu winds up dead and Monica escapes, running into Leo who has nothing left to live for except to protect Monica. A distraught-induced psychotic Julie, the deadly yakuza, the Chinese Mafia, a double-crosser and his crooked cop partner, a delusional girl of the night, and one apathetic boxer clash in a single night’s ultraviolet web.

Extreme Japanese auteur Takashi Miike fastens a lively tongue-and-cheek and supremely savage crime thriller in his latest mad yakuza film, amiably entitled, “First Love,” also known “Hatsukoi.” “First Love” is anything but friendly and pleasant as the street of Tokyo run red with blood or else the 2019 released film wouldn’t be a Takashi Miike trademark special. Penned by Miike’s long time collaborator, Masa Nakamura, the filmmaker’s affection for horror eludes this title that hones more toward the unpleasantries of clan betrayals, snarky criminal shenanigans, and, of course, a flavor for mega violence that become a maelstrom angrily surrounding a demoralized boxer and the victimized forced-into-prostitution young woman he aims to selfishly protect while in his mental clout regarding his mortality. Produced by OLM, Inc production company headquartered in Tokyo takes a step away from manga with “First Love,” a step that has been evolved over the last few years, but may have contributed to some of the illustrated content that seemingly has infiltrated into the third act with an initial explosiveness in the beginning portions of a car chase scene.

Cast as Leo Katsuragi, the boxer, is Masataka Kubota, a familiar face from another Miike film, “13 Assassins,” and most recently from the heavily Japanese cultured specter feature, ‘Tokyo Ghoul.” Leo’s lighter weight physique and fresh face has Masataka look the part of a promising fighter whose positioned for fame early into the story, but that framework comes to a screeching halt when he’s destined for a tumorous death. When Leo is coupled with Monica, a drug addicted forced in prostitution plagued with crippling hallucinations side effects, the repressed Leo finds himself sheltering someone with more burden on her shoulders than upon his own. Monica’s portrayed by Sakurako Konishi in what’s essentially her first major role and being paired as a scared, lonely, and crazy character coupled with a stoic vet in Masataka makes for an easy dynamic. Shôta Sometani’s chin deep in trouble Kase goes without saying that Sometani’s unfathomable range and charisma adds an aloof comic relief along with Kase’s dishonest detective slipped covertly into by “Ichi the Killer” himself, Nao Ohmori and pursued by a retribution spirited girlfriend, Julie, of her slain yakuza boyfriend; a role spearheaded with such energy and gusto from Rebecca Eri Rabone, credited solely as Becky, who has a slight Cynthia Rothrock vibe. “First Love” is no slave to boorish performances from Takahiro Miura (“Shin Godzilla”), Cheng-Kuo Yen, Sansei Shiomi, and Mami Fujioka.

“First Love” emerges as a smart and fun battle royal of decimation in the anarchist criterion. One would think a prolific director such as Takashi Miike would wear out his welcome with tired and stale filmic bread, crumbling with every soggy rinse and repeat. That’s not the case with “First Love.” Why is it entitled “First Love” anyway, you ask? The question’s open for viewer interpretation, much like most of Miike’s suggestive elegant style, and presents an illuminating unexplored journey in itself. A ventured guess would be that Leo and Monica have never experienced the feeling previously in either content or a labored life with Leo being an impassive athlete and Monica an escort since high school. The corollary of bumping into each other by chance results in the unorthodox dismantling of two rival criminal organizations, baring then an age-old theme of love conquers all and renders the mystics of destiny fueled from from within all the way easter egging sexual taboos inside his brazen, sometimes insane, transgression storyline. Either way, Takashi Miike helms a tremendous brutal-comedy that brands him as being the Martin Scorsese of Japanese filmmaking.

Blades, guns, and a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, “First Love” has mainstream aptitude with a carnage driven crime syndicate finesse and is now available on a two-disc, dual format Blu-ray and DVD release from Well Go USA Entertainment. Encased in a slipcover, the not rated feature is presented in full HD, 1080p, and in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio. This review will focus it’s review on the Blu-ray quality. Much of Miike’s style is neo-noir basking in very grounded color palette that’s occasionally adorned by the neon brights of Tokyo. Often does Miike composite in his work and “First Love” is no exception with a brief manga nearly a rallying ending; the illustration is super sharp, a visual pop of blue and white, and, obviously, clean. Ultra-fine details add to a prizing fatalism and even the tasteful gore, on a granular level, passes the screen test. Some scenes appear sleeker than others inside a dark scope coded with darker shades of green and yellow, but the overall result smothers any kind of inconsistency. The Japanese and Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks savor every last audiophile morsel. The clear dialogue renders nicely, big effects and action sequences offer a wide range, and the depth covers more than enough ground surrounded by hustle and bustle of the urban element. Kôji Endô’s enchantingly lethal score will immerse you right into the mix and provide a slick culture twist upon classical composition. The English subtitles are well paced and mostly accurate as I did catch one grammatical mistake. Incased inside a slight embossed titled cardboard slipcover, the release also offers a teaser and a theatrical run trailer. Cynical on the surface and romantically submersible to the core, “First Love” is a Takashi Miike instant favorite of amusing antagonism and shorn almost completely of genial garments.

Own Takashi Miike’s “First Love” on Blu-ray+DVD combo set!