Next Gen to Regain What EVIL Took. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Ten years after the sky fell and the undead walked the Earthed, a new generation of survivors live comfortably behind gated walls at the Nebraska University campus.  Sisters Iris and Hope sometimes counteract each other’s position on campus hardly see eye-to-eye and, especially when dealing with the clandestine Civic Republic Military who has recruited their scientific father to do research in New York, but when secret messages about their father’s safety in potential jeopardy, Iris and Hope come together, along with campus outcasts Elton and Silas, to trek East on foot through the hordes of undead and the dangerous obstacles that separate them from their father.  The first generation to grow up in the apocalypse must learn to survive in the ravaged world of today and battle not only the dead and evad the mighty Civic Republic Military but also confront their individual haunting pasts. 

“The Walking Dead” executive showrunners Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman, Brian Bockrath, Matthew Negrete and David Alpert envision a vast Walking Dead universe filled with endless storylines searing with undead mayhem on the precipice a human emotional depth charge explosion.  In 2020, a new and limited two-season spinoff series of AMC’s “The Walked Dead” lumbered forward with “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” that aimed to explore the untapped emotive locomotive with teenagers having grown up naïve of usual adolescent behavior while also learning how to survive the outside world having been safe behind guarded walls most of their young lives living inside a smaller-scale social structure and guidelines like pre-apocalypse.  While “The Walked Dead” focused on the mid-Atlantic, stretching from George to West Virginia, and “Fear of the Walking Dead” went to the West Coast in Cali, down the border to Mexico, and finally landing near the Gulf coast, “World Beyond” takes the Pacific Northwest beginning inside Nebraska then stretching our main character’s journey to New York state, through the upper areas of what’s left of the country, but filming is actually shot in yours truly home state of Virginia surrounding the capital Richmond area.  Based not off the popular graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, albeit with a few minor connections, “World Beyond” is a production of AMC, Idiot Box, Skybound Entertainment, Circle of Confusion, and Valhalla Entertainment.

A younger, fresher cast of faces grace “The Walking Dead:  World Beyond” with an innocence facade and juvenile decision making that lifts the series into that rite of passage in adolescent-hood where the children of the apocalypse must explore their own needs and desires as if the evolutionary behavior of growing up has never changed.  Only this time, someone’s trying to bite your face off or actually steal everything you possess off your back.  Aliyah Royale and “Unfriended: Dark Web’s” Alexa Mansour play the contrasting adopted sisters Iris and Hope with an underlining bond that’ll blossom sluggishly forward to season one’s conclusion.  Iris has always conformed to safe living behind the campus walls, but takes a page out of Hope’s book of radical ideas to venture out against policy to find their CRM recruited, and possibly distressed, father.  Through the series, I found Royale to be slightly unauthentically preachy in her delivery that never fastens an emotional connection to her saintly-turned-intrepid persona.  Hope has more complexity turmoil tinned up inside of her pulled and worked very delicately by Mansour in becoming the wild card amongst the group.  “Nine Perfect Strangers’s” Hal Cumpston and voice actor Nicolas Cantu join Iris and Hope as the reserved Silas and the ever hopeful pessimistic Elton, searching for a fresh start and answers to their philosophical questions.  Silas and Elton add more dramatic complications than friendly assistance on the journey with personal violent demons resurging out form Silas’s past to the death of Elton’s mother in which Hope hesitant disclosure of her involvement in the killing of his mother back during the first days of apocalypse sets the tension for a good portion of their travels.  As supporting characters, Silas and Elton also provide sub-storylines “The Walking Dead” thrives on along with two more characters, a pair of campus security details in Nico Tortorella (“Scream 4”) and Annet Mahendru (“The Americans”) playing close friends and colleagues Felix and Huck venturing out to rescue the four inexperienced youngsters from a fate far worse than being a gnawed on scrap of undead jerky. Mahendru’s pulled up hair, facial scar, and widely inflated draw is quite a far cry from her dolled up and partial nudity espionage performance in “The Americans,” a performance that makes her nearly unrecognizable, while Tortorella shoulders a lot of personal baggage in self worth and difficult promises to his makeshift family built on friendship – a regular theme throughout not just with Felix but with the youth group searching for answers.  “World Beyond” rounds out the cast with Ted Sutherland (“Fear Street:  Part Two” and “Part Three”), Natalie Gold (“Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”)), Joe Holt, Jelani Alladin, and Julia Ormond (“Inland Empire”) as the CRM spearheading a covert operation.

The enormity of the “TWD” universe and with end in sight of the undead not working the Earth would inevitably bring up the question of how young children would grow up and face old world teenager issues.  Their not-so-normal childhood forged when the sky fell, as phrase that use to describe the day the dead risen, has ultimately molded who they are when we meet the characters 10 years after that doomed day, but the series dives into backstories on the regular with flashes back, turning every episode of the 10 episode series into a non-linear segment, something that strays, but is not completely foreign, to the “TWD” universe.  Another aspect that’s different, and is terribly detrimental, is the lack of graphic bloody violence, especially against the living.  “World Beyond” tries very hard to shield the viewers from gruesome dispatching of the undead by offscreen kills to implied deaths and not until the latter half of the season does “World Beyond” begin to ooze out of it’s conservative shell as the story becomes more complicated and into more adult themes from lies and betrayals to violence and loss, a parallel of the passage from childhood to adulthood when reality of the real world hits you in the face.  What does stay true to it’s origins us the same is the overgrown sets, the detailed decay, and same beautiful morbid imagery that really compliments to effort in production value and budget.  My only gripe is that many of the actors look fresh out of the shower with perfect hair and loads of makeup in a scenario that would harried and haggard any individual. The story also connects to it’s more fierce bigger brothers with a broader introduction of the Civic Republic Military whose symbol shows up in “The Walking Dead” when whisking Rick Grimes away in one of their helicopters and also in “Fear of the Walking Dead” in the troops who were the bite impervious suits, sleek black helmets, and the assault rifles with dual piercing bayonets. “World Beyond” builds upon their mysterious nature by giving an wider, longer look into their enigmatic, cavillation building window.

With the series finale, aka season two, in full swing this fall at AMC, Acorn Media International concurrently delivers the first season onto an UK 2-disc Blu-ray. The region 2, PAL encoded, BD50s are presented in a televised widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a total runtime of 453 minutes. Not discernable issues with the digital image that renders virtually the same veracious tone as the other two “Walking Dead” series with “World Beyond” being a tinge bit more colorful as if the saturation provided more youthful characteristics. There really is some nice imagery happening in certain episodes, such as in episodes “Brave” and “The Blaze of Gory,” that work the dead into being connected with the surrounded elements as if the dead are now the more natural bond with Earth. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio channels with clarity and equally amongst the five points. Dialogue is clean and unobstructed with a balanced breadth of depth and range amongst the various scenarios of death and deception they stumble into. English subtitles are also optional. Bonus features include A Look at the Series that dives into what “World Beyond” aims to accomplish with a fresh young cast, A Meet the Character segment that, obliviously, dives into the actors going over their character profiles, and the Making of Season 1, split into two parts with one on each disc, with the cast and creators provided a deeper understanding of character headspaces. “World Beyond” is rated 15 for the violence, some language, and some gore. Diluted decimation of the dead with a softer complexion in an overall comparison, “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is the naïve little brother of two juggernauting series macheting a path of blood and guts for the less traumatic to have a spot in the world. Yet, the sluggish first few episodes clears out for a much more palatable and gripping series that we’ve come to expect from a universe built on rotting corpses and collective violence.

Catch Up on “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” season 1.  Purchase the Blu-ray/DVD here!

One Hundred and Twenty-Nine Men, Two Ships, and One EVIL Beast Trapped Together in Icebound. “The Terror” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Acorn Media International)



Departed from English ports in 1845, two exploration sailing ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, sought to chart a northwest passage through Artic waters above North America.  Bound for King William Island with over 120 men between the two vessels, the traversers found themselves icebound as the Winter months froze the arctic waters completely and solidifying their positions within one large ice mass.  Their story doesn’t end there as months pass, even through the summer, and winter’s firm grip shows no sign of rising above zero degrees, sweating the brow of the few experience Arctic officers.  To top off their troubles, a vicious polar bear, or some kind of supernatural beast connected to Innuit people, hunts down and ravages a few unfortunate Royal Navy seamen.  Low of provisions and spirits, a combination of infinite winter madness and trembling fear weigh heavy on the seafaring fellows frozen in an icy cold Hell. 

Straight from the ill-fated expedition in British maritime history, the mystery surrounding Captain Franklin and his crew’s death and disappearance in the Arctic is given the hypothetical explanation and supernatural treatment in season one of the AMC series “The Terror.”  However, the tale is more relative to the adapted novel of the same name written by American author Dan Simmons who specialized in science fiction and horror.  Adding elements of a monstrous presence stalking them in the shadows of a bleak tundra, Simmons’ historical fiction turned television series blurs the lines of non-fiction and fiction with chilling atmospherics and the indelicacies of human nature when necessities for survival are pushed to the extreme and are in short supply.  “The Terror” is backed by a strong executive producer team in Ridley Scott (“Alien”) and notable historical television producer David W. Zucker (“Mercy Street,” “The Man in the High Castle”) with writers Max Borenstein (“Godzilla vs. Kong”) and Andres Fischer-Centeno (“Under the Dome”) penning the screenplays with Tim Mielants, Edward Berger, and Sergio Mimica-Gezzan directing a total combined 10-episodes under the Scott Free Productions and Entertainment 360 flag. 

The AMC television thriller scores an amazing cast of seasoned English and Irish actors refined in their skills of becoming a part of the history their work reflects.  Chiefly surrounding the top three principle commanding officers, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover’s” Ciarán Hinds as Captain Sir John Franklin, “Underworld: Blood Wars’” Tobias Menzies as Commander James Fitzjames, and with a foremost focus on “Resident Evil:  Apocalypse’s” Jared Harris as Captain Francis Crozier, an unique dynamic courses through the speckled personalities of each commander in the face of duty for Queen and country and in the certain finality to their crisis from the God-fearing Franklin, to the command prodigy Fitzjames, to the more sage practicality of Crozier.  Each also have their own flaws that inadvertently put a blight on the already ill-fated mission of charting a passage through the frigid bleakness of the Arctic ice and how they interact with a doubt inching motley crew of novice and experience sailors, especially between the stark contrast of fellow principle characters in the amiable Harry Goodsir (Paul Ready), whose personality is reflected by his name, in confliction with the more menacingly conniving shipmate Cornelius Hickey (Adam Nagaitis).  Both Ready and Nagaitis perfect their roles in convincing the audience on how we should feel about moral compass as they become the nerve center that drives the tale of continual darkness.  Praiseworthy performances definitely go to the entire cast, that also includes Nuuk native and Greenlandic band frontwoman, Nive Nielsen as well as Ian Hart, Alistair Petrie, Trystan Gravelle, Tom Weston-Jones, and Richard Riddell, pinpointing and bringing to life the mid-19th century Royal Navy speak, look, and mannerisms that adapt over the length and breadth of “The Terror’s” forlorn themes of two ship’s crew stranded in what could be said is a strange and alien terrain that evokes madness and fear in the longer you reside. 

The information surfaced about Franklin’s lost expedition with the discovery of possible cannibalism evidence discerned in the early 90’s and, more recently, the found wreckage of both the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror within the past decade add insurmountable coils of surreal realism around the true tragedy of both ships when embellished supernatural elements of an Inuit spirit animal stalking, hunting, and ravaging the crew.  Simmons novel and the series go hand-and-hand story wise but pull visually inspiration from Sir Edwin Landseer’s painting entitled “Man Proposes, God Disposes” where one polar bears tear at what’s left of a ship’s mast and another swallows what looks like human ribcage remains in a surely more a powerful image that’s aligned with the series in the offering an outcome of when it comes to man versus nature, nature will unduly win on it’s own frozen turf. AMC and Ridley Scott undoubtedly knew how to showcase a character driven story where over the time relations build and deteriorate between crew, officers, and a mingle of both and in that stretch of time, the passing of time itself has seemingly stood still as the nights become longer, routines are made, and the ships are stuck on the ice like a warm tongue pressed against a frozen metal pole, but, in the 10 episode series, the story stretches over a nearly two year period and the production is able to connect together next scenes to the previous ones without having to address each and every moment or exposition enough information to avoid the explanatory segue. This method of filmmaking always leave a smidgen of unknown, leaving viewers like us on tenterhooks and in an agitated state that we’ll never fully understand or fulfill that missing part of the mysterious portions and lapses in time. The unfortunate real life story itself casts an alluring wonder and I would even go as far as maritime excitement even if stemmed out of tragedy; that’s how “The Terror,” affixed to the rising ice in an infinite frozen sea of stalagmites, dresses every episode with a less is more garb. “The Terror” endures for a long time in the mind set to replay the desperation and the poignancy of the character’s madness, fear, cold, hunger, and the rest of their godawful bad luck.

A story relished with new fright and unsullied violence with every repeat viewing is now available on a two-disc, region 2 Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. The 10-episode series is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, on two PAL encoded discs with a total runtime of 453 minutes. The image pails in comparison to the perilous subject matter with a more softer, hazier picture than the harsh, snowy environment setting. Yet, I find that the subpar high definition not to be a complete distraction as much of story plays out in the dark or in the thick of flurries meant to obscure the eyes from seeing reality before biting your head off. Two different audio options are available on the release – a DTS surround sound 5.1 and a Dolby Digital PCM Stereo 2.0. Both tracks have high audio discernible marks as a well-balanced whole with the dialogue cleanly present, the ambient noise, especially the continuous wood creaking on the ships being squeezed by the ice, finely tongued for ever musket shot and snowy foley, and a respectfully insidious soundtrack that makes the body’s blood curl. Option English subtitles are available. I do think the bonus features are a little on the cheap side with only AMC’s behind-the-scenes commercial break segments making the cut on this release, complete with the AMC logo in tow, but the special features include Ridley Scott on “The Terror,” a look at the characters, the boat and visual effects, and concluding with an inside look at each episode featurettes. By the end of the last episode of “The Terror,” you won’t feel chipper, you won’t feel happiness for a long time; yet, you’ll want more and wished season 2 continued the story, but after an impressionable gnarly grand finale, “The Terror” season one is one of the best televised horror shows to come out in a very, very long time.

Colleen and Colleen Versus the Evil Bratzis! “Yoga Hosers” review!


Colleen Collette and Colleen McKenzie are best friends. They’re also two superficial 15-year-old girls who are nose deep into their social media campaigning cell phones, jamming in their girl punk band Glamthrax, and living by the unorthodox, yet namaste driven, yoga practices while exasperatingly working at one of girl’s father’s convenient stores called “Eh-2-Zed.” Set in the Great White North of Canada, the Winnipeg, Manitoba sophomores are surprisingly invited to a senior party, a lure by a popular, good-looking senior boy who has a darker, Satanic side to him. The Colleen girls’ run in with a murderous devil worshipping senior inadvertently opens another hidden danger lurking 37 feet beneath their “Eh-2-Zed” soles. A slumbering Nazi mad scientists has been awoken and aims to finish his Third Reich master plan to take over Canada with a cloned army of Bratzis, living Bratwurst sausages who are pint-sizes Nazis, and seeks to unleash evil upon the Manitoba Earth.

Kevin Smith’s latest pop-cultural flick, a comedy-horror feature, entitled “Yoga Hosers” is the second installment, following 2014’s film “Tusk”, in Smith’s horror-inspired trilogy known as The True North Trilogy. Did you noticed I labeled “Yoga Hosers” as a comedy-horror instead of a horror-comedy? The “Mallrats” and “Clerks” director basks more in the familiarity of witty, profane humor in this second of three films, but Kevin Smith has known to dapple, gradually stepping over to the dark side into horror with his radical religious sect piece “Red State” and, like aforementioned, the body-horror “Tusk.” The Jersey native also has an occasional appearance on AMC’s “The Talking Dead,” a talk show about “The Walking Dead’s” post-premier of each episode, and has meddled in the realm of the fantastic. Not only is Smith a strong advocate and sincerely passionate comic book enthusiast, coinciding with his own AMC show “The Comic Book Men,” but “Dogma,” starring the late Alan Rickman, delivers divine revelations and, now, with “Yoga Hosers,” a villainous Nazi clones miniature Bratwurst soldiers. Smith holds, in my opinion, one of the most extremely diverse bodies of work in our lifetime.

Where as “Tusk” goes gritty and gory with R rated horror-comedy, Smith’s intentions for “Yoga Hosers” has always leaned toward that of PG-13 and, maybe, that’s due in part of the two films’ minoring connection. The connection, presumably set in the same whacked out alternate universe, stem from the two Colleens, one played by Smith’s hysterically funny daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, and the other being Harley’s longtime, kindergarden friend Lily-Rose Depp. Yes, the daughter of mega star Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis brings her inherited talent and French dialect to one-half of a buddy comedy. The 15-year old girls, who are also 15-year old in character, transfer their natural offscreen relationship into being an entitled millennial pair with every intent on neglecting responsibility until faced with the moment of truth. Teamed up well with Lily-Rose’s father, Johnny Depp, under the heavy makeup of a fictional French manhunter named Guy Lapointe, also from “Tusk,” with scene-to-scene rotating facial mole, the crime fighting, buddy trio awkwardly moves across the plain in an enjoyable double entendre performance of simple wit. Accompanying Depp, Smith, and Depp are an eclectic roster of Kevin Smith’s usuals such as Justin Long (“Tusk,” “Jeepers Creepers”) as a reality-severed Yoga instructor named Yogi Bayer, Jason Mewes (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”) in a bit part, and, of course, Kevin Smith himself as the devilish Bratzis. New faces also make the scene with an unrecognizable Haley Joel Osment (“Sixth Sense”) as a young Canadian Nazi and “Orange is the New Black” Natasha Lyonne portraying a slutty Eh-2-Zed manager who sleeps her way to the top with Colleen C’s father, “Veep’s” Tony Hale.

“Yoga Hosers” explodes with Canadian farce that’s laced heavily with jokes on ‘aboots,’ hockey jersey-wearing patrons, an alternate version of Lucky Charms called Pucky Charms, and many more stereotypical references that satirically poke a good humored finger at Canadian culture and pop-culture. To top this satire sundae, the smug Colleens define the very title of the film with their dimwitted sludge and white girl yoga written into every storyboard moment. “Yoga Hosers'” buddy film concept gives an opportunity to two young and clueless teen girls who genre pirate the story with a jalopy of unsystematic plot humor, sucking away and discarding like garbage the sole ounce of blended “Gremlins” and “Puppet Master” cavalier subgenre horror that’s comfortably pleasant and inarguable right for a fun film of this triviality. Though I think the Colleens’ have had their story told, I’m intrigued to see what the pair of aloof teens offer in Smith’s third film of the trilogy, “Moose Jaws.”

MVDVisual distributes a dual format Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release of the various production companies’, including main investor, Invincible Pictures, and Kevin Smith’s founded SModcast Pictures, “Yoga Hosers.” The Blu-ray disc is a MPEG-2 encoded 1080p transfer with a 2.38:1 presentation and, rarely, flutters under a mediocre bitrate. Image brightens with a glossy coating that revels in brighter hues of blue, pink, orange, and yellow while starker bolds such as red and purple pop with vividness. Yet, sharp details are thin, less defined to bring high definition to present technological age. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track slightly elevates the ambient noise, especially during the girls’ punk rock practice that muffles out portions of their vocals, yet still manages to vary and balance. The only bonus feature available is a behind-the-scenes featurette that includes some insightful interviews. “Yoga Hosers” oppresses a melancholy reminder that the old Kevin Smith is no more and dawns a Kevin Smith 2.0 who transforms his satirical trademarks and his witty banter into strange misadventures, involving, in this case, two teenage fools flighting from one sub-narrative to another in a mixed bag of comedy and inferior minion horror.

Buy “Yoga Hosers” on Bluray/DVD/Digital HD at Amazon!

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” S5Ep3 ‘Four Walls and a Roof’

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As one chapter closes, another opens when Rick faces off agains’t what’s left of Terminus and Daryl and Carol discover a whole new dire situation. Bob has been returned to the group sans a leg and informs Rick and company that his time is near as he was also bit on a run. Poor Bob. Lawrence Gilliard Jr. will be missed as Bob Stookey, a level headed, positive thinker who gave much of the group hope. His alcoholic and lonely past turned for the better when he met the group. He was a shining example all that was potentially good. Well, a good thing can’t last forever as this episode hints.

I’m a bit glad that Gareth, played by Andrew J. West, wasn’t another Governor character. Instead, Gareth becomes a short lived catalyst vehicle that may or may not have split Rick’s group into two halves – one half doesn’t trust anybody new and becomes violent against the against the grain riders and then there are those who believe everybody is good and you just have to sift through that darkness. Carl and Rick are the prime examples of each category which will make for good television later on in the series because I’m sure Carl will once again blame his dad Rick for something. However, Rick has been right for most of the show’s life.

I’m still curious about Father Gabriel. His guilt runs deep, but how did he survive for so long being a coward. Rick still doesn’t trust him, but Father Gabriel didn’t rat out the group with Terminus hooligans make their threatening entrance into the church looking for revenge blood. However, Rick decided he was going to keep his promise to Gareth and Sasha had some revenge on her mind against Terminus folks as well.

Next episode will be something we haven’t seen before; a new group of foes unlike the show has ever given us. We’ll find out what happened to Beth and where Carol and Daryl discovers her. This should be interesting as this gives Rick and his group a new path and takes them off their now stagnant stay at the Church and leave Terminus in the past for good.

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” S5Ep2 ‘Strangers’

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My apologies for providing reviews days after a show airs. This past week has been hectic with a trip to Canada, work, and new baby! I’ve managed getting around to “Z Nation” and “The Walking Dead” this week (nor would I miss them any other week). “The Walking Dead’s” second episode in season five entitled ‘Strangers’ keeps us guessing. Rick has had bad deals with strangers (as the title of the episode suggests) and he holds a cloud of suspicion over everyone one that crosses his path.

This time a preacher named Gabriel has crossed Rick and his group’s path and Rick, being paranoid Rick Grimes, has his suspicions about the man of the cloth; he knows the preacher man is hiding something. Carl, being happy-go-lucky Carl, wants to believe that not everybody is bad, but his beliefs are starting to turn as he starts to see the clues surrounding Gabriel’s church – knife marks on the windows, “You’ll Burn for this” etched into the side of the church – and Carl is now seeing what Rick see’s: a man’s guilt and past.

On the tail of Rick’s group, the cannibals of Terminus have captures and started to munch on one of the group’s own. These folks are twisted and I’m talking about way, way out there. More looney than The Governor. I have a sneaking suspicion that more than one major player will die this season at the hands of the long pig delicatessen enjoyers. I’m also pretty positive that the deaths will be fairly significant meaning that the deaths will be of characters we actually like. I’m still waiting for Carl to bite it. Sigh.

‘Strangers’ certainly brings more questions than answers to the table. Carol still isn’t sure if she wants to stay or not. Daryl chases after those who stole Beth. The internal plans between Abraham’s group is still a mystery. Lets not forget the slimy food pit and the stanky zombies that inhabit the dark, dank water hole. Those zombies should have gotten one of them killed being I’m sure they can bite under water. I’m also digging Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes. Gilliam does a great job creating a character we’re quite not sure about yet. His intentions seem pure, but his secret could cause Rick and his friends their lives. We’ll have to continue to find out more I guess…