Category: Z-View

“Zone of the Dead” aka  “Apocalypse of the Dead” (2009) Starring Ken Foree / Z-View

Zone of the Dead aka  Apocalypse of the Dead (2009)

Director:  Milan Konjevic, Milan Todorovic

Screenplay by:  Milan Konjevic from a story by Vukota Brajovic, Milan Todorovic

Starring: Ken Foree and Kristina Klebe

Tagline:  This City Is a Living Hell

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Agents Mortimer Reyes (Foree) and Mina Milius (Klebe) are transporting a dangerous criminal when a zombie apocalypse breaks out.  The agents and criminal join forces in an effort to fight their way to safety.  Think Assault on Precinct 13 meets Night of the Living Dead (but not nearly as good as either).

Zone of the Dead isn’t good by any stretch of the imagination, but if you’re in the right frame of mind and enjoy zombie films, you could do worse.

Zone of the Dead aka  Apocalypse of the Dead earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Last Son” (2021) Starring Sam Worthington, Colson Baker, Thomas Jane & Heather Graham / Z-View

The Last Son (2021)

Director:  Tim Sutton

Screenplay by:  Greg Johnson

Starring: Sam Worthington, Colson Baker, Thomas Jane and Heather Graham

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Isaac LeMay (Worthington) is a heartless, wicked outlaw.  When a curse is placed on him, that he will be killed by one of his off-spring, LeMay decides to track down and kill the many children he left behind.  So he travels from town to town, locating and killing each of his off spring.  Until…

I thought The Last Son had an interesting premise.  I’m also a Thomas Jane fan.  Neither could keep me watching.  The Last Son moved at a snail’s pace.  Worthington played LeMay as a man of few words and when he did speak the words were hard to understand and gruff.  Think of the, “I’m Batman” voice by Christian Bale but as if Bale had chain smoked for 50 years.  There’s a scene where LeMay finds one of his off spring (he’d already killed a few).  It’s a daughter.  He decides not to kill her and instead puts his gun in her hand.  I was thinking, “Pull the trigger and end this mess.”  She doesn’t.  I didn’t last much longer.

The Last Son earns 1 of 5 stars.

“Hunter Hunter” (2020) / Z-View

Hunter Hunter (2020)

Director: Shawn Linden

Screenplay by: Shawn Linden

Starring: Camille Sullivan, Summer H. Howell, Devon Sawa and Nick Stahl

Tagline:

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Joseph Mersault (Sawa) lives in a remote wilderness log cabin with his wife Anne (Sullivan) and daughter Renée (Howell).  Joseph is a modern day mountain man, living off the land, hunting and trading animal skins for goods.  They’re just barely getting by.  Anne doesn’t enjoy the life, but tolerates it.  Renée loves hunting with her dad and living in the wilderness.

When a huge, rogue wolf returns to the area, Joseph decides he will hunt and kill it.  When Joseph doesn’t return after a couple of days, Anne fears the worst.  But the worst is yet to come…

I liked a lot of Hunter Hunter.  For me it went off the rails when characters started doing really dumb things.  I could accept Joseph going to hunt the wolf.  But when he finds something totally unexpected and doesn’t go back to get his family away to safety and he doesn’t go to the police… well, that’s just dumb.  When Joseph doesn’t return after a couple of days, and Anne and her daughter have had a run-in with a wolf and Anne still decides to wait it out in the cabin… that just dumb.  When… well, you get the idea.

I had the feeling at the start of the film that we may be dealing with a werewolf.  The lingering shots of the full moon also added to that feeling.  Was the director just setting us up?  The thing that really brought down my rating of this film was the final act.  It seemed out of character for Anne, and the gore was over-the-top.  Then for the police to allow her to simply walk away?  C’mon, man.

Hunter Hunter earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Day” (2011) / Z-View

The Day (2011)

Director: Douglas Aarniokoski

Screenplay by: Luke Passmore

Starring: Shawn Ashmore, Brianna Barnes and Dominic Monaghan

Tagline:  Fight. Or die.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

The Day has an interesting premise that is perfect for a low-budget film.  A group of five weary survivors living in a post-apocalypse, come upon a remote farm house.  In addition to shelter they find a basement stocked with canned goods.  Or so they think.  What they’ve really stumbled into is a trap set by a cannibalistic tribe!

I wish that The Day lived up to its premise.  I like the idea of cannibals, but once the fighting starts it’s just kill after kill. There was no real suspense and truthfully, I didn’t care one way or the other about which characters lived or died.

The Day earns 2 of 5 stars.

“A League of Their Own” Season 1 (2022) / Z-View

A League of Their Own, Season 1 (2022)

Directors:  Jamie Babbit (Eps. 1-3); Ayoka Chenzira (Ep. 4); Katrelle Kindred (Ep.5); Will Graham (Ep. 6); Silas Howard (Ep. 7); Anya Adams (Ep. 8)

Teleplay by: Will Graham & Abbi Jacobson (Eps. 1 & 8); Abbi Jacobson (Ep.2); Desta Tedros Reff (Ep. 3); Michelle Badillo (Ep. 4); Mfoniso Udofia (Ep.5); Will Graham (Ep. 6); Sanaz Toossi (Ep.7)

Starring:  Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Roberta Colindrez, Kelly McCormack, Priscilla Delgado, Molly Ephraim, Melanie Field, Kate Berlant, Dale Dickey, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Lea Robinson and Rosie O’Donnell

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

A League of Their Own is an loose adaptation of the 1992, A League of Their Own hit movie.  The update introduces new characters and storylines.

The year is 1943.  World War II is raging.  In an effort to increase morale at home the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is formed.  A League of Their Own follows a group of women from try-outs through the first season on the Rockford Peaches.  The focus is on…

  • Carson Shaw (Jacobson), a married woman from the midwest who’s life has been somewhat sheltered.  Her husband is in the service.  Carson develops feelings for Greta.
  • Maxine “Max” Chapman (Adams) is an African-American woman with a fastball that rivals those thrown by most men.  Maxine won’t even get a chance to tryout for the team because she’s black, but when one door closes…
  • Greta Gill (Carden) is a wild woman, who lives life and encourages Carson in more ways than one.
  • Clance Morgan (Ikumelo) is Maxine’s best friend, a newlywed who wants to be a comic book artist (and not a baseball player)
  • Jo DeLuca (Field) is Greta’s best friend and a power hitter
  • Toni Chapman (Ekulona) is Maxine’s mother who doesn’t support her baseball ambitions

While the above characters get most of the screen time, A League of Their Own does an excellent job of showcasing each of the players on the Rockford Peaches.  It’s interesting that women’s baseball is used as the backdrop for a time in America when women couldn’t open a checking account without their husband’s permission, African-Americans were still segregated from whites and being gay was thought of as a disease or even contagious.

The writing on A League of Their Own is really sharp and it doesn’t hurt that the series is well cast.  All of the actresses that play major characters are excellent.  Kudos also to Lea Robinson as Uncle Bertie,  Nick Offerman who plays the former pro who is brought in to coach the Peaches and Rosie O’Donnell who plays the owner of an underground gay bar.  Maxine “Max” Chapman (Adams) and her best friend Clance Morgan (Ikumelo) have a chemistry as best friends that could sustain a half hour comedy on their own.

A League of Their Own surprised me in how good it was.  I hope we get a second season.

A League of Their Own, Season 1 earns 4 of 5 stars.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD: The Deluxe Hardcover by Quentin Tarantino / Z-View


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The Deluxe Hardcover by Quentin Tarantino

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper

First sentence…

The buzzer on Marvin Schwarz’s desk makes a noise.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the fictionalized account of Hollywood actor and tv star, Rick Dalton, his stuntman and best friend, Cliff Booth and the famous/infamous folks they run into in Hollywood in the late 60s.  If you’ve seen Tarantino’s movie of the same name, then you know the story… or at least most of it.  The novel goes into greater detail especially in regard to Cliff Booth.  If you liked the movie, you should enjoy the book.  If you think, I’ve seen the movie, I don’t need a rehash in a novelization, you might be surprised.  There’s a different story structure in the novel than the film and time to dig a deeper into the characters.

If you haven’t seen the movie, let me get you up to speed.  Rick Dalton was a rising movie star.  He had a western tv series called Bounty Law.  It was popular and ran for a few years.  Dalton then went into feature films, but that was then.  Now Dalton appears to be on his way down.  He’s been regulated to guest starring in television shows and usually ends up beaten and beaten up by the star of the show.  Dalton hopes he’ll get another run at feature films.  Cliff Booth is a World War II decorated vet, a stuntman and Rick’s best friend.  Booth may or may not have killed his wife (we find out for sure in the novel).  He also went toe-to-toe with Bruce Lee in a challenge that pretty much ended Booth getting stunt work.  Rick and Cliff will also have run-ins with the Charlie Manson family, Sharon Tate and others.  To say more would be to say too much,

Tarantino is more of a story-teller than a writer.  Someone said if the novel was better written, it wouldn’t be as good.  That may sound strange, but I get the sentiment.  As you read Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, there’s the feeling that we’re hearing the tale from an insider and not a writer somewhere trying to polish his prose.  I loved the inside stories/legends of real life actors/actresses in Hollywood.

The Deluxe Edition also features a Rick Dalton Bounty Law episode script; Photos of lobby cards from two of Rick Dalton’s feature films, two Bounty Law stills, two Bounty Law TV Guide covers, two Bounty Law comic book covers, a Bounty Law lunchbox, Bounty Law production art, a Bounty Law board game, 8 movie posters featuring Rick Dalton and other real-life stars, and a MAD magazine Bounty Law parody featuring the cover and story by Andrew Secunda and Tom Richmond.

I enjoyed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and hope that Tarantino writes more novels.  I’m a sucker for a good story.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood rates 4 of 5 stars.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: The Deluxe Hardcover
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Paperback
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Kindle

Disturbing the Peace (2020) Starring Guy Pearce / Z-View

Disturbing the Peace (2020)

Director: Chuck Hustmyre

Screenplay by:  Jay Simms

Starring: Guy Pearce, Devon Sawa and Branscombe Richmond

Tagline: What Would You Give Up to Save Everything?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Jim Dillion (Pearce) was a Texas Ranger.  He stopped carrying a gun after accidentally shooting and paralyzing his partner in a hostage situation.  Now he’s Marshall Dillion. (I kid you not. If you’re old enough, you’ll recognize the name.) Like Andy Griffith, Dillion has one Deputy to assist him.  They are the law in a little Texas town.

A small motorcycle gang, barely large enough to be called a crowd, plans to rob an armored truck carrying 15 million dollars to be deposited in the town’s bank.  It will be up to Marshall Dillion and his deputy to stop them.

I wanted to like Disturbing the Peace.  Guy Pearce is a good actor.  The plot was perfect for a low budget film.  I was hoping for something along the lines of Tom Laughlin in The Born Losers.  What I got was a real mess.

The story goes off the rails.  For a lot of the film, Marshall Dillion and his deputy are running from place to place watching the bad guys take hostages or worse.  When Dillion finally decides to get a gun, he has to run home. He then stares at his pistol for an eternity before finally picking it up. Dillion captures one of the gang members and puts him in jail.  Dillion learns that the gangbanger was a former marine and tells him, “So was I.”  Dillion then opens the cell, hands him a rifle and turns his back on him!  Just like that the former gang member is now ready to go against his motorcycle brothers.

Then when Dillion and the gang member, both armed with rifles, come up against a guy with a handgun, they retreat!  It gets even worse.  The gang leader, Diablo (Sawa) fires a machine gun at Dillion as he walks down the center of an empty street.  Dillion isn’t even wounded.  We also get the classic: Dillon on a horse exchanging gunfire with Diablo on a motorcycle and then the horse catching the motorcycle!

With all that said, you’d probably think that Disturbing the Peace would earn one star.  It nearly did,  Still, I made it through the film so I’m barely rating it a two.

Disturbing the Peace earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Killer Shrews” (1959) / Z-View

The Killer Shrews (1959)

Director: Ray Kellogg

Screenplay by:  Jay Simms

Starring: James Best, Ingrid Goude and Ken Curtis

Tagline: Ravaging beasts feed on human flesh!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Thorne Sherman (Best) and his partner dock their boat loaded with supplies at a remote island research base.  Despite an approaching hurricane, Dr. Marlowe Craigis wants Sherman to leave the island immediately and to take his grown daughter, Ann (Goude) as well.  Sherman  says that they need to hunker down and he’ll take her after the storm passes.

Sherman soon learns that Dr. Marlowe’s experiments have created a breed of killer shrews that must eat twice their body weight daily in order to survive.  The shrews’ food supply has dwindled and now the shrews have their eyes on the humans!  With teeth strong enough to eat through walls it is just a question of time until they get into the house… and then…

The Killer Shrews is a low-budget horror film that makes the most of the small cast.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the special effects.  It’s very obvious that the shrews are sometimes puppets and other times dogs wearing wigs.  There is a romance subplot that is low budget as well.  A pre-Gunsmoke, Festus (Curtis)  co-stars and produced.

The Killer Shrews is watchable in the Saturday night movie presented by a Horror Host kind of way.  In fact I remember first seeing The Killer Shrews on an episode of Sammy Terry’s Nightmare Theater back in the 60s.  I was in third or fourth grade. I loved the movie and couldn’t wait to tell the old lady crossing guard all about it on Monday.  I recently re-watched The Killer Shrews (this time hosted by Svengoolie).  It brought back great memories and I’m sure I’d have liked it better if I was still in elementary school.

The Killer Shrews earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Red Stone” (2021) Starring Neal McDonough, Dash Melrose & Michael Cudlitz / Z-View

Red Stone (2021)

Director: Derek Presley

Screenplay by:  Derek Presley

Starring: Neal McDonough, Dash Melrose, Michael Cudlitz and Billy Blair

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Motley Adams (Melrose) witnessed his older brother killed by order of Jed Haywood (Cudlitz), a local crime boss.  Now Motley is on the run from Haywood’s thugs led by a hitman named Boon (McDonough).  The local sheriff and the F.B.I. are looking for Motley too.  It’s just a question of time… and time is about to run out.

With McDonough and Cudlitz in the credits, I was expecting more.  Although Red Stone clocks in at just 97 minutes, it felt longer.  That’s never good.  There’s lip service paid to a subplot about Boon’s mom that could have been totally cut for all the impact it had.  Red Stone has some interesting ideas, but unfortunately the execution isn’t up to the same level.

Red Stone earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Blood Vessel” (2019) / Z-View

Blood Vessel (2019)

Director: Justin Dix

Screenplay by: Justin Dix, Jordan Prosser

Starring: Nathan Phillips, Alyssa Sutherland, Robert Taylor, Christopher Kirby, Alex Cooke, Mark Diaco, John Lloyd Fillingham, Troy Larkin and Vivienne Perry

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

1945.  World War II.  A life raft with five survivors of a hospital ship torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat has been adrift in the ocean for days.  With supplies and hope for rescue running low, the survivors spot a ship.  Although it is a German vessel, with nothing to lose, they board it.  The German sailors are all dead, their bodies horribly mutilated.  They find a young girl and two chained boxes…

I love the Blood Vessel poster (above) and the film exceeded my expectations.  I’m a fan of movies where a diverse group of people are thrown together and forced into life or death situations.  Blood Vessel checks all the boxes.  Early in the movie we’re shown that you cannot be sure who will live or die.  I loved that the vampire didn’t look human.  It was also a cool idea to use the time period when Germany was sure to lose the war and were Nazi officials were exploring occult options as a last resort.  Blood Vessel is a movie that I’m going to enjoy re-watching and would make a great double feature with Overlord!

Blood Vessel earns 4 of 5 stars.

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie (2022) / Z-View

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie (2022)

Director: Mark Moormann

Starring: Don McLean, Peter Gallagher, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Jiles Perry “J.P.” Richardson Jr. aka The Big Bopper, Garth Brooks, Brian Wilson  and Tyson Fury

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

In December 1971, Don McLean’s American Pie single was released.  It went to #1 and held that position for four weeks.  At the time it was the longest song (8 minutes and 42 seconds) to enter the Billboard charts.  At the time a single of that length was unheard of.  American Pie was a worldwide hit topping the charts in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.  Fifty years later and people of all ages know the words to the song, but speculation runs rampant about their meaning.

Don McLean wrote the song as a musical poem open to interpretation.  While McLean admitted that “the day the music died” referred to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, speculation was that the song also referenced the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, political protests and more.  McLean would never confirm or deny the meaning of his lyrics.  He was quoted as saying, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on.”

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie looks at the genesis of the song, it’s impact on the world and Don McLean shares the meaning of the lyrics.  I was in 7th grade when American Pie was released.  Everyone, including adults, were talking about the song and it’s meaning.

I enjoyed this documentary.  It was cool to see the struggle McLean had in getting the lyrics just right.  Then to learn (and see) that the producer and musicians knew that they had something special, but the recording session wasn’t working until.. (I won’t give it away),  While I’m glad that Don McLean has confirmed the things that inspired his lyrics, I’m taking the perspective that like all poetry, once it’s released, it is up to each individual to determine what the poem means to him/her.

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie earns 4 of 5 stars.

Sputnik (2020): “The Only Survivor Did Not Come Back Alone” / Z-View

Sputnik (2020)

Director: Egor Abramenko

Screenplay by:  Oleg Malovichko, Andrey Zolotarev

Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk and Pyotr Fyodorov

Tagline:  The only survivor did not come back alone.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Tatyana Klimova (Akinshina), a  psychiatrist with a high success rate and unusual methods, is brought to a remote military facility.  Colonel Semiradov (Bondarchuk) has recruited Tatyana to work with Konstantin (Fyodorov),  the lone surviving cosmonaut of a recent space mission.

Initially Tatyana is told that Konstantin is in isolation and under military guard due to quarantine protocols.  She soon learns the real reason.  An alien life form is alive in Konstantin.  The creature feeds off nutrients in Konstantin’s food and in turn keeps him alive.  Colonel Semiradov is looking for a way to weaponize or kill the creature – no matter if the process kills Konstantin.  Tatyana wants to save Konstantin, even if it kills the creature.

Sputnik is a Russian film helmed by first time director, Egor Abramenko.  It could have easily turned into an Alien rip-off, but instead we’re given a film that is more psychological in nature.  The creature is unlike most outer-space monsters and is as creepy as it is scary.  There’s a nice twist at the end (but again, not like you’d expect in most horror films).  I enjoyed Sputnik.  It was different than I thought it’d be, but in a good way.

Sputnik earns 4 of 5 stars.

Magnum Force (1973) Starring Clint Eastwood / Z-View

Magnum Force (1973)

Director: Ted Post

Screenplay by:  John Milius, Michael Cimino from a story by John Milius based on characters created by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hal Holbrook, Mitchell Ryan, David Soul, Tim Matheson, Kip Niven, Robert Urich, Felton Perry, Maurice Argent, Richard Devon, Tony Giorgio, Jack Kosslyn and John Mitchum

Tagline:  Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry in Magnum Force

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Someone is killing criminals who have escaped justice in court.  As the dead bodies pile up, Inspector Harry Callahan (Eastwood) begins to suspect that the killer is a cop.  As Harry continues his investigation, he discovers that he is now on the killer’s hit list!

Clint Eastwood returns in the second outing as his most popular character, Dirty Harry Callahan.  Magnum Force is Eastwood’s favorite Dirty Harry film.  It’s easy to see why.  The screenplay by John Milius and Michael Cimino provides a great response to critics who said Dirty Harry is a fascist vigilante.  Plus Eastwood’s supporting cast includes several stars on the verge of their breakout roles (David Soul in Starsky & Hutch, Tim Matheson in The Quest and Robert Urich in S.W.A.T.).  Hal Holbrook is perfect as Lt. Briggs, Calahan’s supervising officer.

Magnum Force provides a great showcase for Eastwood doing what he does best; playing the loner who despite “the system” gets the job done. Eastwood starts and ends Magnum Force with memorable dialogue.  The film opens with a repeat of the “Do you feel lucky, punk?” speech and ends with “A man’s got to know his limitations.”  In between we see Harry react to situations (Eastwood has facial expressions that rival Vince McMahon’s), stop a hijacking, being hit on (in different ways) by women and bad guys and overcoming the odds win the day.

Magnum Force earns 4 of 5 stars.

“The Plague” (2014) / Z-View

The Plague (2014)

Director: Nick Kozakis, Kosta Ouzas

Screenplay by:  Kosta Ouzas

Starring: Don Bridges, Tegan Crowley, Scott Marcus and Steven Jianai

Tagline:  Pray you don’t survive.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

After a zombie outbreak, a small group of survivors have taken refuge in a barn.  Arguments about what do next tear the group apart and lead to murder.  Everyone but Evie (Crowley) is ready to move on.  Evie wants to wait for her boyfriend, John (Marcus) to return.  He finally does, but only Evie waited.

Neither Evie are John are well-suited for survival in this new world.  When Charlie (Jianai) arrives at the barn, they gain renewed hope.  Charlie is an outdoorsman, a marksman and just wants their companionship.  Charlies says in return he will feed and protect them.  What could go wrong with that?

John and Evie should know that sometimes the humans are the most dangerous part of a zombie apocalypse.

The Plague has an interesting idea, but falls short in the execution.  It’s not a bad film, especially for a low budget production.

The Plague earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Gauntlet” (1977) Starring Clint Eastwood / Z-View

The Gauntlet (1977)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by:  Michael Butler,  Dennis Shryack

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, William Prince and Bill McKinney

Tagline:  Clint Eastwood is the man in the middle of The Gauntlet

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Ben Shockley (Eastwood) is a Phoenix cop who drinks too much and does just enough to get by on the job.  So when Police Commissioner Blakelock (Prince) personally choses him to go to Las Vegas to extradite a “nothing witness” for a “nothing trial”, Shockley doesn’t think too much of it.  Gus Malley, the “nothing witness”, turns out to be Augustine Malley (Locke).

Malley claims that she is has information on government officials with mob ties and that she’s been targeted for execution.  She tells Shockley that he was chosen because no one would question him not getting her safely back.  When Shockley and Malley are nearly killed, he realizes she’s right.  Important people with ties to the mob and police have made it their mission to kill Shockley and Malley… and Shockley’s made it his to get her back safely to testify!

Ben Shockley is the opposite of Dirty Harry, but Eastwood is just as convincing in this role.  Gus Malley is played by Sandra Locke, Eastwood’s off screen lover at the time.   Pat Hingle has a small but important role as Shockley’s friend on the force.  William Prince is excellent as the slimy Police Commissioner.  Eastwood puts just the right amount of humor in The Gauntlet.  And how about that Frank Frazetta poster?

The Gauntlet earns 4 of 5 stars.