Notable movies that were great but just didn’t make the Gross Movie Review Top Ten list for 2014

Manborg (DVD) – A complete over-the-top nutzoid, stop motion, CGI, anime influenced, mind blowing fantasy film from Steve Kostanski that pits humans vs. Hell’s Armies in the future after Count Draculon wasn’t stopped during a war long ago. In the future, Draculon’s armies have taken over and most of mankind is gone or underground. During the war long ago a man fighting Count Draculon was believed killed but became an experiment called, “Manborg” awakens in this hellish future. Manborg may be the one hope for mankind as he is taken into custody after killing a guard who was chasing an escape prisoner aka an extra from Mortal Kombat. Once in Hell’s prison he must fight in the arena. With help from other prisoners they soon begin killing all of Hell’s Armies. Soon Manborg learns to harness his powers after escaping and Manborg and friends begin an all-out assault on Count Draculon! The film is literally like a comic book geek’s brain exploded on screen. I enjoyed this completely unique and crazy film but feel there will be some fans that just won’t understand what exactly the film is and dislike it. I give this Mr. Kostanski’s amazing effort 3 ½ stars.

To Die is Hard (DVD) – From the brilliant mind of “Midget Zombie Takeover”, independent filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz gives us an independent comedy/action spoof that mostly covers “Die Hard”.  An English professor named Joe has a perfect life where his perfect wife and perfect kid adore him as he goes off to his State College on a Friday morning when most staff and students are off for the day. But during this perfect day some bad dudes aka terrorists break into the State College office because they need a key to a room that holds their treasure which just so happens to be office supplies. But the terrorists have picks the wrong state college to break into as Joe McCann is just a pissed off English professor that will not take this lying down. So Joe goes into awesome ultimate male action star mode to bring down the terrorists where he ends it with ‘heart punching’ the leader Anton to death!  Everything from scenes of Joe telling stories of his softball team, a co-worker trying to figure out tea bagging, Joe’s wife and daughter talking about him being a Greek goddess with a straight face, or the detective eating cheese puffs outside doing nothing made me have tears stream out of my eyes cause I was laughing so hard. Spoofs especially independent ones can be hard to pull off but in this case Glenn and company did a wonderful job with this great flick. And who cannot like characters getting slapped in almost every scene “Airplane-style” for no apparent reason as I give it 3 ½ out of 4 stars and can be found at www.drivingeyes.com .

The Rest is Very Boring (DVD) – Independent filmmaker Jorge Delarosa and The Slow Mutants crew are always doing something different go with a new film project that tells a story of a good friend of theirs named Frank Bochard. Now, I do not know this person and most likely you don’t either but what makes the film interesting is we all know a person or have a friend that is Frank Bochard who is talented, lives on the fringe of life, a person you wanna know, and goes by the beat of their own drum. And this film documents the life of Frank Bochard up until his untimely end. His friends, family, and teachers tell stories and bring you into what Frank was like. Just like Frank Bochard, Jorge Delarosa and The Slow Mutants crew give you another very interesting and very emotionally moving project that keeps expanding what you can do independently these days and they should be proud as I give it 4 out of 4 stars. You can always find out more about it at www.slowmutants.com .

Back Road (DVD) – Independent film producer and writer Jon Manthei with the help of writer/director Joseph Thompson is back at it again with his latest short film that in my belief could make a great 75 or 80 minute feature. The film follows Tommy and Tabaitha who are on their first date and have a flat tire on a long dirt road and its getting dark. Together they find help from a kind stranger driving by only to find they are next on the family’s menu but the film ends when it is just beginning as one of the couple have a surprise for the cannibal family. The film feels like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and 3” meets “From Dusk Till Dawn” as it lures you in with the feeling you have seen this film before until the surprise happens and makes you want more from the talented duo. What makes the film work really well is not only how well the surprise is set up but I thought the two actors playing Tommy and Tabaitha played the ‘awkward first date couple’ so well you actually feel really bad when they are first kidnapped. I give the short film 3 ½ out of 4 stars and hope the talented duo listens and fleshes out a feature of this short film with a little more darker and demonic overtone to it? To find out more about Jon Manthei, Joseph Thompson, and their future projects go check out www.facebook.com/campfirepictures . Oh by the way look for the Ted Nugent for President bumper sticker, it fits perfect in this short film.

7th Day (DVD) – In the past most independent filmmakers would make a serial killer film and as a reviewer I would  almost cringe at the thought of it as the project was usually brainless, bloodless, and a complete waste of time as they would try to mostly use naked women to sell the bad product. But the past year or two independent filmmakers and writers have blown me away how they have been able to make these lean, mean, gritty, serial killer films that make Hollywood blush. And Jason Koch made sure this project was no different than that trend in blowing me away with the “7th Day” film. We meet a man named Allen Dean who knows what he is and tells the viewer plain and simple, “This is what he does.” Allen narrates most of the film or talks to a ghost, his conscience, image of a mutated reporter (take your pick) and takes you the viewer through his insanely sleazy life. Allen Dean would like you to know he picks his victims by “selections” and is completely sane even if he feels the need to do cocaine with his neighbor or have sex with one of his victims. Even with all that going on Mr. Dean is trying to figure out how he can get the love of his life to notice him at his dead end job. The film takes an unconventional roller coaster ride into the gross and sick world of Allen Dean, with just a dash of sleaze that makes you want to watch and enjoy the film alone and be sure to take a shower after. Bravo Jason Koch, you have gotten my attention and most likely many others and good luck. I give the project 3 ½ out of 4 stars. You can find the film at: www.direwitfilms.com .

Doc of the Dead (DVD) – Another great documentary that covers everything zombies from Max Brooks to George Romero to the black and white flick White Zombie. Lots of cool interviews and clips covering not only the history of movie zombies but even talking about people who actually prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Simon Pegg makes an appearance as does Greg Nicotero along with Tom Savini to show this documentary means business talking everything zombies. So zombie fans shamble to whenever you can a copy of this and enjoy as I give it 4 stars.

 

Hopscotch (DVD) – A quite different short film from Kirsten Walsh who gives the viewer an intense curveball of an independent film that relies more on its dialogue and performances by its all-female cast than your usually boobs, shitty gore effects, and bad acting that a good portion of independent films rely on. I should know as I have watched and reviewed many as some believe too many at times. But always enjoy when a filmmaker like a Kirsten Walsh produces something like “Hopscotch” that makes you want to pay attention to all dialogue and also has a great uneasy feeling of not sure where the film may take you. But anyway Bridget is an escort who is brought to a big home by a young woman named Jolene. Bridget is there to service a character named Mr. Andre but never sees him when she gets into deep conversation with Jolene and a curious houseguest named Rebecca. From there the film blooms into this great creepy oddity that will have you wanting more especially after the film’s interesting ending. Big props to Kirsten Walsh for putting together an independent short film worth talking about as I give it 3 ½ out of 4 stars. You can find out more about the project at www.facebook.com/hopscotchfilm .

Jack Reacher (DVD) – A Tom Cruise flick that was shot in my hometown Pittsburgh, Pa. The film was originally called, “One Shot” but title like most quickly changed once filming wrapped up. But wait Tim Gross is watching another Tom Cruise flick. Heard great things about the film so I figured I would force myself to sit long enough to give it a chance… And I was not disappointed. Someone guns down five people in front of PNC Park that seems like random crazy violence only to frame a half ass sniper from the military. Once in questioning the only thing the man says after 16 hours to the police is “Jack Reacher”. Jack Reacher is a former MP who was great at his job and seems to be a ghost as he went off the grid a few years ago. Once the story goes national Reacher arrives in Pittsburgh to have a conversation with the man’s lawyer and do his own investigation which uncovers a much bigger plot. The film is awesomely written and Tom Cruise plays the part of Jack Reacher perfectly. It’s a kick ass action flick I did not expect and with this latest project Cruise is beginning to restore my faith in him as an actor but also his projects. Do yourself a favor and check out this cool flick if you haven’t seen it. But what’s even cooler is that they used all of Pittsburgh so well and really thought they did a great job of using the extras in the flick and making them true Pittsburghers except none said “Yinz”! I give the film 3 ½ stars.

 

Dry Bones (DVD) – Anytime a cool independent filmmaker such as Gregory Lamberson contacts you about a new flick you take notice… Especially when he was the dude that gave us the beautiful slime/gorefest “Slime City Massacre”! So when I got this screener I could not wait to sit down and watch a film that stars Debbie Rochon and Kevin Van Hat Trick aka Duane Smith aka just go watch “Basket Case” if you are not a nerd like I am. But anyway Lamberson’s latest is about a boy named Andrew who has a monster living under his bed and so frighten he is unsure that he can ever sleep again. Or it can be he is holding a piece of history in his hands (Fangoria #1, Godzilla cover) and knows how much it is worth? But anyway his dad (Bart) comes barging in because he cannot hear “Charlie’s Angels” and wants to put a beating upon Andrew but soon finds himself face to face with the hideous monster living under Andrew’s bed. Many years go by and Andrew now Drew has returned to town for the first time in years because his sister wants to sell their parents’ house. With nowhere to stay and needing to make repairs to the house before its sold Drew decides to move back to his original home thinking the monster is in his past. Drew was wrong! Soon Drew has strange dreams, all who enter are dying in a horrible manner, and the neighbors believe the home is haunted. A great independent horror film with cool practical monster effects and one of the best actresses ever as a Succubus… I want a sequel and I want Debbie Rochon in even more monster make-up because she makes it look so fun and awesome! All I got to say horror fans thank god for filmmakers like Gregory Lamberson as I give his new flick 3 ½ out of 4 stars.

Flu (DVD) – An amazing recent Korean film that tackles social issues when a horrible superbug or superstrain of Avian Flu arrives when human traffickers open a shipping container that is supposed to have a bunch of people that paid to be in Korea instead are all horribly dead except for one man who escapes. Soon between the escapee and the human traffickers the super flu is being spread throughout the suburb city of Seoul and with no cure Seoul, Korea is next and the world after. Doctors and foreign leaders struggle to come up with a plan of action until a cure is found. A very dramatic and social commentary on how the government treats people no matter what part of the world you live in. The film is dubbed for those of you who hate reading movies… Kyle Poling! The amount of cool gore shots is underrated also. I give this Korean flick 4 star.

Wolf Creek 2 (On Demand) – Surprised it took how many years later for a sequel but there is one and if you are a fan of the first you will like the second film as it starts out just like the first film. The first half of the film is all set-up like the first film but takes a very different but fun turn as it goes the direction of 1986’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” where it changes from just being another torture film to a complete fun chaotic ride into horror! The film dives knee deep in gore and character development of the cannibalistic bushman Mic Taylor. At first I wasn’t liking the sequel but as the film got going in the second half it made appreciate staying patient and enjoying this fun horror mess of a film. I give one of the best horror films of 2014, 3 ½ stars and hope there will be another sequel.

Guardians of the Galaxy (Theater) – If anything this film proves Marvel can do anything at this point. After a kid is abducted when he was twelve and he becomes a ‘Ravager’ which retrieves things legally and illegally for a price. Now as an adult or Starlord he enjoys being known as is asked to retrieve a rock that just so happens to have an ancient power source that could destroy planets. Soon in a space prison with a talking tree, a green woman assassin, a talking mutant raccoon, and a muscle bound lunatic they make a plan to break out of the space prison and go find this stone to get paid. If they can work together long enough they may just save worlds. Like I said, Marvel can do anything now and this film proves it as this isn’t your run of the mill comic book characters everyone knows. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” universe is lesser known to the mainstream but has a huge rabid following among comic book readers for years. James Gunn and company have made a Marvel movie that may appeal to all audiences as I give the flick 3 ½ stars.

Dead Before Dawn (DVD) – A hilarious zombie film starring Christopher Lloyd who needs his grandson to watch his store “The Occult Barn” so he go receive his lifetime achievement award. Problem is his grandson saw his father die in the store 15 years ago and has been scared shitless of everything since. On a whim he the grandson decides to help out Lloyd’s character and watch the store but everything goes to hell when friends come by and he drops a skull shaped urn that unleashes an evil that turns all the people they look at into zimons! Half zombie, half demon and the people commit suicide first before they change. And if you French kiss a zimon it becomes your slave. Oh one more thing if you do not fix the urn before dawn it will be hell on earth forever. What seems corny and possibly horrible at first glance is actually really good and worth giving a chance as it breathes a little more life into a very saturated zombie genre! I give it 3 ½ stars. And Christopher Lloyd is still one of my favorite actors.

 

The Device (Vimeo) – Jeremy Berg and John Portanova who are a part of the independent film company “The October People” are back at it with this new release that deals with possible alien abduction and strange events that are in the same vein as “The X-Files”. Abby and Rebecca are sisters who have been a part for many years have gotten back together at an old cabin again to spread their mother’s ashes. While walking through the woods discussing the past they come across a strange black sphere and something that could be a wrecked plane? They bring back the strange black sphere and that’s when things get weird… Dreams of creepy aliens, pregnancy, death, and etc., leads up to an amazing ending for this independent sci-fi thriller that I must say is one of the best independent films of 2014. Bravo Mr. Berg and Mr. Portanova as I give it 3 ½ out of 4 stars. The film is available through amazon.com and for details on upcoming projects please check out www.theoctoberpeople.com .

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