Review – Intensive Care

Directed by: Jared Bentley
Distributed by: Screen Media
Starring: Tara Macken, Jai Rodriguez, Leslie Easterbrook, Kevin Sizemore

Intensive Care PosterRetirement is hard on anyone, when special forces operative Alex decides to take a step back from the intense life of the battlefield it’s a simpler life caring for the elderly in the nursing field until one-day, things take a hard turn.

Intensive Care puts Alex our central character into the life of an in-house nurse for a slowly dying elderly woman. One day things change-up from the usual routine as Danny, a seemingly entitled and broke grandson appears into the fray hoping to check on their health and see how close they might be to shoving their way in for a chunk of the wealth. While past nurses may have fallen under his charm, Alex is an entirely different cut of cloth but it’s not something she tends to flaunt around.

It’s a tale as old as time, a bratty relative comes back into the fray, expects the world to fall at their feet when that fails they orchestrate a hostile plan of action. Okay nevermind, that’s pretty exclusive to this situation specifically, Danny has a hard time taking no for an answer and that leads to some very foul play all around. Thankfully this mashup of nursing and special ops play comes together well as the film teases skill sets and bits of action to build up Alex leading up to the conflict. Instead of rushing to scene after scene of action, it’s paced with reasonable breaks and development.

Some films can’t really set up a strong narrative with choreography to develop the experience, we see Intensive Care actually balance that workload, giving time to fight scenes without feeling generic and bland or relying on rough prop execution to oversell a moment. Given the nature of Alex, it’s natural that she’s going to essentially play with her prey a bit and in a single moment, end the entire fight in a swift stroke which fits the execution.

The general camera work is clean, the camera motion is kept to a minimum, lighting feels organic and even in the transition from day to evening, there’s an attention to detail to keep a consistent presentation without overdoing it. Fight scenes have a smooth transition to showcase the action and tension in the room, not falling flat to a single position and angle that keeps the immersion running.  The team does good work to keep the momentum with a modern pacing, not attempting to get absorbed into too many motion effects or complex moments. The bathroom scene is actually a solid representation of that in the movie.

Audio and soundtrack play a vital role, selling action moments as glass breaks, heavy objects clash and tense moments between criminals and Alex build. There’s a nice presentation of ambiance to the household as voices don’t completely sound like they’ve been handled in post-production sitting in a studio lacking any atmosphere or reverb from the room. There’s warmth, echo and a genuine appeal as the sound develops from room to room with variations in-depth throughout.

Overall, Intensive Care is a fun action film, running just over an hour with a good base premise to grab viewers and solid action moments to bring entertainment. Tara Macken does a great job holding up the film as the lead and bringing the fight scenes to life, lending experience and enthusiasm to help create tense moments without feeling stiff and bringing emotion to the moment throughout. The cast and crew round out the film with a higher production value on the film while still having moments to play with the audience here and there.

Review – Elves

Produced by: Pikchure Zero
Directed by: Jamaal Burden
Starring: Stephanie Marie Baggett, Deanna Grace Congo, Amy Jo Guthrie, Melissa L. Vega

This holiday season, while everyone gets cozy around the fire and feels a calming cheer, horror fans can buddy up with Elves, a new sequel to The Elf. Taking in a holiday horror flick that puts the lives of multiple people on the naughty list into turmoil as they’re put into murderous challenges allowing them to survive.

It all starts out well, you’re hanging out with friends, some well over the holiday spirit, a few shots go down and suddenly you’re tricked into signing up for a dark ritual for survival. Friends are dying off left and right and so are strangers in the town as possession, hallucinations, and more fill the air. Well, that might not be how it goes for everyone, but in Elves it sure is. The film uses creeper vibes throughout the runtime in visual and audio form to keep things just weird enough. The dolls themselves are a bit nightmare inducing, if you thought those cherub porcelain figures at the store were creepy, they’ve got nothing on these dolls.

The story wastes no time getting into action, the group finds itself at odds to process the fate they’ve been dealt and the movie systematically runs through their challenges and actions. It’s brutal and blunt while also playing to the apparent fouls of their lives leading up to that point. When resistance is met the elf turns things up a notch to make sure they play along. As with many horror films of this genre, it’s not some unity moment where they all group together and overcomes the odds, there are some brutal handouts for everyone.

Composition wise it’s a pretty consistent film, the contrast between the every day and the darker moments is clear, switching to high contrast or extreme darkness with murky ambiance. The cast does well with the work, showing signs of paranoia, fear, and apathy. You get a feel for the lone wolves that would rather let everyone else burn if it means they can get another day and how everyone seems to underestimate the power of a traumatizing elf doll.

Elves is definitely something geared for the horror fans out there, and for those hoping to spring a fun twist to the holidays, it’s a good way to kill an evening with something out of the ordinary that still plays to the season. The story has fun twists and turns, there’s an air that everyone is genuinely doomed and I can’t say enough how utterly creepy that elf doll is and how it’ll haunt me for a few weeks at least. Running a movie based on an inanimate object isn’t easy and it’s done in this case with enough mysticism and visual play that it slips in there without being weird.

Review – Malefic #8

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

Hot on the heels of an asylum revolt, mass death and new adventures in persona extraction and development we return to dear Doctor Freust. Inmate Eleven has had a fun time playing real mind games using telepathy and other means of terror to inflict trauma. Not one to sit out a fight, Freust rises to the challenge, spinning with new ideas for this last bout as Malefic draws to a close.

The final issue packs a punch, Freust has to face her greatest fears and overcome the one patient that has eluded her. How does one fight the devil when mortal concepts and creations have failed? When facing what appears as pure evil, where is the line? Is there even a line? It’s a thing with this issue, and eventually one has to weigh the greater good or at least a good nights rest vs the eternal torture that would otherwise follow.

Dan Schaffer wraps up a very disturbing season of Malefic with a bang, bringing Freust to the top of her game, showing her personality shift to finally shine in this pit. She’s seen thugs and violence, danced with psychic combatants, and poked into the minds of every inmate there only to take a few stabs at fixing things. She’s battle-hardened at this point, each challenge meant to break her very being but instead making her let go of that past life, piece by piece.

David Miller shines in the final pages of this series or at least this first volume. Bringing everything to life with intense gestures, contorted bodies, and expression, the rage and action filling the pages. Looks of dread and terror dominating with intense contrast, with so much going on and the stakes at their highest, Miller brings it home for Malefic. For those following Freust’s doll experiment, there’s no shortage of high-quality gesture and feedback. The final showdown pages with Freust and Eleven are priceless, the darkness wraps around the pages and brings these characters to their prime.

Malefic isn’t for everyone, but for those looking to explore supernatural challenges that completely break the norm it’s a must read series. For those on a budget, the whole series is also wrapped in a single volume option now. It’s next level macabre with horrors and moments that make it a thrill through the pages to see what happens next and how bad things can keep getting.

For those looking to find the perfect little horror comic for that one special someone, this should do it. Really, it’s damaging in a beautiful way.

Link: Order (Digital) | Volume 1 (Issues 1 – 8)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★★ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★ 

Review – Malefic #7

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

Overdue a bit, but finishing out the coverage round of Malefic for the holidays as it’s a unique entry into the field of superheroes and fantasy tales out there. Reviews date back to the first issue and a summary will follow after the review of issue 8 goes live next. For now, a bit of chaos as we revisit Doctor Freust in the den of madness, indulging in her darkest desire as all hell prepares to break loose.

With Grayson entering the fray we see the doctor facing that which sent her into this hotel of damnation. While basic impulse and logic would steer one away from such madness, the good doctor ignores that and runs head-on into her encounter with Grayson, knowing full well about the abilities within. The doctor finds herself lost to the moment as inmate eleven stirs the pot, teasing about inevitable destruction and murder. It’s not long before the situation goes sideways and we find Doctor Freust rushing to action.

It’s a tense series of moments within the asylum, setting up Freust to see the fruits of her labor with experiments on the inmates and still tackling new challenges as everything burns around her. Fortunately, that moment of passion and her lapse in judgment fades and she’s able to reassess her situation and tackle the few small battles that come at her. Unfortunately, wits only get her so far before she’s facing down the larger and more violent members of the facility.

Miller helps create balances of tension and emotion within the pages of issue 7. Dealing with battles of persona, ultra-violence, and Freusts responses to the wild issues raging within is certainly a challenge. Topping that off, Grayson gets a spectacular display of insanity under the diagnostic specs that really drives home how sick of a guy she was dealing with.

While readers do see a loss in issue 7, it’s almost inevitable with a challenge of that size and a comic as dark as this. Happy endings in Malefic are more of a myth and sign of deeper delusion than a reality there. With only one issue left, it’s hard to imagine how Dan Schaffer wraps this chaotic whirlwind up.

Link: Order (Digital)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Review – Clyde Cooper

Produced by: Souvenir Films
Written by: Peter Daskaloff
Starring: Jordi Vilasuso, Abigail Titmuss, Richard Neil, Aria Sirvaitis
Runtime: 81 minutes

Throwback films to the old detective noir era are always interesting, mixing what was essentially a simpler era with modern technology while still trying to have the same atmosphere. Clyde Cooper is the latest film to take on this tricky formula, putting itself in the near future and pitting a gumshoe detective against untraceable figures and mob-style opposition. We see Clyde hit the ground running with a classic case, trying to trace some steps on a basic missing person and finding himself tumbling down a rabbit hole of trouble.

For all it’s challenges Clyde Cooper delivers a simple and effective storyline with enough twists to keep it going. Just when one angle seems more or less the case, another clue drops, Clyde gets a new idea and the movie rolls with it. The device is active just enough for the film to not seem overly repetitive. As it does pay homage to this detective era, there’s flirtation, smooth talking, and general suave attitudes for all. For those unfamiliar, it might not have the fastest pacing but it is about the way it goes, dramatic moment, sudden interference or obstruction and try to find the trail again.

Jordi Vilasuso does his best to play it cool and calm, often throwing in pickup lines casually and playing them off innocently. While the smooth voice is an interesting change, it never really deviates in emotion, it’s awkward for the character as it robs it of some depth as everything is just constantly okay. Outside of the suave design of Clyde, there’s pretty much the vaping which replaces nervous cigarettes or cigars while they think and drink on the case. There’s almost too much mystery as to why he’s that calm in any situation. A troubled breath, hint of deeper fury would have gone further to develop Clyde more.

That said, overall Jordi and the cast do well with the film and at least keep a consistent bar, it’s a weird case, to say the least. For a detective that seems to like to keep it as simple as they can, it just pushes them well out of comfort. At just over an hour the film is pressed for storytelling but the cast gets through it without a hitch while also staying close to form as a classical mystery.

In the technical realm, the film plays out well, the depth of field creates a more immersive effect and the use of multiple camera angles helps give a fuller presentation vs a single camera setup. The audio mastering in public scenes has nice value with depth and atmosphere, letting the sound team enhance key moments with simple and eerie tones just at the right time. Lighting allows play between key characters, moments, and the background characters so nothing just goes into obscurity.

Detective stories are a challenge, reproducing those moments of the era with new technology available really makes for a troubling case. A detective doesn’t have to just go head to head with everyone on their suspect list necessarily and guessing games about prints or DNA are less likely to happen with accurate tools out there. Still, Clyde Cooper works to minimize the reliance on pure technology and goes back to snooping, rough Q&A, and having bad guys get lucky with the drop on him. For fans of tributes to the era, it’s a fun way to pass some time while still offering some fresh takes.

Review – Malefic #6

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

Fresh off a complete meltdown from inmate eleven we join Doctor Freust we step into issue 6 of Malefic. Our doctor isn’t holding up well from these mental traumas, while she claims to be strong enough to withstand them, reality would say otherwise. Things pick up in the prison yard and carry on as the staff attempts to resume a regular schedule.

It’s a triple-header of insanity, Doctor Freust struggles to show her attachment to reality while treating Hollywood horrors with equally wild solutions, bringing back inmates from the dead, reviewing normalcy on an insane mind and dancing with the devil and their latest friend. While not an extended issue it certainly packs so many bits to push the story along.

Doctor Freust falls deeper into experimentation and fringe science to solve problems with the inmates, going so far as to throw some under the bus simply for data logging and observation. It’s an interesting twist of the character, someone who resisted, teased and now has jumped completely into the world her father created all while losing herself to the madness within the prison. As she corrupts under the power of inmate eleven so much of her original character starts to vanish and we get this darker figure that keeps evolving with the story.

The art in issue 6 is on par minus a highlight with one of our famous inmates who has an extremely detailed panel to herself. There are some horror highlights as well but this inmate genuinely gets treatment that stands apart from the rest of the book while retaining the format style so that it doesn’t completely detract from the experience. David Miller puts in some intense pencil work and it doesn’t go unnoticed here.

Link: Order (Digital)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★½ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Review – Dragon Ball Super 131

*Spoilers in general if you haven’t been keeping up on the series so far. Also why read a review on an episode if you’re trying to avoid spoiling the episode.

The Tournament of Power is in the last moments, viewers have been able to catch matchups across the board that pushed Universe 7 to the absolute limit and beyond. With Goku absolutely spent crossing into territory reserved for the gods he falls out of the limelight and Freiza and 17 take up the center stage to fend off Jiren.

With the universe and their own lives on the line, the duo give it everything against Jiren, it’s an uphill battle but with 17 focused on saving his loved ones and Frieza holding onto his utter will to survive but those factors play well with each other in the episode. Regardless of what happens they ultimately know the other will destroy themselves in the tournament if it means they have a chance to escape erasure.

DB Super 131 spins the tension as the battle dynamics shift multiple times, the will to survive and overcome ultimately becomes the determining factor. Enemies once sworn to hate the other seeing beyond and finding common ground. There’s teamwork between 17, Freiza and Goku that surpasses even spectators expectations. Personal vendettas are well and good but they take a sidebar to existing another day, we see that shock in the prideful Vegeta who watches in utter disbelief. One can’t wonder how doomed everyone would have been if places had been reversed.

One of the interesting moments during these sequence for me rests in the execution of this battle. Everyone riding on empty minus 17 thanks to their essentially unlimited stamina. Jiren still has some power but Frieza and Goku play a physical ground game that largely dates back to early Z era as they’re not battling in sonic boom like attacks, they’re running with everything they have on the ground, Goku relying on whatever physical reserves are left because that’s all that remains.

Watching the duo in this brutal slugfest is certainly a highlight for the arc, seeing figures who would rather sacrifice everyone else put it all on the line, ignoring any past sentiment for survival to get the win. Watching Goku find that will again to save everyone at the last moment and flickering in and out of Super Saiyan transformation to get that assist. It’s memorable as it just feels genuine, Freiza regardless of pacing is only so strong especially against brute force and Goku is grabbing any last bit of power inside to drive home the win.

Everyone gets rewarded in the end, mysteries on the story and where things go from here are given hope as the almost abrupt series end created a sense of turmoil after a strong return to television. For the limited period of airtime to this episode, they pushed to wrap things up with a caring touch even if they couldn’t go to incredible lengths of detail. While any series could improve story arc aspects, given what they had to work with Dragon Ball Super delivered something that was rewarding to experience.

Topping this off the animation itself during 131 is extremely pleasant to watch, seems like the team just blew out the rest of the budget getting this out there in contrast to many of the past episodes. They went out with a bang in the story and production as best they could and it’s hard to miss.

What awaits is unknown, there’s obviously the upcoming movie but we’ll have to see what segway that creates for fans after. Hopefully, the break gives time to focus on new story ideas and potentially some exploration into the exempt universes. We already experienced a few universe crossovers throughout Super so it’s not unreasonable as a potential avenue.

Review – Malefic #5

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

Normally I have a quirky intro here talking about the prior issue, I’m still at a loss, I mean it’s not like I’ve had time to reflect on that issue but that’s cold, actually in the immortal words of Ice-T, it’s cold McDonalds. Doctor Freust had some ups and downs, in her latest encounter with inmate eleven she had her mental wellbeing crushed without mercy.

Issue 5 brings in psychic remnants, mind reading, walks of shame, ultra experimental tinkering, and shattered dreams. We learn of new inmates, inmates we didn’t even know existed, and watch inmate eleven run the show on our dear Doctor Freust as she attempts to navigate a massive blow to her credibility and respect among the inmates and get her head back in the game. It’s a tricky situation but she does her best to survive another day in a hellish environment. Unfortunately just as she thinks she has a handle on things, a new challenger/ patient/inmate is set to arrive while the prison is in chaos.

Dan Schaffer spends a bit of time trying to piece together Doctor Freust, we see a shaken and eager doctor move to vindicate herself after being toyed with by inmate eleven. It’s not easy to rebound from a heavy mind game, let alone one created by supernatural psychic power. If she has the skills to continue though is entirely in the air, she’s eager but that might compromise her ability to get the job done.

David Miller steps up to the plate with this latest featured inmate, we see a range of emotion as confusion and reality set in, the lines between a self-made world and the facts create turmoil and rash outbursts that are well expressed on the pages. The character details certainly stand out and bring some added depth to the page.

Overall issue 5 of Malefic keeps the story rolling, it doesn’t just leave Doctor Freust as a fumbling mess hiding from herself and trying to escape. Instead, she tries to rise to meet the challenges ahead even if that means dealing with patients she could mentally shatter in the process.

Link: Order (Digital)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★½ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★½ 

Review – Malefic #4

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

After experiencing a high note, Doctor Freust gets the wind knocked out of her sails as inmate eleven discloses she’s unleashed a threat insane the building. With a murderer on the loose, it’s going to get rough in a hurry. Good fortune only lasts so long in that place.

Issue 4 heads right into the mess and takes little time to unveil the latest star of the issue. While shaken, Doctor Freust still has her wits and confidence going on and faces off with an inmate atop the building. It’s an interesting exchange with a sign that our Doctor is leaving bits of her reluctance behind and instead embracing the madness her father pioneered. Unfortunately, chaos was still alive and well throughout the facility leaving Doctor Freust to navigate the maze inmate eleven was working on.

Seeing inmate eleven resume the mind f… un with the Doctor is a strange series of encounters, we learn that anything Doctor Freust thought she figured out about eleven is completely wrong. While some inmates are easily decoded and sedated, eleven is completely on another level and that message is delivered with shocking clarity and so little mercy to Freust and the readers as well.

The art throughout issue 4 is on par with the series so far, conveying emotion through gestures, body position and other accents. Readers learn new workings of the building and the landscape surrounding it. While it feels confined, it’s actually a wider experience of what the world in Malefic has to offer, at least within that limited landscape.

I take my hat off to Dan Schaffer and David Miller, that closing section genuinely had me take a long pause.

Link: Order (Digital)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★★ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★ 

Review – Malefic #3

  • Writer: Dan Schaffer
  • Artist: David Miller
  • Lettering: Chris Crank
  • Published by: 1First Comics

Malefic gave a dose of the inmates in the last issue, showing some of the more paranormal skills and oddities surrounding the asylum. Doctor Freust learned a bit more about herself as well, practical approaches and being dismissive of the powers that exist are an easy way to meet her end. As we enter the third installment of the series, things pick up as our dear Doctor starts to enter her stride and takes a new approach with open eyes to the inmates that surround her.

Conventional approaches take on a new twist, Doctor Freust starts to feel at home with the mad science of her father mixed along with her own blend of psychology. It’s a new vibe in the storyline for issue 3 and a welcome shift since no one likes seeing the protagonist get beaten physically and mentally throughout a series. The high note brings new twists to the inmates and their situation, instead of an atmosphere of chaos and defeat it’s a little glimmer of hope that some sense can be made of this mess.

David Miller continues to draw out a unique atmosphere within Malefic, creating interesting reactionary facial expressions while dabbling in some wildly erratic bodily gestures. The story actually gets wildly detailed in ways one wouldn’t expect while reading the issue and it’s interesting to see it executed upon when so many would venture away or sidebar the imagery. Malefic takes chances and explores things outside of normal convention and it does it with a control that ensures it’ll work for the read.

Overall the third installment changes the pace, explores some new behaviors and depth of the inmates and gives us a little more insight into what’s going on with Doctor Freust as she attempts to not end up as a splatter on the wall.

Link: Order (Digital)

Release Date: Out Now

Story:★★★★★ 
Art:★★★★★ 
Dialog:★★★★★ 
Overall:★★★★★