Z Nation Two Hour Season 3 Open: No Mercy (Preview)

Z Nation 10K and Murphy

After a long summer of waiting, Z Nation is back. Premiering on September 16 with a two-hour long  offering from The Asylum. Season three opens with No Mercy. It is a play on words? A gesture to the theme song?

Or is it an elaborate tease?

The over two hour long “movie” sees the gang diverted yet again. (When are they not?) At the risk of getting dangerously close to spoiler city, it should be pointed out that this episode is “non-linear.”

When last seen, Murphy and his ragtag group, Roberta Warren, Addy, 10K, Doc and the mercenary Vasquez were, to put it mildly, a little disheveled. No Mercy opens the new season with all guns blazing and enough homages to sink a film festival.

Written by Daniel and Karl Schaefer; directed by Abram Cox (who has directed a number of Z Nation episodes, including Party With the Zeros and Zombie Baby Daddy, No Mercy  sees a couple of familiar faces (after a fashion) return and Doc takes on a new sort of role.

This episode really is “homage heaven” and glimpses of Mad Max (the original’s not the new one) High Plains Drifter and Assault on Precinct 13 are among the many nods and winks to existing films.

There is even a nod to Kirk Douglas. On top of all that big screen love, a certain other zombie television show is given a wink or two in this episode.

A couple of characters are missing, although anyone watching teaser trailers for season three of Z Nation will know not to be alarmed.  A trailer for season three has been up on YouTube for two weeks.

One of the characters from season two makes a surprise appearance:

Season three opens with a step sideways, as it were, a tale that looks to be a tad out of sequence.  There is, however, a new adversary, or nemesis, that Warren’s group may have to face more than once.

Kellita Smith has not allowed Roberta Warren to lose any of that bite in-between seasons. Keith Allan has taken time to fine-tune Murphy and Nat Zang has lost nothing  during the obligatory series break.

Russell Hodgkinson continues to add layers to Doc and Anastasia Baranova manages to get more beautiful and kick arse with each new season.  

This opening salvo manages to tickle the funny bone a few times and there is at least one scene that is more than a bit heart breaking. Oh yes, there will be tears.

No Mercy  is a splendid open for the new season of Z Nation.  Our heroes stop to help a group of people and learn more about this post apocalyptic world and themselves.

This season of Z Nation  will consist of 15 episodes and will appear on SyFy Friday nights at 9/8c. There is a new cast member Joseph Gatt (Game of Thrones, Teen Wolf) and DJ Qualls will be back as Citizen Z as well. 

Kudos to creators Craig Engler and Karl Schaefer who have gotten the newest season off to a brilliant start. These two have turned this  project into “must see TV.” 

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy starting on September 16.

Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens – A Sharknado Too Far (Review)

 Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016

It is hard to believe that the same production company that gives us  Z Nation can continue to  produce such irredeemable rubbish. In Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens the plot is that no sharknadoes have been spotted for five years. Sadly this is not the case in our world.

The Asylum churns these cheese-fests out like so many Babybels.  With substandard gags, acting, stunts and FX the bloom has gone off this teeth filled rose. Perhaps the only thing left  to do is play “spot the cameo” where z-list celebs can be found in their dozens.

It is amazing how many actors actually appear in these things. From David Faustino to Alexandra Paul (who literally looks no different from her “Baywatch” days) the scope was pretty amazing, more so that the actual movie. (At one point it even looked like Melissa Joan Hart was consumed by a flying shark, but her name is not in the credits. So Melissa, was that you?)

Reality “stars” made appearances also. Even Dog the Bounty Hunter, aka Duane “Dog”Chapman and his wife have a small set piece as proprietors of a chainsaw store.

Even Carrot Top made a cameo.  (Like Gottlieb he was also on the Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial” episode.)

As these “movies” continue to punish those bored enough to watch, the search for “stars” to appear must be hitting rock bottom. Performers so far past their “use by” date popped up in number four.  Poor old Wayne Newton, a fixture in Las Vegas since time out of mind, looked like a Spitting Image puppet version of himself. (Quite sad really.)

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Wayne Newton. Is that really you?

Cheryl Tiegs, a personal favorite from back in the day, proved that despite still looking fabulous should have been left to play a silent role. To be succinct, acting is not the lady’s forte.

Others were as funny as the material allowed them to be. Stacey Dash was suitably “witchy” as was her character’s demise. Gilbert Gottfried was, perhaps, the best cameo as he bellowed out “COW-NADO” and so on. (Although not as funny as his cameo on The Jim Gaffigan Show “The Trial.” His “AFFLECK” was truly hysterical.)

Some cameos made no real sense. For instance, Jedward. Does anyone this side of the pond care or even know who these X-Factor twins are?  A minor sensation in 2009 – they came sixth in the competition – is was puzzling to see them included in the movie. The Asylum are either fans or the cameo well has dried up in the US.

One cameo was purely business related. Steve Guttenberg, another personal favorite, stopped by to plug his upcoming SyFy film “2 Lava 2 Lantula! ” Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens is not the first installment to do this, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No gave a plug to The Asylum’s “Z Nation.” The beautiful and talented Kellita Smith appeared as her character in Sgt. Warren and zombies were alluded to.

Sidenote: It looked like another sort of cameo appears  in the movie. At one point, one of the ‘nado’s whirled past the arch in St Louis, Missouri. It smashes the top of the arch and it suddenly looks like the damaged article in another SyFy series  Defiance. The show was cancelled. But, is this a hint that it will be returning withJulie Benz and co?

The main plot dealt with Las Vegas, where a real-life party was held to aid animal charities so at least some good came from this movie, and a shark themed hotel casino.  A giant sandstorm releases the sharks within and the new threat waltzes across the US.

Tara Reid‘s character did not die, she was resurrected by her father played by Gary Busey.  Ian Ziering returned to play Fin Shepard, yet again. (Surely the pay cannot be that good? Ziering must want to do something else by now.)

There really is no discernible plot for this (hopefully) last offering from the Sharknado franchise.  It consists of set pieces slapped together at random. It seems that even writer Thunder Levin is tiring of this mess he created.

The film ends with all the previously eaten Shepard friends and family are rescued by Fin’s son with his tiny chainsaw.  (An odd scene that uses the device of those matryoshka nesting dolls but with sharks…and a whale.)  As the family reunite Fin spots Nova Clark (Cassandra Scerbo) – she was in Sharknado 1 and 3 – atop the Eiffel Tower. 

Sharknado: The 4th Awakens - Season 2016
Jedward…Really??

Does this mean there will be a Sharknado 5? One with an international slant? For the love of all that represents good taste, please no.  Another TV movie with deliberately bad FX, a skeleton storyline and more bad acting than one wet paper bag could possibly hold is too much to bear.

The first one  only became “popular”  when derogatory tweets during the movies broadcast thrust it into the publics eye line. Please SyFy, stop now.

Little Dead Rotting Hood (2016): The Asylum Does Werewolves (Review)

Bianca A. Santos as Dead Rotting Hood....

Shot in and around the Santa Clarita Hills, at Rene’s ’50s Town, Little Dead Rotting Hood is another helping of schlock from The Asylum. The same company who is determined to produce Sharknado until the end of time, and yet amazingly still manages to delight with Z Nation, has now done werewolves. (Without a tornado in sight…)

Written by real estate specialist Gabriel Campisi (which explains so much) and directed by Jared Cohn it stars a bored Eric Balfour. The film also features  a tiny, blink and you will miss it, cameo by Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis

The film also starts The Fosters  regular Bianca A. Santos as “Rotting Hood” and Romeo Miller as the love interest.  Little Dead Riding Hood  has a  meandering plot. It is  set in the mountains where the old wolf lady,played by  Sirtis, kills herself at the start of the film to empower her granddaughter.

Balfour’s sheriff  has his hands full with his kids being dropped off by his ex. There are also  increasing amounts of wolf attacks on the local citizenry. Santos is the granddaughter, whom granny lets die before empowering her, and Miller is Samantha’s boyfriend.

In keeping with The Asylum’s practice of slapping storylines together that make no real sense, the werewolves, which crop up toward the end of the film,  are a complete surprise. Also in keeping with nonsensical plot devices,  the head werewolf is a giant.

The FX for the enormous werewolf  leader  varies. In some shots the creature  looks okay and in others it resembles a draft effort. (Still the thing did look marginally better than the unintentionally  funny zombie gorilla in Zoombies. The gigantic werewolf leader may have looked dodgy but it did not elicit  eruptions of hysterical laughter like the big monkey did.)

Balfour as  Sheriff Adam looks as though he misses his Haven costars Emily Rose and Lucas Bryant. Of course it could have been that the actor is not used to playing cops after five seasons of being the bad boy on the SyFy series. 

The storyline, such as it is, meanders all over the place and does not really hold together at all.  One has the feeling that a lot wound up in the cutting room floor, or, the script was never meant to make a whole lot of sense.

On the plus side, the blood flows like a good claret and the wolves, when they attack, are very convincing. (IMDb states that real wolves were used for the filming.)  On the very crowded minus side the film was very clearly shot in and around Santa Clarita. A  location that does not remotely resemble Maine or the Appalachian Mountains or where ever the film is really meant to be.

Little Dead Rotting Hood is atypical pap from The Asylum that is meant to be watched while smoking pot and munching on stale pizza. (Or conversely drinking beer and eating stale pizza.)

This is “Drive-In” fare that would have preceded the main film back in the day. A real 2.5 star effort  that one should watch if only nothing else is available.  Confusing and boring, this is even worse than “Zoombies.” This is  streaming on Netflix, at the moment. Approach with caution and arm yourself with mood altering substances before watching.

Zoombies (2016): Just Dreadful (Review)

Zombie monkey in Zoombies

The Asylum strikes again.  The production company already corners the market for hokey FX, silly storylines and beating a dead horse with its “Sharknado”  franchise.  (“Sharknado 4” is already in production so just when you thought it was safe to return to the  SyFy channel.) At least with the “shark” series, the joke was that the shows are so bad they could almost be good. “Zoombies,” unfortunately is just dreadful, with a capital d.

The CG animals are abysmal.  It seems that The Asylum have not yet sussed out that computer generated sharks can look marginally okay compared to CG lemurs, capuchin monkeys and lions.  Not content to give its audience fake looking zombie animals that look like first generation video game creations, the filmmakers add insult to injury by giving us a bloke in a gorilla suit as an endangered silverback that gets zombie-d.

Incredibly some of the cast manage to rise above the dreck material and  Brit actress Ione Butler really stands out as the security guard who just starts at the animal sanctuary.

The storyline has Dr. Ellen Rogers (Kim Nielsen) running the endangered species sanctuary her grandfather started 50 years previously.  A virus takes over the capuchin monkeys and turns them into zoombies when the treating doctor gives them an injection not intended for primates. 

The virus spreads through the “zoo” as the new recruits and the existing staff are killed off by the animals.  A SWAT team arrives to kill off the infected animals and they are slaughtered by the zoombies.

Ellen has her daughter at work, her babysitter called in ill, and she must not only try to save the animals and her staff but keep Thea (LaLa Nestor) safe as well.  

Clearly The Asylum got “Jurassic World” fever and decided to produce a film that would make the viewer possibly think of the latest big screen offering in the Jurassic verse.

The main filming location was Arcadia, California, home of the Los Angeles Arboretum and viewers familiar with that place will no doubt find themselves looking for the “Fantasy Island” lagoon and Mr. Rourke’s house/hotel. (They needn’t bother it never makes an appearance.) Second unit shots are clearly either brought in from other  film stock footage, or a unit was sent to film the Ontario police helicopter  as it flew  into the frame.

In terms of things that just do not work, the talking parrot, which sits on a new intern’s shoulder fluctuating between repeating his sentences and mocking him, is another example how the FX for this film just does not work. The parrots “voice” ‘being far from convincing it is an irritant rather than being amusing.

There is one bit of the film that works brilliantly. As Leslie (Butler) and the remnants of the security team stand in front of an exploding building, the force of the blast pushes them all back and onto the ground. The actors do this flawlessly and in unison so it almost makes up for the shot itself.

This was a disappointing project from the team who manage to entertain so thoroughly with Z Nation on SyFy (which is coming back for a third season).  Granted this is also the same folks who seem determined to make “Sharknado” films till the end of time.  It is annoying that The Asylum can get some things so right, like “Z Nation” and other things so wrong, like “Zoombies.”

Unlike the shark infested franchise where a parade of B and Z list celebrities march through via cameos and quirky deaths, “Zoombies” has no name actors to fill in gaps.

Streaming on Netflix at the moment, it may be marginally entertaining if one is partaking of a certain herbal treat, otherwise avoid this one. Although there is a shot of the gorilla Kifo (lurching after the survivors)  where the camera  zooms in for a close up, the head of the creature has changed for  one instant into the face of a gorilla who is smilingly chasing the humans. That is funny, even without any aids.

“Zoombies” earns a 2 star rating mainly because of Ione Butler.  Were this actress not in the film it may have garnered a half star, if that.

 

 

Z Nation: Zombie Baby Daddy – And Then There Were Five (Review)

Z Nation - Season 2
Only The Asylum and Z Nation co-creator Craig Engler (who wrote Zombie Baby Daddy) can  produce an episode that combines some splendid comical moments with a disturbing death.   With a flourish of drama (in the case of Lucy, aka Lulu tinged with a foreshadowing of doom for her “new parents” Ma and Pa Kettle) Engler settles the issue of just what Cassandra turned into.

Of course it was almost preordained that Lucy’s story was not going to end well in Zombaby! last week.  In this week’s episode, which starts in downtown Springfield, Illinois, the expanded group of seven, counting Lucy, are trapped by a horde of zombies who are all attracted to the newly born infant. That Murphy’s offspring draws the undead like flies when she makes any noise, either crying or just “baby noises” is interesting.

Almost as interesting is the fact that since the Batch 47 phyto zombie episode,  Murphy’s ability to control  zombies has faded almost to nonexistence. In Zombie Baby Daddy, he briefly holds the encroaching undead at bay, but his control fades quickly and he throws Lucy to Doc.

The start of the episode gives Russell Hodgkinson’s character the best lines. Grabbing little “Lulu” out of the air, Doc hops on a school bus. Locking the door behind him he realizes too late that the vehicle if full of undead Abraham Lincoln lookalikes. The Lincoln zombies stir when Lucy starts crying, but not before Doc utters a pained, “Holy acid flashback man.”

When Addy and Roberta force the bus door open,  Doc, with Lucy cradled in his arms, leaves the bus and the little group back away from the yellow vehicle as zombie Lincoln’s exit. Roberta says, “What in God’s name?” Doc, with a sense of relief, answers, “Oh good, you see ’em too.”

The group then dispatch the zombie’s with 10K (Nat Kang) getting the visual punch line by shooting the Abe Lincoln zombie with the giant penny attached to its head.  All this before the opening credits roll.

The group are aware, and concerned, that the baby is a zombie magnet.  The child does not just attract  the human undead. In a hilariously, yet oh so creepy, scene Murphy is trying to calm the crying child when a group of zombie animals come out from behind a bit of machinery that Murphy is setting on.  Like many of Z Nation‘s episodes and scenes the event is disturbing as it is funny. A sort of zombie Disney moment, sans the singing critters. (Or varmints as Murphy calls the undead animals.)

Z Nation - Season 2
Murphy and Lucy seconds before a disturbing “Disney” moment.

The group scatter. Vasquez heads out through  the woods and Roberta follows. 10K brings back some fish he caught and Murphy takes Lucy away from the team, leaving Cassandra behind with orders to let no one leave.  The mercenary winds up at a Zeroes “hideout” and as Warren watches, the man is captured and she “bails him out,” but not before the two of them are shot.

Back at the camp, 10K, Addy and Doc attempt to leave by splitting up. Addy is positive that Cassandra will not hurt them badly as she still believes that the girl is their friend. The first time the trio split up, Cassandra chases Addy down and almost breaks her arm. Addy’s cries of pain bring Doc and 10K back.

The second attempt to leave ends with Cassandra starting to break 10K’s neck and, in desperation, he stabs her in the head.

Engler’s episode is shocking. The whole storyline of Cassandra, becoming Murphy’s bodyguard, slave and pet, was at times very amusing, as was Pisay Pao’s performance, with the actress channelling her “inner” guard dog.

*Sidenote*Mad props to Pisay Pao with her performance as the increasingly animalistic Cassandra.  She managed to keep enough humanity in her character that when she dies the viewer is truly upset.  It also has to be mentioned that  only Anastasia Baranova can impress so much with a slow-motion short-hair “shampoo advert” toss of the head. (Springfield, Illinois hair toss outside the Lincoln school bus = win.)

The buildup and then the quick sudden death of Cassandra (made all the more disturbing as it was at the hand of 10K who still seemed to have a little crush on her) is indicative of where this zombie alternative to The Walking Dead is headed this season.  Like the first season, the humor is still there but Engler and co-creator Karl Schaefer are packing in some serious sucker punches this season.

Season one saw the death of Garnett just as he and Roberta were about to “hook-up” and the only other thing more shocking  in the first run of the show was when Addy left Mack for Camp “Sappho.” Season two saw the two reunite only to have Mack die. (Kudos to Michael Welch for his performance in that scene.)  Now Z Nation has lost Cassandra and baby Lucy.

One does get the impression that Lucy will show up later, after her crying (Which we know will draw zombies to the little home of the Kettle’s.) exit while her new parents coo over the cot she is in. Cassandra will presumably not return, her resurrection last season by Murphy is not permanent and death by a knife blade in the brain cannot be fixed in a zombie apocalypse.

Murphy’s decision to leave his baby with the couple in the clearing was a little surprising after his obvious infatuation with the infant. Although this move does make sense for a number of reasons. Not least being the problems of having a CG baby as a repeated character.

Z Nation - Season 2
“Murphy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do…”

The other main plot thread in this week’s episode was  Warren/Vasquez  attraction which resulted in the two  “bonding” over stitches. This pair of “type A” personalities have been getting closer even as they continue to argue with one another. Roberta saving the newest member of the  Murphy group was a nice touch. So too was her starting to slam a scalpel into Vasquez’ brain just as he “recovers.”

Z Nation airs Fridays on SyFy and this second season is darker and a tad more…serious. Tune in for the sly tongue-in-cheek humor, but watch out for those sucker punches, they really hurt.