Saturday, November 9, 2019

Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids (2019) (C) 2019 Dan's Movie Report - Danny Templegod

Above photo: Poster from Blood Hunters Facebook Page (TriCoast Entertainment will release the film soon!)

Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report readers, Thanks to Sarah Chang I was able to get an early screener of Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids. The film had it's premiere at the 2019 Urban Action Showcase, and has won several awards. The film originated as a short film and has expanded into a feature. Actually Sarah told me initially it was supposed to be a pilot for a TV series. Vincent Soberano accents the comic feel with comic page transitions during the film, telling the story

Essentially Blood Hunters is a vampire hunting film, and clocking in at only 70 minutes, a very short one. Sarah told me that initially the film was supposed to be 90 minutes until it was edited for a TV pilot style length. The editing actually takes out much of the story elements and the film moves briskly from one action scene to another.

The story is a bit hard to follow with its truncated length, apparently there is a group of vampire hunters in an encampment who are training to fight the vampires. Sarah's character Gabriella is an unwilling member of this encampment and actually wakes up disoriented, not even realizing she is there. Normally a set up like this requires a backstory of some length and description, yet in Blood Hunters the audience is hurled into the story with the same malaise as the characters in the movie.

Transitioning to the training, Gabriella and other members of the encampment learn to fight, though it seems that most have some action and fight training prior. Jeff Centauri serves as the fight coordinator and keeps the fights moving fast, with more exaggerated movements for a comic book feel. Blood Hunters, although it has somewhat of a serious tone never feels like a somber movie.

Vincent Soberano as Bolo, has a important role, a last warrior guy, always showing up to save the characters from demise. Again though many of the fights in Blood Hunters were just too short and lacked the impact needed for the theme.

Sarah told me that although Mayling Ng had a small part in the film, she was basically on set only for one day and hardly had the time needed to do a proper fight. What should have been an epic fight between Mayling and Sarah turned into a 30 second quick cut action, that barely registered.

With all of my nitpicking it seems I did not enjoy Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids, actually I liked it for the potential of what it can become. Again I feel that this is more of a series rather than a movie and this was just the set up and proof of concept to show potential networks what can be created. In the movie world, if you create a 90 minute project that is it, you get the distribution and then the company puts out the product and moves on to the next one. In a series, more time is taken to make sure that the story and elements are up to the standard for an 8,10, or 13 episode season, and that it retains the audience throughout. The short film proved that they could do a feature, the feature hopefully will set up a series.

Blood Hunters would be a great fit for Amazon Prime or Netflix as an 8 episode limited series. This way all of the characters can be properly explored and detailed back stories can be told. In the 70 minute film we never hear about where the characters came from except in very limited flashbacks. The good thing about the short run time is there is no wasted padding, just action.

The lighting, sets and music are OK, I kind of wish more time was taken on the look of the film. Many parts of the film were very dark, with the action being rather hard to see. I am sure with a bigger budget, either with a new feature or a series, the team will have the opportunity to hire more prominent set decorators and cameramen.

Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids has potential, and that is the basis for my review. When I review indie films, I compare them to other films of the same budget and how they stack up. I mean it is unfair to compare this film to a 50 million dollar block buster, but it does compare favorably to films of the same budget.

Overall Blood Hunters: Rise of the Hybrids, is long on action leaving the audience wanting to see more. As for a rating, I will say 7 out of 10, some issues I had are out weighed by the overall ideas behind the film and the potential it has.

Acceleration (2019) Movie Revie (C) Dan's Movie Report - Danny Templegod

Above: Poster of Acceleration from IMDB (C) 2019 Cinetel Films

Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report readers. Thanks to Natalie Burn, I heard about the filming and eventual release of Acceleration. Natalie also serves as the film's producer and casting director, Acceleration has a rather simple plot of a crime lord Vladich Zorich played by Dolph Lundgren who is doubled crossed by Rhona Zyocki (Natalie Burn). Rhona must complete a night full of tasks in order to get her son back.

Acceleration is a decent action flick, with little wasted time. Clocking in at a mere 85 minutes even after the credits, the film progresses from one action sequence to the next with rapid fire succession. Amazingly there is an incredible array of action star cameos from Danny Trejo, Rampage Jackson, and Chuck Liddell. My only issue here is that all of them are in the film for such a short time, that none of their characters are given any backstory. Wonder Woman actress Mayling Ng, plays some sort of crime kingpin, and Natalie Burn is sent in one of her endeavors to eradicate her. As cool as this set up is, I wish the fight was a bit longer, and Mayling's character was explored further.

Acceleration has a good sense of urgency, never slowing down for a sappy love scene nor downtime. Sometimes the film is even too fast, sliding from scene to scene so rapidly the audience has barely enough time to catch up. My other complaint is the film, most of which occurs at night is so dark, that it is hard to see some of the action. For a low budget indie though, it is a bit better than most, and watchable. With each person Natalie has to encounter she seems to get more brazen and less concerned about what happens to her, more focused on the mission and getting her son back. This fact is often lacking on many indie films.

Natalie Burn is a solid talent, and she is constantly approving. She has a dark and sultry look, somewhat sweet, yet dangerous. This is a big starring role for her and she proved she is up to the task of carrying a movie. Natalie has obviously trained in fighting and gun play, and has worked on her acting skills as well. Obviously it is very difficult to produce and star in your own film, yet Natalie made a wise choice, as Acceleration serves as a great acting reel for her in future projects. I think she deserves a big shot at a theatrical film.

Directors Daniel Zirilli and Michael Merino serve as Acceleration's directors with Merino being the screenwriter. Zirilli is adept at directing action, and in Acceleration it shows. Acceleration has a bigger film feel, than it's small budget, and having a Maserati Sedan as Natalie Burn's transportation, some slick locations, and a solid cast of established stars.

Check out the shout out from the set for Dan's Movie Report:


Overall Acceleration has some pretty cool scenes and is worth a watch. The film rates a 7 out of 10, and Natalie Burn is a future action star in the making.

Relatively quick from the January production to the release in November, Acceleration is available now on Cinetel Films Check out the film on Amazon:

Above trailer: 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Actress Sarah Chang Interview (C) 2019 Dan's Movie Report - Danny Templegod

Photography credit: Marti Pascual Salva (All photos used with permission and are for promotional purposes only not monetized)
Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report and readers. Blood Hunters: Rise Of The Hybrids is premiering at the 2019 Urban Action Showcase, and lead actress Sarah Chang sits down and chats about her experience on the film. Sarah has an engaging personality and is driven to work hard and achieve success in the international acting world. This is our third interview, please refer to the links below to read our 2017 and 2018 interviews:

2017: Wolf Warriors 2
2018: The Trigonal:
Dan's Movie Report: Chat about the script and comic book feel of the Blood Hunters.

Sarah Chang: Blood Hunters is based off a comic book Director Vincent Soberano drew himself, he based it off of the Filipino folklore he listened to as a child.  The story is set in a world where Aswang (similar to vampires) run the world, families are torn apart and people live in fear.  While most cower away from the Aswang, there are groups of mercenaries that hunt the Aswang to collect their blood for a dubious scientific research firm.  A team of mercenaries band up with and avenging cop and a notorious hybrid (a human with aswang blood) to take down the Aswang race once and for all.  While the entire story is created in an alternate universe, the movie flips back and forth between comic book panels and reality, much like Sin City.   I personally love that extra comic book feel.  It really allows you to delve into a different world.

DMR: Perhaps describe a bit of the process that went into creating your character Gabriella, were you a bit nervous to take on the lead role in the film?

SC: For each role, I start my preparation with Uta Hagen's 9 questions to understand the character's circumstances.  At the time, that was definitely the only way that I felt comfortable.  Based on that, I delved into a state of anger and pain. As my first lead role in a feature length film, I was quite nervous to take on such a significant role.  It was even harder with jammed packed days and so much choreography.  As an actress, you always strive for that lead role, but when actually get that lead role, it's quite overwhelming and a really big responsibility.  Now that I've done several lead roles, I think I would have prepared in a different manner.

DMR: Actually this question is for Vincent but feel free to chime in, Chat about meeting with the Executive Producers and selling the idea of an expanded feature film?

SC/VS: Vincent was looking to turn his short film Blood Hunters into a TV pilot. After his short film won Best Action Film at UASE, he caught a lot of attention. Monsour Del Rosario, a popular action star in the Philippines, wanted in as the lead and also invested in the film. With Monsour signed as the lead, the project attracted funding from the likes of Hollywood entrepreneur Bob Romer, actor Stacey Michelon, TV producer Tonino Habana and film producer Oli Laperal. After Vincent finished shooting what he intended to be a TV series pilot, he was prodded to release it as an expanded feature film.

DMR: Jeff Centauri is a well known Fight Coordinator and I have had the pleasure of meeting him in LA in 2004, chat about working with him and crafting the action of your character. His style is more comic book with quicker fights and your style seems a bit different, chat about some of the ideas you had with regards to the action, and some of Jeff's ideas and how things merged together.

SC: With regards to the action choreography, we were really blessed to have a great team of martial artists to fuse together all of the very traditional Filipino Martial Arts.  That was the first time I had learned Filipino martial arts, so I was really thrust into a very demanding schedule to learn all the different styles.  I learned illustrisimo with Master Arnold Narzo, Modern Arnis with Master Bax, Balintawak with Master Patrick Balos, and trained Kali Arnis with Reviric Jocson, Jim Tulipas, Jim Lim, Angelo Estanol, and of course Wushu with Temujin Shirzada who played Naga.  It was a really incredible experience. These were the guys that really created the fight sequences. Jeff was very creative in his camera techniques, he used some really nice camera angles that complemented the choreography.  He also helped to adjust some movements to make them more cinematic.  Vincent was really hands-on and specific about the action cinematography and choreography, I think we all made a great collaborative effort. 

DMR: Chat about having an action sequence with Mayling Ng, how long was she on set and chat about some of the choreography you worked on?

SC: I loved working with Mayling, she was so energetic and sweet the moment she jumped on the set. She was actually a late addition to the cast. Vincent had to write in her character on our first day of shooting, and additional funding had to be pulled in to able to hire her. Unfortunately, we only had a day to work with her because of budget constraints, so the choreography was quite short and simple. Vincent was actually making up her scenes on the spot, while we were shooting!

DMR: Chat about the dialogue in Blood Hunters, how you prepared for your role with emotions and body movements.

SC: There was actually three times more dialogue in the shoot than what was shown in the final cut because Vincent wanted the movie to go straight to the action. There was even a love scene, a dialogue with my screen grandson and some comedic lines.  Actually on the set Naga and I were in a constantly in character, we were basically in battle the entire movie. 

DMR: We spoke about the film being originally 90 minutes then edited down for a TV show to 70 minutes, which is what is the end result, maybe you can share with my audience what are some of the things missing from the original 90 minute film to the 70 minute film.

SC: Vincent cut out a lot of scenes with a lot of dialogue. I even played the role of a grandmother in a flash forward scene.  There were a couple of cute, comedic moments as well. However, a lot of these sequences tended to drag the story and take away the comic effect that Vincent wanted. He wanted the audience to have an experience like reading a comic book, not a novel. Thus, in the end he compromised and shaved out several scenes to push the action.

DMR: Finally an in general question, chat about working on film in the Philippines and what are some of the things you like about it and some of the things that can be improved.

SC: I love working in the Philippines.  I was catered to the moment I stepped foot into Manila.  Everyone is always so happy and accommodating.  Also it's much easier to communicate in the Philippines because most people can speak English, albeit with a "nosebleed" as they call it. It almost feels more like a really great vacation sometimes.  Stay in a hotel, go to great beach locations, train martial arts, shoot, and repeat.  On the flip-side, not everyday is like that, it can be a grind when sometimes the set is too lax, and people are not doing their job quickly and efficiently.  There's a saying in the Philippines that is called "puede na yan" which means "it's good enough", which really lowers the standards because people just allow something to be half-assed.  I do see that happen on the set, that could be improved.  During Blood Hunters, I thought the wire rigging could be improved and then Vincent and I started our own action design and rigging team.  I think all countries have their pro and cons, it's all about how you deal with those problems.  We've just been fortunate to meet like-minded passionate people who are interested in pushing the action genre in the Philippines.

DMR: Chat if you can about upcoming projects.

SC: Next year is definitely going to be a busy year, we've got several of projects lined up.  I'm really excited for an upcoming Chinese Filipino co-production that I will be starring in with the same production team behind Wolf Warrior 2.  The director Ming Su has already made several trips to the Manila to start our tactical training and I can't wait until we start production early next year.

Thanks Sarah for taking time out of your busy schedule to conduct this interview. For further information on Sarah Chang, connect with her on social media and check out her 2019 reel:

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Danger Close (2019) Movie Review (C) 2019 Dan's Movie Report

Above: Poster for Danger Close (C) 2019 Saban Films

Greetings valued Dan's Movie Report and readers. As we fast approach Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving, I was given the opportunity to review an excellent war film 'Danger Close'. Saban films unleashes the film to the U.S. Market November 8th. Actually this film has been in release for a bit in the Australian Market, the filming location. With a robust 35 million dollar budget, time was taken to to tell the story of the Battle of Long Tan. The Battle of Long Tan is a real battle that occurred during the Vietnam War in August of 1966, 18 Australian soldiers were killed and 24 injured. Essentially, a major part of the story involves a demand of the major to fire upon his position due to the fact they were pinned by superior enemy firepower.

Although sensationalized with much of the back story, and embellished, 'Danger Close' really unleashes the grit and angst of war. Opting to start out with a bit of character building unlike the more in your face 'Saving Private Ryan' allows a more 'Hollywood Experience' yet the good side of this, once a character is killed or wounded the audience is in the feel moment. The movie actually starts with green new recruits coming to the unit, and an overbearing commander. Researching this, apparently someone involved in the actual mission is saying the commander was not actually like this, made me think, why would they alter it? My guess is for intensity of story. That said, it does make for an interesting delve into the actual battle.

Where 'Danger Close' shines are the amazing battle sequences, costuming, sound. The battles are filmed close in on the cast members, then pull back to show artillery fire from a rear battery of mortar gunners. Time was taken to show the guns, radios, jeeps, and artillery from the period. This is a damn epic battle film, even though some of the actors are obviously not very skilled with weaponry. The costuming is great and the uniforms are simple and well worn. When someone takes a hit, the team do a great job of showing the uniform tears along with the blood. What I really like is the blood is not over the top, the soldiers actually bleed rather realistically. The sound is really good, get headphones, trust me this film has some killer tense music and very good ADR on vocals and weaponry.

I will state that I watched the film on a full sized TV, not computer with headphones, that said, this film needed a theatrical U.S. Release. War films lose impact on small screens, I mean when this hits the streaming services, I can just imagine people being flummoxed trying to watch this scope on a 6 inch phone.

The acting in 'Danger Close' is alright, no one really detracting from the story. Travis Fimmel as Major Harry Smith is a standout, but there is no real Al Pacino epic monologues ha, 'Danger Close' is all about the war action. The interplay between the seasoned veterans and actors Daniel Weber (Private Paul Large) and Nicholas Hamilton (Private Noel Grimes) mimics real life. The young actors work hard to get into character.

Towards the end we see air support and very battle warn and rusty tanks, this level of realism was pretty bad ass. War is hell, and these vehicles have been through it. War films are no laughing matter though, especially when this battle really happened. Studying this battle in further detail due to the terrain, and lack of area mapping, seems like logistical errors were made in not doing some sort of air support mission prior to sending in such a small company of men to a forward position. 'Danger Close' shows this, the faults and foibles of this military action. Even though a small company held off 2,000 Vietnamese soldiers, almost once entire company was sacrificed.

The film expounds on the sadness with some slow motion and mournful music towards the end. Also in the beginning the film shows a band performing, trying to boost company moral. Actually these two items bookend the story of young men trying to have some semblance of life on the battle front.

Director Kriv Stenders is to be commended for wrangling the large cast, and Keir Beck, stunt coordinator is to be for some praised for some damn fine ratchet set ups along with some attention to detail. The ending credits show photos the actors side by side with there real life counterparts, which was really heart wrenching to see.

Despite some initial questionable embellishments, 'Danger Close' is lives up to the title, men in peril, with the overpowering enemy circled around them. The film rates a “harrowing firestorm of bullets” 7 out of 10.

'Danger Close' unleashes the firepower in the United States on November 8th. Look for the film on various outlets.

Saban Films Official Website: