The Dark Half Film Review; George A. Romero Adapts Stephen King's Novel In This Surprisingly Solid 90's Thriller

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

When George A. Romero and Stephen King collaborated for the very first time with Creepshow in 1982, it was a huge hit. In fact, it was bigger than any of them could have imagined and who's legacy has only grown more and more with each passing year. And despite numerous attempts to cash in with inferior sequels and similar themed films, it still remains one of the very best horror anthologies ever made. 11 years later (technically 9 as the film was made in '91 but held in limbo for 2 years due to Orion's bankruptcy problems) their talents would converge once again, only this time in a different capacity with Romero adapting one of King's books personally instead of having King write the screenplay. I'd actually been wanting to revisit this one for some time now, and as luck would have it, Hulu currently offers it as part of their horror lineup. So let's dig in.

Thad Beaumont is a novelist and lecturer who writes under the pseudonym of George Stark. When a series of murders aimed at disrupting Thad's life begin pointing to Thad, it becomes more and more apparent that Thad's alter ego George Stark has manifested into a real breathing human being whose goal is to force Thad to continue writing George Stark novels after Thad recently retired that series of books. George needs these books to continue to stay alive and Thad is the only one who can do that. 

I'll be honest. Romero is a hit or miss director for me. I don't always enjoy the films he makes, and his quality varies greatly from picture to picture. For every Creepshow, Day of the Dead and Season of the Witch (movies I love), there are Knightriders, Martin and Monkey Shines (movies I don't care for). Even in his zombie franchise, a genre he single-handedly created, his "Dead" films became less and less enjoyable. But still, while his films may not always be solid, or good for that matter, he does turn out a winner every once in a while. Which brings me to The Dark Half, a film I would definitely consider a winner for Romero.

While not a terribly exciting film, and admittedly a bit bizarre, it's enough of a well-made slow-burn thriller that delivers solid entertainment from every angle; not the least bit being Romero's deft touch behind the camera, which was a pleasant surprise considering his previous solo directing credit was Monkey Shines in 1988, and I just did not like that film at all. Monkey Shines didn't look or feel like a George Romero film, and that's probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Dark Half so much, because this one did. His stellar visual work here is on par with his work in Day of the Dead and I loved it, making it one of his most visually impressive films. It's constant tone of dread, right from it's very opening sequence, keeps the film grounded in a darkly unnerving ambiance that plays with your intuitions. It rarely ever goes the way you expect it to, and that's one of it's most endearing qualities.

Surprisingly, The Dark Half didn't connect with audiences at all, bombing at the box office and disappearing as quickly as it arrived. And it would be another 7 years before Romero would return to direct with 2000's Bruiser before he dove back into his zombie franchise with Land, Diary and Survival of the Dead before calling it quits in 2009. It's a shame really, because I think if people just gave it a chance, they might actually appreciate The Dark Half more today than when it first arrived. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it's not overtly a "George A. Romero" film in the traditional sense. His name isn't plastered all over the thing like it normally would. Instead, it's more closely associated with Stephen King's name since he wrote the novel that Romero adapted. Still, for me personally, it was a far better film than I anticipated going in and I enjoyed every second of it. Romero's stellar camera work, the solid cast, the surprisingly great and effective effects work (seriously, some of it will surprise you), and it's consistent unrelenting dark tone keeps everything in check. The Dark Half isn't a masterwork, but it's certainly one of the better horror/thriller's to come out of the 90's, and one of Romero's best films in his decades long career. Give it a shot.


Blu-Ray Review: Pulp (Arrow Video)

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

A year after writer/director Mike Hodges and Michael Caine made the genre-defining Get Carter in 1971, they re-teamed for a long-forgotten slice of Pulp Fiction titled Pulp. While this film didn't get quite the same response that Get Carter did, it's not any less entertaining either. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that audiences didn't quite know what to make of it at first. While Get Carter is a gritty, hard-edged revenge thriller, Pulp takes a complete 180 on similar material, giving it a more light-hearted approach, complete with clever dialogue, sight-gags and a strong dry wit humor that might not connect with everyone. And to be honest, you really have to know what type of film you're getting into to truly enjoy it. But make no mistake, it's a highly enjoyable slice of pulp fiction if you can accept it for what it is. So let's dig in.

Michael Caine stars as Mickey King, a sleazy pulp novelist who goes by various pseudonyms having written such novels as My Gun is Long and The Organ Grinder. When he's hired by former movie star Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney), who was big in gangster flicks for a time, to ghost-write his autobiography, King is sucked into Gilbert's real-life gangster connections and all the trouble that comes along with it. King soon discovers that he signed on for more than he bargained for. 

Caine plays Michael King with such a large air of sarcastic and somewhat arrogant confidence that it's hard to tell whether you like him or not. While he is originally hired to pen a novel, an autobiography of a former aging movie star, he ultimately becomes a sleuth as he gets caught up in numerous assassination attempts and mistaken identity as he tries to figure out who is trying to kill him and why. There's a colorful cast of characters from all over the world, including the gorgeous Nadia Cassini, who acts as a sort of assistant to the bullishly rude and narcissistic former Hollywood star Preston Gilbert. But the real standout is hands-down Mickey Rooney as the aging former movie star. He's so over the top, surprisingly brutish in his small size, and awkwardly hilarious all at the same time that he steals the show every second he's on screen.

Ultimately, though a bit uneven at times, this early 70's British whodunit is a clever, sometimes unconventional, gangster/thriller/comedy/drama/crime caper that throws a lot of visual narrative at you courtesy of writer/director Mike Hodges (Flash Gordon) strong compositions making full use of it's 70's aesthetic. The humor doesn't always land, but the performances, tight dialogue (Caine narrates the film as well in a somewhat gumshoe way) and constant location changes make it an entertaining endeavor.

Just The Disc

  • Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements, supervised and approved by director of photography Ousama Rawi, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original 1.0 mono sound
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Brand-new interview with writer-director Mike Hodges
  • Brand-new interview with director of photography Ousama Rawi
  • Brand-new interview with assistant director John Glen
  • Brand-new interview with Tony Klinger, son of producer Michael Klinger
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh

Arrow did an excellent job on this transfer, giving it a brand new 2K scan from the original film elements, supervised by the film's Director of Photography Ousama Rawi. The bright bold colors of the early 70's time period pop in every single frame and it's a strikingly retro piece of pulp filmmaking. Visually, it's about as vibrant as it could possibly get and it looks amazing. The audio is strong (1.0 mono) as well, and it needs to be since Caine is narrating the entire movie. For the hard of hearing or deaf, there are also English (optional) subtitles. Really, the picture and sound are superb from a technical standpoint.

If you're a fan of the film, you'll also want to be sure to dig into the brand new interviews with writer/director Mike Hodges, DoP Ousama Rawi and assistant director John Glen. Very insightful and entertaining. The extra's are rounded out with the original theatrical trailer and newly commissioned cover art by Nathanael Marsh.

Pulp hit's the U.S. on Dec. 12th

If you would like me to review a Blu-Ray release or film, please feel free to contact me at jasonisageek@yahoo.com


Bad Movie Night: Beyond The Seventh Door

"Spouting his lines in a sometimes incomprehensible Eastern European accent and displaying a complete disregard for the craft of acting, Rockwood comes off completely uncomfortable and twitchy on camera, struggling to portray the (few) emotions demanded by the script and making nonsensical improvisations where required" 
- Canuxploitation.com

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

This highly obscure 80's Canadian thriller comes to us courtesy of best-selling religious thriller author B.D. Benedikt, here making his feature film directing debut. Long forgotten and extremely hard to find on VHS (it's only format until now), this 30 year old obscurity finally see's the light of day thanks to Intervision Picture Corps., which was just released on DVD for the very first time. I love bad flicks, which is surprising that I never even heard of this one until now. Doing some random internet surfing recently I came across a review on Bloody Disgusting that stated that if you like The Room and Dangerous Men, then you're sure to like this one. That's all I needed to hear. I was sold.

Lazar Rockwood (best name ever!) plays Boris, a thief who has recently gotten out of prison. He convinces he ex-girlfriend to help him steal from her current employer, a rich businessman who lives in a castle. Once they infiltrate the castle, they soon discover that the castle has been rigged with a series of booby traps and riddles that they must solve to escape each death-defying trap and move onto the next one to stay alive, culminating with.....The Seventh Door!

I loved this movie. It's a totally bizarre slice of cult cinema that is just as much baffling as it is entertaining. And it's not entertaining in the way you would expect. While it is indeed a bad movie, it doesn't quite reach the level of unintentionally hilarious classics such as The Room or Miami Connection. Instead, the real draw is the lead, Yugoslavian actor Lazar Rockwood who steals the show from the moment he first appears on screen. You just can't take your eyes off of him. He's such a genuinely unique looking man who delivers one of the most entertainingly awful performances in recent memory. So mesmerized was I by his performance that I had to do some research on him afterwards and was shocked to discover that the guy is still acting today, having appeared in over 30 roles, even as a regular on the Witchblade TV series back in 2001. But it all started with this film, his first starring role, which he begged his friend B.D. Benedikt to write and direct just for him. Make no mistake. Lazar Rockwood is a name you won't soon forget.

One of this films many attractive qualities is that despite it's lack of any sort of budget, there are some things that work surprisingly well. For starters, the score by Michael Clive, Brock Fricker and Philip Strong is pretty damn fantastic. While it's not a whole lot of music, mainly just reusing the same theme over and over, it's really good. As much as I loved it though, I doubt there's enough music to warrant a soundtrack, as cool as that would still be anyway. Another surprisingly solid element is in the booby-traps set and the riddles they must figure out in order to escape. I'll give Benedikt props for being creative with the traps. While he may not the best writer of natural dialogue, he does come up with some inventive gimmicks that made me feel like this was almost a prequel to the Saw franchise. Mind you, that's not to mean in gore content, because there is none, but in the riddles and traps. Not that it's mind-blowing ingenuity or anything, but for a no-budget flick shot almost entirely in underground rooms and vaults, it's somewhat impressive.....considering.

Stars Lazar Rockwood and Bonnie Beck behind the scenes photo

Despite all of these things, it's really Lazar's performance that keeps you invested. His delivery is a sight to behold. It's too painfully obvious that he is not actor, yet he tries so hard in the least convincing way possible. His heavy accent ever present, he struggles through his dialogue and delivery in the most hilarious and fascinating way. His complete lack of chemistry with his co-star, Bonnie Beck, who portrays his ex-girlfriend, is as much hilarious as it is awkwardly uncomfortable. His constant chain-smoking (literally 2 drags before he puts it out), loud wet-lip-smacking sounds, and constant body-twitching are characters unto themselves. Really, you have to see it to believe it. His performance alone makes this experience almost amazing.

Beyond the Seventh Door is a completely absurd and ridiculously constructed bizarre set of sequences that make little common sense and play out a bit too long to stretch out it's short 77 minute run-time. But it's because of all of it's inept qualities, unusual sensibilities, cringe-inducing chemistry between the two leads, hilarious dialogue and Lazar Rockwood's totally bizarre performance that nearly puts Tommy Wiseau to shame that make it totally a trip worth taking. Shut off your brain and enjoy the ride. You'll be glad you did.


Intervision Picture Corp. did a good job on this release. Considering it's never seen the light of day outside of it's mega-rare release on VHS in the mid 80's, it's likely the best we'll ever get. It's not necessarily top of the line DVD quality, but I'm almost certain that they didn't have the best resources to work with considering it was shot on low-grade film 30 years ago. It is however, a far better looking transfer than it's original VHS presentation, even if it is still in a 1:33.1 full frame aspect ratio. The sound is surprisingly good, with the score being a lot louder than the dialogue.

Special Features include:

- An audio commentary by writer/director B.D. Benedikt and star Lazar Rockwood, moderated by Canuxploitation's Paul Corupe. 
- "Beyond" Beyond the 7th Door: A fascinating new featurette with new interviews of B.D. Benedikt, star Lazar Rockwood and Canuxploitation's Paul Corupe.
- "The King of Cayenne": An appreciation of legendary Toronto eccentric Ben Kerr.

PLEASE take the time to watch the featurette "Beyond" Beyond the 7th Door. In it we follow Benedikt, who apparently works in a movie theater now cleaning up the popcorn from the seats and installing new films into the projection machine. Highly eccentric, he discusses what led him to make this legendary Canadian classic as well as eventually becoming a best selling author in the religious thriller category. BUT, the highlight is hands-down Lazar Rockwood's interview, where he confusingly attempts to teach the art of acting to the cameraman by explaining that observing a cat watching a bird will teach you all you need to know. Only in the most bizarre and long-handed way possible. It's a true gem of a moment and you really need to see it to believe it. Ultimately you walk away with the notion that these two guys are truly a bit crazy in real life as well, not just in how they make movies.

Beyond the 7th Door is a MUST BUY if you're a fan of Bad Movie Night. No question. And as luck would have it, it's insanely cheap right now on Amazon for just $11.99. Buy it. Buy it nooow!!!

Netflix Recommendation: Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

"Universal didn't want the footage we filmed behind the scenes to surface so that people wouldn't think I was an asshole "
- Jim Carrey

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

I don't know if it's just me, but Netflix doesn't really seem to be much of a movie channel for me anymore. It just feels like all I ever watch are documentaries, original series and comic book shows, and that their movie selection is becoming less and less interesting. Good thing their documentaries are good, such as this engrossing behind the scenes look at Jim Carrey's full-on embodiment of the late-great comic Andy Kaufman, whom he portrayed for the Milos Foreman biopic Man on the Moon back in 1999. There were reports at the time of Carrey's bizarre behavior on set, taking on the persona of Andy in nearly every aspect, never breaking character. But oddly enough, the talking never got above a whisper and eventually went away. Man on the Moon wouldn't become the blockbuster they had all hoped, especially when you take into account it's 82 million dollar pricetag, but Carrey would walk away with a Golden Globe award for best actor.

Documentary filmmaker Chris Smith (American Movie) sits down with Carrey for a deeply personal discussion about his time making Man on the Moon and Andy Kaufman. Smith has also been able to cull together backstage behind-the-scenes footage that Universal was not willing to release for the last 20 years for fear of it hurting the film's chances at the box office and awards season. You see, Jim Carrey's behavior was so obnoxious and so bizarre that they didn't want the public to think he was an asshole. He clearly was an asshole on set, but Carrey explains that it was because he was being Andy Kaufman every second of the day. Every single thing he did he would ask himself "how would Andy do it? Or how far would Andy go with this?". Could this behavior result in physical harm? You betcha. But that's what makes this so fascinating. The moment Carrey first stepped on set, he stopped being Jim Carrey and he was now Andy Kaufman, and anything that went along with that. Some of it annoying, some of it brave, some of it bizarre, but all of it is fascinating.

There's no doubt Jim Carrey is a comic genius. Here, maybe even for the first time, he discusses what drove him so passionately to pursue comedy in the first place, his epic turn to superstardom, the effect his father had on his life, and his identity crisis while playing Kaufman, all in a very zen-like demeanor that is unlike the Jim Carrey we've grown accustomed to. But that should be no surprise really. Carrey has largely remained out of the public eye for years, only appearing in minor roles or shorts, and devoting his life to his new passion...art. And much like he was as a comedian, he's also quite a brilliant artist. But he's also suffered personal tragedy, which isn't mentioned here, but if you're aware of it, gives you some better insight into who he's become lately. He doesn't headline films anymore, because he doesn't have to. He's content appearing in little projects (like his role as The Hermit in The Bad Batch), or as a detective in the Polish thriller True Crimes (1996). If he ever pops up in anything major these days, it's usually a big surprise. He's become a different person and listening to him discuss his life in a very calm tone, as if enlightened, is fascinating. His take on the whole experience of making that film and the impact it had on his life, his mental state and the Andy Kaufman legacy is brilliantly captured in this engrossing documentary. A. Must. See.


90's Action Attack!: Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

"Seagal's Last Hurrah; Steven Seagal returns as Casey Ryback in a sequel that's far better than it has any right being"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

I've been on a bit of a Seagal kick/refresher course these past few months. Having dug into a few of his earlier hits like Out For Justice (which I loved) for example, I decided to keep it going with his Under Siege films, which I had as a 2-Pk DVD combo that you can easily pick up for super cheap. I recently covered the first Under Siege in my recent article "Die Hard on a..." Showdown: Under Siege VS Sudden Death, where I discuss what I liked about that first film and why it works so well. Being that it was Seagal's most successful, most polished and most loved film, a sequel was only natural. And why not? Seagal was still a big deal back then, and if any formula works, it's the "Die Hard on a..." style of film that is easily manufactured if done correctly. Perhaps if his films become less and less awesome, he could always fall back on his Under Siege franchise, the way Bruce Willis does with his Die Hard films? Let's dig in.

Having literally just finished revisiting the first Under Siege before heading into this one, I have to say that I found this sequel every bit as entertaining, if not slightly better. While this one doesn't have the luxury of a crazy Gary Busey or a villainous Tommy Lee Jones, it does hold it's own substantially well with it's colorful ensemble of bad guy's, led by the ultra-cool Everett McGill (Twin Peaks, The People Under The Stairs). But wait! There's also Peter Greene (Pulp Fiction), Jonathan Banks (Mike in Breaking Bad) and Patrick Kilpatrick (Class of 1999), among a host of other notable baddie's. For sheer amusement, there's also a very young Katherine Heigl, here playing the annoying teenage niece of Casey Ryback (Seagal), who she's stuck on a train with being held hostage by terrorists. Not the least bit surprising, the large cast of villains is a blast and one of it's stronger attributes.

Really though, the main thing that got me excited to revisit this wasn't Seagal at all, but rather the fact that New Zealand director Geoff Murphy was directing this. Murphy is a director I've only now grown to fully appreciate after having revisited both Freejack (a film I never cared for before until now) and Young Guns II (one of the best westerns ever made). The early 90's were his creative peak, where he delivered some fantastic camera work reminiscent of both Peter Hyams and Roland Emmerich's at their very early best. So I was hoping that "quality" was still on full display going into this 1995 production, even though I was a bit let down with his HBO movie The Last Outlaw 2 years earlier. Still, I hoped a bigger budget and a lot of action would help bring him back to that slick 90's aesthetic I fell so in love with recently. Does his work in Under Siege 2 hold a candle to his earlier 90's films? Yes and no. Here he's playing it more freestyle than I'm used to from him, but considering how difficult it could be filming an entire movie on a train, I can forgive him for not taking the time to set up cool shots 100% of the time.

The action is great though, and that's really what matters. Seagal, looking thinner than he had in the first Under Siege 3 years earlier (surprisingly!), doesn't rely heavily on doubles yet, though you can still easily spot them. His inability to never be able to project any sort of range will never change, but at least we can still see him doing a lot of his own fighting here, which mostly consists of neck, back and nose breaking and not a whole lot of actual hand to hand combat. You see, he'll always be the better more experienced fighter in his films, so I can only assume the filmmakers find it silly to try and have anyone other than the main bad guy put up much of a challenge. And that's exactly what they do here, only this time his biggest competition is Everett McGill, who matches Seagal in size, but outdoes Seagal in cool. Man McGill is such a slick badass in this. It blows my mind he wasn't more of an action film villain after this. Of course Seagal still kicks his ass, but McGill's cocky demeanor as the ex-military for-hire henchman gives Casey Ryback a worthy opponent.

One of Dark Territory's more surprising elements is that it's a far better production than it has every right being. For example, the score by Basil Poledouris (Conan The Barbarian, Robocop) is large, loud and highly effective. The film also just looks and feels big - even though it takes place almost entirely on a moving train - thanks in no small part to Murphy's contribution behind the camera, and it's ridiculously high price tag. This sequel, shockingly, carried twice the budget of the first film (Under Siege: $35 million/Under Siege 2: $60 million), and only taking in half of that first films box office, which would result in a disappointment since it didn't even match it's own budget.

Steven Seagal's star power had already started to show it's first sign of losing steam by this point, despite having released only 6 films leading up to this sequel. Of course, we all know his first misfire would be his previous film, On Deadly Ground, also his only directing credit. It's safe to say he was never really able to recover since then. I'm pretty sure it's not just the films themselves being the only reason for this. Seagal had already garnered a reputation behind the scenes as cocky, controlling and difficult. I doubt producers and filmmakers were beating down his door to work on projects with him. Still, I quite enjoyed The Glimmer Man (1996) and Exit Wounds (2001), so he was still able to get a decent project here and there before settling into the DTV wasteland from the 2000's on. Which reminds me, I really need to finally check out Fire Down Below (1997).

Overall, Dark Territory delivers the goods in a big, loud, fun way. It's yet another excellent example of an efficient Die Hard-style action flick, made in the heyday of that specific genre. It stands out as one of Seagal's better films, and certainly his biggest. If I had any complaints, it would be the very lame tacked-on ending. The film climax's to a stunning and huge finale. I'm talking nutso huge. And despite the fact that your brain is telling you how ridiculous and absurd it is, it still looks fucking badass and you love it. And that should be it. Boom! Great ending. But no. Just when you think it's done and over with, there comes another sequence aboard a helicopter that adds nothing to the film and totally ruins whatever credit and momentum it had going for it. It's lame, tacky, and the effects work is terrible. Why??? Why ruin it with that?! The next time I watch it I'll have to remember to stop it once Ryback gets on the helicopter ladder, and you should too.


Documentary Spotlight: The Go-Go Boys - The Inside Story of Cannon Films

"If you make an American film with a beginning, a middle and an end, with a budget of less than five million dollars, you must be an idiot to lose money" - Menaham Golan

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

Here's something that I was totally unaware of until recently - another documentary about the legendary Cannon Films that was made and released at the same time as the more popular Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, just months apart. Yet while Electric Boogaloo would get a worldwide release (and more attention), The Go-Go Boys, from documentary filmmaker Hilla Medalia, has yet to land in the United States officially. However, if you're smart and have a multi-region player (I'm not that smart), then you're in luck since it's been released elsewhere around the world, just not here yet. Still, you have to wonder how this one could be any better than Mark Hartley's (Machete Maidens Unleashed, Not Quite Hollywood) insanely fun Electric Boogaloo. I really needed to find out for myself. So let's dig in.

While Electric Boogaloo is a more fast-paced look into the films of Cannon with a frenetic energy, The Go-Bo Boys is a slower, more personal look into not only the films themselves, but the cousins who would create them. And that is just one of many aspects that makes this one comparatively different. Unlike the more popular Electric Boogaloo, Menaham Golan and Yorum Globus actually participate in this one telling the story of their lives in their own words. And honestly, it makes a big difference. Don't get me wrong; I loved Electric Boogaloo. Who doesn't? It's such a blast of nostalgic fun, running at a breakneck pace and throwing so much information at you in a very fun, creative way. But this one's different. Through new interviews, both Golan and Globus (both estranged for many years right up until this was made) tell their stories in their own words. And let me tell you, while this particular documentary is a bit slower and more personal, it's not any less entertaining. Not by a long shot.

There were moments that did feel familiar, I'm not gonna lie. But those moments are few and far between, and the majority of this documentary's success lies in it's differences to that other one. By focusing primarily on Golan and Globus themselves, letting them tell their separate stories and their memories of all of those events and both having somewhat different perspectives on Cannon's success and failure, The Go-Go Boys succeeds in ways that Electric Boogaloo doesn't. The filmmakers also stick to interviewing key employees of the different Cannon Films iterations, rather than their staple of actors and directors (which they still do include), or even their fans. It was fascinating hearing the in's and out's of one of the biggest studio's at the time from some of the major employees who worked under or along beside them, from a uniquely different angle. It's great stuff.

Of course, as fascinating as it is hearing about their creation and rise from obscurity to one of the biggest film companies on the planet, the best parts are no doubt their dominance in the 80's. Here is the heart and meat of the doc, because this is where they rose to superstardom and ultimately crashed and burned harder than any studio before or since. While Globus doesn't mind discussing what went wrong and who to blame, Golan will not discuss it. When asked by the documentarian to discuss some of Cannon's failures, such as Superman IV for example, Golan reacts in anger and frustration, refusing to answer or even discuss them. When she presses further, he shuts her down in his characteristically bullish way. It's a good thing Yoram Globus is more forthcoming and honest.

It's easy to see now where it all went wrong. Each cousin was responsible for a single task; Golan would create and make the films, and Globus would find the money and financing to accomplish that. Ultimately a few bad investments, such as acquiring EMI's vast catalog of films, and their endless business ventures, such as a chain of movie theaters all over the world, led to Cannon's demise. Not the least of which was Menaham Golan creating too many projects at once and spending too much money unnecessarily before Yoram Globus could actually raise it. They were selling the rights to projects before they were even made and shuffling money around from pre-sales to projects needing to get made or already in production. It was a tricky gamble, and one that could very well have been effective had Golan not taken on so many projects at once.The Golan/Globus cousins working and personal relationship was destroyed when Cannon went under, and neither has spoken to the other in decades until now, where you see them reuniting for the first time as part of their contribution to this doc.

Of course that's an abbreviated version, because there was a lot more that went into their sinking ship. Is this documentary worth seeking out? Absolutely. It's fascinating, insightful, fun and even touching. There were things I never knew, such as Yoram Globus, after leaving Cannon, buying MGM with a partner for a short period before....., well you just have to watch this incredible documentary to find out. 


Class of 1999 Coming To Blu-Ray From Vestron Video!

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

Now this is some fantastic news to wake up to. This cult classic is finally getting the Blu-Ray treatment courtesy of Vestron Video as part of their Collector's Series. No word yet on what kind of restoration it will receive (2K or 4K), but regardless, it will be in 1080p and a far better transfer than anything we've received up until now. And if their past releases (13 to date!) are any indication, we won't be disappointed. This release will also include a decent selection of extra's (full list below), that while not substantial, definitely make it worth the price of purchase.

I love this movie. It's been one I've revisited often and still delivers the Low-Budget Action/Sci-fi/Exploitation goods. The cast is incredible, and original Class of 1984 director Mark L. Lester (Commando, Showdown in Little Tokyo) returns to the directors chair, offering a completely different type of film, going 180 degrees in the complete opposite direction, yet still delivering an even more entertaining film than the original.

The specs via Vestron Video:

And here's #14... "These androids were supposed to educate the students!" CLASS OF 1999 coming January 30th, 2018 from Vestron Video Collector's Series!

The time is the future, and youth gang violence is so high that the areas around some schools have become “free fire zones” into which not even the police will venture. When Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell), the principal of Kennedy High School,decides to take his school back from the gangs, robotics specialist Dr. Robert Forrest (Stacy Keach) provides “tactical education units.” These human-like androids have been programmed to teach and are supplied with weapons to handle discipline problems. These kids will get a lesson in staying alive!
Also starring Patrick Kilpatrick, John P. Ryan and Pam Grier!

Special Features:
• Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Mark L. Lester
• Interviews with Director/Producer Mark L. Lester and Co-Producer Eugene Mazzola
• Interview with Screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner
• Interviews with Special Effects Creators Eric Allard and Rick Stratton
• Interview with Director of Photography Mark Irwin
• Trailer & TV Spot
• Still Gallery
• Video Promo

Language/Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Audio: 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Rating: R
Run Time: 97

Mark L. Lester's Class of 1999 will be released on January 30th, 2018. Be sure to get your pre-order in today! You bet your ass I will. 


Child's Play Turns 29 This Month; A Look Back On The Original Classic

"Tom Holland's original killer doll flick still packs a punch"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

When I watched the newly released Cult of Chucky recently on Netflix, I hate to admit that I wasn't all that into it. But to be honest, I've lost interest in the Chucky franchise many years ago. In fact, I've never even seen Seed of Chucky, considered by most to be the series lowest point. My interest in the franchise is sporadic at best. I only really like a few of them, and have no desire to ever revisit most. But when Chucky creator and screenwriter Don Mancini decided to go back to basics after the lousy reception of Seed of Chucky, and offer a stripped down approach to the material with Curse of Chucky, it was enough to get me to check it out, and I have to admit, I enjoyed it. While it was nowhere near as great as the original, it was a step in the right direction. The positive reaction to that one meant Mancini would continue down this path for the followup, Cult of Chucky. The reception for Cult was decisively mixed, but for me personally, I wasn't that big a fan. I can appreciate what he was doing, taking the franchise in yet another direction, but I was mostly bored throughout the process. The reality is that you really have to be a die-hard fan to appreciate these films in the first place. Going in as just a casual observer, without any of the history, will leave you lost. But it was that experience that reminded me that it's been forever since I had seen the one that started it all. As luck would have it, my good buddy was kind enough to give me the Blu Ray as a gift. So let's dig in.

Though never really that big of a Child's Play fan to begin with (not enough to actually own any of them), I was struck by just how great this first film really is. Despite the years that have passed (29 to be exact, and released this very month), Child's Play still packs a punch of entertainment. Surprisingly, it still works as an effective horror/thriller without the cheesy legacy that would soon follow with the many sequels. And while the script (credited to 3 different writers) is strong, it's really Tom Holland's (Fright Night) solid direction that brings this film to life and gives it so much of it's gritty aesthetic. And that's what Child's Play is; a dark, gritty atmospheric horror/thriller that does one helluva job in delivering the goods in both visuals, suspense, scares and entertainment - something none of the films since have been able to match. Don't get me wrong, a few of them are pretty good. Last I remembered, Bride of Chucky was pretty fun, gory and super slick thanks to Ronny Yu's impressive direction. But none of the sequels (6 in total) could deliver or match what made the first one so special. And it's really hard to explain too. What is it that works so well that the other couldn't capture? Honestly, it's 2 things for me; Tom Holland's solid direction and it's cast, led by the ever-reliable Chris Sarandon. Of course Brad Dourif is just excellent, and next to Don Mancini writing every single film, has been the only one to be involved in every single Chucky film, and even Andy, played by Alex Vincent, is adorable. But Sarandon is the standout for sure, here as a detective who just doesn't believe Andy, or his mother's story about the doll coming to life and killing people, until he finally see's it for himself.

Going back to Tom Holland, I had always thought that this was another franchise he created, like with Fright Night. It was only a few years ago that I discovered that it was actually Don Mancini's baby from the beginning. Still, Holland would eventually contribute to the script (he did start off as a writer, having written Psycho II and Cloak & Dagger ) as well and it's his impressive technical skills behind the camera that sell it. I love the look of this film; cold, dark, gloomy and gritty, yet filmed with an expert touch. The visuals are a knockout and are yet another great example of Holland's tremendous skills behind the camera. Revisit the original Fright Night to refresh your memory, or better yet, give the Whoopi Goldberg film Fatal Beauty (which he directed between Fright Night and Child's Play) a watch and proceed to have your mind blown. That film, despite it's attempt at marketing it as a comedy, is really a tight, violent, gritty action/thriller made all the more stronger by Holland's solid direction. In short, Child's Play is as successful as it is largely because of Tom Holland's contribution.

Part of what makes this one work so well is that for a large chunk in the first half, you don't actually see Chucky do anything, leaving it a mystery while your imagination begins playing out. That's one of this film's biggest strengths. Of course, when he finally does make his presence known, it continues to hold your attention because it's fascinating how they did it without the work of CGI. And to tell you the truth, watching it again recently, I still don't know how they pulled off some of those shots. They're incredible, fascinating and surprisingly effective. But without Dourif's brilliant voice work, it wouldn't have turned out nearly as successful. As great as this whole setup and payoff is, it almost didn't happen that way. Originally Mancini wanted to keep the fact that the Chucky doll was actually possessed a secret until the very end, making the audience wonder if it was all Andy's imagination. Furthermore, the concept of this film changed radically over time before it was eventually filmed, as it was originally intended to be a satire on the toy industry, then a psychological thriller with one idea toying with the fact that it wasn't a possessed doll at all, but rather an extension of Andy's rage. Another idea thrown around in the beginning was having Charles Lee Ray actually be Andy's real father. Fascinating. 

Despite the fact that the franchise has spawned a total of 7 films to date, it's been a bumpy ride to say the least, all starting with the first film's release. Parents protested the originals premiere, most famously at the entrance of MGM, saying that the film would entice children to commit acts of violence, which director Tom Holland vehemently denied by saying a movie would never do that; the person has to be unbalanced to begin with to be influenced by a film. Ultimately MGM disowned the first film because of the controversy and subject matter, selling the rights to Universal, who would eventually release the sequels.

And then there's the screenplay drama. Though the final version contains a good 50% of Mancini's bones of the original script, Holland and John Lafia would also contribute to the script and secure a co-writing credit. In reality, there was a fourth contributor, Howard Franklin (Someone to Watch Over Me), who went uncredited. According to reports, the fight over screenwriting credit got so bad that creator Don Mancini and co-writer John Lafia (Child's Play 2) were barred from the set. But really, this is Mancini's baby through and through, yet Holland's signature is also all over this thing, making for a much stronger film all around. It may also be why none of the sequels could match the quality of this one, because despite whatever friction there may have been behind-the-scenes, the combo of Don Mancini and Tom Holland resulted in a sure-fire hit. It may not have ended up being the film Mancini envisioned years earlier in his head 100%, but it's a damn good film and the best in the series regardless. Don Mancini would continue as the solo screenwriter of all the Chucky sequels that followed, and would step into the directors chair for the last 3 installments; Seed of Chucky, Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky. 

After nearly 30 years and 6 sequels, this is still the best looking film of the franchise. You'd think it would feel the most dated, since it's the oldest of the bunch, but it's quite the opposite. Yes there are elements that do make it very much an 80's movie (which adds to it's charm), like for example, Andy's terribly decorated apartment, and the rad Good Guys cereal, pajamas and TV show; but never in an obnoxious way. Overall it almost looks timeless, like it could easily fall into any decade.

Dust off your old VHS or DVD, or grab one of the many Blu-Ray releases out there and enjoy this little-appreciated and often dismissed classic and give it a watch. It's far better than you remember it being.


Thor: Ragnarok Review

"Thor: Ragnarok is like Flash Gordon on crack, breathing new life and energy into a stale franchise"
By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

Of all the Marvel films that have come out since they began dominating the box office with 2008's Iron Man, the Thor films have always been my least favorite, next to Doctor Strange. While I can appreciate what Kenneth Brannagh brought to the table by directing the first one, it still wasn't enough for me to really get excited about. Don't get me wrong, I love the cast: Hemsworth is spot-on brilliant casting and Tom Hiddleston is arguably one of best Marvel villains ever to grace the screen, if not the most entertaining. I just never have been a fan of the character or the mythology, which is probably why I could never get into franchises such as Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.

Like most people, I still saw the first two entries. I enjoyed the first one enough to actually make the effort to watch the second, but I just didn't like it at all. I'm sure on paper the idea of hiring someone who directed a bunch of Game of Thrones episode sounded great, but if the films reception is any indication, that decision was a bad one, at least from a fanboy perspective, because ultimately it still made a ton of money for Marvel. But again, based on that films reception, they knew they had to make a drastic change to the Thor franchise if they wanted to keep us from getting bored. Enter Taika Waititi, a New Zealand filmmaker and comedian, most famously known for the hilarious and brilliant What We Do In The Shadows. All I can say is that Waititi on board completely and totally changed everything that was wrong with Thor, and breathed new life into a stale franchise. And not just within the Thor universe, but for me personally, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has just felt more of the same as of late. Wonder Woman was what the superhero franchise in general needed, and Thor: Ragnarok was what Marvel needed to spice things up.

Of all the choices that were ideal for bringing a new fresh spin to the Thor films, Taika Waititi would  seem the most unlikely one. Having only directed less than a handful of films, all comedies or drama, nothing suggested that he could handle something so big, much less a Marvel film full of CGI. Yet, miraculously, he did just that. In fact, he did a far better job than most directors who have been working in CGI for years. I'll admit, when the trailers began rolling out, I was a bit turned off by the excessive CGI, where most of it looked terrible. Yet when I saw the film, it was leaps and bounds better. I can only assume that from the time between the trailers and the release date, they did a significant amount of polishing to them. Sure it's still unmistakably CGI for a good 90% of the film, but Waititi knew how to composite it in a much more realistic way; meaning he had a grasp of perspective, making things in the background realistically blurry as they would be. That's something that always drives me crazy with these movies. With all their talent and money, directors rarely ever take into consideration that not everything in the background should be crystal clear as the image in the foreground. It's a pet peeve and it drives me nuts.

Taiki Waititi did a phenomenal job on the visual tone of the film. Right from the first trailers, you knew you were in for something radically different in the best possible way. It's a retro-infused hyperspace odyssey full of bright colors, and a pleasantly refreshing fun atmosphere that literally had me smiling and laughing from start to finish. Of all the many great qualities this film possesses, one of it's greatest strengths is that it's genuinely hilarious, something that might have thrown most of us off at first, but once that initial shock wears off, you realize that you hadn't laughed so hard and so consistently in a very long time. I know I certainly haven't. And I think most people will be surprised to learn that Chris Hemsworth is a legitimately funny guy. His comic timing is impeccable, almost effortless. Who knew!? Apparently Waititi did and utilized that to it's full effect, making for a much more fun and entertaining flick all around.

The cast is ace, with Cate Blanchett never looking hotter, Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are legit hilarious, and even Mark Ruffalo gets in some solid laughs. But the real standout is hands-down Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. Goldblum is clearly having a blast, chewing up the scenery every second he's on screen, really digging deep into his Jewish roots and delivering a hilariously subtle performance that only he could deliver. He literally steals the show.

You might be surprised to learn that despite the frequent marketing, the actual arena fight between Thor and Hulk is just a very small moment in a very large film. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that the trailers really don't do the film justice at all. Yea it shows us the direction it's headed and how different it is compared to the previous films, but it doesn't really capture just how great this film is. And honestly, I'm not even really sure if they could. Of course they show us all of the action, and the one fight between Hulk and Thor, but there's so much more going on, most of which are in the smaller subtle moments that can't translate well in a 2 minute trailer. So I understand.

If I had a single complaint, it would be the score by Mark Mothersbaugh. If you noticed in the trailers, they threw a very strong synth score at us in keeping with the whole retro theme going on, and it was amazing. Yet in the actual film, it's very minimal, only really coming into play in the second half of the film. But even then, it's still very minimal as it's mixed with a standard orchestra. It's like Mothersbaugh, or whoever was in charge of these decisions, were still trying to play it safe by not straying too far into that area, which is a bummer really because when the synth score did hit, it was awesome. It just could have been more. It would have made it stronger in my opinion.

Thor: Ragnarok and the Flash Gordon-On-Crack aesthetic had my eyes glued to the screen in glee. I really felt like a little kid watching this one. It reminded me of the type of superhero film they used to make decades ago, where they were actually fun, colorful and full of creative energy. With the exception of just a few in the last 10 years, you really can't say that anymore about these. But they're trying hard to fix that I think. Wonder Woman was a big slap in the face to studios, and this one did so phenomenally well right out of the gate that you can bet Marvel is going to start figuring out how to sort of steer in this direction in the future. Hell, even the new Black Panther coming out looks like a pleasant departure from Marvel's usual fare. If Thor: Ragnarok did anything, it was proving that Marvel, and possibly the superhero franchise in general, is heading in the right direction.


Marvel's The Punisher Premieres Tonight

"The Punisher is set to dispatch some vigilante justice to Netflix"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

Don't forget, Marvel's The Punisher premieres tonight at midnight on Netflix. Or you can just wait until tomorrow to start binge-watching the entire season for what's sure to be Marvel's next big hit with Netflix. Speaking of which, it may also be one of the last as Marvel just recently announced it will be streaming their own content exclusively on their new streaming site coming soon. So that could be a major bummer for Netflix as they were primarily the key place for Marvel to drop their ultra-violent shows. But we'll see.

Punisher has always been my favorite comic book character, going all the way back to about '88 or '89 when I began collecting. I was immediately drawn to that vigilante character that was brought to life by amazing artists such as Jim Lee and Mike Zeck. While I would eventually dig into everything from Iron Man to Spiderman and Spawn, Punisher was and still is my personal favorite.

Sadly, this landmark character, despite 3 previous attempts on the big screen, still hasn't found a proper adaptation, or one that fans could connect with. While each film interpretation has it's share of strong points, none of them have come close to delivering a definitive Punisher film....yet. War Zone would probably be the closest to depicting the comic character the most accurately (and I do very much love that film), but my personal favorite will always be the Dolph Lundgren starring 1989 version, which still remains in my Top 5 favorite films ever. But that's another story.

When Netflix and Marvel premiered the character of The Punisher into the Daredevil storyline and series, fans went nuts. He was an immediate hit. And though initial reports of Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) playing the character were met immediately with dubious uncertainty, his portrayal quickly won people over, including the skeptics. In fact, even though he was just a minor character in a totally different series, he became most people's favorite Punisher and a lot of peoples first introduction to the character. Needless to say Marvel saw the potential and gave him his own series, which is what brings use here today.

Marvel's Punisher premieres on Netflix at midnight, November 17. 


Netflix Recommendation: Mindhunter

"The one-two punch of David Fincher and Netflix delivers one of the most intensely riveting detective thrillers in years"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

I'll be honest. When Netflix began rolling out these trailers ahead of hit's debut, they did nothing for me. I didn't even pick up that David Fincher was involved, so I'm not even sure that was mentioned in those trailers. Maybe if they had, I would have been far more intrigued because as they were, I didn't even give it a second thought. Even when this first season premiered on Netflix, I still didn't consider actually watching it. It wasn't until a few online friends posted how great it was that I finally gave it a shot, and boy I'm so glad I did. Mindhunter immediately became an addiction, and though I'm not big on binge-watching shows, I have to admit it was terribly hard not to with this one.

Mindhunter takes place in the late 1970's as two FBI agents (Holden Ford and Bill Tench) begin a new program within the FBI bureau studying the minds of killers, trying to figure out what makes them do the things that they do. It's through this series of interviews and investigations with prolific killers of the time that they ultimately coined the term "Serial Killer". Their hope is that by understanding how serial  killers think, they can help solve unsolved murders and in the greater scheme of things, possibly even prevent them from ever happening. 

Based on the book Mindhunter: Inside FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas, David Fincher produces and oftentimes directs while series creator Joe Penhall writes most of the episodes, delivering one of the best, most infectious detective thrillers on TV. While not necessarily in the same boat as the first season of True Detective, I felt it definitely resides somewhere within that same feel and genre. It may not deal with the same subject matter, but their dark, gritty realism is on full display in both series and it's a world we can easily get lost in. Fincher's masterful touch and attention to detail only make it all the more palpable in a very real way.

Actor Cameron Britton (left) as real life serial killer Ed Kemper (right)
What makes this series so enthralling is how detailed it is in it's execution. Let me put it this way. If you loved Fincher's Zodiac, then you'll most certainly love this. In fact, Fincher directed a majority of the episodes himself, and they're just as stunning visually as they are emotionally. You get sucked into the worlds of newbie Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), who's brilliant, yet naive, and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), a veteran on the force and tough as nails, as they travel the country interviewing killers of multiple people who are currently in prison. And it's in these long moments of interviewing serial killers where Mindhunter really finds it's stride. Not only are these interviews engrossing, intense and stimulating (the Ed Kemper segments being the most fascinating), but the meticulous detail that Fincher applies to every single aspect of this show's production is mind blowing. It all looks and feels like it really is 1977, and the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. Mindhunter is a visceral punch to the senses from all angles and it's a show you're sure to get hooked on. Just don't say I didn't warn you.


Blu-Ray Review: Popcorn (Synapse Films)

"Synapse Films breathes new life into a forgotten cult classic"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

When Synapse films announced they would be releasing this on Blu-Ray, it was a fresh reminder that I really needed to revisit this early 90's classic. While a lot of these little-seen or undiscovered and forgotten horror gems are finally finding their audiences through wide releases on Blu-Ray, that wasn't the case during their initial theatrical or home video releases. In fact, it's quite the opposite. But the internet was also in it's infancy, and not yet the free marketing tool we have today. What's more, all of these releases are usually big news leading up to the date because of savage collectors, social media and the internet. The releases themselves are done to the nine's, with new artwork, a fresh restoration of the original transfer, and a host of goodies for die-hard fans to dig through. Comparatively, these old cult classics are getting more of a push on Blu-Ray today compared to the marketing and promotion done during their original theatrical or home video debuts. In this new age of digital marketing, restorations and releases, Synapse Films is one of the leading brands spearheading the movement.

Which brings me to Popcorn, a 1991 horror film that literally seemed to come and go with very little attention upon it's original theatrical release. I can confirm that in my little hometown in South Texas, it didn't even make it into theaters, instead going straight to home video months later, which is where I would ultimately discover it. And I recall enjoying it, but never really revisiting it for some reason. Flash forward to 2017 and Synapse Films announcement that they would be giving this forgotten classic the HD makeover for the very first time in a Limited Edition to 3,000 copies DVD/Blu-Ray Steelbook. While I remember people complaining about the steep $40 price tag, they still snatched it up in droves. It sold so well in fact that Synapse decided to release it again, this time in a standard Special Edition Blu-Ray this past October for a much cheaper $20, which would contain all of the special features included in that original Steelbook release. Once I saw this cheaper release, I immediately jumped on the bandwagon and grabbed myself a copy. So let's dig in.

When film students put together a Horror-thon in an abandoned movie theater, they discover a lost and mysterious film called "The Possessor", made by a madman who ultimately killed his entire family at that same theater years earlier. Maggie (Jill Schoelen) has been having nightmares that seem to connect her to the killer and this film and soon the classmates begin getting killed one by one during the Horror-thon. Will Maggie figure out who this killer is in time to stop them from killing everyone?

To say I enjoyed this would be an understatement. I absolutely loved it and I'm shocked I never made the effort to revisit this earlier. There's just such a fun vibe and tone to the entire thing and despite having so many odds stacked against it, it ultimately delivers nonstop entertainment from beginning to end. It's a classy horror film, made with a deft touch and care that you rarely ever saw in films like this to begin with. Throw in the fact that it's also a loving homage/love-letter to the classic campy horror films of the 50's with a better-than-you'd-expect cast and you're in for a great time.

Behind the scenes was a totally different story though, and the fact that the movie turned out as great as it did is quite frankly, astonishing. For starters, they fired their original lead actress Amy O'Neill with Jill Schoelen (The Stepfather, Phantom of the Opera) 3 weeks into production, as well as replacing original writer and director Alan Ormsby (Cat People, The Substitute) with Porky's actor Mark Herrier, who would make Popcorn his only directing credit. Though the film kept all of Ormsby's work with the films within the film, there's much debate as to how much he contributed to the rest of the film and how much of it's success goes to first time director Mark Herrier. Also of special note is that though you'd never guess it, Popcorn was shot entirely in Jamaica (Huh??). I'm telling you, the film's production was pretty much chaos from the beginning, though you'd never know it. Which brings me to my next point. This excellent release also comes with a full-length documentary "Midnight Madness: The Making of Popcorn", which digs deep into the films troubled production offering new insight into the chaos, with new interviews from the cast and crew. There was even controversy regarding it's original poster design for Pete's sake! Honestly, this documentary alone is worth the price of this release and all the startling revelations will leave you dumbfounded.

The cast of Popcorn is nothing short of exceptional, starting with the legendary Dee Wallace, who I feel like has been popping up in so many random films I've seen lately both new and old. And while the entire cast is great, I really have to give it to the late-great Tom Villard (shown above), who just steals the show here. He's an actor I always remember seeing in random things throughout the years, such as a regular on The Golden Girls, one of the Stork twins in the 80's classic One Crazy Summer, and even as a cadet in Heartbreak Ridge. Needless to say seeing him in here was a nice surprise, but his performance will go on as the best in his career. Hands-down.

Overall, Popcorn is a blast and such a surprisingly competent and effective horror/comedy that also plays as a homage to classic horror films. The cast is great, the script is strong, and the tone keeps everything in check effectively. For me, this ended up being one of the best times revisiting an old horror film in years and I'm proud to include this one in my collection, because I know it will be one that I will continue to revisit.

Just The Disc:

Synapse films did a bangup job on this restoration, featuring an all new 2K scan of the Archival 35mm Interpositive. The transfer is stunning and looks far better than I anticipated. And let me assure you, it makes a difference. Seeing it in this state is damn near similar to seeing it for the first time on the big screen in it's original 35mm presentation. The colors are bright, the darks deep and the picture is sharp. Synapse did a fantastic job restoring the transfer (the film has never looked better), and the plethora of supplemental material will give you hours of fun to dig through.

Here's what's included:

  • All-New 2K Scan of an Archival 35mm Interpositive
  • All-New Blu-ray 7.1 Surround Sound Mix Supervised by Synapse Films (Original 2.0 Stereo Mix Included)
  • Audio Commentary with Director Mark Herrier, Stars Jill Schoelen, Malcolm Danare, and Special Makeup Effects Artist Mat Falls
  • Midnight Madness: The Making of "Popcorn" featuring interviews with Director Mark Herrier, Stars Jill Schoelen, Derek Rydall, Dee Wallace, Malcolm Danare, Ivette Soler, and Elliott Hurst, Special Makeup Effects Artist Mat Falls, Composer Paul Zaza, and Distributor Executive Jonathan Wolf (55 minutes)
  • Electric Memories An Interview with Actor Bruce Glover
  • Original Theatrical Trailer, Television Trailer and TV Spots
  • Still Gallery
  • English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Blu-ray Reversible Cover Art by Chris MacGibbon
  • All Region Encoded/Playable Worldwide!
You can pick up this new All-Region Synapse release from a number of different online retailers, as well as the original Limited Edition Steelbook directly from Synapse Films HERE.


90's Action Attack!: "C.I.A. Codename: Alexa"; A Low-Budget La Femme Nikita

"PM Entertainment showrunners Pepin & Merhi band together to deliver one of the best films in their insanely prolific catalog"

By: Jason E. (robotGEEK)

VHS scan courtesy of VHSCollector.com
Directed by: Joseph Merhi
Category: Action

PM Entertainment is my second favorite film production studio, right behind Cannon Films, and it's because of films like this La Femme Nikita ripoff/low-budget action masterpiece. Seriously, this film has it all, and I'm shocked this doesn't get more love. I'm not even really sure how I came across this one. Sure it's a PM film, but PM has well over a hundred films under their belt. Something had to make me specifically seek this one out. What that thing is I can't tell you, but I'm so glad I did. Let's dig in.

So Alexa begins with a random scene that really doesn't have any connection to the film at all, but it's a doozy of a beginning. Mark Graver (Lorenzo Lamas) arrives at a hostage situation very reminiscent of the one at city hall in Robocop. There's an army of local police on the ground as they attempt to persuade the kidnapper to give up. But really, all it takes is Graver to break protocol and decide to steal a motorcycle, drive it through the building, up the stairs and deliver some rogue justice, FBI style. While not necessarily a setup for anything that's to follow, it's sure one helluva kickass opening to a film that had me smiling from ear to ear with it's glorious cheesiness and insane nonstop action and stunts.

One of the first things I noticed during this killer opening sequence and credits were the names of Richard Pepin as the DoP, and Joseph Merhi as the director. If you don't already know, Pepin and Merhi are the head honchos of PM Entertainment and oftentimes direct some of the films themselves. While they're not all winners, when they're on fire, they both delivered some incredible action classics under their banner such as Hologram Man, Last Man Standing and T-Force being a few personal favorites and standouts. So when I saw "both" of their names listed as both the Cinematographer and the director, I just knew it would be something special visually, and I wasn't wrong. If nothing else, C.I.A. Codename: Alexa excels in the action department with some crazy-cool stunts and nonstop action that, while absurd, leave you stupidly satisfied. And honestly, isn't that the reason we watch these to begin with?

Essentially, the majority of the storyline is lifted right from Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita. Kathleen Kinmont is serviceable as the lead assassin, and Lamas is trying too hard to be cool as the FBI mentor. It's a little silly to always be wearing this over-stuff leather jacket, literally almost every second he's on screen wen he's not wearing a suit and tie. Doesn't he get hot??? But I'm just giving him a hard time because he does a fine job. Maybe he's not believable as an FBI agent with a long ponytail, perfectly trimmed stubble beard, tight jeans and a puffy leather jacket, but that's just me. While we're on the subject of casting, I must admit, it was a bit surreal seeing O.J. Simpson as one of the main characters in this; here playing another FBI agent. But he's not even the most unusual actor in here. That honor goes to Alex Cord as the main villain, who is supposed to be foreign, but I honestly couldn't tell you from where because his accent was so hilariously awful that I cherished every second he was on screen. For a good half hour I kept thinking "who the fuck is this guy?? He's terrible". And then it hit me. It's Briggs from Airwolf; the guy who gives Stringfellow and Santini their jobs who sports a white suit and eye patch. Holy shit! So he's American, trying to do an awful accent, but his delivery is so bizarre that you just assume he's just an awful actor, which he very well isn't. It's just crazy. But hey, in doing so he certainly makes it memorable.

I really can't recommend this one enough. If you love low-budget action cheese that's made remarkably well, this is for you. The action sequences alone will blow your mind. One sequence in particular sticks out, and I loved it so much I shared it on all my social media. A guy, after being surrounded by an army of armed cops, jumps out of the back of a van and begins firing on the cops. Naturally they return fire, causing the van to explode, and then he's immediately engulfed in flames. He keeps shooting and so the cops keep shooting while he's still on fire, which causes another explosion. Of course it's in slow-mo, and with both Pepin and Merhi behind the camera, you can guarantee the shot setups are killer, and they are. It's crazy and awesome! While none of the other action can match the beauty of that one sequence, fret not; there's plenty and it's virtually a barrage of nonstop shootouts, fights and crashes. If you're looking for a PM film that delivers, look no further.