6.25.2020

Watching HBO's Watchmen

This Landmark Take on The Superhero Genre Will Be a Benchmark For Things to Come

by robotGEEK

With all the streaming apps that we currently pay for, HBO is not one of them. So when they announced the release of Watchmen as a series, we knew we were just going to have to wait until it hit Blu Ray to finally dig into it. But then the pandemic happened, and a lot of these "pay for" streaming sites began offering free trials to entice us. Hell, it worked with Shudder. We tried their free trial and ended up signing up for a membership. And with Watchmen in particular, as of this writing, they are currently offering it for free on both Amazon Prime and Hulu if you already have subscriptions for either of them. So this past weekend we jumped on it and literally binged the entire 9-Episode season in just a few days, something we never do. On one hand we did it because we wanted to watch it all before they removed the free trial offer, but on the other hand because it was so fucking good that we couldn't stop.



I am a Watchmen fan. I was 10 when the comic was released, and it would be just a few years later when I myself would get deep into comic book collecting and ultimately when I discovered this dark tale. But of course, like most of us, it wasn't until we were adults that we truly appreciated what Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were doing with this comic series. But anyway, we all know that story now. And while I was a general fan of Zack Snyder's 2009 film, I wasn't blown away by it. For a film with such a long runtime, it still felt surprisingly tedious and long, when it should have felt the other way around. I can't really put my finger on it, but ultimately, while it was a nice looking film, it didn't always work. Which brings us to HBO's series.

Upon completion of this series, my first impression is that it is hands-down one of the best written shows I've ever seen, right up there with Hannibal and Breaking Bad. Created for television and written by Lost creator/writer Damon Lindelof, Watchmen takes a different approach than a straight-up adaptation of the well-beloved comic. Instead, Lindelof uses it as a jumping off point, instead shifting the story to a sort of alternate reality, 30 years later. In this new take, we see only a fraction of the original characters and what they've become since, as well as new masked vigilantes and an entirely new version where racism is front and center. Considering this was made before the recent riots and injustices towards people of color coming to light front and center, it's a bit surreal to watch this now because it comes across so much more relevant and important.

One of the shows may strengths is in it's casting. Some of them are pretty spot-on, like Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias, while others like the incredible Regina King as the series lead and all around badass Angela Abar aka Sister Night just surprised the hell out of me in the best possible way. I mean, for all the times I've seen her in a supporting role in dramas, seeing her kicking ass and taking names was such a pleasant surprise. I'm not going to bore you with a complete rundown of every cast member, but some personal notable standouts for me were Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr. and Tim Blake Nelson respectively.

It's a rare thing when every single episode hits you like a ton of bricks. Each hour long journey was met with excitement, shock, surprise and total awe. The number of twists this thing took were brilliant and wild, but none more incredible than the now legendary episode 6 titled "This Extraordinary Being". I mean, goddamn was that a huge emotional punch to the gut and just brilliant. While there was not a single bad episode in the bunch, Episode 6 seems to be the all-around favorite for most people, and with good reason.



What Lindelof and his team of writers and directors have created will go down in history as one of the greatest, most brilliant series ever produced. While it's already become an instant hit, just wait. It will be a series that others will try to repeat, but will probably not come anywhere near trying to achieve its brilliance. It will be a benchmark for how other creators will try to approach popular comic book titles in the future when adapting them to TV. Because lets face it, TV was and is the only way to go with something as vast as the Watchmen mythology. The fact that they tried so hard to condense it into a nearly 3 hour film back in 2009 is still surprising to me. I mean, some of it works, and some of it doesn't. There were some creative and artistic choices (did we really need so much slo-mo???) that really hampered would could have been a great epic film, but that was 11 years ago and there's nothing we can do about that now. Back in the late 80's or early 90's (before the internet), I remember reading in a Comics Magazine that Terry Gilliam was attached to direct Watchmen, but ultimately backed out when he realized that there was really no way to do it justice unless he was able to make it into a Mini-Series or something. Making it into a single film was impossible. Thankfully Damon Lindelof and the folks over at HBO recognized the need for more time to flesh out these characters and story arcs, because it all worked splendidly. And while the series ended nicely all wrapped up in a pretty bow, there's definitely room for expansion. But I for one am glad Lindelof has gone on the record as saying that he has no intention of continuing with the series, and I am thankful for that. It's perfect just the way it is. Let's let it stay perfect.

6.24.2020

The Toy Corner: The Black Hole Walgreens Exclusive Action Figures

Diamond Select Kills It Once Again With Another Disney Piece of Cinema Glold

by robotGEEK

When we recently signed up for Disney+, one of the first things I did was introduce my wife to the glorious 70's gem The Black Hole. Being that the limited edition Blu Ray sells for a lot higher than I'm comfortable spending on the secondhand market right now, this is the next best option. Whats more, it's in HD, which is really the only way to see it.

Of course she went in skeptical, but of course she ended up loving because like I told her before we started, this is not a kids film. A dark, brooding and outstanding visual spectacle that kickstarted a very brief period in Walt Disney's history where they attempted to make darker, more mature films. This was a time when their animated films weren't making the money they used to, and it's hard to imagine today, but Walt Disney was struggling. What resulted were some classics that while were not technical hits upon their releases, are considered genuine cult classics today such as The Black Hole, Tron and Flight of the Navigator.

After this latest revisit, I decided to jump on eBay to see if there were any Black Hole collectibles I could find, and while there are a number of products that were released during the film's run in 1979, most of them highly sought after, what really shocked me was that apparently some new Black Hole figures were released fairly recently, and I had no idea. How did this slip through the cracks for me? I can't tell you, but here's the rundown. They are released through Diamond Select, and are Walgreens exclusives, meaning you won't find them in any other store other than Walgreens. Of course there's online, which would generally mean that they were purchased from Walgreens and are being resold. Whatever the case, they're out there and they're beautiful.

There are two figures, V.I.N.Cent and Maximilian. They come in a nice sturdy box with a big display window and run $19.99 each if you can find them in a store. I searched every Walgreens in my area and did not find a single one. Though they still had plenty of Tron figures. But ultimately I had to resort to eBay for the best deal and factoring in shipping, I pretty much paid what I would have paid had I found them in the store myself for a set. And they're worth every penny, because both the figure and the packaging is just beautiful.

Flippers have made this Diamond Select release a really hard one to find in person, so your best bet is to just probably go through them to get your hands on them, which is ironically sad, but worth the effort.

New Movie Spotlight: I See You (2019)


by robotGEEK

Now here's an under the radar gem if there ever was one. I See You is a film I came upon solely through word of mouth. And whats interesting is that while it was a film casually mentioned to me a few times by different people, it wasn't a film that was "strongly" recommended, which honestly shocks me because ultimately, it was one of the best, most well written thrillers we've seen in a long time.

I See You is such a paradox, and a fucking brilliant one at that. On the surface it looks like any number of low-budget Direct-to-Video (DTV) thrillers you see on any streaming platform. And I'm going to be honest, that poster art doesn't help. In fact, that poster art makes it look more like an episode of some by-the-numbers cop drama on TV. But let me tell you, you're in for a real treat, because not only is it not anything like that, but the ride you'll take will lead you in directions you never saw coming.

I'm a bit torn to really tell you any more than that for fear of giving too much away. We went in fairly cold, having not even bothered looking at a trailer. So do yourself a favor and DO NOT watch the trailer. What I will tell you is that the tone, and hell even it's genre, shifts several times, which kind of blew my mind. The casting across the board is really solid, with Helen Hunt really turning in a killer performance. The cinematography is really impressive, with director Adam Randall delivering some truly stunning visuals, especially for a film this small. And the script, by first-time writer Devon Graye will blow you away. For a guy who hasn't written a film before, you'd be hard pressed to find one this tight, taut and filled with ingenious plot twists. One interesting thing to note is that he's also an actor with a wide range of roles in both film and television, but who I will always remember as being the teenage version of Dexter Morgan on Dexter. If this film is any indication, Graye has a great career ahead of him as a screenwriter and I for one can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

I think one of the best thing this little gem has going for it are the constant surprises. With so many "Whaaaaaaat???" moments, I was never able to figure any of them out beforehand. I just remember both of us kept looking at each other quite often and blurting out "whaaaaat?", or "nooooo way, are you kidding me?!".

I See You is currently streaming on Amazon Prime right now. Do yourself a favor and check this out ASAP

6.18.2020

90's Action Attack!: White Tiger (1996)


Gary Daniels Kicks Ass In This Highly Impressive Gem

by robotGEEK

Released in 1996, this Gary Daniels actioner is quite frankly one of the best low-budget action films I've seen in a while. Now I know I've said it before, but again, when I watch a ridiculous amount of low-budget action films and most of them are not worth mentioning, it's so refreshing to come across a true little gem.

Daniels plays DEA agent Mike Ryan who's partner is killed during a drug raid. When it's made clear that the killer, an up and coming drug dealer named Chow (the always amazing Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is responsible and has the force in his pocket, Ryan goes all out for revenge. 

Let's start with the obvious. This has really strong Showdown in Little Tokyo vibes, and honestly, that's a blessing because come on, who doesn't love SiLT?? And right off the bat, you're going to notice a much higher quality of action film here than you're used to with Gary Daniels. Not only does it sport an impressive cast of familiar faces, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the best looking DTV action films I've ever seen. I mean, how often do you really get to say that? Believe me, it's rare. Director Richard Martin gives this film such a professional sheen, had it had some tighter editing and a better score, it very well could have been a theatrical release.



Legendary bad guy Carey-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat, Showdown in Little Tokyo) is just having a blast here. Nowhere near as restrained or refined as some of the other villains he's portrayed, instead playing him a little funny, loose and over the top, yet highly entertaining. Some of his one-liners and quips are fucking hilarious. Gary Daniels is great, showing off both his acting chops, emotional range and his martial arts.



White Tiger hits all the right beats, throwing enough action, fights and visual eye candy our way to make us forget the plethora of lame and uninspired trite that we often find ourselves watching in our search for these underrated gems. If there was ever a DTV action flick deserving of the title "underrated gem", it's this one.

White Tiger is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and TubiTV for FREE. 

6.11.2020

Bad Movie Night: Menahem Golan's Armstrong (1998)

Menahem Golan Delivers a Shockingly Inept Bad Movie Night Masterpiece

by robotGEEK

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Or have they? I suppose there's a valid argument as to whether Menahem Golan was ever a good filmmaker to begin with. I mean, we all love the classics he produced under his Cannon Films banner in the 80's, but as a director, his 2 crowning achievements are indelibly The Delta Force and Over the Top. And it can also be argued that he's not entirely responsible for the successes of those films. I mean, you could also attribute the cinematographers and editors to how good those films turned out. And don't get me wrong, I love the guy! Hell, I have a Cannon logo tattooed on my forearm! That company and those films were such an integral part of my upbringing.

Written and directed by Cannon legend Menaham Golan under the Nu Image banner, Armstrong is a disaster of epic proportions that needs to be seen to be believed. How this film has never been mentioned to me before is a travesty, because it's quite literally one of the BEST Bad Movies I've seen in a very long while. I watch a lot of low-budget action movies, and to be honest, most of them are not worth mentioning. So when I come across a true hidden gem like this, well I personally feel it my duty to let the world in on this little secret.

Armstrong is insanely enjoyable because it's so laughably bad in literally every single aspect. It's completely absurd every single minute, and just when you think it can't surprise you or make you laugh out loud anymore, it takes it a step further.

This is a prime example of the "one-take" wonder, where no matter that the shot is good or usable or not, whatever that first take got is going into the final product. You'll see extras staring right at the camera, supposedly dead people flinching at the sound of a gun, hilarious dialogue, obviously glued on red stars half falling off to represent Russian tanks, punches being thrown, but the person on the receiving end not even reacting, and the list goes on and on. You'd never know based on this that Golan had ever directed a film prior to this because this is incredibly cheap, fast and amateurish. But holy hell is it a blast!!

It's hilarious for all the wrong reasons and shockingly inept. The acting, even by veterans such as Charles Napier and Richard Lynch is surprisingly awful. And let me tell you, there is this hella strange 20 minute long chase sequence involving a gorgeous half-naked woman that will blow your mind. This is pure gold I tell you and if you enjoy terrible, yet fun films, this one is right up your alley.

You can currently stream Armstrong on Amazon Prime and TubiTV right now. 

5.27.2020

90's Thriller Throwback: Strange Days (1995)

James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow's 90's Techno-Thriller Gem Is Due For An Upgrade

by robotGEEK

As much as I love 80's and 90's sci-fi thrillers, I kind of forgot about this gem. And that probably has to do with the fact that as of this writing, it has yet to make the leap to Blu Ray here in the U.S., which is a shame because after finally getting the chance to revisit it, HD is really the only way to go.

In the year 1999, virtual experiences are the new drug. Using stimulators worn on top of your head, you can experience anything you can dream of, an experience so real it's addicting, naturally making them illegal. When a former cop (Ralph Fiennes) turned dealer of virtual experiences gets caught up in the middle of corruption and conspiracy within the LA police department, he must use his street smarts and the help of a loyal friend (Angela Bassett) to clear his name and save the life of his former flame.



Written and produced by James Cameron and directed by the great Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, Blue Steel, Point Break) during what I would consider her prime years of really great output, Strange Days is pure 90's techno/thriller bliss. It has so much greatness going for it, that I'm not even sure where to begin. Let's start with the look of the film. This is when Bigelow was really shining as a visual artist. While she's since become more of an Oscar-worthy filmmaker, I can't say that I've really connected with any of her work outside of the 80's and 90's. For me personally, it's both the subject matter she chooses and it's in how she shoots them now, where she's adopted the handheld freestyle approach. But here, she does a magnificent job giving the film a slick aesthetic that makes full use of the gorgeous widescreen cinematography.

James Cameron co-wrote this with Jay Cocks (Gangs of New York), and I must say, they did a really great job in keeping you fully invested in a film that runs two and a half hours long. The film kickstarts with one of these virtual experiences and you're immediately thrown into this futuristic world via 1999. While a little jarring at first, it's an efficient way to get thrown into this new world full of new technology, but also overflowing with crime and poverty. Through a series of seemingly unconnected events, the film then sets up the crux of the story that's to follow, and you're thrown into a world of corruption, backstabbing, double crosses, addiction, technology and murder. What I loved most about this was that you never really knew where it was heading. It sort of plays it safe in the beginning, coming across as a bit tamer than you expect, only to be punched in the gut as the film progresses. Every time I thought I knew where it was heading, I was wrong. And every time I thought the film was nearing it's end, I was wrong. By the time it was over, I was exhausted, but in the best possible way. There are some really great performances, mainly from Angela Bassett as a total badass, and Fiennes is remarkable in the kind a role that you never would have expected from him, yet he pulls it off flawlessly. The supporting cast is also impressive, with a who's who of really great actors that you're sure to get a kick out of.



As mentioned earlier, this has never gotten an HD update yet, which is both strange and yet not entirely surprising considering Cameron's inability to make time to even get 2 of his most beloved classics released on Blu Ray. Last I read was that the new transfers and restorations for both The Abyss and True Lies had been complete, but he was quoted as saying he simply did not have the time to dedicate to checking out these new prints for release. It's been years now of constant teasing, but still nothing concrete yet. And the same goes for Strange Days. Still no HD release in any form as far as I can tell. I couldn't even rent it on Amazon. Luckily there is a Region B Blu Ray release from the UK that you can get for under $20 (that includes shipping). If you have a region free player, then you're all set. I should warn you that it was a little tricky getting it to play for some reason, even with my region free player. Not sure if it has to do with the Blu Ray itself or my LG brand player, but it took me several times with no luck. I finally had to play a different Region B Blu Ray for a little while, then switched it out to Strange Days and it finally got to play. But that's never happened to me before with this particular player. Just a heads up in case you encounter the same issue.

5.07.2020

90's Action Attack!: Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998)

by robotGEEK

Jackie Chan is Kicking Ass and Taking Names in This True Underrated Gem

I tell you, this Pandemic has really brought a lot of my insecurities to the surface. I see my view count drop significantly on here, and in moments of weakness, I wonder if I should even bother continuing on here or not. I guess we all go through moments like that, but for me it seems to feel like this more and more and I honestly just want to give up on this. And who knows? Maybe I will. But for now, I'll keep trucking on in the hopes that someone out there is still actually reading these and maybe even turn you onto a hidden gem. 

Though I've always been a big fan of Jackie Chan for nearly my entire life, this is a film I wasn't really even aware of until recently. And I think I only came across it when digging through his IMDB page recently too, not because someone actually suggested it. It's funny how films can slip through the cracks for some people. So it was literally a blind buy. The concept sounded interesting, and it's a film that he directed himself, something he rarely does anymore. But I sadly discovered that here in the U.S., there wasn't a widescreen release of this for some reason. Australia's Umbrella Academy did release this on DVD and Blu-Ray in widescreen fairly recently, so I'm very happy that I have a region-free player.



Who Am I? is fucking awesome, plain and simple. I always go in a little apprehensive to his films because believe it or not, I've never really been a big fan of his action/comedies. I prefer his straight-up serious action films like Police Story, Crime Story and The Protector. And the fact that I hadn't heard of this one yet also concerned me. But I'm here to tell you that I was treated to a pleasant surprise. This is quite the hidden gem people, and I hope with the release of this on Blu Ray via Umbrella Academy, that more people will soon discover it. While there are a few funny bits, I would not call it an action/comedy, because there were so few moments that they attempted that. But thankfully, those moments were actually legitimately funny. But it's pretty much a straightforward serious approach for the most part. There's no fighting for the first 45 minutes (which didn't bother me at all because your really sucked into his story of survival), but let me tell you, when the action hits, it hits hard, brutal and fantastic. It's classic Jackie Chan all the way and it blows my mind this isn't considered one of his best films, because in my humble opinion, it is.

In some respects, it reminded me a lot of Rumble in the Bronx, in that it's a co-production (this time with South Africa I believe?), and so there's some really bad acting and dubbing mixed with some solid acting and moments where there is no dubbing at all. But we're not here for the acting, we're here for the action, and in that respect, Who Am I? is brutal and it quickly became one of my favorite Jackie Chan films.



What I found interesting is that this was made the same year he also made the first Rush Hour. To think that the same year he wowed American audiences with a new hit action/comedy franchise, while also making his own film outside of the U.S. is surprising to me. When did he sleep? I don't know, but I'm glad he didn't because this movie fucking rules. I was also surprised to learn that after this, Chan didn't direct another film (outside of a few documentaries) for another 12 years. Interesting.

I hope this convinces some of you to seek this one out. If you're looking for an old-school martial arts action film, you can't go wrong with this one. A true hidden gem among Chan's work, Who Am I? delivers the goods tenfold. Now that I look back on it, it's really the last film Chan starred in and directed himself that really represented the type of film he became so famous for back in the 80's and especially into the 90's, before special effects.

Speaking of Umbrella Academy, I will say that most of their Blu Ray's actually are Region-Free, even if they do have a region code on the back of the packaging. But I've learned that "some" Sony Blu Ray players won't play them, but other brands will. I learned this firsthand because my previous Blu Ray player was a Sony, yet it wouldn't play certain Region-Free discs. I've since upgraded to an LG Region-Free player so I'll never have that issue again and I love it.

5.03.2020

Decade of Disaster: The Towering Inferno (1974)

by robotGEEK

It's funny how things will suddenly send you down a rabbit hole. It suddenly struck me that I don't think I'd ever seen a Steve McQueen film before, so when I watched The Hunter (you can find my review a few posts back) for the first time a few weeks back, it got me digging through his filmography to see what other films he had done. Of course we all know the big popular titles like The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven, but the one that stood out to me was The Towering Inferno. I love 70's Cinema. Mix that with a disaster flick with an all-star cast and I was pretty sure I was in for a good time. So it was a no-brainer for me. Towering Inferno it is.

Every time I watch an epic 70's film, I'm almost always impressed. It was such a special time in cinema for a number of reasons, but to me, it's an era of filmmaking that I absolutely adore. I loved the scope of everything. I admire the intense practical effects work that went into films like this, the gorgeous widescreen cinematography, and the lovely yellow/brown/orange color scheme prevalent in nearly all of their set designs. Blah, blah, blah. Sorry. I'm getting off track.



Released in the middle of the Disaster craze of the 70's, The Towering Inferno is a film that was much better than I anticipate going in. While I was certainly expecting a good time, I wasn't expecting for this to be as good as it was on both an entertainment level, and on a technical one. Man, if you walk away from this film with anything, it's the appreciation that went into all the work that went into practical effects and sets. It's really kind of mindblowing, because we've been somewhat desentasized these days that pretty much anything can be achieved through the magic of CGI, whether it looks good or not. If you can dream it up, it can be realized on the big or small screen. But you can still always tell that it's CGI, no matter how hard they work and try to make it look real. It just never does. So when you see something like this, it just kind of blows your mind and at least for people like myself, makes me miss those days of practical sets, pyrotechnics and stuntwork.

I learned that this comes to us courtesy of 2 directors, mega-producer Irwin Allen, who directed the stunts and action sequences, and John Guillermin, who directed the non-action sequences. Guillermin is the genius responsible for the live action King Kong from 1976, my personal favorite Kong film to date, and another wonderful old school epic that utilizes amazing old school effects work with an impressive star-studded cast of somewhat then-unknown actors like Jeff Bridges, Charles Grodin, Jessica Lang and a whole lot of familiar faces.

As I mentioned earlier, we are huge fans of 70's cinema and design. Any chance we get to check out a film from this decade, we are always down, and one of the things we love most about these films from that era is the set design, and The Towering Inferno is no exception. The color schemes (full of orange, yellow and brown), and the slick mod design to everything gives it all such an extra punch of awesome.



It's no surprise to learn that this set was not without it's conflicts. I mean, this cast is highly impressive, and there were sure to be some diva-like behavior abound.....and a whole lot of complaining from nearly everyone involved. A quick IMDB search will give you all the details, but it's a juicy read for sure, if not surprising. I will add though that everyone was on top of their game. McQueen was pitch perfect as the no-nonsense heroic fire captain, and Newman was surprisingly restrained, but effectively in charge. I never noticed before, but he reminded me a whole lot of Rutger Hauer here. The way he talks, acts, mannerisms and even the way he looks!

At nearly 3 hours long, The Towering Inferno never feels like it. It moves along briskly, with barely a moment to spare. It's a brilliant class act - towering achievement in old school epic filmmaking with an all-star cast, incredible effects and a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

There are multiple platforms where you can either rent or buy it digitally, but you can purchase the blu ray pretty cheap too. I picked mine up for roughly around $10 used, and it's a great addition to my collection, because it's one I know I will revisit often.

4.23.2020

The Cult Corner: Robot Jox (1989)

by robotGEEK

With the release of this cult classic on Blu Ray 5 years ago via Shout! Factory, this somewhat forgotten gem got a boost of well-deserved popularity, and has been riding a decent wave of success ever since. Personally, I haven't seen it in ages. Maybe more than 20 years to be exact. I do remember going to my local theater to see it, and I was so excited. Being about 13 years old, I was the prime age for this, and from what I can remember, I loved it. I'm sure I got my hands on it on VHS too, but you know how it goes, life goes on and you forget about a lot of things. With legendary director Stuart Gordon's sudden passing recently, I felt the urge to revisit some of his early films, and this one was right up at the top of the list.

Stuart Gordon said it best: "It's a kids film that adults can enjoy", and that couldn't be more true. Revisiting it the other day, I enjoyed every single second of it, but watching it as an adult, I was a bit struck by how kid-friendly it was, something I don't remember when I was younger. Aside from a woman's butt shot, and the lead character screaming "I'm going to get in this thing, and I'm going to kick your ass!!!", it's all pretty PG-Rated. And you know what? That's fine. It doesn't take away from the fact that it's still entertaining as hell.



Essentially, Robot Jox is Pacific Rim, where humans operate giant mechanized robots from inside. But instead of fighting giant monsters like in Pacific Rim, they fight themselves for sport. And while today it's pretty clear where Pacific Rim got it's inspiration from, back when it was first released, to kids like myself, it was more like a live action Transformers movie. And you know what? I have to admit, 30 years later, the effects work is so damn impressive. For a kid, this was legit awesome, but as an adult, I can admire how incredible the effects work is because it's all practical. Minus a small CGI moment in space, all of the robot effects, including the fighting, is all done using models, big sets and a whole lot of creative ingenuity. When you consider that all films today, both big and small, will implore CGI 99% of the time, seeing a film done this way is so special. While there are moments that it's undoubtedly clear that models are being used, there are also plenty of moments that will blow your mind in how they made it all happen. Forced perspective, green screen, stop-motion and composite shots make this such a surprisingly effective and tangible experience that it will make you miss the way films used to be made.

The cast is full of great familiar faces (I won't bother naming them all, but you've surely seen them all in plenty of films both big and small), but I have to give it to production designer Giovanni Natalucci (Once Upon a Time in America) for giving the film a sleek, retro aesthetic that only adds to the films enormous visual impact. If anything, Robot Jox is a feast for the eyes combining Natalucci's impressive set design with the Robotech-style design of the robots.



At the time it was the film's production companies (Empire Films) biggest film, who would ultimately go bankrupt during production. Was it because of this film's budget and box office failure? I'm not entirely sure, but the sad reality is that it did not do well. And I have to admit, thinking back, I was a bit surprised this actually made it into theaters, where Gordon's previous films, at least where I lived, hadn't before. And it's such a shame it didn't do well, because it's quite a fun experience. I can only guess that it might have been targeted to adults, when it's really made for kids. Or vice versa. I don't know to be honest. Either way, neither went to go see it upon it's original release, yet it's sustained a healthy cult status ever since because while plenty of others have tried to duplicate, or capitalize on the film's popularity (Charles Bands Crash and Burn the following year comes to mind), none could do what Robot Jox was able to do on a creative and talent level. For that, it remains one of the best examples of low-budget science fiction filmmaking at it's finest, utilizing a long lost art form in practical effects magic and it's quite frankly, stunning to see in HD today.

Shout! Factory released this on Blu Ray back in 2020, but that release has since skyrocketed to insane dollar signs recently. I can't tell you if it's because of Stuart Gordon's passing, or if the release is Out Of Print, or if both factors are the reason, but there was no way I was going to spent almost $100 on a film I hadn't seen since I was a kid. So instead, I snagged the German Release Blu Ray, which also happens to be Region-Free, for under $20. The film packaging will say that it's Region B, but trust me, it's Region-Free. There are no extras, but goddamn is it a crisp looking image. The transfer is beautiful!

I picked mine up on Amazon here in the U.S., but I've also seen it pop up on eBay. I would also suggest browsing eBay or Amazon over in Germany as well, as a lot of them will ship to the United States.

Robot Jox is cheesy good fun, and you'll definitely want this to be in your HD collection.

4.17.2020

90's Action Attack!: Strategic Command (Quick Shot Review)


by robotGEEK

You would think that with all this time on my hands, that I'd have more time to be able to do these reviews, but for some reason it's been the opposite. I'm probably watching more movies than I have in ages, but because of my other hobbies, I'm finding it hard to sit down and write about them. Anyway, maybe the best way is to just make them short and quick. So here we go.

I came across this on Amazon Prime and right off the bat I'll tell you that it's good. It's damn good, just not as great as it could be and probably not the kind of film you're expecting. For starters, it's more a thriller than an action film; sort of a combination of Air Force One and Executive Decision, with maybe a dash of Passenger 57 thrown in for good measure.

It's an exceptionally well made film, and the cast is full of familiar faces, most notably a young Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) as a snotty television reporter who's also stuck on the plane with the hijackers. If anything, the constant who's who of character actors was a fun and pleasant surprise. I would have to say that really the only thing lacking, or where the film slightly falters is in the action department. There's not a whole lot of it, and the little fight scenes and action scenes there are, are less than thrilling and feel a bit rushed and uninspired compared to how well the rest of the film is put together. And this could all be because they were probably handled by a second unit director, someone with a different style of shooting than the actual director. If that's the case, it would explain a lot.

Richard Norton was a blast as the main villain/terrorist/hijacker. While it was a bit surprising to see him play the character straight, without any martial arts skills, it proves that hes one hell of an actor, and not just a skilled martial artist. Dudikoff, to his credit, does a fine job and carries the film effortlessly on his shoulders, and the rest of the cast is impressive. I just feel it needed a little more action, and it would have been nice if the little action we did get was handled a little more smoothly. But as it is, Strategic Command AKA Executive Command, offers a nice slice of 90's "Die Hard on a plane" thrills on a budget. I personally enjoyed it.

You can currently watch this on Amazon Prime and TubiTV. 

4.08.2020

Documentary Spotlight: Never Surrender - A Galaxy Quest Documentary


The Sci-Fi Classic Finally Gets It's Due

by robotGEEK

I'm well aware that Galaxy Quest has gained an enormous cult following since it's initial release in 1999, though oddly enough, I wasn't one of those fans. While it did well enough, it wasn't the big hit the studios and filmmakers were expecting. But a funny thing happened. As the years went on, people began to discover just how great it actually is, and before long, it took on a life of it's own among the sci-fi community. A big part of the problem was that it was marketed as a comedy, when the reality is that while there are some funny moments, Galaxy Quest ultimately plays out like one of the best Star Trek films that isn't actually a Star Trek film.


What's interesting is that I can only recall maybe having seen it once. And I don't even remember much about it really, other than some basic stuff. But watching this doc I was struck by how much I had forgotten, and most importantly, who was actually in the film. I couldn't believe it! And while some were relative unknowns then, but have become household names today, it's the brilliant casting of the leads that surprises me. When you hear of the names the studio initially wanted to cast, you'll be floored because while brilliant, it just would have been a completely different film than the one we got. And Tim Allen for his part is the rock and glue that holds it all together so incredibly well. But it's shocking to discover that he wasn't even their first choice!

Never Surrender is a brilliant, funny, touching and poignant documentary that focuses on Galaxy Quest, it's inception, production, it's release and ultimately it's huge cult status that took years to acquire. Here we get to talk to literally everyone involved, from the actors, to the writer, director, producer, high profile fans, cosplayers and so much more. Never Surrender is a love letter to that classic film that not only answers any question you may have on it's production, but also why people seem to love it so much. It's an endearing hour and a half that will make you feel all kinds of feels and trust me, you'll want to revisit Galaxy Quest immediately afterwards.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary is currently streaming on Amazon Prime as of this writing

80's Thriller Throwback: The Hunter (1980)



by robotGEEK

I'm going to be right up front with you and say that I have never seen a Steve McQueen film. At least, none that I can recall. Weird right? I can't explain it either, but it is what it is. I do realize thought that I need to rectify that, especially now with all this time we have on our hands.

McQueen plays Papa, a bounty hunter circa 1980 who tracks down bail jumpers, while also trying to maintain a relationship with his gorgeous, younger girlfriend who just so happens to be ready to give birth to their first child. In the middle of all this, a psycho from his past has resurfaced and is hell bent on killing him. 

I found this to be enjoyable, but a far cry from what I was expecting, or to put it more bluntly, what it could have been. There are moments of greatness that are completely overshadowed by it's ho-hum approach, meandering endlessly from one insignificant subplot to another that never results in anything satisfying. It's as if this was intended to be a television series and they just decided to cut up a bunch of the episodes and turn it into a film. In the end, it should have been a television series or Made-for-TV movie because that's exactly what it feels like. There's never anything that justifies this being a theatrical release. Aside from it's ending, and a car chase involving a tractor, everything, including it's tone, is so mediocre here. There are so many plots going on at the same time, yet none of them connect. You're basically following him on his job tracking bail jumpers, and it almost feels like an entire episode could have been dedicated to all of these jobs/hunts he's on. Then there's the endless sequences involving his relationship with his live-in girlfriend who's just about ready to give birth and their endless list of issues involving commitment. There is so much happening that the storyline involving a killer who's after him, which should have been the main focus, is an nothing but an afterthought, barely registering as a plot device. If you were to combine all the minutes that are dedicated to this storyline, it would probably add up to about 15 minutes total, which is a shame because the killer, played by Tracey Walter (Batman 1989), is highly effective and he appears so infrequently that you forget about him until he randomly reappears an hour later.

It's a shame that this was McQueen's final film. I mean, it's entertaining in a television kind of way, but for a film that actually had a theatrical release, and for a film that ultimately would be his last due to his sudden death, The Hunter feels like such a wasted effort, not knowing what to do with itself or where to go. McQueen is great, all of the actors are great, but it lacks any kind of focus and punch.

The Hunter is currently streaming on Crackle for FREE as of this writing. 

4.05.2020

80's Thriller Throwback: The Banker (1989)


A Sleazy, Neon And Smoke Filled Detective Thriller That's As Odd As It Is Entertaining

by robotGEEK

If you're relatively close to my age, you remember this VHS cover while browsing your local video store way back in the day. I know I did, but I can tell you that that cover never pulled me in or did anything for me. So I never watched it. But thanks to Amazon Prime, I was finally able to check it out.

The first thing I will mention is that this was nothing like what I was expecting......at all. Which was honestly a pleasant surprise. It's weird as shit, yet that's part of what makes this so memorable, and in some circles, great. Also, the real star here is the legendary Robert Forster, who plays a burnt out, but brilliant cop. I mean, his name should be front and center in big bold letters at the top of any advertisement for this because it's ultimately his film all the way. The fact that I wasn't even aware that he was in this is a crime. He's fucking amazing in this as always and it's yet another example of why he was one of the best and so good at what he does.

I suppose I would call this an erotic/detective/thriller with a dose of "The Most Dangerous Game" thrown in, because why not. As the film starts you feel it's going to be another run-of-the-mill 80's/90's low-budget thriller, because that's what it feels like. But you soon discover it's something else, and probably better than you expected. For me personally, I found it to be made exceptionally and surprisingly well. I mean, this could easily look like a Made-for-TV movie, but it has style to burn throughout and director William Webb does a fine job making it all look good. I should also mention that it helps that it's drenched in 80's neon and smoke, making it kind of feel like a music video from time to time, which is awesome.

As far as the casting goes, it's Forster's show all the way, and he owns this film. But there are plenty of familiar faces to be found, like the guy who played Dracula in The Monster Squad (Duncan Regehr) as the bad guy here - a rich banker who kills prostitutes for fun, and Richard Roundtree (Shaft), as the police captain. Jeff Conaway appears as a pimp, and even Leif Garrett appears briefly. But there are plenty of other faces you'll surely recognize too.

Overall I found this quite enjoyable. Maybe it was because my expectations were low going in (I have never met a single person who's even seen this before), but it held my attention throughout, and as the film progressed, it just got weirder and weirder, which was a blessing for sure, as this could easily have been a paint-by-numbers, and easily forgotten thriller. It's a sleazy, neon drenched, amusing, gritty, violent, and at times wacky thriller that I would consider a pleasant surprise if you're in the right mood. Kudos to writer Dana Augustine for taking the unconventional route, and to director William Webb for giving the film plenty of style. While it may not currently have a strong cult status, I feel it's day is coming and it's just a matter of time. More people should be certainly be aware of this little gem, so let's all do our part to help spread the word.

It's currently streaming on Amazon Prime (as of this writing) n the U.S., in a nice 4K restoration and most importantly, in widescreen. I'm not sure if this ever got a legitimate DVD or widescreen release for that matter here in the states, but word is that there is a new Blu Ray release on the horizon with an all new color-corrected transfer courtesy of Dark Force. I for one, will be on the lookout for that release. In the meantime, enjoy Amazon's surprisingly slick transfer while it's available.

4.01.2020

90's Action Attack!: Firepower (1993)

by robotGEEK

Low-budget action is one of my absolute favorite genre's, and while there is no shortage of these types of films at my disposal, I've experienced a sort of lull these past few weeks. I maybe sat down to watch a good handful of them, and none of them did anything for me. I was shocked! Usually there's a gem in there somewhere, but not this time. That is until I stumbled upon this one. And really, I should have known better. I should have known to just seek out a film from the almighty PM Entertainment from the get-go, because they rarely ever disappoint. 

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, gangs have taken over sections of the city where the police are not allowed. 2 cops (Gary Daniels and Chad McQueen) go undercover and infiltrate one of these zones to find a criminal known as The Swordsman (The Ultimate Warrior), and to also look for a drug the gangs claim is a cure for AIDS, which they control and sell. By infiltrating this drug and criminal enterprise, they must enter the death matches. 

Part action film, and part tournament-to-the-death film, Firepower checked off all the boxes on my list and I loved every second of it. There's action, shootouts, huge explosions (that always seem to come out of nowhere), fights to the death, and most surprisingly of all, the legendary The Ultimate Warrior!!!

This was one of 2 films directed by PM Entertainment producer, director and co-owner Richard Pepin in 1993, and would mark his directorial debut for the company. Along with his partner Joseph Merhi (himself a director for the company), PM Entertainment would ultimately become the equivalent to what Cannon Films did in the 80's, only these guys were doing it in the 90's, but much better. They released a slew of action films and that were filled to the brim with insane stunts, copious amounts of explosions and enough action to keep us die-hard fans satisfied all throughout the 90's. While not every single film on their catalog was a gem, most of them were and they were consistent with their look and feel, no matter who directed them. But you could always tell when either Pepin or Merhi took the directors chair because they were actually really good at it and their particular films are considered the best of the bunch. 

Pepin's other film that year was Fist of Honor. I'm not sure which came first, but let's say for arguments sake it was this one. If that's the case, it's an impressive debut for sure. You'd never know it was his first time behind the camera. Not only does he handle the action well, the fight scenes in the death ring are also impressive, but for a first-timer, even more so. Gary Daniels and Chad McQueen do fine in their roles, but Jim Hellwig AKA The Ultimate Warrior was a real surprise. While not a wrestling fan personally, there was something about this guy that just screamed wrestler. My buddy The Cinema Drunkie was kind enough to inform me that The Swordsman was in fact The Ultimate Warrior. I men, he's just a massive presence in here. Even though he doesn't utter a single word of dialogue that I can recall, and he certainly can't actually wield a sword very well at all, he's a dominating and imposing figure and really the standout of the film. From what I gather, this was his only film role outside of wrestling. 



Firepower isn't mind-blowing or anything, but it's a helluva fun action flick from the PM Entertainment era that most certainly satisfied my thirst for a fun and surprisingly well-made action film after a few weeks of duds. 

You can currently watch Firepower on Amazon Prime and TubiTV last time I checked. 

3.29.2020

Documentary Spotlight: Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street


The Claws Are Out

by robotGEEK

We all know the story by now. While technically a hit, Freddy's Revenge ultimately became the film in the franchise that fans considered their least favorite, which honestly surprises the shit out of me because I can't and have never sat all the way through Part 5: The Dream Child. It's just so awful. But I've always enjoyed Part 2: Freddy's Revenge, even when none of my friends did. I've always felt it was made surprisingly well, considering it was coming off the heels of one of the biggest horror films in history. But I was usually alone in those feelings. And I was made all the more aware of those feelings when I showed it to my wife and she just did not care for it at all.

But we all know what ultimately happened. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge would gain notoriety as the "gayest horror film ever made", something I was completely unaware of until recently. Whether intentional or not (depending on who you ask), it was loaded with subtle and not so subtle gay subtext and has since become something of an "experience" in the LGBT community, who feverishly embraced it in the same way so many have embraced The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Mark Patton played the lead in Freddy's Revenge, and while it was supposed to be his big Hollywood break, it instead derailed it completely and because of the fallout, he vanished from the film business, and well from society as a whole. In fact, when they made the excellent documentary on the Elm Street franchise, Never Sleep Again, the filmmakers found it almost impossible to find him, having to resort to a private investigator who found him in the most unlikeliest of places on the planet, completely unaware of the cult status that his ill-timed and ill-fated breakout role had gained since that release all those years ago in 1985.



With the release of that documentary, there was new and massive interest in just what the hell the filmmakers were really thinking when they made that film. Was the gay stuff on purpose? Was it even really there, or was it just something people wanted to see? Again, that all depends on who you ask, as every single person from the actors to the filmmakers behind the camera will give you a different answer. Mark Patton suddenly found himself famous all over again, but this time he was going to take advantage of it and use his newfound celebrity to bring a spotlight to something that has haunted him for decades, and changed the course of his life forever.

Filmmakers Roman Chimienti and Tyler Jensen have created a completely engrossing and thought-provoking documentary around Mark Patton, his life as an up and coming actor, his big breakout role that was supposed to launch his career in Hollywood, to his life as a closeted gay man in an industry that was not very accepting of that at the time, to his walking away from Hollywood and the spotlight forever. That is until Never Sleep Again revived it, only to a much different degree.

While Scream, Queen! does primarily focus on Patton's experience making that cult classic film, it also puts a lot of focus on the industry as a whole in the mid 80's, where AIDS and HIV was at it's peak and fast becoming an epidemic. If you were gay and an actor, you couldn't simply live as a gay man. You had to pretend and fool the public into thinking you were straight, or else you weren't getting cast in anything. Not to mention the naive and downright ugly side of peoples prejudices towards the subject back then. I mean, it was bad, and studios, actors and companies would impose ludicrous rules that will leave your jaw dropped to the floor when you hear about them in this documentary. To think that that was a world we lived in once upon a time seems shocking to me today, but for so many people in the industry, it was such a sad and tragic reality.



What I loved so much about this was that they tackle all of that prejudice and hate and make us all face it in such a way that it's almost a sympathetic hour and a half crash course on the film industry, and how far we've come since then. Of course, that's not all it's about, just one of many layers Scream, Queen! presents to us. Another one is Mark Patton's ability to take something that caused him so much pain, and use it as a teaching tool to others, where he tours the world using his newfound celebrity status teaching people about HIV and AIDS in an entertaining and fundamental way who's goal is to help people rather than be preachy about it.

Throughout the documentary, there is a villain, and it's not Freddy Krueger, but rather the writer of Freddy's Revenge, David Chaskin (The Curse, I, Madman). Chaskin has never been 100% truthful about his role, however big or small, that the gay subtext played in the film was intentional or accidental. In some interviews he says it was intentional, and in others he claims it wasn't. There was even an ill attempt at a humorous quote that only made it so much worse when taken out of context. Patton has always blamed Chaskin, more than anyone else, for his downfall, for his exile from Hollywood, and he uses the documentary as an opportunity to get the truth, to hear the words from David Chaskin himself.

To say this is an important documentary is an understatement, not only for horror fans, or fans of Freddy's Revenge, but also for the LGBT community, who wholeheartedly embraced the film and all of it's gayness to such a degree that it's more popular now than it ever was. It's also an important and quite eye-opening documentary about prejudices against the LGBT community, not only within the film industry, but in everyday life. It's an eye-opening film experience and one I won't soon forget.

Ultimately Mark Patton has gained newfound success as a motivational speaker and activist and travels the horror convention circuit regularly meeting and greeting eager fans who get to embrace in person, for some, their first gay role model.

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street is currently available to rent on Amazon, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu. You can also purchase it on DVD from any number of your favorite online retailers.

3.14.2020

80's Action Attack!: Instant Justice (1986)


by robotGEEK

This is a film I've been trying to get my hands on for what seems like ages....just because I'm such a fan of old school under the radar action films of the 80's and 90's. Released in 1986, Instant Justice AKA Marine Issue is a film that stars Michael Pare and Tawny Kitaen about a marine (Pare), who's sister goes missing in Madrid, Spain. After receiving a harrowing phone call from her, he sets out for Madrid in trying to locate her, only to discover he's too late and she's been murdered. With the help of a prostitute (Kitaen), he sets out in trying to find her killers.

Man, this was such a letdown. The best way I can describe this was that it's an incompetent action film. Now don't get me wrong. I love that shit. I thrive on it. Some of my favorite movies ever are incompetent action films. You know the ones, the So Bad, They're Good? A few that come to mind were actually all released the following year; Steele Justice, Mankillers and Deadly Prey, and they're glorious. But sadly, this does not fall into that category. It's an action film that doesn't seem to know how to actually make an action film properly, because everything just feels off in the area's that matter the most in this genre; choreography in the fights and action sequences, editing and even down to the acting. Trust me, it feels weird commenting on the acting of all things in an action film, but jesus it's awful. Even Pare seems to be phoning it in. And he'd already appeared in several high profile films before this; Streets of Fire, The Philadelphia Experiment and Eddie and the Cruisers. Sure he's never been the most versatile actor, but even I couldn't help but notice his lack of......character here.



Of course after having finally seen this and had some time to process and digest it, the fault clearly lies on French director Denis Amar. Here's a guy who'd never directed an action film before, or since from what I can gather, and it shows. Oh it shows all over the screen and it's so painful to watch because I can't help but feel there's a good movie in here. The production value is there. It doesn't look or feel low-budget in the slightest. There's actors, there's action, there's exotic locations. But it's just put together so clumsily that instead of getting a good laugh out of the entire experience, you walk away annoyed.

To date this has never gotten even a DVD release here in the states. VHS seems to be the only physical form of media it's available on, which is why it made my pursuit of this so difficult. I do believe it's been released on DVD in the UK. The VHS here routinely goes for over $10, and it being a film I've never seen before, I didn't want to take that gamble. It felt like years, but I was finally able to find it for $6 total, which was what I was comfortable with. Needless to say I'll be throwing it back on eBay because I'm sure I will never watch it ever again.

3.03.2020

The Toy Corner: The Iron Giant Walmart Exclusive

The Toy Market Has Been Pretty Good To Us Collector's Lately

by robotGEEK

I'm a huge toy collector, but seem to go in and out of it here and there. I primarily stick to vintage toys, or toys that I actually had as a kid in the 80's. I'll randomly dip into some new stuff if it's based on properties, or films that I love and that may not have gotten released as a toy previously. And while there have been toys, usually collectibles, based on The Iron Giant before, they've always been way too expensive for my taste. I mean, I love the movie. It's one of my all-time favorite animated movies ever, but not enough to shell out several hundred dollars for a statue like Mondo recently did. Sheesh!

With that being said, let's thank Walmart for this exclusive that stands an impressive 14". Beautifully
detailed, with motorized walking motion, lights and sounds and impressive packaging. And the best part is that it is ONLY $19.95. Yes, just $20 for this beauty if you can find it. Being a Walmart exclusive means that as far as finding it in-store, your local Walmart is your only option. But I'm sure you can find it on the secondhand market as well for probably a higher price.

I'm not sure how long these will be available, but using Google to look up this item told me exactly how many of them were in stock locally. I'm honestly surprised at it's low price point, especially considering how big and great it looks. I'm also surprised I hadn't heard of this release. The only reason I knew about it was because a friend of mine posted a picture of it and I was stunned. That night I immediately ran to my local Walmart to find 3 of them on the shelf. So you may get lucky!

With the recent releases of They Live figures by NECA, and the Walgreen's exclusive Tron figures, 2020 is shaping up to be a highlight for collectors like myself.

Review: The Invisible Man (2020)

Writer/Director/Producer Leigh Whannell Delivers One Of The Best Interpretations Of Universal's Classic Monsters In Decades

by robotGEEK

If you ever wondered how good a film could be without relying on CGI or jump scares, or a star studded cast, instead utilizing old fashioned filmmaking like clever writing, impeccable performances and solid no-frills direction, then look no further than Leigh Whannell’s take on The Invisible Man, a masterclass of suspenseful filmmaking. Elizabeth Moss carries the entire film effortlessly on her shoulders, and while this would have been a perfect opportunity for a filmmaker and an effects team to go all out with some fancy CGI, Whannell goes the complete opposite direction and it’s bloody brilliant. Understated in every aspect, yet so goddamn tense and taut as it’s slow burn approach becomes more and more riveting after its tension-filled opening. This is how you make a great film on a low budget (by Hollywood standards) with insane talent.

Generally I don't really review new films, as this site was intended to focus more on cult classics, but I can't help but feel that this is exactly what Leigh Whannell's Invisible Man will be; a classic that will set the bar with what you can accomplish with the right team behind and in front of the camera, on a small budget no less. With that being said, I rarely, if ever, go to the cinema anymore. It's too expensive and those sitting next to me always seem to ruin the experience, which is almost what happened with an annoying lady who felt the need to comment on every goddamn thing she saw, even if it was trivial. But anyway, I knew right as soon as I heard Whannell was going to be behind this that this was a film I would just have to make an exception for, and I was right. Ultimately, between the cost of the Sunday tickets and snacks, my wife and I spent a good $50, and honestly, I'm glad I did. I feel it's my tiny contribution to the films financial success and if this helps Universal see the potential in smaller, more character driven interpretations rather than overbloated CGI-fests, then I'm happy to help. 



That's about it. Saying anymore would spoil any potential surprises. I will say I was sad to see 2 scenes shown in the trailer cut from the final edit, but maybe we'll see them back in the Directors Cut someday. Go see this film. Support it. Support the immense talent of Leigh Whannell (Upgrade, Saw, CootiesInsidious) and support the possible kickstart of a more subdued take on Universal's monster catalog.