Category Archives: DVD/BluRay Reviews

Review: MAN OF TAI CHI (2013)

81DSNBqLDAL._SL1500_MAN OF TAI CHI (2013)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

Show of hands, how many of you have felt compelled in one-way or another to “take a walk on the dark side?” Yes, I know that’s a very sanitized way of asking if anyone has ever felt compelled to chuck their morals aside for a little while, but haven’t we all at some point in time felt the pull to do something wrong, or at the very least had a dream or a nightmare or two of being “morally fucked up?”
Sure, we have.

Some of us have dipped our toes into that dark pool while others have dove right in and seen themselves on the eleven o’clock news for some kind of heinous act they have just committed.

I feel some people are more genetically predisposed to feel some kind of attraction to the “darkside” than others; more aptly put there are some who have a spiritual weakness that makes them unable to resist the urge to do bad or in the extreme Evil.

On one level Man Of Tai Chi is the tale of a good person (Tiger Chen) who has a moment of spiritual weakness, while simultaneously it’s also a tale of how a “morally corrupted” individual (Keanu Reeves) goes about satisfying his yen for power (without control) in an absolutely insidious way, a way that sheds some scary light on how nihilistic our society is becoming.

In the opening we get a glimpse of this movie’s darkside as two combatants square off in a room. One combatant beats the other within an inch of his life, but refuses to take the whole nine yards and kill him. A man dressed in black and wearing a black mask comes in and breaks the unconscious combatants neck killing him on the spot. Next we are introduced to Donaka Mark (Keanu Reeves) who calmly saunters into the locker room of the surviving combatant and knifes him to death.

Now he needs a new fighter.

Mark has the innate ability to pick the right person for this underground fight club he runs.

Tiger Chen plays Tiger Chen, a Tai Chi student who has developed his own style of Tai Chi and who learns from his Master Yang in a 600-year old Temple. He also competes in tournaments, which is unusual since the general conception of Tai Chi is that it’s an art used for mediation. He’s very good at using the art for combat purposes too, which is how he initially grabs Mark’s attention.

On the surface the plot is similar to Bloodsport (1988) and Fight Club (1999), but below the surface, as I hinted at earlier, it’s something insidious, one component of that involves setting up hidden cameras in Chen’s home, at his work, in the temple he trains, etc. He is watched 24/7 after he’s lured into Mark’s employ, and it becomes obvious upon their first meeting that he was “hired” for his fighting skills. Skills that get better the more he is offered the opportunity to test them in situations that don’t involve any kind of rules (or control).

Mark has done his job almost to well, and Chen becomes a formidable Frankenstein creation that he must contend with at the end of the movie.
“I knew you had it in you.”
For Chen it’s time to look into the mirror of his new face and what he sees he instantly despises.
“I am nothing.”
Chen vs. Reeves.
Good vs. Evil
Power vs. Control
Place your bets.
Reeves directed this movie and he made the fight scenes into how martial art fight scenes used to be back in the 70s and 80s. Simply watching two realistically trained martial artists fight each other. There is some wirework, but that’s only 1% of the fight scenes.

If there’s a weak link in this movie, it’s not Reeves directorial skills, those are impressive, it’s his participation as an actor. I know he can act, relatively, I’ve seen evidence of it in his other movies but his performance here is a truly robotic one punctuated by a couple of “emotional outbursts,” (i.e. a random smile and a random scream as he looks deep into the camera lens). If there was some weird, bizarre, out of left field twist that reveals Reeves to be an android or something then this performance would makes perfect sense, but there isn’t. However, this in no way detracts enough to pull you out of the movie. I mean he is the bad guy, so an odd performance like this does kind of makes sense.

You also have to suspend your disbelief somewhat when Chen and Reeves face off in the end, especially when Reeves actually manages to kick his ass for a little while. It’s obvious his fighting skill is no match for Chen’s from what we’ve seen from him in the rest of the movie. But, again, it’s not to the point where it’ll make you scoff and want to turn the movie off. By this point in the film you will be so immersed into what’s happening to Chen you’ll want to see Reeves get his comeuppance and Chen get his morality back on track.

The movie is multilingual with English only coming in whenever Reeves enters the story.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p anamorphic 2.40:1 high definition—English, Cantonese, Mandarin with English subtitles (DTS-HD 5.1)—Spanish subtitles
As for extras there are only two: a commentary and a featurette. Concerning the commentary, which is with director/co-star, Keanu Reeves and star Tiger Chen, it’s one of the worst I’ve had to sit through. If you agree to do one of these the object here is to talk about the movie, about how you made it, about why you made it, about the story, the actors, the shots, anything. Reeves and Chen barely say a thing. If I didn’t know any better I’d say they didn’t want to do a commentary but were forced into it.

With ‘The Making Of Man Of Tai Chi’ (7:52) you learn more about the movie than in the entire commentary and wonder of wonders Reeves actually speaks with passion about the movie he directed.

Review: THE WOLVERINE (2013)

91xyGxskWoL._SL1500_THE WOLVERINE (2013, Theatrical Version)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

Ever since Hugh Jackman stepped onto the screen in his first scene in 2000’s X-Men fans have been pining away for a solo movie that would showcase Marvel’s mutant hero in a more accurate fashion, aka something along the lines of an R-rated adventure where blood can be shed. Realistically speaking I think most fans know we’ll never get that movie for even if there had been a chance before now that Disney owns Marvel it’s a pretty safe bet that kind of Quentin Tarantino-ish carnage flick will never ever happen these days.

In the meantime we finally got that solo adventure in 2009, but as predicted (though we all hoped it wouldn’t be) the movie pretty much sucked. Reasons for are many, but I don’t want to dissect that movie any more than I have to so I’ll leave it at the “pretty much sucked” point.

When rumors finally began to swirl around the internet that Jackman was going to make another go at a solo Wolverine flick I’m sure expectations were extremely low, but then we began to hear they wanted to do a proper depiction of the mutant. The title for this more “accurate” version became “The Wolverine.” No connection to any X-Men at all. Well, that’s certainly a good start.
In the end even though we still didn’t get that “Tarantino version” we all wanted the PG-13 version of The Wolverine certainly delivered a more personal tale of what the graphic novel of his Japan adventure was all about. Everything is all switched around but at least Logan isn’t tapped with saving the world like every superhero flick is about these days.

The timeline for this movie is certainly and obviously occurring in the wake of the tragic events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) where Logan was the one who put an end to Jean Grey’s madness with one swift strike of his adamantium claws. Keep in mind this was a fellow mutant he cared for, but was left with no other alternative since her madness prevented her from seeing the wrong of what she was doing.

In The Wolverine Logan is living in the woods, hair and beard having been left to grow unfettered by anything remotely resembling caring. He wants to be left alone, but for a man who has lived as long as he has and built up such a vast history of misery and pain even in sleep he cannot find solace. Jean is there haunting him and making him feel even worse for what he had to do to her. Sometimes cruelly accusing other times just being.

But a mutant like Logan cannot stay out of life’s way for long. A bear that he has made a tenuous peace with is hunted down and not properly killed, leaving him once again to do the dirty work. He visits the hunters in a local bar intent on making them pay with their lives when a Japanese chick by the name of Yukio shows up and prevents him from carrying out what was gearing up to be a mass murder.
She tells Logan she’s in the employ of a man named, Yashida, and that she’s spent the last year tracking him down. Logan knows Yashida. In a couple of flashback sequences Logan was a WW2 POW in Nagasaki and saved this lone officer who was not prepared to commit ritual suicide when the bombers flew in to make the area unlivable.

All this dying Yashida wants now it is to thank Logan. Sounds simple enough. He allows Yukio to take him to Japan but once he gets there things get complicated. He meets the man’s granddaughter, Mariko, her father, Shingen and the man she is supposed to marry, Noburo Mori. Yashida tells Logan he can make him “human” again; take away is healing ability so he can live a normal life. Whether he likes it or not, this happens to him anyway. But his ability isn’t really “taken away,” just suppressed.

Logan is to play a big part in Yashida’s grand scheme to cheat death and lessening his natural urge to regenerate was supposed to make him more manageable, easier to take down. They were wrong. Even at human levels of healing this movie shows us you still don’t want to fuck with the Wolverine. He gets shot and stabbed more so than in any other movie his character has been in and still manages to kill a hell of a lot Yakuza and ninja adversaries.

Being PG-13 all the kills are bloodless, but no less impressive.

I have never read the graphic novel this movie is based on. Marvel Anime’s 12-part Wolverine series is the closest I’ve gotten to that but even that storyline was altered to a degree. I can say the ending is not as grim as the source materal/anime series, and that the Silver Samurai has been reimagined into mecha. Obviously all the changes that were made for the sake of the movie won’t settle well with die hard Marvel fans, but I personally didn’t have a problem with them.

As we got closer to the release of the DVD and Blu-ray news broke via twitter that director, James Mangold was putting together an “extended cut” of the movie that runs 11-13 minutes longer ( I can’t recall what the precise runtime was in that tweet). I was not able to get that version to review, but from what I’ve been hearing is that there is blood in that version, and that it qualifies as an R-rated flick, not on any kind of Tarantino level, but enough to satisfy most fans I hear. And not just the restored violence but I understand there is restored footage that expands on the characters as well.
Despite not seeing this much desired “extended cut” I can say without a doubt this new Wolverine movie, PG-13 version and all, is much better than his first solo outing. And of this writing there is news that Jackman and Mangold will be returning for a third solo movie. Keeping my fingers crossed that they decide to make the next one even edgier, though I’m not going to count on it. Disney/Marvel doesn’t make those kinds of movies. As long as it’s similar to this one where the Wolverine carnage was filmed and then edited down to PG-13 levels I’ll be fine with that. Equally important though will be story and plotting. If they don’t live up to what was done in this movie, all that R-rated Wolverine carnage won’t be worth a damn.

20th Century Fox unleashes The Wolverine in three versions: the standalone DVD, the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy and the Extended Edition (3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy). This review is for the 2D blu-ray from the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition anamorphic widescreen—English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, English Dolby Digital, English (Descriptive Audio) 5.1, Spanish and French both Dolby Digital 5.1—English and Spanish subtitles.

The following extras are available on both the blu and the DVD and they are . . .

Alternate Ending (1:36)—This has been making the rounds on the internet but it’s basically the same ending except here Logan opens that box Yukio brought on board and we see pieces of his iconic

yellow and black uniform I mostly identify with him when he’s with the X-Men.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Set Tour (2:47)—Bryan Singer takes the viewer on a quick tour of the sets from next summers X-Men 4 sequel.

The Path Of The Ronin consists of five featurettes that can be played all at once or separately:

• Inspiration: A Ronin’s Journey (11:26): Covers the source material the movie was based on and how it translated to this movie. Chris Claremont is interviewed and he seems to like what this Jackman fella is doing with the character.

• Design: Mastering The Arc (15:42): Covers the creation of the Japan sets and how stylized they wanted them. Portions of the movie were actually filmed in Japan but not all of it.

• Execution: A Killer Team (19:04): Covers/interviews some of the actors, mainly Jackman and the two actresses who play Yukio and Mariko; director, James Mangold is dissected to a degree; characters in the film are dissected; the action; guns/swords used; the various claws Jackman uses.

• Hugh Jackman: The Man Behind The Mutant (6:19): Covers a little bit of his training for the movie and how good he is at remembering the stunt choreography.

• Reflections: The Evolution Of Wolverine (1:55): This is basically a quick fluff piece. Something you might see on HBO.

• Theatrical Trailer

Review: THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974)

91R2u84-EFL._SL1500_THE HOUSE OF SEVEN CORPSES (1974, DVD/Blu-Ray Combo)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I actually bought this movie on DVD way back in 2000 when Image Entertainment had the rights to it. At that time I had never heard of the movie and was only made aware of it, I believe, through some mentioning of it in Fangoria. That mentioning is what got me to buy it. But, it was another matter altogether when I settled down to watch it. I think I got about a half hour in when the tedium of the plot finally destroyed any and all interest I had in it.

Just this past Halloween TCM aired it one late night. I recorded it and again tried to watch it. This time it wasn’t the storyline that derailed my desire but the god-awful transfer and audio. Still determined to see this movie through to the end, I finally managed to score a review copy of it from Severin and this time managed to see it through to the end. I wasn’t totally put off by the tedium of the story this time, but the ending was a headscratcher.

Okay, so, the story goes like this, horror movie director, Eric Hartman (John Ireland), whom I will always remember as the local sheriff in The Incubus (1982), takes a film crew to this haunted mansion to make a horror movie. Among the cast members of the movie within the movie is Gayle Dorian (Faith Domergue), whom I will always equate with It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), and the mansion’s caretaker, Edgar Price, played by horror icon, John Carradine.

About 90% of this movie is focused on Hartman’s making of his horror movie with for the first hour at least smidgens of supernatural activity mixed in between. Those smidgens focuses on one of Hartman’s actors, David (Jerry Strickler) who finds a shelf full of “forbidden tomes,” one of which is the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, and I think we all know by now what happens when unsuspecting people read and/or recite passages from these kinds of books. And that’s exactly what David does at the behest of Hartman who wants to add some of the passages to his movie.

In that first hour we get the unexplained death of Gayle’s cat; David and his actress girlfriend spotting Price going behind a tombstone, lifting something up and disappearing into the ground; and the history of the Beal mansion which involved the inexplicable murders/suicide of the family. Nothing that goes on in the movie is ever explained. We never find out why or how Gayle’s cat was cut in half, where the hell Carradine went when he went into the ground, or why David goes mad and tries to push Hartman into an open grave as they’re out in the cemetery getting exterior shots for the movie.
Even more inexplicable is when Hartman flips him into the grave and two pairs of desiccated undead arms appear seconds later and tries to grab Hartman. Did David turn into this corpse? Unknown. But before that event even happens, a corpse comes out of that same open grave, staggers into the mansion and kills everyone there. So, there were two corpses? Unknown, we never see them together, or why the corpse carries a dead, naked actress back into the open grave with it as the credits roll.

As of this writing I have yet to listen to the commentary, which I’m thankful there is one. And I’ll be checking it out tonight for some kind of explanation.

Putting all other releases to shame Severin Films released this movie back in August in a DVD/Blu-ray combo with a transfer that’s ten times better than the one TCM ran. It’s not perfect, it still shows some minor print damage in places, but the colors and the dark levels are striking.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen—DTS-HD Master Audio Mono—No subtitles.

The audio commentary with Associate Producer Gary Kent, moderated by Lars Nilsen was a great one full of information about the location, the actors, low-budget filmmaking in general but it didn’t shed much light on the plot. In my second viewing, though, I finally noticed the connection between the murders of the original family members seen in the prologue and the murders of the film crew at the end and how they mimicked one another, and then had that fact backed up by Kent in the closing moments of the movie.

Along with the movie’s theatrical trailer the main extra here is the newly discovered interview with John Carradine that runs 28:03. It was a very enlightening one, too. It’s obvious from the start Carradine was never a horror movie fan. He clearly states he’s made over 400 movies, with only 25 of them being in the horror genre and towards the end he states he’s never understood people’s fascination with them. He reveals theater is his first love and anything that took him out of it was only a job. He was also grateful for those “jobs” for they allowed him to see a lot of the world.

This film reminds me of Jim Wynorski’s remake of Not Of This Earth (1988) in that I had vague memories of seeing it on cable but was unsure if the eventual DVD I had ordered would be a keeper. After finally seeing it after all those years I didn’t think it was all that great, then I listened to the new commentary included with Wynorski and Traci Lords and I suddenly found myself actually appreciating the movie. The House Of Seven Corpses is exactly like that. The commentary was so insightful I now like the movie and deem it a keeper.

Review: THE ALIEN WITHIN (1990)

802993215603THE ALIEN WITHIN (1990)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

What’s not obvious from Retromedia’s new The Alien Within DVD, front cover and back, is that it’s a double feature. Paired with Evil Spawn (1987), Alien Within is the remake of that flick. I’ve heard of Evil Spawn but had never seen it until now.

It stars Bobbie Bresee as Lynn Roman, an over the hill starlet who wants to be anything but. Just when things seem to be at their worst, a strange woman pays her visit and tells Roman she works, or had worked, for skin specialist, Dr. Zeitman (John Carradine from an earlier scene) and that these routine injections can give her back the youth she’s been sorely missing. As predicted she starts injecting herself with this untested serum, gets her young again, but also transforms into this monstrous insect-like creature when she gets enraged. This results in a few deaths, two of which are her assistant and her cheating boyfriend.

One of these people deserved it, one didn’t; can you guess which is which?
I knew you could.

The movie is told from the flashback of this guy writing Roman’s biography, or autobiography? I always get them confused. I guess it doesn’t matter for things don’t work out so well for him in the end and that (auto)biography never sees the light of day.

This movie reminded heavily of The Wasp Woman (1959) and it almost feels like an unofficial remake. Carradine’s performance in the film, I believe, is the last thing he ever acted in before his death. It’s filmed with generic dialogue so it could be reused for other films but was initially intended to be used in a Frankenstein movie thus making Carradine the notorious doctor himself but that movie never materialized.

The monster FX was very good. Of course this was back in the heyday of movie making when CGI was nothing but a Hollywood nerd’s wet dream and the main monster was a man-in-a-suit with animatronic mouthparts.

The transfer is widescreen, but not anamorphic. You’ll need to do some pix shape adjusting to get the picture to fill the screen. None needed if you’re still using a tube television though. Though zooming in gives it more of a VHS quality.

The Alien Within version ports over the main story of Roman, her plight with wanting to be younger and the monster she turns into, while implanting a “B plot” that for the most part is integrated fairly well into the existing footage. The Evil Spawn version makes mention of a movie being filmed, ‘Savage Goddess’ and the name of the director and the starlet being used in it are mentioned but never seen, in Alien Within, they are now played by Richard Harrison and Melissa Moore, while Gordon Mitchell takes up the role of the movie’s producer. Recruited to investigate Zeitman and his unsavory skin care procedures is private detective, Jay Richardson and his female assistant, Suzanne Agar.

Forrest Ackerman, who played the pool cleaner in the first film, is the only actor to make a second appearance, playing the same character, but with new lines, to link his old scene and his new scene together.

SOTA FX contributed two new monsters, a mutant dog and a lizard creature that Harrison turns into in the end..
The aspect ratio of Alien Within is 1.33:1 windowboxed.

Extras you’ll find on this disc is an Evil Spawn trailer, Roughly four minutes of outtakes by John Carradine, a general Behind The Scenes (2:26) featurette, photographic evidence (1:16) of The Missing Monster that was originally used in the movie but scrapped for a more elaborate and better looking creation. The first monster was clearly and admittedly in the vein of The Wasp Woman. Those photographs are the only existing proof it was used. No footage exists any longer. And finally you get a pretty damn good and informative commentary by Fred Olen Ray and Ted Newsom that covers varied topics about the movie, Evil Spawn, filmmaking, dating actresses/marrying them, friendships lost but not forgotten, and other sundry anecdotes which I loved hearing about.

Aside from the commentary, the well-executed monster FX and the well-photographed nudity (partial and full frontal) nothing else, unfortunately, about these movies worked for me. However, Ray does tease that he should do a proper remake of Evil Spawn/Alien Within and I actually hope he does one day.

Review: NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)

914hRTdFRML._SL1500_NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

Exactly like the two previous reviews I recently did—Saturn 3 (1980) and Body Bags (1991)—I have not seen Night Of The Comet in decades, specifically speaking not since cable circa 1985. And again like those two previous movies my initial reaction was lukewarm. In 1984 I was 15; I have no memory of it’s theatrical release, but a year later, when I presume I saw it on cable, I do have a vague memory of seeing it one day in the living room. I also think I read about it Fangoria, but alas I no longer have any of those mid-80s issue due to two factors: a bad decision that resulted in me cutting some of them up and using them in a collage for art class, and years later the remaining issues were destroyed by cat piss.

In 1984 everyone on earth is waiting to see this comet that’s supposed to pass by the earth. Not so sure if that’s a good thing to celebrate for the last time it visited this neck of the woods the dinosaurs “went missing.” Yeah, that’s right, every single one of them. So, you can see where this is all leading.

Teenager Regina (Catherine Mary Stewart) works as an usher at a movie theater and she’s working there the very night the comet comes. Her sister, Samantha (Kelli Maroney) is home contending with her “evil” stepmother who actually slugs her in the face when she mouths off to her.

The next morning earth turns into a whole new world. Regina didn’t go home, she spent the night with her “boyfriend” in the projection booth, and Samantha ran away from home and spent the night sleeping in the shed out back. Both girls were in rooms made from steel, which is what kept them alive. For everyone else who was fully exposed to the comet they got reduced to red dust. People who partially exposed suffer a more gruesome fate before eventually turning into red dust; they become “comet zombies.” And like regular zombies they crave live flesh, unlike regular zombies most of them still have full possession of their faculties and can communicate, shoot guns and menace a person like any regular earth bound psychopath would, except the end result in their case is the complete and total cannibalization of the person they are menacing.

The seemingly still in operation radio station is the first place the girls venture to hoping to find survivors. Here they encounter Hector (Robert Beltran), a truck driver who lost his girl to a ravenous comet zombie.

In another part of the state a “thinktank” of scientific researchers—notable among them is Geoffrey Lewis (’79 version of Salem’s Lot) and Mary Woronov (Terrorvision)—have survived, barely, and think they can produce a cure for the comet zombie plague, but they need blood doners for that, which is a bad thing, for the doner that is.

The girls pit their gun/survival skills (their father was military) against any comet zombie they come across not to mention the thinktankers, by the end of the film they gain a pseudo-family in the form of two children the thinktankers kidnapped. Samantha even stumbles across another guy, since Hector and Regina are already paired up, and with that New Adam and New Eve are ready to repopulate the earth.

Under their Scream Factory sub-label Shout Factory! finally brings this cult classic to blu-ray and DVD in a combo that came out on November 19th.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p High Definition 1.78:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles.
The transfer on this one is extremely good looking and colorful where it needs to be. I had no problem with the audio.

Extra features are plentiful. To start off with you get not one, not two, but three separate commentaries: One with the two lead actresses, Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney, moderated by Edwin Samuelson, one with the director, Thom Eberhardt moderated by Michael Felsher and one with Production Designer, John Muto, again moderated by Micheal Felsher (owner of Red Shirt Pictures).

There are three featurettes on the DVD & the Blu-ray:
‘Valley Girls At The End Of The Earth’ (14:59): Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney reminisce about the film and still remain good friends to this day.

‘The Last Man On Earth?’ (12:32): Robert Beltan is interviewed and he turned down the role twice until the filmmakers promised he could play it like he wanted and not as it was written since it was written similar to the role he played as Raoul in Eating Raoul (1982).

‘Curse Of The Comet’ (6:32): Interviews FX Artist David B. Miller recounts his work on the movie; he was in charge of creating the “zombie” effects.
Rounding out the extras is a Film Photo Gallery (3:27), a Behind The Scene Photo Gallery (5:02) and the Theatrical Trailer.

Even though Night Of The Comet was never a favorite movie of mine, and after finally seeing it again it still registers non-existent on my list of movies I need to collect, it always comes to mind whenever I hear the names of the two lead actresses. I should say the first movie that comes to mine whenever I hear their names. For Catherine Mary Stuart it goes like this—Night Of The Comet, The Last Starfighter, Nightflyers and for Kelli Maroney it’s Night Of The Comet, Killbots (hard for me to think of that film as Chopping Mall since I first saw it on cable under it’s Killbots title) and the ’88 version of Not Of This Earth.

Also whenever I come across Robert Beltran’s name Night Of The Comet hits me right in the ol’ brainpan, and then Lone Wolf McQuade and then his stint on Star Trek: Voyager. Plus, it just reminds me of those good ol’ days of being a teen in the 80s. I don’t know how you all view the 80s now, speaking strictly to the Gen-X crowd, but I loved that era and miss it badly. Huh, for a movie I’m not a fan of it seems to certainly play an integral part in my life.

Review: The Avengers (2012)

MV5BMTk2NTI1MTU4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg0OTY0Nw@@._V1._SX640_SY947_Directed by: Joss Whedon
Written By: Joss Whedon (screenplay) & Zak Penn (story)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof.

Geren: Action / Fantasy

Reviewed by: Mike Huntley (The Dark Knight)

Grade: A+

When Marvel decided to form their own studio and started building solo superhero movies that existed in the same universe, fans were pumped for the inevitable Avengers team up movie that would be the icing and cherry atop an already delicious cake. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in summer 2008. Iron Man 2 in summer 2010, which was basically a prelude to The Avengers. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger in summer 2011. And now the moment fans old and new had been waiting for: The Avengers in an already packed superhero movie summer in 2012. Going up against both Batman (The Dark Knight Rises) and Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-man) is never an easy task to pull off, but The Avengers was probably the highest grossing film that summer and even sorta beat out The Dark Knight, which before Avengers was considered the best superhero movie of all time. Now, fans are kinda divided on which one deserves that mantle. While I do love The Avengers and it is the best Marvel Studios movie aside from Thor and Iron Man 3, I still prefer The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel, and The Amazing Spider-Man for personal reasons. I didn’t grow up with The Avengers the way I’m sure many kids who loved superheroes did. Yes, I had heard of Iron Man and Captain America, but aside from the outfits and names, I didn’t know shit about them. Yes, I knew who The Incredible Hulk was, mainly due to the short animated series. But all the others? Nope. Growing up, Batman and Spider-Man were and still are my top two favorites in the costumed hero department. Superman was popular on TV. The X-Men were a hit in animation. So, while I still love The Avengers and am a new fan, I will always have Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman closer to my heart. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t super excited to see Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye take on aliens and the God of Mischief!

Loki survived his fall into a black hole and has come to Earth to steal the source of power that S.H.I.E.L.D has in their possession. First, Loki puts a spell on Dr. Selvig and Hawkeye to help him open a portal that could damn our world. This causes S.H.I.L.D’s director Nick Fury to take action by assembling a team of the most powerful people on this planet. Those powerful people are Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, Thor, and Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk. Together they form a super fighting force to stop Loki from letting aliens destroy New York City.

I will never forget my theatrical experience with The Avengers. I went with my Dad opening night and the showing we were going to see was already sold out so we went ahead and bought tickets for the next show. We sat around in the van for a little bit till it was close to time for the movie to start. Just about every damn row from the very front to the very back was jam packed full of everybody from the elderly to parents taking their children. I remember getting the distinct pleasure of sitting next to some big guy who had serious B.O. and having some boys sitting in front of me giggling and texting during the show. But, once the lights dimmed and the movie began, I forgot all about those annoying little boys or my nose begging me for Oxygen. You know why? Because I was having a total blast watching Iron Man and Captain America stand side by side, Thor knocking Iron Man across a forest, and who can forget Hulk giving Loki a professional ass whoopin’? Yep, that was The Avengers. A total blast of fun, excitement, amazing visual and special FX, Hulk/Bruce Banner finally done to perfection, aliens crashing through a city, explosions, Scarlett Johansson giving me a nice boner, Tony Stark making me laugh my ass off, and just being the definition of a summer blockbuster. It’s that roller coaster that you want to catch the thrill again and again. Yes, I am not as attached as I am a Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, but it doesn’t matter. I had a great time at the movies despite the unpleasant theater conditions.

When I first heard that Joss Whedon was set to write and direct The Avengers, I was more than happy. This is the same man who gave me two kickass TV shows during my childhood with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. Sure, he had not had much movie making experience outside Serenity, which was the movie version of his short lived TV series Firefly. But, I always knew that Whedon had the potential to make it huge beyond the small screen and 2012 was the year of Joss Whedon with The Avengers and the horror film that he co-wrote and produced, The Cabin In The Woods. Whedon directs The Avengers with honor, respect, and love for these characters. The film never misses a beat and Whedon’s outerspace stuff looks frickin’ phenomenal. If he hadn’t already played in Marvel’s toychest, I would have said that he would have been the perfect filmmaker to bring that Justice League film to life. Still curious who gets that gig unless Zack Snyder jumps up and decides to or maybe Ben Affleck although I have a feeling he will get to direct the solo Batman films. Whedon also handles the screenplay well. We get that classic Whedon humor like when Stark tells Banner that he loves it when he turns into a giant green rage monster. And Hulk kicking Loki’s ass certainly made me cheer and giggle in my seat even though I had to hold the breathing part thanks to B.O. guy. Nick Fury making a flying monkies reference and Captain America picking up on it made me chuckle. Speaking of Captain America, I LOVE his new suit. It’s very classic Captain America whereas the suit in his solo film was more a military war suit. And that finale in New York City has gotta be one of the single greatest scenes in superhero cinema history. Words can’t describe how awesome it was seeing all these characters come together as a team.

The cast was spot on in their respective roles. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark/Iron Man. The dude has enormous humor and tons of charisma that you just love. He’s the kinda dude you just want to chill with. Chris Evans was a great pick for Steve Rogers/Captain America. Finally, that 1990 movie is wiped away from the character’s identity. Chris Hemsworth is still thunderously awesome as Thor. The man is the definition of a superhero. Mark Ruffalo replaced Edward Norton, but ended up giving us the best portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk applied to film. Ruffalo was a nice surprise. I hope he eventually gets that Hulk movie that he deserves. Scarlett Johansson is smokin’ fuckin’ hot as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Plus, she can kick a lot of ass. My kinda woman! Samuel L. Jackson is great as the slick and cool eye patched Nick Fury. Clark Gregg is great as always as Agent Phil Coulson who is most likely not dead and is sadly on that God awful Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television series that failed to capture the awesomeness of these movies in every way. Jeremy Renner is really good as Agent Barton/Hawkeye. But, Tom Hiddleston just about steals the show in his reprisal role as Loki. I love Hiddleston’s menace as a villain. You can tell that the guy is having a major blast playing this character and us audiences are therefore having a blast watching him having fun. Hell, the man even came to Comic Con in character and talked to the fans as Loki. So awesome, this guy.

Overall, The Avengers is the best Marvel Studios movie to date. Love it and look forward to Phase Two going forward and leading up to summer 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. The team will be expanding and the universe getting even more fascinating than it already is!

Review: Body Bags (1993)

BodyBagsBlu-610x767JOHN CARPENTER PRESENTS BODY BAGS (1993)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

I remember Body Bags. I remember reading about it in Fangoria and then seeing it on Showtime. I liked the second story the best but overall didn’t care for it. Haven’t seen it since then. I just watched it for a second time last night and now I like it. I had a feeling this would be the case after all these years.

Body Bags is an anthology movie comprised of 3 stories (The Gas Station, Hair and Eye) that was specifically made for Showtime by John Carpenter. The wraparound tale is about a dead “coroner” played by Carpenter himself who’s hosting shtick is similar to what The Cryptkeeper did on HBO’s long running Tales From The Crypt series. He clowns around with jet black humor and then introduces each tale:
“The Gas Station”—Haddonfield, 1993, Annie (Alex Datcher), a collegian, is starting her new job on the graveyard shift at a gas station. Over the radio as she’s being dropped off by her friend we learn a serial killer is stalking the town killing women. Christ, that poor town simply cannot catch a break ever since Micheal Myers cut a swath of carnage through it back in the late 70s. She quickly introduces herself to her departing co-working, Bill (Robert Carradine), and gets to work. Through out the night she serves various patrons, some are creepier than others but most are played by recognize stars. Wes Craven buys some cigarettes; David Naughton forgets his credit card; transient, and Carpenter regular, Buck Flower, needs to use the rest room; Peter Jason (another Carpenter regular) and wife show up to get gas, and Sam Raimi puts in two cameos: one in an Employee Of The Month photo and one as a dead body that falls out of a locker.

One of these men she’s recently met this night is the killer and it isn’t long before he reveals himself and the machete he plans to kill her with. The music, the pacing, the terror is classic Carpenter. I think this is my second favorite tale now. I even saw a couple of scenes Carpenter recreated from Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981).

“Hair”—Stacey Keach plays Richard Coberts (IMDB says his last name is Coberts but in the actual movie it sounds like they say Kobritz, which is the last name of the ill-fated babysitter in Carpenter’s The Fog) losing his hair and simply cannot stand it. Megan (Sheena Easton), his girlfriend, is constantly frustrated as well by his desperation for a solution. Richard comes across a commercial where a Dr. Lock (David Warner) claims he has the perfect solution. Richard pays him a visit, gets his head treated and wakes the next morning with incredibly long hair. There’s a catch, though, and its one that has already sealed his fate.

This was always my favorite of the three tales. It’s kind of similar to Carpenter’s own They Live (1988) where the aliens are already here on earth. In “Hair” they come in the form of the hair itself, which when inspected up close with a magnifying glass look like snakes brought to glorious life by Jim Danforth’s (Equinox) stop motion animation. This animation was so smooth for a minute I thought I was looking at some really early CGI.

“Eye”—This particular tale was my least favorite. Directed by Tobe Hooper it fits in nicely with The Hand (1981) and Body Parts (1991), with a basic plot that is pretty much identical to those two movies. A “family man” gets into a car accident, loses an appendage and then gets a new one grafted on to him, but the new one comes from a serial killer and that “evil cell memory” infects the man and influences him to do evil things. In this case that “family man” is Brent Matthews a professional baseball player who loses his right eye one night in a car accident. A couple of doctors played by Roger Corman and the late John Agar (Tarantula, Creature From The Black Lagoon) give him an eye transplant. Said transplant comes off successfully but he’s plagued by horrific visions of being a child abused, dead bodies appearing in the dirt in his backyard, body parts grinding up in the garbage disposal and sex with his pregnant wife that turns into the rape of a corpse.

A confrontation with Agar and research at the library reveals his eye came from a serial killer, but this does nothing to help him. His decent into madness becomes total at the end, with one final act of redemption. If thine eye offends thee pluck it out . . .

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p High Definition 1.78:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles
Body Bags hits DVD and blu-ray in a combo from Shout Factory through their Scream Factory sub-label and the transfer looks real nice. The audio is where I had a problem. It has the same problem as Retromedia’s Octaman (1971) release. I listen to all my movies through cordless headphones and through them I could hear occasional pops and cracks. The overall crispness was not very good either. The 5.1 audio was basically the lesser of the two evils. Listening to it through the TV’s speakers, however, did not reveal any problem, as was also the case for Octaman. They are minor and don’t totally detract from the viewing the experience, but having said that you can’t help but notice them.

Extras include a very good commentary with Carpenter and Robert Carradine on Gas Station, Carpenter and Stacey Keach on Hair and Justine Beahm and producer/Carpenter’s wife, Sandy King on Eye. Augmenting this commentary is a 20:08 doc titled, ‘Unzipping Body Bags.’ Mark Hamill’s two cents, however, was sorely missed on the commentary and the doc.

Highlights of both commentary/doc was that Showtime wanted Body Bags to be a series but they didn’t want to spend the money Carpenter said he would need to make it something of quality; Rick Baker’s hands shake when he has too much coffee; Carpenter enjoyed his acting stint as the “coroner” host, and Sandy King reveals that she and Carpenter are working on a PG-13 version of Darkchyld.
You also get Body Bag’s “theatrical trailer.”

Like Saturn 3, which I just reviewed, and initially didn’t care for until now, Body Bags is a noteworthy entry in Carpenter’s career, coming in between Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1993) and In The Mouth Of Madness (1995).

One last thing, Scream Factory’s version marks the first time the Uncut version has hit home video. As King states in the commentary it got edited for its overseas release and that release just carried over to the US. But if you saw it on Showtime you already saw the uncut version. Most of the edits were made in the “Eye” segment.

Review: SATURN 3 (1980)

saturn3SATURN 3 (1980)
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

In grade school I had two friends that had cable before I did. Back then it was HBO that was the big boy on the block, the only boy now that I think about it, and I can’t rightly recall which one it was, Mike or Rob, that told me about this movie. And I’m not sure if it was after they had seen it at the movies or from cable. Anyway, the thing I remember the most from their talk of the movie was that this giant robot rips off Harvey Keitel’s head and uses it as its own.

For a young kid like myself who wasn’t totally into horror movies back then, well, I was, but they frightened me something awful until a traumatizing night at the drive-in to see The Thing in 1982 hardened me up real good, an image of a robot with no head using a torn off human’s one as its own certainly burned itself into my memory.

I have vague recollections of Starlog covering the movie so I already knew what the robot looked like. Eventually it hit TV but to this day I have only snippets of it still lodged in my brain. One of those snippets was being sort of under whelmed when it came time to seeing the robot with its human head. Just goes to show you imagination can sometimes be more potent than the real thing. Sometimes but not all the time. In this case it certainly was.

I haven’t seen Saturn 3 again since that TV viewing and was curious to know if Shout Factory!’s DVD/Blu-Ray combo would be a keeper. I’ve learned in the last few years that movies I used to either dislike or feel indifferent towards when I was young I now find appealing and vice versa. Saturn 3 now falls into the former category.

In an undisclosed future Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett) work on a hydroponics base on of one Saturn’s moon with their dog (Spoiler: dog gets iced). Everything is going along just fine until Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel) shows up to upgrade their system with a robot that’s the first in the Demigod line. It’s supposed to replace either Alex or Adam, much like we have nowadays where companies go the automated route to replace human workers.

We have two problems with this scenario: Benson is mentally ill, as in psychopathic and the robot he constructs, who he names Hector, gets it’s systems upgrade by connecting directly into Benson’s head, which means we now also have a mentally ill robot.

In the opening, we learned through a brief scene that Benson was not scheduled to go to Saturn 3 due to his psyche exam failure but takes it upon himself to go anyway by killing the guy who took his place.

Benson is certainly an odd person, which you get the sense of when you finally meet him on Saturn’s moon. Very unemotional, has an odd way of talking and not shy about asking Alex if he can bang her. When Hector is finally constructed and starts running amok the Frankenstein vibe is more than obvious. And this is where the movie settles in with Adam and Alex trying to survive Hector’s psychopathy and eventual delusions of grandeur. Harvey Keitel is eventually dispatched and that aforementioned “torn off head scene” surfaces where Hector puts Benson’s decapitated head upon his own. You see he’s basically a humanoid shaped creation with only a rudimentary neck armature and two lenses that act as a head.

This is not a gory movie, with more science fiction and action than horror. Despite that we do get a hand and a head that gets severed. The former happens right on screen, while the latter occurs off screen with only a brief reveal later on of where Keitel’s head went.

Video/Audio/Subtitle: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles.

Saturn 3 hits DVD and Blu-ray in combo form from Shout Factory! under their Scream Factory sub-label on December 3rd and the blu-ray transfer is gorgeous. Especially when we get into the Saturn 3 moonbase where there is fluorescent white lighting and blues in the architecture. This new remaster brings out those colors fantastically.

As extras go, first off, you get a commentary with Greg Moss who has a very thorough fan site that covers everything you ever wanted to know about Saturn 3 (http://saturn3makingof.com/) and Film Critic, David Bradley who moderates.

There are also two separate interviews, one with Voice Actor, Roy Dotrice (6:29), whom I will always remember from Space: 1999. He guest starred in two epsiodes from Season One. Here he talks about his dubbing of Harvey Keitel’s voice. The reason he was given was that he sounded too American. Dotrice is British, but he makes the argument what was Kirk and Farrah speaking? And one with Special Effects Director, Collin Chilvers (15:55) who was coming off of Superman (1978) when he took this job.

Other features included Additional Scenes From The Network Version (9:55) which kind of make the film a little better. No idea why they were cut. A Deleted Ecstasy Scene (3:32) with audio that cuts out near the end. A theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots and a Still Gallery (5:22).

Saturn 3 is a strange movie and one you wouldn’t associate with Kirk Douglas but I dug it.

Review: The Batman vs. Dracula (2005)

1382348_10152412537304968_673143980_nDirected by: Michael Goguen
Written By: Bob Kane (character: Batman) & Duane Capizzi (written by)
Starring: Rino Romano, Peter Stormare, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, Kevin Michael Richardson, Alastair Duncan.

Geren: Animation / Action

Reviewed by: Mike Huntley (The Dark Knight)

Grade: B+

When it came to superheroes during the 1990s, Batman was all the buzz in both cinema and in animation. Coming off the wide success of Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster hit Batman and its controversial yet popular sequel Batman Returns, Batman The Animated Series was a dominant success on Fox. The series ran from 1992-1995 and then was revived with a new style on The WB to go along with Superman The Animated Series, which was also done by animation team Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and many others. In 1997, Batman The Animated Series was cancelled after completing a total of 109 episodes. Still the longest running superhero animated series to date since most animated shows for kids are restricted to having around 65 episodes total now. After the cancellation of Batman, The WB wanted Bruce Timm and company to make a teenage Batman show for them that would cater to an even younger audience as they thought Batman The Animated Series was a more mature themed series aimed more towards an older audience. This little experiment became known as Batman Beyond, which dealt with an old Bruce Wayne mentoring a teenager who in this futuristic Gotham City donned the Batsuit and played as a spinoff series. Batman Beyond was a nice little surprise that lasted 3 seasons and spawned a movie that brought back The Joker. A few years after Batman Beyond ended, Timm and Dini entered The Watchtower with the amazing Justice League/Justice League: Unlimited series that brought the most powerful beings in the DC Uiniverse all together. During this time, Alan Burnett who had worked on Batman The Animated Series got together with another team of animation producers to bring Batman back to being a solo TV series again and not be in continuity with the Justice League show. Taking place in Bruce Wayne’s 3rd year as Batman, The Batman explored The Dark Knight of Gotham facing many of his twisted adversaries for the first time. After the show’s first season was a success despite many Batman fans hating on it for not being as good as The Animated Series or the character design of The Joker, the producers decided to make an animated movie. After all, The Animated Series saw success with Mask of the Phantasm, Subzero, and Mystery of the Batwoman. With The Batman taking on a much more fantastical direction than The Animated Series yet still being kinda dark and somewhat morbid, they decided to pit The Batman against an equally iconic character who preyed on people when the sun went down: Count Dracula!

The Penguin and Joker have escaped yet again from Arkham Asylum. While The Batman chases after Joker, Penguin ventures out to the old Gotham cemetary in search of gold that may be buried in the catacombs. What Oswald Cobblepot discovers instead is a weird coffin. Penguin opens the coffin and cuts his finger in the process, thus awakening the ancient Count Dracula from his beauty sleep. Dracula places Penguin under his hypnotic spell and makes him his mindless slave. Meanwhile, billionaire Bruce Wayne has started dating the beautiful News reporter Vicki Vale. Soon, Gothamites begin turning into blood thirsty vampires including Batman arch nemesis Joker and Dracula targets Vicki to be a sacrifice in order to bring his wife back to the undead. Can one legend defeat the other?

The Batman was an animated show that I seriously didn’t want to give a fair shot to. It wasn’t Batman The Animated Series, which still is the best TV series thus far about Batman. Sorry Adam West. But after finding myself loving Beware The Batman after thinking it was going to suck for about a year, I decided to give The Batman another shot, a more open minded shot. And I really dug it. Sure, I still am not fond of Joker looking like a part of Insane Clown Posse, but the show was fun, entertaining, and surprisingly psychological in some episodes especially that Bane episode where Bruce flashes back to that night in the ally and we see Gordon comfort the traumatized youth. Anyway, I had always been intriqued to watch The Dark Knight go up against The Prince of Darkness. Who would win? A mortal billionaire who dresses up as a bat for effect or an ancient evil Count who is cursed to be immortal only by drinking the blood of living beings.

This 84 minute animated feature like the series is a fun time. The vampires are creepy looking. Dracula is awesome. Batman is awesome. Joker gets vamped and looks even more twisted. Vicki Vale is introduced who many Batman fans may remember as Kim Basinger’s character in Batman (1989).

I absolutely love the way the opening credits are done, giving this animated superhero/horror show a dark and gothic vibe. The Batman vs Dracula really shows how great of a detective that Batman is as he looks for a cure to vampirism.

The voice cast is good. Rino Romano may not be any Kevin Conroy but I thought he made a decent Batman/Bruce Wayne. Alaistair Duncan fit the role of Bruce’s long time loyal butler Alfred well. Kevin Michael Richardson was an odd choice to play Joker, but he did okay although I dug Mark Hamill a lot more. Tara Strong who many remember as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl on The New Batman Adventures era of The Animated Series plays Vicki Vale good enough. Tommy Kenny is perfect as Penguin. Kinda reminds me a bit of Danny DeVito’s Penguin voice. And Peter Stomare was creepy as Dracula.

Overall, The Batman vs Dracula is a good Batman film even though there are far better animated Batman films out there. It’s a good time for superhero and horror fans alike if you can look past the mere fact that it isn’t nor is it trying to be Batman The Animated Series even though the show borrows some characters that were popular on The Animated Series. But, good Batman and vampires movie that doesn’t suck the life out of you. Seek it out.

GRADE
B+

Review: MINDWARP (1992, Twilight Time Blu-Ray))

51xNEAvxKqLMINDWARP (1992, Twilight Time Blu-Ray))
BY
SHAWN FRANCIS

(Warning!!! There will be spoilers—proceed at your own risk!)

Having been a long time Fangoria reader my only exposure to Mindwarp is through that magazine and all I knew of it was that it was a post-apocalyptic movie that starred Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm. For those who aren’t familiar with those actors, Scrimm shot to fame playing The Tall Man in Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm franchise and Campbell will forever be connected to his Ash character in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, and as of this review news recently broke that Campbell will be reprising his Ash character in Army Of Darkness 2 movie, which technically makes it Evil Dead 4.

I’ve never been a real big fan of post-apocalyptic movies, so I never had any tremendous desire to see Mindwarp, though I did make a mental note when I first read about it that it was at least noteworthy for having Scrimm and Campbell together in a movie. Scrimm playing the bad guy, Campbell playing the hero. Only other movie pairing I can think of that this pairing reminds of is the 1988 actioner, Black Eagle, which had Van Damme and Sho Kosugi playing villain and good guy respectively.

A few years ago Mindwarp played on cable, late night, I think, and I decided to record it and finally give it a watch. The next day I managed to get about 20 minutes into it before giving up on it. When I heard Twilight Time was going to release it on blu-ray, I decide to give it one more shot. Feeling at least this time I would make it through because I was reviewing it and by that very definition needed to sit through the entire running time.

I was not all that impressed despite the fact that for a very low-budget the filmmakers pulled off a nice looking and convincing movie. Things changed though when the story neared the end. After Scrimm is killed an event happens to the main character that had me thinking she isn’t going to settle with that. And Campbell’s performance started to go a bit over the top. Up until then he was played things rather subdued, which is not how I’m used to seeing him act. The only Bruce Campbell movies I own are the Evil Dead trilogy and Bubba Ho-Tep (2004) and this subdued performance by him in Mindwarp was not something I’m used to seeing. It was actually quite refreshing to watch, but once the leeches got to him, his character changed and it suddenly hit me, oh, I know how this is going to end, and, by God, that’s exactly how it ended.

When I was younger I used to despise movies that ended that way, but I think it worked for this movie and made everything that came before it, everything I was getting bored with, much more appealing.

I’m also convinced now David Cronenberg and the Wachowski brothers must have seen this movie for there is a real heavy Existenz (1999)/The Matrix (1999) vibe throughout. Actually, I’d say this movie is closer to Existenz than Matrix, but both have characters that are plugged into futuristic technology that makes one wonder where exactly does “reality” start.

In Mindwarp mankind has finally blown itself off the face of the map with its nuclear weapons. Those that survived are part of Infinisynth; they live within apartments that have these funky looking hi-tech recliners where one reclines in and a device comes out of the back to port you into this shared computer matrix. Within this “world” you can do anything, be anything, become anything. For Judy (Marta Alicia) she’s sick of this “dream world,” for her she can see the difference, she knows what’s real and what’s not and she rejects it to the point where she spends time in her apartment exercising and pining for someone real to talk with. Her mother is no good, she wants the dream world more than the real world, and her father disappeared years ago.
Infinisynth has a controller who monitors everyone’s inner lives. Once plugged in, Judy has had many run-ins with him for she keeps rejecting the “inner world” and the controller wants her to relent and enjoy it. She insists so much for a “real” experience that the controller finally decides to give her just that. Two men come for her once she wakes, they shove her into a bag, drug her and throw her out into what is left of the world outside, which is nothing but a barren wasteland that’s constantly freezing.

This world is populated by crawlers, deformed, cannibalistic humans that live underground, which only Stover (Bruce Campbell) left in his area to be the only uncontaminated human alive. Judy aligns herself with Stover, but any life she might have with him above ground gets taken away when they are kidnapped and brought into the underground world of the crawlers and the psychotic Seer (Angus Scrimm) who rules over it.

The movie is told through Judy’s eyes and even though Campbell is the stereotypical hero he’s more of a supporting character. Though that doesn’t diminish his performance any. Angus Scrimm was also fun to watch as he metes out all these horrible demises and tortures upon various characters. Incidentally, this version of Mindwarp is the uncut. A minute of footage has been put back. The gore that was initially trimmed has now been restored. There is a vivid and accidental disemboweling that occurs that I can only assume was part of the trim.

Until now, Mindwarp has never been available on DVD. Twilight Time brings it to blu-ray even and the 1080p 1.85:1 anamorphic high definition transfer looks fantastic, and this is a film you would’ve never expected to see on blu. Audio is English 2.0 DTS-MA and it that was good, too. Subtitles are in English only.

Only extras is a TV spot and an Isolated Score Track.

Twilight Time is a boutique label that presses only 3,000 units of any title they release. Normally their genre releases from the 80s and 90s tend to go out of print during the pre-order phase, but right now as of this writing Mindwarp is still available to buy. You can only buy Twilight Time discs from two sites—Screen Archives Entertainment and Shop.TCM.com, so if you want it, do not hesitate.

Note: Interested in reading more about Mindwarp? Find issues #99 and #100 of Fangoria, Gorezone #17 (Interview with Bruce Campbell), Bloody Best Of Fangoria #11 (Interview with KNB) and Horror Spectacular #7 (Interview with director Steve Barnett).