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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).

Review: Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)

Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, and Evan Daugherty (screen story)
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
MPAA: Rated PG13
Released: 1 June 2012 (USA)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Noah Huntley, Liberty Ross

Synopsis: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Review: 8/10

My Thoughts: For generations many have watched the Disney kid-friendly classic Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, however few have ever heard the dark Grimm’s’ version it’s originally based on. While Snow White & The Huntsman isn’t exactly the dark version some might have hoped for, it’s the closest thing to date. In Snow White & The Huntsman, we’re told a different, more mature version of the classic tale with a dark twist. In short; this is not your daddy’s Snow White!

Before I go forward with my breakdown on the film, I must make a confession: I was biasedly rooting against this film from the get-go. Yes, yes you’re probably asking yourself; Oh how a critic can hold a moral high ground and hold a biased opinion against a film!?! Well it’s easy.. I’ll let you in on a little secret; we’re all biased to some extent, especially the ones who claim they are not! Now with that being said, I rooted against the film for a number of reasons, more than I can remember on hand, but two sole reasons I was against it are: 1. I am not at all a fan of Kristen Stewart. I’ve always considered her an actress with wasted talent. She has the presence in her and the skill to be great (Panic Room was proof of that) but she wastes it all on terrible film choices like “Twilight.” It’s a role that always leaves her with a blank stare of zero emotion and total boredom, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those films are sucking the dear life out of her!

The 2nd being; I was not at all pleased with some of the choices made by the production during filming. Like mirrored designs that were quite similar to other known franchises (the crest on Snow’s shield looks painfully a lot like the crest of Gondor from the LOTR series) or the fact this was going to be the second Snow White related film being released within just months of each other (the first being Mirror, Mirror). Which between the two would be the true film and which the pretender was yet to be seen. So yeah I was rooting against it to say the least.  Despite my low expectations and thoughts about it from the beginning, above all else, I waked in with an open mind.

To my surprise Snow White & the Huntsman turned out to be a very enjoyable film. I walked in expecting your typical “tween” flick since the Twihard fandom was obviously the targeted audience here, but I found SWATH surprisingly jammed packed with enough action and maturity in the storyline to appeal to a general movie going audience. The story is really nothing like any other Snow White film made to date; it’s dark, twisted and quite grim.  Like in past Snow White retellings, much of the evil queen’s agenda is left unknown to us.  Especially why she wants Snow dead so badly, other than the obvious, her birthright. Much like, but not entirely similar to the ABC show “Once Upon a Time,” in SWATH we’ve given a layered back story on why the queen must be the “fairest of them all” and what her true intentions are towards Snow White and how their fates, as well as the fate of the land itself, are linked to one and the other. As I stated earlier this is not your daddy’s Snow White; here we’re given a more harden Snow, one who has known nothing but pain and misery most of her childhood while locked away in the castle tower since the queen took over the kingdom. While a part of her still clings to her innocence, she is prepared to stand up and become the leader she was born to be and lead the remnant of those still loyal to the king ,who continue to fight on in hope of one day restoring the true hair to the throne.

Introducing the huntsman into the fold was interesting, but also worrisome. The huntsman is indeed a part of the classic Grimm’s tale and quite frankly this film would not be complete without him. However, I feared his part in the film may result in a love triangle with Snow and her childhood friend William, the Duke’s son, whom she may one day marry. The good guy and bad boy fighting over the same girl angle is such an overly used and tiresome cliché story point the studios like to work these days, and I personally have had enough of it with within the last 4 years with the Twilight films and Red Riding Hood to last a lifetime. Interestingly enough, while there is a romance developing between certain characters in the film, it doesn’t dwell too much on it however and plays a very minimal part in the film. Snow White isn’t fighting for love or a boyfriend; she’s fighting for her people and to avenge her father’s death.

Now the film isn’t perfect, far from it truth be told.  It’s got it’s flaws and some questionable aspects that left me a little confused. One in particular is that it’s established at the very beginning that this tale takes place in a mystical realm, as it always was meant to be, but the very first line muttered from Kristen Stewart’s mouth is the Lord’s Prayer. It felt a little awkward hearing it in this film seeing that its’ not taking place in our realm. Furthermore, Christianity plays a role in the overall theme, not shoved down your throat like some films do, but it’s clear they did this to appeal to a Christian fan base since it was diverse with so many different mystical creatures. However, I enjoyed the way they fit in all the classic elements of the classic story, except for the poison apple which I thought felt a tad bit rushed. However, looking upon the film as a whole, I’ll forgive that mishap.

As for the acting: Well this is where it got interesting for me. Why? Because as stated in the beginning of this review, I am NOT a Kristen Stewart fan, she’s played the same role in most of her films without even trying to broaden her horizon a bit performance wise. I blame the role of Bella for this, but she’s gotten too comfortable in the role of the damsel in distress waiting on a man to save her. And I’ve grown tired of this repeat role of hers. Now she’s no Rooney Mara and SWATH is certainly not TGWTDT (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) in comparison of breakout performances go, but Stewart did something here that surprised me greatly, she impressed me in her performance! Yes you read it write, she impressing in her performance. For once that drained emotionless look she normally gives worked and worked with a charm it did. We also see a side of her strength and determination, which is something I haven’t seen in her for a long time, and yes she smiles for a change too. If this is what playing Snow White does to her she ought to play more characters like this in the near future.

Now with that being said, while Stewart is the lead and this is a Snow White tale, Charlize Theron steals the movie with her performance as the evil queen Ravenna. She put emotion and drive into the role, and to some extent, she made you feel sorrow for the queen despite her evil ways. Chris Hemsworth did a great job as the Huntsman, but to be honest, it was incredibly hard seeing him in this, especially after seeing him appear as Thor in The Avengers a few weeks earlier. No matter how much I tried I kept picturing him as the mighty thunder god Thor. Sam Claflin performance as the Duke’s son William was fantastic; he played the part with conviction and was spot on. Sam Spruell’s deserves a special nod for his performance as Finn, right hand to the evil queen and her brother, he embraced the deviousness of the role. You loved to hate him almost from the get-go, yet a part of you can’t help but feel a little sympathy for his character since he only does what his sister wills. Now unlike the classic tale with only seven dwarfs, SWATH has eight dwarfs, who were presented unlike they’ve ever been before being played by: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson. Yes all full size actors playing dwarfs and CGI’d down to size using top quality special effects that were barely noticeable.

Finale Say: Snow White & the Huntsman may have its flaws and is not a exact adaptation of the Grimm’s tale, it’s dark atmospheric tone help make the most of its PG-13 rating. This twisted retelling of a classic tale proved to be quite enjoying from start to finish. I highly recommend.

Book Review: The Dragon and The Detective

The Dragon and The Detective (Dragon Tales & Stories #2) by Drew Henriksen
Published:
April 7, 2006 by ArcheBooks Publishing
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Reviewed By: Nicole Raines
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Plot: Detective Craig Scalici is working a case of mysterious murders, where the remains look like they have been eaten and regurgitated. Of course, this cant be possible.. What kind of creature could eat and regurgitate an entire body? Craig and his daughter have also been having strange dreams of flying and being stalked by something evil. What could this mean? With a reporter out to destroy his career and an ex-wife suing for custody, he must try to keep his cool and put a stop to the evil that is killing everybody in it’s path, before it gets to him and his daughter.

My Thoughts:  The Dragon and The Detective is the second book in the Dragon Tales & Stories trilogy by author Drew Henriksen. After really enjoying the first book, I was looking forward to diving back into the world Henriksen had created. However, I wasnt expecting to dive into the 1970s after spending 400 years in the future in book one. Initially I was a little bit disappointed in the change of settings, but then my initial disappointment was put aside as the storyline started to take shape and the characters pulled me in.

The book opens with the unexplainable disappearance of big time mob boss Frank Gercio. Gercio and his limo completely vanishes without a trace. Craig and Aisha are called to the crime scene when Gercio and his limo are discovered several miles away from the vanishing point. What’s worse, the limo and Gercio’s body looks like it has been completely eaten and regurgitated. Talk about a crazy crime scene!  Craig knows there’s no logical explanation for what could have happened to Gercio and he soon starts to realize there might be some supernatural force at work. When he starts having dreams about dragons and flying at night, he begins to wonder if dragons are real and if one could have eaten Frank Gercio. Of course that explanation is crazy. Or is it? Keeping his concerns to himself, he looks to another plausible explanation: Frank Gercio’s daughter, Marcella, who is even more dangerous than her father ever was.

At first I wasnt sure about the main character, Craig Scalici. His aloofness with people at work somewhat put me off, but once I discovered his devotion to his daughter, Meredith, I quickly grew to like him. He also has a witty personality, but with somewhat of inappropriate humor for the work place. He was an interesting character to say the least. I also liked his partner at work, Aisha Barlow. She has a no-nonsense attitude. I loved how straightforward she was with Craig when he sometimes needed to be put in his place. Two of my favorite characters were Craig’s daughter Meredith and her babysitter Jeannine. Meredith has a keen sense to the supernatural around her, even though she’s very young. For some reason I was drawn to her the most and loved Jeannine relationship with her.

Marcella is the main antagonist of The Dragon and the Detective and let me just say that she is loathsome! There’s really not a single redeemable quality about her. Maybe her love for her son, but not even that could endure her to me. Not only is she deadly as the mob bosses daughter, she truly is evil in every sense of the word. I actually felt bad for her husband. She’s also a very powerful witch. Using both her positions of power, mob & magic, she’s out to destroy anybody she views as a threat and that includes Craig. With the help of a mysterious book and blood magic, she begins to target Craig and everybody in his life.

I dont want to spoil too much of the storyline, so I better not say too much more about the plot, but when I first started reading, I wasnt sure how The Dragon and the Detective would tie in with the first book, Dragon and Wolves. The first book left me wondering about the history of a certain object and I’m almost certain that the object’s history is revealed in The Dragon and the Detective. I’m curious to know if both stories take place in the same area, but 400 years apart. I’m not certain at all, but I cant help but to wonder if Marcella’s mansion is the same mansion that burned down in Dragons and Wolves. It’s a question I would like to ask the author.

Like Dragons and Wolves, The Dragon and The Detective included a few illustrations throughout the story. They were done by Rob Granito. I wish more books included illustrations because they really do make a nice touch to the story.

Henriksen once again set a great pace to the story that kept the reader guessing. Even though Craig and his daughter both had dreams about flying with dragons, I could never figure out exactly who the dragon was and it wasn’t revealed until the very last chapter! It was a hell of a twist! One I never would have guessed and certainly didnt see coming. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the revelations. All I will say is that some of the characters ended up not being who I thought they were and it made me feel a little disappointed and a couple of deaths made me feel a little sad, but the overall storyline was really good read. There’s also a few side plots involving a snaky reporter trying to ruin Craig’s career and Craig’s relationship with a mysterious author, which all come together very nicely within the story.

Aside from a few grammar mistakes, I found the writing to be solid – being a really good blend of both mystery and fantasy. All the characters in the book are wrote with personality. Even the bad guys had a few characteristics about them you could appreciate, so I was never bored when the story went back and forth between characters. Henriksen once again proved that he has a great imagination and a knack for storytelling.  If you enjoyed Dragons and Wolves, you should have no trouble enjoying The Dragon and The Detective.