Robot Wars (1993)

Robot Wars (1993)
AKA Robot Jox 2, Robot Jox 2: Robot Wars

Starring Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna, Danny Kamekona, Yuji Okumoto, J. Downing, Peter Haskell, Sam Scarber, Steve Eastin

Directed by Albert Band

Expectations: Moderate. I loved Robot Jox, but Crash and Burn really soured me on other Full Moon movies trying to recapture some of that glory.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Many moons ago, Uncle Jasper and I tag-teamed two of Full Moon’s three giant robot movies. Robot Jox, the first of these, was incredible. It was so incredible in fact that it bankrupted Empire International, and directly led to the genesis of Full Moon as a company. A few months later, Full Moon came out with Crash and Burn, to decidedly less satisfying results. Due to that film’s paltry offerings in the way of giant robots duking it out, I shelved Robot Wars for a later date; I just couldn’t bear to be disappointed again so soon. While Robot Wars definitely doesn’t live up to the incredible, hulking battles of Robot Jox, it does follow in its footsteps enough to be called something of a sequel.

But don’t get too excited: the “robot wars” are really only one battle at the end of the movie. Instead, I think the robot wars of the title are more a reference to the battles in Robot Jox than anything else, because in this timeline there’s only one remaining giant robot. I guess all those political struggles hashed out through robots bashing their fists into each other ended up working themselves out, as this sole remaining robot is now used as a tourist attraction ferrying tourists back and forth between a 1993 ghost town.

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Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Doctor Mordrid (1992)
AKA Rexosaurus (Germany), Invasori dalla IV dimensione (Italy)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Ritch Brinkley, Pearl Shear, Murray Rubin, Jeff Austin

Directed by Albert Band & Charles Band

Expectations: High. This one should be a load of fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


If anyone reads the teasers I put at the end of these series reviews, I have a redaction to make. Last week I claimed that I’d be reviewing Doctor Mordrid, “the closest the world has ever come to an actual Doctor Strange movie!” This is actually untrue, as it seems there was a real, sanctioned TV movie in 1978. Maybe at some point I’ll get around to tracking that one down, but for now you’re stuck with the Full Moon rip-off. What’s interesting about this film, though, is that Charles Band held the license to the Marvel character while in pre-production for the film. The license expired before actual production could begin, and the rights reverted back to Marvel, but Band being the ever resourceful filmmaker decided he could switch everything around and still crank out a fun intergalactic sorcery movie. He fulfills every promise except the fun, so while Doctor Mordrid is a total disappointment to me, it still manages to be marginally enjoyable due to a whole host of impressive practical FX work.

You might ask, “How did Full Moon ever get the license to produce a Marvel Comics film?” Well, this was 1992 and Marvel was still in the period of finding how best to bring their stable of characters to the cinema. While DC was making popular movies based on Superman and Batman, Marvel licensed out Captain America to notable low-budget filmmaker Albert Pyun who made a bunch of Full Moon movies, some films starring Ice T, and a more recent film titled Bulletface. Anyway, also around this time Roger Corman got the license for the Fantastic Four, and apparently Band got the Dr. Strange rights. For some reason, Marvel bet hard on low-budget, whimsical takes on their characters and boy, did that pay off! As I’m inclined to connect unrelated things that may have influenced one another, I’d love to believe that this period of Marvel’s cinematic history led them immediately to shelve any attempts at filming their characters until they could pull it off right. Enter Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and the rest is history. But enough about Marvel’s misguided licensing practices of the early ’90s…

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The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

Starring Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Andy Devine, Robert Easton, Douglas Dick, Tim Durant

Directed by John Huston

Expectations: Moderate. It will be interesting to see how the Civil War is portrayed in a 1950s film.


[Note: This is another review I did for my History class, in slightly edited form.]

John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage is not your typical war film. It’s more detached from the battles than standard entries into the genre, choosing to focus on the emotional makeup of one company of soldiers, and specifically the youth Henry Fleming (Audie Murphy). Murphy was a highly decorated soldier during World War II so he was no stranger to the nature of war. He plays the role of the scared, worried Army private very well, communicating the fear that any young man must face in the heat of battle.

The film’s tone is very contemplative and features readings from the source novel as narration to drive the story forward and connect the viewers with the struggles of this young man. Huston chooses to shoot many dialogue scenes using low angles which might show how the character is powerful in another film, but here it shows how Fleming wrestles furiously with his feelings. In one particular scene, Fleming meets up with a wounded squad mate who inexplicably runs to the top of a hill. Fleming chases after and when he catches him, the wounded man speaks incoherently while they are both framed from a low angle. The nobility of the wounded man confronts Fleming in these low angle shots. He cannot turn away from the imminent death of the comrade he deserted, his mind filled with the crushing regret and shame of his actions. He longs for “the red badge of courage,” a wound that would prove he was the man he wanted to be.

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Ghoulies II (1988)

Starring Damon Martin, Royal Dano, Phil Fondacaro, J. Downing, Kerry Remsen, Dale Wyatt

Directed by Albert Band

Expectations: Low. There’s no way this can live up to the first one.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


Ghoulies II is a film working against the odds. The first Ghoulies is a cult horror/comedy masterpiece (if you go for those sorts of things) and generally sequels to such fare are always inferior. I am happy to report that Ghoulies II is an exception to the rule. When four minutes in there’s a man with a groaning, wriggling sack over his shoulder being chased by three guys in blood-red satanist robes, you know you’re in for something…might be special, might be shit, but it’s definitely not gonna be middle of the road.

Apparently these satanists summoned the Ghoulies and the guy with the sack is making off with them to kill them. He runs into a gas station garage and throws the whole bag into a steaming toxic waste barrel. I’ve never seen a toxic waste barrel spewing fog at my local garage, but this is Ghoulies II so we’re just gonna go with it. Needless to say, the toxic waste has zero effect on the Ghoulies. They jump out and stop-motion their way over to a parked diesel rig. Soon, we’re all on our way to the carnival via the truck carrying the Satan’s Den attraction and our lovable Ghoulies.

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