Category Archives: Movies

Battle of the Damned

Well… I can’t really come up with anything witty here. It’s Dolph Lundgren fighting zombies with a bunch of robots at his back. What do you want me to say?

Ah yes, Dolph Lundgren. If you’re unaware of my admiration for this Swedish actor, let me put it in simple terms: when I grew up I wanted to be Dolph Lundgren. I abandoned that dream when I realized I was a decent actor- oh, there I go again, being snarky! But seriously, when everyone else saw Dolph Lundgren and laughed, I couldn’t help but to think: “Oh yeah? So what did you do with your life that was so f—ing amazing?” That may not be entirely fair, we all go through life wanting different things but you can’t say Dolph Lundgren didn’t make something of himself. Regardless of what you call it, say the name Dolph Lundgren and people know who he is.

Some may say he doesn’t deserve all that fame but then there’s tons of actors I say the same thing about. If anything, Dolph Lundgren deserves it more than most since he held on through rough and tumble, through ridicule and mockery. While it could’ve been easy for him to just go away from Rocky 4 as a one-hit wonder, he instead chose this life and held on. I think that’s admirable.

And in recent years, he’s done somewhat of a comeback. Perhaps not so much in cinema with the exception of The Expendables and its sequel but on DVD. Not all of his work is great but if you want immediate examples worth checking out, in my humble opinion, take a gander at The Mechanik, Command Performance or Missionary Man. Or, you can just check out some of his most recent work: Battle of the Damned.

The year… is now. The place… is somewhere in Asia. The problem? Max Gatling is an idiot. Tasked with finding a rich man’s daughter from a quarantine zone, retired Major Max Gatling and his team waltz straight into what can only be described as hell on Earth. Told there was nothing but their target left alive in the zone, the team walk straight into a wall of zombies. When none but himself are left standing, he’s forced to undertake the mission on his own. But he soon finds that all is not as it seems in the abandoned city. Caught between a despot and flesh eating zombies (technically they’re not zombies), Max would need an army to get out of the city alive. But where can he find one that won’t become slim pickings for a horde of ravenous zombies?

What many don’t know about Battle of the Damned is that it’s actually a sequel to the director’s previous film Robotropolis. Okay, sequel is tenuous at best, it might be more accurate to say that they take place in the same world. Is there a term for that? “Related” seems a bit vague. It’s mostly the robots themselves that are a dead give away to this, sporting not only the same design but also mentioning the events in Robotropolis as do some of the characters. But from what little research I’ve done, none of the characters from the first movie return though that will have to wait until I’ve actually seen Robotropolis.

Oh yeah, I should probably mention that I haven’t seen Robotropolis. Get over it! I’ll watch it as soon as I can! In the meantime, here’s Dolph Lundgren walking away from a bunch of zombies (technically they’re not zombies).

Might I just say that I think Dolph Lundgren looks especially badass in this movie? ‘Cause he totally does. If you don’t agree, that would be because you’re lying to yourself.

So if there was ever one actor I never thought I’d see in a zombie movie (not counting Expendables) it was Dolph Lundgren. But honestly, I think he not just does a very good job but also fits in rather worryingly well, like this was what he was born to do. He plays Max Gatling, in case that wasn’t obvious and may I say that’s a fine name, and is one of two leading roles in the movie.
I like the fact that they’ve for once incorporated the fact that Dolph Lundgren is old and no longer in his prime. He’s retired and to accentuate the fact that he’s getting on in the years, he even has to use reading glasses, making him look oh so adorable… no, seriously, he looks like someone’s kind uncle or even grandpa, it’s amazing what a difference it makes.
Max Gatling never really reveals much about himself except that he’s in it for the money. We’re lead to believe he has a family or at least had at some point but nothing much is ever said about him. Instead we’re allowed to make up our own minds about him based on what he does. In my opinion he’s neither a bad guy nor a good a guy. Like he himself says at one point in the movie, he has no regrets about taking the mission except that he should’ve asked for more money.

Also something worth noting is the beginning of the movie where they show the band of highly trained mercenaries tearing through the city looking for Jude, their target. It’s not so much the scenes themselves but the ease with which they dispatch the zombies (technically they’re not zombies). I’ve always felt it strange that the military has never been very effective when it comes to zombies. From a purely logical standpoint, they shouldn’t be of any concern and the only reason the mercenaries suffer a major defeat is because they themselves trip up and eventually run out of ammo, leaving them to tangle with the zombies (technically they’re not zombies) in close combat which, for obvious reasons, is a bad idea.
All throughout this movie is a sense of realism with a few glaring exceptions. For one, as you might have noticed I keep hinting in a very subtle manner that they’re not zombies. And that’s because they’re not, coming closer to 28 Days Later than Return of the Living Dead. They’re not dead and are as human as you or I except for their insatiable hunger. And like you and I they’re dispatched just as easily. So there will be no Fulci-like rising from the grave here and if you die, you stay dead.

It was a surprisingly realistic twist on what I expected to be a very formulaic movie.

So all of you saying they’re not very good zombies or their make-up doesn’t make them look very zombish, there might actually be a point to that. Personally I really liked the look but I can understand why people would be disappointed.

On the other end of the spectrum from Max Gatling stands Jude, the young woman Max has been sent to find. She’s young but easily stands as Max’ equal and has a lot of spunk which I like. And I can’t deny that Melanie Zanetti, the actress portraying Jude, looks good but what really lends itself to the movie is her difference in height compared to Lundgren, adding a more dynamic and interesting feel to their relationship. Seeing her stand up to the giant that is Lundgren and actually make him back off is fantastic. A lot of this is of course owed to the fact that Zanetti simply gives it her all, acting as hard and well as she can and really pulls off what otherwise could’ve been a generic role.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a merry band of survivors that Jude has attached herself to. The two with most importance is Duke, the self-appointed leader of the survivors, and Reese, Jude’s boyfriend. They’re both played well by David Field and Matt Doran respectively but only Field is given something really juicy to work with, Lord of the Flies style. The rest of the gang is made up of varying personalities and purposes but overall I think the gang comes together well.
What really surprised me was how human many of the characters were. Not all of them get anything resembling characterizations but the ones that do are done very well. At the end of the movie you came away with some idea of who these people were and whether or not you liked them. Most of them come with both negative and positive traits like any old humanbeing would. And unlike many zombie movies, the cast is not entirely made up of assholes that you want to see die. Instead some actual weight is given to their fates and I can honestly say that I got a bit invested in the cast as we got along.

The action is well choreographed though there is some obnoxious shaky cam and fast cuts used to hide the fact that the effects for the robots aren’t as good as one might want. And perhaps to hide that Lundgren isn’t as spry as once but again, it fits with the character so it bugged me that they tried to hide the fact that the retired Major pushing sixty was a retired Major pushing sixty. But even admitting to the fact that the effects weren’t as good as they could be, they weren’t as awful as I was readily expecting either.

And talking about the robots… well, it is a bit of an unfair description to say that this movie features full on zombies vs robots. The robots do make an appearance early on but only become active players towards the end of the movie, after Gatling gets his hands on them. And the trailer might make it look like he had some hand in making them but even the writers knew that would be stretching any sort of credibility they may have.

But in my honest opinion, the robots don’t disappoint. Once they start brawling with the zombies and fuck them up, you can’t help but to get a bit upbeat. There’s a very tense scene where Gatling and Reese first come across the white robots where I wasn’t entirely sure where they were going with it which I thought was expertly done. And yeah, if I were a better person I’d point out how the white robots can really be seen as white knights or something but hey, I’m a simple dude. They’re white robots. Get over it.
I really dig the overall design, there’s something deliciously retro and practical about them, how they can alternate between bipedalism and quadrupedalism (that means walking on four legs, I’m smart) and the fact that even a lug like Gatling can make modifications to them.

So ultimately, is the movie worth checking out? Well, if you love B-movies and only want to be entertained for an hour and a half then this just might be worth your time. It actually surprised me with its quality as I had gotten so used to stuff like The Asylum’s stable. But the use of “zombies” was very effective and the robots, despite not really being the headliners the trailer might promise, didn’t end up disappointing. But the hat comes off in honor of the actors who made something out of this fairly standard zombie romp with robots. While Lundgren won’t be winning any awards any time soon, when he does get a role he fits in he shines. And where he doesn’t quite measure up, Melanie Zanetti and her merry band of actors more than make up for it.

The easiest way to figure out whether you’d like this movie or not is whether you still think of the eighties as a treasure trove of action and horror movies because that is exactly what this movie harkens back to. If it isn’t your thing then by all means, stay away, but if it does sound appealing… have at it. And we’ll be bros.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

Whenever I tell someone I’m a big fan of Dolph Lundgren they have a tendency to slowly walk away while looking worriedly at people around them, their eyes going: “Oh God, someone please help me!” But alas, there’s no help to come for the rest know it’s better to just let me feed because then I’ll leave the rest alone for a while.

So, how far does my Lundgren mania go? Well, let’s just say that I own some of his movies on DVD for the sole purpose of owning movies he’s in on DVD. I don’t have a poster of him yet. Nor his autograph or his soiled underwear but I’m working on at least two of these things. I’ll let you speculate on which ones.

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning

If you were alive and reasonably old during the early nineties, like say ten or above, chances are pretty good you heard about Universal Soldier. Mostly because it starred two foreigners who could barely speak English mangling a Shakespearian plot about identity and sanctity of life. Also, there was a great deal of kicking… a great deal. And a combine harvester… I think you see where this is going.

Jean Claude van Damme plays Luc Deveraux, a farmboy who goes off for glory and duty to his country and serves as a soldier during the Vietnam war. But near the end of his tour, his good friend and comrade in arms, Andrew Scott goes what is in professional circles known as batshit bonkers and kills Vietnamese civilians indiscriminately but even more unforgiving, he slays all of his fellow soliders as well. Finding this to be unacceptable, Deveraux tries to stop him, ending with the two killing each other in the process.

While that is a movie in and of its own, that’s just the beginning of Universal Soldier. Both Deveraux and Scott’s lifeless corpses are put on ice and used in the “Universal Soldier” program, an initiative by the US government to create the ultimate soldier. But once they’re deployed twenty three years later it becomes pretty apparent pretty quick that there are some flaws with the idea, such as Andrew Scott going into a homicidal rage and killing indiscriminately and Luc Deveraux going AWOL with a reporter he saved from Scott.

God damned fucking icon, right there

Since then the franchise has been in a bit of a holding pattern. Day of Reckoning is the sixth movie in the franchise but really only one of three that can be considered somewhat canon. There were two direct-to-TV movies starring Matt Battaglia as Deveraux and then in 1999 they released “Universal Soldier: The Return” in which van Damme reprises the role as a Deveraux now cured of the UniSol stuff building additional UniSols for the government. In other word, he’s now officially alive again but despite his experiences in the past he’s willing to condemn other soldiers to the life he nearly had.
In other words, he’s a douchebag Jesus.

Needless to say, both TV-movies and The Return were retconned so hard they practically phased out of existence. “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” was a new start for the franchise where Deveraux is called back into action after having been put in stasis following the original outing when the Ukraine prime minister’s (TOPICAL!) children are kidnapped by a NGU, a new typ of Universal Soldier, and held for ransom.
The conflict was resolved by killing a bunch of dudes but at the end of the movie, Deveraux ran off to parts unknown, presumably never to be seen again. Oh, and Andrew Scott came back temporarily to get killed again despite having become so much mulch in the first movie. Cloning, people, it’s a lot easier than you think.

So now it’s time for the sort of sequel to Regeneration: Day of Reckoning. And if you’re a fan of Lundgren and van Damme then I’ve got some good news for you: they’re both back. The bad news is, of course, that they hardly feature in the movie at all. Instead it focuses on a new character named John played Scott Adkins, a relative newcomer to the mainstream action venue and his most notable roll right now is probably in Expendables 2 as van Damme’s henchman.
At the start of the movie he sees his wife and daughter brutally murdered by Deveraux himself before falls into a coma for nine months. Upon waking up with no other memories than his wife and child’s murder, he finds himself drawn into a mysterious past where not everything is as it seems. Pursued by a relentless UniSol assassin he begins to seek out Deveraux and his merry men to claim vengeance.

Would you piss this guy off?

Day of Reckoning is a breath of fresh air in the UniSol franchise. Rather than mostly action like previous installments, Day of Reckoning instead tries to have some actual drama and intrigue. Although pretty predictable it’s more of a thriller, following John around as he starts to unravel his supposedly own past and the dark deeds he might have done and how much of his memory is actually true. Like I said, it’s pretty predictable and few of the twists will come as any big surprises but the fact that they even tried to go in this direction says good things about it to me.
The plot is slowly unraveled over the course of the runtime and it doesn’t really fall back in old and comfortable patterns until the end and it’s done with more or less an audible clunk with how blatant it really is. It goes from a pretty interesting thriller about identity to a pretty generic action movie with the subtlety of a drill in the brain. Up until then it also goes more for brutality in its action than quantity which underscored the difference in tone.

The decision to focus on a new character is also definitely welcome. Nothing ill towards van Damme or Lundgren but their characters have played out their parts. Bringing them back again and again and having them do the same things over and over again sets a limit as to where the movies can go from here. Scott Adkins is still a relatively new and young talent and could definitely use a franchise to make his own outside of “Ninja”. He has the chops for it, he just needs the opportunity.

But there’s also the problem with van Damme and Lundgren being past their prime. Again, not saying they can’t still put up a fight but the UniSols are supposed to be fast, efficient and nearly unstoppable but at this time in their lives, neither van Damme or Lundgren can put up a reasonable fight against someone as young and spry as Adkins. And no amount of stunt doubles will cover this realistically. Adkins wipes the floor with them and this makes the conflict pretty… dull. The only one who can put up a reasonable fight is Andrei Arlovski, an MMAer with a pretty impressive record who also happens to be about the same age as Adkins. He also starred in Regeneration as the antagonist UniSol.

I’m not trying to say that age is the ultimate factor, Lundgren despite his age is still pretty fit and well trained. But it is a factor and ignoring it won’t help anyone.

And the odd man out here is definitely van Damme who doesn’t really have much of anything to do in the movie. He’s now the leader of a band of rogue UniSols out to take down the government for what they did to them and are continuing to do on an almost daily basis. Which means he mostly sits around in a dark, dank bunker in the swamps twiddling his thumbs and killing off anyone he deems too weak, I guess. Gone is the sympathetic Deveraux from original and Regeneration and instead we have face-painted warmongerer who apparently has little sympathy for the little guy, condoning cutting a swath of destruction across a city of innocents.
Andrew Scott’s characterization has always been one of murderous rage whereas Deveraux was a protector of innocent. The explanation offered by the first movie is that the soldiers remember their final moments more clearly so that is what defines them. Andrew Scott may have been a nice guy but in his final moment he was child murdering, cut-off-ears-wearing, gun toting maniac so that’s what defined him as a UniSol. Alternatively, Deveraux’ last moments were spent trying to save a child and additional innocents so that’s what defined him as a UniSol.

The only point I thought the movie handled either character really well was in the beginning when the Plumber (Arlovski) assaults a brothel where Scott and a few fellow UniSols are partying like animals. Lundgren does really well here and the setting is used to great effect, giving Scott a really manic nature and character, sitting around with his hair slicked back and sporting a kickass white shirt, beer in one hand and whore in the other. It goes back to his psychotic portrayal in the first but it loses much of it the next time we see him, preaching to the UniSols.

Scott makes for a far better villain than Deveraux is what I’m trying to say. It doesn’t help that Deveraux spends the final fight painted like a clown.

Go ahead, try and take the final fight seriously. Especially when Adkins is clearly the better fighter now.

I hope they use any possible sequel to expand on the world they’ve now built. There’s conflict, there’s drama, there’s conspiracies and most importantly there’s two clearly defined sides. Up until this point it’s always been a bit of a struggle to find a villain for Deveraux. In the TV-movies they invented a brother to up the ante. In “The Return” it was a rogue AI. In Regeneration it was insurgents with hints at a much larger conspiracy. And now finally we have a huge conspiracy just waiting to be picked apart with judo kicks and bullets. And perhaps more importantly, the franchise has the opportunity to move away from Deveraux and Scott. The rogue UniSols have a clearly defined enemy in the government and the government has the option of cloning indefinitely.

Scott Adkins could definitely do something worthwhile here as he’s every bit the fighter van Damme and Lundgren were in the eigthies and nineties and at the very least their equal in acting. Bringing in more MMAers along the lines of Arlovski and Mike Pyle (played Capt. Burke in Regeneration) could make for a brilliant, action filled franchise with martial arts and stunts as their focus. A tighter, less star studded vehicle for martial artists looking to take a bite out of the B grade action movies of Hollywood.

The kind where you don’t fake bruises and blood with makeup.

But if they do make another I hope they go back to the same aesthetics and design as the first one. Say what you want about the movie’s quality and whatever it might have been ripping off but it sported a very cool, unique look for its UniSols, a look they’ve slowly been phasing out for some reason.

Unstoppable killing machine.

Maniacs in a boring bunker doing boring things.

See the difference?

The Monster X Strikes Back/Attack the G8 Summit

I find it’s always very difficult to review a parody. On one hand, full enjoyment of a parody comes only from knowing the source material well. On the other hand, as Airplane! and Hot Shots proved, a parody should also be able to stand on its own two feet and amuse even the casual viewer.
And then there’s the fact that humor is subjective. What I find funny is obviously not what someone else finds funny so it’s difficult to base a judgment on that.

Anyway, hi everybody (all two of you), sorry for the long wait, haven’t really had much to write about in a while but here you go, a review of a kaiju movie. For those of you at home scratching your head wondering what a kaiju is, it’s basically a grown man in a rubber suit stomping toy houses. Godzilla is a kaiju and so is King Kong. Pacific Rim is a perfect example of an American kaiju flick.

Anyway, The Monster X Strikes Back was released in 2008 and it’s been one of those movies that I just never got around to seeing. It’s a sequel to 1967’s “The X from Outer Space” but taken in a more intentionally humorous direction. Frankly, I don’t see the point of making it a parody when the original was so sidesplittingly hilarious as it was… sure, it wasn’t intentionally funny but funny none the less.

This time the movie is set in modern day Japan where the most recent G8 Summit is taking place. In the middle of these meetings, a giant monster lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc across the country. The politicians attending the summit decide that they’re the perfect leaders for this crisis and decide to take charge. At the same time we follow a reporter and her trusted cameraman as they investigate a mysterious shrine out in the middle of nowhere, not far from the summit itself.

What this results in is some of the most offensive stereotyping I’ve seen in a long time but at least here it’s done intentionally. And in all fairness, no country escapes the mighty wrath of director Minoru Kawasaki, not even Japan itself. All the cultural stereotypes are played tongue in cheek and are actually based around the political intrigue of the time and history in general. At times there’s quick wit displayed referencing World War 2 and it’s obvious much of the relationship between USA and Russia plays off the Cold War.
On a more political note, it’s a tool to show that all the grandstanding is entirely pointless since neither country actually manage to come up with an effective strategy against the monster, some even having comical effects such as the German’s gas being little more than laughing gas for Guilala, the giant monster. Instead we’re told to listen to the people more since they’re the ones who come up with the solution.

The rest of the comedy is a mixed bag ranging from a delegate having to run to the toilet all the time, a kid showing up out of nowhere with a fitting name for the monster in true kaiju-fashion, things being inserted in rectums and Takeshi Kitano showing up as a golden God to fight off the monster.

Yes, you read that right, the real centerpiece of the movie is a fight between Guilala and Take-Majin, a deity that has appeared at numerous times throughout history to save Japan from destruction. And this deity, of course, has the face of Takeshi Kitano, aka Beat Takeshi.

I don’t want to spoil too much of what happens since many of the gags are one-shots only, meaning you can laugh at them once and then they sort of lose their luster. I’m fairly certain that if I ever saw it again, I’d come away liking the movie less. But I can confirm that there’s a few surprising twists along the way and an unlikely country plays the hero in the end.
Can you enjoy it without knowing the source material? Yes, some of the humor is universal and you don’t have to be too politically savvy to get where the cultural stereotypes are coming from, like why the French delegate wants to shag a Japanese woman. But much of it will only appeal to kaiju fans such as myself but that’s just the nature of the beast here.

Do I recommend it? If you really don’t have anything better to do then sure. It’s not brilliantly acted, it’s not brilliantly directed, it’s not really brilliant anything and it’s not worth a rewatch. But I can’t say I regret watching it or that it was any sort of waste of time. So… take that for what you want.

Kamen Rider Blade – Missing Ace

I guess I am on a bit of a Kamen Rider craze lately but what can I say. I’m bored and Kamen Rider is just what I need to be less moody.

So, Kamen Rider Blade.

The series itself revolved around a competition that took place ten thousand years ago where 52 monsters called Undead fought to be the sire of all life on Earth. The winner was Two of Heart, the Human Undead, giving us the world we see today. But when scientists in modern times unwittingly release the Undead once again, the Battle Royal starts over with mankind’s fate in jeopardy.
At its core the series was all about our own nature and learning to overcome our dark sides. It’s not very subtle about it, there’s four main characters in this series and all of them struggle with very dark themes. Hajime slowly but certainly learns about compassion and fighting your own dark desires and Mutsuki struggles with what can only be considered as a parallel to drug addiction.

This was before they made a serious effort to appeal more to kids, as you might have guessed.

The series ended on a rather downer note with the main character having to make a very tough decision. There was no real right choice as both choices carried heavy consequences for everyone involved. It was a heartfelt but somewhat depressing end where it was hard to tell if it was truly a win. Sure, the world didn’t end but things would never be the same again.

Kamen Rider Blade – Missing Ace

So, Missing Ace then. Surprise, surprise, it’s a movie set in an alternate future, like so many Kamen Rider movies are. And fair warning here, here be spoiler territory as it’s impossible to discuss the setting of the movie without spoiling at least a little of the ending to the series.

So, Rider beware, here there be spoilers!

Kamen Rider – Missing Ace asks the rather interesting question: what if Kenzaki made a different choice. At the end of the series he had two choices: Letting his friend and comrade in arms Hajime go (under specific circumstances but again, trying to minimize spoilers) or defeat him in combat and seal him like the rest of the Undead. This movie shows the consequences of what would happen if he sealed him instead.

Four years after the final fight, life has moved on for all three remaining Riders. Tachibana remains with the company, Kenzaki has become a garbageman and Mutsuki is trying to get employed as a salaryman. It’s a very refreshing and sobering look at life for Kamen Riders after the threat ends. Their past deeds aren’t exactly helping them in the time after and the only ones who had some sort of success are Kotaro who wrote a book about the Kamen Riders and is now a millionaire and Ishori who is set to become a bride like she always wanted as a kid.
However, things are made worse when the Undead are once again unsealed but rather than calling on Kenzaki and Mutsuki to armor up once again, there’s a new generation of Riders who make their feelings about the old Riders clear: they are not wanted.

So not only is it an interesting “What if…” scenario but also tries to show that “Kamen Rider” on your resume doesn’t necessarily do you any good or even worse, is something you’d rather forget as in the case with Mutsuki who struggled a lot during his tenure as Leangle. It’s sort of a deadend job with no opportunity for advancement.

But the person hit the hardest in the aftermath is the young girl Amane who sort of adopted Hajime as her surrogate father during the series. She believes Hajime simply up and left, unaware of what he really was and the consequences of him living freely (the end of the world). Without his guidance, she’s lost her way and become a delinquent. Something Kenzaki tries to set right throughout the movie but is unable to do.

Kamen Rider Blade was very much about the characters themselves and their stories rather than about fighting monsters, often being reduced to monster of the week territory so characters can have more time to develop and evolve. It also had a tendency to stand in place and run for quite a while, the most egregious example being Mutsuki who seems to adamantly refuse to get better (again, the parallel to drug use is strong with this one). In the movie he is also the one most hesitant to armor up again due to his dark experience but realizes eventually that he has to transform.
Unfortunately one character goes incredibly underutilized and that’s Hajime himself who only shows up a little at the end and doesn’t do a whole lot. You’d think it would be more about him and Amane’s relationship but it’s incredibly one-sided with only Amane complaining a lot (like teenagers are wont to do). In fact, Hajime and Amane share very few scenes together and for the most part Amane is unconscious during these scenes.

Whether you like this or not, it does tie into the overall plot of the movie of moving on in life without Hajime. If he showed up and solved their problems for them again only to disappear it would take away from the message. As it is, Amane eventually gets a message from Hajime and is able to put her rebellious side away in order to enjoy life again with her mother and friends.

Honestly I don’t think they did everything they could’ve done with the plot. It’s a very interesting setting and first real possibility to see the life “after” Kamen Rider as it were. And they’re far too eager to provide a happy ending rather than continuing down the path of destruction or at least something tangibly real. But I suppose that after the stomach punch that was Kamen Rider Blade’s ending, they needed something a little more cheerful.

The new Rider are also terribly wasted, taken out of the equation with barely a consequence and a huge “OH COME ON!”-moment as they leave clues to their killer. They’re horribly antagonistic from the outset which gives their sudden departure no weight what so ever. I can barely remember their names now, let alone in a week.

Of course there’s a betrayal somewhere in the movie as well but that would be spoiling.

As for the action and effects, the final boss’ final form looks pretty good, actually, above what I was expecting but as for monster it’s the same ones from the series reused again. There is one new, though… but that’s a repaint so not exactly stretching the budget here.
And there’s a lot of monsters to get through in an hour and a half so expect a lot of them to be dealt with an expedient manner. Even the ones that posed a serious problem in the series. Which honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense but that’s not exactly rare in tokusatsu. Previous villains being dispatched easily, that is, sense is rare as hell.

So, time to ask the hard question: Was the movie any good?

Yes

It actually was a pretty good movie, especially if you enjoyed Blade and wondered what would have happened had Kenzaki chosen differently. All the actors return to their respective roles except Hikari Kajiwara due to little Amane now being a teenager. The music was good and the effects were above what I expected.
But perhaps more important the story is treated well and you get to see an interesting side of Kamen Rider that is usually not touched upon, namely what happens after. There are some things I wish they would’ve done differently and Hajime’s presence is far too brief.

But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself revisiting the old gang. Perhaps the movie is best watched after some time has passed or it might feel too much like a retread but here it felt rather… fresh and engaging. For once Kamen Rider actually had a movie set in a parallel time that had a point. Color me surprised.

Gingerclown 3D

Get ready for a surprise. Gingerclown has been released!

Wait, what do you mean you’ve never heard of Gingerclown? This is quite upsetting to me.

Gingerclown has been on its way for a good three, four years now and I heard of the film around the same time it was first revealed and to be fair, I got my knickers all kinds of wet from the news. It was multiple things that made me excited about this movie: it was intended to be a throwback to the old drive-in movies and horror flicks of yore. It featured puppets and animatronics rather than CGI. It takes place in an old, run down amusement park. But perhaps the thing that got me the most excited was that it featured three of my favorite horror actors of all times: Tim Curry, Brad Dourif and Lance Henriksen.

And I waited. Then I waited some more. God how I waited. And then… I forgot about it. Seriously, it took that long for this movie to be released even though it was supposedly done back in 2011. Luckily, though, I had told my friend about it and he was more diligent than me, keeping his eyes on Amazon until it was released. So great was his joy when he invited me over under false pretenses that he could barely contain himself, sitting me down in the sofa and going “Guess what movie!” as he played the first few seconds.

In case you’re curious, I guessed right.

Gingerclown 3D

Gingerclown takes place in the eighties and follows a trio of teenagers wrapped up in a dare. Biff, the stereotypical jock bully, dares the nerdy, weak Sam to enter the old, abandoned amusement park and bring back something awesome in return for a kiss from his girlfriend, Jenny. However, Jenny will have none of it and tired of Biff’s bullying ways instead joins Sam exploring the amusement park. But little do they know that the park is home to a pack of disgusting monsters just eager to pounce on their next prey. Unwittingly they’ve walked straight into Gingerclown’s trap.

Like I said, on paper it sounded like the most awesome movie in history. Did you read the part about the jock being named BIFF? There was nothing about this movie that wasn’t getting me excited. At least until the actors tried their hand at acting. Now, to be fair, Ashley Lloyd, Erin Hayes and Michael Cannell-Griffiths as Sam, Jenny and Biff respectively are decent in their roles but everyone else is horrible (not counting voice cast but we’ll get to that). There’s bad actors but there’s also an actor whose accent can best be described as a horrible mix of British, German and American and remember, this is supposed to take place in eighties America. I don’t think there were a lot of kids with that accent running around with the cool kid gang. I actually had to do a double take just to make sure I had heard right.

Luckily we mostly follow Sam and Jenny around but this is where the really ugly side of Gingerclown starts rearing its ugly head: there is no plot. The basic premise is there but it feels more like they came up with a bunch of different set pieces and monsters then tried to tie all of it together with the flimsiest of excuses possible. The result is Sam and Jenny aimlessly walking around an old amusement park, most often simply seeing cool stuff rather than being involved in it. There’s an entire scene where two monsters argue without Sam and Jenny even noticing despite the argument being quite loud.
Another scene has Sam and Jenny come across a grotesque form of some kind arguing about modernizing the sound system. And that’s it! That’s all you see of that monster and it’s not even related to anything that happens in the movie.

And that’s where the second biggest problem comes in: wasted voice cast. When you have three horror icons like Tim Curry, Lance Henriksen and Brad Dourif on your cast, you better do the most with them. Add Michael Winslow and Sean Young and you better deliver the greatness.

Henriksen’s Braineater

But the movie has no clue what to do with any of these actors. Both Sean Young and Brad Dourif show up for one measly scene and the Henriksen and Winslow duo is a painful slog of material a ten year old would find juvenile. I admit it was kind of funny hearing Lance Henriksen spouting very un-Lanceish dialog but that only works for so long. The only one who gets any kinds of decent screen time and material is Tim Curry but it was hard to tell it was even supposed to be Tim Curry. It sounded like Tim Curry doing an impression of how people think Tim Curry sounds like.

My best guess is that the director approached these actors merely out of fanboy eagerness rather than having anything in mind for them, fitting them in where he could. Everyone, even Tim Curry, is horribly underutilized and, like I mentioned before, terribly unfunny. Winslow, “Man of 10,000 Sound Effects”, at one point devolves into a minute or more long dialog exchange consisting primarily of burps and farts and changing the pitch of his voice up and down… this is not how you best utilize Larvelle “Motor Mouth” Jones’ talent!

If I didn’t know any better I’d say the voice cast were given no direction and were basically just told to goof off and they’d fit it into the movie later.

Which brings us to the third problem: the production. You can really tell this is the debut because it is shot in an extremely amateurish way and the budget was ridiculously low. They boast about using puppets and animatronics instead of CGI but the effects are so poor they don’t dare showing them on screen. The titular Gingerclown is barely in the movie at all and when he is it’s usually just in quick cutaways or partially off screen.
And the closeups, oh dear lord. The previously mentioned dialog exchange between Henriksen and Winslow is shot close up and never… ever… changes. It is literally the same angle from the same distance the entire time.

That’s not to say there’s no positives in the production at all. There are some genuinely creepy sets and the amusement park environment is sometimes used extremely effectively. There were times when I wondered how they pulled off certain shots and others where I simply had to admit they had done well.

But none of that takes away from the fourth and perhaps biggest flaw of the movie: it’s dull as shit. This movie doesn’t even make it past the ninety minute mark but it felt like it was three or four hours long. Towards the end I was honestly convinced it had a running time over two hours but then we still had twenty minutes to go.
It looks with envy at snails and molasses and glaciers moving at lightning speed compared to its own. I am not even kidding, we were seriously contemplating turning the movie off several times and doing something better with our time. And I sat through “A Scanner Darkly“… WITHOUT drugs!

And the ending leaves so much to be desired… so much.

All things considered, you have to cut this movie some slack because it was made in Hungary and it was the debut of a thirty something. It’s impressive that he did what he did. But with that said, it’s still an awful movie. Just awful…