Comic Book Review: Y: The Last Man Volume 1: Unmanned

(Submitted by with love by Mr. Prince Adam…Ho-pe you’re having a very Happy New Comic Book Day, Kinky Ho-mies! xoxo)

“Written by Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, EX MACHINA) and with art by Pia Guerra, this is the saga of Yorick Brown–the only human survivor of a planet-wide plague that instantly kills every mammal possessing a Y chromosome. Accompanied by a mysterious government agent, a brilliant young geneticist and his pet monkey, Ampersand, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth. Collects issues #1-5.” (Vertigo)

This comic book gets a lot of critical praise and is lauded in the fanboy community as well! The way some of my friends talk about it, you’d think it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever read. Having just read the first volume, I just don’t get the high praise. For me it was okay, but I definitely had problems with it. One of the things I did like, was the idea that a virus/plague was killing every male on Earth. Now I didn’t like it because my male brethren were dying off. However, this was an intriguing plot point that is unique to any comic book I’ve ever read. The male death epidemic, allows the story to give us incredibly strong, prominent and badass female characters. Sure, Yorick Brown is the last man and he’s at the center of this story, along with his pet monkey Ampersand but this story would be pretty boring if it was about a dude and his monkey. By the way, this book gets extra points because a lead character has a pet monkey. The monkey is a pest, and a pain in the ass to Yuri, which drives most of the humor in this post-apocalyptic story. Also it reminds me of Friends and Joey. The president is obviously now a woman, and Yorick’s mother is a state representative in Washington. In an effort to set the scene for these two characters and this book before the male population goes extinct, this book gets quite political. We see Yorick’s mom arguing with a male counterpart over the issue of an abortion amendment. We see the soon to be President in Israel in the midst of Israeli/Palestinian warfare. Both abortion and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are still big issues even a decade plus after this book was published. I’m pleased that these issues are present, as comic books rarely touch on them. I only hope that it wasn’t all for exposition, or that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, when the story shifts its focus to Yorick’s journey. Speaking of Yorick’s journey, to find out the nature of the virus, why he wasn’t affected by it, he’s joined by two other awesome female characters. The first is Agent 355. The character is tasked by the President to guard and escort Yorick from Washington to Boston. The interesting thing about Agent 355 is that she is no simple body guard, she is a member of the clandestine group Culper Ring. She says they are a part of American history but you can sense there’s more going on with this group and I can’t wait to delve into that history and their ultimate machinations in future volumes. The third member of Yorick’s Scooby gang is Doctor Allison Mann. Dr. Mann is a geneticist, with a special aptitude for cloning. She successfully attempted the cloning process before, and cloning Yorick seems like a way of re-establishing the male population to ensure the births of future generations of humanity. If you suspend disbelief, that sounds like a viable option and she sounds like someone who can get it done.

The main antagonist of this first five issues is the Daughters of the Amazon. They view extinction of all men as a blessing and as a chance to rise up and return Earth to its glory days, when it was led by only woman. These women take Amazon mythology to its extreme. To the point where they cut off one breast because it makes it easier to shoot a bow. If one of their ranks or another woman doesn’t fall in line with the exact ways of the group they are killed. Brian K. Vaughan writes the Daughters of the Amazon with the most extreme stereotypes people have of feminists. This group of women are man hating vandals, societal disrupters and killers. I don’t think the writer is doing this to disparage normal, sane and legitimate feminist, he’s just creating a hyper stereotypical version, who do horrible things so that the readers have an antagonist to root against and despise. If he depicted feminists as they really are, this book would have zero action beats at all. It’d just be marching and protesting. While that may be real world appropriate, it translates to one boring comic. With Yorick, Agent 355 and Dr. Mann getting into confrontations and being on the run from the Daughters of the Amazon, this book has a bit of a Mad Max vibe going for it. The book ends with our trifecta in a bind. Not only are they on the run from Amazon wannabe’s, but they reach Dr. Mann’s Boston lab, only to find the building and her research up in flames. However, the perpetrator of this arson, is a lieutenant general of the Israeli Defense Force. She was seen briefly and early in the story and is after Yorick, to ensure the future of her nation. That’s what I liked about this book. What I didn’t like was Yorick. This guy is in his mid-20’s, jobless and is obsessed with maintaining a long distance relationship with a girl who, it is clear that she’s on the verge of breaking up with him, so the guy proposes to her over the phone. What a douchebag. When the plague hits and all the men die, and it becomes clear that he is the only person capable of insuring humanity’s ultimate survival, his only concern is going to Australia to find his girlfriend. Really? I mean the savior of humanity throughout the book, acts like a petulant child when he doesn’t get his way. Yeah, if the future of the human race was really left up to someone like him, I’d rather we all die off. The other thing the book does poorly is deal with the relationship between Yorick and his sister Hero. He tells us how close they are, yet we never see them interact. A flashback to Yorick and Hero’s youth would’ve helped build the bond. Instead, we see Hero at the very beginning and end of the book. At the beginning, we see her banging her figherfighter boyfriend in the back of a fire truck, while at the end we see her with one boob and she is one of the members of Daughters of the Amazon tasked with finding Yorick. Seems to me Brian K Vaughan jumped the gun with her character arc, if you can call it one. Then there’s the issue of the plague killing all the men. The biggest plot point of this book and we don’t get so much of a hint at what it is, or what might have caused it. I understand there’s lots of story left to be told but come on, tease us with something.

Pia Guerra is the artist on this book and it’s the first time I’m seeing her work. To me it has a similar style to the artist of iZombie. While the work is good, given the nature of this story, there aren’t many action scenes to gush on about. I do like the picture of the wives of the dead republican male senators, approaching the White House with weapons, demanding their husband’s places on the senate. The image looked like something akin to zombie’s attacking in a movie or TV show. The page where Yorick gets into a fight with a few Daughters of the Amazon’s resembled the aftermath of an nWo wrestling match. A couple Amazon’s held Yorick down, while the ring leader roughed him up a bit. There was even spray paint involved! The final splash page is an aerial shot showing our characters lost in a literal fork in the road, with the road making the shape of a Y. Now that’s a cool way to end the first arc of a book. Ultimately though, I wish cover artist J.G. Jones was doing the interiors. His art is far more realistic looking and suits the real world story and scenario’s this book deals with.

I’m mostly split on this book. There’s a lot to like about this book but there’s a lot I don’t like about this book. Right now, I’m skewing more negative, due to an unlikable idiot of a main character, under developed backstory and character relationships, and bad pacing in certain places. I’ll probably give this book another go, in the hopes that another volume will build on the parts I did like, and reveal answers to the questions I have about the virus/plague. After Volume 1, I’m left wondering “Y” The hell do so many of my friends and critics think this book is great!?

#TBT: The “Invader Zim Rises Again” Edition

Ho-wdy, fellow Earth Ho-mies! Cult favorite Invader Zim is coming back in a big, bad way!

No, it’s totally true! Invader Zim will invade again in a new 90-minute TV movie from creator Jhonen Vazquez!

From the Press Release from Nickelodeon:

“Invader Zim” Returns to Nickelodeon in All-New Original TV Movie Based On Fan-Favorite Animated Series

Creator Jhonen Vasquez Serves as Executive Producer, Original Voice Cast to Reprise Their Roles

Burbank, Calif.-April 4, 2017-Nickelodeon officially announced today the greenlight for an all-new, 90-minute Invader Zim TV movie from original creator Jhonen Vasquez, marking the network’s third animated property from its rich library of content to be reimagined for today’s audience. The 2D-animated TV movie, produced by Nickelodeon in Burbank, will show the latest and greatest ridiculous attempt at world domination by the universe’s worst alien invader ever. The movie will also feature original voices from the fan-favorite television series.

“As a network that prides itself on a 25-year history of creating groundbreaking, hilarious animation for kids, Invader Zim is one of our great loves. It’s been so exciting to see its popularity grow over the last decade through social media, consumer products and the Zim comic books,” said Chris Viscardi, SVP, Content Development and Production, Animation, Nickelodeon. “What makes this announcement extra thrilling is the adventure that Jhonen has created for Zim, and I can promise you that it is as wonderfully absurd and strangely heartfelt as any fan of the original series could hope for, and kids seeing it for the first time will love it too.”

The Invader Zim TV movie follows the perpetually desperate and delusional Zim as he creates a new and potentially Earth-destroying plan to finally get the attention he deserves from his Irken leaders, the Almighty Tallest.

Original voice cast members reprising their roles include: Richard Horvitz as Invader Zim; Rosearik Rikki Simons as GIR, Zim’s insane robot sidekick; Andy Berman as Dib Membrane, junior paranormal investigator and Zim’s alien-obsessed human nemesis; and Melissa Fahn as Gaz Membrane, Dib’s younger, video game obsessed sister. Additional casting will be announced in the coming months.

Invader Zim debuted on Nickelodeon in 2001 and chronicled the efforts of an extraterrestrial named Zim on a mission to conquer Earth and enslave the human race.”

I’M SO EXXXCITED!!! 🙂

To Ho-nor the return of this eXXXtraterrestrial black comedy, I’d like to take a look at a clas-sick episode of the series: Dark Harvest.

Dark Harvest is certainly dark. To make himself appear more human, Zim attempts to win the hearts and minds of the people… along with their kidneys, spleens, pancreata, and other precious organs! Yes. this an episode of a Nickelodeon show about harvesting the organs of children! I’m sure parents just loooovvvvvved this one! 😉

Clocking in at about 12 minutes, Dark Harvest is as gloriously twisted as any full-length “adult” horror film. Having gathered organs from nearly everyone in his “Skool,” Zim becomes so grotesquely bloated with the body parts that he can hardly contain himself… literally! The whole thing plays out like an animated nightmare concocted by David Cronenberg. If organ-snatching wasn’t horrible enough, there are creatures and organs floating in formaldehyde, a child’s skeleton, Running Man-like exploding collars, a spooky boiler room Freddy would adore, and a climax that recalls Alien. This demented bit o’ animation is the most depraved thing ever aimed at children… and I love it for that! 🙂

If you have the stomach for it, check out the biological insanity below:

Welcome back, Invader Zim! I’m gonna sing the Doom Song to celebrate! 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review: Robocop 3

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Goon-bot!! 🙂 xoxo)

There’s nothing more sad to see a whole franchise crash and burn with a single miscalculation. Well, let me rephrase that, because miscalculation makes it sound like this film was planned for greatness. What’s the word I’m looking for? Fuckery? Yeah, let’s go with fuckery. I choose the word fuckery, because the studio stepped in and shit all over ideas and let the director, the great Fred Dekker, drown in it and killed the franchise until they finally remade it, which cemented its coffin in the ground for good. How did the Robocop franchise die out? I mean, what the hell happened and how could such a great character be treated so disrespectfully? The first film was so revolutionary for sci-fi and action and created one of the most memorable characters and even though the second film didn’t capture the same kind of magic, it still gave us a very entertaining comic book-esque film and remained true to the series. Robocop 3, however, is the watered down, kid friendly, dull sequel nobody was happy with.

I don’t blame director Fred Dekker, I don’t think most people do. I think by now we all know he was a hired gun, excited to work on a Robocop flick using some of Frank Miller’s rejected script ideas from the second film. Robot Ninjas? Sounds like that’s going to be really cool. There are some good ideas here, like with OCP lying to the media about destroying homes to make way for the new Delta City and the people’s uprising to take it back. It feels like the series has been building up to this, but how it gets there isn’t how we wanted it as fans.

Leave it to any studio to step into a multimillion dollar franchise and say, “how can we make MORE money?” Realizing that their audience was primarily young adults and teens, they decided to water down the film, strip it from all the subtle social satire, remove all blood and a good majority of violence to sell more tickets… even though the majority of their younger audience was already seeing the movies. Oh, and we have to add a kid that’s super good at hacking, because that’s relatable to today’s youth and let’s give Robocop a jetpack and an arm mounted machine gun, because we need to sell toys. Needless to say, the end product was not very good, nobody was happy, Orion went bankrupt, poor Fred Dekker was thrown under the bus and the franchise was dead and buried until they would decide to dig it up and defile its corpse in 2014 for the remake.

Detroit has gone to hell, citizens are being bullied out of their home and to relocation camps, which the media is seeing as a friendly gesture, but in reality these folks are being forced from their homes and families are being separated, like Nikko. She’s obsessed with Robocop and others, like ED-209 and seems to be a cliched, smart, tech savvy little lady. At the beginning, she’s stripped from her family by OCP’s armed force, the Urban Rehabilitators (which kinda sounds like a terrible ‘90s rap group) that is also called Rehab, led by the nasty and British McDaggett. Yeah, that combination sounds real trust worthy. She’s sad for about a minute, maybe a minute and a half, until she’s found by a resistance group, led by a woman named Bertha. Bertha is actually based off a Frank Miller character called Martha Washington from his Give Me Liberty comic book. She’s a cliched version of a tough and well organized, militant woman and I say cliched, because it comes off as disingenuous to actual strong women and not only that, but her plans… well, they suck and are terrible and I’m not surprised they get lots of people killed. Upon connecting with her group, Nikko immediately forgets about her parents and helps hack an ED-209 so the group can steal some weapons from a police arsenal. It’s honestly so stupid that it hurts to watch that scene. She just walks up to an ED-209, a machine known for malfunctioning and blowing the everliving shit out of people, hacks into its ankle and then gives a shoulder shrug and a shit eating grin. I was expecting some cartoon trombones to play.

But suddenly, a police car with tinted windows is hot on their tail? Do you think the only person we can’t see could be… Robocop? First of all, why are they keeping him a secret and secondly, how come Robocop is the only guy on the force to get tinted windows? Another pressing matter I should bring up is that because of his commitment to Naked Lunch, Peter Weller was replaced by Robert John Burke. Don’t get me wrong, Burke is a terrific actor, but he seems lifeless and stiff as Robocop, almost more… cyborg. I know that sounds weird, but he lacks the regained emotion that Peter Weller brought to Robo. Doesn’t matter, as Robo gives up his pursuit to help out his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) who crashed into James Lorinz from Frankenhooker while in pursuit. James Lorinz steals the show for a moment, doing his lovable and somewhat mildly insults in his Jersey accent. Unfortunately for him, they realize they are in gang territory and shoot blindly into the dark as most cops are trained to do. Just when they are about to be attacked, Robocop drives off the roof of a building and upon landing, blasts at the gang with his new arm mounted machine gun so the kids can scream, “I WANT THAT TOY!”

OCP now wants Robocop’s emotions wiped (I think or I’m getting confused) and put on the rehabilitation squad, but a turn of unfortunate events would have him do otherwise. In an attempt to get out of the movie, Nancy Allen is shot and killed by McDaggett while her and Murphy are protecting some citizens in a church that the Rehabs are trying to relocate. It’s a weak and relatively unfaithful departure for the character of Anne Lewis, but there are far more problems in the film than this and I’m sure Nancy Allen didn’t care. Robocop takes a grenade to the chest that pretty much lays him out for a good chunk of the film. Yes, the same Robocop that has battled other robots several sizes bigger than him, taken tons of bullets, run over and was even previously set on fire is now completely phased by a shot to the chest. It’s all for the sake of the plot so we can spend time with the human characters, but you’ll soon see just how boring Robocop 3 actually is. It’s not that the characters are unlikable, they are just really uninteresting and it’s hard to care what they are up to, so I’ll just sum up the middle part of the film; they get the doctor who cares for Robocop to fix him up and she realizes that when the resistance robbed the police armory, they stole Robocop’s jetpack, so now he has that.

But Murphy’s (that’s Robocop in case you forgot), got a promise to keep to his old partner. He sets his sights after McDaggett with intention of taking him down. Dead or alive! Well, since this is super neutered PG-13, probably attempt to take him in alive. However, OCP’s parent company, the Kanemitsu Corporation, has sent cyborg ninjas to make sure that Robocop and the resistance are taken care of, so that way OCP stocks won’t plummet and they won’t go bankrupt. Isn’t that an exciting plot for kids? It does lead up to a kinda cool fight scene between Robo and the cyborg ninja, but it could have been a lot more better had the action hadn’t been toned down. It’s also very short, but after it’s done, it’s time for the cops versus OCP in the battle for Detroit! I know, sounds exciting, but trust me… it isn’t. It’s very lackluster and the action equivalent of a tiny, wet fart that you’d barely notice.

Well, what can you say about Robocop 3 that people don’t already know? It’s a goddamn shame. That’s all I can think of when I think of this movie. It’s a shame about what happened to director Fred Dekker (who is an extremely talented man) and it’s a shame that this is the movie we got, because the studio wanted to make more money. Well, they didn’t and they didn’t deserve to for this, but then again, we didn’t deserve this money and Robocop didn’t deserve to go out on this note, dammit. I know, technically he didn’t, he went out on a worse note with the remake, which actually makes Robocop 3 seem not nearly as bad in comparison. I will say that the effects and music in the this film are still quite fantastic, as is the sound design. At least those staples of franchise were kept intact, but everything else from the acting, the characters and most of all, the plot, are all very bad. I know when we talk about films being bad, people think that there must be something funny or entertaining about them, because they are bad. I wish that were always the case, but it rarely is. Some films are just bad.

In any case, Scream Factory brought you Robocop 2, so they are also bringing you Robocop 3, which surprisingly (or not surprisingly) is not presented in a new 2K transfer. There is, however, quite a few new bonus features that deal with the making of the film, interviews with the cast and crew and so on, as well as trailers and such. You know, your usual Scream bonuses.

I can’t recommend Robocop 3 to fans of sci-fi or action film. Hell it’s hard enough to recommend it to even the most die hard Robocop fans. It’s not the worst film or the worst sequel out there, but it’s not a good movie and there’s very little entertainment to be found in it.

BLOCHCENTENNIAL: Happy Birthday, Robert Bloch

Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.

― Robert Bloch

Happy 100th Birthday to Master of Weird Fiction and Father of Psychos, Robert Bloch!

Born in Chicago in 1917, Robert Bloch got his first taste of blood when he saw the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera during its original run. He was, in his words, “terrified and fascinated by the face that glowered at me from the screen.” From then on, Mr. Bloch was drawn to the strange and eerie. In his teen years, Mr. Bloch began corresponding with ho-rror master H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s influence loomed large in Mr. Bloch’s early work and informed most of his fiction. In The Shambler from the Stars, Bloch included a Lovecraft-like character… and promptly murdered him in a brutal fashion. Lovecraft returned the favor by offing a Bloch stand-in in The Haunter in the Dark, which he also dedicated to Bloch.

Bloch eventually moved away from Lovecraftian pastiches and began to develop his own unique style. He enjoyed great success with Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, a sinister tale with the kind of gleefully macabre punchline Bloch would become known for. Jack the Ripper would later become a recurring theme of his fiction, as well as lunatics in general. While others wrote mysteries that focused on heroic detectives, Bloch preferred maniacs and fiends. In 1959, his knack for writing of the disturbed mind resulted in a novel that would secure his place in horror history: Psycho. The novel was famously adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock and further established Bloch as a master of terror.

After the unfathomable success of Psycho, Bloch took a stab at screenwriting. For television, he penned 10 episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (several based on his own stories), 3 episodes of Star Trek (one being a Jack the Ripper story) and 10 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. With site favorite William Castle, he crafted Strait-Jacket and The Night Walker, both among Castle’s best thrillers. Following The Skull (based on Bloch’s The Skull of the Marquis de Sade), Bloch would lend his ghoulish talents to Amicus by writing screenplays for The Psychopath, The Deadly Bees, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum.

Strait-Jacket

For a career chocka-Bloch with fright classics, we salute Robert Bloch! Thanks for making us go Psycho! xoxo

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Dr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, ho-mie, bc I didn’t even wanna touch this one!! 😉 xoxo)

I think it’s only fair to state that I’ve been a fan of the Ghost in the Shell franchise for a considerable portion of my existence. Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film was a haunting, cerebral film that completely went over my head when I saw it around the age of 7. It fascinated me, but I couldn’t articulate why until I was a little older. The older me view Oshii’s film as a poetic tale that deals with the nature of the human consciousness and the influence of technology, but my younger self saw a confusing sci-fi flick that delighted him nevertheless. Admittedly, that film was not the sort a 7-year-old should have watched, but it did stick with me for a long time after. The older I got, the more appreciated it. When it came to the US, I discovered Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which maintained much of what I loved about the movie and quickly became one of my favorite anime shows. Masamune Shirow’s original manga didn’t find its way to me until later, but I enjoyed it as well. Over the years, I have collected wall scrolls, action figures, and posters for this franchise and I still love it dearly.

It is important to note this because I did go into 2017’s Ghost in the Shell as a fan of the source material, so I had certain expectations. Were those expectations met?  I’m pleased to report that they were, for the most part.   it does maintain much of the themes and questions of the franchise, although most of it is either simplified or handled with subtlety of a tank. I don’t think the 7-year-old me would have been quite as confused by this picture. However, he would’ve dug the heck out of the visuals and I’d agree with him. The world of this Ghost in the Shell takes the austere atmosphere of the 1995 film and adds a layer of colorful holographic madness that creates a future both frightening and inviting at once. Some scenes are recreated from the first film, and they do not disappoint. If you are any sort of fan of the Oshii picture, I urge you to see the film right now to experience them. Heck, I urge anyone who’s into film aesthetics to seem the film right now!

The basic outline of the original plot is intact: a machine with the ghost (soul) and brain of a human hunts for a cyber-terrorist who can hack the minds of other man-machines. From there, the plot frankensteins bits and pieces of various incarnations of GitS, along with some additions of its own. Frankly, it’s satisfying to watch a film that is comfortably familiar, yet still has a few surprises of its own. Fans of any version of GitS will recognize something from their favorite installment. In fact, the villain is a weird hybrid of The Puppetmaster from the original film and  Kuze from the TV series, bearing the name of the latter. Since there is much that is unique to this film, I won’t type another word of it. I’ll let the film unravel its mysteries for you.

Well, I suppose I should now address the elephant in the room… I think Scarlett Johansson was a rather excellent choice for The Major, and I don’t see the harm in casting her. Motoko Kusanagi (the protagonist in most versions of GitS) is a cyborg with very little of her humanity remaining. As originally conceived, Motoko’s body was a mass production model, so she has the same appearance as many others like her. Very little is known about her past and who she once was in most GitS-related material. In an episode of the TV series, Kusanagi confessed that she couldn’t remember what her real name was, suggesting that “Motoko Kusanagi” is only a pseudonym. Basically, Kusanagi isn’t even human in the traditional sense, so why should the race of the actress matter?  I thought Ms. Johansson looked the part and did wonderful job in the film. 

2017’s Ghost in the Shell is a worthy addition to the franchise. Sure, it’s never quite as clever as its source, but there is a human brain in this machine. The film isn’t doing so hot at the box office, so if you have any interest in it, I recommend you see it now. If you put aside any thoughts of “whitewashing,” you’ll likely find a highly enjoyable film that honors a true classic of animation. For Humans and cyborgs alike, this is a groovy time at the cinema.


 

Goon Review: RoboCop 2

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Your Gooniness! 🙂 xoxo)

RoboCop was the answer to everything wrong that was going on in the ‘80s, both with cinema and what was happening in the world and politics. It was a heavy-handed satire against violence, corruption and greed while being smart and entertaining about it, as well as an allegory about religion. It’s about a police officer named Alex Murphy who is gunned down in the line of duty only to be brought back to life in a cybernetic body to continue his fight against crime, but the real movie is a about a man lost in a machine trying to regain his human elements. Originally, it was supposed to be a Judge Dredd film, but an original idea was taken instead and it was a blockbuster. I remember having the toys, which is something else the ‘80s did; sell toys for kids based on ‘R’ rated movies! That’s right, I couldn’t watch it, but I could play with the toys. RoboCop was smart, incredibly graphic and fun. The film made a ton of money and in Hollywood that means there is going to be a sequel.

1990 rolls around and RoboCop 2 rolls out. Things in the world have changed, both for better and for worse that made plenty of fodder for the film’s writer, a comic book artist and writer named Frank Miller (ya know, the Sin City guy), to thrust Alex Murphy into and giving the film something to say. However, this time around it isn’t nearly as subtle and it may be trying to say a little too much. I liked the idea of a comic book writer penning the script. It makes total sense seeing as the first film is kind of like a comic book, but RoboCop 2 feels like it was written by a comic book writer if that makes any sense. It’s far more silly than the first film and there is more than enough a,b and c plots going around that arise in the film and are quickly resolved. Every fifteen minutes or so feels like an issue from a comic book series and the film has a more slapsticky sense of humor to it and even the colors are brighter, including RobCcop’s costume which has a very blue tinge to it. Even the dialogue has a very cartoony vibe to it. It’s like the film isn’t taking itself very seriously, at least not nearly as much of the first one, but does this make it better? No, but don’t discredit it as a bad film. RoboCop 2 is a tremendous amount of fun.

The film picks up about a year after the events of RoboCop and RoboCop 2 opens in familiar territory; with a satirical commercial and a Media Break news footage. The commercial is a for a product called Magnavolt that fries criminals who try to break into your car. This is made charming by a cameo from John Glover as the sales person. Now that we’ve opened with some violence and some chuckles, it’s time to get serious. There’s a new drug called Nuke destroying Detroit that seems to flooding the streets and with the police on strike, the Mayor is failing at his job. OCP has plans to overthrow the Mayor and take control of the city by creating a new, more luxurious Detroit called Delta City, thus winning the hearts of the concerned citizens. But being a corporation and coming from a comic writer’s angle, all corporations are evil and OCP plans to put the cops and other public servants out of jobs, citizens out of homes all for the sake of financial gain! Nothing really comes of these plans, but in a rather odd twist of a character, The Old Man (the CEO of OCP) played by Dan O’Herlihy, who seemed like a genuinely good dude in the first film, is now a greedy, backstabbing sonuvabitch. Honestly, it feels like Dan O’Herlihy is playing his Conal Cochran character from Halloween III. I almost expect OCP to sell masks that turn your head into mush and bugs when their commercials play. It’s a character change that kinda feels out of nowhere and for no reason other than the idea of a president for a large company must be evil, because all companies are evil.

There are a few cops that aren’t on strike, like Anne Lewis and her partner Alex Murphy or as you know him, RoboCop. RoboCop is focused on tracking down the Nuke operation and taking it down along with its ringleader, Cain. Tom Noonan, who I mostly remember from the Sega CD game Corpse Killer is a fantastic villain. He always seems like he’s in another world and plays Kane as someone who sees himself as the next messiah. Not to mention he’s very psychotic and calm about it. His partner in crime is a ten year old kid named Hobbs, who is foul mouthed and shoots at cops. Seeing something like this as a kid totally blows you away, like when Macaulay Culkin told Elijah Wood, “Don’t fuck with me,” in The Other Son. You can’t believe how vicious someone your age could be. Well, I should mention RoboCop is tracking Cain down when there isn’t filler to attend to. The first subplot that just as quickly brought up as it is dropped is Robo being a total creep and stalking his wife. I realize the scene was brought up to see that he’s Murphy, a human being and not a cyborg, but when his wife finally confronts him, he just shoos her away and none of this is ever mentioned again.

What other subplots should we mention and then never mention again? I suppose we could talk about some of them to get them out of the way since they are irrelevant to the main plot, like when RoboCop is turned into scrap by Cain and his gang. He’s rebuilt, but OCP wants to give him some new directives that make him more friendly, spends time teaching moral values and thinks about the beautiful day. Sure this scene is funny, but it’s a subplot that is taking a jab at all the complaints the parents had against the first film. One of my favorite scenes is when a kid’s baseball team is robbing an electronics store and even after the coach is shot, he still reads him his rights and then immediately trying to teach the kids why shoplifting is wrong, who in turn cuss at him and run away. It’s a great scene, but again, this subplot bears no weight to the actual storyline. Robo fries himself on an electric fence to reboot, thus deleting all of his prime directives (something RoboCop 3 retcons) and do you know what he immediately does? Rounds up the rest of the cops and goes after Kane, which is what the movie should have been doing all along. These subplots are nothing but padding the overall length of the movie. Sure, they’re fun, but ultimately you don’t need them.

Now we get a big shoot out and a chase scene with plenty of cool moments, like RoboCop stealing someone’s motorcycle and jumping onto a truck to catch Cain, but crashes the truck and Cain may not make it. Luckily for him, The Old Man at OCP has been shacking up with Dr. Faxx (more like Dr. Foxx, amirite?), who seems to be morally bankrupt, so she’ll fit right in. Even more important, she seems to have her own agenda, but what could it be? Well, we never fully find out, but a deleted subplot tells you that she was Cain’s Nuke partner. Her role now is to convince The Old Man to let her find the subject for a new RoboCop and she happens to know where to find the perfect brain… a recently nearly comatosed drug lord on life support should do the trick. After a cool effects scene of removing Cain’s brain, they slap it into the new cyborg body and Dr. Faxx sets him loose to kill the mayor along with Kane’s old crew. Oh yeah, Hobb’s wants to give the money to the Mayor to pay off OCP allowing the Mayor to keep his position in office in exchange for allowing Hobbs to continue selling Nuke, thus making him rich.

There’s too much going on in this movie. No wonder a lot of it was changed or cut. All you need to know now is that RoboCop ain’t taking it and it gonna destroy Cain once and for all in a goofy, Looney Tunes-inspired robot battle.

Essentially, it’s a mega budgeted live action cartoon, complete with wacky slide whistle sound effects (I’m not kidding) that leads up to a pretty badass robot fight. Robo seems to have more of an attitude this time, seemingly more aggressive and angry, but that’s because the world around him has gotten worse as you see through various subplots. I mentioned those in great detail and honestly, you could cut them to get the run time down, but they do offer a lot of entertainment value, so why would you? The humor in this sequel takes a much more cartoon approach and there isn’t as much subtle or satirical comedy, although RoboCop 2 still manages to have a dark sense of humor about everything. The violence is also still intact, but it appears less bloody on screen, but still manages to be visceral, mean and hard to watch at times, like when a traitor cop is slit from sternum to belly button with a scalpel.

Brought to you in a brand new 2K scan from Scream Factory, RoboCop 2 looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray. It’s sharp, it’s clean and the colors really jump out and for a comic book stylized movie, it’s exactly how you want to see it. There are some special features that include featurettes and interviews with some of the cast and crew, but glaringly absent from any of these is RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, so I’m left to wonder why he would decline or not be included. I would have loved his perspective on the making of this movie, although there are two new audio commentaries to offer some insight. Another missing would be writer Frank Miller even though one of the special features was how they went about adapting his screenplay that was deemed “unfilmable.” Of course, it’s rounded off with your usual trailers, still galleries and so on.

Seeing as how the first RoboCop made so much money, the studios wanted more of that and this time around you can feel more of their presence. With the nudity, swearing and violence toned down just a touch and the live action cartoon feel trying to reach the kids, it’s clear they wanted to market this for toys and so on for the kids to buy, but for the adults in the theaters, seeing as children would see this on home video anyway. Of course, this would come to bite them in the ass by the time RoboCop 3 comes around, but we’ll get there. It’s not as good as the first film, nor does it have as much to say, but it’s still greatly entertaining and a pretty decent sequel, although some of the subplots could have been dropped while the others could have been reworked a bit to add some more depth to characters and the plot to make it a better film. But hey, RoboCop 3 can’t be as bad, right?

#TBT: The “Thank You, Jack H. Harris” Edition

If there’s one film that never fails to make me smile, it’s 1958’s The Blob. It’s a perfect monster movie and a beautiful portrait of the ’50s as we want to remember them. That’s why it breaks my heart to report that producer Jack H. Harris has passed away. The Blob was his first film as a producer and it certainly was a strong way to start. Made for $130,000 and grossing more than $3 million, The Blob was an instant success.   Since then, Mr. Harris has kept The Blob alive and pulsating with a sequel (which he co-wrote), a 1988 remake, and a 1991 re-dubbed version of the original. Outside of The Blob, he produced 4D Man, Dinosaurus!, Equinox, Eyes of Laura Mars, Schlock, Master of Horror, and Dark Star. In 2014, he became the oldest person to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In honor of Mr. Harris, we’d like to share with you the trailers for all of the Blob movies. Like the film itself, the trailer for the first movie is pure bliss for monster movie lovers. It also made a prominent appearance in Grease. The trailer can be seen during the drive-in sequence. While the first is my favorite, all three trailers are good fun. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong with The Blob.

Rest in peace, Mr. Harris.

Happy Birthday, Forbidden Planet!

 

On this day in 1956, audiences went beyond the stars and took a trip to Forbidden Planet!At a time when sci-fi films were largely seen as bottom-billed cheapies, Forbidden Planet was given a large budget and a literate script inspired by no less than William Shakespeare. Armed with spectacular sights and intellectual concepts, Forbidden Planet struck a mighty blow against the notion that science fiction films are inferior cinema. The critical success of the picture forced Hollywood to concede that a well-funded science fiction adventure could be successful, paving the way for more big-budget sci-fi fare in the future. Without Forbidden Planet, we almost certainly wouldn’t have a Star Trek today, and the world would indeed be a darker place.

.Looking past its influence on the genre, Forbidden Planet is sheer perfection. Every single scene looks like it was ripped from the covers of the best pulp magazines. Despite being over a half-century old, this film still has the power to inspire true wonder and make wide-eyed children of us all. If you’ve ever had a taste for ray guns, robots, fantastic worlds, and monsters, this film was made for you. Those searching for something more profound will also have much admire in Forbidden Planet. Without wrecking the surprises, the film takes a Freudian concept and mold it into one of the most terrifying monsters of the ’50s. The identity of the creature is so darn clever, I urge you to seek out the film for yourself to truly appreciate its awesome power.

The cast is quite good. Leslie Nielsen (yes, that Leslie Nielsen) is a surprisingly credible captain and was almost certainly an inspiration on Captain Kirk. Anne Francis is incredibly likable, while Walter Pidgeon is powerful as an intellectual plagued by his demons. Everyone is excellent, but there is one star that truly shines: newcomer Robby the Robot. His handsome features and deliberately cold delivering make him a true standout in a film filled with great talent. The talented young actor paved the way for Robo-Americans in motion pictures. His credits include The Invisible Boy, The Addams Family, Columbo, Gremlins, and Lost in Space. Oh, Robby… you truly are the King of Hollywood!

Happy Birthday, Forbidden Planet! You’ll always be out of this world!


Robot Monster (1953)

(Submitted by our Master of the Cl-ass-ics, Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, you lovable Kinky Ho-bot, you!! 😉 xo)

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“Moon monsters launch attack against Earth! How can science meet the menace of astral assassins? New Science Fiction Thrills!”

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Robot Monster is, in its own inimitable fashion, quite magnificent.  Often listed one of “the worst films of all time”, this movie was included in the 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way), currently holds a 31% approval rating on rottentomatoes.com, and was featured on the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Like Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and many of the other well-known “worst films of all time”, I firmly believe that Robot Monster is far too entertaining and well-intentioned to be belittled with such an outrageous claim! If the primary purpose of film is to delight and entertain the audience, then Robot Monster is far from a failure.

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There are two things that are undeniable in the case this particular film, those two traits being how incredibly low the budget was and how utterly weird the product is. Both of these qualities only help showcase the admirable pluck of  this scrappy little monster movie. Unable to afford a proper robot suit, director Phil Tucker enlisted professional gorilla suit master George Barrows, bought a diving helmet, and created one of the most oddly indelible creatures in the history of Hollyweird. Save for a few scenes at a house in Los Angeles and a building site near Dodger Stadium, the movie was mostly filmed outdoors in legendary Bronson Canyon. Shooting lasted for four days, wrapping on March 23, 1953. Phil Tucker once said, “For the budget and for the time, I felt I had achieved greatness.”

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*SPOILERS*

Surprisingly, Robot Monster may have the darkest, strangest story of any ’50s Sci-Fi picture. It tells the story of moon creature Ro-Man (the titular Robot Monster) and his mission to annihilate all life on Earth. Our lunar lunatic manages to kill all but eight survivors, all of whom have become immune to the effects of Ro-Man’s death ray. Ro-Man evokes the wrath of the Great Guidance (his leader) when he becomes infatuated with human survivor Alice. The Great Guidance destroys the disobedient Ro-Man and completes the genocide by releasing prehistoric dinosaurs and a massive earthquake on the feeble Earthlings. Suddenly, Johnny (the last little boy on Earth) wakes up to discover the whole affair was a nightmare… or perhaps, as the ending suggests, a frighteningly prophetic glimpse of the future.

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Stock footage from One Million B.C. (1940), Lost Continent (1951) and Flight to Mars (1951) are used to great effect, as well as a shot from Rocketship X-M (1950). In fact, the dinosaur stock footage used during the film’s climax actually give the film an appropriately nightmarish quality.  Despite the rather dark story, there’s an almost innocent, irony-free charm to the proceedings and a very earnest desire to entertain us on display. From its opening credits set against sci-fi/pulp magazines, it’s abundantly clear what kind of movie Robot Monster is trying to me. We tend to have a certain sense of superiority when we watch a film of this nature. While it is important for us to form opinions and critique films to properly understand how why the medium is so important to us and what effectively moves us, I think some films exist in their own nebulous realm that defy our standards of what is traditionally considered “good”. I’ve spoken to a great many about this film and a great many love it, despite the “ineptitude” on display. Robot Monster, I believe, is a film made with a great spirit behind it and should be enjoyed in that same spirit.

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Phil Tucker was 25 when he made this film. Shortly after its release, Mr. Tucker unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Some sources say it was because he had not been paid for Robot Monster and was unable to get a job. Others say it was because he was devastated by the negative feedback the film had received. There are claims that after 1955, Tucker was blacklisted within the film industry, though he did go on to direct a few more times. By the 1970s, Mr. Tucker had established himself as a formidable film editor, finally free of the unwarranted stigma of his early work. He went on fo Orca (1977) and King Kong (1976) and remained in post-production for the rest of his career. Zed Fest, a film festival celebrating indie cinema, distributes a “Phil Tucker Spirit Award” to honor who display, in their words, “Determination, perseverance, and innovation in independent moviemaking.’

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Robot Monster is a unique film and one that deserves to be enjoyed by lovers of monsters and weird fiction. Its imagery is quite captivating despite (or maybe because) of its financial shortcomings and remains a fascinating, one-of-a-kind movie. This is essential viewing for any B-movie aficionado and a example of how imagination and a gentle touch of strangeness can triumph over a miniscule budget. Since film is in the public domain, the entire film can be viewed below. 

We love you, Robot Monster!

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