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  • Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983)

    Director: Charles Band

    Starring: Jeffrey Byron, Mike Preston, Tim Thomerson, Kelly Preston & Richard Moll

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on the desert planet of Lemuria, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D finds a miner and his daughter Dhyana (Kelly Preston, Death Sentence) caught in the crossfire of the titular warlord.  Joining forces with brave space ranger Dogen (Jeffrey Byron, The Dungeonmaster) after the murder of her father, the peacekeepers seek to stop Syn and his crusade to enslave the Cyclopian race.  Mike Preston (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior), Tim Thomerson (Trancers), R. David Smith (Fletch Lives) and Richard Moll (Night Court) costar.

    Melding the post-apocalyptic with a fantastical science fiction flair, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D memorably blasts space-age action with in-your-face depth at the cusp of 3D’s short-lived return.  Otherworldly and futuristic, Cyclop warriors, intergalactic wizardry and wasteland armored vehicles permeate this wild west sendup set amongst the stars.  As the human population of Lemuria struggle to survive, crystals become the sole item of value to the mining community of scavengers.  As the evil Jared-Syn (Preston), aided by his half-cyborg son Baal (Smith), break a sacred treaty and wage war for power, Syn’s life draining crystals help further his control on the weak.  Combining their efforts after the death of her father, Dhyana and savior Dogen seek justice when Baal’s dangerous green acid submerges Dogen into a nightmarish state, allowing Dhyana to be captured.  Determined to save her, the lone warrior travels to Zhor and reconnects with grizzled warrior Rhodes (Thomerson).  Risking their lives on a journey to the Cyclopian mainland to recover a sacred mask to aid them in their battle, leader of the pack Hurok (Moll) confronts the duo, prompting a hellish battle for survival that proves invaluable on their road to defeating Syn.  Enlightening the Cyclopian people of Syn’s true motives, a climactic battle between good and evil takes place before a laser-blasting skybike chase between Dogan and Syn through the mountainous landscape transpires.  

    Although sporting memorable moments of action-geared fun and impressive mutant design work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D struggles to fully live up to its imaginative poster art, remaining in first gear for much of its runtime.  Achieving a considerable amount of eye candy on its limited budget, Director Charles Band’s (Pulse Pounders, Doctor Mordrid) second 3D effort following 1982’s Parasite lifts off on a shaky screenplay that never catches up with its nonstop visual agenda.  An imperfect genre smash set at the end of the universe, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not achieve all it hoped yet, remains a mildly entertaining B-grade space adventure with intentions of more installments that never came to fruition.

    Newly remastered in both 3D and 2D, Scream Factory presents Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  In their first 3D-related release since Amityville 3-D, the horror/cult subdivision of Shout! Factory supplies each version of the film on their own Blu-ray disc.  Kindly alerting viewers of unresolvable issues on the source material for its 3D form, depth reaching attempts from Baal lunging with his cyborg arm and laser blasts whizzing towards the screen work nicely while, occasional out of focus photography creates hazier outlines around characters that can be sometimes dizzying to the eye.  Additionally, and true to Scream Factory’s disclaimer, darker smudges in corners of the frame arise throughout the film that although unpleasant, are understandable given the state of the vault materials.  A retro serving of antiquated 3D effects work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is hardly reference quality for the format but, still offers several moments of depth-filled goofiness that may or may not rattle your vision.  More preferable for obvious reasons, the 2D version has healthy layers of film grain that only occasionally teeter into murky waters given the film’s desert-like location.  Otherwise, skin tones are pleasing, detail is revealing in Moll’s Cyclops makeup and print damage is largely infrequent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the track is very middle of the road offering audible dialogue levels while, more action-oriented sequences and accompanying sound effects fail to make stronger impacts.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix of comparable quality is also included.  

    Special features (located on the 2D disc version) include, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures’ latest featurette High Noon at the End of Universe: The Making of Metalstorm (42:13).  Catching up with a multitude of talking heads including, Director/Producer Charles Band, Actors Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll, Tim Thomerson, Screenwriter/Co-Producer Alan J. Adler and former Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Michael Gingold, Daniel Griffith’s excellently edited and nicely constructed effort is an enjoyably interesting watch.  Also included, a Still & Promotional Gallery (10:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:23) and a Radio Spot (0:30).

    Concluding on an open-ended note that was never explored again, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not be nearly as cool as its advertisements built up but, achieves a vast array of special effects and nifty creature designs that can be enjoyed by all ages.  A welcome and overdue return to hi-def 3D, Scream Factory rolls the dice on this science fiction fantasy from Empire Pictures founder Charles Band that although plagued with inherent issues, appreciatively provides viewers with both 2D/3D options.  Joined by Daniel Griffith’s wonderful new retrospective that’s worth the price of admission alone, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D’s mileage will vary by viewer but, will be a no-brainer for lifelong fans of Band’s illustrious career in the world of cult cinema.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990) Blu-ray Reviews

    Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990)

    Director(s): John Carl Buechler / Claudio Fragasso

    Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Phil Fondacaro & June Lockhart / Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby & Deborah Reed

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Casting a spell of fantastical frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a pair of knee-high cult favorites!  Shortly after moving into their new apartment building, Troll finds big brother Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story) recognizing dramatic changes in his little sister’s behavior.  With a mischievous troll behind the trouble, the mythical monster begins transforming the apartments into gardens of evil and their tenants into disgusting hobgoblins with Harry serving as their only hope.  Next up, the vastly unrelated Troll 2 finds a family of four taking a lengthy vacation in a desolate farm community.  Upon arrival, the unsuspecting visitors find themselves as the main course for the town’s human-morphing tribe of goblins.     

    Shot in Italy at the height of Empire Pictures’ success, Troll continues the decade’s trend of dark fantasy family-oriented efforts, albeit on a significantly lower budget.  Boasting one of Empire’s more impressive casts including, prominent child actor Noah Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro (Willow), performing dual roles as Torok the Troll and the heartwarming Professor Malcolm Mallory, to the film debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) and the curious casting of Sonny Bono as a hilarious swinging tenant, Troll hosts an eclectic range of thespians for such a modestly produced effort.  Sporting impressive creature designs crafted by its director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood), this special-effects cheapie, although slowly paced, offers plenty of adolescent fun as Harry Potter Jr. treks into Torok’s vast gardens to retrieve his sister and confront a snarling giant monster.  A bonafide smash on home video that may have influenced a certain student of Hogwarts, Troll has remained a cult favorite for its fairy tale atmosphere and charming effects work.

    Capitalizing on the minor success of 1986’s Troll and helmed by an Italian-speaking crew, Troll 2  serves no connection to its family-fantasy predecessor yet, would develop an unexpected following like no other.  Shot on location in Utah and utilizing local talent, Troll 2, partly plagued by communication breakdowns between cast and crew, is a nonsensical disaster that welcomes more unintended laughter than genuine scares.  Substituting trolls for goblins and witches, the film’s poorly designed monster effects and stilted acting of its inexperienced performers demands how a film of such hilariously poor quality could be crafted.  Traveling to the not so cleverly named town of Nilbog, a vacationing family find themselves encouraged to eat brightly colored green food in order for the local goblin community to better feast upon their flesh.  Young Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson, Beyond Darkness), aided by the spirit of his deceased grandfather, must protect his family at all costs by urinating on their tainted food or devouring a double-stacked bologna sandwich to ward off the vegan-preferred goblins.  Horribly received upon its short-lived release and embarrassingly repressed by most of its creators, Troll 2 would be resurrected as one of the most infamous “bad” movies of all time where it has garnered massive appreciation by devoted cult cinema aficionados.  Uncontrollably funny and reeking of poor quality, Troll 2 remains one of the most entertaining romps for fans of “so bad, they’re good” cinema.  

    Scream Factory presents both Troll and Troll 2 with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Possessing filmic levels of grain, the original film’s moments of effects work can become noticeably more grainy while, skin tones are generally pleasing and detail nicely brings out the impressive creature designs of John Carl Buechler.  Meanwhile, its sequel appears in slightly better condition, sharing the same appearance as its previous Blu-ray release by MGM in 2010.  Clarity is sharp with the film’s brightly colored emphasis on green liquid popping nicely while, detail in the less than effective monster effects pleases with skin tones of the human cast appearing quite naturally.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well handled and prominently prioritized while, sound effects and the sequel’s oddly contrasting synth soundtrack delivers excellent depth.  Special features include, a typically great Scream Factory featurette with Troll Empire: The Making of Troll (50:07) featuring new interviews with Producer Charles Band, Director John Carl Buechler, Writer Ed Naha and many more.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (2:47) and a Photo Gallery (1:27) are included.  Furthermore, its sequel arrives with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Actors George Hardy & Deborah Reed and its Theatrical Trailer (2:21).  Finally, included on DVD, albeit only the first 5,000 units of the release, is 2010’s Best Worst Movie.  Helmed by Troll 2’s Michael Stephenson, this heartfelt and enthralling documentary takes a retrospective look at the disaster of Troll 2 with interviews from its cast and its delusional director Claudio Fragasso who still hails the film as a work of quality.

    Providing viewers with a double dose of fantasy-filled scares and unintended comedy, Scream Factory’s packaging of Director John Carl Buechler’s low-budget charmer with its misleadingly titled catastrophe of a sequel make for solid inclusions into the labels eclectic lineup.  Joined by the wonderfully conceived documentary Best Worst Movie and other newly produced bonus features, this collection of cult favorites is one worth being afraid of for all the right reasons.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Troll / Troll 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Robot Jox (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Robot Jox (1990)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Danny Kamekona & Michael Alldredge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), Robot Jox takes place in a futuristic world where wars are outlawed and international differences are settled via human-controlled robot battles.  When a catastrophic disaster strikes an integral match, the undefeated warrior Achilles (Gary Graham, Alien Nation) must decide to either retire or face off against his reckless nemesis Alexander (Paul Koslo, The Omega Man) once more.  Anne-Marie Johnson (In the Heat of the Night), Danny Kamekona (The Karate Kid, Part II) and Michael Alldredge (The Entity) co-star.

    Continuing their successful working relationship, Director Stuart Gordon and Charles Band’s Empire Pictures would seek to recapture the Kaiju entertainment of yesteryear with their post-apocalyptic tale of giant robots.  Years after a nuclear holocaust decimates the planet, war has been ostracized with international disputes settled via bot vs. bot battles.  With fan favorite pilot Achilles (Graham) embarking on his final fight against Alexander (Koslo), tensions are running high to maintain control of Alaska.  Supported by the guidance of Dr. Matsumoto (Kamekona) and mentor Tex Conway (Alldredge), Achilles heroically attempts to protect civilians from a missile only for his robot to topple and crush hundreds.  Overwhelmed with guilt and the judges ordering a rematch, Achilles finds no reason to continue his career as a robot jox.  When the genetically created Athena (Johnson) is selected as Achilles’ replacement, a web of conspiracy and betrayal is exposed prompting Achilles to redeem himself and defeat Alexander once and for all.  Deemed the most expensive film produced by Empire Pictures, Robot Jox ultimately suffers from an unstable tone that can never decide what it wants to be.  Unsurprisingly, Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Joe Haldeman consistently clashed over the film’s direction resulting in a mishmash of kid-friendly shenanigans and overly serious moments.  While the stop-motion techniques used to create the robot battles are engaging, they are far and few between to keep interest afloat.  Wrapping production in 1987, Robot Jox would gather dust as Empire Pictures confronted bankruptcy woes before being released to unfavorable notices and disappointing box-office returns in 1990.  Developing a minor cult following in the years since its release, Robot Jox is a bland effort that greatly pales in comparison to Gordon’s Lovecraftian excursions.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory presents Robot Jox with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a filmic appearance, minor flakes and speckles are not uncommon while skin tones are warm and lifelike.  Understandably, the robot battle sequences project a slightly softer focus with bright colors found in the robot jox’s red uniforms popping beautifully.  Nicely detailed and natural looking, Robot Jox has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue is audible if not slightly underwhelming at times while the clashing of metal and laser blasts give more depth to their battle sequences.  Serviceable but far from stupendous, Robot Jox sounds as good as can be expected.  Meanwhile, special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon plus, a new Audio Commentary with Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rapport and Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel.  In addition, A Look Back at Robot Jox with Paul Koslo (10:14) finds the film’s antagonist reminiscing about the experience and his co-stars while, Archival Interviews with Director Stuart Gordon (7:27), Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (7:57), Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (7:14), Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (7:48), Animation & Visual Effects’ Chris Endicott & Mark McGee (9:29) are also included.  Lastly, Behind the Scenes Footage (14:16), a Theatrical Trailer (1:25), TV Spot (0:31), Still Galleries for On Location (7:00) and Illustrations (3:40) plus, a Reversible Cover Art round out the generous supplements.

    Well intended but, falling short of expectations, Robot Jox suffers from a scatterbrained tone and minimal robot battles that regrettably only bookend the film.  While Director Stuart Gordon’s futuristic opus of robowars has its admirers, Robot Jox remains one of his weakest efforts.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presents the film with an excellent transfer, adequate sound and a sizable assortment of new and vintage special features for this non-Collector’s Edition release.  Although meant to battle to the death, Robot Jox ends in a draw with its film disappointing but, its presentation satisfying.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Robot Jox can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16: Flatliners, Nymphomaniac, Stage Fright, The Legend of Billie Jean & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16 includes:

    - Flatliners (1990) (0:37)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) (6:56)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - Stage Fright (2014) (14:05)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnet Releasing: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

    - Nymphomaniac Volume I & II (2013) (21:59)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures: http://www.magpictures.com

    - Tourist Trap (1979) (34:55)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Full Moon Features: http://www.fullmoondirect.com

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (43:19)