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Currently showing posts tagged Stop-Motion

  • The Gate (1987) Blu-ray Review

    The Gate (1987)

    Director: Tibor Takacs 

    Starring: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp & Christa Denton

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an innocent backyard excavation for crystal stones unearths something sinister, The Gate finds best friends Glen (Stephen Dorff, Somewhere) and Terry (Louis Tripp, Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird) forced to defend themselves against a siege of demons and determine a way to close the evil portal before it’s too late.

    Eliminating parents and other authority figures as rapidly as possible, The Gate pits unsupervised adolescents against the forces of darkness, using only their ingenuity and household items to defend themselves against the ghouls and goblins of the underworld.  Inadvertently opening a hellish backyard portal with the assistance of a satanic heavy metal album, best friends Glen and Terry are confronted with a series of nightmarish images of deceased parents back from the dead and the painful realities of a beloved pet’s passing to shake their youthful cores.  With no adults in sight and Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton, 8 Million Ways to Die) taking full advantage with a house party rampant with underage drinking and levitation attempts turned frighteningly real, the demonic forces grow stronger in their attempt to invade the teen’s quaint suburban existence.  Pursued by a pint-sized army of fiendish minions realized through a series of technical tricks ranging from costumed performers, stop-motion animation and forced perspective, Glen, Terry and Al must face their fears in order to definitively close the gate before time runs out.  Although slow-building with a genuine innocence captured in the chemistry between the young performers, The Gate stretches the boundaries of its PG-13 rating with macabre touches of a dead construction worker emerging from the walls, a punctured eyeball through a child’s hand and an overgrown demon flinging his young victims with no remorse to effectively chill preteen audiences.  With false senses of security at every turn and survival seemingly futile, the trio of teens rely on Barbie dolls, dad’s shotgun and model rockets to banish the demons in Director Tibor Takacs’ (I, Madman) effectively realized and certifiably scary devil-raising feature.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate presents The Gate with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The latest addition in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the film is a remarkable upgrade from its near decade old DVD release that honors filmic integrity, mildly soft but still natural-looking skin tones and a sharp color scheme present in the suburban greenery as well as Glen’s red space camp jacket and Al’s lime green sweater.  In addition, black levels are solid with detail largely admired in the creature designs while, only the slightest hint of speckling is observed in this otherwise picturesque presentation of the 80s cult classic.  Equipped with a perfectly adequate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue with ease, heavy metal tunes, lightning storms and rocket blasts all offer solid emphases on the well-orchestrated track.

    Much like the demons bursting from the gate, the overflowing wealth of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, a second Audio Commentary with Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere & Matte Photographer Bill Taylor plus, an Isolated Score and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig & J. Peter Robinson.  In addition, Red Shirt Pictures delivers several newly recorded featurettes that explore many of the low-budget effort’s technical achievements including, The Gate: Unlocked (27:54) where Takacs and Cook discuss the film’s making in-depth, Minion Maker with Craig Reardon (22:36), From Hell It Came with Andras Hamori (13:13), The Workman Speaks! with Carl Kraines (12:22) and the most interesting Made in Canada (28:28) that sits down with six local cast and crew members from the Canadian shoot as they recall their own unique experiences making the film.  Meanwhile, ported over from the 2009 release, From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate (14:53), The Gatekeepers with Tibor Takacs & Michael Nankin (15:46) and The Making of The Gate (22:55) are also on-hand with the Teaser Trailer (1:08), Theatrical Trailer (1:50), TV Spot (0:32), Storyboard Gallery (9:27) and a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (10:20) rounding out the profound assortment of extras.

    A childhood staple that still stands up, The Gate is a fiendishly fun effort of teens going toe to toe with demonic beings with no one but themselves to rely on.  Incorporating the then timely black sheep of heavy metal into its vortex of fear, Tibor Takacs’ sharply constructed and gloriously effects-driven opus plays largely into the comforting confines of nostalgia where its discovery for many through video rental and repeat cable viewings made it a longstanding favorite.  Hoped for since its line’s formation, The Gate makes it high-definition debut with remarkable technical grades that far exceed its previous release and an overwhelming supply of bonus features earning it the highest praise as one of Vestron Video’s best offerings to date!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available February 28th from Lionsgate, The Gate can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011)

    Director: Gilles Penso

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Spotlighting the revered career and immeasurable talents of one of the industry’s most influential artists, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan features insight from the man himself as he reflects on his many works and techniques with other noted filmmakers including, Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Joe Dante (Gremlins), James Cameron (Avatar) and countless others celebrating the magic of their collective hero.

    Capturing the imaginations of audiences and future moviemakers like few before or since, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan expertly documents the mastery of cinema’s stop-motion wizard from his earliest days as an apprentice for distinguished animator Willis O’Brien through his own fairy tale claymation shorts to his escalating talents that would shape the lauded feature films of his career.  Retold in remarkable detail from the elderly yet, razor-sharp artist himself, Harryhausen provides insight into the painstaking aspects and concentration required for his craft and the many technical advancements he crafted through each one of his pictures.  Long before the days of digital playback, Harryhausen’s imagination and improvisational skills guided the creature crafting genius through grueling months of long sequences that would ultimately be rewarded as the highlights of their respective films.  Spending respectable time on each of the legend’s timeless classics from his gorilla designing work in Mighty Joe Young to his monsterific destruction in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other impressionable sci-fi efforts of the 1950s to his dazzling feats found throughout the Sinbad trilogy, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan leaves no stone left unturned as the master’s body of work is handsomely honored.  Equally as impressive as Harryhausen’s own recollections and invaluable commentary are the plethora of industry leaders from John Lasseter (Toy Story), Phil Tippett (Star Wars), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Dennis Muren (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Henry Selick (Coraline), Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), lifelong friend Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and many more who graciously appear as talking heads to express their awe and admiration for Harryhausen’s boundary pushing efforts.  As loving and thorough as a career-spanning examination can be, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan does the impossible and creates a new dimension of appreciation for the late genius’ iconic achievements.

    Arrow Films presents Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a commonly spotted 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While quality of each interview sequence surely differs with Harryhausen’s appearances possessing a noticeably cloudy tint, other talking head moments emerge equally as soft or only moderately sharper (Dante and Landis’ interviews ranking among the best-looking) yet, none burst with notable detail.  Joined by vintage footage and unsurprisingly worn trailers for Harryhausen’s films, the documentary appears serviceable at best, leaving more to be desired.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently recaptured with each interview recorded crisply and free of any cracks or pops.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Gilles Penso, Producer Alexandre Poincet, Co-Producer Tony Dalton & Timothy Nicholson, A Treasure Trove (13:36) featuring a tour of the Harryhausen Archives where relics from years past are uncovered and Interviews (13:36) with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Peter Lord (Chicken Run), Rick Baker (Ed Wood) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek).  In addition, Interview Outtakes (55:24) featuring many of the film’s participants, Message to Ray (2:16) finds appreciators Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and others sharing their warm praise for the artist while, Deleted Scenes (8:19), On the Set of Sinbad (2:59), the Paris Cinematheque Q&A (18:39) and the London Gate Cinema Q&A (8:58) are also included.  Finally, the Original Trailer (2:48), a Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel (22:15) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the appreciatively stocked supplements.

    Previously released abroad several years back, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan explores the admirable talents and enduring legacy of stop-motion’s grandfather in applause-worthy detail.  Listening to tales from Harryhausen’s own mouth regarding his masterworks and techniques proves equally as enthralling as his most spellbinding sequences while, the flood of Hollywood royalty on display to talk shop about the man is profoundly inspiring.  Although quality appears more dated than expected, Arrow Films compliments the documentary’s loving examination of Harryhausen with a handsome clay mound of bonus features that far exceed the film’s own running time.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Films, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, 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. 

  • Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review

    Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series 

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Paul Reubens, Lynne Marie Stewart, Phil Hartman & Laurence Fishburne

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking a creative revolution in children’s programming, Pee-wee’s Playhouse ignited a Saturday morning phenomenon unlike anything witnessed before.  Paul Reubens’ title character, along with his Playhouse pals, would educate and entertain viewers worldwide with their zany personalities and colorful environments.  Lovingly remastered from the original film elements and packed with over four hours of bonus content, Shout! Factory proudly presents Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Winner of 22 Emmy Awards and hailed by TV Guide as one of the top 25 cult television shows ever, Pee-wee’s Playhouse welcomes viewers, young and old, to the home of Pee-wee Herman, your hyperactive, childlike host, who along with his human and puppet friends teaches life lessons through wildly imaginative and fun ways.  

    THE SHOW:

    Following the runaway success of 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Paul Reubens yearned to transition his eccentric character to the small screen for a Saturday morning program akin to Captain Kangaroo.  Debuting in the Fall of 1986, Reubens would find a home at CBS for what would become Pee-wee’s Playhouse, creating an instant hit in the process.  Incorporating cast members such as Lynne Marie Stewart (Night Stand) and Phil Hartman (Saturday Night Live) from his original 1981 stage production, Reubens would welcome new characters to his onscreen shenanigans including, Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix), Chairry, Globey and more.  Unlike other children’s programming, Pee-wee’s Playhouse immediately connected with its audience due to its unique production design and disinterest in talking down to its viewers.  Whether Pee-wee was teaching the finer aspects of preparing ice cream soup or introducing viewers to golden age cartoons, a lesson would always be learned with a sense of fun being the priority.  In addition, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is equally beloved for its varied and wild use of artistic styles ranging from stop-motion dinosaurs, jazz playing puppets or green screen usage allowing Pee-wee to roam imaginative worlds.  

    Airing for five seasons and consisting of 45 remarkable episodes, Pee-wee’s Playhouse assembled a roster of youthful talent that allowed their imaginations to freely run wild, bestowing audiences with one of the most creatively enduring and jovial shows of all time.  Like its charming and comical host, Pee-wee’s Playhouse possesses a magical charm that will forever keep the curious and fun-loving child in all of us alive.  

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored from the original film elements and personally supervised by Paul Reubens, Pee-wee’s Playhouse arrives with a 1080i transfer, sporting a 1.35:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting jaw-dropping brightness and clarity, the endless colors of Pee-wee’s environment pop like never before.  Complexions of the heavily made-up Reubens and his costars shine beautifully while, animated sequences including the Dinosaur Family and Penny can be fully appreciated in all their detailed glory.  Grain levels are wonderfully balanced with a natural appearance and instances of flakes or intruding aging defects are nonexistent.  As a testament to Reubens’ preservation of the materials and Shout! Factory’s efforts, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is simply one of the finest television shows committed to the Blu-ray format.

    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Audio mix, Pee-wee’s Playhouse sounds just as beautifully as it looks.  Dialogue is always clear and concise with the madcap music (composed by the likes of Mark Mothersbaugh, Danny Elfman, Todd Rundgren, Cliff Martinez and more) effectively crisp at all times.  With no distortion, hiss or any other setbacks, Pee-wee’s Playhouse sounds perfect.

    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Building the Playhouse (51:48): Cast and crew cover the genesis of the show and all its varied aspects that made it such an astounding success.  From artists, puppeteers, cinematographers and others who would go onto bigger success such as Security Guard/Production Assistant John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) all look back on the show with fond memories.

    • Opening the Playhouse (10:53): The artistic and creative challenges of crafting the memorable title sequence are detailed.

    • Writing for the Playhouse (18:42): Contributors of the show reminisce on the very freeing atmosphere of the writing process and their collaborations with Reubens.

    • The Look of the Playhouse (29:49): Focuses more deeply on the iconic production design, hair and make-up and various costume choices for the show.

    • Music of the Playhouse (17:39): Composers such as Mark Mothersbaugh (Rugrats, The Lego Movie) and Danny Elfman (Beetlejuice, The Simpsons) offer their insight into their creative process while scoring various episodes.

    • The Cast of the Playhouse (48:19): Shines a light on Pee-wee’s pals that made the show gel, extended interviews from Laurence Fishburne, Lynne Marie Stewart, S. Epatha Merkerson, John Paragon and more are included.

    • Puppets of the Playhouse (30:19): A phenomenal peek at the magic behind the countless puppets and those who brought them to life.

    • Animating the Playhouse (20:39): A well-deserved and fascinating look at the various animation techniques used in the show with first hand accounts from Animators Peter Lord (The Pirates!  Band of Misfits), David Sproxton (The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and more.

    • A Very Merry Christmas Special (10:02): Debuting on December 21, 1988, cast and crew share warm memories about shooting the beloved Christmas special, many of whom claim it to be their favorite episode.

    • Fans and Memorabilia of the Playhouse (13:35): The merchandising juggernaut of the show and the unique items that were made available are discussed.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    Chaotic and insanely imaginative, Pee-wee’s Playhouse ushered in a new breed of Saturday morning entertainment that has never been matched.  Paul Reubens’ quirky and childish energy won the hearts of millions while, remaining true to an ambitious vision that was achieved by the creativity of countless minds.  A brightly colored jigsaw puzzle of humor, animation, music and above all, fun, Pee-wee’s Playhouse can now be experienced like never before.  Producer Brian Ward and Shout! Factory, in close association with Paul Reubens, have gone to painstaking effort to preserve this classic show with their efforts paying off in spades.  Overflowing with rich and informative bonus content, Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series is not only one of the best releases of the year but, also one of the finest efforts from television’s yesteryear to grace the Blu-ray format.  Today’s secret word is: BUY!

    RATING: 5/5  

    Pee-wee's Playhouse: The Complete Series is available now and can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Robot Wars (1993) DVD Review (UK)

    Robot Wars (1993)
    Director: Albert Band
    Starring: Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna & Danny Kamekona
    Released by: 88 Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Forming in 1989, Full Moon Features have unloaded a healthy dose of genre films on the public that continues to thrive today.  1993 became a landmark year for the independent company when they founded two more labels, Torchlight Entertainment and Moonbeam Entertainment.  In addition, Full Moon Entertainment CEO Charlie Band, would task his father, Albert Band, to helm a picture involving giant clashing robots.  Starring an impressive line-up of cult stars, Robot Wars would utilize a brisk runtime and impressive stop-motion effects to bring this crushing battle of juggernauts to fruition.  UK based, 88 Films proudly brings this apocalyptic western to DVD with special features and reversible artwork.  Get ready to reestablish world peace as Robot Wars are waged...

    Robot Wars focuses on a foreign dignitary that hijacks the MRAS-2, the last mega-robot of Earth, and threatens to dominate the world.  It’s up to a brave trio consisting of a renegade pilot, his engineer and an archaeologist to retrieve another mega robot hidden under the city to destroy the MRAS-2 in order to restore peace to the Easten Alliance.  Starring Don Michael Paul (Winner Takes All), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next), James Staley (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Lisa Rinna (Melrose Place) and Danny Kamekona (Robot Jox).

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, never being a fan of Full Moon Features’ tiniest of terrors, there’s no denying the appeal of stop-motion robots and a stellar B-movie cast.  Robot Wars casts an inviting spell for being an early 90s offering yet feeling every bit its previous decade.  The tongue in cheek story is far more well acted than it deserves to be with charming chemistry and successful comic relief playing out nicely.  Don Michael Paul stars as Drake, a crafty pilot with an attitude.  Paul invokes a coolness within his character along with a cocky sensibility around women.  B-Movie icon, Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) continues to turn heads with her blonde beauty and an enjoyable performance as an intelligent, self-sufficient archaeologist.  While, the film is less a love story than it is a robot beat’em up flick, Paul and Crampton’s exchanges are a treat to see unfold.  The antagonists’ of the film, Wa-Lee and Chou-Sing, are wonderfully played with a steady dose of cheese by Danny Kamekona and Yuji Okumoto, reuniting after previously playing uncle and nephew in the successful sequel, The Karate Kid, Part IIRobot Wars is pleasantly entertaining thanks to the masterful stop-motion effects for the robot battles, brought to life by the late David Allen (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dolls).  In retrospect, Allen’s stop-motion achievements feel criminally underrated based on the countless genre films he contributed to.

    Clocking in at less than 75 minutes, Robot Wars has a very firm grasp on the film they were trying to be.  Lucking out with a talented and earnest cast, fun stop-motion effects and a tone reminiscent of earlier sci-fi flicks, Robot Wars packs a solid punch of popcorn entertainment.  From the low-budget’s of Full Moon Features, Robot Wars achieved a considerable amount of eye candy with optical effects and laser gun shootouts that make you cherish a more innocent time in moviemaking.  Exceeding expectations, Robot Wars is a delightful slice of early 90s sci-fi cheese that wets the cult appetite just right.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    88 Films presents Robot Wars in a PAL 1.33:1 aspect ratio that is riddled with issues.  Opening titles are plagued with speckles and very pixelated black levels.  Fortunately, the film stabilizes slightly but is still inherently soft, wavering on murky tape quality.  Flakes and speckles pop up occasionally with colors appearing decently but, far from perfect.  Unfortunately, previous releases of Robot Wars appear to be plagued with similar issues making the source material the main culprit.  Perhaps, Robot Wars will see better days on home video but until then, this will have to suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Robot Wars is decently effective with dialogue coming across clearly with only minor dips sporadically.  Robot battles, laser blasts and David Arkenstone’s score ring loudly and work their magic as best they can.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Videozone Behind the Scenes - Robot Wars: A vintage promotional peak at the making of the film with informative interviews from Director Albert Band, the core cast and special FX and stop-motion artists.  For a 10 minute featurette, this covers a fair amount of ground and contains some nice fly on the wall shots on set.

    - Trailer

    - 88 Films Trailer Park: Includes The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, Hideous!, Girl in Gold Boots, Doctor Mordrid, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak & Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever.

    - Reversible cover: Utilizing the original artwork.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Robot Wars is a fun execution in cheap early 90s science fiction matched with an entertaining cast of talent with credits ranging from Re-Animator to The Karate Kid, Part II.  The major selling point of the film is the promise of robot battles that deliver in spades thanks to the phenomenal stop-motion magic of David Allen.  88 Films‘ video presentation fares no better than past releases but, luckily makes up with a decent audio mix and a brief but welcoming assortment of special features.  The strength and entertainment factor of Robot Wars alone warrants this release a firm recommendation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Night Train to Terror (1985) Blu-ray Review



    Night Train to Terror (1985)
    Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
    Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law & Byron Yordan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    By the sight of the 1-sheet poster, most would assumed that Night Train to Terror is another chip off the slasher block from the bitchin’ 1980s.  As fitting as it may seem, this is an entirely different beast.  When the topic of horror anthologies is brought up, there is a steady list of favorites to choose from such as Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat and Tales from the Crypt.  But, somewhere in the cobwebs lies Night Train to Terror.  Presented for the first time on home video and it its original aspect ratio, Vinegar Syndrome bring this horror oddity to your growing collection in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack.  How odd is this flick, you ask?  Well, get ready to throw logic out the window and let’s find out...

    Night Train to Terror kicks off with God and Satan aboard a train headed to the friary underworld as they decide the fates of three unfortunate souls.  In Harry, a killer keeps body parts of his victims in a twisted torture chamber.  While, in Gretta, a young woman obsessed with death takes part in a risky game of Russian roulette.  Finally, Claire finds a young woman and a Holocaust survivor terrorized by the son of Satan!

    MOVIE:
    There’s much to admire in a film that kicks off with an 80s-centric band playing to the camera while on board a train to Hell.  The catchy tune and the lead singer, who looks like a mix of Loverboy and Flashdance, sets the tone for the odd film you are about to witness.  The wrap-around segments of God and Satan deciding the fates of each of the  victims was a welcome touch that opened the stage for some humorous moments.  The film itself is an insane collage of horror presented without too much narrative in mind and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Demons, dismemberment, nudity and nazis all make entertaining appearances that are provided by a halfway decent cast and a synth-happy score.  Night Train to Terror takes lightning speed shifts telling its story while pushing moments of blood and horror leaving you with a “what the hell is going on?” attitude more than once.  In addition, the film deserves great praise for their usage of stop-motion effects that are less Harryhausen and more Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but just as charming and fun.  Overall, the film succeeds in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in terms of horrific elements while weaving a very “unique” kind of anthology tale.  There’s nothing quite like Night Train to Terror and by my calculations, that’s a fantastic thing!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Night Train to Terror for the first time on home video restored in 2K from 35mm elements and in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film certainly has its fair share of inconsistencies with debris and scratches with colors popping nicely when they can.  Skin tones appear natural and detail is quite sharp in close-ups.  Grain levels look terrific while blacks can be a hit or miss.  It sounds mediocre, but in truth, this film has never looked better and probably never will.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment is the definitive one for a film that has only seen ratty bootlegs before its release.  Consider me satisfied!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night Train to Terror hurls into your living room courtesy of a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.  Scenes of dialogue are clear and hissing is hardly present while moments of horror and carnage are loud and robust.  The score and catchy opening tune impressed my ear drums as they were loud even at a relatively lower volume.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents a healthy dose of supplements that are spread across both the Blu-ray and DVD on this release.

    On Blu-ray:
    - Interview with Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (offered as an audio track over the film)

    - The Hysteria Continues Commentary: The bloggers offer plenty of laughs and interesting anecdotes about the film and the players involved.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    On DVD:
    - Gretta: The full-version of The Case of Gretta Conners, a unique and welcome extra as one can see and appreciate the differences from its shorter counterpart found in Night Train to Terror.

    - Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (presented as an audio track)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Night Train to Terror is quite unlike any horror anthology you’ve ever seen.  The chaotic pace and horrific imagery at every turn will certainly send you for a loop which makes it never boring.  Vinegar Syndrome have preserved and presented the film in the best possible manner with a welcome dose of extras that offer as much behind-the-scenes information as possible on this horror oddity.  Night Train to Terror is an absurd execution in horror anthologies with enough blood, demons and stop-motion to peak most genre fans’ interest.  Looking for logic?  We’re all out on Night Train to Terror but that’s exactly where most of the charm comes from.
    RATING: 4/5