Frankenhooker [Blu-ray]

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Henenlotter is (or should be!) a well recognised name among devotees of psychotronic celluloid, he’s the man behind such awesome cinematic atrocities as Brain Damage, Basket Case and more recently  the excellent Bad Biology. Frankenhooker was made somewhere in-between the above-mentioned titles and plays out as a horror-comedy, a subgenre that in my opinion almost always falls flat, but when handled with Henenlotter’s magic touch proves to be nothing less than genius. The film essentially follows the standard Frankenstein plot but with a couple of minor adjustments – a woman is assembled from exploded hooker parts.

When Jeffrey Franken’s fiancé Elizabeth is accidentally dismembered by a runaway lawnmower he manages to salvage her head and a few other parts, hoping to someday breathe new life into them. After some stimulating Black & Decker trepanning he soon comes up with a master plan – find & kill some hookers and use their parts to complete Elizabeths body – and sets out on his murderous mission.

Having sourced a few ladies of the night Jefferey has another problem: how to dispatch them. He soon hits upon another brilliant idea, Supercrack! Everyone knows ho’s love to smoke that rock, so why not cook up a batch of ultra-pure stuff that’ll snuff ’em after one hit. But his experimental Supercrack proves slightly too strong for the ladies and one after another they explode in a splatter-fireworks display of epic proportions.

Jeffrey dutifully picks up the pieces and heads home to reassemble the body parts and wait for the electrical storm that will resurrect his loving fiancé. Sadly once Elizabeth is reanimated she doesn’t quite seem herself and stomps off into the night heading for the stroll with Jeffrey close behind her.

Frankenhooker is a cocktail of late ’80s schlock with more severed limbs and tits on display than you can shake a dick at. It oozes that authentically seedy Times Square vibe which is reinforced with numerous location shots of 42nd St. with its XXX theatres, Johns and streetwalkers littering the avenues. Ultimately what makes this horror-comedy mix work is that it’s played straight-faced, particularly by James Lorinz who stars as Jeffrey; no matter what insane dialog he’s spouting or how many barrels of bisected breasts he’s sifting through, he plays it totally stone cold.

So, if you’re a fan of low-rent garbage like Street TrashSlime CityRe-AnimatorThe Complete Toxic Avenger and the early Troma school of thought but haven’t seen this magnificent film, do so immediately.

I’ve long owned a beat-up VHS copy of this film so it’s a treat to now have it on Blu-ray. Although, I must say it looks great on either format, as its grimy washed-out look on VHS compliments it as much as the clean Hi-Def Blu-ray with gaudy colours all aglow.

Synapse Films’ Blu-ray disc presents the film in High-Definition 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1) with digitally remastered 5.1 surround sound and plenty of extras including: Audio commentary with Frank Henenlotter and special effects designer Gabe Bartalos; Featurette wherein Patty Mullen who portrayed Frankenhooker speaks on her experiences making the film. (9 mins); Frankenhooker make-up effects featurette in which Gabe Bartalos explains how various FX worked. (21 mins); Jennifer Delora remembers Frankenhooker. One of the hookers from the film rambles about life since making the film and fond memories. (20 mins); Jennifer Delora’s Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook. Photo slideshow narrated by Ms. Delora. (11 mins) and a Theatrical Trailer.

Frankenhooker is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Synapse.

Tokyo Gore Police

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Set sometime in the future, Tokyo Gore Police tells the story of Ruka (Eihi Shiina of Audition fame) a member of the Tokyo Police Corporation whose specialty is hunting Engineers, a mutant breed of super-criminal with the ability to transform any injury into a weapon. While fighting the good fight Ruka stumbles upon evidence relating to the murder of her father and is soon drawn deeper into the world of the Engineers in pursuit of the truth.

Tokyo Gore Police takes the best parts of films such as Robocop, Starship Troopers, Videodrome & Tetsuo and blends them into an over-the-top satirical splatterfest the likes of which I can honestly say I’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing before. Within the opening five minutes the blood & guts is already flowing freely and it continues to do so throughout. It’s obvious special effects/make-up is director Yoshihiro Nishimura’s first love, as at times TGP almost begins to resemble an FX reel rather than a film. Continue reading

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

In interviews Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost has said that the goal of Twin Peaks was to do “something original”. While it achieved originality in spades the idea of a story about a girl who is murdered from the get-go stems from the 1947 Robert Wise film Born to Kill. In Born to Kill the victim’s name is Laury Palmer, in Twin Peaks it’s Laura Palmer. So it’s quite fitting that we never get to know Laura in the series but follow a whole week or so of her life in the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

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Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King (1993)

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Half Japanese was formed by brothers Jad and David Fair in their Michigan bedroom in 1975. Neither brother had any knowledge of how to play music and to this day Jad (David left the band and got married) still plays an un-tuned guitar. Jad states in the documentary “the only cord I know is the one that connects the guitar to the amp”. David also has a unique approach to guitar but I don’t want to spoil too much. Their refreshing approach to music has made them one of the most unique acts of the underground low-fi /alternative punk rock/*insert genre here* scene, and their admirers range from Penn Jillette to Kurt Cobain (he reportedly died wearing a Half Japanese t -shirt). To some, Half Japanese is pure genius and to others they are pure novelty *cough…bullshit…cough*.

The Band That Would Be King is a strange film. Its not a complete linear look at the genesis and lifespan of the band, it’s not an expose, it’s just random bits of band information, interviews with a bunch of people and some really killer performances and old footage of the band. Half Japanese: The Band That Would Be King would be best described as director, Jeff Feuerzeig’s love-letter to the band. While documentaries about other “outsider artists” like The Devil and Daniel Johnston or You’re Gonna Miss Me : A Film About Roky Erickson may be more accessible to people who don’t like or know of their music, I don’t think this film is inaccessible to those who don’t know anything about Half Japanese as the film is not about mental illness, drug abuse, in-house fighting or anything of that ilk.

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Vampyros Lesbos

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Uncut & Uncensored screams the cover, “The Citizen Kane of European Exploitation Cinema” squeals the quote, a psychedelic musical score that’s “World Famous” – come on now people! Get a grip! This is Jess Franco we are talking about here – hot sheilas, cheesy muzak, subtitles, plotlines with holes bigger than some of his former girlfriends, lots of nekkidness and a shit load of visuals that make no sense but damn they are filmed beautifully. I mean lets face it, Franco ain’t a great director by any stretch of the imagination. His movies never make sense, they’re slow, weird and badly acted for the most part, (except when he lucks into a Kinski or a Christopher Lee slumming it) but the girls always get their kit off, there’s always at least one weird moment where you go “what the fu..?” and just occasionally he gets a visual moment that’s stunning. But the Citizen Kane line? Someone needs to get out more. Continue reading

From the Back of the Room

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A great documentary looking at the role women have played in the U.S. punk rock scene, going back to the early 80s with folk like author Cynthia Connolly (Banned In DC) through the days of places like Gillman Street and ABC-No Rio and onward past the Riot Grrrl movement and into the present scene. And though the film might be touted by some as a “riot grrl” doco, Bikini Kill and their ilk don’t actually make an appearance until halfway through the film. Continue reading

Howard the Duck

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Steve Gerber was a comic genius – Man Thing was my favourite comic ever pretty much hands down yessiree no competition the bomb and all that jive. His other fuck up Howard The Duck– while not in the same league for me was up there too, hell I live by Howard’s call sign – “Trapped In A World He Never Made” – that there was my life as a teenager, it still is. But the movie of old Howy well that’s a completely different ball game. Sure its got Howard and even Beverly but they aint the same at all. Hell, Beverly was much hotter in the comic than Lea (Caroline In The City) Thompson could ever hope to be. Although Lea does scrub up all right in her scanties it must be said. Enough to give any Duck a woody. The big problem is Howard though – I just kept thinking of Hornswoggle in the WWE! This poor fucker is trapped in a ducksuit he never made… and they needed 8 ducks according to the credits to do it! What? couldn’t find one kid dumb enough to do the whole flick? I’m no fan of CGI technology but in this case I wish they had invented it sooner. Howard needed something to make his case more believable. But just to contradict myself, there’s a great old fashioned harryhausen stop motion monster at the end that had me cheering, so what the hell do I know anyway? I hate the kid in a duck suit but love the stop motion harryhausen… but its that kinda movie you know? Confusing, strange, full of holes, dumber than a reality show contestant but for some reason still fun. Continue reading

Sector 7

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There are problems in Sector 7. The offshore oil rig has failed to strike oil, threatening it with closure. The crew are losing faith and the weak-willed captain is not helping matters. Just when it seems like things cannot get any worse, a spate of mysterious deaths begins. Accidents? A spurned suitor? Or something…monstrous?

Yeah, it’s a sea monster, in case you were wondering.

Sector 7 is the first 3D movie from Korea, boasting nearly 1800 CG shots to not only create the monster but also to create the entire oil rig that film is set on. It features a beautiful heroine, motorcycle stunts, chase scenes, action sequences…and is almost completely hollow.

The plot of Sector 7 is pretty bog-standard. The characters die when expected and in the manner expected. Every step of the film is a formulaic one, every beat a familiar one. The only time things really kick into high gear is in the succession of chase sequences in the last act, but even then the thrills are only skin deep. Indeed, the superficial nature of the piece is best summed up by the glaringly obvious green screen close-ups of the heroine whenever she is riding her motorcycle, her hair blown about by an off-screen fan. Continue reading

Robot Chicken: Mega Meal Collection

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I imagine there are very few people out there who don’t know what Robot Chicken is about. So for those of you who’ve never heard of it:

1) Go to Robot Chicken’s Wikipedia page

2) Watch a short clip on Youtube

3) Go and order Madman’s Robot Chicken Mega Meal Collection (10 Disc Set)

And if you’re too lazy to do any of that then here’s a quick summary of the show: its one giant pop culture riff. It’s really hard to review season by season as the show is just a bunch of animated shorts that spoof everything from reality tv, 80s toys, game shows, celebrities, politics, internet humor, movies, tv shows and fads, etc.

I don’t want to bore you with my favourite skits from each season but my absolute favourite out of all seasons was the Big Brother Horror Movie staring Leatherface, Pinhead, Freddy, Jason, Ghostface, and Michael Meyers as Big Brother contestants. The Six Million Peso Man, My Little Pony as “Apocalypse Pony” (death, pestilence etc) was pretty clever too. They RC crew have a real knack for what they do and create some really hilarious sketches. It really does help if you were an ’80s kid though, I do wonder if some of the references won’t click with a younger audience.

Out of all the Adult Swim shows Robot Chicken is probably the most accessible because it relies so heavily on mocking popular culture. It’s not surreal or bizarre and unlike some other AS series the fifth season is just as good as the first. My first introduction to the show was the Star Wars special and although I thought it looked great I wasn’t all that fussed with it and didn’t really hurry to check the rest of the series out. When I got this set I watched all five seasons in a row and found it just got funnier and funnier without having to become cruder or sillier with each season as some shows tend to become.

Rather than babble on about the show itself I’ll focus on the box-set. If you’ve been buying Madman’s releases of each season then the only thing you’re missing is the individual artwork for each season. The Mega Meal Collection comes in a plastic 10 disc case. While I like having everything in one set – and this is the same for the Aqua Teen box-set – I kinda miss the artwork that comes with each individual season. But the good news is is that these box sets are often a lot cheaper than buying each season when it comes out.

I haven’t reviewed each season individually so assume that the extras will be the same in this set as they are on each individual season that Madman released. As far as extras go there are far too many to mention. Ones worth mentioning are “Sweet S Presents” which is the pilot for RC, the Comic-Con panels are interesting as well as the various commentaries, “Chicken Nuggets” (sketch by sketch commentary), animation meetings, studio tours, video blogs etc. You’re probably getting just as much content in extras as the show itself.

This set is an absolute must have for any Robot Chicken fan. The only slight annoyance is that the set only contains season 1-5. To be fair though season 6 has only just aired but it’s a pet peeve of mine to have a season or two out of a box set. It is also missing Robot Chicken Star Wars but for the price and the extras included this is well worth the purchase price.

EXTRAS

Season One: Disc One

  • Deleted Scenes – 11 clips
  • Deleted Animatics – 11 mins
  • Animation Meetings -14 mins
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

Season One: Disc Two

  • Sweet S Presents – 15 mins (the pilot to Robot Chicken)
  • Behind-the-scenes – 13 mins
  • Wire Comparisons – 5 mins
  • Animatics to Episode Comparisons – 5 mins
  • Alternate Audio Takes – 5 mins
  • Promos – 6 mins
  • Bumps – 10 mins
  • Trailers

Season Two: Disc One

  • Deleted Scenes – 10 clips
  • Adult Swim Promos
  • The Making of a Sketch – 13 mins
  • Xmas Special – 11 mins
  • Deleted Audio
  • Commentaries – 12 tracks

Season Two: Disc Two

  • Animation Meetings – 4 clips
  • PS3 Contest – 1 min
  • Deleted Animatics – 20 clips
  • Slide Show – 2 mins
  • Video Blogs – 15 clips
  • Freedom Rock – 2 mins
  • Commentaries – 10 tracks

Season Three: Disc One

  • Commentaries – 10 tracks
  • Chicken Nuggets – 4 tracks with commentary
  • Gag Reel – 1 min
  • VFX Comparison – 1 min

Season Three: Disc Two

  • Commentaries – 11 tracks
  • Alternate Audio – 2 tracks
  • Deleted Animatics – 22 clips
  • Deleted Scenes – 8 clips
  • Studio Tour – 11 mins
  • Video Blogs – 11 clips
  • Trailers

Season Four: Disc One

  • Chicken Nuggets – 4 clips
  • San Diego Comic-Con ’08 Panel – 11 mins
  • Day in the Life – 6 clips
  • New York Comic-Con ’09 Panel – 8 mins

Season Four: Disc Two

  • Alternate Audio – 4 clips
  • Australia Visit – 2 clips
  • Deleted Animatics – 38 clips
  • Deleted Scenes – 9 clips
  • Video Blogs – 5 clips

Season Five: Disc One

  • Featurettes – 7 clips
  • Chicken Nuggets – 3 tracks
  • Sing-a-long – MP3 file for your computer
  • Promos – 21 clips
  • Alternate Audio Takes – 7 mins

Season Five: Disc Two

  • Chicken Nuggets – 1 track
  • Deleted Scenes – 7 clips
  • Deleted Animatics – 53 clips
  • Trailers

DIRECTOR(S): Mike Fasolo, Seth Green, Matthew Senreich | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2005 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 1140 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16.9 /4:3 | REGION: 4 / PAL | DISCS: 10

The Protectors [Series 1]

Protectors-DVDWith the success of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo it was inevitable that there would be interest in any new (and a revival of old) Scandinavian crime related sensations. First it was the murder mystery series The Killing with its Twin Peaks-esque whodunit tease-fest and now the Danish series The Protectors.

The Protectors also known as “Livvagterne”, is a series about a Danish Personal Protection Unit. We follow three recruits: Arab born Jasmina El-Murad, Danish born Rasmus Poulsen, and Jewish Jonas Goldschmid as they go through the annual admission test and go on to become protectors.

The show focuses on the three protecting their clients, while exploring their lives, the clients’ lives and some major political themes affecting Denmark. The most central recurring theme is the impact of Muslim culture and its assimilation into Danish culture. To balance this out it also deals with issues such as White Extremists, political, environmental, and moral corruption.

The Protectors is a very multi-cultural show and in the eyes of Anders Behring Breivik this aspect would serve to prove his notion of the “Islamic Threat” and how Scandinavian culture is being destroyed. In wake of his actions watching a show like this does make you consider how traditions and cultures might get forgotten amidst so much culture. Having said that it’s really up to the individual to judge the nature of the show. This is obviously an issue in Denmark and they are not focusing only on extremism but the reasons for it.

Ultimately The Protectors is a nice break from the typical cop/action series. We get something a bit more fleshy and realistic although it still manages to provide some action and suspense sequences. One thing Scandinavian films and TV always excel in is character development and the show is more about the characters than the action which again is a nice change. Recommended for those who liked The Killing.

Madman’s release of Series 1 consists of 10 episodes spread over 3 discs with no special features.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.