Memory Lane

MemoryLaneA low budget, psychological, sci-fi thriller, Memory Lane follows Nick Boxer (Michael Guy Allen), an orphaned American war veteran who has returned home and encounters an enigmatic girl, Kayla M. (Meg Braden), who he saves from jumping off a bridge and then begins a whirlwind romance with. Despite this she remains secretive about her past and refuses to even let him know her last name and then mysteriously kills herself. The distraught Nick soon after realises that he can be with her in another state when he temporarily kills himself, an act he routinely undertakes which also helps him to understand the mystery of what actually happened to Kayla.

Reportedly made for a mind-boggling $300, this film has all the shortcomings you’d expect. The cinematography of the film is surprisingly strong considering such a measly budget would suggest you’d be witnessing little better than first-year film student fare. The screenplay is by far the weakest aspect of the film with abysmal, paper-thin dialogue which can’t even yield one redeeming good line and when coupled with a narrative that isn’t properly explained enough, the film can be a pretty confusing and bland watch.

The acting is nothing to write home about although a strong convincing performance by the main actor playing Nick (Michael Guy Allen) shows some potential. Pity the dialogue he is given is uninteresting and totally cheesy in most parts (the bedroom scene dialogues are particularly cringe-y). The soundtrack is touch and go, well-placed in some scenes, in others, coming across as pointless and over-the-top (i.e. the ‘epic classical’ soundtrack in rather banal points of the film).

Overall it seems this is a rather damning review of the film, but when you take into account the limited resources it must have been made with then it is almost rather successful in that it comes across as lackluster rather than a truly horrendous watch. What could have saved this film was less trying to tug at the coattails of epics like Memento and more embracing of its lo-fi quality. It makes such an obvious attempt to be a big-time ‘deep’ film that this is where it fails the hardest, especially when poor screenwriting brings down anything good this movie does to begin with.

A pretty forgettable film that tries but mostly ends up dead in the water, pardon the pun.


  • Director’s commentary
  • Deleted scenes
  • Short films
  • Promotional videos
  • Screen tests
  • Trailers

Available on DVD from MVD Visual.

The Dead Zone

Via-VisionThe Dead Zone is a melding of two talents at the height of their powers. The novel was a number one bestseller in 1979 from Stephen King and director David Cronenberg was fresh off a string of brilliant, singular horror films. Despite this, The Dead Zone tends to be something of a forgotten King adaptation – something even harder to understand given this is easily one of the most effective.

It is a character-driven piece, centering on a small town English teacher with the paradoxically memorable name of John Smith (Christopher Walken). Just as everything in his life seems to be coming together, he leaves the house of his fiancée Sarah (Brooke Adams) to drive home in the rain and ends up in a traffic accident that leaves him in a coma…for five years.

When at last Smith comes round, he finds Sarah is now married with a child, his job is long gone, he may never walk without assistance again and, to top it all off, he may have the ability to see the future.

The novel runs parallel storylines but the script here (by Jeffrey Boam) wisely shifts the structure to sequential, with each of the three stages having a seismic impact on Smith’s character. The first deals with his accident and awakening, the second with his involvement in the hunt for a serial killer and the third with his interactions with charismatic senate hopefully Greg Stillson (Michael Sheen).

This approach keeps things tightly focused on Smith and his evolution from discovery to denial and, finally, acceptance of his powers.

The central casting of Smith is an odd decision. Walken is always an actor with an otherworldly, almost creepy feel and that plays at odds with what is clearly meant to be an affable everyman character. Walken turns in a solid performance, but his natural affectations combined with somewhat sinister wardrobe choices (by the end, Smith is always clad in a long black coat and walks with a cane) fight the empathy the story desperately needs the audience to have with its lead.

Martin Sheen as Greg Stillson seems well-cast, but somewhat overplays his hand. While all of the other actors (including an excellent Tom Skerritt as the world-weary Sheriff Bannerman) play it low-key and subtle, Sheen merrily chews the scenery as the unscrupulous politician Stillson. Considering he only appears in the final third of the movie, this is somewhat jarring.

Aside from the issues with his cast, Cronenberg directs in a clean, professional manner. In the wake of his independent body horror films, The Dead Zone was seen as something of a ‘gun for hire’ job for Cronenberg, but he acquits himself well here and an unorthodox graphic suicide scene certainly stands out as a signature flourish.

A measured, introspective film, The Dead Zone is possibly overlooked due to its lack of big set pieces, but it stands up thanks to a careful script and some real thematic depth. Plus, it has that rarest of Stephen King characteristics – a terrific finale.


This is very much a bare-bones release. The transfer is grainy and a touch muddy and the extras consist solely of the film’s trailer.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Via Vision.


DuneA sci-fi cult classic, Dune is either a love-it or hate-it film. A sprawling epic in the truest sense most viewers find themselves either completely enthralled or completely underwhelmed by its density and bizarre flourishes. Despite being recommended it countless times throughout the years, I only just watched it recently for the purpose of this review. So despite being a complete virgin to the deeply complex Dune-verse, hopefully my opinion of it isn’t biased by being a nut-hugging Frank Herbert nerd or someone who follows Roger Egbert’s opinion just a little too closely.

Based on Frank Herbert’s gargantuan novel, Dune is set in the year 10,191 and follows the plights of intergalactic civilizations vying for the most prized resource in the universe- the spice ‘melange,’ which is crucial for interstellar travel and also has life extending qualities. The spice is found on the planet Arrakis, which in the first part of the film is taken over by the noble Atreides family, who are locked into a power struggle with their nemeses, the repulsive and depraved Harkonnens. This battle becomes all the more epic with the story of Paul (Kyle McLachlan), the Atreides heir, who is reminded all throughout the film of his predestined greatness, giving him a messianic status.

With much of the film’s story centered on his mission, the process through which he experiences hardship and exile before recognising and using his own power, figures the classic story of the forging of a hero. The storyline is fascinating and engrossing, weaving disparate elements of tragedy, horror, sci-fi and heroic epics into its plot-line. But for all this complexity, sometimes Dune comes undone under the weight of its own density. It was easy to lose track of exactly what the hell is going on in the film and the rapid cutaways into different subplots of the film didn’t help. If you haven’t read the original novel beforehand it seems that Dune soon degenerates into a confusing and contrived watch. Internal dialogue by the characters meant to signpost to the audience what’s happening, serves to only make the story all the more jarring and perplexing.

The set and costume design of the film is a strong point of the film. The interior designs appear grand yet unsettling, a feeling which pervades the costuming as well, which either accentuates the nobility of the Atreides family or the grotesqueness of the Harkonnens. Overall the special effects of the film are excellent, avoiding becoming outdated still at this point in time and they particularly work well with the appearance of the worms which are terrifying.

A film that vies for greatness but falls somewhat flat, Dune is nowhere near being a classic or even great film, but it is still worthy of seeing and may even strike a chord with some viewers. Despite what seems like rather damning qualities, Dune is still worth the watch and for every mishap on the film’s part there is always redemption around the corner in some other aspect of the film.


  • Deleted Scenes
  • Designing Dune
  • Dune FX
  • Dune Models and Miniatures
  • Dune Wardrobe and Design

Available on R4 DVD from Via Vision

Empire of the Apes

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Three women are held captive on a prison ship in space, en route to be sold to an alien race as sex slaves. They capture one of the ship’s escape pods, and flee to a nearby planet. When they land they are confronted by the planet’s inhabitants – sentient apes, who hope to use their space craft to escape, or failing that to use the women as breeding stock to increase their dwindling numbers. At the same time, they are pursued but Zantor the prison warden, who fears retribution from his customers if he can’t supply the women on schedule.

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Population: 1

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Former Russ Meyer protégé Rene Daalder (Massacre at Central High) directs this off the wall punked out musical starring Tomata Du Plenty former front-man of The Screamers. Population: 1 is about a lone survivor of a nuclear holocaust (played by Du Plenty) retelling American history from a bomb shelter.

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Deep Contact

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Set in the “futuristic” year of 1999, Deep Contact concerns the imminent destruction of earth and a group of sexual scientists’ attempts to save mankind from total annihilation.

Waturu is a nihilistic loner who, upon hearing of humankinds coming extinction, recklessly decides to ignore his huge debt owed to the Yakuza. While on the run from his suited loan sharks he is snatched off the street and taken to a bizarre hospital where all sorts of sexperiments are being performed. He soon learns he has what is known as Sexual Psychokinesis and his services are needed to help save the planet from an earthbound comet.

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Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – 20th Anniversary Ed

Mystery Science Theater 3000 was a cult hit during the late 80s and it enjoyed a successful run for over a decade clocking in an impressive 198 episodes on Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel as well as a feature film. The shows premise concerned itself with a man trapped on a satellite in space who is forced to watch “bad” B-Movies with his two robot companions. The trio are shown as silhouettes at the bottom of the screen and give a running commentary that takes the piss out of some of the more atrocious flicks to be committed to celluloid. Beyond Entertainment’s 4 disc 20th anniversary set brings us four episodes of the show First Spaceship On Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, Future War and includes a documentary chronicling the history MST3K and it’s impact on popular culture.

The set opens with First Spaceship on Venus which was excruciatingly boring and the crew’s jokes weren’t much better. I was seriously wondering what I’d got myself in for signing on to review this set. I think they could’ve stopped their search for the worst movie ever right here. An awful start to the set which thankfully got better.

Next up in the set we have Laserblast a 1980 Charles Band produced (the very mention of his name will tell you how huge the budget was on this one) sci-fi film about a teenager called Billy (Kim Milford) who stumbles upon an alien weapon in the desert. The weapon’s radiation mutates the teen turning him into a violent maniac intent on taking revenge of those who have made his life difficult. The aliens who left the weapon behind are soon on the trail of Billy and his new toy. The MST3K crew’s humor improved on this disc and there’s some funny calls especially at the expense of the “Cracker Stoners” that make up the flick’s cast. Laserblast featured some pretty cool stop motion work (his debut I believe) from David Allen a protégé of Ray Harryhausen who went onto work on the effects in The Gate and Freaked. Mr geeky himself Eddie Deezen makes an appearance a long with Roddy McDowall and Dennis Burkley.

I dug this one a lot as I’m a big fan of Charles Band/Full Moon’s early features. They’re great mindless entertainment and despite their shortcomings a bunch of these films are really overlooked gems of 80s sci-fi and miles ahead of their shoddy horror output of 90s. Who hasn’t want to deal to the people who’ve pissed you off with a kickass laser cannon?! Great hilariously bad fun that was my favorite film of the set.

The werewolf subgenre has brought us some masterpieces of horror cinema notably The Wolfman, American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps and Silver Bullet. Werewolf however sits in the gutter with cinematic turds like Howling III and American Werewolf In Paris. An archaeological dig uncovers a werewolf skeleton which scratches one of the crew and he makes the change from man into wolf. The werewolf eventually returns to the archeologist’s camp but is killed by silver bullets. The foreman of the group Yuri (Jorge Rivero) uses the werewolf skeleton to hatch a evil plan of revenge on the group after he is fired for his heavy handed advances on Natalie (Adrianna Miles). The nonsensical plotline poor editing (wait for the car crash scene that will have you shaking your head) and average effects work really make this a stinker that the crew’s commentary shows no mercy to. Richard Lynch is always good value which was one of the films saving graces for me and the appearance of Joe Estevez (Charlie & Emilo’s uncle) was amusing especially when the crew really let him have it for being a washed up never will be “Can I still be in the movie?, Got a spare part anywhere?”.

Future War rounds off the set and is an epic of bad sets, fake looking robots, dinosaurs and showcases the exceptional acting prowess of kickboxer Daniel Bernhardt. I’ve become quite the fan of these sort of films over the last year or so and found it a pretty enjoyable Terminator knockoff. There’s some epic mullets on parade in this one and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many empty cardboard boxes used as props in my life. The fight scene involving Bernhardt throwing them at villains with sounds of broken glass as they strike is pure gold.

The set could’ve done with versions of the film without the MST3K crew’s take on them because they are just as enjoyable minus their presence if not more so when the jokes fall painfully flat. However there’s a good mix of episodes ranging from old school sci-fi to later era trashfests which shows the wide variety of films that the crew of the Satellite of Love ridiculed during their existence.

The humor in the set may not be to everyone’s taste but MST3K is an interesting enough distraction and is a great introduction for those uninitiated with the series or B-Movies in general not to mention trip down memory land for those who remember the series from it’s first run on television.


  • 20 Year History of MST3K (in 3 parts)
  • 2008 Comic-Con International Reunion Panel
  • Original Trailers

Mystery Science Theatre 3000 – 20th Anniversary Ed is available on DVD from Beyond Home Entertainment.

An American Hippie in Israel [Blu-ray]

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Prior to this disc release, I had never heard of An American Hippie in Israel, but being something of a fan of counterculture cinema, I was curious to see what it was about this film that prompted Grindhouse Releasing to give it the deluxe treatment.

Written and directed by Amos Sefer (who doesn’t seem to have made another feature other than this), An American Hippie in Israel stars Asher Tzarfati as Mike, the titular hippie of the title, a Vietnam vet who lands at Tel Aviv airport (in bare feet and complete with requisite beard and furry vest) with no real plans other than to live “an absolute free life in an absolutely isolated place, away from this civilization and culture of violence- without clothes, without government and without orders.” Fortunately for him, he is picked-up hitchhiking by young theatrical actress Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), who becomes instantly infatuated with Mike and his hippie lifestyle, joining him in his quest for peace and freedom. After hooking up with another local hippie couple (played by Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), they head for a small uninhabited island just off the coast, only to find that the nice ideals of the counterculture lifestyle do not necessarily hold-up to the harsh realities of life and the basic instinct to survive. Continue reading



Ever since a 19-year-old named Mary Shelley wrote a novel called Frankenstein, the scientist who plays God and creates life has been a staple of fiction. Indeed, Shelley realised her work’s place in a long tradition by subtitling it, The Modern Prometheus. From the dawn of cinema, the concept has been brought forward repeatedly by filmmakers, including in 2009 director Vincenzo Natali with Splice.

The world of splice is that of giant pharmaceutical company N.E.R.D. and its superstar geneticist couple Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley). After successfully created new organisms from spliced DNA, the two suggest introducing human DNA into the process to provide donor organisms to cure all sorts of adverse genetic human conditions. When the company bosses baulk at the concept, the pair decide to go ahead themselves…in secret.

The resulting hybrid, named ‘Dren’ (NERD backwards, of course), grows at a rapid rate and Clive and Elsa struggle to keep its existence secret. Then Dren herself begins acting more unpredictably, with particular instability arising from her human side.

There can be little argument that the subject matter of Splice is well-worn territory. The usual questions of morality and creation are raised, but to Natali’s credit, that is not where he focusses the attention of the film. Instead, he makes it about a family unit, albeit one dysfunctional in the extreme, the cycle of abuse and the connections we form with each other.

Even more telling, Natali does not shy away from the sexual element of proceedings and this is surely the pivot for most audiences. If you are on board with the choices of Natali and the characters, this is a brave approach that escalates proceedings. On the other hand, it is easily open to derison and may distance a more cynical audience.

The film itself belies its modest budget and is superbly realised. Austere environments are carefully composed throughout, while Dren herself is an impressive combination of practical and digital effects throughout the stages of her life.

While treading a fairly familiar core plot, Splice takes enough adventurous steps to make this a superior sci-fi flick, with brains beyond its creature-feature roots. Highly recommended.

  • Vincenzo Natali Interview
  • Featurette: A Director’s Playground
  • Behind The Scenes
  • Trailer

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Gantz: Perfect Answer


At the conclusion of Gantz (2010), college student Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) found himself at a crossroads. After being swept up in some kind of strange contest with other people recruited apparently at the point of death, Kurono fought in the service of a large black ball called Gantz, battling aliens for ‘points’. But the battle proved costly, with his childhood friend Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) being amongst the casualties.

But all is not lost. If Kurono can obtain 100 points, he has a choice of leaving the game…or resurrecting someone killed in action. He promptly takes over guardianship of Kato’s little brother and sets about going after bringing Kato back. Even as he focusses on his mission, other forces begin to move. A detective investigates the sightings of apparently missing people, a pop singer gains possession of a miniature version of the Gantz orb and a mysterious group of black-suited people begin their own hunt…

Gantz: Perfect Answer looks to up the ante on its predecessor. It takes the premise and expands it. The result is a sequel in the purest sense; you simply must have seen Gantz to make any sense of this. There is a token ‘previously’ intro, but a first-time viewer would surely be lost.

Dispensing with the backstory allows the story to immediately sweep in and introduce a wave of new characters and with them, a new set of rules. If the first movie was fairly faithful to the manga series that spawned it, the sequel sets about mining new ground from the outset. Among other things, we see the alien response from having all these black-clad humans hunting them.

Not only does the plot escalate, so does the action. It culminates in a terrific centrepiece mass battle through a subway train featuring martial arts, swords, guns and more. It is in this arena that Gantz: Perfect Answer finds its niche; as a glossy, sci-fi/superhero comic book movie as good as anything produced out of Hollywood.

Unfortunately, such highs are balanced with lows. Histrionic melodrama crops up repeatedly, as do some odd plot movements. For example, the hunt of Kurono’s girlfriend Tae Kojima from the manga is brought in, but not in a way that actually makes logical sense. It seems more like the filmmakers liked the opportunity for conflict within the Gantz team and did not care that it was a concept that did not fit the story.

The biggest sin, though, is sheer length. Almost every scene feels drawn out, every character moment and even fight extended until all enjoyment is almost wrung out of it. The story may come to a satisfactory end – no mean feat, given the source manga continues to wilder and wilder plotlines – but the telling of that story is undercut by its padding. One can only wonder how strong Gantz: Perfect Answer could have been with 45 minutes or more cut from it.

Overall, this is a stylish sequel that forms, with its predecessor, a unique tale. Visually expansive and wonderfully-shot, it is somewhat let down by its length and often illogical developments. If these can be forgiven, however, there is lots of enjoy here in a dazzling action/sci-fi adventure.

  • Trailers
  • Making of Gantz: Perfect Answer
  • Fight Choreography

The main extra is a 32-minute ‘making of’ piece. This combines cast and crew interviews with behind-the-scenes footage of filming several key sequences such as the subway battle and the climactic face-off. It is more magazine-stye than informative, but it is still fun seeing moments like the wrap shots for each of the major cast members. They all seem genuinely touched by the production, which actually consisted of both Gantz and Gantz: Perfect Answer shot over several months and the outpouring of emotion each time shows what it meant to all involved.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman.