Movie Review: GRABBERS

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IFC Midnight

“I need a photograph with it for National Geographic. And Facebook.”

  • On Erin Island, an idyllic fishing village off the coast of Ireland, charming inebriate Ciaran O’Shea is tasked with showing straight-laced police officer Lisa Nolan her new beat. Not that there’s much to police, as most of the community’s troubles are caused by O’Shea himself. But strange doings are afoot: the crew of a fishing boat disappears, whales start appearing dead on the shore, and a local lobsterman catches a mysterious tentacled creature in his trap. Soon it becomes clear to O’Shea and Nolan that there’s something unnatural out there, and that it’s hungry. So it’s time to rally the villagers, arm the troops…and head to the pub.

Grabbers is a monster horror comedy movie that was a co-production between the UK and Ireland, and released in 2012. I wasn’t aware of this movie’s existence until a few years later, when I came across it featured on the Family Video website (I am amazed that physical brick-and-mortar video stores still exist nowadays, somehow). The description made me think I was getting into a low-budget monster flick with middling amounts of pain involved. I was partly right.

Ciarán O’Shea is a Garda (kind of like a policeman, only in the Republic of Ireland) is a bit of an alcoholic slacker on the force, when he’s assigned a new partner, named Lisa Nolan, who is not only (*gasp!*) a girl, but is also a workaholic who volunteered for temporary duty on the remote Irish island that he works at. And a teetotaler. It’s your basic odd couple pairing story device. You know right away that they’re going to be totes a couple by the end of the movie. Anyway, mutilated whale corpses start washing up on the beach, and next thing you know the townsfolk are being attacked by bloodsucking tentacled aliens of various sizes. After the town drunk survives an attack, the local marine ecologist theorizes that it was the high alcohol content in the man’s blood that proved toxic to these “Grabbers”, as they’ve been named. Because there’s a storm that will allow the critters to wander around the town freely, they hatch a plan to get everyone at the local pub under the guise of a party, to keep everyone from rioting and freaking out over what’s going on. This goes as well as you would expect. Baby Grabbers arrive at the pub, the pub is set on fire, O’Shea and Nolan lure the adult Grabber to the local construction site for a final showdown, and while they were victorious, there are a bunch of more Grabber eggs buried on the beach. The end.

Grabbers was a blast to watch. This is your basic low-budget monster flick (only made for 5 and a half million) that is surprisingly well-done, not only in the effects department, but in the overall story as well. The thing that makes it work is the fact that it doesn’t take itself completely seriously–there’s a scene where the Grabber lures the town drunk out of his house by using the body of its victims as a life-sized marionette that got a rather big belly laugh out of me–but just serious enough to make this genuinely scary at times. The characters are fun and palpable, and watching the story unfold was a blast. I know, I know, second time using that word to describe the watching experience, but it’s worth repeating in the same paragraph.

Overall, Grabbers was a surprisingly fun horror comedy. As far as I know, the only one I’ve seen to have come out of Ireland. Fans of Shaun Of The Dead and Attack The Block need to check this one out. Recommended.

Movie Review: UPGRADE

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Blumhouse Productions

“While I am state of the art, I am not a ninja.”

  • After his wife is killed during a brutal mugging that also leaves him paralyzed, Grey Trace is approached by a billionaire inventor with an experimental cure that will “upgrade” hi body. The cure: an Artificial Intelligence implant called STEM, gives Grey physical abilities beyond anything experienced, and the ability to relentlessly claim vengeance against those who murdered his wife and left him for dead.

So far, Blumhouse has had a pretty steady track record when it comes to low-budget genre flicks. Nobody’s going to accuse them of releasing more arty type horror and science fiction, like A24 has been doing. But, if your taste runs more to the cheesy yet well-produced B-movie side of things–like I do–Blumhouse has got you covered. They’re able to do a lot with just a little. And that talent is very evident in the 2018 sci-fi thriller Upgrade.

Made for a budget of $3 million, Upgrade is basically The Six Million Dollar Man by way of Death Wish: A mechanic in the FUTURE! specializing in refurbishing combustion engine-powered cars (i.e., the kind we drive right now) drops one off at his client, an eccentric and reclusive tech innovator. After showing off his latest techy gadget–a multi-purpose microchip he dubbed STEM–the mechanic and his wife take off, but on the way their automated high-tech future car goes DERP! and crashes, then the couple are jumped by four men, killing the wife and leaving the mechanic paralyzed from the neck down. All a coincidence, I’m sure. Months later, he’s a paraplegic being taken care of by his mother at his new automated house. One day, he’s contacted by his old client, the inventor guy, offering to install the chip he showed him all those months prior onto his spine to gain his mobility back, and much more. An upgrade, if you will. The caveat being that the reclusive tech inventor guy has to perform the operation himself, and the mechanic has to keep all o this on the down-low, on account if it’s kinda, sorta illegal and stuff. So, he can walk and has all his functions back, but he has to pretend to be paralyzed in public. Which he agrees to…until the chip begins talking to him. And convinces him to use his new upgraded talents to find the men responsible for his wife’s violent death and his current state and make them pay. And so he does. Which catches the eye of a police detective. And it seems to be getting harder to keep the chip from taking complete control of his body. Not to mention there may be more of a conspiracy behind him taking the chip than he realized.

I missed out on watching Upgrade when it was out in the theaters. That was mostly due to me not being aware of its existence, because I don’t watch television and I’m not privy to a lot of movie advertisements outside of the trailers at other movies. Mostly I heard about this through the other reviewers that I glom to for movie information, and almost everybody gave Upgrade a pretty high rating, calling it a pretty good sci-fi action flick with  solid mystery story. So, I got ahold of a rental, and gave it a watch, and…yeah. Upgrade is a pretty solid movie.

The movie does a great job at crafting a dark, existential and somewhat bleak scenario, while mixing in some well-choreographed fight scenes while the story unfolds in a way that, okay, maybe not the most original one I’ve come across, but still ends on a very, very satisfying note. At least for me, anyway. If you prefer a more upbeat, happy ending, you maybe won’t like the ending as much. Regardless, Upgrade is very much worth a watch.



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from a certain point of view

  • In honor of the fortieth anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope, this collection features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars literary history. More than forty authors have lent their unique vision to forty “scenes”, each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: Every scene is told from the point of view of a background character. Whether it’s the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the stormtroopers who never quite could find the droids they were looking for, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View places the classic movie in a whole new perspective, and celebrates the influence and legacy of the unparalleled cultural phenomenon, Star Wars.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Star Wars book reviews, I started reading the expanded universe novels around 2001, on the insistence of my friend Nex. This was long before Disney bought out Lucasfilm and Star Wars, rendering the novels to be what I like to call “professional fan-fic”, aka Star Wars Legends. Personally, my favorite ones that I liked to read were the three that contained short stories from the point of view of the peripheral characters: Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Tales of the Bounty Hunters, and Tales from Jaba’s Palace. I’ve always been intrigued by what the minor characters you see in movies, experiencing what’s going on, were thinking or doing that lead up to that moment. These books really scratched that imaginative itch I had.

Of course, now that those have been regulated into the Legends category, it was a wait to see if anything like those books would appear in the new official Disney canon. Lo and behold, in 2017 there was published the anthology From a Certain Point of View, a collection of short stories that were written by several authors, based on certain peripheral characters that were in the background of everything going on during the run of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. This was released in conjunction with the movie’s 40th anniversary since its release back in 1977, and since it features 40 stories (one for each year, I presume), I need to stop yammering on and get to the stories contained within this tome. Shall we? We shall…

“Raymus” (Gary Witta)
It’s the story of Raymus Antilles, the captain of the Tantive IV, taking place from essentially the tail end of Rogue One, when they launch out of the Star Cruiser Profundity, to when he’s choked to death by Darth Vader after their capture over Tatooine. Basically, this bridges the small gap between the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope…

“The Bucket” (Christie Golden)
This one deals with Stormtrooper TK-4601, who is the one who manages to nab Princess Leia on the Tantive IV, right after she sticks those Death Star plans into some random astromech droid that I’m sure has no bearing on the overall saga whatsoever. Oh, and the “bucket” in question refers to the stormtrooper helmets. You’re welcome…

“The Sith of Datawork” (Ken Liu)
A brief yet amusing look at the bureaucratic side of the Galactic Empire, specifically the paperwork involved for a certain gunnery captain that ordered his subordinates not to fire upon some escape pod that didn’t have any life signs…

“Stories in the Sand” (Griffin McElroy)
Here, we have a story about a Jawa named Jot who likes to hide in his secret space on the clan’s sandcrawler and watch the “stories” taken from the memory cores of the droids they find before they’re wiped for resale. Then one day, he happens upon the memory core of a recently acquired R2 unit, which shows him clips from the Prequel Trilogy, among other things…

“Reirin” (Sabaa Tahir)
A young female Tusken Raider outcast wants to leave Tatooine (couldn’t imagine why), so she’s tasked with finding a shiny stone held within the Jawa sandcrawler that happens to be selling a couple of droids to a moisture farmer and his plucky nephew…

“The Red One” (Rae Carson)
That’s right, there’s a story about the R5-D4 unit that was the Owen’s first pick from the Jawa’s swap meet. This goes into things a bit into detail as to why it fritzed out like it did…

“Rites” (John Jackson Miller)
Hey, you remember the part in A New Hope, with the Tusken Raiders who ambush Luke while he’s trying to find R2? This is a story about those guys. This one has a bit which alludes to the part in Attack Of The Clones, where Anakin slaughters a camp of Tuskens for killing his mother. Continuity, yay.

“Master and Apprentice” (Claudia Gray)
An existential bit of a discussion between Obi-Wan and the force ghost of his old master, Qui-Gon, during that part where Luke goes back to find his aunt and uncle kind of sort of not well…

“Beru Whitesun Lars” (Meg Cabot)
This is a short but rather interesting story narrated by the title character, Luke’s Aunt Beru, all about raising Luke and her thoughts on that. Given the ending of the story, it does raise more questions, here…

“The Luckless Rodian” (Renee Ahdieh)
Of course, there’s going to be a story about Greedo, the green-skinned bounty hunter that NEVER SHOT BECAUSE HAN SHOT AND THAT WAS IT…sorry. Deep breaths, here. Anyway, this is what led up to that confrontation, and it appears there was a woman involved that horked Greedo off in the first place…

“Not for Nothing” (Mur Lafferty)
Presented as a chapter from a book of memoirs by one of the members of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes (that band in the cantina that plays a style of music that elicits giggles by myself immature man-boys when spoken of), this sheds a bit of light as to why a band comprised of Bith (a species with pink sensitive skin and big, lidless eyes that are unable to secrete tears) would be on a planet like Tatooine in the first place…

“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here” (Chuck Wendig)
Now we take a look at the cantina bartender Wuher, who is grumpy but affable, going about his day trying not get involved with everything going down around him. Which includes the arrival of some farm kid and an old guy in robes with a couple of darn droids on the day that his droid detector is not working properly…

“The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper” (Kelly Sue DeConnick / Matt Fraction)
Kind of a wacky story involving Muftak and Kabe, the two aliens that…well, Google ’em, you’ll know them when you see the images. Anyway, this involves a sought-after Bith instrument, where the rent monies went to, and various other instances involving Greedo that demonstrates that the continuity between the stories are a bit off…

“Added Muscle” (Paul Dini)
And here we have a bit of a Boba Fett inner monologue involving that Special Edition scene where Jabba the Hutt confronting Han Solo in Docking Bay 94 with a bunch of other bounty hunters to collect on Solo’s debt. This one was written by long-time television writer Paul Dini, and let’s just say he doesn’t really nail Boba Fett at all. He sounds more like Lobo, from the Superman: The Animated Series which he has worked on. Really could have used K. W. Jeter handling Fett…

“You Owe Me a Ride” (Zoraida Cordova)
This one is about the Tonnika sisters, the two females that were seen maybe a split-second in the movie. Here, they head off to Jabba’s palace for a job, then decide to steal the Millennium Falcon to get off planet and…do stuff. Things don’t go as planned, obviously…

“The Secrets of Long Snoot” (Delilah S. Dawson)
This one’s about that steampunk clad snitch Garindan ezz Zavor, who lead the stormtroopers to Docking Bay 94. Goes a bit into why he was on Tatooine, and how he was trying to get back home…ah, who cares? He ratted out our heroes, guys…

“Born in the Storm” (Daniel Jose Older)
A rather amusing story told in the form of an Imperial Incident Report form, from one of the stormtroopers that happened to be in the group that were on Tatooine searching for a couple of droids…

“Laina” (Wil Wheaton)
Yes, that Wil Wheaton. Here, he pens a story about a rebel soldier on Yavin IV videotaping a message to his 2-year-old daughter, whom he’s about to send away with a couple of aunts off-world for safty’s sake. This one had me shouting, “THAT WAS MY JOKE GUESS, YOU BASTARD!” at the end…

“Fully Operational” (Beth Revis)
Here we have a story taking place shortly before and during that meeting on the Death Star where Tarkin informs everyone that the Senate was disolved and that chokey-chokey thing happened between Vader and an Admiral. This is from the point of view of General Tagge, not the guy getting choked, but the one who was concerned about the Rebels finding a weak point in the Death Star from the stolen plans. Interesting bit, here…

“An Incident Report” (Mallory Ortberg)
Taking place directly after the previous story, this is the rather angry incident report filled out by the guy who was force-choked by Vader, one Admiral Motti, Chief of the Imperial Navy. He doesn’t seem too happy about the incident, it seems…

“Change of Heart” (Elizabeth Wein)
This is from the point of view of…um, Unidentified Imperial Navy Trooper, who was the guard of Princess Leia while she was prisoner on the Death Star, and was present at her interigation by the hands of Vader, and on the bridge when Alderaan got blow’ed up…

“Eclipse” (Madeleine Roux)
Things are getting rather dark, as now, right after the previous story, we have one about Leia’s adoptive mother, Breha Organa of Alderaan, experiencing her final hour or so on the planet before getting blow’ed up…

[It’s right around here, where I had to pause and look at pictures of kittens for about ten minutes before continuing on with the book]

“Verge of Greatness” (Pablo Hidalgo)
Didn’t think we would skip a story featuring our favorite galactic despot, Grand Moff Tarkin, did we? Here, we get a glimpse of his black, icy soul as he contemplates the power of the Death Star, his acquisition of said Death Star, the destruction of Scarif and thoughts on Director Krennic, all while preparing to take out the rebellion once and for all…

“Far too Remote” (Jeffrey Brown)
This is a single panel comic involving stormtroopers and an Imperial officer (turns out it was General Tagge) searching out Dantooine for that rebel base…

“The Trigger” (Kieron Gillen)
Okay, so, here we have a story involving one Chelli Lona Aphra. As someone whose fandom of Star Wars only covers the movies, a handful of cannon novels, and The Mandalorian series, I had to look up this character. Seems that Aphra is a scavenger that is mentioned in a lot of comic book stories, and apparently appears here because it involves the obligatory search of Dantooine by Imperials, and her running into them while scavenging the abandoned Rebel base. Decent story, though…

“Of MSE-6 and Men” (Glen Weldon)
And here we have a story told from the point of view of the MSE-6 repair droid aboard the Death Star, some time before the destruction of the base above Yavin IV. You know, that thing on the wheels that skittered away freaked out by Chewbacca? That’s the one. Only, the majority of the story concerns the hook-up between a stormtrooper and an Imperial officer, as told by way of the recorded information stored within the droid. Like an episode of Queer As Folk in space…

“Bump” (Ben Acker / Ben Blacker)
Now we have a story about that one Stormtrooper that famously bumped his head on the threshold of the control room where C-3PO and R2-D2 are hiding out in the Death Star. You know the one. This is a story about what happened leading up to that moment, and what happened directly after…

“End of Watch” (Adam Christopher)
This is a story about an administrative Imperial officer in charge of the Death Star’s Station Control West, who is about to get off of duty for the night, when wouldn’t ‘cha now it, there’s an unscheduled arrival of some old YT-1300 light freighter named the Millennial Falcon messing up the traffic…

“The Baptist” (Nnedi Okorafor)
Hey, do you remember that eye-stalk that pokes out of the fetid water of the trash compactor, conjoined to that thing that drags Luke down into the water with it? Presumably to eat him? This is the story of that creature. Turns out it’s a “her”, her name is “Omi”, and she wasn’t planning on eating him after all, really…

“Time of Death” (Cavan Scott)
Finally we have a story about Obi-Wan Kenobi, told from his point of view…just after he’s killed by Darth Vader. Buncha flashbacks in this interesting story, which features a 3-year-old Luke Skywalker at one point…

“There Is Another” (Gary D. Schmidt)
Hey, a story involving Master Yoda. Who wasn’t a part of A New Hope. Eh, whatever. Here, he’s getting ready to plant some seeds for food, takes on some Imperial probe droids, and senses the death of Obi-Wan. It also seems Yoda would rather train Leia rather than Luke as a Jedi, as Obi’s force ghost tries to convince him otherwise. Also, there’s a cooking pot…

“Palpatine” (Ian Doescher)
Okay, so, this one was written by the guy who has written the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars book series, so this story is also written in iambic pentameter. And, true to the title, this one is from the point of view of Emperor Palpatine, after hearing news of Obi-Wan Kenobi at the hands of Darth Vader. He goes from gloating, to worry about other Jedi that may have slipped the Jedi Purge, right back to gloating again…

“Sparks” (Paul S. Kemp)
This one focuses on Dex Tiree, one of the pilots in Gold Squadron, and his thoughts on things as he goes through the briefing on the Death Star schematics, and his favorite R5 unit nicknamed “Sparks”, going on the run on the Death Star…kind of ends on a downer, this one…

“Duty Roster” (Jason Fry)
And here we have a story from one of the other starfighter pilots that didn’t partake of the run on the Death Star due to some anger issues, mostly due to the Empire ravaging his home world, but also having the nickname of “Fake Wedge”…

“Desert Son” (Pierce Brown)
A story told from the point of view of Biggs Darklighter, Luke’s friend from Tatooine. This focuses mainly on his perspective of the trench run on the Death Star, and what’s going through Bigg’s head, up until it was his windshield…

“Grounded” (Greg Rucka)
Here’s something from a mechanic on the Rebel base on Yavin 4, named Nera Kase. We get a look at the situation and tension at the base as the battle of Yavin takes place over the radio broadcast, and the weight that the deaths have on the ground crew…

[again, I had to pause to look at kitties…man, this is taking more out of me than expected…]

“Contingency Plan” (Alexander Freed)
And now, a story of Mon Mothma, another character that didn’t appear in A New Hope. Anyway, in this story, it’s explained why she was absent during the Battle of Yavin, and delves into the inner turmoil she was experiencing after Alderaan was destroyed. It gets kinda dark, this one does…

“The Angle” (Charles Soule)
Another story involving a beloved character that didn’t really appear until one of the later movies. This one involves Lando Calrissian, having a friendly game of Klikklak interrupted by an Imperial officer and a handful of stormtroopers, and then witnessing a holovid of the Empire’s Death Star being blow’ed up with the help of his former ship, the Millennial Falcon…

“By Whatever Sun” (E. K. Johnson / Ashely Eckstein)
The penultimate story in the collection (I just wanted to write the word “penultimate”), and it’s another one featuring a periferal character that originated outside the movie proper: Captain Miara Larte, one of the few survivors of Alderaan, along with her crew are standing front-and-center of the celebration at the end of the movie. We get a glimpse of what’s going through her head as she witnesses Leia awarding medals to Luke and Han, totally snubbing the Wookiee…

“Whills” (Tom Angleberger)
And finally, we have a very brief, but utterly amusing story dedicated to the unseen Whills of Star Wars legend that watches and chronicles the epic sprawling story of Star Wars, explaining where we get the opening crawl, and also where we got the Star Wars Holiday Special…

Well, now. This was quite the trip. For the most part, the stories here managed to take something about the movie that didn’t seem important to the overall story, and make it far more interesting than it should have been. The handful of nit-picks that I have concern the stories that involved Greedo in one way shape or form, as they didn’t necessarily jive with the continuity with each other. With the ones that took place in Mos Eisley, I had to remember these weren’t part of the Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina book, and thus didn’t share the same explanation of who and what the characters’ motivations were. Some stories resonated more for me than others, but I’m not really going to go into detail about those, mainly because these are subjective, and I’ve already gone a bit long with the review of this.

Overall: I’ve only read a small handful of what you would call the “New Canon” of Star Wars books, From A Certain Point of View included. I liked this collection. It told entertaining bite-sized stories from a galaxy far, far away, as expected. Also, none of the authors got paid to do this; they all agreed to have the proceeds go to a reading charity. So, for those of you who like that warm fuzzy self-righteous feeling to go with your rank consumerism, there you go. Recommended.

Movie Review: STAR GAMES

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star games
Multicom Entertainment Group

  • Hunted by an alien tyrant intent on inter-planetary domination, the young prince of a far away space kingdom seeks refuge on Earth. There, he meets Brian, a troubled boy who is more in touch with science fiction than reality. The two of them form a fast friendship and fight for the freedom of the galaxy — together.

I have to tell you, it was a real pain in the tuchus trying to find a decent image for the cover for the movie Star Games. So far, I’ve only found this title as one included as part of the streaming on Amazon Prime, and they don’t use the cover art prominently. A Google search revealed that, for whatever reason, this movie doesn’t seem to have had a release, either on VHS or DVD. Or, maybe it has, and someone has taken it upon themselves to wipe out every copy in existence, and erasing any trace of it online. If only they were successful in doing so with Amazon Prime, I would have been spared watching this abomination of a science fiction movie.

Star Games (or Stargames, depending on where you want to search for this online) was written and directed by one Greydon Clark. Normally, I don’t really focus too much on who wrote and/or directed a movie too much; in this case, while researching some of his past work, it looks like he’s rather prolific in the Bad Movie department, stretching all the way back to the early 1970s. As it turns out, it looks like I’ve already seen at least two of his movies before: 1985’s Final Justice, and 1987’s Uninvited. You better believe there will be reviews for this one some time in the near future. But, back to the topic at hand.

It looks like Star Games/Stargames was the last movie that Clark made. Such is
the pity, as this is not the movie to go out on top with. There has to be a much better bad movie inside him to retire on.

So, here we have the story of a young alien prince who escapes the violent coup rising up against the king of whatever planet it is he is in charge of (I’ve ceased caring about that kind of details by now, so don’t expect it here) by stealing one of the royal spaceships whose AI default avatar is one of those nightmare inducing clowns. It’s really a rare thing for me to include screen shots from the movies that I review, but this is something you need to see to believe:

star games clown ai


Anyway, the alien kid high-tails it to Earth, pursued by the henchmen of the evil overthrower alien guy, and crash-lands in a forest. Meanwhile, a diabetic video game enthusiast middleschool-aged boy is taken by his parents out to the same set of woods for some outdoorsy family things. Yeah, I point out that the kid’s diabetic, because the movie kinda goes out of its way to establish that he is, in fact, diabetic with an exciting blood glucose check right when we meet his character. Riveting. Once they reach the campsite, the kid heads out for a hike in the woods by himself while his parents set to grillin’, and finds himself accosted by the most disinterested-looking bear I’ve seen on screen since Day Of The Animals. This leads him to stumble upon the hiding place of the alien prince kid, and after spending the night hiding away from both the bear and the alien hunters, they set off to find the human boy’s parents. They bond over video games, the alien hunters chase after them, then the bear shows up again, they find the kid’s family, they get beamed up in the evil alien guy’s ship, the good guys show up, yada-yada-yada, evil defeated, and the earth boy is cured of his ‘betus due to ALIEN MAGIC!

As badly made sci-fi flicks go, Star Games (or Stargames) is a disinterested mess. The effects alone are of the quality of a Sega CD game, which kind of makes sense, as there are a few scenes where Earth boy is playing Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s also playing Doom at one point, but whatever. The effects aren’t up to snuff to 1998 standards, is what I’m saying here. The acting is what you would expect, which is to say early 80s Saturday morning syndicated kids’ show level. As a matter of fact, come to think of it, just swap out the terrible ship AI with a floating robot buddy, and the Earth kid with a lovable doggie, and you’ve basically got the plot for Benji, ZAX & The Alien Prince. The big difference being, I would much rather look up old episodes of that show on YouTube, rather than having to sit through this one again.

Movie Review: TO CATCH A YETI

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Dandelion Productions

  • A hunter known as Big Jake is hired to catch the fabled Yeti, which is loose in the streets of the Big Apple. But after encountering the mythic beast, Jake discovers that the Yeti is a furry, cuddly creature. So, when he is forced to hand the Yeti over to the spoiled scion of a millionaire New Yorker, Jake teams up with a little girl to prevent the Yeti from falling into wicked hands.

Just so you know, I was only able to snag the movie blurb that I normally get off of the back of a DVD cover from the one that Amazon Prime used on their site. For whatever reason, they decided to blatantly lie to us. Big Jake (played by Meat Loaf) is not the hero here. He stays the bad guy and never teams up with the girl in this movie. LIARS! You lied on the internet, Amazon Prime! Nobody does that!

[pause for laughter]

Anyway, I came across this made-for-TV movie on my streaming service, once again searching for something to while away the time while bedridden from what was ailing me at the time. It boasted Meat Loaf–singer, actor, He-Who-Would-Do-Anything-For-Love (but he won’t to “that”, whatever “that” is)–in the starring role. I figured, why not? I loved him in Fight Club. And let’s not forget his defining moment in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Also, there was something that looked like a melting Furby on the cover, which made me morbidly curious. I figured, what have I got to lose?

Well, apparently an hour and 35 minutes of my life that I will never, ever get back.

So basically, we have Meat Loaf starring as a wildlife poacher named Big Jake Grizzly tracking the elusive Yeti in the Himalayas. He’s doing so because a really rich guy wants to get one for his ultra-spoiled brat son. The joke is that the Yeti, despite having really huge feet, is only about a foot tall. Hence the Furby reference. They try to go for a big-eyed adorable look for that critter, but it really comes off more as an ABOMINATION UNTO NATURE, with a fixed look on his face that will haunt your nightmares for months. Seriously, those mechanized eyes will stare straight through your soul, unblinking, until you go mad. Also, they don’t walk or run, as they do ski around on those grossly disproportionate feet of theirs. Anyway, the Yeti eludes the clutches of Big Jake by stowing away in the luggage of a tourist that happened to be camping in the area, and inadvertently gets a free trip back to upstate New York, where the tourist’s daughter discovers the furball of the damned and makes it her pet. Big Jake manages to track the Yeti down and finally captures the thing, bringing it to the rich patron in New York City and to the hands of the most punchable young boy you will ever encounter in your life. So now the daughter of the tourist guy decides to go to New York City herself to rescue her new friend, and mind-numbing dull wackiness and poor attempts at slapstick ensue.

Gads. It’s movies like this that make me want to rethink my life choices. Yeah, I’m always down for an enjoyably bad movie. Mind you, the operative word in that phrase is “enjoyable”, and that is something To Catch A Yeti is not. This has all the tension and action of a 1990s TGIF sitcom, and about the same level of quality in both the acting and settings used. Meat Loaf, bless his heart, at least seems aware of the kind of movie he’s in, but that doesn’t change the fact that he could do so, so much better. And he has, if you’re familiar with his big screen rolls after this thing. Considering he just made a massive musical comeback just a couple of years prior, I don’t know if he was trying to ride on that success, or if this was more of a situation where the rent was due and the residuals for Bat Out Of Hell II were beginning to dwindle a bit. And did I mention the nightmare fuel that animatronic Yeti is? How this design wasn’t included in the 5 Nights At Freddy’s game series, I don’t know. And then we’re treated to an entire family of them at the end. *shiver*

Overall: Yeah, don’t bother watching this movie. There are plenty more other cheesy TV movies from the 1990s that you can choose from and be much more entertained by.

Movie Review: CYBORG COP 2

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Millennium Films

“I was born for trouble.”

  • A fancy, loner cop loses his partner to a crazed terrorist during a hostage rescue. He settles for the terrorist going to Death Row in jail. What Jack doesn’t know is that the terrorist will be taken and turned into a cyborg for the Anti-Terrorist Group. When the Cyborg “Spartacus” wakes up accidentally, he kills the scientists and their guests, then go to set things up for a Cyborg Empire. Only Jack and a few friends know how to stop them.

So. Here we have a movie that came out in the earlier mid-90s that, due to the title, I was expecting it to be about a cop that is also part cyborg, fighting crime and stuff. You know, something like a low-rent Robocop or something. Also, for whatever reason, I could only find the sequel for streaming on my service, which is kind of like getting the classic video store experience, where they have every movie in the series, except for one or two. Eh, I’ve been known to dive into a series in the middle, and allow my plump, succulent brain to fill in the blanks as we go.

In this case, the “cop” in question (played by B-Grade martial arts action star David Bradley) isn’t, in fact, a cyborg. He’s fully human. No, the reason why he’s referred to as Cyborg Cop, is because he fancies himself a cop of cyborgs. You know, keeping those rogue abominations of science playing god in line when they decide to break Asmov’s 3 Laws, as they always seem to do in movies like this.

In this sequel, after a hostage situation gone horribly wrong, a crime boss is sentenced to death, but while awaiting his sentence is kidnapped by gov’ment agents and turned into a cyborg to lead an army of cyborg soldiers. As you do. This prompts the titular Cyborg Cop to launch an investigation on the whereabouts of the missing crime boss. Meanwhile, the cyborg crime boss–now going by the name of “Spartacus”–manages to activate and declare cyborg war on the humans, and leads the entire cyborg army in the uprising that we all saw coming several miles away, here. So now our Cyborg Cop has his hands full trying to stop Spartacus from taking over cities and giving all humans the full-on Borg treatment. Resistance is futile? Yeah, I wish.

Cyborg Cop II is one of those low-budget action flicks from the 90s that you really begin to forget about once the video is shut off. For an action movie, that’s never a good sign of the quality. I have a soft spot for low-budget cheesy action flicks, they’re fun. I get it. However, it takes a special kind of lame to make a movie that involves cyborgs rising up against humans with a lead hero whose style can best be described as Fonzie with a Fanny Pack and hitting all the 90s action tropes (and then some), and have it make no impression on my brain pan whatsoever. Once the end credits rolled, I could care less. I couldn’t even be angry at the movie for being so bad. It’s just…meh. Unremarkable. It doesn’t inspire me to try and find the first movie to see what I may have missed. Also, did I mention there’s no actual cyborg cops in this? Yeah, you’re not missing much by skipping this.

Movie Review: MANBORG

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“To the death, please!”

  • The armies of Hell have taken over the Earth, and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is a motley crew of misfits led by the mighty MANBORG: a warrior that’s half-man, half machine, but all hero. Once a young soldier killed during first war against Hell, Manborg reawakens in the future, rebuilt as a walking weapon and mankind’s last hope. Struggling to learn the secret of his origins, Manborg unwittingly befriends a post-apocalyptic Australian punker, a knife wielding vixen, and a kung-fu master, before finally squaring off against Count Draculon in a desperate and bloody bid to take back the Earth!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, various intergalactic species reading this document, I give you now my new favorite deliberately cheesy awesome sci-fi movie I’ve had the pleasure of stumbling across recently: Manborg.

Originally released in 2011, I am shocked and appalled that I had not heard of this movie until just the past couple of years. Shocked and appalled, I say. Why have I never been told about this movie until now? And why is it, whenever I bring it up with anyone else that I know loves movies like this, they’ve never heard of it, either? I’m slipping at my game, here. Not good.

Anyway, the story itself should lead you to give this a watch: in the future metropolis of Mega-Death City, a soldier that’s fighting against the evil Count Draculon and his army of Nazi vampires is killed, but then made into the titular Manborg and joins resistance fighters and put in post-apocalyptic gladiatorial fights where things go boom. If that description didn’t have you salivating, how about the fact that the filming style seems to be aping the technique used on the first arcade edition of the Mortal Combat video game? Or that, while this is made to be deliberately cheap-looking and cheesy, this actually has some bite to it? Or how about, it’s only 70 minutes long? And free to stream on Amazon Prime?

Whatever. Manborg is brilliant. Watch it. Have fun doing so. This is a command from your Uncle NecRo.


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Warner Bros.

“Henry, if we die before you get back, promise you’ll tell everybody she wasn’t my date.”

  • As adults, Jonesy, Henry, Beaver, and Pete reunite every winter at a cabin deep in the Maine woods to hunt,d rink, and celebrate the bond they have with Duddits, a mentally challenged man they aided and befriended when they were children, and each other. However, this year their wilderness reunion is marred by disturbing incidents which begin with the discovery of a lost, sick hunter and a frozen figure in the middle of a remote road. As events escalate and horrific creatures emerge from unsightly spaces, heavily armed government operatives, led by the imposing Colonel Curtis arrive in the area, and soon the situation becomes an all-out battle for the fade of humanity.

Right off the bat, I’m going to just let everyone know that I haven’t read the Stephen King novel Dreamcatcher is based on. Not as of this writing, anyway. Which is to say, I might read it at one point…or I might not. I haven’t decided yet. Mainly because I haven’t been that enthusiastic about King’s work from the mid-1990s on to about most of the Aughts. And judging from the movie adaptation from 2003, reading the novel may be on par with when I had to slog through The Tommyknockers back when I was 15.

Also, as kind of a side note, I remain ever impressed at the turnaround time between when King publishes a novel and when it gets made into a movie. Or at least optioned for one. Here with Dreamcatcher, the book was published in 2001, and the movie adaptation was released in 2003. Just thought I’d throw that out there. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I did happen to watch Dreamcatcher in the theaters when it was first released back in 2003. I can’t recall if this turned out to be one of those movies that I initially wrote and published a review about on one of my previous blogs (this predates the Blogspot blog, and was during my LiveJournal days, if that gives you any idea about the time setting, here) and got lost in the shuffle, or if I began writing the review in one of my spiral notebooks at the late and lamented Coffee Pot Cafe during one of my many Coffee+Writing sessions there, and never got around to finishing it, and then that notebook getting lost in the shuffle. Either, way, I might as well purge this particular movie out of my head with the review here. The year of 2020 seems to have started off a big one concerning those.

So, what we have with Dreamcatcher is a movie that takes a goodly amount of our favorite Stephen King story tropes: boyhood friends, unexplained psychic abilities, overcoming childhood bullies, stands against unknown horrors that turn out to be alien in nature, and a third act that really goes off the rails and has trouble sticking the landing. All of this is mixed with a sci-fi premise that seems recycled from the movie Night Of The Creeps, and features Jason Lee before he blew up with the series My Name Is Earl as one of the friends, former 80s boy band heartthrob Donnie Walburg playing a mentally handicapped man with a secret, and Morgan Freeman playing a military Colonel giving some legit gravitas to dialogue that, handled by a lesser talented individual, would have made things much worse than it did. That is, Dreamcatcher is a hot mess of a movie, but at least it’s an entertaining hot mess.

The aliens that happen to be invading Earth in this movie have a life cycle that would make the xenomorph life cycle seem preferable in comparison, the main alien heading up this invasion goes by the name “Mr. Grey” (might be a fan of Reservoir Dogs or something) and speaks with a British accent for some reason, there’s a particularly graphic scene that redefines the phrase “wrestling with a butt weasel”, and the big climactic twist kinda falls a bit flat, as your standard sci-fi/horror/Stephen King fan saw it coming pretty much as soon as we were introduced to the character. Also, Scoobie-Doo is referenced a lot.

Dreamcatcher is, as I said before, a hot mess. It doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to be, shifting from period drama, to supernatural potboiler, to body horror, to sci-fi thriller during the course of its run time, finally throwing up its arms in defeat and ending up going over the waterfall with the ending. This may have something to do with the fact that this was technically director Lawrence Kasdan’s first sci-fi horror movie. Sure, he had writing credits on The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of the Jedi, but his directing credits are mainly dramas like The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, and Grand Canyon. And again, I don’t know how this movie differs from the novel, as it may just be a case of trying to film something that is essentially unfilmable.

Overall: while it’s nowhere near the massive dumpster fire that were the Tommyknockers and Langoliers adaptations, Dreamcatcher is still one of the less memorable adaptations of a Stephen King novel. It’s worth a rental some night, when there’s nothing better to watch. You won’t be bored, that’s for certain.

Book Review: AMISH ZOMBIES FROM SPACE (Peril in Plain Space #2)

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amish zombies from space
Kerry Nietz
Freeheads Publishing

If it wasn’t for the roaming bands of dead, it might not be such a bad place.

  • First, vampires in space. And now…zombies. Really? Jebediah and the others are trying to get over the horrors they faced in deep space, and now this. It’s been five years, and the Amish colony on Miller’s Resolve has finally gotten settled. Jeb and Sarah have a son. Elder Samuel is happy not being in charge. Darly has a private practice. And Greels is out of jail at last. But when a mysterious ship from space arrives on Resolve, it unleashes a horde of undead that might spell the end of the survivors and their dreams of peace. Will the specters of the past save them, or seal their fate?

Of course there’s a sequel to the surprisingly awesome book Amish Vampires in Space. Of course it would involve zombies this go-around. And, of course I would immediately read this one after experiencing the first book. I would have been disappointed in myself if I hadn’t. So let’s get to this, shall we?

Just as the back cover blurb states, it’s been five years since the wackiness on The Raven transpired. The surviving Amish have settled and flourished on a new planet called Miller’s Reserve, one with a sun that won’t be so keen on going supernova any time soon. Jebediah and Sarah have moved on from the Amish community they helped to save; Jeb shaved his beard and Sarah lost the bonnet, and both run a joint handmade furniture shop and bakery in the city of another planet, while their five-year-old son Issac is way into monster hero videos. Seal and Singer are now married, and flyin’ around the galaxy in their own private ship and discussing possibly starting a family of their own. Doctor Darly has her own private practice, as well as a bit of an unhealthy dependency on her virtual assistant. And then there’s Greels, who didn’t fare very well after the events in the first book; he’s just getting released from jail, he discovers that his severance pay and any evidence he ever worked for the Guild have been wiped out of existence, and he only has $200 to his name. Meanwhile, back on Miller’s Reserve, a ship with a bunch of annoying tourists shows up and insists on checking out the quaint Amish way of life for themselves. Only, they may have a secret ulterior motive about visiting and disrupting the good folks, and it may or may not have something to do with another strange ship that has just crash landed nearby the community, bearing some very gruesome cargo. Soon, the community is overrun by the undead corpses of the Amish and their animals. Also, Greels has just kidnapped Issac and taken him on a space-trip in a stolen Guild cargo shuttle to a mysterious base on the edge of uncharted space, a place that may have a clue to what went on in the last book, and also to help defeat the zombies that have overrun Miller’s Resolve.

Once again, Kerry Nietz manages to take the concept of a bunch of future Amish settlers on a planet in far-off space being overrun by zombies, and make it seem rather plausible. Sure, this book takes the more scientific route when explaining the source of what made the zombies, as well as shines some more scientific light as to the origins of the vampires that plagued everyone in the last book. But, this being birthed from a sci-fi writer, I would have been disappointed if it didn’t.

And just like in the previous book, Amish Zombies from Space manages to blend the sci-fi with the horror, action and drama in a rather cinematic way, to which you can vividly picture it all in your head. And really, the book does manage to do something different from the standard way this could have ended. And thus, I would once again mark this book as Recommended, especially if you’ve already read the first book.

Movie Review: TRANSFORMERS The Last Knight

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Transformers The Last Knight

Paramount Pictures

“One hundred billion trillion planets in the cosmos. You want to know, don’t you, why they keep coming here?”

  • The Last Knight shatters the core myths of the Transformers franchise, and redefines what it means to be a hero. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past. In the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager, Bumblebee, an English Lord, and an Oxford professor. There comes a moment in everyone’s life when we are called upon to make a difference. In Transformers: The Last Knight, the hunted will become heroes, heroes will become villains. Only one world will survive: theirs, or ours.

Oh, Sir Anthony Hopkins. Why? Why did you feel the need to be in this movie? Certainly, it wasn’t to lend a bit of legitimacy to an otherwise floundering and bloated franchise? Because Kelsey Grammer has already done that in the previous movie. *sigh* I digress. Let’s get to this, shall we?

So, after the great and disappointing spectacle that was Age Of Extinction, Michael Bay said he was done with doing any more Transformers movies. Presumably because he was off to ruin other 80s properties like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And that seemed to be that. No more Transformer movies to threaten our sanity and make us sad. But then, after Paramount decided to go ahead and do another Transformers sequel, it wasn’t long before Bay went back on his promise and jumped on directing the fifth installment. This time around, it looked like the movie was taking a look at the transforming alien robots’ influence throughout Earth’s history. Or something. I was too busy shaking my head in sad disbelief when I first saw the theatrical trailer. Also, Anthony Hopkins was in this, for some reason.

The film begins in Ye Olden Days–484 AD, to be exact–where King Arthur and his knights are upping the irons against the Saxons*, and seem to be losing until Merlin convinces some local Transformers called the Knights of Iacon to help them win the war. So they give Merlin a cool mechanical staff, group-transform into a dragon, and help out, but not before giving Merlin the standard Ominous Maguffin Prophecy about the staff. Fast forward to the year Present Day, and Optimus Prime has arrived on Cybertron, where he meets his alleged creator named Quintessa, who blames Optimus for the destruction of Cybertron and then brainwashes him to be EVIL! So they’re gonna go back to Earth and get the McGuffin Staff to drain the Earth of it’s energy and make Cybertron great again! Meanwhile, back on Earth, Transformers are still persona non grata (except in Cuba, for some reason), and Marky Mark Cade Yeager is helping the refugee Transformers to evade the Gov’ment. They come across a scrappy young scavenger named Izabella (because Cade’s daughter isn’t in this one, and they needed a replacement) and her two Transformer companions in the war-torn Chicago, then a dying Autobot knight gives Cade a mecha-talisman McGuffin, and next thing you know he and his Funky Bunch are being pursued by the Gov’ment who has enlisted the help of Megatron and some Decepticons ready for toy manufacturing. In the meantime, giant horns have begun poking out of the earth at certain places, because it turns out that the Earth is actually (dum-dum-duuuuuuum) the ancient enemy of Cybertron, Unicron! Because…reasons. A little part of my childhood just died, there. Anyway, Cade and an Oxford professor are brought together to the castle of Sir Edmund Burton (played by Anthony Hopkins himself), who exposition dumps the entire history of the Transformers helping out the humans throughout the centuries, their existence hidden by a secret society called the Order of Witwiccans (*groooooaaaan*), of which he is the last living member (of course), and that the talisman will help lead to finding the McGuffin Staff, but only the descendant of Merlin himself can weild it, which is fortunate then that the Oxford professor just happens to be that descendant. So then, they go off to find the staff, Evil Optimus arrives with Cybertron in tow, the Knights of Iacon awaken again to join the fight, all looks lost, Cade turns out to be the descendant of King Arthur or something (because of course he would be), Evil Optimus is turned good again through the power of love and friendship, the good guys win but not without massive losses, and a mid-credit scene threatens another Transformers movie. The End.

If it seems like I yammered on for forever, it’s because Transformers: The Last Knight yammered on forever. And just like the other four movies in this franchise, someone wrote the script, and someone approved of the script. It’s all fine and good, except that the leaps of logic and plot contrivances were such that my brain almost shut down at least three times. And yet, these movies still make oodles of money. So there’s gonna be a sequel. And no, Bumblebee doesn’t count because it was more of a spin-off movie, and also IT WAS A GOOD MOVIE. The Last Knight is merely another hot mess. Pass.

[*=this has been a Metalhead Joke(TM)…for further clarification, please reference your nearest Metalhead at your earliest convenience ~ Uncle NecRo]

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