Monday, February 29, 2016

Kenner Spotlight: Robocop And The Ultra Police

Hey, remember that awesome Robocop movie from 1987? A movie so violent that it was almost granted an X rating? Yeah, we all love that movie for good reason! It was a perfect blend of scifi, horror, violence and comedy. Peter Weller played that role so perfectly, you actually believed he was more robot than man. It's such a great movie and it still holds up!



Yes, it was such a great movie, someone decided to take an almost X-Rated action movie and turn it into a kid friendly cartoon, which seemed to be commonplace at that time, a year later from Marvel Productions, one of the two companies that produced cartoons like Transformers, GI Joe and Jem.

Confession: even as a kid, I simply could not get into this cartoon. I watched the cartoon around the same time the actual movie hit VHS so it was too drastic of a change even at age 5 for me to accept. What can I say? Even then I was demanding of my cartoons.

Now, of course being the 80s, you can't have a cartoon without toys and comics. So, Marvel covered the comics side and the toys? Who else but Kenner to deliver the chrome plated goods?



The line was released in 1988 as "Robocop And The Ultra Police", a chrome painted extravanagazna of heroes who looked like they were extras in a Cannon Films production of Robocop and villains called "The Vandals" who looked so much like the Dreadknocks from GI Joe, you would've thought Hasbro's lawyers would be waiting first thing Monday morning at Kenner's door. Most of the characters were created for the animated series.




I had a few of the figures at that time. Robocop himself, obviously, followed by his Hardees colored colleague, Birdman Barnes. Never had any of the Vandals themselves, although I feel like one ended up in my collection later.




 But my favorite piece? ED-209. Oh yes. You can't have that toy line without having the most toy looking character in the whole movie! It was meant to be! Obviously we'd get a bigger and more intricate ED209 later but this one was just too great to pass up as a kid.


And just like the rest of the line, you cut put caps in his back and fire away! As dangerous as it may appea rnow, this was a fun gimmick back then. Usually reserved for cheap cap guns you'd get at the dollar store. For this toy line, it made sense, considering how violent and gun-centric the Robocop universe is. It was an extra charm that made this line standout. Because, quite frankly, the sculpts didn't help. They were just too bland. Don't believe me?




Yeah. That's supposed to be Anne Lewis. VERRRRRRRY big difference than the source material. Like. Yikes. I can't imagine Nancy Allen was too flattered by this figure.

Photo Credit: Branded In The 80s



Probably my favorite figure out of the entire line was a figure I didn't even have or have even seen in person. The Nightfighter Robocop was initially offered as a mailaway. Mailaway's were the "convention exclusives" of it's day and a favorite of kids everywhere. Sadly, the 6-8 week wait for mailaways were downright brutal but it was worth it. It was owning a toy that very few others had. You pretty much owned the playground when it came to bringing action figures to school. And of course this figure was pretty downright phenomenal. In fact, he was so phenomenal, Kenner decided to release it in stores. So, while kids who salivated over the idea of joining the exclusive club by owning a glow in the dark Robocop, they were then disappointed to find out that it was being offered in the mainstream.

Photo Credit: Rediscover the 80s

Also included would be roleplay gear. So if you were a kid wanting to play Robocop and stop using tin foil on your bike helmet and your brother's ski goggles, Kenner had your hookup. Not only did you get a sweet helmet but a whacked out gun. No one stood a chance against you. NO ONE. You were the boss and everyone else just didn't matter...

Well, maybe the kid who had the Ghostbusters gear, but that'll be another entry down the line...

Robocop and the Ultra Police wouldn't be Alex Murphy's one and only shot at toy-fame. In 1993, a small toy company called Toy Island, who offered lower end and cheaper toys produced a toy line in conjunction with a new Robocop tv series. The line was somewhat similar to the Ultra Police, consisting of random characters created for the tv show, including a character portrayed by Roddy Piper, Commander Cash. Accessories, vehicles, and even a large talking figure. The line was pretty modest but didn't really take off. A few years later, another animated series, this time called "Alpha Commando" hit the airwaves creating another opportunity for Toy Island to offer more toys. It was a little more successful, but the cartoon lasted one season and therefore the toys ended. Shame.

Nowadays, you can look to NECA for your Robocop toy goodness. In fact, NECA even released a throwback Glow In The Dark Robocop with Kenner-style packaging...

photo credit: Comics Alliance


Robocop and the Ultra Police was a fantastic toy line and one of my fondest memories of my childhood. I just loved these figures. They're very collectible and still fun to hear the caps go off!

-Chad

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things(1972)






Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things...Now that's a catchy title for a movie, no? Definitely makes your mind wander on what exactly a movie like this could be about. I must admit, in all my years of loving low budget, "cult classics", this is one movie that I didn't hear about until just a few years ago while having a chat with a friend at a convention. Now, before my friend could even describe the movie, the name captured my attention. Then I found out it was a horror-comedy by the same man responsible for Christmas Story and Black Christmas, Bob Clark,  well, I knew I had to see it.


I finally got my hands on it years later via a tape trade. I was very excited to finally watch it, as a copy on any platform wasn't the easiest to come by, so finallty scoring it after hearing so much over the years? Awesome. My only issue with the movie itself, is every home media copy that's circulated sicne it's release, has always been murky, dark and kinda hard to make out what's happening. Albeit, it's hard to make a movie built on a $50,000 budget look good on a vhs or dvd, but it's not impossible.

The story itself is rather interesting, Alan is a real pompous jerk who takes his theater buddies to a cemetery to play pranks and degrade his friends, who also brings to life some dead bodies and learns an important lesson that...well...you know the title...

The picture, as compared to previous releases (and again I can only go on my vhs copy and what other's who had the dvd from 2007) is significantly brighter and clearer. There doesn't appear a lot of graininess in the picture, which I don't think hurts it. There will most likely be fans who wish it did, since it's a movie from 1972 has been seen over and over again with grain and dirt all over the print, so for them, it could potentially be a little distracting and weird.

The extras seem to be imported from the original dvd release. Which, personally, I never mind. If you cover all the stories and origins in one release, there may be no need for new ones. A lot of loving tributes for the late Bob Clark, including a short discussion between cast members as well as a Q&A session froma  screening in LA from 2007 are included. Twos ongs from the band "The Dead Things"(no doubt inspired by this movie) are included as well. A trailer, a slideshow, and my personal favorite, the UK Release which is cut from 1 hour and 26 to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Personally, I love when companies include any and all alternate cuts as an extra(ahem, Sleepaway Camp 3!) so that really made me even happier to have both versions of this campy cult classic.

VCI really put together a pleasing package for fans of this movie. A reversible cover that features the original poster art on one side and a new cover featuring the fan favorite Orville the corpse on the other. Also included is a mini booklet detailing the history of the movie and it's well respected director.

I can't suggest this movie highly enough. A fantastic release for those who may have missed out on the dvd release 9 years ago. If you want to give this movie a view, head over to VCI and pick it up today!

-Chad

Monday, February 15, 2016

Amos and Andrew Review by guest reviewer Jesse Bartel of Dead Air Horror and Genre!

(Chad's Note: My cohost on DeadAir: Horror and Genre Podcast, Mr. Jesse Bartel is the world's biggest Nic Cage fan. I just can't imagine anyone better suited to review a Nic Cage movie than him. I'll turn it over to him...)



As we all know, I love me some Nic Cage. I know, I know, that’s the case for everyone but I really love Nic Cage. Like, I have an obsession with him that goes beyond internet-irony. For starters, I own every one of his films in one format or another. My goal is to get each film, depending on release, on VHS, DVD, and Blu Ray. I will get there some day and I’ll cover one side of out apartment wall with nothing but Nic Cage no matter what my girlfriend says I can or can’t do.

I also wrote a research paper in Grad School on Nic Cage and how every film before LEAVING LAS VEGAS was a deliberate attempt by Cage to build the style that he would need to nab that Oscar. Just google my name and Nic Cage, it will probably come up. You might learn a thing or two!
I only preface this blu ray review with my declaration of obsession in order for you, reader, to understand how biased I am when it comes to Nic Cage movies. I like them all, even the bad ones, and boy, are there bad ones. So when I say that AMOS AND ANDREW is not a great movie, you can totally take my word on that. It’s not terrible mind you and it’s certainly one of those perfect background movies where you don’t actually watch it. The problem of the film is the content and there were good intentions there, initially but it unwinds quickly.

AMOS AND ANDREW is the title of the 1993 buddy-comedy film which stars Nicolas Cage as Amos Odell and Samuel L. Jackson as Andrew Sterling.

The film starts with Andrew Sterling moving into his new New England home which he has recently purchased after the success of his latest Broadway play. Phil (Michael Lerner) and Judy Gillman (Margaret Colin) are out for a walk when they see Sterling moving inside his own house. They assume he is robbing the place and they promptly call the police. The chief of police (Dabney Coleman) and his officers (including BRAD DOURIF) show up to catch the intruder. After realizing it was a mix up but having already shot at Sterling, the chief sends in local criminal, Amos Odell, to take Sterling hostage. All of this is being done so the chief and the town do not look racist for shooting at a black man for the basic fact that he’s black. The snowball effect continues from there.
The cool thing about AMOS AND ANDREW is that there is great material to work with and the setup is engaging. The thing comes off as an elaborate SNL skit that probably would’ve worked better as a skit than a 95 min feature film. For a film that is supposed to be satire and tackle noteworthy material, the viewer will find themselves not laughing and checking their phones (which is what I’ve done with every viewing I’ve had with this phone). Of course, I stay for Cage who is truly the glue that holds this movie together purely with his Cage-ness. Scenes would not work if it wasn’t for his particular style and bad-boy persona he dons for the character of Amos.

The best part of the film for me is the first 15-20 mins. Each time I’ve rewatched this, I have said to myself, “Maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe I remembered it incorrectly.” But once the material thinks it’s really taking off, it script begins to dig itself a hole. The problem, of course, is the treatment of the material which instead of being satire ends up making racism or casual racism in communities more of a joke. It comes off as, “Isn’t it funny how black people and white people are so different? *puts hands on hips*) I mean the movie starts with a white dog peeing on a lawn jockey. GOOD JOB, GUYS. REALLY.

It’s a forgettable comedy and there are moments where you see the cleverness pop up but I find myself straining to always remember what exactly happened. It’s an interesting case of early 90s comedies and serves as an oddity for both the industry and Cage’s career. This was at the time when Cage was 2 years away from winning his Oscar and filled the gap with several forgettable roles. HONEYMOON IN VEGAS and TRAPPED IN PARADISE were 2 other comedies that came and went just like AMOS AND ANDREW.

As for the actual blu ray from OliveFilms? It looks really nice and certainly a step up from the DVD. The cover art is pretty terrible and resembles the DVD menu art. I thought the original cover art for the DVD was fine but this looks like a photoshopped nightmare. And no, there are no special features on the disc. No language settings. No trailer. Nothing. Nada. Just Chapters and Play.

Seeing how it will cost you close to $20 as it is to buy a new copy of the DVD, you might as well pick up the blu ray. For the same price you get a better looking version of the film. If you already own the DVD, well, I can’t suggest double-dipping just for the clearer picture. Unless you’re like me and need every Cage film in every format. The sickness grows!


-Jesse Bartel


What I've Been Watching Volume 3

Got some neat movies in the mail recently! What are they? Well, read on!

SPEECHLESS:

Starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis as two speech writers for opposing politicians who happen to hook up shortly before a big election. Also starring Christopher Reeve, Ernie Hudson and Bonnie Bedelia, this movie has some charm based off Michael Keaton essentially being...well...Michael Keaton.

 It's kind of a generic mid 90s comedy but if you're a huge Michael Keaton fan like me, it's a must own. There's really no chemistry between Michael Keaton and Geena Davis on screen. I feel like Davis' role could've been played by anyone because as talented as she is, there could've been a lot more comedy on her part but there wasn't. But like I said, you can always depend on Michael Keaton to deliver the goods. And he does in this despite the movie being a bit of a bore at times. Added bonus: watching Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve interact. For DC Comics geeks like myself, it's like an early meeting of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent!

Do I suggest it? I do. I think especially with the presidential election coming up, it wouldn't be the worst thing to pop in!

BEAT STREET:



In the 80s, hip hop was written off as a mere fad. A lot of people never truly believed it would last long and would be forgotten after a while. Well, obviously that was not the case. Movies like Beat Street, Rappin', and Wild Style helped hip hop garner mainstream attention to this so called "Fad".

The plot itself is pretty basic. Two kids from the Bronx strive to hit it big in the world of hip hop. One's a show promoter and the other is a DJ. With unlimited potential, the sky is limit.

Ok, now it's a good movie but I really think that it's a little dated. Only because I never saw it earlier in life like I did Krush Groove or Breakin'. I have to assume there are fans out there that are excited for this. While it seems dated at times, the soundtrack is where it really shines, in my opinion. Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Moe Dee, The Treacherous Three, Grandmaster Melle Mel are just some of the performances you'll see. My personal favorite? The Santa Rap!



If that's not reason alone to pick this up, I don't know what is!

MYSTERY DATE:


Ok, I don't like Ethan Hawke as an actor. Like, at all. I just can't say I ever enjoyed him. That said, I was willing to give this movie a chance and I'm very happy I did.

Ethan Hawke plays a young and nervous teen, Tom, who, with the assistance of his more smooth and charismatic older brother, has a blind date with the pretty girl up the street. By borrowing his car and credit card, Tom gets wrapped up in an evening of mistaken identity. This movie actually contains a lot of humor and funny bits including Fisher Stevens as an obnoxious flower delivery man with terrible luck. If you've ever wanted to see Fisher Stevens abused, this is the movie you've been waiting for!

Now, as far as Ethan Hawke goes, I was actually entertained by him. Yes. That's right. I said it. He plays the nervous, uncomfortable in his own skin-type very well in this. He plays it as if that's really him and I don't know him personally, so he's either really really great at acting and I've been wrong or it's not acting. I'm gonna go for the positive road and go with the first option.

This movie was released in 1991 but doesn't feel like a dated movie. The style of comedy and pacing makes it feel like it could've been released in the past decade or so. The humor is very dry but still silly at times. Very highly recommended!

You can pick these movies(and so many more!) at Olive Films! 


-Chad

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Batman: Bad Blood

I know what you're thinking. "Another Batman animated movie? Really??". Fair enough. DC Comics/Warner Brothers cranks these out so frequently that, at times, it could be hard ot catch up. But now more than ever, it's a good time to catch up.

Batman: Bad Blood, which will be released tomorrow(2/2/16) revolves around constant conflicts throughout the entire "Bat-family" whether it's Dick Grayson's constant craving to step outside of Batman's shadow, Damian Wayne struggles with his , and Kate Kane struggles with being accepted into the Bat Family. That seems to be the underlining theme. The other storyline of Batman being captured by Talia Ah Ghul, seems secondary to this, as it takes the entire Bat-Family to come together as a solid crimefighting unit to rescue him. There's a lot going on, character wise, but it's still a fun watch.

Now, if you're looking for a Batman movie to show your kids, this may not be the one to show them. It's a little darker, more in the tone of the live action movies. The fight scenes and violence may be a little much. That said, the fight scenes are definitely a highlight of this movie, much like most of the DC Comics movies, animated or live action. The fact that animation is limitless in nature makes these fight sequences that much better. The director, Jay Olivia, admits to watching many many movies and fighting styles(such as MMA) for inspiration for these fights. The days of Batman just punching and kicking are behind us, so it makes perfect sense to see Batman and all the characters use all these different techniques and abilities that we've never seen before.

The voice cast is fantastic. I'm a firm believer that Kevin Conroy(voice of Batman from the 90s animated series) doesn't always need to play Batman. It doesn't hurt but it's not always necessary. Jason O'Mara does a very admirable job playing Batman in this, as does supermodel Yvonne Strahvoski who makes the Batwoman character her own. The MVP of the movie goes to Stuart Allen, who plays Damian Wayne/Robin. He plays it very aggressive and very serious, which when it comes to Robin, isn't always the case.Be on a lookout for Ernie Hudson as Lucious Fox. That's right, Winston in a Batman movie!

The extra features include trailers, sneak peaks and two episodes of Batman: Brave and the Bold(maybe something more appropriate for the younger crowd but still entertaining for all ages). Story is a fun one, despite having a lot going on, but if you're a comic book fan in any way, this is definitely another one to put on your shelf. If you're looking to pick it up, head to Warner Brothers site for more options! I highly recommend picking this up!



-Chad