The bots are back in the official “unofficial” sequel to Westworld. Actually, the makers, American International Pictures, was bought up by Filmways, which was bought up by Orion Pictures, which was bought up by MGM, who made Westworld.
Overview: The idea of making a (crappy) sequel to a popular movie isn’t exactly new, as Futureworld will show. As the now “official” sequel to Westworld,Futureworld tried to take the storyline into a new (some would say “misguided”) direction by answering the big unanswered question: Why did the robots suddenly turn on the human guests of Delos?
I managed to catch this on Reelz a few weeks back. I’ve been looking for a DVD for some time as well, but this rare film is… well… rare. I resorted to torrenting it to give you this review. I’ll keep on searching for it.
The Story: Reporter Chuck Browning (Fonda), who first reported the Westworld fiasco, gets a phone call from a person who says he has important information. When they meet, the contact dies, but uses his last breath to say why he needed to contact Browning… “Delos.”
The Delos Amusement Park is now set to reopen after two years and some $1 billion in “improvements,” and want Browning and fellow reporter Tracy Ballard (Danner) to visit the park and report on the improvements to show that it is now safe. Among the improvements made are the abandonment of Westworld in favor of the space adventure “Future world.” Browning soon discovers that the park has a more sinister operation behind it than just entertainment.
Another moment in cinematic history: Just as Westworld was the first to use 2D CGI, Futureworld is the first to use 3D CGI. The hand on the monitor is the first example.
A Gunslinger’s last stand.
Ballard gets to try out a brain-wave scanner. This is where we see Yul Brenner in his last movie role before his death in 1985. Meanwhile, Browning is watching it all through a scanner.
An unanswered question is answered. And now, the answer to the million dollar question: Why did the robots go screwloose and kill everyone in Delos?
Somehow, the robots were learning through their contact with the guests, and what they learn is that humans are a threat not only to them (the robots), but to the the planet as a whole:
“The human being is a very unstable, irrational, violent animal. All our probability studies indicate that, if left alone, you will destroy much of this planet before the end of the decade. We at Delos are determined to see that doesn’t happen. We don’t intend to be destroyed by your mistakes.”
To stop the humans, the robots came up with a plan:
Invite the world’s “elite”… the rich, the famous, the powerful and influential… to visit Delos park.
Drug the guest’s meals and measure and sample their inert bodies.
Create clone “duplicates.”
Program the duplicates to act on behalf of Delos.
Have the duplicates kill the guests.
Send the duplicates out into the world to work on behalf of Delos.
WORLD DOMINATION! (Why not? They already run Delos.)
But, is it cyberpunk? Like Westworld,Futureworld was made before anyone ever coined the word, so they could not have made this cyberpunk… at least not on purpose. The visuals aren’t there (even the access tunnels are brighter and cleaner than what one would expect), there are no hackers or underground resistors, and there’s no word on the state of the world in the movie other than the above mentioned probability studies. The added themes of corporate control (Delos’s plan) and the robots running the show do push Futureworld closer to being cyberpunk, but not totally into that arena.
Conclusion. Since its release, Futureworld has had a rather hard-knocked life of being constantly panned by critics (Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 33% “Rotten” rating), some see it as a worthy sequel to Westworld. At least, it was worthy enough to attempt a television series, Beyond Westworld. I sort of liked it, but you may feel differently, depending on how you see ‘unofficial’ sequels.
Spring must be around the corner. I can hear the birds… flipping.
Overview: UCF: Toronto Cybercide is an attempt to create a 70s style police show done up in futuristic cyberpunk. This is a production done by an enterprising group of amateur film makers called Key Pixel: Gathering of Filmers. As a review, this is a slightly different review than many I have done previously, in that I fully realize that this movie is no-budget, and is produced by highly motivated, but amateur film makers. I had previously decided not to give it a star rating, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to consider it in many ways as I have the rest. This review will spend more time than most on details of what I thought really worked well, along with what I felt really needed improvement.
The Story UCF: Toronto Cybercide takes place over 70 years into the future. Some aspects of society have collapsed, but the police are still on the job. A team of detectives, Sue (played by Sylvia C. Andreae), a tough action chick with a cybernetic arm and Jazz (played by Andrew Hookway), an emotive family guy, are sent to investigate some strange cyber deaths, and end up getting involved in a “good cyborg gone bad” story. Here to assist with the investigation is the almost-human Marshall Pax, a cyborg from the Unified Cybernetics Foundation. Together they must root out mafia involvement and stop the Nemesis (played by Justin Monk - and what cool name for an actor!) from randomly killing Toronto’s inhabitants.
Narrative Issues: The underlying idea for Toronto Cybercide (70s cop show done in cyberpunk) is very interesting in scope, and if executed well, provides enough grist for cyberpunk enthusiasts to sink their teeth into some neat concepts. While some aspects worked well, there were a few key scenes that really could have significantly improved the overall experience.
The Introduction: While the text was interesting, the way it was implemented made it virtually impossible to get the context. The text wasn’t sequential, and each line started at a different time. This meant that you had to almost go back and rewind for each line to complete and then try to piece it together to figure out what was happening. Even then, we miss out on why the future still has CRT monitors, current model cars, modern phones and 1940s phones together, etc. The luddites are mentioned, but really only in passing.
Transition leading up to the final battle: The transition leading up to the final battle is virtually nonexistent. There really should have been a scene or two leading up to how and why all three parties came together. All we are given is that a trap has been sprung by the mafia, and that the police magically seem to know where.
Why don’t we get to see the Nemesis? The bulk of the complexity in character development involves the Nemesis, but unfortunately we rarely get to see this. To the extent he shows up, we get no sense of the internal conflict taking place within the Nemesis. Toronto Cybercide really could have benefited from two scenes (one near the beginning, and one after the kitchen scene) that explored this conflict.
Why is the Cyborg eating regular food? One of the challenges here was in trying to make the Marshall otherworldly. The kitchen scene gives a good opportunity to show him eating a fabricated food source. Instead, he is eating milk and cake.
The Cinematography: Kovacs strong point seems to be in constructing some interesting visuals and textures. While many scenes were average, every now and then we’d get a terrific perspective shot, or angle which really added to the context of the scene. Toronto Cybercide is definitely at its best when going for a noir feel. Grays, blacks, overexposed whites and reds worked FAR better than the background soft yellow scenes. And while some scenes were exceptional, others, such as the dust scene sorely detract from the suspension of disbelief. Like the sound, consistency in crafting is definitely advocated.
The FX: The FX is very low budget, in sort of a Dr. Who sort of way. For the most part, it works though. The laser gunshots were decent enough, and while the cybernetic arm could have been better, Andreae (Sue) worked it very effectively in the action scenes to the point that it was very believable. Perhaps the coolest one, as was pointed out on the directors commentary was the knife in the book in the Club Red scene – this just worked wonderfully and really helped sell Sue’s strength. Also terrific though was the Luddite TV screen - this more than any other FX scene left a sense of a different time and place.
The Editing: For the most part, the visual editing in Toronto Cybercide really works. The pacing is solid, and most all of the investigation and action scenes work. In particular, the early battles and chase scenes really held together well, while the last fight scene came across as a tad too haphazard. The only early shot that really stuck out as wildly problematic was a quick camera jerk near the beginning when the long-haired minion was bitching about following “his part of the deal.” This could have been spliced a bit to become more workable.
The Acting: The acting in Toronto Cybercide is far from top notch – then again, this is to be expected in an amateur production. As a clear standout, Bryan Patrick Stoyle as Marshall Pax turns in a very credible performance as a stoic, post-human cyborg. More problematic were the two cops, Sylvia Andreae and Andrew Hookway. Part of the issue is they are attempting to be your traditional 15 year, jaded cop types – this was just a hard sell both due to their age, and unfamiliarity with jaded cop stuff. From a narrative perspective, their performance would be greatly aided had it been set up that most cops had already been wiped out, and that these were junior cops thrust into events greater than they were experienced to handle. This would have played far better to their age, character development and overall performance. If there was one change I would make though, it would be eliminating Kovacs’ Matrix Merovingian nod – that scene in the Club Red CLEARLY indicates how good an actor Lambert Wilson in the Matrix sequels really is. Kovacs’ acting works well in most scenes, but that dialogue stretch will get a deservedly horrid groan from all viewers.
The Music: For the most part, the electronic music accompaniment is one of the best crafted aspects of Toronto Cybercide, and adds well to the mood of many scenes. Simple movement music, such as the background for the train station scene, work wonderfully to pick up the pace. The best use of sound accompaniment was probably the emotive flashbacks that Marshall Pax. The worst was definitely the ending battle. There the music was sort of a slow, ongoing, day to day sound for a scene that needed high tension, fast paced accompaniment.
The Sound: The sound in Toronto Cybercide is sometimes great, sometimes horrid. In most scenes, we get either great background sounds or solid transfer’s of action from the left to right speakers, that carefully mimic the movement of those on-screen. These, when combined with the fast-paced electronic background accompaniment really add to the moment. In some scenes, the mix clearly needs LOTS more work – all too often the levels seem to shift dramatically, especially with the inclusion of needless white noise (the kitchen scene is probably the worst instance of this). Far worse though was a scene near the beginning - we even get an ultra-loud, high pitch sound that dominates the speakers for no particular reason – this occurs a time or two later as well. Aside from this though, clearly a lot of work to the sound FX
Best line of the movie - “Not once…did he try to grab my ass.”
Creating a Cyberpunked World Without A Budget: One of the real challenges that Kovacs and company deal with is creating a futuristic cyberpunked world on no budget. I must applaud them for making an attempt such as this, and truly hope to see more efforts such as this. Their challenge is especially problematic in that they are basically stuck with their local surroundings. Kovacs often addresses this by almost attempting to do sort of a staged play approach, where most scenes take place in barren rooms - the audience is left to fill in the details for themselves. He also attempts retrograde technology approaches, such as using 1940s phones for communications. And while some of the scenes work well, there is clearly a lot to be improved. In too many shots, we get close-ups of current year cars, lamps, and a myriad of other current-technology items that suspend disbelief. A better approach might have been to use close-up shots in cars, and so forth so as not to give away the actual “look” of the vehicle used. If they are forced to show these things, there needs to be something in the intro about describing why technology hasn’t advanced (as a counterpoint, Puzzlehead does fairly decent world-building rationales on a very low budget). In truth, the explanation on the movie cover is almost required to get the jist of the world:
In 2078 something had stopped the motor of the world.
Decades later, civilization is still recovering from the global network crash. In this post-dystopian age, remnants of the old technologies remain, including cyborgs and man-machine interfaces. To regulate the disaffected remnants - colloquially known as ‘Burnouts’ - the Unified Cybernetics Foundation is formed to deal with post-human law enforcement.
It is now 2106, one hundred years in the present. When two Toronto police detectives are caught in the middle of a specific multiple murder case involving Burnouts, UCF sends one of their Marshals to assist.
And when the Foundation gets involved, nothing is ever simple.
Toronto Cybercide works best in darker, shadow-filled scenes such as the shot above. A Noir look is a useful way of getting around technology shortcomings. More problematic though is the lack of exploration of the dynamics of the world itself. On Kovacs and Hookway’s commentary, they mention the concern in spending too much time on expository scenes. While I agree with the concern, this isn’t the only way the technology impacts on society can be conveyed. Character explorations and build-ins to the scenes themselves provide the grist for world building. Case in point – early in the film, our detectives do the traditional intro talk with the police chief. This would be a great scene for providing insight on how a police station might work differently in a cyberpunked world 100 years from now - instead, we get the chief typing away on a keyboard while staring at a CRT monitor. How about an earpiece, possibly an eye cover, and a VR glove where the police chief is interacting with a large flat screen? We wouldn’t even need to see the flatscreen to get a sense that things are different. If this makes no sense due to degredation in the technology, I’m sure that there could have been some way of conveying difference in surroundings here, without resorting to high-tech FX.
UCF Toronoto Cybercide - When Good Cyborgs Go Bad: The underlying challenge involves a specially trained marshall cyborg (the Nemesis) infected with a signal contagion. This contagion creates a complex dynamic where the Nemesis’ human portion is working hard not to allow the infection to spread, while at the same time, he is no longer in control of his actions. In an environment where we see a continual merging of man and machine, its only a matter of time before issues like this become a concern. The psychological aspect of an augmented person losing a battle over his humanity is definitely something that should require more examination. While not as explored as I much as I would have liked, the idea here is top notch, and definitely separates Toronto Cybercide from the bottom of the barrel cyberpunk flicks which don’t bother with interesting storylines.
The Bottom Line: UCF: Toronto Cybercide provides us an interesting, no-budget cyberpunk flick. I can only imagine the amount of decidation that goes in to a project such as this - in many instances this clearly shows. In some places, such as the “mood” moments, it clearly excels. Every now and then, you find a scene where everything comes together - the sound, visuals and acting have moments of riviting clarity. Some of the cinematography decisions, the pacing, the music and some fun dialogue lines serve to create a fun watching experience. Moreso, the 70s cop cyberpunk idea works. However, there are many areas where significant opportunities for improvement can be realized. If a sequel is enacted, a better explanation of the world is necessary, along with a better way of hiding current technologies. More important though would be a dramatically improved sense of consistency in the sound and visuals crafting. This more than anything else gives would move Key Pixel Productions from amateur status to that of a professional, low budget production house. Regardless, UCF: Toronto Cybercide is still a fun watch, one that I recommend you pick up. Please support this amateur cyberpunk flick and pick up a copy so that we end up with a sequel at some point.
Overview: On its face, Cyborg 2087 sounds like the plot for the terminator: this guy from a dystopic future comes back to the past to stop the development of a new technology with lots of promise, that ends up destroying humanity as we know it; unfortunately, he is chased by these cyborg things who are bent on stopping him. While there are certainly some similarities, the differences are perhaps broader. Aside from the obvious budget differences, the plot in Cyborg 2087 involves a cyborg returning from the future versus a man, and he’s not trying to perform a “retroactive abortion,” he is doing something similar to Sarah Conner in T2 – he wants to stop the technology from being released at that time.
The Story Genius scientist Professor Sigmund Marx has created a technology that allows us to guide other people and influence their thoughts. Unfortunately, it turns out that this technology will be subverted by the government and military to engage in mass thought control of the population. In the future, humanity’s freewill has been crushed. Now a race of cyborgs have taken control to maintain stability. A small group of freedom fighters has come upon a method for restoring humanity. They have created a time machine, and intend to send back a cyborg who has had his “control” chip removed – the goal of which is to convince Professor Marx to abandon his experiment, or in worse case, to kill him.
The cyborg, Gareth A7 (played by Michael Rennie of Day the Earth Stood Still), doesn’t have access to all his technology when he was sent back. Worse, he has a homing beacon implanted in him that will lead the killer cyborgs, called tracers, right to him. He happens upon Professor Marx’s assistant, Dr. Sharon Mason (Karen Steele), and uses the perfected form of Marx’s technology to overwhelm her freewill and force her to assist him. From there it’s a race. The bad cyborgs from the future have arrived and are sporting killer ray guns. Gareth and Sharon must find the professor and convince him prior to the killer cyborgs finding him.
The Acting: The acting in Cyborg 2087 is fairly sub par. Aside from Michael Rennie, who I just enjoy seeing in another flick, the rest of the cast really falls short. Karen Steele over-emotes, as does her secondary love interest, Harey Carey Jr. The tracers are particularly bad, as are most of the bit characters. The Sheriff, played by Wendell Corey, while over the top, is at least well done. The bottom line here, with a budget as low as this one was, the only way Cyborg 2087 could have worked is if the acting paid off – unfortunately it didn’t.
The FX: Cyborg 2087 is very low budget, so we can’t expect much in the way of realistic effects. The extent of fanciness here involves making something disappear by taking another shot with the object removed. The ray guns have the cheesy thick white light look, and the outfits are anything but high tech. The opening shot of the futuristic city, which is nothing more than a painting, is at least interesting from the standpoint that it shows you what people in the sixties thought our futuristic cities would look like. At best, Cyborg 2087 tries for the cyberpunk western look, but this too is problematic. Perhaps the worst part of the FX deals with the tracers, who are heavyset guys running around in fake US army costumes. They really coulda spent at least a buck or two to buy an extra who at least was in shape. On top of this, the cartoonish sounding score is especially atrocious. If there were any quality scenes in this movie, the score ensures that they won’t be noticed.
Cyborgs: In Cyborg 2087, we are told that the cyborgs are a combination of man and machine, but we really don’t get much more of a breakdown than that. We know that they have wide open spaces in their bodies, and that they have the power of five or six men. Basically, the model we get here is of regular people that basically work like simple computers, and are able to have various computer chips embedded in them. In the end, its not a very believable view of cyborgs, and isn’t even a consistent one. We are told that cyborgs have no emotion, but somehow, Gareth falls in love with Sharon. The movie would have worked so much better had he let her die near the end versus what did happen (the heroic rescue).
The Bottom Line: Arthur Pierce’s script for Cyborg 2087 probably mostly decent (aside for the Hollywood happy ending factor), but unfortunately Franklin Adreon’s directing talents are not enough to bring it to a successful fruition. Far too frequently, Cyborg 2087 comes across as poorly done SciFi cheese. Again, had the acting been decent, one could easily overlook the low-qual FX. Unfortunately this is not the case. However, I did find it worthwhile to watch for one reason only – I loved Michael Rennie in the Day the Earth Stood Still, and really enjoyed seeing him in another flick. His acting is pretty much the same (Stoic, serious, impending doom looking demeanor), but at least we get to see him running around and performing action scenes.
Overview: Xchange is one of those movies that comes up with an interesting if unbelievable Sci-Fi premise (mind transference technology) and then proceeds to hose it beyond all recognition with a horrid script, bad acting and flat out bizarre (not in a good way) scenes. Still the initial idea about exchanging conscious minds is interesting enough to at least keep you watching for the first 20 minutes or so. Whether you care to after that is truly a matter of how much you like trashy cyberpunked Sci-Fi.
The Setting: In the near future, the technology can enable a person’s consciousness to be exchanged with another. So while you may take on the speech patterns of the new “host,” your thoughts and memories are still “yours.” Furthering this technology, a company, Xchange, now uses this technology to enable instant travel across the globe. You just need to go into an Xchange office, agree upon a temporary host (male or female), and plug-in. But wait, there’s more! In addition to Xchanges with humans, the Xchange corporation has also created disposable clones with supra-human abilities that are ready-made to accept a temporary mind transferal. Unfortunately, the clones only last a few days before self-destructing (one might wonder how the development of a full human clone that only lasts two days could possibly be cost-effective, but, um, this isn’t really explored). Unfortunately for society, the near-future has turned onto a world of the haves and have-nots, where corporations sit on top of a society where life is only valued if you are a corporate stooge.
The Story: Toffler (Kim Coates) is a corporate executive who has it all. His one fear is that he’s afraid of undergoing mind transferal travel, or “floating” as it has become called. Unfortunately for him, his biggest corporate customer’s CEO has been murdered and the CEO’s son needs him by his side in an hour for an important meeting on the other side of the country. Due to the time issue, Toffler is forced to undergo his first floating instance. A temporary host has been found at the last minute, so everything seems to be set. While the transferal and meeting goes off without a hitch, and in fact Toffler (now Kyle MacLachlan) has found the experience to be enjoyable, problems arise when Toffler goes back the next day to transfer into his own body. Unfortunately, the temporary host that now is traveling in Toffer’s body has not returned – worse, his current body appears to be stolen, and the Xchange corporation is asking for it to be returned. In fact, it appears that the most notorious terrorist now is in control of his body.
The CEO for Xchange (Janet Kidder) asks Toffler to take on the body of a clone until his real body is found. This is Tofflers’ worst nightmare. Considering clones only last a few days or so, Toffler freaks out and escapes. Strangely, he eventually gets someone to put him in a clone (Stephen Baldwin) anyways so that he can go out and find his body. From the moment Toffler escapes until the end, we get a completely bizarre and convoluted plot of corporate slimes treating the little people like trash, and screwing whoever they need to get to the top. I could go into details, but truly, for the most part it’s about as predictable as you can get.
Scenes Too Stupid for Words: OK, Xchange is almost worth sitting through just to see the quick-cut shot of the CEO chick in the buff screwing the son bad guy while arguing about their absurd take over the world plan at the same time. The narrative called for the beans to be spilled on who the bad guys were, and why they were working together, so, for whatever reasons, they tried to combine the two scenes into one. Truly, this has to be one of the most idiotic sex scenes ever put on film. There are others in Xchange that are pretty bad, where similarly, something has to happen in the narrative but they couldn’t bother spending more than 10 minutes coming up with the details. But truly, the CEO sex scene has to be seen to be believed.
The Bottom Line: The mind transfer technology in Xchange could have potentially been interesting, but instead it is delivered in a completely simplistic and non-believable way. Worse, the surrounding story sucks horribly, and the acting, especially from Stephen Baldwin is pretty lousy. But again, the story idea was at least interesting, as was the bizarre floater bar. And the production values were at least on par with TV movies, so Xchange earns a solid 4 stars.
Overview: Yet another completely misleading title, marketing campaign and DVD cover. Look at this title, cover, and then read this blurb on the back of the DVD:
Rosetta’s lab holds more than the usual beakers and Bunsen burners. This bio-geneticist isn’t just creating the perfect woman: she’s creating three of them.
Rosetta has downloaded her own DNA into the Self Replicating Automatons – S.R.A.s that look human, but were bred as intelligent machines. But in order to survive, they need sustenance of male Y chromo, found only in sperm. Now the cyborgs have to get out into the world and feed.
Who knew the future would be this sexy?
Now reading this, you’d have to be thinking, “Soft – core cyber – porn flick, good for a bunch of guys on a Friday night!” Um, no. This movie is about the farthest thing from this description. Teknolust is actually a chick flick. Seriously. So in marketing it as they have, the distributor has ensured that NOBODY who actually might be interested in watching this movie will ever see it. But to reiterate:
Teknolust has no lust in it, or nudity for that matter
Teknolust has no robots, as depicted on the cover
Teknolust has no real science aspect to it. It has fantasy science.
Teknolust doesn’t take place in the future
The Actual Story: Teknolust is about this nerdy, introverted genetics scientist who, because her entire family died in an accident when she was young, has decided to replicate herself into artificial life-forms who live inside her microwave (actually a computer screen). These digital lifeforms somehow are able enter into the real world by a magical doorway – one of which does this to go get sperm by seducing people into quick blow-jobs (they don’t show anything at all though – not even kissing). She takes the sperm back to the scientist (also not shown), who then makes some sort of drink out of it, which the semi-VR versions of her then drink to sustain themselves (it was never really clear what these chick’s apartment was made out of – it seemed partially virtual and partially real).
Unfortunately, in getting sperm from their hosts (through protected sex – the condom is kept to keep the sperm for later use), they somehow infect the sperm donor with a virus that ends up rendering them impotent, and leaves a red rash between their eyes. We later learn that this is in fact a random computer virus that somehow got attached to the SRA’s, which was later passed through their fingernails (I’m guessing) to the unlucky guys.
Questions You Might Ask: Why do VR beings (SRAs) need sperm for sustenance? How is it that they can go from their bizarre, color-matched virtual world to the real world, you ask? How do these SRA chicks wave their arms at a TV screen and change the entire direction of the stock market, you ask? How do computer viruses, which apparently are similar to real viruses, randomly form, you ask? And more to the point, how do computer viruses “jump hosts” to people??? All good questions, but unfortunately, Teknolust doesn’t think they are deserving of answers. This is all good natured fairy sci-fi fluff, but at least they don’t take it seriously.
The one cool visual involves one of the SRA’s online portals. Here it is. Enjoy.
The Bottom Line: In the end, Teknolust is about one of the VR chicks finding love in the real world, and the nerdy scientist finally doing the same. None of this is intended to be believed. Instead the sci-fi façade is just there to provide a strange avenue into an average chick-flick story. Why the sperm thing is here, I’ll never know. Truly, they’d have been better off using something like strange touches that generate electric energy or something – this would serve the same purpose, would make more sense in the context of the narrative, and would then be something that matched the intended audience. At least Tilda Swinton delivers fine performances in all four of her roles (nerdy scientist and three VR chicks). This movie probably deserves at least 5 or 6 stars just for quality, but I’m knocking some off due to the misleading nature of the marketing. Bottom line, if you like strange chick flicks, this might be your movie. Otherwise, pass.
Overview: Yet another example of an ultra-buff weight-lifting zen super-hacker type who likes to log on almost naked while chicks watch him. In Webmaster (Skyggen is the original name), we get a story that shows the seedy underside of how to motivate network administrators when they fuck up and let a hacker in – just painfully force a multi-needle puncture device directly into their heart and give them a time limit to find the hacker before the device kills them! You might find this to be a short term solution, but I’m sure there’s a never-ending supply of good network administrators just waiting to take their place.
The Story: J.B. (Lars Bom) - an ultra-talented Webmaster of an illicit cyber-domain known for massive amounts of illegal money transfers is captured and is put under suspicion by the cyber-domain boss named Stoiss (Jørgen Kiil) when an intruder hacks into the system and steals the Stoiss’s money. Stoiss sticks a heart controller device on J.B. and gives him 35 hours to find who took his money or he dies. From this point, it becomes a straight, cheesy techno-thriller. J.B. and his girlfriend (Puk Scharbau) have to track down the hacker chick who’s caused the problems or else. While there were a few cool ideas early on, including highly powerful intelligent agents called “cyber-egos” that can be programmed to do all sorts of helper functions, unfortunately, these end up being peripheral to the story.
The Visuals: Webmaster seems to throw in lots of random visuals here, including a sexy black nylon S&M scene, strange dystopic surroundings and various other scenes. Unfortunately, for the most part these scenes don’t fit into the plot very well. Webmaster ’s FX are painfully bad. They would have been better off replicating VR by using real actors in a sleak, black room or something. Worse, we are told that Still, the glasses look cool, and there’s a fun Hannibal Lector shot. Some of the set pieces are decent, but overall, we get a cheesy looking unspecified cyberpunk environment.
The Security: If it was written earlier, I might have thought that Skyggen written at a time when they thought most of us were completely uneducated where security issues were concerned. Webmaster has this incredibly bizarre multi-leveled security set up that can be completely bypassed if you get someone’s personal disc. Even weirder, supposedly, most of the transactions that take place involve illegal transfers of massive amounts of money. So, um, do the mafia dudes just send their address when they register in order for the site to send them their profile directly to their mafia hideout? Even worse, if the CEO doesn’t enter a special code each day, the entire system grinds to a halt. That’s the way to keep your customers – talk about a single point of failure! Even weirder – these discs which store your personal profile can be hacked into a written on! Worse, nobody apparently backs up their software, so if someone downloads your “ego-disc,” you lose it!
The Bottom Line: Unfortunately, the movie is in Danish, but my copy is dubbed in English – this review reflects this. However, I don’t know that it would matter much, as Skyggen is basically a low-quality, simplistic thriller with cyberpunk visuals for the wrapping. But even these lose their luster. Webmaster might have worked better if more attention was paid to the story, or the editing for that matter. Had it pursued some of the interesting VR themes it started off with better, this too might have helped. Instead, there are a stream lot of random scenes in Webmaster that have virtually nothing to do with the simplistic plot. Still, even though the effects are low quality, the cyberpunk visuals and hot chicks in black nylon may make it worth a watch for some.
Overview: Gunhed is a Japanese live-action Mecha-Transformers movie done up in low-budget, gritty cyberpunk style. Unfortunately, it gives us a set of almost irreconcilable issues. On the one hand, the low-budget robots are pretty cool, as are a number of other low-budget FX. Yet, these are packaged in a barrage of incoherent plot points and truly strange sound decisions (the Japanese actors speak Japanese while the American actors speak English). When you see “Adam Smithee” in the director’s spot, you know something has gone wrong – in this case, the answer is clearly the editing. Gunhed may qualify for the worst editing of all time.
The Story: A Robot War ensued an a small robot production island in the Pacific in the year 2025, where sentient supercomputer, Kyron 5, has decided that Mankind was irrelevant. A mecha battalion of Gunhed warriors – huge transformer style tanks – were dispatched to eliminate Kryon 5. They didn’t succeed, but Kyron 5 was essentially marginalized, so no more force was sent. Now, 13 years later, due to a depletion of world resources, the key component that creates supercomputers, Texmexium (I shit you not – this is the name!), is in short supply, as are spare microchips. A group of scavengers have decided to enter the “forbidden zone” and go to the Island in the hopes of collecting Gunhed chips, which are now worth more than gold.
When the get to the Island, they quickly learn that Kyron 5’s protections are degraded but still seem in place. At first Kyron 5 doesn’t recognize their presence (you’d think it would notice a plane landing, but I guess not – nor do we find out why they didn’t just bomb the Island from the air back in 2025). But quickly it’s defenses, headed up by a fly-eyed looking “bio-droid” come to challenge the scavengers. Along the way, the find the remnants of a Texas Air Ranger helicopter, which still has a passenger, Sergeant Nim (Brenda Bakke). As things progress, most of the scavengers die in gruesome ways, until only Sergeant Nim and a mechanic named Brooklyn (Masahiro Takashima) survive – but due to the Island’s defenses, they are stuck there unless they can destroy Kyron 5. Also, they have stolen the Kryon 5’s supply of Texmexium (perhaps this is constructed from stale tacos), and now the Biodroid wants them back.
But that’s not all! Apparently some kids live on this Island (where they came from, we have NO idea), and they’ve decided to help Brooklyn and Sergeant destroy Kyron 5. But wait – there’s more! It turns out that one of the Gunhead tanks from 2025 appears salvageable, so Brooklyn attempts to revive Gunhed while Sergeant Nim goes off to do something unspecified (but at least it looks important). An incoherent sequence of actions ensues, whereby Brooklyn tries to bring the Gunhed to destroy Kyron 5. As he gets close, their biggest challenge awaits – Kyron 5 has resurrected a Gunhed of his own!
The Editing: Gunhed could have potentially been a decent, low budget movie, but the editing kills it. Continually, we see random actors popping out in places that don’t make sense, and whole streams sequences are rendered incoherent based on completely haphazard editing choices. I’m going out on a limb and guessing that at some point, the script was relatively simple and straightforward, but due to the editing, Gunhed was transformed into an absolute mess. But perhaps this is just the English version - does anyone know if the Japanese version is different?
The FX: Yes, the effects are all low-budget, and yes, it appears as if the entire movie takes place in a small factory, where the same locations are used over and over again only with different camera angles, and no, the tanks really don’t have any flexible movement. Still, even with the problems and all Gunhed has some enjoyable shots. The biodroid is pretty low quality, but the factory looked realistic enough, and every now and then, you get some cool, low budget effects. The Mecha-transformer fight is especially fun. .
The Bottom Line: The fact that the actors speak different languages but apparently understand each other perfectly really describes the state of Gunhed – it’s interesting but never seems to hang together well. Most egregious is the Biodroid, which has swallowed one of the scavengers whole, and now has to deal with someone inside itself stopping it from killing the rest of the people (the hows and whys of this are never explained). The appearance of the kids pretty much destroy all possibility of a believable story. On the other hand, we get Brenda Bakke doing her best sultry Lauren Bacall impression, which works somewhat well. Unfortunately, her partner, Masahiro Takashima isn’t up to taking a leading role. Watch this for the Mecha fight if you like, but the movie as a whole just doesn’t work.
Overview: Oh how the mighty have fallen. In Robocop, we get a violent, satirical look at a future with an interesting story, complete with cyborg musings and incredible visuals. In Robocop 2, we get a tripe, over-the-top monstrosity that devolves into a Godzilla versus King Kong movie. Where Robocop provided a biting commentary on the state of corporate influence and advertising, Robocop 2 settles for a simplistically evil, nonsensical, corporate stooges who are far more interested in screwing society than they are making long term profit. Put simply, Robocop 2 is a mess when compared to its original.
The Story: In Robocop 2, the OCP Corporation is bent on nefariously taking over ownership of the city so that it can squeeze every dollar out of the populace (which, interestingly, is already poor). As part of their plan, OCP tacitly supports the distribution of a new addictive drug called “Nuke.” With the cops on strike and the evil drug lord Cain distributing the drug and destroying the populace, only Robocop is there to protect Detroit from complete anarchy. But even Robocop is removed when a new scheming corporate businesswoman at OCP will do anything to get to the top, including screwing the CEO, ruining Robocop and replacing him with the Nuke drug lord, Cain. I could to into more details, but truly, the plot sucks too much to bother.
Robocop Stripped: “Christ, he’s been stripped,” is the line the policeman delivers upon seeing Robocop as a heap of parts. I couldn’t agree more. The plot points in Robocop 2 are idiotic at best. OK, so the bad guy and his 12 year-old kid beat Robocop. Of course, the logical thing to do is to drop him off, living parts and all at police HQ, right? And of course it makes sense for a Lawyer to control the Robocop project, even though there aren’t any legal issues involved. And just as logical is the corporation that gambles its entire viability on a psycho-maniac dead drug addict to be its corporate face and protector of the public, while destroying its investment in Robocop by programming him with silly parables (Gee, any reason they didn’t just re-assign Robocop to the military?). In topping this silliness, at least we know that Robocop, human brain and all, is able to easily withstand a drop from the top of a skyscraper. Interestingly, Robocop 2 tells us that the most expensive part of running a city is the police department, not the building of an ENTIRE NEW DOWNTOWN, which, we are told, will instantly pay for itself because its population will be paying for an addictive drug! I could go on, but clearly, the plot isn’t supposed to make sense. One wonders what the original script looked like as its pretty clear that Frank Miller’s script was modified significantly.
You can tell why OCP wants to steal Detriot to make money of the populace.
Detriot’s citizens are all millionaires!
The Bottom Line: While most of the key characters return (Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Felton Perry), they are joined by a cast that includes a parodied lunatic for a mayor (Willard Pugh), a kid for a bad guy (always the touch of death), and shallow scheming, horrible acting corporate bitch (Belinda Bauer). The interesting questions from the first movie are again posed, but this time in a sophomoric, absurd fashion – so much so that they divorce any interest in the potential answers. The FX, including the stop-motion animation are still decent enough to keep the movie from being a total waste, but just barely. If Robocop was intended as a total goof (meaning the actors realized this), it would have worked better. Instead, we get a story that qualifies as a parody while the actors seem to think they’re making a credible remake. The result is less than stellar.
Overview: You know things aren’t going to be great when a movie copies Highlander 2 for its larger plot points. Absolon never had delusions of being good. It’s derivative from the get go. That said, while the plot, story and dialogue suck, at least Absolon has Christopher Lambert, Ron Perlman, Kelly Brook, and Lou Diamond Philips, who gives an especially good performance.
The Story: In a near-future dystopia, a virus has infected everyone on the planet, and has killed off millions. In saving mankind, a drug named Absolon has been developed which combats the virus. Unfortunately, it must be taken every day. One corporation, headed by Ron Perlman, owns Absolon and now controls the fate of mankind. Everyone must line up daily at distribution centers to receive their “fix,” otherwise they run the risk of developing to phase II of the disease, and are then incurable.
Finally, a “real” cure for the virus has been developed, but for obvious reasons, the stereotypical evil corporation who owns Absolon doesn’t want their market share challenged, so the inventor is murdered and they attempt to bury the cure. Lou Diamond Phillips, who turns in by FAR the best performance here, is Perlman’s “tough guy” responsible for “taking care” of the problem. Lambert plays a grizzled cop who inadvertently stumbles on the cover-up, and subsequently becomes emeshed in the “resistence.” Along with Kelly Brook, who worked on the cure, Lambert tries to rescue the cure so that humanity can escape the inhumanity that Absolon engenders.
The Bottom Line: Other than Lou Diamond Phillips’ performance, there’s nothing quality about Absolon. The story, the cheapy matrix FX, the set pieces, the dialogue and the pacing all pretty much suck. I must say though, I’m a real sucker for Christopher Lambert, and it’s been a while since I’ve seen Phillips put in a decent performance. For this reason, I’ll raise Absolon from 3 stars (where it probably belongs) to a 4 star review.
Overview: The inspiration for Judge Dredd is based off of a comicbook hero, which Hollywood determined needed to be brought to the big screen. Vice working to recreate the comic (apparently the beginning actually does this pretty well), most of the movie is completely derivative. Judge Dredd is a terrific example of an overblown Hollywood, trying to feed us a pile of crap, all dressed up with a super-hero action star and glitzy FX. The story sucks, the acting sucks, and the overall look is cheesy, but at least the FX and deaths are well done. This only barely qualifies as cyberpunk due to the setting which are made up of Blade Runner and Robocop ripoffs.
Judge Dredd takes place in a twenty-second century dystopia, where anarchy reigns supreme. Now, only the fabled “Judges” keep the peace. Judges are the ultimate authorities – they have the ultimate power in determining someone’s innocence or guilt. Here’s the big surprise that Judge Dredd enlightens us to – “power corrupts.” Stallone is the lone “good guy” who holds to the “Law” at all costs. Unfortunately, he is framed by his evil friend, Rico, a judge he previously sent up the river. Now with Judge Dredd out of the way, Rico has full reign to inflict insane terror over “Mega-City One” (and WOW, what an imaginative name for a cyberpunk city!). I could go through the rest of the plot, but I’m guessing you can probably figure it out – here’s the highlights - escapes with help of sidekicks, kicks ass, uncovers plot, beats more ass, and you can guess the ending.
The Bottom Line: The pacing and tone of Judge Dredd just never seem to click. Sometimes it tries to be serious, yet others it faints to a faux-lite side. Unlike the masterful Save the Green Planet, which is able to blend comedy, horror, Sci-Fi, drama and action with aplumb, Judge Dredd fails in its attempt to be multi-tonal. The FX are very expensive, but you only can enjoy them if you ignore the endless stream of plot holes Judge Dredd presents. On paper, the supporting cast (Diane Lane, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow) should be terrific (aside for Rob Schneider, of course), but most seem to have a hard time taking their roles seriously. If you haven’t seen Judge Dredd, you might be able to make it through life without doing so. If you have, and think this is one of the greatest movies ever made (as some reviews on Amazon and IMDB indicate), I’m afraid our conversation is at an end. Still, if you realize up front that all you’re getting is a trashy nonsensical story, with a tough Stallone kicking ass in cool ways, you might enjoy it.