Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Shane Van Dyke, Bruce Boxleitner, Jennifer Rubin, Alana DiMaria
Directed by Scott Wheeler
A worldwide robot alien invasion lays waste to civilization as we know it forcing pockets of human survivors to seek shelter anywhere. The might of military powers prove impotent in their counterattack. The Russians manage to capture one of these robots and successfully tortures it into giving up its secrets. Small bands of resistance fighters try unsuccessfully to fight back. Survivors forced underground by a poisonous gas that has spread across the globe. There’s a hell of a movie going on in Transmorphers: Fall of Man; too bad most of it is occurring off-camera. We hear about it. We see little of it.
Say what you will about Leigh Scott’s Transmorphers; he deserves credit for even attempting to make an epic futuristic giant robot holocaust flick with an atmospheric look and serious sci-fi action tone given the tiny budget he had to work with. Was he entirely successful? Nope. But better to be overly ambitious junk than just a heaping pile of useless scrap metal, which is exactly what this present day Asylum mockbuster prequel is.
The first half possesses some camp value stemming from it being what I imagine a Transformers movie would have been like if Roger Corman had produced it back in the early Nineties when he was doing Carnosaur and that Fantastic Four film that never got released. A cellular phone turns into a robot spider, a dashboard-mounted GPS unit fires death rays, a satellite dish transforms into a Terminator-ish endoskeleton; by the time we’re watching Bruce Boxleitner in a car chase with a driver-less truck that turns into a robot and proceeds to unleash such tremendous carnage as lightly rocking the vehicle Boxleitner is driving, all I could think was this is pure 1990’s Corman.
To watch one of these transmorphers fly after a speeding SUV is to believe that somewhere out there in this vast universe lurks a technologically superior race of malevolent machines that look like anorexic Gundam and soar through the air with all the wobbly grace of William Katt’s “Greatest American Hero” in his inaugural flight.
The much crummier second half is even more of a mockbuster of Terminator: Salvation than The Asylum’s Terminators mockbuster from just two months back. There is such a dramatic leap from the outset of the invasion to survivors grouped together talking in the past tense about what just took place minutes earlier as if a much longer period of time had transpired I couldn’t help but get the feeling that a reel had been skipped.
Shane Van Dyke (Grandson of Dick, looking like a surfer dude version of Brian Krause) is an ex-soldier back from the war now working as a satellite repairman. Like all satellite repairmen, he carries a firearm with him at all times and isn’t nearly as stunned as one would expect upon encountering a shape-shifting c-band satellite dish at his ex-girlfriend’s house. We learn his specialty in the military involved artificial intelligence. Convinient, not that this skill ever comes in handy since most of his scenes involve running and standing around.
His ex-girlfriend’s father happens to be the local sheriff (old pro Bruce Boxleitner) and together the three of them go off investigating robot related deaths. They meet up with a Homeland Security X-Files agent (Jennifer Rubin, for this you came out of an 8-year retirement from acting?) from who they’ll come to learn that all modern technology was derived from the wreckage of the 1950’s Roswell UFO crash. What we didn’t know is that we were set-up and our technological devices have the ability to transmorph into robot attackers. Good thing Armageddon is at hand or else I can think of a slew of electronics manufacturing corporations that would be facing class action lawsuits out the yin yang for never noticing that particular design quirk.
Together, with assistance from the inept military, they set out to stop the transforming alien attackers from sending out a signal to their deep space brethren that will bring about an all-out invasion. You would think getting the signal out wouldn’t be that hard considering one of these robots can already transmorph into a rather large c-band satellite dish.
After a hard day of learning that extraterrestrials are real, doing battle with robots from beyond the stars and preventing them from signaling an invasion, not to mention getting orphaned by them in the process, what better way to unwind than with a beer at a local watering hole and night of make-up sex. Then you can awaken the next time to find out you didn’t stop them from phoning home after all and the end of the world is at hand.
They should have just ended the movie here and called it a day. Instead they insisted on a feature length film and that left a whole lot of time to fill and not much of a special effects budget to fill it with. The useless second half practically turns into its own sequel with Van Dyke’s soldier-cum-satellite repairman becoming the John Connor of the Transmorphers universe. As with Terminator: Salvation, the objective is to blow up an enemy facility. As with Terminator: Salvation, when the smoke cleared and the closing credits rolled, I was left sitting in my seat with a profound sense that nothing had really been accomplished by any of what I’d just wasted my time watching.
If nothing else, at least unlike a certain Michael Bay sequel, the running time of Transmorphers: Fall of Man clocks in under 90-minutes. Now if only they would have given us less running during that time.
1 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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