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SS Doomtrooper (2006)

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SS DoomtrooperStarring Corin Nemec, Ben Cross, James Pomichter, Kirk B.R. Woller, Marian Filali, Harry Van Gorkum

Directed by David Flores


It wasn’t until about an hour into SS Doomtrooper when it finally hit me. I kept trying to figure out what the actual hulking mega-muscled Nazi super soldier (the titular SS Doomtrooper, although it’s never called that or anything else specifically in the film) reminded me of. Then it finally hit it me; the damn thing looks like one of the action figures come to life from the movie Small Soldiers but exploded to about 20-feet in height. The Nazi scientist in the film hasn’t created some sort of gargantuan super soldier; he’s created the world’s largest action figure. That’s exactly, and I mean exactly, what this looks like.

The computer effects bringing the Nazi super soldier to life aren’t even remotely convincing – Ang Lee couldn’t even make a computer generated Hulk completely convincing on a $100+ budget and I’m sure this film was made for the roughly the amount of money that film spent on Sam Elliot’s mustache wax alone – but the computer effects aren’t unrealistic in the usual bad Sci-Fi Channel original movie manner. No, instead of just looking like something that came out of a Playstation video game (although it does look like just that and worse whenever shown physically interacting with live-action characters), the Doomtrooper looks like a huge CGI plastic action figure brought to life, sort of a big computer-generated Stretch Armstrong doll with glowing veins, an arm-mounted weapon, and a helmet straight off a heavy metal album cover.

I’ll say this right now; you’re either going to laugh your ass off at seeing this thing or you’re going to absolutely hate it, and that’s ultimately what’s going to decide whether or not you derive any entertainment value at all from watching SS Doomtrooper. Me, I was highly amused by the immensely laughable nature of this monstrosity, at least for awhile.

It’s the waning days of World War 2. The Allies are marching towards victory. Nazi mad scientist Professor Ullman thinks he can turn the tide by creating a super-sized super soldier out of an ordinary Nazi officer using some sort of Frankensteinish atomic energy process that’s never explained nor should it be. This guy is a mad scientist in the old Atomic Age monster movie vein, so rational explanations are moot.

Ben Cross, once the star of the Oscar-winning picture Chariots of Fire, plays Professor Ullman early on with some major league B-movie gusto, enough to make you regret how increasingly trivialized his character becomes as the film progresses. Ullman cares only about using his work to turn a Nazi soldier into a pro-fascist Prometheus and looks to create a whole army of these Swastika-luvin’ leviathans to help crush the Allies, and if they’re uncontrollable and kill indiscriminately, both Axis and Allies alike, well, that’s just a design glitch that they’ll have to try and work around.

Unfortunately, even a genetically engineered Nazi super soldier can’t hit the broadside of the barn, not even when the target is standing relatively still right in front of it. Halfway through the film it gets frustrated and scraps its huge shoulder mounted arm cannon in favor of just skulking about looking for some clobberin’ time. Fortunately, its atomic nature has also imbued it with an electrocuting death touch too. Too bad the screenwriters didn’t try imbuing it with any sort of personality of its own.

The Americans know the Nazis are conducting some sort of atomic energy experiments inside a super fortress called the Citadel. An air attack would get shot down easily so Captain Malloy (Corin Nemec, fresh off his Mansquito bug-zappin’ duties) is assigned the task of putting together an impossible mission to infiltrate and destroy the Citadel. Malloy assembles a Dirty Half-Dozen (I guess the film just wasn’t budgeted for a full dozen) consisting almost primarily of soldiers currently incarcerated for various crimes that will be pardoned if they accomplish and survive the mission. Each soldier selected by Malloy is there because they have a special skill, but almost none of them ever get to use their skill because most of them are there simply for cannon fodder.

Malloy’s men also aren’t the brightest lot of soldiers. Case in point, despite having seen firsthand that neither bullets nor grenades can do diddly squat to the Doomtrooper, one member of Malloy’s half-dozen decides to just toss down his gun, walk right up to the thing, and punch it in the face. The guy then actually looks surprised when it just stares back at him unharmed and kills him.

Suffice it to say, SS Doomtrooper is not going to win any IQ tests. If you want a perfect example of the film’s mentality then look no further at a hand picked member of Malloy’s bunch named Parker Lewis. Yes, they actually dare to name a character Parker Lewis. As most of you know, Corin Nemec is well known for starring in a Ferris Bueller-esque Fox comedy from the early 1990’s called “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”. There’s winking at the audience and then there’s this. In the midst of a near death experience, Private Parker Lewis even exclaims, “I can’t win.” This should pretty much tell you that SS Doomtrooper has pretenses about taking itself seriously. If only it could have maintained that cheeky nature all the way to the finish line.

No sooner does Malloy and company parachute behind enemy lines, they’re spotted and the Doomtrooper is released for its first opportunity to see action. This leads to my favorite scene of the film – a truly bewildering decision on the part of the director – where the Doomtrooper has already dispatched with a couple of Malloy’s guys and the rest narrowly escape with their lives. As they momentarily thwart the behemoth’s efforts and dash across the field of battle to safety, the score accompanying this, quite inappropriately, swells into a musical track that would indicate a turn of the tide leading to a moment of victory. From what you see and what you hear, we’re apparently celebrating their triumphant retreat.

Alas, the hokey charm the film exudes during much of its first half fades rapidly as the Doomtrooper becomes just a recurring footnote while the film begins to focus more on Malloy, the French Resistance soldiers they join forces with, and the supposed “suicide mission” that proves to be far easier than it was built up to be. Sure, the rest of Malloy’s bunch pretty much take turns making noble sacrifices along the way but it still seems way too easy. And pretty much every moment devoted to exploring the personality of the various soldiers seems a total waste of time since most have such a short life expectancy.

Worst of all, the finale, the big showdown with Professor Ullman and his monstrous creation within his Citadel lab, is a big fat bust. Not only is Ullman’s comeuppance anti-climactic, after spending the entire film portraying the Doomtrooper as this unstoppable war machine that has endured heavy gunfire, grenades, flamethrowers, tank fire, and massive explosions, its demise at the hands of Corin Nemec is nothing short of pathetic. Hell, Nemec manages to take one of its hands off with nothing more than a knife, and despite having been told the creature’s invulnerability lies in its power of regeneration, no, it doesn’t grow its damn hand back!

My suggestion would be to watch about the first 35 minutes of SS Doomtrooper and then find something else to do. Things start off promisingly enough with much schlocky B-movie goodness to be enjoyed but it all quickly deteriorates into just another ill-conceived Sci-Fi Channel original. Admittedly better than many others and one that moves as a fairly brisk pace, still, the “SS” in SS Doomtrooper ultimately stands for “sub standard”.

2 out of 5

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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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.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

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.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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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.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

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.

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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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
4.0

Summary

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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