Big Bot Double Feature: Robot Wars & Crash And Burn

robot wars posterSeveral years back I was in the enviable position of being on Shout Factory’s PR list thanks to working at ToyFare. Because of that, I got a lot of interesting DVD sets, some of which I haven’t even watched yet. The Giant Robot Action Pack featuring Robot Wars and Crash and Burn is one such selection that I decided to finally watch over the weekend and I was surprised at the results.

I’ve actually tried to watch Robot Wars — directed by Albert Band and released in 1993 — a few times, but never really made it through for various reasons. This time, I was set to watch the film and actually succeeded. A kind of sequel to Stuart Gordon’s Robot Jox — which is also getting the Shout Factory treatment — this movie takes place in a future world where one scorpion-like robot carries people from a protected city to one that was abandoned and preserved in 1993. After terrorists take over the robot, it’s up to our brash hero, his co-pilot, a reporter and an archaeologist to find another robot and save the day.

Though the title is pretty misleading — two robots fighting does not a war make — I had a lot of fun with this film. The stop motion on the robots looks better to my eye than the bad CGI that would be used today and the characters, while broad and oftentimes goofy, are charming and fun to watch (it wasn’t until this latest viewing that I realized the reporter is actually Lisa Rinna in an early role).

While this is far from the best giant robot movie I’ve ever seen, I appreciate that everyone involved seemed to be doing their best and trying to create something fun and interesting. Full Moon would sometimes swipe heavily from other projects, but this felt pretty original to me. That might not sound like the most thrilling endorsement, but it went pretty far for a low budget 90s sci-fi action film. It helps that my experience with huge robots doesn’t extend much past loving Transformers as a kid and loving Pacific Rim.

crash and burn posterThe other film on the set — Crash And Burn — is another kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to Robot Jox (they were marketed as such overseas, but share nothing in the way of continuity). This one actually really surprised me because it was such a mix of genres and movies that I love.

It starts off with a guy on a futuristic motorcycle traveling through the desert to visit a factory-turned-TV studio run by a rebellious old man who rails against the corporation that runs everything (and also employs the motorcycle driver). Once there, we meet an eclectic cast of characters that includes Bill Moseley, the old man’s granddaughter played by Dark Skies‘ Megan Ward, blowhard talk show host and a pair of women who…are there for some reason. Soon, an important character is murdered and the search is on to find out what happened. It just so happens to involve killer (human sized) robots and a huge robot outside that doesn’t work (BUT IT WILL!).

So, with this one movie you’ve got the seclusion of the desert with the post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland-type set up mixed with the group-of-stranded-strangers motif (because there’s a radiation storm of some kind) plus the whodunnit mystery (though it’s pretty clear who the killer is if you pay attention to footwear), the someone-isn’t-who-they-seem thing AND THE ROBOTS.

Let’s jump into SPOILER TERRITORY for this graph because I don’t want to ruin an old movie I do actually want you to check out. I tried to paint with broad strokes above, but here’s the deal. If you happen to notice the murderer’s ridiculous boots and then wait about five minutes until you see the cast together once again, you’ll know who the murderer is. Of course, it’s not revealed until AFTER they do a take on the test from The Thing that doesn’t quite go as planned. But once the killer is revealed, it’s a damn delight to watch him go absolutely bonkers, knock off a few randos and then have a big fight at the end that eventually involves the big robot.

All in all, it’s a perfectly crazy movie. While I appreciated Robot Wars for being better than I expected, Crash And Burn actually surprised me by being more aware of what it was and playing with the audience before finally giving them what they wanted in ways they might not have known that they wanted it. I can’t think of another movie I’ve watched recently where I had little-to-no expectations and yet was so pleasantly surprised.

Halloween Scene: Halloween (2007)

I’ve been avoiding Rob Zombie’s Halloween reinterpretation for a while now. When I first heard that Halloween was being remade I was skeptical to say the least. This is one of my all time favorite horror movies and probably on most other horror fans’ top 10 (at least). It’s a near perfect movie. So, why remake it? If anything, why not make a new sequel?

After it came out I didn’t hear any good things and figured it’d be best if I just left it alone. So, why did I watch it? It was in my house. It was sitting around for a while before I finally popped it in the old DVD player and was not impressed.

I’m not going to say that Halloween is a bad movie, but I will say that it seems to completely miss the mark on Michael Myers as a character and what makes something really scary. I know I’m not the first person to say that I don’t need to see Michael Myers’ crappy life to understand why he’s a psycho killer. What exactly is that point of showing us SO much of Mike’s childhood? All it does is kind of make us feel bad for him. But only kind of because that kid they got to play young Michael is way creepy. Just get to him being a huge killer killing people already. To paraphrase Patton Oswalt, I don’t need to see where the things I like come from, I just like them.

I’m going to switch over to my Live Blogging notes from here on out. To be fair, I was much harder on this movie than I would have been on a movie called Hallows Eve or something else, but hey, that’s what you get for recreating the BEST HORROR MOVIE EVER! Most complaints are in reference to the original movie.

*Oh, he has a shitty life? Thanks, I get it.

*Little Michael looks like a girl, he’s also too old.

*The bully looks like Shia.

*The principal looks like a zombie.

*Haha, now they’re saying Loomis was around before Michael went crazy? Ugh.

*The point of Michael Myers is that he’s just pure evil, showing him as an abused child (even a crazy one who kills animals) elicits at least a little sympathy. Also, I like the Michael just snaps in the original, it’s not a decline into madness it’s an elevator plummeting into the depths of hell.

*How is the bully letting himself get beat to death? Just get up! In real life, I feel like he’s try and get up.

*The blood looks like chocolate syrup.

*Why is his mom with that ass? I get making him a jerk, but seriously, what’s the point? There’s no explanation.

*Yeah, I get it, it’s the 70s, play something that ISN’T on the Dazed and Confused soundtrack. “Love Hurts”? Are you kididng me?

*Her boyfriend’s a douche “I want to do it with the mask on.” The MICHAEL MYERS mask? Ugh.

*Slits that mean bastard’s throat after taping him up. Pretty smart move for a kid.

*So, the boyfriend (steve) either is done banging the sister or is kicked out so he goes downstairs to make a sandwhich.

*Oh look, he’s hitting someone to death again. Inspired.

*Sis is next.

*Oh, also, killing everyone you know because you couldn’t go trick or treating is STUPID. this makes Michael seem like a bitch.

*Oh wow, he put on the MICHAEL MYERS mask. How prophetic. Blarg.

*Hey look, the baby we haven’t seen since the first scene. Will he kill her? OF COURSE NOT! Way to have no dramatic tension whatsoever. The people die in the exact order you think they would.

*Is that what an actual 10 year old looks like? I really have no idea. He seems older.

*So, he’s a normal-ish kid now in the asylum? Ha, and he’s oblivious. Perfect.

*Doesn’t remember what he did? Ugh. I hate this kid.

*YEAH, DANNY TREJO!!! Best interview I ever did.

*Danny tells him to live inside his head…wonder where THIS is going. CRAZY TOWN.

*He’s making masks. One of which is clearly Leatherface.

*HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE SILENT AFTER GOING TO THE INSTITUTION!!!!!! [I could definitely be wrong on this one, but I was not liking this movie pretty intensely at this point.]

*Woah, that nurse is a bitch. Also, probably dead soon.

*Oh no, the mom wants to kill herself. WHO CARES?!

*Old Danny Trejo!

*Why would they let him make all these masks?

*Tyler Mane DOES strike an imposing figure.

*Loomis isn’t supposed to LIKE Michael.

*Of course, the redneck guards are rapists.

*Why would you f**k with a GIANT?

*Michael just kills everyone now?

*The scene between Michael and Danny is tense (will he attack or won’t he?). Yeah, of course he does because this movie’s soulless.

*Why does Michael keep pulling Danny out of the water if he’s trying to kill him? A real murderer wouldn’t do that, it’s movie bullshit. Or he just wanted to smash him with a TV.

*Why does he zero in on this dude in the bathroom? There were a half dozen guys out there.

*Hey another knife kill. Wow.

*How is the jumpsuit not covered in blood?

*So, Laurie’s a crazy bitch? Awesome. [Introducing good girl Laurie with a lewd bagel/sex dance is a poor decision, first impressions and all that.]

*As if it needs to be said, we spend WAY too much time with Michael.

*How/when did he hide that knife and mask under the floorboards?

*DANIELLE HARRIS!!! I should have gotten an autograph when I saw her at Big Apple Con a few years back.

*Now they’re saying she’s Mother Teresa? After her weird bagel dance? Doesn’t jive folks.

*”Just keep the monkeyhouse locked until the monkey dies of old age.” – Loomis. This is great casting. I want to see him in a Halloween 6 remake, completely bat shit crazy.

*The girls are yelling shit at Michael. Why doesn’t he just kill them right there? That’s what this Michael would do.

*I’m still upset about the whole bagel thing too, mom.

*Micheal’s just walking down the freaking street! What happened to his stealthiness?

*Sid Haig, of course. I’m actually not afraid of him though for once.

*Why the heck are there title cards like “Trick or Treat?” After telling me it’s Hoddonfield and Halloween are these necessary?

*Haha, they party in the Myers house. Not a bad touch actually. Except he’s standing right there on the balcony!

*Michael’s killing yet another dude post coitus. A dude who wore a disguise of some kind. Yawn.

*Why do I recognize the gun store owner? [Can’t remember the character’s name by The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz is in this!]

*Holy crap, he just killed Laurie’s parents.

*Danielle vs. Michael, round 4, FIGHT!

*Cop’s face against the dooor as he gets stabbed looks pretty cool.

*Blah blah blah.

*He’s dead. Of course he’s not.

*Loomis: “What the hell?!” That’s a great line.

*Blah blah blah, she’s in the ceiling, they both go off the balcony.

*Empty that gun in his FACE! Aw, out of bullets. Of course. You should really check that ahead of time.

*Ken Foree was in this? Oh the dude in the truck stop.

*If it wasn’t called Halloween I think I’d be okay with it. You just can’t redo the classics.