When The Earth Goes Silent, EVIL Begins to Conquer. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” reviewed! (Shout Factory! / Digital Screener)


In a distant future, the entire Earth goes dark without warning. Communications are completely severed with no sign of life exists except for those scared and confused inside what is to be called The Circle of Life that has encompassed Moscow and other parts of neighboring countries. Reconnaissance teams venture out into the quarantine zones, discovering dead bodies as well as noticing people have gone missing. A month later, an outpost goes under siege by an army of bloodthirsty bears. These bizarre events go unexplained, leaving military jarred, and to find answers, seven teams are dispatched to various areas surrounding the outpost to locate signs of life. While the teams are scouting, an powerful alien reaches out to the outpost, warning them that Earth is in the middle of a four wave attack by his race looking for a new home. Before their 200,000 year trip ends with destination Earth, the last wave, 160 million mind-enslaved missing humans, will attack the Circle of Life at the command of the alien informant’s counterpart and it’s up to the ravaged scout team to band together to extinguish the extermination of mankind.

Nothing is more frightening than wiping out 95% of the world’s human population in the blink of an eye without so much of a sign of explanation. Welcome to “The Blackout: Invasion Earth,” which depicts just that very unfathomable scary episode of terra-loneliness and free-for-all, fear induced panic amongst the civilian population, tapping into the same vain of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” or “Arrival.” The big budget, Russian sci-fi action-horror, originally titled “Avanpost” or just “The Blackout,” is penned by television scriber Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov. Released this past November in Russia, “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” touchdowns inside the North American market from genre distributor Shout! Studios come June 2nd, becoming a planet-sized contender for the biggest science fiction film of the year with relentless suspense, alien-on-alien hand-to-hand combat, and an encroaching bear blitz that can’t go unseen! The Moscow based TV-3 and Premier Studios serves as the production companies with studio heads, Valeriy Fedorovich and Evgeniy Nikishov, producing an estimated $4.3 million dollar film.

Unless you’re a no-life film buff whose up to speed with all the latest Russian thespians, many of us in the States will not recognize these Slavic actors; actors such as Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Artyom Tkachenko, or Svetlana Ivanova with no standing in the usual cache of domestic and international circle of ascertain identity that any joe can just look at a cast list and go, “aha!,” and put your index finger right on their name in recognition. However, if you look closer, you’ll unearth titles you might have heard of, such as “The Darkest Hour” (Pyotr Fyodorov) and Night Watch (Aleksey Chadov). Fyodorov and Chadov play Yura and Oleg, military comrades by circumstance who are pitted against an inexplicable and unknown occurrence. Though fighting the same war, the two friends contrast different backgrounds. Yura comes from a long lineage of military blood, but becomes somber in his soldier role as he suffers an immense loss at the moment of blackout and when he discovers love for a field medic, Olya (Svetlana Ivanova), his will to fight survives by a thread. Juxtaposed against Yura is the cab driver turned enlisted man Oleg whose only living relative, his dementia-malady mother, had survived the blackout and the event has given this man in a rut purpose and a fire lit inside him. Artyom Tkachenko plays the stoic alien savior with a nearly human form, all except the three slit vertical mouth, makes him deceptively trustworthy and Tkachenko eats into that cautionary persona of whether this being is actually assisting in saving the human race or angling his prey to work against an adversarial counterpart, Ra (lya Volkov) to gain dominance totality. Performances all around exact a fair amount of rigidness to them, but I blame the forced English dub that can seemingly thwart natural deliveries. The physical and range of action is choreographed with assiduity from the actors, making me believe root cause of the rigidness is certainly the dubbing. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” closes out the cast list with Konstantin Lavronenko, Andrey Mezhulis, Artyom Markaryan, and Lukerya Ilyashenko.

“The Blackout: Invasion Earth” is a special effects juggernaut; some of the best, awe-inspiring visual effects I’ve ever witness has come from Russia, with love, that’s a projectile explosion of a thriller and, in true Russian fashion, a slew military grade heavy duty vehicles are heavily showcased through as if they’re on parade as modified tanks, BTR-70’s, and triple rotor attack helicopters for answers and rescue recovery. Being that the film is set in the future Moscow, Baranov didn’t oversell the evolution of technology and, in fact, made a stark contrast that hindered humanity still in the throes of a primitivism culture when up against otherworldly powers. Yet, there were still boots on the ground soldiers tossed into the meat-grinder that is the quarantine zone. Sure, there were some sentinel machine guns that shredded the enemy at the first sign of sensor, but despite all the flying gizmos, armed to the teeth choppers, and nifty gear, mankind had not strayed far into development. The stagnancy of man’s evolution became the highlighted theme as their deconstructed to being simply a virus that loves, hates, mates, etc. and without all that man has technically progressed throughout the years, man, itself, stays the same. The 160 million people caught in the blackout, turned into mindless slaves, and even before the war against an unknown force, rebellious and fearful groups pit brother against brother. The message suffers slightly from the cut-and-dry rigidness as aforementioned, but more so with the main characters with try to digest the alien’s, perhaps, too complicated plan of usurpation that has been 200,000 years in the works. While the story might be clunky and kind of claggy in the middle, the intensity clings to you from the moment of the alarming sound, troop mobilizing opening credits to to those BRT-70 trucks mowing down a horde of slaved individuals and never ceases with jaw-dropping, effects-driven cinematography to let you re-catch your breath for 128 minutes.

Witness mankind’s last stand against it’s first form in “The Black: Invasion Earth” being distributed on June 2nd by Shout! Studios onto DVD, Blu-ray, On-Demand, and digital streaming from these streaming services: AppleTV, Amazon, VUDU, GooglePlay, PlayStation®, XBOX, hoopla, Fandango Now, DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Charter, and AT&T U-verse. Since a digital screener was reviewed, the video and audio technical aspects will not be reviewed, but for the record, while the English dubbing is less desired and still hinders the story slightly, the dubbing isn’t all that terrible with crafty timing to stay in sync and maintaining some natural exposition deliveries. There were no bonus materials accompanying the release and there were no extra scenes during or after the credits. No bonus features were listed on the press release either. “The Blackout: Invasion Earth” bedevils with a population consuming reset laced with existential philosophies and the ups and downs of human nature set up behind the curtain of an impressive visual menagerie of brilliantly detailed special effects on the most grandest of scales.

Available on Blu-ray!

And Prime Video!!!

May the EVIL Be With You! “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” reviewed! (Disney / Blu-ray)


The rebellion suffers lost after lost against the oppressive First Order and news that the evil Emperor Palpatine lives casts an even larger shadow of fear and hopelessness across the galaxy. As Fin and Poe Dameron continue running small strikes against imperial targets, Rey finalizes her training as a Jedi with the help of Princess Leia, but as Kyle Ren discovers the Sith coven and the existence of Palpatine, his desire to search and track down Rey grows stronger before releasing a new First Order fleet of Star Destroyers with the capabilities to destroy entire planets. The Force pulls at Rey, guiding her to face her most difficult challenge: the truth about her parents and lineage. Rey faces crossroads that will determine whether she will continue to fight for good or cave into her anger and fear that’ll inevitably lead to the dark side.

Star Wars? What is Star Wars doing being reviewed on a blog that mainly covers the schlocky low-budget horror scene and the occasional obscure and weird Sci-Fi arthouse film? And the fact that “The Rise of Skywalker” is a Disney film makes this writeup the first ever Disney review for ItsBlogginEvil. No, don’t fret. I’m not selling out my love for the gore, scream queens, and pint-sized productions for the mondo-glitzy, big budget Hollywood epics nor am I making a soft right turn into bloodless PG-13 commercial commodities, but, and this is a big atypical but, “Episode IX” needs to be heard from those outside on the fringes. “Episode IX” is perhaps the darkest film of the cross-generational saga alongside “Revenge of the Sith,” or at least a close second, and, so it be, Disney was gracious enough to provide us a Blu-ray review copy of the J.J. Abrams grand finale to an adventure that has trekked through 40 plus years of galaxy-conflict, saw countless different alien species, gave us more pew-pews than we could ever hope to hear, three different versions of Anakin Skywalker, and the phantasmic super powers of what is known as the Force, all of which is encompassed by a fascist, utilitarian power. Co-written with Abrams is “Argo” and “Justice League” writer Chris Terrio from a story co-written also by “Jurassic World’s” Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow.

“Episode IX” begins with Kylo Ren (“The Dead Don’t Die” and “BlacKkKlansman’s” Adam Driver) discovering a pyramid shaped device that’ll Mapquest his way to find the secret Sith location where a familiar evil figure from the past returns and has built a gigantic fleet over the last three decades. This time around, Kylo Ren’s less of a toddler in the throes of brain development as he’s embattled with guilt and choice. Adam Driver does nail the performance with solemnity in his last performance as the son of Leia and Han Solo. The story’s heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is also facing internal conflict with self-discovery as the prospect of knowing who she is sets her on a quest to discover her ancestry and what she might find might blur the sides of good and evil. The young actress who had a number short films and one horror title under her belt (“Scrawl”) before skyrocketing into “Star Wars” mythology returns to Rey as a Jedi hot off the Leia training course and thrusted immediately into the Force’s subconscious dark star, shielding her from the truth for fear of what may come of it. While Ridley shines, the Rey character sprints from, at this point in the Saga, point M to point Z, jettisoning much of the internal grappling to a mere blip on the ship’s internal sensors. Rey also feels entirely infallible, thrusting her character beyond the limits of mortality by completely overshadowing not only Kylo Ren, but also Emperor Palpatine. The other two new to the “Star Wars” crew, Poe (“Ex Machina’s” Oscar Isaac) and Finn (“Pacific Rim: Uprising’s” John Boyega), received similar shaft treatment of reworked characters from the original trilogy, possessing nothing new to offer. Poe a watered down version of Han Solo, a hot shot pilot who doesn’t understand the concept that together him and his fellow rebellious friends can defeat anything that stands in front of them; Lando Calrissian had to educate him with a bit of heart-to-heart exposition. However, Finn is perhaps the biggest undercooked character who has an inkling of Force within him that always simmers to the surface, but nothing is definite, nothing’s explained, and nothing is provided to perhaps the best known minority character in all of “Star Wars” behind Lando. Lastly, and I know the character write is up long and might be a little drawn out, Abrams really botched Carrie Fisher’s Leia that worked in awkwardly unused footage of the Princes/General from previous films. The simple and bland rhetoric used when Leia’s having a “conversation” with Rey is nearly painful to stand as Rey pours from an emotional spigot and all Leia can be, responsively, is cold, blank, and superficial. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Naomi Ackie, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Lupita Nyong’o, Joonas Suotamo, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Harrison Ford, and Greg Grunberg co-star.

I adore “Star Wars” as much as the next nerd who grew up between the first and second trilogy. The blending between science fiction, westerns, and samurai tropes speaks volumes on how engrained George Lucas made space come alive with larger-than-life gusto that appeased not only fans of space adventure and wonders, but also fans saturated inside the spaghetti westerns and those with an affinity for Akira Kurosawa films. Those genre bending tactics really brought the film community together to appreciate the novelly detailed miniatures that came to life and the eccentric, sometimes outlandish, characters like Han Solo, Jabba The Hunt, Boba Fett, and Leia in that scantily-clad slave girl bikini. Yet, “Episode IX” irks me, irks me hard, as the once innovate “Star Wars” has been placed into a bingo ball spinner to have it’s originality called out once again in one ginormous homage to see, again, the Emperor, who seems very high and mighty upon his throne of Sith muscle, pitted against a ragtag team of good doers and their champion quasi-Jedi who has to make a between benevolent freedom or a junta power. That’s not to say that “Episode IX” is a total sham of a finale. Fans will receive the totality of a “Star Wars” film complete with light saber clashes, space battles, and the beautiful, yet sometimes violent, different worlds that ships can hyper speed to in seconds. The visual and practical effects are bar-reached and awe-inspiring by means of thousands of ships clustered together, the dim-lit bars crowded with varied character creatures, and the speeders racing through canyons and sandpits become heart-pounding thrill rides of excitement. The introduction of new characters, like the amiable and smile-evoking bot technician Babu Frik, the former Poe co-spice trader and survivalist Zorii Bliss, and another ex-Storm Trooper, Jannah, forms that similarity bond with Finn, are new blood that delight when on screen. Yet, these new characters are shamefully underused as minuscule support that garners only a speck of adoring fandom but little else to the story’s plotline.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” comes home with a 2-disc Blu-ray and Digital Code release, sheathed inside a rigid slipcover, presented in 1080p, full high definition, widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Video is top shelf quality of everything a “Star Wars” film should be with colors and details galore that are arranged purposefully and perfectly to aesthetically please a contrast against the bleakness of space. The extensive line textures are seriously sharp and along with the vast special effects professions who model, shape, and digitally imprint the liveliness into the work, but there are instances, such as on the Sith home world, where the visual effect of an arena filled with distantly scoped blurry Siths dampens the moment of Rey’s endmost consignment. It looked and felt cheap and didn’t properly convey’s Rey’s loneliness against all odds. The lossless English language 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio caters to every pew-pew blaster sound, every ship zipping through space with an engine-like exhaust, and every electrical discharge of a light saber humming in the throes of dual. The dialogue, and Chewbacca’s guttural growls, are effervescently prominent with a natural tone and not commingled by the other tracks, making “Episode IX” some of the best sound work to date in any “Star Wars” film. Capping off the Saga soundtrack with the familiar John Williams robust overtone and coursed throughout an engaging orchestra that moves in synth with story’s dynamics. The bonus feature disc includes an over two-hour documentary entitled “The Skywalker Legacy,” a full length feature of orgasm supplementary regarding “The Rise of Skywalker” and diving deep into the mythos of “Star Wars'” history. Other bonus material includes the mechanics of creating a speeder chase on the Pasaana world, shooting in Jordan to utilize it’s dessert location to create an alien planet, exploring the D-O ship that’s new to the franchise, an interview with Warwick Davis who returns to “Star Wars” to once again don an Ewok character along with his son Harrison, and a cavalier look at the otherworldly creatures and highlighting those who play the part of these beings. For many, the book of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” has been closed as the final episode completely arcs the Skywalker story. Yet, for a few who wish to explore more, “Star Wars” is sought to be an open to a means for other characters to be explored, such as with The Mandalorian,” and, just maybe, that cute Babu Frik. “The Rise of Skywalker” exited in a cliche fashion, a warp drive to an already established and tiresome rehash of circumstances, while only supplying a healthy demand of star power and intense action inside a rapturous package overflowing to the brim with too much content and too little substance.

Complete the Saga! Amazon has “The Rise of Skywalker” on Blu-ray+Digital!

Evil Aliens, Zombies, Vampires, Cannibals, and a Nun with Guns! “Savage Creatures” reviewed! (ITN Distribution / DVD)


On God-fearing land, two young women drifters are shown compassion and hospitality by a religiously devout mother and son offering hot food, a shower, and a bed for the night. Their seemingly infallible generosity turns to violent deviancy as concealed motives of their cannibalism catches the women off guard that inevitably places the unsuspecting women literally on the chopping block, but the drifters are no ordinary, helpless prey but rather ancient vampires, wandering from one small town to the next, struggling to exist. Just when the bloodsuckers think the ordeal is over, a worldwide invasion of soul-sucking aliens aim to cleanse Earth of all inhabitants, turning those attacked by the beings into flesh-hungry crazies. Trapped inside the cannibals’ house, the vampires must save their human food source from completely being eradicated by an aggressive alien race with a conduit to possibly the Holy Father himself.

Talk about a full monty horror movie that has nearly everything but the kitchen sink! “Savage Creatures” is the 2020 released ambitious action-horror written and directed by Richard Lowry (“President Evil”) that serves up a platter of creativity ingenuity on a micro-budget while still outputting savagery, creatures, and an entertaining good time from start to finish. Lowry embodies inspired resourcefulness that reminisces the economically efficient horror credits of long time indie filmmaking entrepreneur Brett Piper (“Queen Crab”) and though serving as the filmmaker with many hats, composer, editor, director of photography, and visual effects, he also incorporates his own pleasurable schlocky devices as he shoots in the rocky rural regions of Pine Valley, Utah complete with isolated roads and mountainous views. The epically scaled “Savage Creatures” is a creature feature accomplished feat, try saying that ten times fast!

The two vampiric drifters, Rose and Ursula, serve as the story’s centralized characters played by Kelly Brook and Victoria Steadman respectively. Both actresses have worked with Lowry previously on his 2018 Armageddon-esque action-comedy, “Apocalypse Rising,” and familiar with his budgetary style, able to alleviate the pangs of severe funding limitations with some fundamentally respectable performances. Rose and Ursula are not only lovers, but lovers with a cavalier premise on life stemmed from the centuries of human evolving groundwork, shedding a light on questions that should be asked and pondered on in every day modern vampire story. The dynamic between Brook and Steadman strike the nerve sincerely with causal conversation, pressing upon their inevitable doom in between blowing off zombies heads and fragging flying aliens with crossbows as if they’re exacting some self-decompression through violence. Though Brook and Steadman are good and stable throughout, vet actor Greg Travis lands a the lauded performance of Father Cooper, a fanatical Irish priest on the run from the zombie horde. The “Humanoids from the Deep” and “Mortuary” actor goes full blown dogmatic with his theory of God being fed up with humanity and pulls off the extremely righteous and holy neurotic priest as an overboard affable character whose has to trust a couple of godless feminist vampires during apocalyptic mayhem. Rounding out the cast is Ryan Quinn Adams (“Before the Dark”), Cean Okada (“Bubba Ho-Tep”), and Kannon Smith as Sister Gigi, a mute nun with guns.

From the very beginning, “Savage Creatures” maintains a fiendish tempo of anti-heros and butchery. Even the soundtrack, though a relentless boor of stock action selection, plainly works to “Savage Creatures'” advantage one scene after another inside the scope of the sharp, periphery sublet moments to keep up with the breakneck pace. Lowdry’s sees little-to-no expositional sagging in the middle or on the bookends and diverts away from any hankering for a character story or background to fluff up worth-wild characters. With the exception of Rose and Ursula, who complain like boomers conversing upon reminiscing about the past on how easy times once were centuries ago to get away with murder before technology became an inconvenience, much of the cannibals, the priests and nun, and even the flying devil ay like aliens backstories don’t bubble to the surface. While typically these off the cuff details usually roll my eyes back into my skull to scour my brain for the minor moments in which I might have mistakenly missed something about a character backstory or just produce a hefty sigh of longing for more personal information on why this character does what they do, I found “Savage Creatures” uniquely isn’t symptomizing a distress of forgoing persona tell-all; instead, plays uncharacteristically to the obverse tune of an entertaining racket of head splitting, limb chopping, and with a hint of rampant gun akimbo.

Buyer beware! Don’t trust the cretinous DVD cover from ITN Distribution of appears to be Julian Sands from “Warlock” raging angrily with milky white eyes and standing over Cthulhu tentacles surrounding him in the foreground and silhouettes of bats are hovering over in front of a savior-esque crown moon in the background. Instead, trust your gut (or this review!) and see “Savage Creatures” on DVD home video presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Pine Valley, Utah never looked so picturesque in a clean transfer. The natural colors feel a bit faded and not as sharp that perhaps assists in blended Lowdry’s composited effects and practical creature design. The cabin night sequence has some noticeable banding, but isn’t a game changer. The English language Dolby Digital audio track is par for the course, running clean and clear dialogue, and satisfying a range of sounds. Depth’s tricky with Lowdry’s compositions that don’t hem neatly, especially when Rose and Ursula crossbow down aliens from a distance, the same cry of pain is utilized for each darted creatures, and the running stock soundtrack flutters in front and behind the gun play at times. DVD bonus material include a director commentary, behind-the-scenes with the actresses and crew, and a VFX breakdown, which I thought was neat to see how Lowdry layered his effects on a budget. Not listed as a bonus feature is the gag reel during the end credits. “Savage Creatures” enters 2020 as an all out brawl designed as a battle royal but with little bankroll; yet, director Richard Lowdry beats the odds, pinning out a win as the scathed champion of his latest apocalyptic caper!

“Savage Creatures” battle it out on DVD!

EVIL Must Be Broken In Before Being Used. “The Wheel” reviewed!


In the near future, paraplegic inmate Matthew Mills volunteers under pressure to join a Satoshi-Telefair Industries experimental treatment program that not only promises to reduce his sentence, but to also to regain mobility in his legs. With nothing more than the hope to return to his daughter, Mills is enticed by the agreement and gives himself to a shadow company who regularly contracts with the military, facilitating deep underground at an isolated site. Shortly after signing the release form, he awakes in a dark, steel cell known as The Wheel and is able to move his legs again, but the jubilation quickly subsides as armored men with batons visit his cell to beat and break his body in order for the nano technology, injected amongst his anatomy, to rebuild damaged tissue and make him stronger. The ordeal torments him, but to the researchers observing every detail of his recovery and behavior, Mills is just subject 2-1, another potential subject destined for the Future Soldier Initiative where the unethical testing must continue.

Shady shadow corporations, experimental nano-material rehabilitation and enhancement, and high level science fiction noir from writer James S. Abrams and director Dee McLachlan with 2019’s “The Wheel.” As if not already obvious from filmmaker’s nationalities, “The Wheel” is produced by and shot by Australian production companies SunJive Studios and Film Victoria, a state government agency that advocates funding and other filming assistances for shooting films in sectors of Victoria, Australia. “The Wheel’s” steely posture mirrors the frigid winter snow of Melbourne, Victoria’s covered forests that’s beautiful, yet deadly in the conventional beauty of nature. Yet, “The Wheel” delves into the meddling of what makes man and what also drives man as the story persists on the subject of redesigning the human body, but what that notion doesn’t take into account is what if the human body’s reactions doesn’t go as planed and a clapback ensues with all the synthetic re-wiring behind it? This is what Abrams and McLachlan intended to explore.

Australian actor Jackson Gallagher stars as Matthew Mills, a cripple with a purpose. The “Patrick” actor has been adrift from the darker roles since 2013 until up now with his main role in “The Wheel” that demanded a certain physicality that involved fight sequences with one, or two, or even three opponents and some ariel ropes work. The physically fit Gallagher not only survives the daunting workload, but hastily pulls Mills through his character’s tough transition from hopeful paraplegic to overly confident ultimate fighting weapon without an earnest core of struggle. The same can be said with Dr. Allison Turner played by Kendal Rae (“Out of the Shadows”). Turner’s a rogue researcher who had her practicing credentials revoked after the mistreatment of lab monkeys and was sought after by the Satoshi-Telefair for her detachment qualities, but her Turner’s character also didn’t quite arc properly and resembled a midway plateau from the moment Mills became her research subject. The only character that stayed the course was Dr. Emmett Snyder, a loyal Sataoshi-Telefair researcher to the bone. When he’s not suplexing or drop kicking in a championship wrestling match, David Arquette does dabble in acting. The “Scream” veteran actor fills in a rather unlikely antagonistic role, but the wild eye Arquette remains taut in his performance. “The Wheel” also costars Belinda McClory (“Matrix”). Christopher Kirby (“Daybreakers”), Victoria Liu, and Ben Still.

The spoke of the “The Wheel” rotates on a monotonic and frosty shoulder axle colored in gun metal and iced with dystopian immoralities. Every breathing element and inanimate objects is in a state of distant identity being bestowed labels in a combination of letters and numbers. The utilitarian wheel, an underground experiment facility that shifts rooms up and down and can be rotated to the other side, has no windows or any kind of necessary function other than to test subjects. Where “The Wheel” goes full “Equilibrium” by lacking emotional depth and substance without a coup d’état of the bleak authority, “The Wheel” also lacks vigor to break the blank uniformity and tries to speed through Mills patriarchal fluff to provide reason for his endurance and to provide reason for audiences to care. The epicenter theme to Mills motivation and escape is the thought of getting back to his daughter by any means necessary and was deemed fit to lay by the waist side to rely more on the hand-to-hand fighting like an overly glorified 70’s martial arts film.

Umbrella Entertainment distributes the sci-fi, action film, “The Wheel,” produced by SunJive Studios and Film Victoria onto a region free DVD home video. The clean digital picture in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, has a crisp demeanor that exact a bunch of natural lighting outside with a bit of a lower contrast inside dark “The Wheel” itself. What I found more appealing the anti-aliasing of the drone footage over the snowy covered Victoria forest, suggesting a higher bitrate compression that offers a seamless and smooth recording. The 5.1 English language Dolby audio is offered up with no whiff of an Australian accent in a lossless track that sounds good on the surround channels during action scenes. Dialogue is clear amongst the ample range and depth of ambient layers of researches watching and speaking through comms from inside a box watching another guy inside a box. Like other Umbrella releases, “The Wheel” has no special features nor a static menu. “The Wheel” has ice in the veins, but no warmth in it’s heart that seems vertically challenged on a horizontal slope of dystopian disorder.

The Wheel on DVD

When EVIL Becomes Obsolete, Its Time for an…”Upgrade” reviewed!


In the near future where assistive technology serves as the cultural way of life, a very manual Grey Trace still clings to being self-independent while his loving wife, Asha, laps up and embraces new and innovative tech. When an fatal shooting strikes down Asha and cripples Grey to an automated wheelchair, Grey is forced into a depressive world he no longer recognizes. Desperate to find his wife’s killers, he accepts experimental computer chip implant known as STEM to send the signals from his brain to his extremities; however, that is not all STEM can do. The smart technology can also scan, record, and reactive to all of Grey’s experiences, be a voice of knowledge, and enact super human abilities that will aid in Grey’s vengeance, but without much control over his own body, how much will Grey continue to use the smart device that becomes smarter every minute.

In a cinematic age when remakes, re-imaginings, and sequels really do rule supreme, a breath of innovation and compelling storytelling in Leigh Whannell’s 2018 science fiction, action-noir “Upgrade” is a technological advance that’s feels lightyears ahead in comparison. The “Saw” and “Insidious” writer, who indulges in all of horror’s gracious qualities, tackles the future with a synergetic and brutal vengeance film on indie-budget proportions; however, “Upgrade” feels no where near being low budget in a futuristic world that includes monochromatic self-driving cars, bio-weaponized forearms and hands, and a robotic protein shake slingers for those meal replacement pick-me-ups. With the assistance from Blumhouse Tilt, a Blumhouse production sublabel that seeks to release projects onto multi-platforms, Whannell gained freedom to script, in every sense of the world, his own vision of cyborg horror and crime thriller.

Logan Marshall-Green stars as Grey Trace, an analog man living comfortably in a digital world. Trace is a dying bred as the technology ecosystem slowly creeps into all that earned by hard work, even in his small classic car restoration business. The “Prometheus” star tackles a unique physicality aspect of an action film that involves the robotic responses of hand-to-hand combat while also being the emotional punching bag of pelted heartache and turmoil. Portraying his character as a man’s man, Marshall-Green has to find humility in not only unable to self-serve himself as a cripple, but then also rely on the one thing he withdrew himself from for help….a machine. “Upgrade” primarily focuses on Trace to even having the camera affix to his character during fight sequences, but though most of the narrative is through Trace’s vindictive narrative, a cascading effect of his destruction brings one of his nemesis’s into reactive defense. Fisk, Benedict Hardie from the upcoming remake of “The Invisible Man” that’s also directed by Whannell, is a mysterious soldier of fortune whose backstory, that salivates at the tip of the tongue to be told, is only sampled at best with his cybernetic implants or why he was even chosen to be a deadly, robotic killing machine. Perhaps Fisk’s backstory, and those of his fellow veteran comrades, are another misrepresentation or the maltreatment of veterans by conglomerate, privately owned tech and weapon companies that lean more toward involuntary experimentation rather over anything else that’s an allegory of owning a person, a piece of property, as we also see with STEM attached to Grey Trace’s spinal cord. “Upgrade” rounds out with performances from Melanie Vallejo, Harrison Gilbertson (“Haunt”), Betty Gabriel (“Get Out”), Kai Bradley, and Simon Maiden as the voice of STEM.

Shot in urban Melbourne that’s quasi-reflective of the gritty streets of Chicago, Leigh Whannell aimed for a fatalistic mystery that breaks down relationship barriers and sustains a punitive jurisdiction of grime. Whannell surely achieves the desired affect that goes from a classy futuristic society to the bottom barrel of human existences that have been tainted by the dark side of tech including addiction and dangers of being fully aware as a sanctioned being. “Upgrade” capitalizes on every inch of its capital to enlarge the quality of a miniature budget and utilizes local talent, who, aside from Logan Marshall-Green, never wane from their unnatural American English accents, to offer heartfelt human performances despite their mechanical transitions. “Upgrade” isn’t “Robocop” or “Nemesis,” but rather more “Terminator” where organic and inorganic don’t exactly coincide to benefit as a single entity. Unlike the autonomous killing machine portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, “STEM” acts like a computer virus working off commands, coding, and complex algorithms to infiltrate and deploy executions to subverse the man over the machine and Whannell’s concept brilliantly contextualizes that dynamic without having too much exposition to divulge and is easily computed without having to be deciphered from binary code.

Coming November 18th is Second Sight Film’s limited edition Blu-ray release of “Upgrade” presented in full HD, 1080p, and clocks in at 100 minutes under a region B UK coding. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for review and so I will not be critiquing the video or audio quality at this time so this review is solely about the film only. A static menu including chapters were available on the disc as well as bonus features including a commentary by writer-director Leigh Whannell, a new Second Sights’ interview with the director about his envisioning and how it came to fruition, more new interviews with producer Kylie Du Fresne, cinematographer Stefan Duscio, editor Andy Canny, and fight choreographer Chris Weir. All the interviews showcase depth with the material to their respective roles and opinions about “Upgrade.” Don’t think it necessary to refer filmmaker Leigh Whannell as the “Saw” guy now that “Upgrade” has completely overshadowed the franchise in a single sitting entertained with action, gore, and a heart-rendering story. Surely to be Whannell’s break out film from the horror genre.

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