In the year 2027, enhanced humanistic cyborgs virtually run the planet with the renowned L.A.P.D. being no exception. Alex Rain, one of L.A.’s finest brute cops, is partially cyborg himself, but the essence of his soul remains human intact while his synthetic flesh cloaks the icy machine beneath. After tracking down suspected cyborg terrorists and almost losing his life in the struggle to stop them, Alex questions his dwindling humanity, leading him down a path of unfulfilling revenge and botched smuggling before his former employer, the L.A.P.D. commissioner named Farnsworth, tracks him down and uses deadly coercion to force Alex as a pawn in dangerous covert mission. The burnt out cop is thrusted back into the fray of his former life when Farnsworth orders him to retrieve data from the treacherous female cyborg, Jared, who was once Alex’s partner and lover, before she hands over the sensitive information to a group of cyborg terrorists who call themselves The Red Army Hammerheads. With a micro bomb implanted near his heart as insurance, Alex has no choice but to accept the assignment before detonation in 3 days and with his time running out, finding Jared isn’t the problem as Alex comes to realize that deception has convoluted the stakes and nothing is who or what they seem.
Albert Pyun’s 1992 cyberpunk action-thriller “Nemesis” is an explosive-heavy, science fiction existentialism film never before seen, or even aware of, by this reviewer, but the ground-worked narrative has remained a constant piece of foundation in being the byproduct of inspiration extracted from other cyberpunk films of its kind, such as “Robocop,” “Blade Runner,” and “The Terminator.” “Nemesis” has a presence much to the tune of another film, “Cyborg,” starring John-Claude Van Damme and that inclination would inevitably make a world of sense when the awe-striking epiphany lands that Pyun also directed that film, also utilizing some of the same actors for his early 90’s cybernetic dystopian feature. In reviewing Pyun’s credits, the assumption can be made that the filmmaker has a sturdy hard-on for the intertwining of mankind and machine as not only did the director write and direct “Cyborg” and helmed “Nemesis,” but went on to be a part of, whether director, writer, or producer, of four more “Nemesis” sequels with a fifth being produced and shot, but scrapped in post-production due to Pyun’s flailing mental health. Rebecca Charles fed the scribal beast as “Nemesis’” screenwriter, along with penning “Nemesis 2: Nebula” and “Nemesis 3: Time Lapse.”
Alex Rain is a cold cut character, sliced thick like a cool cucumber on top of a hard to wedge salad. Rain’s iciness symbolizes his downtrodden humanity status and with each part of his body shattered from destruction, he becomes one step closer to being an automaton with eye brows. B-movie action star Olivier Guner essentially make a big career breakthrough with “Nemesis” as his sophomore feature. Guner’s military background suitably solidifies his physique as a workaholic cyborg cop while also presenting a rough cut speech impediment that’s very straight forward and without emotion. Some would say that Gruner’s approach fits his half-human, half-toaster oven character and I would say that would be correct. The 80’s and 90’s saw a crowded entry list of action stars, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many others in various degrees of success – and Olivier Gruner became one of those faces that had since then been lost over the years; Gruner’s performance in “Nemesis” lacked pizazz which could have been the contributing factor to his success, but the monotonic, unflattering one-liners and blank face stare didn’t spark any fires on top of his average muscular frame. His performance, to keep with the fire motif, didn’t provide the oxygen, a combustible, or a flammable source to quickly set ablaze a trail for semi-popularity amongst his peers and that’s where “Nemesis” falters in entertainment value. Comparatively, “Trancers” franchise actor, Tim Thomerson, is full of range and vigor as an concealing Commissioner Farnsworth. Thomerson, in his early 40’s at the time of filming, displayed an impressive physicality to his role, keeping up nicely with his onscreen rival. Farnsworth, from the get-go, reeks of desperation when pressuring Alex to do his bidding and Thomerson really nails the part and can switch on the proverbial dime as an egocentric field operative when chasing Alex through the jungles on the Hawaii set. The night and day performance is a stark contrast between the two actors. What’s mostly disappointing about “Nemesis’” cast that favorable characters come and go; some the characters a pinned with terrific actors such as Shang Tsung himself, “Mortal Kombat’s” Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, as the leader of The Red Army Hammerheads and the late, great Brion James (“Red Heat”) chirping a lousy German accent of the Commissioner’s right hand man. The cast has many other recognizable names that, again, come and go, including a strung out looking Merle Kennedy (“Night of the Demons 2”) as Max Impact, Marjorie Monaghan as the algorithmic beauty Jared, Vincent Klyn (“Cyborg”) as a disposable bodyguard, an extremely fit and nude Deborah Shelton (“Body Double”), voice actor Nicholas Guest (“Dollman”), brief cameo by Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”), a fresh faced version of “The Predator’s” Thomas Jane, and Thomas Jane’s bare ass.
The financial backing was obviously designated for a particular department in the “Nemesis” workshop and that department was special effects. Explosions, rotoscoping, stop-motion, sculpture, implosions, practical effects and makeup are just the tip of the iceberg. Frayed wires and eye ball cannons are the elegant touch that makes “Nemesis” a cult favorite and bring substance to a clunky storyline and divisively dynamic acting. However, not all the specials are pinpoint precision and grounded by reality. The one scene that stands above the rest when Farnsworth is hot in pursuit of Alex and Max and he’s shelling off rounds of a shotgun, standing relatively still, blasting away without moving the barrel around to compensate for his prey’s length of distance gained or even when they decided to make quick pivots in direction. Somehow, the rounds hit very close to Alex and Max and that’s not all, they even explode like a single stick of TNT. ACME must have had a hand in the special effects department because the scene sure was loony. Yet, the implosion of a monolithic silo was uber-impressive, well-executed, and really ritzy for the silver screen.
Imperial Entertainment’s “Nemesis” infiltrates onto another home video release, a region free, dual DVD and Hi-Def 1080p Blu-ray format release, from MVDVisual under their MVD Rewind Collection series. Sheathed by a slick, retro-grade slipcover with familiar art, reminiscent of the now decade old Sterling DVD release, the special collector’s edition provides two aspect ratios, an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 and a widescreen 1.78:1. This MVDVisual Release has stellar detail in the texture and in framing that are exhibited in various tint shades, such as yellow and blue, and eventually cough up toward a more natural look into the second act when Alex reaches the rough neighborhood of Shang Loo, Java. Even though the visual compositions and mold work doesn’t pop with color and are a bit fuzzy, “Nemesis” is a product of it’s time, the early 1990’s and you can’t fault Pyun’s film for that. The English 5.1 surround sound is beautiful. So beautiful and potent, in fact, that you can actually understand Olivier Gruner’s mumbling, putting dialogue for all characters right into the front row while offering a stimulating range and depth of ambience sound, an unlimited variety of explosions, and plenty of miscellany cyborg hubbub. Other language are available, including French, German, as well as English in 2.0 stereo and there are English and German SDH subtitles available The Blu-ray bonus features include new interviews with producer Eric Karson and director Albert Pyun, “Nemesis 2.0” the director’s cut with Albert Pyun audio commentary, and original theatrical trailer. The DVD is the director’s cut and also includes the Japanese cut with Japanese subtitles burnt-in. Bonus features for the DVD include introductions by the director Albert Pyun and star Olivier Gruner, an afterword by Albert Pyun, a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with star Olivier Gruner, the making of segment involving the hefty special effects, stunt work, and visual effects, a featurette entitled “Killcount,” a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, TV spots, Key Art Photo gallery, and, top it all off, a mini-poster inside the casing. Inside a killer definitive, two-format and disc set from MVDvisual, “Nemesis” hones in on the existentialism notion of what being human actually means to each and every one of us through the bombardment of gun fights and jumbo explosions on top of a conglomerate cyborg coup that peaks with hard bodies and even harder viewer contemplation.
Nuclear war had demolished the quiet rural areas harboring bio-engineering plants and has crumbled societies in a post-apocalypse. The nuclear fallout caused a deadly bacteria to thrive and spread amongst the region, wiping out millions of lives in its path. A group of scientists seek to rebuild the devastated population by devising a plan to send an electromagnetic pulse that will directly input inhibitors in the brain to block the bacteria from overwhelming a dwindling human race, but the success of the pulse came with a severe cost involving the death of every child on the planet. Also embedded in the pulse is a mind altering virus that encoded itself into every person’s brain to act as a mind control device. The only person virally immune, a fallout survivor, is a struggling father, Jake Slater, trying to protect his adolescent daughter, Molly, at all cost as she’s the only child left on Earth due in part to her father’s immunization. Malevolent creators behind the virus aim to get their hands on Molly and experiment on her immunization before inevitably releasing upon the world a much more sinister version of the virus from the pulse tower that only Jake can destroy.
“Blue World Order” is the martial arts, post-apocalyptic, science fiction flick from first time feature directors Ché Baker and Dallas Brand. Baker and Bland co-wrote the screenplay with Sarah Mason that flaunts a major concept, perhaps better suited as a major Hollywood studio concept, but wouldn’t quite cross that threshold of positive public opinion stemmed from cramming too much into the a non-stop, action-packed contiguous acts laid simply out to illuminate an aged old theme of power hungry Government against meager do-right resistance. To further add on top of all that doesn’t feel right about this film, we’ve all seen this film before or, perhaps, a similar rendition of it. The 1989 Jean-Claude Van Damme film, one of many Van Damme guilty pleasures, “Cyborg,” blends martial arts with a futuristic wasteland decimated by a deadly plague and while the gritty and dark “Cyborg” carries itself vastly different from Bland and Baker’s more flashy and glossy approach, the story’s core is virtually the same with oppositions desiring to save the world for an interior motive.
Since this is an Australia production set on location in Australia, seems like a no brainer that Melbourne born actor, Jake Ryan (“Wolf Creek” the television series), would snatch the lead of Jake Slater. Ryan’s beefy build and rugged appearance have him a prime candidate for a hero, a fighting father, in a world in turmoil, but the way the film’s edited, Ryan comes off a bit aloof and a droll warrior. Ryan is joined by a few other familiar Australians and New Zealanders such as Jack Thompson (“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), Bruce Spence (“Mad Max”), and Stephen Hunter (“The Hobbit” trilogy) as a screw loose rebellion leader with a awful martial arts stand-in that dons a lighter shade wig. There’s also Billy Zane. Zane, a native of Illinois, has a knack for hitching himself onto foreign products; his last venture we reviewed was a Greek production entitled Evil – In the Time of Heroes, but Zane’s a remarkable actor whose able to morph into the essence of any character, especially characters that sport lopsided power like his character Master Crane, a martial arts instructor turned catastrophic savior post-fallout. The cast rounds out with newcomer Billie Rutherford, Kendra Appleton, and Bolude Fakuade.
One headache smoldering as a consistent motif throughout is the lack of character development. Before his calling as the one to save humanity, a dream sequence exposition touches upon Jake Slater’s time before nuclear war. Slater’s seen engaging in a friendly, if not slightly competitive, martial arts bout with instructor Master Crane. The two have an important, intrinsic history, involving Jake contracting a debilitating disease and able to bounce back with rehab through Master Crane’s teachings, that goes sorely unexplored. Most likely, the lack of development can be a direct result of the aforementioned with too much jammed into an already cluttered heap that jumps from one thought to the next without a proper seque. Even the introduction and the removal of characters has a nauseating sway. For example, when Stephen Hunter’s Madcap is introduced, he suddenly runs up to a fleeing Jake Ryan and the overweight, disheveled, rambler is able to best the physically fit, martial arts instructed, desperate father in more than one occasion. More instances like these can be exploited throughout, but we could be here all day breaking down the details or lack there of.
Random Media delivers Ché Baker and Dallas Brand’s fantasy-action “Blue World Order” onto DVD and VOD nationwide. A DVD-R screener was provided and can’t officially comment on the presentation or the audio tracks, but if there’s one issue to be said about the image quality, the special effects are horrendously Sy-Fy channel cheap with superimposed flames reaching six feet high in a monolithic-like pose. With effects like that, the indie Sci-Fi picture’s intended purpose is to solely entertain on a round house kick and uppercut punch level and not to invoke too much thought into a series of concepts. Instead, to sell the next Billy Zane installment, the selling point long shot of a “Back to the Future” Delorean car chase through the Australian desert is nice and attractive and proven to work. Shoddy blaster sounds and crumbling CGI put the last few straggling nails into “Blue World Order’s” vast coffin for a film that aimed really high for the bar but missed really low with unfocused material and devastating plot holes on a world-ending scale.
A young group of phony ghost ass kickers who call themselves Paranormal Activity Security Squad, aka P.A.S.S., setup a reality show to earn quick cash from gullible callers. When the calls for help trickle into their call center, aka their garage, P.A.S.S. eagerly answers the call, but they become intertwined into the sinister plot orchestrated by a real nasty demon named Vladimir Van Housin. Now, they must obtain the assistance of a slightly unorthodox, if not totally narcissistic, sorcerer, a brutishly strong Asian man-child, and the loyalty to each other to stop the powerful Van Housin demon from entering their world, tilting their very existence.
“P.A.S.S.” is either the prime candidate for the schlock of Troma or needs to be seriously considered by Jonathan Turell, CEO of The Criterion Collection, for upscaled distribution with all the bells and whistles. To be honest, my initial thought was another stupid horror-comedy with bathroom jokes while camera focusing a lot on Katie Heidy’s Wrench character’s cleavage. Lots of cleavage I can deal with, but when Rigan Machado’s dimwit character dumps a log out of his brown soaked whitey-tighties and then proceeds to pick it up and eat it, I nearly gave up on P.A.S.S….and eating anything…ever. But I continued to watch. And watch. And watch. And the more I watched, the more I witnessed untapped creativity and enigmatic entertainment that kept me enthralled to the cliffhanging end.
Among nearly all the other credits for P.A.S.S., writer, director, and star Alex Wraith has astronomical vision, using his galactic gonads to implement slight rotoscope technology and practical specials effects that develop a wicked comic world of insane determination. “P.A.S.S.” breaks all the laws of filmmaking. When a film attempts to homage an untouchable classic, in this case Ivan Reitman’s “Ghostbusters,” the project nearly gets blacklisted by fans. If you don’t believe me then check out the critical responses to this year’s “Ghostbusters” remake. Wraith’s film incorporate’s the humorously stiff commercial, the transformed hearse, and a team of four amateurs that all attach itself to the beloved Bill Murray comedy while also adding in public domain footage of retro horror from “Night of the Living Dead” to Ted Browning’s “Dracula” in the montage introduction and seriously ripping Star Wars. Wraith and some of his cast aren’t exactly newbies to the Hollywood game with Wraith having minor roles in “Savages” and “Taken 3,” and Sean Stone in also “Savages” and “Wall Street.” Katie Heidy and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s daughter, Bianca Bridgitte Van Damme, bring the squad’s, if not the movie’s overall, sex appeal while Dale C. Reeves portrays an awesome antagonistic spawned from hell demon who can’t be defeated and who also looks like Darth Maul. Don’t miss appearances by Dawna Lee Heising and “Amateur Pornstar Killer” director Shane Ryan!
Aforementioned, the rotoscope and practical effects are not top shelf material, but achieve a otherworldly sensation and set the tone for the film’s kooky and demented nature. Wraith loved to overuse the lens flare which works favorably for the world he was trying to create. Also, at some point in time in the duration, I felt as if I was inside the video game series “Twisted Metal.” Perhaps because three of our heros were pitted against a evil clowned-faced giant reeking havoc in an alternative universe. I truly believe this piece of work is a look into the warped mind of some very open minded individuals who eager seek to spill their madness onto paper and onto the big screen.
“P.A.S.S.” feels rightfully inexpensive due to Wraith and his team’s self funding, but the finished product reveals a smartly written script and some superb editing that keep the laughs rolling and the craziness fresh, turning up the intensity dial to beyond the max! I’m unable to critique the entire package as I was handed a screener link to review and I believe “P.A.S.S. has yet to find home distribution, but the handheld camera footage for the squad’s reality show looks amazing even if purposefully hectic at times and the audio is equally as clear and as balanced. Check out “Paranormal Activity Security Squad” wherever the film ends up and, I promise you, this film kicks not only demon ass, but the ass of many independent movies.