Comic Book Vigilante Takes on Evil! “Robot Ninja” review!


The television adapted bastardization of his beloved illustrated Robot Ninja leaves comic book artist Lenny Miller with a bad taste in his mouth. His disgust with the direction angers him to part ways with the project, leaving the televised rights in the hands of a careless and uninspired studio crews and execs, but that won’t stop Miller’s creative juggernaut of the captivatedly violent, robot vigilante. Inspiration takes heart-rending form when Miller happens upon a roadside abduction and rape of a young couple where his attempt at a rescue ends tragic with the couple being brutally murdered and him severely injured, but with the help of his good inventor friend, Dr. Goodnight, the frustrated comic-book artist becomes the Robot Ninja, just as depicted in his comics, with a vengeful plan to hunt down the assailants and put a bloody end to their wrongdoing reign of terror. A good first night out ends with one thug dead and an ego boost for Miller, but Robot Ninja’s actions don’t deterrent crime and, in fact, crime hits back hard when not only Robot Ninja becomes the target, but also his friend Dr. Goodnight and innocent bystanders.

“Robot Ninja” is part one of an unintentional two part review segment about directors disowning their own cinematic handy work for X, Y, or Z reasons and while “Robot Ninja” was initially discarded by “Dead Next Door” writer-director J.R. Bookwalter due to poor post production that was essentially out of the filmmaker’s hands and a work print negative thought to have been lost for eternity, Tempe Entertainment foresaw the awesome potential for the late 80’s automaton avenger in an dual format ultimate edition after a unearthed work print surfaced and back into the Bookwalter’s hand to mend and correct his sophomore feature film! Forget Iron Man. Ignore Captain America. Incredible Hulk who? “Robot Ninja” is one of the only true comic book heroes from illustrations to to take a stand against crime passionately and not because if you have great power, there’s great responsibility.

Robot Ninja is the epitome of the combo character that could sway into either hero from the 1980’s, like in Paul Verhoeven’s “Robocop” and Amir Shervan’s “Samurai Cop,” or could even swerve straight up into the villain category though I have no examples floating around near the inner layers of my cerebral cortex, but the Robot Ninja bordered the very blurry gray lines of anti-hero status whether intentionally or not from the perspective you examine. The Robot Ninja character potentially could have set fire to the combo character direct-to-video cult underworld, but fell rather hard and flat on its face in the deadfall of the netherworld instead. None of film’s flaws or woes never sat its hampering weight upon the goldilocks graced shoulders of Michael Todd, who portrayed the clawed hand titular character. Todd’s enthusiasm for the role is beyond necessary, a real A for effort, into powering on Lenny Miller’s illustrated crime combatant. Lenny, aka Robot Ninja, vows to destroy, or rather disembowel, the local gang led by the ruthless Gody Sanchez, a she-devil aimed to please only one person – herself. Maria Markovic, another actor that’s in J.R. Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” circle, find herself in the antagonistic role in one of her sole two credits. Markovic’s acting chops are about as stiff as a board, but being surrounded by the right kind of thugs in James Edwards (“Bloodletting”), Bill Morrison (“Ozone”), Jon Killough (“Skinned Alive”), Rodney Shields, and Michael ‘D.O.C.’ Porter, Gody Sanchez is able to achieve par-level black heartedness. “Robot Ninja” round-kicks an uppercut class of actors such as Floyd Ewing Jr., Michael Kemper, the original Dick Grayson Burt Ward (“Batman” television series), the one and only Linnea Quigley (“Return of the Living Dead”), one of Sam Raimi’s entourage buddies Scott Spiegel, and Bogdan Pecic and the good Dr. Goodnight.

Without doubt, “Robot Ninja” was destined for the direct-to-video market and the quality of work obviously shows, but with flaws aside, the obscure 79 minute feature still manages to be a part of Bookwalter’s “Dead Next Door” universe full of gore, violence, and a distain for human nature despite briefly disavowing “Robot Ninja’s” mucked up existence for years. Subtempeco EFX, comprised of David Lange, Bill Morrison, and Joe Contracer, don’t exactly go cheap when Robot Ninja’s dual blades pierce and pop eye balls inside the skull of some punk or when Lenny’s patching up his injuries without as much flinching in pain, the open, surely is infected wound just pulsates with exploded flesh and blood. Bookwalter’s direction is hazy at times around the beginning with the dynamic between Lenny and his publisher that feels stagnant and irrelevant; however, the comic book scenes interwoven into the meatiest part of the story, the Robot Ninja action, is remarkably cool for a late 80’s budget gas.

Tempe Entertainment have outdone themselves with the region free ultimate edition DVD and Blu-ray combos set of “Robot Ninja” with a “painstakingly” restored 2k film scan from the original 16mm A/B roll cut negative and presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture is night and day compared to previous VHS and DVD releases that underwhelm director J.R. Bookwalter’s vision. The vast color palette of various lighting and color schemes during the dream sequences have been gracefully corrected and the contrast has been restored to lighten up the much of the darker, almost unwatchable scenes. Good looking and unobtrusive natural grain from the 16mm stock and the re-edit makes a difference that finally seems cuts together without causing some confusion. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound is entirely new construction from Bookwalter and the lossless tracks have ample range and depth, balanced nicely throughout, and have little-to-no distortion or other imperfections. English and Spanish subtitles are also included. A slew of bonus material on both formats include audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, Matthew Dilts-Williams of Phantom Pain Films, producer David DeCoteau, James L. Edwards, Scott Plummer, David Lange, David Barton, Doug Tilly and Moe Porne of The No-Budget Nightmare. J.R. Bookwalter also has a 21 minute segment about the whole start-to-finish journey with restoring “Robot Ninja,” a Linnea Quigley retrospect on her small role experience in the film, an interview with Scott Spiegel, a location tour with Benjamin Bookwalter, “The Robot Ninja” fan film from 2013 with introduction by director Johnny Dickie, artwork and promotional material, behind the scenes gallery, production stills, “Robot Ninja” unmasked featurette, rough cut outtakes, TV show promo, newscast outtakes, the original VHS release trailer, and Tempe trailers, plus much more. Lets not also forget to mention the stunning cover art by Alex Sarabia, Carol Chable, and David Lange and a new title sequence also by David Lange. Tempe Entertainment’s ultimate edition of “Robot Ninja” is a thing of beauty that should be seen by all who love campy, Sci-Fi horror flicks with grisly skirmishes and intense tragedy in every corner. The restoration work “Robot Ninja” is founded on absolute love, a rare concept seen for direct-to-video features so you know this film must be something special – a true redemption story.

Restored "Robot Ninja" on DVD!

Merry Evil Xmas! Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas review!

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Just in time for the 2013 holiday season comes Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas the sophomore sequel the original film humbly titled Caesar & Otto. Caesar and his half brother Otto embark on a religious cause to become a traveling Santa Claus and his buddy elf. Another Santa has other plans as the bodies of Caesar & Otto’s friends begin to pile up from his deranged thirst for blood. As the blood flows, Caesar & Otto’s oblivious nature doesn’t leave them one clue to the chaos that has been ensuing.
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The indie horror comedy is a large homage to the genre that references mainly back to Silent Night, Deadly Night and just like Silent Night, Deadly Night, Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas comes off just as cheesy as Cheez Whiz to where most scenes are not very funny and where very few scenes give a good chuckle. The main characters are whimsical, but immature to the point where the comedy makes my take teeth grit together painstakingly.

Dave Campbell directs, pens, and stars as Caesar and his love for horror shines through into his work, but Campbell also has his hand in editing and the his editing work leaves the film feeling too fast pace that if you look down for a second or blink your eyes, you’ll end up missing an entire sequence or a key part of the film. Also, I’ve never seen the previous two films, Caesar & Otto nor Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre, and there feels to be that some portions of the movie carried over into Deadly Xmas. I was waiting for a flashback sequence or something else that would reference what had happened previously, but nothing came about leaving more confusion.
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Like a good homage, Deadly Xmas involves a lot of great horror icons that also made an appearance in Summer Camp Massacre as well. Slumber Party Massacre’s Brinke Steven’s, Return of the Living Dead’s Linnea Quigley, Sleepaway Camp’s Felissa Rose, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, and Soultaker’s Joe Estevez make a b-list guest cameo appearance. Kaufman’s scene was particularly the funniest of them all, but I don’t want to discredit the others as they have bring something special to the Campbell’s film even with Joe Estevez making light and spoofing Doctor Phil with Doctor Pheel!
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Wild Eye releasing and MVDVisual bring Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas to life with some really good appeasing art work that will sure attract attention to the Christmas horror genre. Check out the bonus features that include alternate scenes, behind the scene featurette, a short film entitled Piggyzilla, another short film entitled Otto’s First Job, trailers, and a bonus short film starring Maniac Cop’s Robert Z’dar entitled The Perfect Candidate.

Strippers aren’t evil! Stripperland review!

In all my days I would never consider the exotic profession of a stripper to be a bad thing.  These (sometimes) youthful ladies contribute to society just like the rest of us and perform a gentleman’s entertainment that will forever be the loner’s safe-haven and open ear to deaf, faux sympathizers.  Director Sean Skelding sees the pole dancing society to be the evilest place on the face of the earth as his film, Stripperland, has strippers from all shapes and sizes, dolled up in cheesy outfits, run an undead amok eating the guts of the living and mindlessly dancing to hip-hop music.

Idaho is an annoying college kid who lives by a set of exotic dancer rules that help him survive a world of undead, flesh eating strippers.  He meets Frisco, a man on a mission to destroy every stripper that steps in his path and to fulfill an obsession for home made baked goods, and they embark on a journey to Oregon, but before they arrive, West and Virginia, two uninfected females, trek with them in search for their Grambo.

Sean Skelding has a vision and that vision is to recreate that vision in a parody.  Stripperland parodies Ruben Fleischers’s 2009 Zombieland and, in all honestly, doesn’t do it very well.  Having strippers only come back to life to eat the living doesn’t make much sense to me; to have them dance to hip-hop music and crave one dollar bills as a distraction ploy has the same effect.  I get it, Skelding, Strippers are the epitome of mindless drones who seek nothing but sparkly objects, a fistful of George Washingtons and just want to dance all night long.  This concept could have been done with another storyline; why use Zombieland’s premise?  Stripperland isn’t a soul sucker of only Fleischer’s zomedy as it mocks a bit of Zombie Strippers (for obvious reasons) and Romero’s Day of the Dead (with Thom Bray as Dr. Logan).

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