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.
After suffering the tremendous loss of her in-home hospice cared mother, Theresa descends into an inescapable state of grief and severe isolation inside her mother’s woodland home. Stumbling through life, she manages to show up at work, a cannabis distributor in town, with the verbal encouragement from her eccentric boss, but Theresa’s mind can’t grasp the reality of the situation and loses focus resulting in another tragic loss when she mistakenly hands over fatally potent pot to the incorrect customer, subsequently a friend. Along with grief and isolation, guilt comes into the fold and she begins lighting up her own stash of mind altering cannabinoids that thrust her mindset into disjointed delusions and sleepless strolls through the forest.
“Woodshock” is the 2017 drama thriller directed by two sisters: Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Credited as their freshman film, the Mulleavy sisters embark on an internal, unhinged perspective from their main character, Theresa. With that in mind, the filmmakers’ use of nature has both a symbolic and practical substance that paints the inner workings of Theresa’s thought process. Shot on location surrounded by the giant red oak trees of Northern California puts Theresa, this tiny human being, right smack dab in the middle of ginormous towers of pure ancestral nature and unable to fathom the full scope of the trees metaphorically explores how Theresa is unable to fully comprehend the overwhelming amount of emotions she ultimately succumbs to that lead her down a darker path. Nature, whether trees, butterflies, or, more so in general, landscapes, becomes a familiar motif throughout the film with the trees being the most repetitive aspect being exhibited in numerous scenes of being harvested by loggers, stripped and stored at mills, and lingering remnants of their once intact past.
“Melancholia’s” Kirsten Dunst fully embraces the role of Theresa with her mind, body, and soul by not holding back in a role that demands more of a solitary, voiceless performance blanked with grief. Dunst nails it with ease. Accompany the Sam Raimi “Spider-Man” actress is Denmark born Pilou Asbæk as the pot dispenser shop owner Keith who conspires to work out deals with his special customers in need of once and for all ceasing the pain of ailment. The dynamic between the two is hot and cold as the sensation of tension is always present even if the dialogue is not. Asbæk’s Keith actually drives the plot, creating situations that put Theresa in a dilemma inducing pickle and he certainly takes advantage of her grief. Asbæk smug performance couldn’t get anymore complex as he portrays an arrogant, hippie-esque pot shop entrepreneur in a small Washington state town, but exhibits a softer side, especially for his friends and for Theresa, at times. Joe Cole (“Green Room”), Steph DuVall (“Scanner Cop”), and Jack Kilmer costar.
“Woodshock,” as a whole, attempts to grapple too much in the dimension of the subliminal. The Mulleavy sisters focus on symbolizing and using metaphors rather than being straight shooters to communicate Theresa’s internal struggle and between the montage of trees, the vibrant visuals, the double exposures, and various angles of a single action, there’s a choke that occurs, making apprehension hard to swallow. The siblings also display their inexperience at times. Despite completing impressive artistic visuals and able to create some slight movie magic as independent filmmakers, the directors’ choice to keep scenes from being cut and left on the editing room floor are questionable. One example would be Keith in the bar, moving his arms in a slow, locomotive motion, listening to a mellow track on the jukebox This scene is late is near the latter part of the film and doesn’t convey anything more about the character than already established with no transition scene to provide any kind of setup, background, or foreshadowing.
Lionsgate Films presents “Woodshock” onto a slip-covered High Definition, 1080p Blu-ray plus Digital HD. The MPEG-4 AVC encoded BD-25 disc has an widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 that’s conventionally stable. Faint grain filters through, but this could be an intentional cinematography tactic. The English DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t wired to pair with such slow, mellow storyline that doesn’t have a range to fully test the HD quality except for invigorating Peter Raeburn’s enlightening hodgepodge score. The dialogue track is muddled and nearly unintelligible by the overshadowing score. Bonus material includes “Making Woodshock: A Mental Landscape” that opens up Kate and Laura’s intentions in expressing Theresa as a character, their style in filmmaking, and to up sell their cast and crew. “Woodshock” is an artistic visual stimulation with no rival, but Kate and Laure’s inexperience emanates through more than their subliminal sub-contexts. Kirsten Dunst marvelously challenges herself that inarguably gives her even more of a range as an actress that only proves her ability to not be a one trick pony in and out of Hollywood.
Living free from job responsibilities and able to workout whenever he wants, body builder Naoto is living the high life. His daily workout is interrupted by his former photojournalist ex-girlfriend in search of the next haunted house for her latest article and she calls Naoto to inquire his father’s old, creepy home that’s now in Naoto’s possession. Accompanied by a professional psychic, the three conduct a house call to get a presence reading and take pictures of the rundown, abandoned home. They find themselves trapped inside with Naoto’s father’s darkest secret malevolently toying with them and holding them hostage with her cursed power bestowed upon her death, 30 years ago, forsaken to her by the hands of Naoto’s fahter.
In 2014, first time director Shinichi Fukazawa’s endearment for Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” has encouraged the filmmaker to tribute a film that has dubbed “The Japanese Evil Dead.” With all the depictions of Raimi’s film, including from a shotgun, an axe, and even a severed sarcastic-spewing mangled demon head, “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” views just as good as the sounds. Taking his film to the next level by going back in a time warp, Fukazawa de-amplifies the image quality with a lo-fi flare that adds chaotic charm bathed in retro-VHS vision as every desaturated hue and blanket of coarse grain is a step back in time. Fukazawa implements his own sturdy brand of macabre to branch his version of “The Evil Dead.” For instance, Fukazawa removes the Necronomicon, the book of the dead, all together. Instead, the director doesn’t forth put an outright explanation behind the cause of the cursed’s murderous revenge other than holding a jealous grudge and the lack of motivation is okay because “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a modern day video nasty.
Shinichi Fukazawa, himself, stars as Naoto, suffering every ding, boink, and bop as our hapless hero that’s aims to strike similarities to Ashley “Ash” Williams and his gift of being the king of Three Stooges foolishness. Fukazawa plays a more conservative character in comparison, but does manage spit out memorable one-liners made genre famous by Bruce Campbell, like “groovy.” THe lead actress, Asako Nosaka, holds her own as a lovely damsel in distress who can double on a dime as a Mike Tyson speed bag puncher. The trapped pair make a convincingly distressed protagonists, especially in such a small Japanese home that’s the equivalent to a cabin in the woods. Last on the roster is Masaaki Kai filling in the psychic’s shoes and conjures an performance that’s could fit right in with the Kandarian Cheryl, Scott, Linda, and Shelley demons.
“Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a 2014 effects driven, blood hungry roller coaster of pure mayhem entertainment. The ingeniously creative special effects, on a shoe string budget, are made of eye-popping, skull-crushing, and limb-parting goodness that every horror fan can appreciate and love. The lo-fi cinema and melancholy horror fixes to not impress those who have a taste for the CGI eye candy and won’t knock your socks off with the latest and greatest technological, animated advances in effects that attempts to mock real life, but accomplishes the opposite in the fabricated grindhouse reel with overexposures and rough edges that are more fitting for the subject matter. Fukazawa does embody Raimi’s creative editing and angle vision that makes Fukazawa’s film feel very attached to “The Evil Dead” franchise.
The well-meshed video nasty mingles Japanese culture with a loving tribute to Raimi’s “The Evil Dead” franchise and kicks off Shinichi Fukazawa’s most interesting silver screen career. Terracotta Distribution’s “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” is a tightly packed 62-minute joyride with squirrelly, demented demons with heavy emphasis on the blood and the gore. Image quality is poor and that’s a good thing! The low-tech fullscreen and unrefined quality are a tall-tell sign of a SOV gruesomeness surrounded by a fuzzy Japanese dual channel stereo. Extras includes a Graham Humprey time lapsed video of him creating his DVD artwork, a behind-the-scenes gallery, a dismemberment of scene clips, and Japanese and Terracotta trailers bringing up the tail end. “Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell” packs a punch, delivers the death, and gorges itself in the gore in this UK DVD from Terracotta Distribution! and is a lovely blend of comedy, horror, and praise that’s powerfully short and sweet from a freshman director who aims to make a statement while giving appreciation in his own culturally established way.
Ash is back! The chainsaw for a hand, fouled mouth, Deadite destroying retail stock boy returns to face Evil with his boomstick once again after the last monstrous incident some 30 years ago. Trying to stay under the radar and not make waves amongst the ignorant living, Ash has sunk low into the drunken and fat state of barely living until he accidentally reads from the pages of the Necronomicon during a night of irresponsible reefer madness. Now, evil forces thrust Ash into an impossible position to which he’s unable to remove himself from and with the help of his enthusiastic co-worker Pablo, a loyal immigrant sidekick, and the pessimistic Kelly, the orphaned daughter of Deadite victims, Ash and his gun-toting, ass-kicking haphazardness crew will take the terrifying show on the road, tracking down a way to destroy this Evil and the Necronomicon before it swallows the world and release a demonic wrath that’s never been seen before!
Many horror fans thought the day would never come. A number of us believed the rumors were a myth, a hoax, or a bamboozling viral campaign set forth to stir up fandom and the water cooler conversation. Then, a trailer was released and Starz! brought “Evil Dead” back to audiences’ who wanted to relive the the havoc Kandarian demons, to an audience who wanted to expand more upon the mythology of Sam Raimi’s epic hero, and delivered to an audience who don’t even know who Bruce Campbell, the legend, is and why he’s important to the horror community.
“Ash vs Evil Dead” blends seamlessly into the series’ saga, pitting once again our chainsaw wielding hero against a body-possessing force that’s more vicious and blood thirsty than ever. Any and every soul is up for the shredding and ripping grabs when Kandarian demons are concerned while also new, unseen variations of Kandarian demons make a fashionably late appearance. This time around is slightly different than before as, unlike Ash and his unlucky bunch caught in evil’s clutches, Ash has willing assistance in Pablo and Kelly to form a battle trio and take on this evil head on. Ray Santiago (Pablo) and Dana DeLorenzo (Kelly) are a fresh contrast to an aging Bruce Campbell, but Campbell pizzaz and rudimentary quick-wit dialogue manages to steal the scenes. Campbell, Staniago, and DeLorenzo are joined by a fourth; an actress reuniting with Bruce Campbell from long ago in her own fantastical series “Xena: Warrior Princess.” None other than Xena herself Lucy Lawless dons a mysterious Ruby Knowby who holds a deeper understanding of Necronomicon.
Sam Raimi also makes his grand and spectaculr return to his rightful spawn. Raimi, Campbell, and long time Evil Dead collaborator Robert Tapert’s production company Renaissance Pictures, along with Starz!, are the chief production companies on the television series that was originally meant to be the third sequel installment of the “Evil Dead” franchise. However, the zany-comical horror writing and directorial style that only Sam Raimi can deliver was reproduced for the first episode of season one to recreate the devilish “Three Stooges” slapstick atmosphere bred for a brooding, yet hysterical, Starz original series. A handful of directors take the helm of nine more episodes after Raimi, with one of the “Xena: Warrior Princess” directors Rick Jacobson being the most recognizable name among the list, and once the story expands further into the season, a loss of slapstick buffoonery that trademarks Raimi so very well is lost, but doesn’t slow down the blood spattering carnage.
Starz! and Anchor Bay Entertainment’s 2-disc Blu-ray edition of “Ash vs Evil Dead” season one is available today at your local or online retailer! Presented in a HD 1080p widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio with an English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and a Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0 mix, the 10-episode, 294 minute runtime, unlimited goriness will soak into your funny bones right before shattering them into axe-cleaved pieces! Special features include an audio commentary on all episodes, Inside the World of Ash featurette, How to Kill a Deadite featurette, and the Best of Ash featurette. Plus, the release comes with a lenticular slip cover. Bring on “Ash vs Evil Dead” season two! Hail to the King, Baby!
The long awaited follow up to Sami Raimi’s “Army of Darkness,” STARZ original series “Ash Vs. Evil Dead” will summons itself to retail shelves on August 23, 2016 on Blu-ray and DVD. Evil Dead producer Robert Tapert and director Sam Raimi come back to be executive producers for Bruce Campbells big return as Ash for the small screen, television series.
“Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons – personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its “Evil” grip.”
Street Date: August 23, 2016
Pre-book: July 20, 2016
Catalog #: BD63966
Run Time: 294 mins.
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
“Ash Vs. Evil Dead” DVD
Street Date: August 23, 2016
Pre-book: July 20, 2016
Catalog #: ST63965
Run Time: 294 mins.
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish