As the armies of Hell march on our world, small pockets of humanity take a stand against the onslaught of evil. We’re introduced to a pair of brothers on the frontline of the last great battle, both of whom are murdered one after the other by Lord Draculon. The younger brother, however, awakens to find himself encased in a body that is more machine than man. He’s quickly drawn back into the battle for Earth and dubs himself “Manborg”, joining the resistance, battling in the arena, and on a quest to find his past and get revenge.
Manborg was shot entirely on green screen with a handful of actors and a variety of special effects; from classic make-up to stop-motion and green screen CGI. It’s an homage to the classic Z-Grade sci-fi movies of the 80’s complete with bad dialogue and ham-fisted acting. It brings up memories of The Exterminators, Laser Blast, Cyborg, The Road Warrior, and a number of post-apocalyptic Terminator, Robocop, and Total Recall rip-offs that swarmed the local video stores in the mid to late 80’s. It probably owes its very existence to the success of the Grindhouse films and seems to want to follow the trend with its’ devotion to another kind of film experience. The movie is balls out one of the funniest, twisted, bizarre, and utterly insane films I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in recent months. With character names like Justice, #1 Guy, and Draculon the film never dwells on taking itself too seriously and barely pays too much attention to its own plot. Characters hate one another at the drop of the hat, offer forgiveness for past crimes, hug, hate each other again, and the dialogue is either dry and generic or brilliantly comedic. Don’t bother to riff the film, because the movie winds up doing that itself at various points. It’s makers knew what they were making and they revel in it.
4 out of 5.
Knights of Badassdom
So this dude gets dumped by his High School Sweetheart. His best friends (Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn) decide that the best way for him to get over it is to drag him out into the middle of the woods, dress him up in armor, hand him a rubber sword, and have him join in their LARP (Live Action Role-Playing game for the people who don’t know). It’s been years since he last played D&D, and he’s definitely a stranger in a strange land when it comes to joining the Game. And while he’s not overly enthused, he pitches in and is incidentally part of a ceremony that calls forth a very real Succubus from the gates of hell.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie for years. It was announced several years ago, it had a significant following online, it garnered plenty of interest from the Comic-Con panel, and included a number of stars that included genre favorites like Dinklage, Summer Glau, and some dude from that Vampire show on HBO- I don’t know the name and I don’t feel like looking it up on IMDB. Everything about the film just screamed “AWESOME!”- even the director Joe Lynch, whose only real major previous contribution consists of the Direct to DVD cult classic, “Wrong Turn 2”.
I wasn’t totally disappointed. It delivered the grue, it was funny, there were plenty of jokes that would appeal to the geek and norm community with equal hilarity, and there was plenty of sword play violence to be had by all. The rocking Black Metal soundtrack not only drives the action but becomes a focal point of the story in a few places, and the characters are all very likeable and easy to sympathize with.
There were a number of things that I found a little irksome about the film itself, though. Specifically, I don’t think the writers had nearly the respect for LARPing that the director, actors, or crew seemed to express in a number of interviews. Most of the gaming characters are portrayed as complete social outcasts more focused on experience points than they are on the relationships around them. This isn’t entirely a false premise to create. Many people in the gaming community are exactly that, they’re people who don’t tend to fit in with many social settings. It’s a humorous stereotype that I pretty much expect to see in a movie like this. That’s the whole premise for the game of “Munchkin”! But when its revealed that the two least socially awkward characters also happen to not actually BE gamers themselves? That makes it a little insulting. One is there at the behest of his friends, the other is there to “babysit” their game-obsessed cousin. Can you cop out any further in a movie that’s supposed to appeal to the gaming community as it is? Is it possible for the one character dragged in by his friends to actually enjoy the experience and actually meet a fully formed and well developed character who also happens to be a gamer? Did we have to excuse their lack of munchkin tendencies as just being someone who doesn’t really like to play the game anyway? I admit, it’s probably me being a thin-skinned geek who’s long been tired of the taped horn-rimmed glasses, chest high pants, and pocket-protector image conveyed by the geekist leaning media and their jock-led corporate masters.
3.5 out of 5. (Ignoring the stupid post-film “What happened after” bits would probably pump the rating up to a 4, but screw them.)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Good movie. Go see it.
5 out of 5.
That was my bait and switch, in case you missed it… everyone reading this and hoping to get my thoughts on Captain America, well you can all find one review after another and another. My buddy Shane has one on his Facebook page, check it out. It pretty much says the same thing- I’d rather tell you about the much more obscure movies I’ve been watching with a hope that you lift a curious brow and give them a play on your DVD, Blu-ray, or some form of streaming media.