Tuesday, 25 December 2012

ROBOT JOX (1989)

Robot Jox, for all of its failings (mainly budget related), has a very special place in the hearts of a lot of genre film addicts. It has a charm to it which is hard to beat, and the makers of the film strived to bring an epic film to the screen with a tiny budget and actually pulled it off.

Directed by Stuart Gordon (yeah, THAT Stuart Gordon!), Robot Jox tells of a world in which war between humans is outlawed, and thus disputes are cleared up via giant robots (piloted by humans) beating the crap out of each other. Based originally on a story from SF legend Joe Haldeman, it's the sort of pulpy, fun, exciting romp of a sci-fi movie which just doesn't get made any more.

Sure, the robots, the models and stop motion animation used in the battle scenes look cheesy, but it works in the context of the film itself. The key to the look of Robot Jox, and its success of execution in terms of production, is the sterling editing job which cuts the live action seamlessly with stop-motion and model shots into one fluid sequence which is still very exciting if not all that convincing.

Robot Jox was one of the films that everyone would be desperate to say they had seen. Giant Robots and cartoonish violence are, after all, very appealing to kids. We would make up scenes that weren't even in the film, just to sound like we'd seen it, using only what we'd seen on the cover and in the cover blurb as the basis for our wild claims.

Kids of today would despise it, as it's very much of its time, but that won't stop legions of balding old farts like me loving the hell out of it, along with anyone else who can appreciate genre cinema of any level.

Clad in brightly coloured costumes, the assembled cast must play out a politically-themed plot in-between the scenes of robot based mayhem, making them look remarkably like middle-aged Power Rangers. But really, who gave a damn about the plot of this film? Most viewers were there for the robots and the robots alone, and in the scenes of mechanical carnage, there's nothing onscreen but pure, golden entertainment.

It's not quite Ray Harryhausen quality, and the models used in the animated sequences do look rather like Transformers toys, but Robot Jox has a great time not taking itself too seriously. I'd liken it to a low budget Starship Troopers or original series Star Trek in terms of atmosphere, and it takes me back to an era of filmmaking where science fiction movies were as pulpy and kitsch as a lot of the fiction which spawned them.

A lovely, nostalgic film which holds up very well to these eyes, but those more critical towards the 1980s aesthetic will hate it. I couldn't care less really though, as I love it, in all of its cheesy glory.

Monday, 24 December 2012


An Albert Pyun film involving kickboxing and cyborgs? Really? Wow, there's something I've never seen before. Sarcasm aside (as well as Cyborg and Nemesis), I'm actually quite fond of Pyun's deliciously tacky low-budget sci-fi action flicks, unless its Nemesis 4. That was painful.

Heatseeker isn't awful when compared to that surreal gob of puke, but it lacks a few aspects which would have made it great. Namely a plot and some characters.

However, it's a Trimark Pictures release (I love those) and it cost me the grand some of 10p for the ex-rental tape I've watched now. Bargain.
The premise is all based on futuristic tournaments, either fought between humans or cyborgs, but rarely between humans and cyborgs.

Our hero Chance O'Brien (Keith Cooke, from, erm, the Cynthia Rothrock classic China O'Brien) is an all-human fighting champion, who takes it upon himself to face down the greatest cyborg fighter of them all (Xao, played by Gary Daniels) when his girlfriend is held to ransom by a megalomaniacal corporation.

Also starring Thom Mathews and Norbert Weisser alongside the remarkably sweet Tina Cote, Heatseeker should really be a post-apocalyptic-cyberpunk-martial-arts-movie fan's wet dream, but unfortunately the story is kinda vague, the characters never get past a name and a fighting style, and it's hard to really care about what's going on onscreen.

That said, the cyberpunk visuals and martial arts battles are a joy to watch. It's just a shame about the actual film itself. It does kinda read like a cyberpunk checklist at times (the clothes, the action, the corporations, the shady dealings and stylised dialogue), but that doesn't make for a classic film.

It's fun if you're in the mood for mindless cheese, but if you're after a compelling story, best to look elsewhere. Although, if you're going to pick up a movie like Heatseeker, I doubt you're really looking for high art. Me? I enjoyed it. It's flawed and silly, but hey, so am I.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Reconnecting With My Addiction

Wow. So, apart from this, I've only posted here at Diary Of A Genre Addict 42 times this year. The explanation is simple, and comes down to two things which happened this year which have changed my life and made me a billion times busier. Those two things are parenthood and becoming a homeowner. Trying to figure out an entirely new routine for living my life has not been easy, and is still to be fully decided upon.

I have had very little leisure time in months, literally five minutes here and there, or bus journeys. Thus my genre addiction has not been fed as much as it should have been this year.

It's not for lack of trying, though as I must have attempted to sit down with a film something like fifty times and yet something always came up, or my phone would ring, or someone wold arrive to visit, or even those few occasions where I just blacked out from fatigue and woke up a couple of hours later, wondering where the hell I was.

Some semblance of a regular routine is taking shape now, and as such I am taking time out for a movie night on my own with snacks and gore. The film? The uncut edition of Lucio Fulci's masterpiece THE BEYOND. I'm hoping I can stay awake through it. It's not that the film's dull (it really isn't) – it's juts that I am so very tired and zombified that it's hard to focus on anything at all.

This mental and physical struggle has forced me to cut back on my leisure writing so I have been able to focus on my magazine work and my forthcoming seventh and eighth books. However, Diary Of A Genre Addict has been very much on my mind lately.

The site is not ending any time soon, but it has to be said that I have neglected it in recent months. So I guess what I'm saying is that service has been resumed, albeit service which is anything but normal. How the hell have you been?