Get ready for Tron: Ares

Via CinemaBlend:

Sometimes all it takes to revive a project that’s languished in the shadows like Tron 3 is the right amount of buzz. Recently, that sort of anticipation is what’s been powering the project, as director Garth Davis and star Jared Leto have boarded the project’s early stages of active development. But another interesting note has been making the rounds with fans, as it looked like Leto, in his excitement, may have accidentally let the working title of this new film slip: Tron: Ares.

Should this be the actual title, or even just the name of the film in this phase of development, we could be looking at some very exciting developments for the future of the Tron franchise. Here’s what I’m thinking about the possibilities of Tron: Ares:

It’s been rumored for some time that Jared Leto was playing a mysterious character named Ares in the world of Tron. So if the title of Tron: Ares is accurate, this assumption sounds like it’s finally been confirmed. Right from the beginning, knowing that Leto could very much be playing that figure shrouded in secrecy is a pretty powerful key to unlocking the rest of the project’s strategy moving forward. It also leads to some exciting assumptions and pathways that Tron 3 could take to make an interesting sequel even more promising.

Sputnik trailer

Via IndieWire:

While a space traveler’s greatest fear is typically what’s waiting out there in the great unknown, what they bring back to Earth could be much, much worse. That’s the premise of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko’s feature debut “Sputnik,” a sci-fi chiller with the stately echoes of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien.” Set in the 1980s, “Sputnik” blends creature-feature effects with heady extraterrestrial thrills. An official selection of the canceled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the movie debuts from IFC Midnight in select theaters and on VOD August 14. Watch the trailer for the film below.

Here’s the creepy synopsis: “Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina, ‘Lilya 4-Ever’) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov, ‘The Darkest Hour’), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.”

In IndieWire’s summer preview, Executive Editor and Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn praised the thriller, which is also set for the Sitges Film Festival in Spain this fall. “The first feature from Egor Abramenko takes a B-movie conceit, injects it with a sizable budget, and delivers a visceral extraterrestrial invasion story so attuned to the spirit of the ‘Alien’ movies it may as well exist in its expanded universe,” Kohn wrote. “The story takes place in the early ’80s, and revolves around a cosmonaut who seems to have brought a monstrous being home with him from space. The creature leaves its host’s body at night to feed before retreating, leaving Russian researchers baffled and uncertain whether to fear the new arrival or harness it as a weapon.”

Kohn also wrote, “Abramenko’s debut builds to a gory showdown, while raising familiar questions about whether the governmental forces might be even worse than the monster in their crosshairs. Fortunately, they’re not the real stars: ‘Sputnik’ centers on the efforts of a conflicted young doctor (Akinsha) as she works to contain the intergalactic threat, which basically means the spirit of Ripley parachuting into Soviet-era Russia, and we’re all for it.”

Written by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev, “Sputnik” is inspired by Abramenko’s 2017 short film “The Passenger.”

Lone Wolf and Cub

Based on the 1970 manga, the six film series Lone Wolf and Cub is a startling, blood thirsty action extravaganza. Following the adventures of a ronin Ogami Ittō and his three year old son Daigorō, the films depict life in feudal Japan where clans compete for control and assassins and spies are active. Ogami wanders the countryside pushing a pram with his son inside, idly looking for work. And a job always waits for the famous killer.

The violence is intense. Bodies are sliced apart like fresh bread and blood sprays in a wonderful tempera red stream from each brutally delivered wound. Ogami is like a force of nature in his battles and none can stand against him. That’s not to say that he doesn’t take some beatings. In fact, he straggles through much of the films in a half awake daze, his hair unkempt, bags under his eyes with a ragged demeanor that ten pots of coffee couldn’t cure. And why not? He’s a single working parent. He should look roughed up.

The movies are dynamic and beautifully told of somewhat formulaic. That said, the formula results in eye popping action sequences that are outstanding this side of John Wick. In addition to his battle sword, the baby cart is kitted out like something from James Bond’s Q Branch with machine guns, hidden knives and a bullet proof under carriage. Young Daigorō often gets in on the action activating hidden blades that murder assailants.

If you are looking for a thrilling action samurai series, you can do no wrong by watching Lone Wolf and Cub. A truly masterful set of movies.

Available on Amazon.

Split Second (1992)

In the near future, the world is facing an ecological crisis. Much of the planet is submerged underwater. Rats run rampant and crime is high. In the midst of this madness a killer is on the loose. He takes the hearts of his victims and leaves no clues.

Detective Stone is a survivor of the creature’s attacks and suffers visions of his last encounter which cost him the life of his partner. With PTSD and sudden attacks of anxiety, he is hunting the killer down armed to the teeth and ready for all out war. His boss sticks him with a by the book partner, Dirk Durkin (yes that really is his name) who trails Stone to keep him from going off the rails. The two mix like chalk and cheese but are forced to work together.

While they trail the killer, more details are laid out as it becomes clear this is no ordinary murderer but a supernatural creature that is working on some mad method to bring about an evil event. He lays clues behind him hoping that Stone will follow so that he can face off with his foe and Stone is more than eager to meet the challenge in kind.

Split Second is a testosterone-fueled sci-fi buddy cop flick with supernatural undertones. It’s also over the top in many places with Hauer playing the tortured loose cannon cop to the hilt. He even has an apartment filled with motorcycle parts because his first name is Harley. Kim Cattrall plays the love interest and lady in distress and also the widow of Stone’s dead partner. She has a lot of ground to cover and does it well. Michael J. Pollard makes a brief appearance as a Rat Catcher but it’s very brief. There are many British character actors strewn about in the film to give it color but it makes Hauer stand out like a sore thumb.

The film faced numerous challenges in production and much of it was rewritten as it was being shot, chiefly the conclusion was a mess. You can tell that the movie loses its aim here and there and once the monster is revealed it’s a bit of a let down. There are definitely influences of Alien to be seen.

I remember seeing heavy promotion for this film in the sci-fi convention circuit in 1991 and many fans of Hauer and sci-fi monster flicks were excited. Even so it didn’t fare well in the box office and received middling to poor reviews. It has since obtained a cult following and is seen as an over the top action flick with Hauer delivering a high caliber performance as the world weary cop.

Split Second is currently on Amazon Prime for streaming view and if you have an afternoon free I recommend it.

Things (1989)

Released upon the world in 1989, Things was written, directed and starred Barry J. Gillis and Andrew Jordan. The “movie,” as we will refer to it, is filmed entirely in a small suburban home with limited resources (such as microphones to catch any dialog). I found the film on YouTube before it was taken down. My interest stemmed from exposure from RedLetterMedia. I am still not sure what I witnessed.

A man and woman discuss their desire to have children as the woman strips. She then produces a baby in a bassinet which causes the man to scream into another scene. The woman is now bedridden in pain and the man is looking after her and fretting about the house.

Sometime after all that a pair of youths (Dan and Fred) arrive at the house for no clear reason and start looking around for beer and stuff to make sandwiches. One of them is the younger brother of the man of the house. The TV plays in the background. They find a small cassette recorder and a book in the freezer. The cassette recorder contains strange noises and the book has ‘insane’ images. They continue to mess around until they hear the things lurking in the darkness.

Doug Drake is a kind of mad scientist who, wanting to have a family but physically unable to do so, experimented on his wife who gave birth to a horde of creatures (or THINGS). The things populate the house and emerge from every corner and crevice of the place once aroused. The remainder of the movie is centered on the two buffoons assaulted by things. The TV report is then delivered by former porn star, Amber Lynn.

Details about the movie are few but the CAD30,000 budget shines on screen with puppets barely moving while the puppeteers can clearly be seen. The visuals are oftentimes so murky that I wasn’t sure what I was watching and the dialog is mostly post dubbed but not always so I wasn’t sure what I was hearing either. Doug gets his hand cut off then the wound is cauterized. Dan vomits in extreme detail. Numerous scenes of Dan brandishing a small chain saw assaulting small plastic puppets. It all happens.

Things is a movie that one endures rather than one you just watch. But by enduring the movie, you become a stronger human being. It’s currently on Amazon somehow so if you have read this and are still curious, there’s your option. A very poor man’s Evil Dead doesn’t even begin to describe the experience of watching Things. Released during the heyday of home movies, nothing can prepare you for Things.

BE PREPARED TO BLOW YOUR MIND… An experience like no other. THINGS is the work of a genius or a madman. -Severed Cinema –Severed Cinema

IN A CLASS ALL BY ITSELF… Consistently astounding as it unfolds in all its bizarre glory, and still unlike anything most viewers have ever seen. –


Zaat (1971)

A cult film, Zaat is also known as The Blood Waters of Dr. Z. Featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, I later watched the film on its own after it gained accolades on RedLetterMedia. It’s a terrible film, an almost industrial film slowly showing how to be a made scientist and transform yourself into a monster.

The story follows the rage fueled experiment of Doctor Leopold who was chided by other scientists when he claimed he found a chemical compound that could transform a human into a monstrous fish-liker creature. He experimented on himself and became a gnarled amphibious creature. Using a sun dial drawn in crayon showing his plan towards… something unclear, he proceeded to murder those who had claimed his theories were laughable then set upon his next step… making a girlfriend.

He kidnapped a woman who was fishing by the side of the lake while he sprayed his compound on the underwater life. He brought her back to his lashed together lab which looks like several test your weight devices knitted together. Using the longest needle in film he tried to transform her into a fish creature but she died in the process.

Hunted by the local sheriff and a scientist, Leopold continues his assault on the locals. It’s rather progressive to pair the sheriff with a black scientist (in one scene you can hear a local using colorful language to refer to the sheriff’s friend) who rapidly becomes the central character even after a group of proto-X-Files specialists arrive to take over the case. The specialists, called INPIT, have equipment and several vehicles including a multi-terrain jeep and are very impressive. It’s their tracking of radioactive spoor that allows them to track Leopold back to his lair.

Zaat is a cult film which is sadly out of print currently. It’s laughable at times and challenging to watch at other times. The monster design is… interesting and the actor manages to move about in the water and on land despite noticeable setbacks.

Despite all that, however, Zaat has a kind of grim charm that needs to be experienced. The long spans of time with no dialog, the bizarre folk soundtrack, all combines to make a movie so bad it’s… still bad but watchable.

Dead Heat (1988)

A fun buddy cop film with a horrific bent, Dead Heat follows Detectives Mortis (Treat Williams) and Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) as they try to unravel a plot using undead jewel thieves. In the course of their investigation, they encounter a reanimated biker corpse and are entangled in a duel. Mortis is thrust into a decompression chamber used to euthanize dogs and is killed. Afterwards, Mortis’ good friend and sometime lover coroner Rebecca arrives on the scene and recognizes a nearby machine used to reanimate the dead. Seizing the opportunity, Mortis is brought back from the dead, though with a time limit of eight hours before he decomposes.

Always a cop, Mortis is determined to use his remaining time to crack the case of the undead jewel thieves and his buddy Bigelow is right beside him.

Dead Heat is a romp through the grotesque and puts a spin on the buddy cop genre that was popular at the time. Piscopo and Williams have some genuine chemistry and exchange witty barbs throughout the film. The special effects are noteworthy as the many reanimated cadavers the cops encounter are decidedly macabre. There’s even a guest appearance by Vincent Price in it!

I remember watching this film on heavy rotation on local cable back in the day so much so that when I rewatched it for my review I found myself predicting certain lines of dialogue. It’s a great flick and lots of fun. If you’re looking for an unusual and entertaining 80’s cop flick to watch, Dead Heat should be in your list. It’s on Amazon streaming this month so be sure to catch it.

The War of the Gargantuas (1966)

Directed by Ishiro Honda (of Gojira fame), War of the Gargantuas is something of a childhood nostalgia trip for me. I recall it being in heavy rotation on the Creature Double Feature on the local UHF channel and it got a lot of views. Initially the film was about Frankenstein monsters (the American version eliminates all mentions of this) which may seem odd but there is a connection between Japan and Frankenstein. He pops up a lot in the Toho films.

Beginning with a giant octopus attack, you’d think this was an episode of Ultraman, but then the real contender shows up and we get our first glimpse of the green monstrosity. The gargantua is a sight to behold, all scales and fur and plenty of mean teeth. He attacks the octopus and the ship it was attacking for equal measure. It’s a mess.

An American scientist is called in since he happens to have worked on a creature similar to the Frankenstein monster but he can’t see the connection since his creation was calm as a kitten. The military have at it with their tanks and experimental weaponry that nearly destroys the creature when a second monster comes to his aid. Yes, it turns out there are two Frankenstein monsters or as they become known ‘gargantuas;’ a brown one that lives in the mountains and the more aggressive green one that lives near water.

The two gargantuas are given names like Gary and Sandy. Or Gaira and Sanda. They get along fine at first and chill in the forest by a lake until Sanda finds evidence that Gaira has murdered (and likely eaten) some passing backpackers. Then it is on and the battle does not stop until the bitter end. The two gargantuas fight all across the country and end up in the city where more tanks await them. More carnage. More gnashing of teeth and pummeling. It just doesn’t stop.

I had a vague memory of this film before I revisited it on DVD and now I can see why it was such a hit. Two monstrous giants duking it out through the forest and the city while tanks barrage them with artillery. It is bliss.

If you’re looking for a nice trip back in time and a rarely seen gem of the Toho movies, this should be on your list. However you may have to be canny about how you find a copy as the collection I have it on is now up to $168 on Amazon. Go figure.

Hammer’s Camp on Blood Island (1958)

Directed by Val Guest, Camp on Blood Island followed Hammer’s meteoric success on Curse of Frankenstein. Billed as “the brutal truth” behind the Japanese prison camps during WWII, the film was more sensationalist than the ‘tell all’ that it claimed to be.

Panned by critics, the movie was a raving success with film-goers. The movie starred an ensemble cast headed by Andre Morell as Colonel Lambert who tried his best to keep the prisoners in line in the face of horrific war crimes. The story was purported to have been brought in breathlessly to Hammer’s producers but it is more of a litany of war crimes gathered from various stories combined with supposition. Written by Jon Manchip White, who was himself a former prisoner of war, the movie attempts a kind of realism with the added dash of drama to give it flavor.

In the opening of the film, we see a prisoner dig a grave and he is then shot by machine gun fire and falls into the hole he had just finished digging. Morell’s Colonel Lambert has a secret that he has kept from the other prisoners; the war is over and the Allies have won. However, this is not good news as the camp commandant has stated that at the conclusion of the war, if Japan has lost, he will kill all the prisoners and raze the entire compound to the dirt it rests on.

What follows is a battle of nerves as the prisoners try to keep their dignity and sanity while both are steadily chipped away by the commandant’s sadistic practices. A cunning plan is conspired, but will it be enough and in time to allow for any survivors on the dreaded Blood Island?

Criticized for its negative depiction of the Japanese and for stirring up racial antagonism, the movie attracted box office success earning $3.5 million worldwide. The movie is nevertheless a rarely screened Hammer film aside from some late night showings in the 70’s. Revived for a new audience, Camp on Blood Island has been included in the third box office set from Power House/Indicator, Blood and Terror. Included along with a crisp new transfer is a bevvy of extras including behind the scenes documentaries, cast and crew commentary and an informative booklet.

I highly recommend grabbing a copy and giving it a watch.

Son of the White Mare


“Son of the White Mare is one of the most stunningly beautiful and surreal movies I’ve ever seen, and a major discovery for animation and art house film fans,” Arbelos co-CEO David Marriott told Screen Daily. “We’re thrilled to be world premiering the restoration at Fantasia and proud that our innovative partnership with the Hungarian National Film Fund — Film Archive will allow us to introduce this remarkable film to a whole new generation of fans.”

One of the great psychedelic masterpieces of world animation, Son of the White Mare is a swirling, color-mad maelstrom of mythic monsters and Scythian heroes, part-Nibelungenlied, part-Yellow Submarine, lit by jagged bolts of lightning and drenched in rivers of blue, red, gold and green. A massive cosmic oak stands at the gates of the Underworld, holding seventy-seven dragons in its roots; to combat these monsters, a dazzling white mare goddess gives birth to three heroes – Treeshaker and his brothers – who embark on an epic journey to save the universe. Directed by Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics (famed for his 1974 Oscar-nominated short Sisyphus), Son of the White Mare has been restored in 4K using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements by Arbelos in collaboration with the Hungarian Film Archive.