The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

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Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic (link is to his review) has wanted me to tackle this bad boy for some time now. It was definitely long overdue. Well, we're getting after it now. And when I say getting after it, I mean getting after it. Also, it's fitting to have this film right now, because the Texas Rangers are playing the San Francisco Giants in the World Series, and R.O.T.O.R. takes place in Dallas.

R.O.T.O.R., besides being one of the most annoying film titles ever to type, is a sci-fi film about a good ol' boy slash expert scientist in the field of robotics named Captain Coldyron. He's cut from the project, though, when politics gets in the way, and a shorter Kurt Rambis and a robot take over, only to bungle it up and let R.O.T.O.R. get out. Now he's on a murderous rampage, and only Coldyron, and Steele, a female bodybuilder slash metal alloy expert who designed his skeleton (the metal can think for itself), can stop it. Dear God, what destructive force hath they unleashed on humanity?... or Dallas specifically?

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What do you think, you got the chops for this one? It's what we in the biz call deceptively easy, almost like Phil Jackson coaching the Bulls back in the 90s. Remember, everyone said all he had to do was roll the balls out, when in reality, it took a special coaching talent to take a team that should win, and make it win. Anyone can make fun of R.O.T.O.R., but can you make fun of it well? Again, it's not as easy as you think.

I don't know where to start. The awesomely bad music, one of the songs performed by "Larry's Dad"-- don't ask me, it's in the credits. Then there's the robot skeleton doing Tai Chi. What about Coldyron. I know what you're thinking, that name alone is hilarious. Well, he more than lives up to that name. The guy almost makes fun of himself he's so hilarious, so in order for you to do better, you really have to be on your game. The dialog is a little hard to deal with. Yes, it's funny, but it's also very tedious, because no one ever gets straight to the point. But just as it's grating on my nerves, I'll get a random "shut up, Coldyron!", or something liek that, and I feel better again. This is a fun time, but in the hands of a real heckling pro, it can be gold.

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Margaret Trigg plays Sonya ("Sony" in the credits). As you can see, she's pretty hot. According to imdb she almost had her big break in 1996 with a Jim Henson Productions show called Aliens in the Family. Unfortunately, it didn't go over well, was relegated to Saturday mornings after one primetime airing, and died a couple weeks after that. Even more unfortunately, Ms. Trigg herself passed away in 2003 at the young age of 39. It's too bad, because she made R.O.T.O.R. much easier to last through, as she was one its few bright spots.

There is one scene in this I think I can describe without giving it away too much. Coldyron is at a gas station ($.69 a gallon, if you're wondering), and he notices there's an armed robbery. He scares off the driver, then confronts a robber who exits the store with a hostage and a gun to her head. Coldyron's gun is hidden under a newspaper he'd just bought for that purpose. Anyway, the criminal doesn't take him seriously, thinking all Coldyron has is a newspaper, and Coldyron lets it fall, shooting the dude in the forehead. Then the woman, apropos of nothing, takes out the second robber with some fancy karate. Maybe the best scene of the movie.

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Finally, in the screen shot above, you'll notice the sign "Big Jack's". A couple of buddies and I do this radio spoof thing called DINK Radio, and one of our recurring jokes is Big Jack's Stolen Car lot, where Big Jack's is a shady car salesman. He also runs a bunch of other businesses, like an insurance firm. It was just kind of funny to see the name pop up here.

All right, Kenner was totally right that this was a must, but be ready if you want to get after it. It will take all of your movie heckling skills. But you've trained hard, you've sat through many bad actioners, sci-fi yarns, and campy horror flicks. It's time to put those skills to good use. Get your beer or soda, tons of junk food, and a bunch of friends, and have at it-- see which one of you is the grandmaster.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098156/

12 comments:

  1. LOL. Oh man...Wow. This is truly one of the worst movies ever made. (Though one of the funniest) This is one to see in a big group, I mean this is on par with Future War, Space Mutiny and well any MST3K episode. I think this is a movie for a beginner. I mean it's sort of like playing as Jax in Mortal Kombat 2, a beginner might be drawn to the way Jax is a powerhouse and has a damn good uppercut, but until you learn how master the game you will not realize just how useful Jax is against Kintaro (The really tough boss who stomps on you, who I can beat only with Jax on Very Hard) So what I mean is, you can approach it and find it very funny, but you need to see at least quite a few of said movies before you can really appreciate it.

    Like the desert eagles that turn into B.B repeaters, like the way that things are dubbed like a freakin kung fu movie. The way the director tries to establish mood by going into heavy synth line, how the film is non-stop R.O.T.O.R reaching through windows, walking through chairs and constantly plugging his ears (which clearly makes such invention hilariously inept to boot) This is the type of movie that you appreciate like you would a good scotch. It's not the type of bad movie hilarity of say American Kickboxer 2, Live By The Fist or even Troll 2 (Which would be the Liu Kang, in that it is easily accessible) This is one where you have to know the genre inside and out, to know filmmaking and overall what makes a good action sequence and suspense.

    Once you master that, only then will you marvel at the would be attempt to be film noir, the horrendous music and even funnier dubbing. Action sequences that clearly make no sense and of course dialogue that revolves around " your failure is his failure, you must use pure illogic" or the extremely hilarious way that they try to wax philosophical about R.O.T.O.R

    This movie is brilliant. It's a masterpiece. The only way I can describe it, is comparing it between Scorsese vs Francis Ford Coppola. In that the former can pick it up and enjoy, but to really appreciate the latter, you have to understand good theater. Of course in this case it's in reverse but it's a valid comparison when you're dealing with such.

    Also, this is a movie that requires a get together with 5 people and lots of beer.

    Indeed if I ever was to travel to meet up with Matt, I can assure you this would be one of the movies we would watch in terms of making fun of, in fact I think we could do a great commentary.

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  2. That Jax in Mortal Kombat 2 analogy might be the most apt, because he was one of the best characters (I think only Mileena and Kung Lao were overall better, and then Liu Kang presented match up prooblems for him individually), but to consistently use his skill set to beat better players using someone like Scorpion took more expertise. You needed to command the Earthquake and the Air Back Breaker, in addition to the multiple body slams and sonic wave projectile. When you're good with Jax, you're chaining jumpkicks into the air back breaker, and people at the arcade using Scorpion are wondering how you beat them, and getting angrier and angrier as they put up more quarters.

    Of all the movies Kenner and I would watch if I made the trip West, R.O.T.O.R. is that one that would come after the requisite Dolph, Van Damme, and Hong Kong films were out of the way, kind of like the late night pizza two gourmet chefs make after a night of working at fine dining restaurant.

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  3. In my opinion Johnny Cage was the perfect combo. You had a great aresnial of moves, his moves were fast yet powerful. The biggest mistake people made with Cage was misuse of his shadow kick and shadow uppercut. Many would come out with a shadowkick which was only good to do against novices or right when the match started. The Shadowkick was always the last move of a combo, (My favorite being jumpkick, sweep X2 and shadowkick) Or sweep x2, standing hk, shadowkick. (Had to be fast) The thing is though if you just launched a shadowkick you got owned by an uppercut. The shadow uppercut was only for deterring jump kicks, as it was too awkward to perform (unless in a corner) Such move was great against deterring Baraka's blade furry or Mileena's ground roll. But it was defensive move. Also the ballbreaker as funny as it was, was only and I repeat only for when you were backed up in the corner or when someone kept hitting you with sweeps. Other than anything mistimed and you were screwed. I guess in that regard Cage was all about timing. But he was still much friendlier to the newcomer and unlike Jax (You had a problem against Liu Kang and Reptile, everytime even if you're good) He was good against all kombantants. He was especially good against Mileena and Kitana.

    In fact Johnny Cage wasn't a particularly great character in Mortal Komabat Trilogy percisely because he was so defensive, but then again that entry wasn't very fun anyway. In fact it would take Deadly Alliance before the series captured glory.

    Once again though that's just my opinion. I always chose Johnny Cage first. Jax was a character I embraced when I knew MK2 inside and out. Also I would make the same claim with Kung Lao being in the same vein, because where as Jax you had to play defensively, Kung Lao was all about timing, and even if you were good that teleport made you vulnerable for a split second. Also his whirlwind move was only good in corners. He was like an even more timing dependent than Cage.

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  4. The rankings for the characters came from a magazine I read back then. If I remember right, it was Mileena, Scorpion, Kung Lao, Jax-- but it might have been Liu Kang in Scorpion's spot (to think that was almost 20 years ago now!). The thing with Mileena was the combination of her sais and that teleport kick. If you always kept the sais charged, and comboed them with pretty much everything, then you had the teleport kick that when timed will hit every jumping opponent or opponent throwing a projectile. You almost never used the roll-- you didn't have to with everything else.

    I think they had Johnny Cage as dead last on their list. I could be wrong though. His projectile was hard to range people with because it had that arc. Jax was almost a better version of him, faster and stronger and with a better projectile. Plus Jax had the air backbreaker. I was a Kung Lao guy at first, chaining his dive kick after reagular jump kicks, and ranging the hell out of people with his hat, which you could steer. Once I got over overusing the dive kick and teleport on grounded opponents, I was a machine. Eventually I got good with everyone, because in the SNES version my friends and I would always random select, but I had my toughest games using Johnny Cage.

    In Mortal Kombat I, though, I think most magazines had Johnny Cage as one of the best characters. Plus, he had the three head punch fatality, which in part I was a bug, and not something they purposely added to the game. If I ever became a rich writer, a Mortal Kombat or Mortal Kombat II arcade console would be my one luxury purchase.

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  5. Wow. That's news to me, I read in other places that he was one of the best in the game. (It's only my opinion that he was the best) I remember always seeing Liu Kang, Sub Zero,Rayden, Johnny Cage and Baraka as the best in the game. With Jax always being in the mid range (Jax was by far the best in Mortal Kombat trilogy even for novice given variety of moves) Johnny Cage had two orbs low and high, the high was perfect for stopping jump kicks and the low one would hit you unless you ducked or blocked. I don't that's the fun thing about videogames even the critics don't agree. I do know for sure that Kitana and Shang Tsung were always in the bottom in terms of worst among codebooks and arcade things. (Due to lack of moves and the way you would struggle even if you knew the game)

    My other observation is that not only was Johnny Cage awesome in Mortal Kombat he was awesome in Deadly Alliance and Armageddon being THE BEST (without question) in the former and being on par with Liu Kang in the latter. MK2 I can see debate on, and MK3 he was piss rotten and only okay in MK4. It's weird how such works. Because Rayden was awesome in MK 2 (He was bad in MK1, Sub Zero owned him) MK Trilogy, MK 4 but just sucked in MK DA and Armageddon. Jax is like Liu Kang and has stayed generally the same. Jax was really good in Armageddon and decent in Deadly Alliance. It is weird as to how various styles evolve over the years.

    Because Kano has only been good once (MK3) and never again. Stryker has never been good. Nor has Sheeva or Sindel (The only good character that has evolved into today's usefulness in MK is Cyrax and Sector.

    I would buy both MK 1 and MK 2 on arcades if I could,in fact I would get Double Dragon 1-2, Super Mario Brothers, Lethal Enforcers, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter:The New Challangers,Alien Vs Predator,The Punisher, X-Men and Terminator 2. I would furnish such an arcade. I might also get Silent Scope but overall that would be iffy.

    I also think that with this conversation that we have clearly shown our age as it's been almost 20 years since most of these videogames have come out.

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  6. Indeed they don't even have arcades anymore. So today's youth probably doesn't remember how you would go twenty dollars and stay at the arcades playing various games. I remember the one at the roller skating rink. Wow childhood was so awesome.

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  7. I was talking to a buddy the other day about how in the 90s Taco Bell sold regular tacos for $.49 a piece, so for ten bucks, you could get ten tacos, and blow five bucks at the arcade. Great deal.

    Out of all those characters, Sindel is the most fascinating, because she was unstoppable against the computer. They always fell for her scream at a certain distance, then I'd do a combo that would uppercut them in the air, then jump kick and hit them with that air fireball, and they'd be in the perfect place to fall for the scream again. On top of that, there was a bug in the game if you won it, picked the Ermac box, let him kick your ass the first round, then win the next two, finish him, and hit the (I think) 1P start button repeatedly. The game would reset to the choose your destiny screen, meaning you could play all day on one quarter. I used to piss people off so bad.

    I stopped playing it after part 4, but actually got into Galaga-- even older, I know-- and scored 2.9 mill in one game, getting to level 238, 18 away from the kill screen. It turns out i should've taped it, because that's close to the record. I'm so rusty now I'd barely make 100,000.

    I'm surprised the article you read didn't say anything about Mileena being best, because all I'd ever seen had her on top. That dropping teleport kick combined with the sais that didn't involve a button/joystick combination were tough. The problem was, you had to get used to playing with the button held down.

    I read on wikipedia (one of the bonuses to the modern age we live in) that there is a plan to release HD version of the first three Mortal Kombats. How hot will that be? And the bowling alley thing was something we did over here too. The mall had an arcade, but it closed at 9:30, while the bowling alley was open until midnight. We were such delinquents, that we used one of the change machines as an ashtray while we smoked in there.

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  8. Great Review! This looks hilariously awful! Will to have to find a copy!

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  9. Yeah, it's a great time. As good as bad gets.

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  10. i actually remember seeing this film availible for rental at my local Family Video store before they sold all they're VHS tapes, though i never did get around to renting, but rest assured it's definitely on my list now!

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  11. I recently turned into a school girl when I came across this on VHS at a flea market a while back. I snatched it up as if it was going to be snatched by someone else and then I thought about that. For any die-hard b-movie fan this film is a must. A great popcorn film to enjoy with friends. A few of my friends and I actually got together to "riff" this gem along with a few others. If you get a sec check it out. Thanks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSVCWXUa_zc

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