Sunday, June 13, 2010

Double Feature: Alien Apocalypse & Man with the Screaming Brain

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It's a long weekend here for the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Liz II (God bless the Queen!) and what better way to spend it than a Bruce Campbell double feature. No really, what better way is there? I couldn't think of anything, so here we are.

Alien Apocalypse (2005)

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Tagline:

Yesterday, they were only astronauts. Today, they're humanity's only hope.

Back of DVD:

Bruce Campbell stars as Dr. Ivan Hood, a cocky astronaut who returns to Earth after a 40-year cryogenic space nap to discover civilisation destroyed and the planet enslaved by a race of giant alien termites. But when Hood is captured, he begins to plot the impossible: escape his captors, track down the long-missing President, and build a rebel army to destroy these insect overlords. In a desperate time ruled by head-chomping bugs that spew green crap, can one brave hero lead a not-very-bright world to freedom?

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Movie Review:

Man I love Bruce Campbell. He was one of the first actors I really followed every movie I could get a hold of, starting with Army of Darkness I caught on TV one night. This lead to finding a big-box edition Evil Dead 2 VHS at the markets and by the time of DVD I was collecting everything I could. My latest Bruce aquisition is the double-feature release of Alien Apocalypse and Man with the Screaming Brain. Both I had seen via downloads captured from the American SciFi channel premieres but I really wanted all my Bruce to be on disc, and getting two movies of the Chin for the price of one seemed a no-brainer to me.

Alien Apocalypse is, as I just mentioned, a SciFi channel original movie. Bruce and four other astronauts return from their 40 year mission in space, most of which they were in cryo-sleep for. Bruce is big-upping his future plans and thinks that humanity will be suffering from a lack of doctors and will refer to him as The Great Healer. It soon becomes blatantly obvious that the city of Oregon has been destroyed and all the trees are gone. Out of the shadows two guards capture the astronauts, except for one unlucky girl who they kill. They are taken to the base camp which is some sort of timber harvesting operation and immediately gagged with bondage face masks and put to work moving incredibly light pieces of wood from a pile to a cart.

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Soon enough they get to meet the alien invaders. The special effects of the aliens are a mixed bag; long shots are obviously CG but close-ups are pretty reasonable animatronics. One of the astronauts demands answers from the head alien who responds by eating off his friggen head, blood spewing everywhere like an Evil Dead movie. The aliens also seem partial to eating peoples fingers and get served a bowl of freshly cut ones as appetisers. Bruce (Ivan) and now the only other surviving astronaut, Kelly (Renee O'Conner, Tinselteeth from Stone Cold) are thrown in to the pit for the night to rest up for the next days back-breaking labour. In the pit they meet an old man that fills them in on the back story of how the aliens arrived, bombed the hell out of the planet, leaving just enough people alive to harvest wood for sending back to their home world. Bruce can't deal with Earth's submission to a race of termites so decides to escape by digging a tunnel.

The aliens are hilarious; their voices are so funny and they repeat half of their sentences: "Tell me now, who are you, who are you" etc. The aliens were voiced by a guy who played a doorman in Dolph Lundgren's The Mechanik. There you go.

This is a pretty fun ride, though it could have been fun-er. The second act lags a bit but the opening and the closing acts are a good time. I absolutely love the fake beards worn by the guards. I've not seen anything like it before; it looks like they have all eaten bears. Anyway, Bruce and a kid he befriends, Alex, escape and even manage to kill an alien, but Kelly is recaptured. Alex says that the President still lives and is forming an army of rebels to reclaim the planet, so they work their way through the forest to find him. Along the way they pick up others to join the rebellion and Bruce cracks a few corny lines as they go, my favourites being "Who will join me on my quest?" and "Bounty Hunters are fags!". He also gets a great one-liner when he kills a guard he previously saved who says "You're a doctor! You're supposed to cure people!". Bruce replies "Your stupidity is terminal. Now it's cured." Gold.

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This gathering of allies goes on for a bit (like Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and as I said, the second act is the weakest act. Eventually Bruce and his army take on the wood mill and take out a few aliens in a hilarious fashion; arrows through the head, chopping off their heads with swords, and blowing up the alien tanks with molotov cocktails. Bruce is now so revered that his army get all sentimental with the worst dialogue of the movie, some gems including "When we first met, I already knew him" and "He told me never to tip a canoe. That's good advice!".

Good solid fun, though honestly it wouldn't be nearly as much fun without Bruce. If you can make it through the slightly tedious middle section you are rewarded with a pretty good end fight with plenty of green alien blood splattered about the place, so stick with it.

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The Video:

Alien Apocalypse is one DVD in a two DVD set. I think it is the same disc used for the previous single-movie release. The picture quality is fine though the colours are pretty over-saturated and it's all a bit fuzzy around the edges. Not sure why it's not sharper but I imagine it's the source material. There is a surround-sound and stereo track which support the picture well. There is a commentary track with Bruce on the disc.

Trailer:

 

Man with the Screaming Brain (2005)

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Tagline:

He's losing their minds.

Back of DVD:

Somewhere in Bulgaria, sleazy American industrialist William Cole (Bruce Campbell) is finalising a tax scam that will earn him millions. Meanwhile, mad scientist Dr. Ivan Ivanov (Stacy Keach) and his demented henchman Pavel (Ted Raimi of XENA) have created a drug that can connect human brains like Lincoln Logs. But when an illicit tryst with a sultry hotel maid leads to Cole's murder, Dr. Invanov reanimates him by transporting the half-brain of a former KGB operative into Cole's skull. Now the capitalist and the communist must reconcile their differences to hunt down the beautiful gypsy freak who killed them both.

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Movie Review:

The second movie in this double-feature is not an action movie, it's a comedy with classic horror and 50's sci-fi overtones. Somewhere in Bulgaria, William Cole (Bruce Campbell, legend) and his wife Jackie (Antoinette Byron, for us Aussies she was a veteran of soaps Neighbours and Home and Away, and her faux-American accents drops out quite a bit) touch down at the airport. Arguing over their lost limousine, Bruce decides to take a cab to the motel instead. They get a ride with Yeggor (Vladimir Kolev, who also played fisherman Bob in Alien Apocalypse) and as they are in a hurry, Bruce insists they drive through 'gypsy town' even though Yeggor advises against it. They almost run over a gypsy woman, Tatoya (Tamara Gorski, a Hercules actor that Bruce found another use for), who both Bruce gets googly-eyed over.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ivanov (Stacy Keach, among other things, the lead bad guy from American History X) and his lab assistant Pavel (Ted Raimi, in every Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi movie ever made, sometimes playing more than one character) have discovered the key to blending two foreign DNA strands together. They hear over the radio that William Cole, who is runs an American pharmaceutical company, is in town so Ivanov has Pavel write him a letter asking for him to come see the advancements he has made. He gives the letter to Bruce who rejects the offer and sends him packing. Later in the motel Bruce puts the moves on the cleaning lady who turns out to be the gypsy they hit with the car earlier. She starts talking marriage and Bruce freaks the hell out. After a chase to get his stolen ring back from her, Bruce gets a lead pipe to the back of the head. Cab driver Yeggor also arrives on the scene and gets stabbed by Tatoya. Lastly, after a "You killed my husband, bitch!" cat-fight, Tatoya throws Jackie down a flight of steps. She's a nasty piece of work that Tatoya.

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Now the good stuff begins. The good Dr. Ivanov has Ted Raimi go collect the bodies, then proceeds to Frankenstein Bruce's brain with parts of Yeggors. He awakens with a massive scar on his head, can't remember who he is and has flashbacks from two different people. The Doctor explains (via diagrams) that the right side of his brain was so badly damaged the only solution was to put someone else's in. Too much for him, he runs out into the streets.

This is the part Bruce was meant to play; in fact he has been planning this movie since the Evil Dead days. Bruce does well at Three Stooges style slapstick and there is plenty of that here. He also looks like a dead ringer for Basil Fawlty due to his hilarious moustache. Trying to control his body as Yeggor's part of the brain interferes always ends in comic goodness. Bruce can hear Yeggor's thoughts but obviously no-one else can so it looks like he is talking to himself (hilarity ensues). The two minds in one body make a complete mess of a restaurant as they can't agree on what food and drinks to have and fight over wether or not they should be begging for money. The one thing they do agree on is to get revenge on Tatoya. And you should see what happens to poor Jackie! Think 'Robocop'.

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Bruce chases Tatoya into a bar where she turns the tables on him and cries that he raped her. As bruce says "This just keeps getting better and better" a bar fight ensues, with lots of smashing of glasses into faces and breaking of tables. The over-the-top comedy award definitely goes to Ted Raimi in this one though. His Pavel steals the scene whenever he is in it, even if what he says and does is completely cringeworthy. He wishes so hard he was American he speaks completely in street-talk with lots of shizzle-m'nizzles and even has a totally random DJ/rap session with a robot he created. Madness, but it works so well.

Definitely the better of the two movies and with the most money spent on it. Bruce is having lots of fun in this whereas in Alien Apocalypse you can tell he was probably there for the pay cheque. Bruce needs to do more roles like this one, and Ted just needs to be in more movies!

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The Video:

A lot sharper than the last movie. Colours and detail were fine for the budget and sound was clear, again offering both surround and stereo and a commentary track with Bruce.

Trailer:

Sourced From:

$15 from Amazon + shipping for the double feature.

More Screens from Alien Apocalypse:

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More screens from Man with the Screaming Brain:

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