Tuesday, February 16, 2016

MILLENNIUM (1989) / R.O.T.O.R. (1987) (Blu-ray Review)

MILLENNIUM (1989) / R.O.T.O.R. (1987) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 106 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD WIdescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Michael Anderson
Cast: Daniel J. Travanti , Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd 

Synopsis: Leap into thrilling, time-traveling mayhem with Millennium. When safety investigator Bill Smith (Kris Kristofferson, Blade) looks into a disastrous airplane crash, he soon makes a shocking discovery – one that will impact the future of humanity itself. The beautiful but mysterious Louise (Cheryl Ladd, Charlie's Angels) may prove to be the key to it all – but can Smith figure out the truth in time? Daniel J. Travanti (Hill Street Blues) also stars in this centuries-spanning tale from the director of Logan's Run.

I remember laying on the floor in front of the TV with my girlfriend watching this movie in the early '90s and thinking it was alright. even then it felt clunky but at the time I assumed the science fiction themes of time travel had probably gone over my head to a degree, and that perhaps I wasn't yet smart enough to fully grasp the complicated in and outs of time travel, Now that I am watching it again some twenty plus plus years later I now know that even in my teens I was plenty able to wrap my head around the concepts, and that the movie was just clunky and poorly executed.

At the start of the movie a 747 collides in mid-air with a DC-10 causing both aircraft to crash, killing all on board.  National Transportation Safety Board crash investigator Bill Smith (Kriss Kristofferson, Blade) arrives on scene, and after hearing the cockpit voice recorder becomes suspicious that something more than pilot error may have been to blame for the tragedy, a suspicion further bolstered by the discovery of a strange device among the wreckage. Another strange anomaly is that many of the digital watches worn by the deceased passengers are running backwards, not forward.

Enter into the picture physicist Dr. Arnold Mayer (Daniel J. Travanti, The Witches of Eastwick), a man who also suspects that there is something odd about the crash, and a mysterious woman blond named Louise Baltimore (Cheryl Ladd) who falls into bed with Smith faster than smooth talker Dr. Challis and Ellie Grimbridge in Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Turns out that Louise is a time traveller sent from the future, apparently the future is a bad place, the atmosphere has gone to shit, the human species has become infertile and the whole species is dying off. I an effort to repopulate the world of the future a small group of time travellers are send back through time to save the victims of plane crashes that occurred in the past, sending them off to the future and replacing their bodies on the doomed aircraft with cloned bodies. 

This could have been a pretty interesting science fiction thriller in an alternate reality, but the story seems rushed and over simplified, it also does not help that Kris Kristifferson is his usual wooden self. He doesn't seem to be into the role and comes off as disinterested. Cheryl Ladd as the love interest doesn't have any chemistry with Kristofferson, the two make for an odd pairing, and the material is weak. The late '80s hair and fashions were maybe not the best era for the former Charlie's Angel TV star, she looks better nowadays, and the decade doesn't seem to have been any kinder to Kristofferson, either.

The special effects of the movie are dated, but not awful for the era that they were made. Unfortunately the future-world, which is set 1,000 years in the future, is not sketched out in a satisfactory way, there's very little world building at pay here. We have scenes wherein we glimpse the deformed elders of the future, a robot with a sad sense of wit, and a claustrophobic enviornment which brought to mind a mix of Brazil by way of 12 Monkeys, but none of it is satisfying. 

The direction from Michael Anderson (Logan's Run) is just okay, I like the way we experience the same events as seen through the eyes of different characters from different time streams, these are nicely done, but on the whole the movie lacks cohesion. I found myself wanting to know more about the paradoxes and "time quakes" they created in the time stream, but we only are ever fed small spoonfuls of any of it, very unsatisfying. 

The disc from Scream Factory offers the movie is 1080p HD in the original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio, the HD upgrade is a marginal improvement over the DVD in my opinion. The image can be soft and the colors muted, we do get some nice clarity to the image, but there's not much depth. Millennium features an English DTS-HD Stereo 2.0 audio track, dialogue is crisp and clean, and the largely forgettable score comes though well-balanced. English subtitles are provided. Extras for the movie are slim and include the theatrical trailer and a six-minute alternate ending that doesn't add much, both are presented in high-definition. 

Special Features:
- Alternate Ending (6 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

Millennium is a movie that with a better script and more capable direction with a better cast could have been something special. I have always loved science fiction and time travel in particular, but this is not a good movie, this is a time travel dud and it's not even bad enough to be enjoyed on a bad-movie level, just sort of boring. 

R.O.T.O.R. (1987) 

Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stero with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD WIdescreen (1.78:1)  
Director: Cullen Blaine
Cast: Carroll Brandon Baker , Margaret Trigg , Clark Moore , Jayne Smith , James Cole, Richard Gesswein

Synopsis: Gear up for a cult classic you've got to see to believe: R.O.T.O.R! When corrupt Police Commander Earl Buglar (Michael Hunter) orders the development and construction of the ultimate weapon in the war on crime, robotics expert Barrett Coldyron (Richard Gesswin) warns against the dangers of such a project – and loses his job in the process. But when the prototype R.O.T.O.R (Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research) is accidentally activated, the city is suddenly faced with a rampaging mechanical maniac acting as judge, jury, and executioner – and only Coldyron can stop him! 

Dr. J. Barrett C. Coldyron (Richard Gesswein) works for the Dallas P.D., an engineer who has been tasked with creating a robotic police officer prototype, a project dubbed R.O.T.O.R. (Robotic Officer of the Tactical Operations Research/Reserve Unit). A working prototype is said to be years away from completion, but Coldyron's crooked financier demands a working model within sixty-days, when Coldyron refuses he is tossed off the project, and control of the project is give to his lackluster assistant, who accidentally activates a fully functioning prototype, which is strange, since Coldyron just said a working prototype was years away from completion, but this is only one of numerous head-scratchers you will encounter with R.O.T.O.R., which is a damn mess of a movie, but at least it's an entertaining mess

The prototype is not some robotic looking Robocop-type unit, nope, it looks pretty much like a moustached biker-cop, which looks a lot like Robert Patrick's T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which this pre-dated. Early on we get some crude stop-motion animation of the R.O.T.O.R chassis, which looks very much like a very low-rent version of the T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator. 

As you might have expected R.O.T.O.R escapes from the laboratory and speeds off on his custom-built motorcycle, heading out onto the streets of Dallas to patrol the city. A minor fuck-up with his programming is that he is designed to act as judge, jury and executioner - nor unlike Judge Dredd. He pulls over a young couple for speeding. and immediately executes the boyfriend. His panicked girlfriend flees in the car, and R.O.T.O.R. chases after her very much the same way that the T-800 pursues Sarah Connor. When Coldyron discovers that his creation has been unleashed he sets off in search of his creation to put a stop to it's reign of terror. 

The science fiction mumbo-jumbo of this movie is beyond goofy, a scene of Coldyron explaining how the chassis for the robot works without gears and motors is super-stupid, stating that the chassis has been given a "prime directive" and has "molecular memory learning", and "simulated brain impulse"... you've never heard such bullshit in all your life, but this is exactly the sort of nonsense that makes this such a fun watch. 

Early on in the movie we are subjected to a prolonged movie-padding montage of Coldyron on his ranch, using a lasso made of explosive primer cord to remove trees on his ranch, and you just know this is gonna come back at the end of the movie, and it does. Coldyron also enlists the help of the robotic chassis co-designer Dr. Steele (Jayne Smith, Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders), a woman with a strange skunk-hair style, she reminded me of nosey-neighbor  Marcy from TVs Married with Children if Marcy had been addicted to anabolic steroids. The woman is pumped and goes toe-to-toe with R.O.T.O.R. during the ridiculous finale. 

While Millennium was just sort of boring I found R.O.T.O.R. plenty awful enough to merit a few watches if just to bathe in the glory its awfulness. Obviously this was made to cash-in the success of Robocop and movies like Terminator, but so rarely do the knock-off come off this entertaining. The frosting on the b-movie cake is the poor over-dubbing of the Coldyron character, who lets loose some of the oddest dialogue, such as "You just try it and I'll make more noise than two skeletons making love in a tin coffin, brother! and "He was 39 when he realized gravy wasn't a beverage.". Not sure wht they over-dubbed the character, but it paid off in my opinion.

R.O.T.O.R. arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1.78 widescreen with a surprisingly robust transfer. Of the two movies on this double-feature it looks the best, there's a nice amount of clarity and depth to the image, though it does look like it has had some DNR applied to it, but not to the point of erasing fine detail and texture. The DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 audio is solid, dialogue is clean and the cheesy synth score comes through nicely, English subtitles are provided. The only extra for R.O.T.O.R. is an HD trailer. 

Special Features:
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

Not sure how this slice of '80s awfulness movie has eluded me for so long, truly one of the best-worst movies I've come across recently, a seriously demented chunk of vintage '80s cheese, for fans of bad '80's cinema this is a must-own, as '80s robotic cheese goes this is right up there with Eliminators (1986).

I am loving these MGM double-features from Scream Factory, they're definitely carrying the torch once held by the MGM Midnight Movie releases, many of which I have retired after they arrived in 1080p from Scream Factory.