Tag Archives: evolver

Bargain Bin(ge): Replays Gameware (Tuscaloosa/Northport, AL)

Tuscaloosa, AL isn’t a particularly big or interesting place. Unless you’re there for football, school, or the unimaginable combination of the two, there isn’t a whole lot to soak in. I would know, because I lived there for a while.

That said, there are a surprising number of used media stores in the area for how modest the population is. I’ve already covered the MovieStop chain quite a bit, which has a prominent location in Tuscaloosa. However, the real gems in the area are two sites of the small franchise Replays Gameware & DVDs, which you will seldom see outside of small towns and modest cities like Tuscaloosa.

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While the selection isn’t outstanding, these shops aren’t afraid to hold blowout sales to clear out their stock, particularly for their DVDs (as they are primarily vintage gaming shops).  If you catch them during one of those (as I did), the deals are very solid. There is also something to be said about the atmosphere at these shops: they are far less sterile than many of the larger buy/sell/trade chains, and hold on to the intimate and casual ambiance that a lot of people miss from the days of video rental. For people who are into that, Replays has never failed to deliver that for me.

Getting on to the actual haul, let’s start with the central Tuscaloosa location:

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Evolver

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Holy shit! It’s my favorite William H. Macy-voiced killer robot: Evolver! I covered this particular flick as part of Killer Robot Week, but this is actually the first time I had come across a DVD copy of it. Of course, I had to pick it up. Why wouldn’t I? If you want to know more, go check out my earlier review of it. Or, better yet, just dig it up on Netflix without any primer.

Action Jackson

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Action Jackson is a movie where Carl Weathers (Predator, Rocky, Arrested Development) plays a super-cop, which is all I need to know about it. Also, Vanity of Never Too Young To Die and The Last Dragon co-stars alongside him, in case I needed extra incentive to pick this up (I didn’t). This is another one of those movies that I have just never gotten around to, so when I spotted it on sale, I decided that it should come home with me. I have a feeling that if I throw that movie in my DVD player, I’ll have a mean stew going.

The Thing With Two Heads

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Gosh, where can I possibly start with this bizarre b-movie? It is about a racist white man whose (functioning) head is grafted onto a black guy, which results in a movie’s worth of hilarious, action-filled hi-jinks. Academy Award winner Ray Milland did this flick in 1972, the same year in which he featured prominently in the outlandish horror movie Frogs, which I covered here previously. I first heard about this flick when Stuart Gordon did a spotlight on it for Trailers From Hell, and it has been on my to-watch list ever since.  Keep your eyes peeled, because this sounds like a lock for me to cover at some point in the future.

While the Tuscaloosa location did yield me those three much-appreciated finds, the Northport location just outside of town really gave me some fuel for the bad movie fire:

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The Crippled Avengers

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Martial Arts films definitely aren’t my strong suit, and my knowledge base is admittedly pretty lacking in this department. However, this is a flick that I heard about recently via The Cinema Snob, and I was a little surprised to see it with a DVD release at all given how obscure most of his picks are. I hear that this is actually a pretty decent action flick, but I may just cover it anyway for its cult appeal.

Children of the Corn II / Children of the Corn III

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This is a franchise that I have no experience with outside of the original. However, I do know that people hate these two movies with a burning passion, and that I have never seen them. Thus, this was an obvious pickup for me.

The Substitute / The Substitute II / The Substitute III / The Substitute IV

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There are three sequels to The Substitute? And they all star the zombie-cop  Treat Williams? There is absolutely no way that these movies are good, and the fact that I had no idea they existed makes me absolutely giddy. I can’t wait to dig into these, and I hope they yield something worth covering here on the blog.

The original The Substitute was featured on the We Hate Movies podcast not too long ago, which made me give consideration to picking it up at some point. I vaguely remember seeing it as a kid, but it was really easy to get confused with The Principal, one of the finest films in the history of cinema. Regardless, I am baffled that this flick managed to spawn so many sequels, which has me deathly curious as to how the story continuity works between them.

Fright Night / Monster High / The Craft / Brainscan

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It is hard to resist the allure of a cheap compilation DVD. In this case, cult classics Fright Night and The Craft anchor a couple of lesser-known flicks that leech onto their sides like barnacles. The one that initially caught my eye was Brainscan, which was on my shortlist to cover back during Killer Robot Week. However, I have a hunch that Monster High is going to be the highlight of the bunch, because it sounds absolutely wretched, and holds an unenviable IMDB rating of 3.3.

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Killer Robot Week: “Evolver”

Evolver

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Welcome back to Misan[trope]y Movie Blog! Today’s entry into Killer Robot Week is 1995’s “Evolver”: a tale of an Augmented Reality video game beta test gone horribly awry.

“Evolver” was written and directed by Mark Rosman, a fellow who has had a bit of an odd career. Before “Evolver,” his film career kicked off by writing and directing the 1983 movie “The House on Sorority Row.” Between that flick and “Evolver,” Rosman only saw a handful of TV series and movie credits, including an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” He followed up “Evolver” with a 1997 Daniel Baldwin feature called “The Invader,” which features this amazing plot summary on IMDb (word for word):

Good alien from a dying race must impregnate an Earth woman to avoid extinction of his race. Bad alien whose race helped wipe out good alien’s race doesn’t want to see this happen.

After that blockbuster, Rosman went back to television until the mid-2000s, inexplicably directing a number of episodes of family friendly shows such as “Lizzie McGuire” and “Even Stevens.” In 2004-2005, he directed back-to-back Hillary Duff vehicles (“The Perfect Man,” “A Cinderella Story”), before retreating to the small screen once again. He is still active as of 2015, with his latest being a Hallmark Channel movie by the title of “A Wish Come True.” Hallmark Channel features and Hillary Duff movies are quite a long way from killer robot movies, huh?

The cinematographer on “Evolver,” Jacques Haitkin, has loads of experience behind the camera on horror flicks, racking up nearly 90 credits as of 2012. These have included films such as “Wishmaster,” “Maniac Cop 3,” “Shocker,” “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” and “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2,” among many, many others.

evolver1The cast of “Evolver” includes a couple of recognizable actors, including the voice of William H. Macy as the Evolver robot, just one year before his big critical break-out in the Coen brothers’ masterful “Fargo.” Also instantly recognizable is John de Lancie of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Breaking Bad,” and more recently “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.” I have to say, I didn’t expect there to be one degree of separation between this obscure 1990s killer robot movie and the “Brony” subculture.

evolver5The rest of the “Evolver” cast includes Cindy Pickett (most recognizable from playing Ferris Bueller’s mom), character actor Paul Dooley, Ethan Embry (“Once Upon A Time,” “Late Phases”), and Tim Griffin (“American Sniper,” “Grey’s Anatomy”). Griffin has probably had the most consistent work of the bunch in recent years, drifting in and out of minor action and military roles effortlessly since 2007.

“Evolver” follows a pretty simple story: a arcade ace wins a contest that allows him to personally and exclusively beta test a brand new augmented reality video game, which is essentially a laser tag game with an AI-enhanced robot. The learning AI in the “Evolver” robot starts going awry and reverting to its original, militaristic applications (not unlike the plot of “Small Soldiers”), maiming and killing a handful of local teens as it learns to more effectively hunt and destroy.

evolver4To start with, I absolutely love the Evolver robot. I like the design in general, and particularly the way it changes shape slightly as it develops and learns. For what is a pretty simple robot, the design allows it to do some emoting via body language, particularly through the use of head-tilting. That, combined with William H. Macy’s voice work, allows him to to come off as endearing in some scenes, and genuinely intimidating in others. I particularly enjoyed how happy Evolver gets on the few occasions where he things he has won: there’s something weirdly charming and adorable about it.

There are a few moments in “Evolver” that make me wonder if it was motivated by the parental panic in the mid-1990s over the perceived rise of violence in video gaming: there are a couple of instances of “Evolving” learning bad behavior from television programs, with the implication that this is part of what reawakens his military programming.  Honestly, looking back, I think that this half-hearted message just makes the movie funnier in retrospect. To think, this film predates even the first “Grand Theft Auto” game by a solid two years, and came out almost parallel with “Mortal Kombat 3.”

Much like “Chopping Mall,” “Evolver” has a whole lot of minor character deaths throughout the film. While he doesn’t fire eye lasers like the Killbots, Evolver makes use of a lot of improvised weaponry. The two most memorable deaths I recall were executed via ball bearings and an arcade machine, respectively, showing a good deal of creativity with the character dispatching.

At one point, it is believed that “Evolver” has been defeated, and the robotics company takes him away to be destroyed. In true “Halloween 4” Michael Myers fashion, he suddenly comes back to life and wrecks the transport van, which I thought was a pretty cool scene. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of clips of “Evolver” out there, so just picture this scene with a killer robot in it:

Overall, “Evolver” is a pretty fun killer robot movie, particularly if you are a fan of massively outdated technology. The sheer quantity of ancient computers, video games, and gadgets is enough to send you on a nostalgia trip, and that’s without even getting into the whole killer robot plot. It isn’t quite on the level of “Chopping Mall,” but there is still a lot to enjoy out of this mid-90s B flick.

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Remember when this kind of video gaming was the hot thing decades before the Oculus Rift?

In general, I would recommend this one for B-movie fans. It is a little off of the beaten path, though it apparently got a fair amount of air time on the early days of the Sci-fi television network. Most people nowadays probably haven’t seen it though, and it is definitely worth the minimal effort to dig up.

If you missed the previously entries in Killer Robot Week here at Misan[trope]y, you can check them out here:

Red Planet

Robot Monster

Chopping Mall