Monday, 3 June 2013

MANBORG - DVD Review and Editorial Commentary By Greg Klymkiw - From Anchor Bay Canada in partnership with Raven Banner comes the most triumphant DVD for a Canadian Film that is comparable to a Criterion Collection release. This is a no-budget Canadian movie that all burgeoning filmmakers need to watch and then dive into the fabulous extra features and learn how to make their first feature the RIGHT WAY!!! This DVD is practically a film school in a box. DON'T WASTE MONEY ON FILM SCHOOL, JUST BUY THIS DVD!!! And if you DON'T agree these guys made EXACTLY the kind of first feature REAL FILMMAKERS must make when they are bereft of money, then you are a POSEUR! In the tradition of John Paizs and Guy Maddin, Astron-6 is the REAL THING!












MANBORG enjoyed one hell of a hootenanny at the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Not long after, Toronto's Jesus H. Christ Almighty of Edgy, Cool and Just Plain Insane Cinema, Colin (TIFF'S "Mr. Midnight Madness" Himself) Geddes strapped on the powerful dildo that became a Co-Executive-Producership of Manborg and fudge-packed this puppy into a Midnight Movie hit at Toronto's Royal Theatre as well as spearheading (as it were), a variety of home entertainment deals throughout the universe.

Up in the Great White North, the powerhouse partnership of Raven Banner and Anchor Bay Canada have placed this masterwork of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror onto the grand pedestal of DVD immortality for all to cherish and enjoy. With a superb looking transfer magnificently magnifying every analogue and digital artifact known to technology in addition to the extremity of every garishly gorgeous colour spewed like so much fresh Mandarin Buffet regurgitate upon a cathode-ray screen, this superlative entry in the canon of the Winnipeg-spawned Astron-6 is directed within an inch of its ever-loving life by the Shit-Stompingly Stellar Steven Kostanski.

Yes, now you can own your own copy and goddamn all to hell, fuck me blind over a month of everlasting Sundays, this fab DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada is - no kidding - one of the best DVD packages you are likely to ever buy, own and cherish. The DVD is co-produced by Manborg's other Executive Producer Peter Kuplowsky and it is crafted with all the loving attention to detail that one normally expects from the Criterion Collection and not on a DVD for a zero-budget film that brilliantly recreates (and transforms into its very own original hybrid) all those cellar-dwellar straight-to-home-video SF pictures from the 80s.

First and foremost, this is a DVD that every burgeoning young filmmaker must own - especially Canadian filmmakers. Why Canadians especially? Well, in all my years as an independent producer I worked with filmmakers who were artists, loved movies more than life itself and did anything and everything they had to do to make movies - such born filmmakers like John Paizs, Guy Maddin, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Cynthia Roberts and Alan Zweig.

Every so often as an indie producer, and then during my 13 years as a senior creative consultant and Producer-in-Residence at Uncle Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, I'd meet Canuck filmmakers who wanted to replicate the kind of success generated by many of the pictures I produced or, at the very least, they had some notion that making movies in a no-to-low-budget fashion would still afford them the opportunity to make ANY movie they wanted and to pave their own road to Oz with bricks of gold.

How wrong they were. Many outside the coterie of what I'd become used to working with had this perverse sense of entitlement that made me sick to my stomach. They all immediately wanted huge crews, union actors (almost impossible in the old days, but somewhat more manageable as the years progressed) and every single one of the poseurs in the bunch yammered on about "excellence" and (ugh!) "production value". These to me were the sort of buzz words that signalled one thing - THESE PEOPLE WERE NOT FILMMAKERS. At least, not REAL filmmakers. They were spoiled entitled Canadians living in a bubble of taxpayer financing who were choosing filmmaking as a career the same way one might choose to be a fucking dentist - the only difference being that filmmaking is cooler than being a dentist and THAT is the only reason they were choosing it.

What many of them didn't realize is that the international successes of Canadian filmmakers within this bubble often came from the fact that the product was generated by real artists - many of whom employed slow, steady, exponential gains in budget levels. What a lot of the poseurs really wanted was a job. Most of them ended up doing shitty television for that. Television these days is the perfect medium for most directors who are not real filmmakers and Canadian television is usually the lowest of the low. Thirdly, they believed one could CHOOSE to become filmmakers. WRONG! Filmmaking in its purest form CHOOSES YOU!

Worse yet, these losers, not being REAL filmmakers, needed all the bells and whistles that "real" movies had. What's especially pathetic is that the "support" they were asking for would have - within their desire to make a movie for no money - rendered pictures that looked, for lack of a better description, Canadian. Up to a certain budget level, most Canadian films made for no money, but attempting to adhere to "industry standards", end up looking cheaper and uglier than most real low budget films made by real filmmakers.

Some people ask me: What does a Canadian film look like? Well, the colour blue is almost always used to represent night. I call it "Canadian Blue" and it is appalling. The other thing a Canadian film of this ilk looks like is television. CANADIAN television at that! Believe me, it's ugly.

Kostanski and the entire Astron-6 team make movies that look gorgeous. Like some of the best filmmakers before them - like Paizs and Maddin in particular, the Astron-6 boys LOVE movies to death and make movies using whatever is at their disposal to render wildly entertaining AND original cinema. No money? No problem. Paizs often replicated odd training and corporate films from the 60s and B-movies from the 50s, Maddin dove into the crude cusp period between silent and sound motion pictures with dollops of German expressionism whilst Astron-6 embraced the movies they loved as kids and young adults. Here's the key difference between the Astron-6 guys and virtually every other Canuck filmmaker who first discovered movies in the 80s (unlike say, Paizs or Maddin, who had a few years on these guys and looked further backwards for inspiration).

I have had people who first discovered movies in the 80s referring to - I kid you not - the "classics" by the likes of John Hughes or - God Help Us - The Goonies. Fuck that shit! The movies Astron-6 embraced were ultra-violent, ultra-sleazy, ultra-cheesy, ultra-retro and mega-entertaining genre pictures from such fine purveyors of Grade Z straight to video fare as Cannon, Vestron and other now-forgotten companies.

No-budget movies that put real filmmakers on the map do not come from sickly sweet retreads of John Hughes movies - they come from filmmakers making their lack of funds a virtue and delivering product that's unlike anything else. David Lynch (Eraserhead), John Waters (Pink Flamingos) and Kevin Smith (Clerks) - to name a mere three filmmakers who blasted onto the filmmaking scene with no-budget movies - and did so with movies about deformed babies, dog-shit-eating transvestites and foul-mouthed convenience store losers.

Astron-6 in one year delivered two features: Father's Day (a serial killer who fucks Dads in the ass and sets them on fire) and Kostanski's Manborg wherein an alien demon from Hell takes over the Earth and does battle with a Robocop-style superhero who's aided by three martial artists of the higher order - amidst, of course, some of the most grotesque makeup effects and gore this side of supernatural gialli from the likes of Bava, Lenzi, Argento, et al.

The Manborg DVD is the best film school any young filmmaker can get - because the movie comes from people who know movies, love movies and know how to assemble all the elements to deliver a rocking good time to their audiences.

Here's some of the highlights of the Manborg DVD: Not one, but TWO genuinely GREAT commentary tracks.

The first track is from Kostanski himself and it's a masterpiece of what one wants from a director. Most directors are useless at doing these and end up telling us what we already know (usually by literally describing the action on the screen - duh!) or worse, filling our ears with way too much useless anecdotal crap. Not Kostanski! He gives us the straight goods - HOW he made the movie. His commentary is right up there with some of the best purveyors of these things like Norman Jewison and Martin Scorsese. The second commentary track is again Kostanski, but he's joined by one of the film's Executive Producers Peter Kuplowsky and actor, writer, fx designer and composer Jeremy Gillespie. There's a tiny bit of anecdotal stuff here, but most of it is rooted in the filmmaking process and we don't get a mere repeat of the other track, but one that works to enhance our appreciation of how the movie was made.

My only quibble with this second commentary track is when the guys start to SHIT TURDS FULL OF UNDIGESTED CORN NIBLETS AND STREAKS OF BLOOD FROM THEIR ANAL FISSURES all over my original review of Manborg which was one of the earliest raves of the movie online. FOUR FUCKING STARS I gave these assholes! I spewed bucket-loads of ejaculate all over their faces (so to speak). I wrote about the film - NOT ONCE, NOT TWICE, BUT THREE TIMES (and here I'm writing about it a FOURTH TIME, and next month, I'm writing about it a FIFTH time in the legendary Joe Kane's super-fab genre mag from south of the 49th parallel, "Phantom of the Movies VIDEOSCOPE" and a SIXTH time for a cool UK-based film mag).

So what do these fuckers do? They single out my review. They don't mention my name because I'm older than 30 and they, being young people, don't know or remember anyone's name over the age of 30 (save, perhaps, for their Moms and Dads). However, I know they're referring to my review because they use the phrase "one review even complained...". Well, goddamn it, you are fucking right I complained - one complaint and for good fucking reason.

The movie stars two mega-babes. BABES!!! Babes, I tell you! And my complaint was so minor, but one I thought these assholes might take to heart for their next film. All I wistfully opined on was that they didn't adequately exploit some good girl-on-girl action of the catfight variety. I wasn't asking for LESBO ACTION, though that might have been good too. Nope! All I wanted was at least one or two or maybe even three more babe-on-babe catfights.

Who doesn't enjoy seeing babes kick the shit out of each other?

Haven't these clowns ever seen any women in prison pictures or Russ Meyer movies or Doris Wishman exploitation items? That's it. One complaint. More catfights. What do these whiners do on their commentary track? They shit on me for complaining about this.

What Astron-6 EXPUNGED Upon My Very SOUL!!!
So that, is now my second complaint. Maybe these fuckwads will scarf down some Mexican food (real Mex food from TJ, washed down with E-Coli-infused tap water) before their next commentary track and release their excremental floodgates all over me for complaining that they complained about my minor complaint that they needed more babe-on-babe fight action. So before I continue raving about the genius of this DVD - FUCK YOU!

What else do we get? We get two - count 'em - TWO phenomenal short films. One is a completely, insanely and deliciously inspired extended trailer for a feature I hope they're making for real called Bio-Cop (with one of the best lines in movie history - so great, I won't ruin your experience by reprinting it here) and an astoundingly sweet AND grotesque short called Fantasy Beyond, about a little girl in a strange art gallery where the pictures start to attack her and she's rescued by some fucked-up-looking heavy metal dudes with electric guitars that double as ray guns.

We get some supremely cool Visual Effects and Stop Motion Montages that are so good they almost feel like standalone short films. There's the requisite Behind the Scenes footage, but this stuff, in addition to the great commentary tracks, is not only entertaining, but earns the right to be included in the finest DVD accolade one can bestow - it's all the film school you'll need.

There are Bloopers, which I usually hate seeing and these don't really change my mind, but if you, God Forbid, you do like this sort of thing, you won't go wrong with anything included here.

The Deleted/Alternate Scenes are de rigueur on extras-packed DVDs and these do NOT disappoint in the least.

A whole whack of community cable TV-inspired Mackenzie Murdoch interviews featuring Adam Brooks (Dr. Scorpius, Draculon, Voice of Dying Soldier) who thrills us with his obvious verve, Andrea Karr (one of the babes in the movie who should have been given a chance to do more catfighting and, was dating director Kostanski), Conor Sweeney (eating), Jeremy Gillespie (interviewed by Peter Kuplowsky in some whacked out surreal shit involving an escalator), Ludwig Lee (a martial artist who appears attired as if he works in a Bay Street brokerage), Matthew Kennedy (Manborg himself with a puppet and the best quotation in all the interviews: "Steve uses his actors like marrionettes - 'fuck you I'm a fucking actor, not a puppet'!!!"), Meredith Sweeney (the film's other mega-babe who is short changed by not being given enough catfight opportunities and has some deliciously foul responses to Murdoch's line of questioning. When he mentions she resembles 80s anime chicks, she responds: "I have no fucking idea what you're talking about. What kind of a fuckin' question is that, anyway?" and Mike Kostanski (shilling his rock band).

The other great extra is a videotaped Q and A at the Royal Theatre premiere and features Kostanski's wisest observation wherein he mentions the shitty expensive movie Van Helsing as having the cool concept of all these great monsters, but how in the same breath he says how disappointing the movie was. His response to seeing the movie was to make the brilliant Manborg for about $2000 (Canadian funds) and anyone who complains that his movie doesn't have enough monsters is a total asshole. (Anyone who complains about a lack of chick-on-chick catfights would not be an asshole, but would, in fact, be me.)

And now, in its pure, unexpurgated form (including my catfight reference) is my original review of MANBORG.

MANBORG (2011)  ****
dir. Steven Kostanski

Starring: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Ludwig Lee, Conor Sweeney, Meredith Sweeney, Jeremy Gillespie, Andrea Karr

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The time will come when we are dominated by a One World Government. This will be no mere conspiracy theorist's idea of a New World Order. Art Bell won't be predicting this one!

In fact, the Illuminati are pussy-whupped-momma-boy-teat-sucklers compared to what waits for us just round the corner. As dramatically postulated in the latest production from the kubassa-stuffed-to-overflowing loins of the Winnipeg-spawned hit machine Astron-6, be afraid - be VERY afraid of the future.

Straight from the jaws of Hell comes Draculon (Adam Brooks), a crazed totalitarian infused with a slavering desire to inflict pain. He makes the Dictator combo-platter of Adolph Hitler (former German Chancellor), Joe Stalin (former butcher of ten million Ukrainian garlic eaters), George W. Bush (annihilator of Islam) , Stephen Harper (current Il Duce of Canada) and Michael Bay (Brain Sucker Extraordinaire) look like your kindly Granny Apple Cheeks knitting her umpteenth doily and churning butter.

As brilliantly rendered in the opening minutes of this 70-minute masterwork, you will cringe as our pitiful armies do their best in battle with the demons of Mephistopheles, but even the best of the best of the best of mankind will be no match for the foul, pus-oozing Satanic beasts.

When a brave young fighting man hits the turf and pushes up the daisies, he is mysteriously and miraculously transformed by the mad genius Dr. Scorpius (Adam "Fuck me and a month of Sundays, this guy gets around!" Brooks) into the next best thing to Jesus H. Christ Almighty (or Robocop - take your pick!).

He is, and always will be:


Blending cutting edge technology, Frankensteinian alchemy, Einsteinian science and the mind of mankind's leanest, meanest fighting machines, Manborg (Mathhew Kennedy) has, alas, retained the heart and soul of humanity. Instead of serving Draculon and his evil henchman The Baron (Jeremy Gillespie), he joins forces with three superHUMAN heroes in the struggle to free Earth from the clutches of Hades.

This trio of badass mo-fos includes the wildly pompadoured kick-butt-Kiwi (or Aussie, or Brit, or what-the-fuck-ever-his-deliciously-delightful-accent-is) played by Conor Sweeney, a blade-o-licious platinum-tressed kick-butt, delectably-racked, red-grease-painted-faced babe (Meredith Sweeney) and a melt-in-your-mouth, magnificently buff kick-butt Asian martial artist (Ludwig Lee) dubbed into English by someone who sounds like the offscreen voice artist who dubbed all of Steve Reeves's lines into English in his numerous Italian sword and sandal epics of the 50s and 60s (in spite of the fact that Steve Reeves actually, uh, spoke English).

Needless to say, our heroes save the world. (Yeah, I just released a wet fart of a spoiler.)

The movie is replete with mega-martial-arts, chase scenes on what appear to be ATVs without wheels that fly, Tron-like arena jousts and plenty of shit that blows up real good. Oh yeah, have I mentioned yet that the movie was made for about a thousand smackers, shot on glorious DV-CAM and includes tons of in-camera and rudimentary effects that resemble early 80s community cable blue screen? No? Well, I have now and there's not one damn thing in this movie that looks awful.

In fact, it is endowed with the kind of visual splendour that can only come from filmmakers who love movies and movie-making. Special effects that LOOK like special effects, have always held a humungous soft-spot in my heart. I love knowing that I'm watching a MOVIE. I love knowing the effects are - uh, just that - effects. I love to be reminded that I am in a world that only exists up on a big screen. For me, this IS magic.

The ultimate magic in the movie comes when two babes square off for a cat fight supreme. When one of the babes morphs into a demon, all my hopes and dreams momentarily diminished. Sure, it's fine to watch a babe kick a demon's butt, but for Christ's sake, babe-on-babe fight action always takes precedence.

But I digress.

As rendered by Steve Kostanski, MANBORG is a fairy tale of cosmic proportions for geeks and freaks the world over. It makes perfect sense that this, and the other Astron-6 works of consummate film art come from the recesses of Winnipeg.

In addition to the asbestos-lined water pipes, an insane need to tear down heritage buildings to build parking lots when the entire city is a fucking parking lot and a bowling alley bearing the name of the late, great Billy Mosienko (who, prior to his death, would man the counter and rent you bowling shoes), the 'Peg (my own former winter city) is not only the geographical-near-centre of North America, but boasts a grand tradition of what film critic Geoff Pevere dubbed as Prairie Post-Modernism.

Filmmakers like John Paizs, Guy Maddin, Noam Gonick, Lorne Bailey and Matthew Rankin forged a path that few in the 'Peg have been able to follow as memorably (though Regina-based cousins like Brian Stockton, Brett Bell and prairie-boy-at-heart Richard Kerr HAVE, in their own demented ways). Kostanski, by the way is a brilliant effects artist and his most recent makeup design is on view in the terrific Xavier Gens sci-Fi thriller The Divide.

Make way, now, for a new generation of mad geniuses from Winnipeg.

They are Astron-6. And though some from this collective of total filmmakers have temporarily (one hopes) left the world capital of napping and Salisbury House Mr. Big Nips for bigger locales, the snug blankets and Icelandic sweaters of the prairies sprouted their grand vision that are and will continue to take the world by storm.

That said, I do expect that MANBORG II will have plenty o' babes catfighting.

MANBORG is available on Anchor Bay Canada. Buy it! NOW! You can even buy it an other Astron-6 titles here. Just click on the Amazon links below and you'll be helping me get royalties to assist with the ongoing maintenance of this site.
In Canada BUY the Astron-6 Short Film Collection HERE
In USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY the ASTRON-6 Short Film Collection - HERE

In Canada BUY Astron-6's FATHER'S DAY - HERE

In USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY Astron-6's FATHER'S DAY - HERE

In Canada BUY Astron-6's MANBORG - HERE

In USA and the rest of the WORLD - BUY ASTRON-6's MANBORG - HERE