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Robot Jox (Blu-ray Review)

Robot-JoxIn the distant future, mankind has forsaken global wars for battles of single combat. The world has been divided into two opposing super powers, with each side represented by trained champions. Their weapons are huge robotic machines, capable of battle on land, sea and in the air. From celebrated director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) and executive producer Charles Band comes ROBOT JOX, a riveting sci-fi action adventure. Directed by Stuart Gordon, the film stars Gary Graham (TV’s Alien Nation), Anne-Marie Johnson (TV’s In The Heat of the Night, JAG), Paul Koslo (Voyage of the Damned), Robert Sampson (Re-Animator, The Dark Side of the Moon), Danny Kamekona (Hawaii Five-O, The Karate Kid, Part II), Hilary Mason (Dolls) and Michael Alldredge (Scarface) as Tex.

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Film 

Robot Jox reveals a world where nations settle their territorial disputes by a single combat between two giant machines. Piloted by national heroes Achilles and Alexander, the robots meet in Death Valley to fight for the greatest prize of all: Alaska. But when Achilles’ machine crushes 300 spectators, the match ends in a draw. Refusing to face Alexander in a rematch, Achilles is replaced by Athena, a genetically-engineered combat fighter. So when the GenJox is nearly killed and the game is forfeited, Achilles avenges their honor by challenging Alexander to a winner-take-all death match, in this heavy-metal, sci-fi adventure.

When we think of Stuart Gordon, its normally associated with horror movies.  Much of that being modernized adaptations of H P Lovecraft stories.  Movies that usually star Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton.  Done by Charles Band with Full Moon or Empire Pictures.  Well, some of that is still true, but Robot Jox is the weird anomaly in the man’s filmography.  And what an interesting and fun direction he tried to shoot off and do.  Don’t worry, our fave Jeffrey Combs gets a cameo, but bummer there’s no Barbara Crampton.

This film was a passion project by many involved and took quite a while to get going and get made.  A lot of blood sweat and tears were shed on making these effects not on just happen, but work and be believable.  And, if you don’t suck at watching movies, you’ll see this is pretty impressive.  ESPECIALLY when you look at the studio making the film.  The cool thing is, is that you look at this movie and can see little pieces of what we’d get fully imagined again in a film like Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim.

For all the complexities of the effects, the story of the film is rather simple.  It also goes by within the blink of an eye.  Characters are very sort of basic, but have enough depth to carry on by and make you care.  The film’s plot and conflict does bring across something interesting thoughts and questions.  Robot Jox also takes place in a futuristic sci-fi world that just tells its tale and doesn’t sit and try to do a ton of world building at the same time.  It proves its worth just by its comfort of living in that world.

This might be the first Scream Factory release that is okay for younger audiences to check out.  Its rated PG and doesn’t get too crazy with violence.  The only area to watch is the cursing.  But, aside from that, this is fun.  Its giant robots beating the crap out each other in a low budget sci fi movie that really tries to go above and beyond its limitations.  Robot Jox seems like a little forgotten movie that could be fun for a lot of people to pick up again.  Godzilla fans and fans of similar giant things causing havoc should check it out.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Robot Jox features a surprisingly crisp and detailed image.  Footage no including the stop-motion looks really clean.  Details on surfaces and fabrics come through pretty nicely.

Depth: Some solid work here as background imagery looks pretty good.  Movement comes across as smooth and theatrical. 

Black Levels: Blacks are decently rich.  No real crushing witnessed and detail such as hair follicle and fabric detail show through pretty good.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are pretty bold and fill there place in the palette.  The red on the uniforms pops right of the screen.  The villain’s yellow also looks quite rich.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural.  Detail is high as you can see pores, scars, stubble, sweat beads and all kinds of features.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some instances of grain, specs and dirt on the print.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This is a surprisingly active little stereo track, giving one a very positive experience to accompany the robo-mayhem.  The right and left channel interaction and volume placements are very good.  The sound of destruction are very well rounded and distinct.  There is also a nice balance of music, voice and effects with all getting to tout their prominence without stepping on one another’s toes.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Crisp, loud and clear.

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Extras 

Robot Jox cover art is reversible, featuring an alternate poster design on the inside of the insert.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Stuart Gordon
  • With Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rappaport and Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel

Looking Back With Paul Koslo (HD, 10:14) – The man who plays the film’s villain has nothing but fun and kind things to say about those he worked with.  He also is very appreciative the effects guys on the film.

Archival Interviews – These appear to be ported over from a previous release.  Much of it culminates as a fitting tribute to the film’s special effects and model work coordinator David Allen.

  • Director Stuart Gordon (HD, 7:27) 
  • Pryotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (HD, 7:57)
  • Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (HD, 7:14)
  • Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (HD, 7:48)
  • Animation & Visual Effects Chris Endicott and Mark McGee (HD, 9:29) 

Behind The Scenes Footage (HD, 14:16) – Home video footage from the effects guys showing their shop room, testing effects, planning, shooting effects and screwing around.

Trailers

  • Theatrical (HD, 1:25)
  • TV Spot (HD, :31)

Still Galleries

  • On Location (HD, 7:00)
  • Illustrations (HD, 3:40)

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Summary 

Scream Factory may have added commentaries and one new interview, but it looks like Robot Jox was stacked before they even got ahold of it.  And MAJOR kudos to them for porting everything and THEN taking time add more.  They could have just done a flat upgrade, but like always they spoil us and give extra.  The film looks and sounds quite good and if you’re one who is able to watch and appreciate older effects…or just flat out know how to watch older movies, this is a lot of fun and something that definitely paves the way for a Pacific Rim many years later.  Fans should be pleased with this release and newcomers will dig it too.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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