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Two Roger Corman Films from Disney

Asphalt Wars (December 30/08)

Saddled with a pervasively slipshod atmosphere, Asphalt Wars is, surprisingly enough, actually a slight cut above the majority of Roger Corman's low-budget fare - as writer/director Henry Crum does a surprisingly effective job of turning the movie's central character into a figure worth rooting for. The inclusion of an almost comically hackneyed storyline - coupled with several eye-rolling chunks of dialogue (ie after being told that he has big dreams, the main character responds, "I didn't know they came in any other size") - inevitably does transform the movie into precisely the sort of tedious experience one might've expected, with the unusually uneventful midsection certainly exacerbating Asphalt War's various problems. Mario Alvarado stars as Vargas, a temperamental gearhead who finds himself forced to participate in a dangerous heist after losing scads of money during several illegal street races. It's a familiar set-up that's admittedly used to fairly positive effect by Crum, though his decision to artificially speed up the camera during the various car chases is undoubtedly something of a head-scratcher. Alvarado's amateurish yet likeable performance proves instrumental in initially sustaining the viewer's interest, with his tentative relationship with a local girl (Calvi Pabon's Dina) ensuring that one can't help but sympathize with the character's plight. There reaches a point, however, at which it becomes clear that Crum is simply spinning his wheels in the build-up to the final chase sequence, and it's hard to deny that the subsequent loss of momentum ultimately cements Asphalt Wars status as just another underwhelming Corman effort. (This is despite the presence of an unintentionally hilarious moment late in the proceedings wherein Vargas, so consumed by his driving, doesn't notice a dead body sitting in the seat beside him.)

out of

Scorpius Gigantus (January 15/09)

Bottom-of-the-barrel nonsense from start to finish, Scorpius Gigantus follows several Special Forces soldiers (led by Jeff Fahey's Nick Reynolds) as they're sent into a massive abandoned warehouse - where a veritable army of oversized, genetically-altered bugs are wreaking havoc after escaping from their creator (Jo Bourne-Taylor's Dr. Jane Preston). Screenwriters Raly Radouloff and Terence H. Winkless generally prove themselves unconcerned with plot or character development, as the movie primarily revolves around the commandos' increasingly tedious efforts at wiping out the incompetently-rendered insects - thus ensuring that's there's never a point at which the viewer is even remotely drawn into the proceedings (ie this possesses the feel of a particularly ineffective videogame). The frustratingly repetitive structure - characters bicker, plan, and fight in a seemingly endless loop - is exacerbated by Radouloff and Winkless' laughable attempts at fleshing out the movie's various figures, as the scripters infuse conversations and confrontations alike with an eye-rollingly inept sensibility that's almost stunning in its awkwardness (ie after two fighters inexplicably share a kiss, one attempts to comfort the other by saying, "that doesn't make you a lesser soldier. Just human.") Fahey's expectedly compelling work notwithstanding, Scorpius Gigantus boasts performances that are beyond amateurish - although, to be fair, even the most accomplished actor would be hard-pressed to breathe life into Radouloff and Winkless' hopelessly hackneyed creations (ie one soldier's rationale for disliking female officers is nothing short of ludicrous). The end result is an effort that's pretty much a wash on every level, and it hardly seems likely that Roger Corman himself would be able to muster up a convincing recommendation.

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About the DVDs: Full-frame transfers and zero extras are the order of the day for both titles.
© David Nusair