Thursday, November 19, 2020

Movie: Ashens & The Polybius Heist

I'm taking a small break from the Junq Tour to do a movie review! I haven't done one in quite some time, mainly because Youtube doesn't like me uploading other people's crap onto their servers which they scan daily using evil robots to find nonsense like fart noises that sound identical to toots from a Miles Davis album. Fortunately for me, this movie hasn't even been officially released yet as of this writing and I had to sign a contract that I wouldn't pirate it or post a review until November 19th. Take that, Classical Gas Emissions!

For those who know nothing about the movie from looking at the title, you're going to need a bit of background as to why this movie exists.

Who is Ashens?

Ashens is a Youtuber who reviews mainly useless or vintage junk on the seat of his brown sofa. Sometimes he'll also taste-test expired food, leaving his audience in suspense wondering if he died at least until he posts his next video. I've been watching his Youtube channel for around a decade or so. You should watch it too because it's quite entertaining!

What is a Polybius?

The "Polybius" was a rumored arcade machine from 1981 that was used as a government psychology experiment. The images, colors and animations would supposedly cause addiction to the game along with some side-effects along with occasionally causing death. I honestly had never heard about this urban legend until maybe a year ago when I watched a documentary about it on Youtube. Just by looking at video game graphics at the time, you can tell it's bullshit. Do you really think this can cause psychological damage?

Okay, maybe emotional damage from spending $60 on a crappy game.

Anyway, it turns out this whole Polybius thing was made up by some guy on an internet forum. Remember hearing about John Titor the time traveller? Same kind of horseshit.

So this guy Ashens (Stuart Ashen) has gathered a large group of friends, many of them being fellow Youtubers and has made his second movie using crowdfunding to help complete the project. His first movie was about tracking down a device called the "Game Child" which is just a cheap knock-off of the Nintendo Gameboy. As you can see, movies about knock-off junk and bullshit posted on the internet is a good fit for this blog.

The basic premise of the movie is that Ashens discovers that his father was the person who invented the Polybius and abandoned his children to develop the brain-altering arcade machine in question. Ashens then assembles a team of people to go steal the arcade machine, partially to get answers as to why his father left and partially because he collects useless technological junk.

Half of the budget was likely spent on the lengthy James Bond influenced animated opening which was done very well. It almost looks like a real movie! Also, there are enough dumb jokes going on to make a couple of modern Simpsons episodes. Fortunately, there are enough GOOD jokes in this movie to make it an enjoyable watch.

First, allow me to point out the things I didn't like about the movie...

The Bad:

The Polybius seems to be there solely because of it's name. Ashens' dad could have been working on any kind of an evil machine which could have easily been dropped in place of the Polybius: an evil refridgerator, a man-eating robot woman, an Amazon Echo, etc. With so much apparent mystery that surrounded the Polybius machine, it's a bit unfortunate that the movie failed to take advantage of it. It's so insignificant that I didn't bother taking a screenshot of it.

There are two uses of terrible CGI that I could have done without: the flies chasing the Greece man while the heist vehicle was being purchased, and the clothing iron plowing right through the chest of a security guard. However, these could be references to other movies that I just don't understand since I generally live under a rock when it comes to watching full length films. Maybe they'll be funny to you.

Also, why wasn't there a "free candy" reference with regards to the white van? My only guess is that "free candy" is an American phenomenon and this movie was make in the UK. Perhaps one of my European readers can clarify this for me.

An inconsistency I found is this Amstrad PPC 512 from 1988 being used to develop an arcade machine that came out in 1981. A TRS-80 or an Apple II would have probably been more appropriate, but perhaps I'm only nitpicking due to my massive vintage computer collection (yes, it's a problem).

And lastly, the best thing about the movie has nothing to do with Ashens nor the Polybius. More on that in a moment...

Now I don't want to give you the impression that this movie is shit, because I really did enjoy watching it. There are a lot of good laughs to be had throughout the entire thing. Here's some of the best things about the movie:

The Good:

They needed a "grease" man for the heist who can get out of "slippery situations". Instead, they got a "Greece" man (Yiannis Vassilakis) who spends much of the movie listening to linguistic cassettes on his walkman in order to improve his English. Will he be fluent by the end of it? You'll have to watch it to find out!

The "eye in the sky" was played by NerdCubed (Daniel Hardcastle) who most certainly comes by his alias honestly. He has his own Youtube channel and opens strange Advent Calendars with Ashens every Christmas (yes, you should watch those too). Anyway, NerdCubed is a bit quirky and I wasn't sure about how well he could play a part in the movie, but he's probably the best damn actor out of the whole lot of them. He absolutely OWNED his part and played it very well.

The best fucking part about the whole movie was Ashens' sister (Joanna O'Connor) having a fierce sexual fetish for lawnmowers which stems from the trauma of her father leaving when she was a child. This one running joke is the most memorable thing you're going to take away from the movie. If you need one reason to see this movie, THIS IS IT. Your pants will be soaked in a yellow substance unlike apple juice from laughing so hard!

For those who are wondering about the part played by Barry Lewis (who is another Youtuber), it's a very small part. Eli Silverman plays a much bigger role in the movie as Ashens' sidekick. Ashens, Barry, and Eli all partook in a Youtube channel called "Barshens" which was basically a cross between a talk show and a game show. The earlier episodes are also worth watching. With all these Youtube suggestions I'm giving you, you'll have your TV time booked for the next year.

The movie is coming out on November 19th which is the day I'm allowed to post this. You can watch it here. They're probably not very happy about me requesting a screening copy on Betamax, but apparently a DVD release will come sometime down the road if you're into non-tape formats.

So yes, the movie has a few imperfections, but it's more enjoyable than 95% of the stuff I post on this blog. It's certainly worth watching at least once.

Stand by for the continuation of the Junq Tour!

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