Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Shout! Factory
  • Tales from the Hood (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Tales from the Hood (1995)

    Director: Rusty Cundieff

    Starring: Corbin Bersen, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Tales from the Hood unspools an anthology of urban frights set against the backdrop of inner city social issues as frightening as the monsters depicted in them.  Nightmares and reality are forever blurred when a trio of hoodlums retrieving a stash of missing drugs from an eerie mortician find themselves subjected to several tales from beyond the grave.

    Released in a dire genre year just ahead of Wes Craven’s postmodern slasher masterpiece rejuvenating audiences thirst, Tales from the Hood stands as one of the few crowning achievements from the lumpish decade that offers genuine frights with effectively delivered messages entwined in their narratives.  Seldom seen during the scatterbrained era but nonetheless serving as one of the best anthology efforts of its day, Tales from the Hood’s urban slant provides a chillingly fresh perspective on a proven formula with its commentary on issues such as, police brutality, domestic abuse and gang violence unfortunately still potent today.  Guiding his trigger-happy guests around his funeral home, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, Mod Squad) weaves a web of ghoulish stories in accordance with their own ethnic environment.  When an African-American rookie cop watches on as a civil rights leader is attacked by corrupt officers, Rogue Cop Revelation finds his lack of action comes at a haunting price while, Boys Do Get Bruised finds a child’s fear of the monster in his closet foreshadowing the real-life domestic abuse he suffers and the power of his own imagination that puts an end to it in this Twilight Zone-esque episode.  Furthermore, KKK Comeuppance centers on former Klansman and running politician Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law) learning his former plantation homestead is overrun by vengeful slave dolls brought to life by stop-motion wizardry.  Lastly, gang violence, hate and a failed attempt to rehabilitate a murderous convict in Hard Core Convert strikes genuine fear into the hearts of viewers with its grizzly imagery of real-life lynchings.  While most films of its kind leave audiences cherry-picking their favorite segments, Tales from the Hood continuously tops itself throughout its duration with its seamless blending of terror and gritty, urban realism making it one of the most smartly conceived efforts of the 90s.

    Reportedly thought to have no workable prints to remaster from, Scream Factory comes through to deliver Tales from the Hood with a strong 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Leaps and bounds better than its nearly decade-old discontinued DVD release, colors are striking while, skin tones are naturally pleasing with black levels, evident during the film’s overwhelming nighttime sequences, looking deeply inky with no intrusions of digital crush.  Scant speckling traces aside, the transfer is a remarkable sight that will leave fans yearning for a trip back to the hood more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue sharply and emphasizes its rap soundtrack authoritatively, an Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 culled from the film’s LaserDisc release is also included for your listening pleasure.  Joining its place alongside other worthy Collector’s Edition releases, supplemental offerings include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff also recycled from its LaserDisc release, the newly-produced and exceptionally well made Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood (56:13) featuring interviews from Cundieff, Co-Writer/Producer Darin Scott and several cast members, a Vintage Featurette (6:04), the Theatrical Trailer (1:41), TV Spots (3:26), a Photo Gallery (9:46) and Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet.

    Retrieved from Universal’s vaults after rampant requests from fans, Tales from the Hood is an underrated gem from a decade largely considered in peril with few redeeming genre efforts.  A horrific journey of eerie episodes with much more on its mind than simply scaring its audiences, this socially conscious and wickedly fun frightfest is urban horror at its finest.  Bestowed with new luridly crafted artwork by Joel Robinson (The Vincent Price Collections), Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release brings the hood back to life with a sightly high-definition makeover and a quality serving of mostly vintage supplements while, its brand-new, nearly hour-long retrospective doc is the disc’s towering extra.  Gather round the casket and don’t be left out on the streets without this recommended anthology of nightmares!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 18th from Scream Factory, Tales from the Hood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Edge of Seventeen (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

    Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

    Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson & Kyra Sedgwick

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the fresh of breath air directorial debut of Kelly Fremon Craig, The Edge of Seventeen finds teenage social outcast Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld, Pitch Perfect 2) struggling to adjust to her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson, Split) and popular older brother Darian’s (Blake Jenner, Everybody Wants Some!!!) new relationship.  Forever out of touch with her own generation and now more alone than ever, Nadine finds solace in her blunt but truthful teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson, True Detective) as she comes to grips with growing up.  Set in today’s modern times while, appealing to all whoever felt out of place roaming the locker-filled hallways where bad lunch and geometry roamed, The Edge of Seventeen is a sharply funny and emotional topsy-turvy that channels the pain and pleasures of our teen years with the utmost sincerity.  Featuring a standout performance from Hailee Steinfeld as the disheveled youth and a hilarious turn from Woody Harrelson as a teacher unafraid to tell a student they’re a loser, The Edge of Seventeen earns flying grades in the yearbook of other coming-of-age charmers that manages to bridge the rare gap between contemporary relatability and timeless angst that is both comforting and entertaining.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Edge of Seventeen with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Without a false note on display, skin tones are immaculate and well-detailed while, colors found in Nadine’s assortment of sneakers, store signage and neon-lit amusement park attractions shine brightly.  Meanwhile, black levels observed during Nadine’s regrettable rainy drive with the dreamy bad boy Nick and late night swim with the equally shy and awkward Erwin all appear with the utmost crispness.  Equipped with a polished DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that relays the dialogue-driven track with solid clarity, Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” makes an impressively worthy statement on the otherwise straightforward mix.  Regrettably scant, special features include, a Gag Reel (5:21), Deleted Scenes (4:03), a DVD Edition and Digital HD Code.  While John Hughes’ high school high note equated growing up and your heart dying being one and the same, The Edge of Seventeen reminds us all that no matter how far removed or engaged we are in the turbulence of our youth, the laughs and tears don’t kill us but, strengthen us to look back at our growing pains with a smirk and maybe slightly less awkwardness.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available February 14th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Edge of Seventeen can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Stryker (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Stryker (1983)

    Director: Cirio H. Santiago

    Starring: Steve Sandor, Andria Savio, William Ostrander, Michael Lane, Julie Gray & Monique St. Pierre

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Stryker finds a world devastated and water its most valued treasure.  As several bands of survivors battle each other over short supplies, a secret water source has been exposed leading a lone woman with knowledge of its whereabouts to depend on renowned warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice) to protect its safety against the evil Kardis (Michael Lane, The Harder They Fall) and his army.

    Piggybacking on the craze of post-apocalyptic mayhem set forth by Mad Max, Stryker burns rubber taking unapologetic cues from George Miller’s game-changing effort where muscular brutes, wasteland women and high-octane vehicles run amok in pursuit of dominance in a new ravaged world.  As the survivors of worldwide nuclear destruction struggle to locate viable water sources, Delha (Andria Savio, Death Screams), harboring knowledge of a shrouded spring and pursed by the death squads of Kardis for its location, is saved by the fearless Stryker and his companion.  Before long, the lone female finds herself captured and tortured by the vile Kardis until a successful daring rescue mission by Stryker puts her in pursuit of Trun, Stryker’s brother, for manpower to combat Kardis’s overwhelming forces.  Determined to seek vengeance against the wicked leader for the death of his own lover, Stryker joins the cause to protect the coveted spring and liberate those in peril.  Loaded with battered vehicle chases, scantly-clad women armed with crossbows and high-pitched Filipino midget warriors, Stryker delivers a respectable drive-in effort with action-packed bloodshed done cheaply although, its saccharine celebration of a conclusion at the height of battle shortchanges its outcome.  Marking the first of many post-nuke helmed efforts for Filipino native and dependable Corman colleague Cirio H. Santiago (Firecracker, Wheels of Fire), Stryker remains a mid-level Road Warrior ripoff that generally satisfies where it counts while, Santiago’s later experiments in the genre would greatly improve with each passing attempt.

    KL Studio Classics presents Stryker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No stranger to speckling and occasional scratches, this expectedly soft-looking effort looks as good as can be expected given its tight budget and dry, desolate locations.  Skin tones look decently with instances of blood popping well and costume choices relaying mediocre detail.  Furthermore, black levels, evidenced in Kardis’s torture dungeon and the cave harboring the desired water spring, look rather drab and harder to make out.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that translates the obviously dubbed dialogue with ease, soundtrack cues and action-oriented moments of explosions and firepower offer slightly more oomph to the proceedings.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Jim Wynorski, moderated by Bill Olsen & Damon Packard.  B-movie legend and fellow Corman protégé, Wynorski, although having nothing creatively to do with the film outside of knowing Santiago rather well and taking over directorial duties on its remake after the Filipino filmmaker fell ill, provides chatty conversation and an obvious love for the genre making the track an unexpected treat.  In addition, a Trailer Gallery featuring Stryker (2:03), Wheels of Fire (2:04), Equalizer 2000 (1:39), The Sisterhood (1:26) and Dune Warriors (1:12) is also included.

    From what seems like a bottomless pit of post-apocalyptic knockoffs, Stryker neither burns out nor exceeds what’s expected of it.  Living up to its colorfully exploitative poster art, blood, babes and savagery reign in this New World Pictures produced feature that stands as a mere stepping stone for Santiago’s more refined wasteland followups.  Never a pretty looking picture since its inception, KL Studio Classics ensures the film a most welcome upgrade for the HD generation.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Stryker can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Circus of Fear (1966) / Five Golden Dragons (1967) Blu-ray Review

    Circus of Fear (1966) / Five Golden Dragons (1967)

    Director(s): John Moxey / Jeremy Summers

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Leo Genn, Anthony Newlands, Heinz Drache, Eddi Arent, Klaus Kinski, Margaret Lee, Suzy Kendall, Cecil Parker, Victor Marddern & Maurice Kaufmann / Bob Cummings, Margaret Lee, Rupert Davies, Klaus Kinski, Maria Rohm & Maria Perschy

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presenting a double serving of Edgar Wallace crime tales, Blue Underground proudly presents Circus of Fear where a calculated car heist leads to a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a traveling circus.  Featuring an ensemble cast including, Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula) and Klaus Kinski (Venom), greed, revenge and red herrings reign supreme in this British whodunit.  Next up, Five Golden Dragons finds wealthy American Bob Mitchell (Bob Cummings, Dial M for Murder) embroiled in the crosshairs of a deadly crime syndicate during his Hong Kong getaway.  Struggling to survive, Mitchell attempts to discover the identities of his mysterious misfortune makers.  

    Released in America as Psycho-Circus in a heavily edited form to appease the later half of its double feature bookings, Circus of Fear’s impressive onscreen talent matched with the directorial knowhow of John Moxey (The City of the Dead) does little to salvage this tiresomely dull caper.  After successfully shaking down an armored vehicle of riches, a gang member stashes the loot in Barberini’s Circus before falling victim to a mystery throwers blade.  With a full-scale investigation initiated, the eccentric personalities of the traveling roadshow are introduced and suspected including, but not limited to, masked lion tamer Gregor (Lee).  Although top billed, Lee, whose performance appears rather stiffly, remains shrouded for much of the film, reportedly hiding a severely scarred appearance that is anything but.  The deeper the authorities, led by Detective Elliot (Leo Genn, Moby Dick) dig, the more circus performers turn up dead.  While captivating character actor Klaus Kinski appearing as a chain-smoking crook is yawningly reduced to hiding in the shadows, blonde bombshell Margaret Lee’s (Venus in Furs) glamorous looks help offset the disappointment.  Littered with multiple red herrings and an overly complicated plot of family pasts involving slain fathers and escaped convicts, Circus of Fear is never wholly thrilling or terribly exciting.  Like a carnival barker baiting viewers with its intriguing title and respectable cast, Circus of Fear is an unfortunate big-top bust.

    Appearing in his final film effort before returning to television indefinitely, funnyman Bob Cummings brings his all-American lightheartedness to the B-grade comedy caper antics of Five Golden Dragons.  Shot on location in Hong Kong and the infamous Shaw Brothers Studios, Cummings’ chewing gum salesman Bob Mitchell receives a peculiar note from a murdered man with links to an illegal, top secret operation.  Much like a fish out of water, Mitchell finds himself in over his head as the crime syndicate looks to eliminate the clueless tourist before their organization is jeopardized.  Circus of Fear Producer Harry Alan Towers and Screenwriter Peter Welbeck re-team on this mildly entertaining mystery, recycling several thespians from their previous collaboration including, the very sexy Margaret Lee appearing as corrupt singer Magda while, Klaus Kinski and Christopher Lee are relegated to forgettable cameo appearances.  Bumbling his way through secret passages and making nervous conversation at gunpoint, Cummings, although far older than imagined for the part, is likable enough as he attempts to keep his poolside crush Ingrid (Maria Rohm, Count Dracula) safe while, hoping to unmask the identities of the criminal Five Golden Dragons with assistance from Commissioner Sanders (Rupert Davies, Witchfinder General) who makes quoting and citing Shakespeare a necessity.  Capturing the beautiful surroundings of Hong Kong’s seaport and featuring a charming musical performance from guest singer Yukari Itô, Five Golden Dragons is only sparingly humorous with its greatest unintentional laugh arriving at the expense of the titular villains who interface under the hilarious disguises of oversized dragon heads.

    Blue Underground proudly presents both films newly remastered from their original negatives with 1080p transfers.  While Circus of Fear sports a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Five Golden Dragons debuts with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy skin tones, pleasingly bold colors in wardrobe choices and strong detail in backgrounds, black levels are richly defined in tuxedos and Lee’s dark mask while, no glaring evidence of age-related artifacts are present on either transfer.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films offer easy to follow tracks with audible levels of clarity although, Five Golden Dragons appears to have a tinnier effect during dialogue delivery.  With no noticeable cracks or pops detected, each mix is more than satisfactory.  Meanwhile, supplements on Circus of Fear feature a recycled Audio Commentary with Director John Moxey, moderated by David Gregory, an International Color Trailer (2:29), International B&W Trailer (2:30), a U.S. Color Trailer (2:02), U.S. B&W Trailer (2:04) and a Poster & Still Gallery (87 in total) whereas, Five Golden Dragons includes its Theatrical Trailer (2:49) and a Poster & Still Gallery (92 in total).

    Inviting viewers to the crime-filled menagerie of Edgar Wallace’s mysteries, Circus of Fear is a grave disappointment with an alluring poster design and surefire cast that unfortunately fails to thrill yet, succeeds in being overly complicated.  Joined by its more comedic co-feature, Five Golden Dragons also stumbles to be memorable although Cummings’ personality matched with Margaret Lee’s jaw dropping beauty and the gorgeous sights of Hong Kong all make for worthy notices.  Meanwhile, Blue Underground treats viewers with praiseworthy restorations of both features that are noticeable advancements over their more than decade old standard definition releases.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, Circus of Fear / Five Golden Dragons can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Massacre Mafia Style (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Massacre Mafia Style (1974)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Louis Zito & Cara Salerno

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A jack of all trades, Italian-American actor and nightclub singer Duke Mitchell would write, direct, produce and star in his response to The Godfather.  In Massacre Mafia Style, Mitchell portrays Mimi Miceli, the son of a mafia kingpin determined to carve a name out for himself by embarking on a bloody crime spree through Hollywood.  Low-budget and intensely violent, Massacre Mafia Style promises “more, guts, action and dynamite” than Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed gangster opus.

    As a noted nightclub singer who would transition to film with such appearances in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Duke Mitchell would graduate to producing his own feature ingrained in his Italian heritage.  Following the massive success of 1972’s The Godfather, Mitchell found a low-budget mafia picture a natural fit to spread his creative wings, wearing several hats on the production including, directing and starring.  Opening with an office building massacre at the hands of Mimi Miceli (Mitchell) and his associate to the upbeat tunes of Mitchell’s own recordings, Massacre Mafia Style makes firm on its promise of more violence than its Academy Award-winning predecessor.  Deported back to Sicily following his rampant crime activity in America, mafia kingpin Don Mimi (Lorenzo Dodo) is confronted with his son Mimi’s desire to reenter the mafia underworld.  Intent on relocating the action of New York City to Hollywood, Mimi travels to sunny California to rekindle his friendship with bartender Jolly (Vic Caesar, Alice Goodbody).  Joining forces with the former drink pusher, Mimi rattles the chains of west coast mob bosses by taking one ransom and wooing the girlfriend (Cara Salerno) of another to prove he means business.  As his notoriety rises, Mimi focuses his attention on bringing down Superspook (Jimmy Williams, Cockfighter), a noted pimp claiming ownership of prime real estate in the city.  Unwilling to easily surrender his turf and women, Mimi is at odds with his violent rise to power and may have bargained for more than he can handle.

    Unquestionably produced on a lower scale than Coppola’s masterpiece, Massacre Mafia Style pushes its exploitative nature of rampant shootouts and over-the-top bloodshed, juxtaposed with jovial music to delightful measure.  Independently funded and shot over the course of weekends in Los Angeles, Duke Mitchell embodies a captivating presence as a ruthless crime boss with a genuine knack for earnest mafioso speech most notably, during a sequence where Mitchell explains how men like himself have disgraced their Sicilian heritage.  Underneath its undeniable cult appeal and entertaining performances, Massacre Mafia Style injects a genuine context for fathers and sons that elevates the picture from other exploitation cash-in attempts.  A goldmine discovery for cult enthusiasts, Massacre Mafia Style stands as a testament of Duke Mitchell’s uncorrupted vision that takes gangster pictures to bloody, fun heights.

    Grindhouse Releasing presents Massacre Mafia Style with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Painstakingly restored, Duke Mitchell’s directorial debut bursts onto high-definition with excellent clarity putting to shame hazy VHS releases from yesteryear.  Appearing near immaculate with only scant traces of scratches, Massacre Mafia Style dazzles with warm skin tones and crisp detail in facial features.  Colors pop magnificently with bright red bloodshed bursting off the screen and black levels in top shape with no crushing on display.  A labor of love, Grindhouse Releasing’s transfer is the definitive statement on this cult favorite.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the digital restoration of the original soundtrack keeps dialogue audible and clear with climatic gunshots and Mitchell’s songs packing a solid punch while, hiss is kept at bay and never intrusive.  Overflowing with impressive bonus content, special features include, Like Father, Like Son: Duke and Jeffrey Mitchell (43:33), an in-depth featurette detailing the relationship between the film’s star and real life son as well as Mitchell’s career highlights.  Also included, Matt Climber and Jim LoBianco Interviews (10:11), Duke Mitchell Home Movies (52:00), a Theatrical Trailer (2:18), five Radio Spots, five Still Galleries consisting of over 200 images, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Cara Salerno Filmography and Grindhouse Releasing Prevues.  In addition and most excitingly, a bonus feature film, 1952’s Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (74:19) is included along with its Theatrical Trailer (2:10) and Still Gallery (34 in total).  Plus, a bonus TV special, An Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante (37:05), accompanied with Durante 16mm Dailies (6:31), a 10-page booklet with an essay from David Szulkin and a DVD edition of the release round out the grandiose supplemental package.   

    Also known as Like Father, Like Son and The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style’s appeal has grown increasingly through theatrical revival screenings and steady word of mouth.  After nearly 20 years of tireless labor and dedication, Grindhouse Releasing’s Bob Murawksi and the late Sage Stallone’s efforts have paid off in spades with one of the finest treatments and restorations granted to a nearly forgotten gem of cinema.  Exploding with bloodshed and action, Duke Mitchell’s vision of mafia lifestyles and criminal activity unloads a firestorm of exploitation greatness that will easily appease the most casual of cult enthusiasts.  If you’re not in with Massacre Mafia Style, you’re in the way!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Massacre Mafia Style can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • The Sure Thing (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Sure Thing (1985)

    Director: Rob Reiner

    Starring: John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Anthony Edwards & Viveca Lindfors

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In this romantic road trip romp, The Sure Thing stars John Cusack (Say Anything...) as college freshmen Walter “Gib” Gibson.  When Gib is set up with a blonde bombshell across the country, he’s determined to make this sure thing a reality.  Joined by stuck up classmate Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga, Spaceballs) via the campus ride-share program, the two opposites encounter constant obstacles as they both head to Los Angeles, forming an unexpected bond along the way.  Anthony Edwards (Revenge of the Nerds), Viveca Lindfors (Creepshow), Tim Robbins (Mystic River) and Nicollette Sheridan (Spy Hard) in her film debut, co-star.

    From Director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap), The Sure Thing is a slice of teenage romance and 80s angst, wonderfully realized by stars John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga.  Bored and underwhelmed with his luck with women at college, Walter “Gib” Gibson (Cusack) strikes gold when high school buddy Lance (Edwards) invites him to Los Angeles to meet a dream girl (Nicollete Sheridan) he’s guaranteed to strike a home run with.  Determined to head west but, short on cash, Gib hitches a ride via the campus ride program, sharing the backseat with uptight classmate Alison Bradbury (Zuniga).  Meanwhile, Tim Robbins (Howard the Duck) and Lisa Jane Persky (Peggy Sue Got Married) appear as their hilarious, show tune singing chauffeurs who eventually kick the duo to the curb following their constant arguing.  Constantly butting heads, Gib and Alison have no choice but to stick together as they hitchhike their way to Los Angeles, sharing hilarious adventures along the way.  Combatting unpleasant weather, misplacing their funds and Gib playing mad to rescue Alison from a seedy driver, the two begin to forge an unspoken attraction amidst their different personalities.  As their destination grows closer, Gib must decide whether his sure thing is worth it over his newly found feelings for Alison.

    In his first starring role, John Cusack plays typical college freshmen Walter Gibson with girls and beer taking priority over schoolwork.  Breathing life into the otherwise standard teenage role, Cusack brings a wit and humor to his character that would solidify his charm in roles to come.  In addition, Daphne Zuniga, as the brainy, no nonsense Alison Bradbury, creates wonderful chemistry with her co-star that makes viewers quickly dismiss her cocky personality before, falling in love with her much like Gib does.  With a sunny climate and bitchin‘ soundtrack from top talent including, Huey Lewis & The News, The Cars and Quiet Riot, The Sure Thing stands as a genuine 80s offering of heart and hilarity coming together.

    Shout! Factory presents The Sure Thing with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With insignificant flakes over its opening title sequence, The Sure Thing projects natural skin tones, crisp colors and excellent detail in close-ups of key talent.  Landscapes pop most noticeably as Gib and Alison make their way west with lush greenery looking most lively.  Occasional softness is seen but, hardly a cause for alarm as the transfer retains natural grain and a generally clean picture, giving this 80s effort a solid bump on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, The Sure Thing pushes its dialogue to the forefront with clear audio levels and soundtrack selections making an even louder appearance.  With no distortion or other audio issues prevalent, The Sure Thing sounds swell.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix has been included for your listening pleasure.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Shout! Factory graciously ports over all special features from MGM’s previous DVD release including, an Audio Commentary with Director Rob Reiner, several making of featurettes: Road to The Sure Thing (26:16), Casting The Sure Thing (7:18), Reading The Sure Thing (8:48) and Dressing The Sure Thing (8:48) and a Theatrical Trailer (2:56).  While, a newly produced interview with Reiner, Cusack or Zuniga would have been most appreciated, retaining the previous in-depth supplements is most welcome.

    Although, not an official Brat Packer, John Cusack held his own in the 1980s with notable efforts including, Better off Dead, Hot Pursuit and most famously, 1989’s Say Anything....  Comical and sweet, The Sure Thing stands as one of Cusack’s shining moments of the decade with a simple story of unexpected love, complimented by leading lady Daphne Zuniga’s lovely performance.  Honoring its 30th anniversary, Shout! Factory presents this comedy classic in wonderful fashion, allowing viewers to soak up the high-definition rays of this delightful road trip romance.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 24th from Shout! Factory, The Sure Thing can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection DVD Review

    Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Rowan Atkinson

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating 25 years since its original debut, Mr. Bean returns with all 14 episodes, fully remastered and bursting with bonus content, courtesy of Fabulous Films.  In this landmark British series, comedic genius Rowan Atkinson (Johnny English) stars as the dim-witted Mr. Bean who finds himself in the perils of everyday situations gone hilariously wrong.  Child-like and loaded with physical humor, Mr. Bean would become an instant hit in the United Kingdom before reaching worldwide success and award recognition for its awkwardly lovable protagonist.

    Mum on dialogue and basked in slapstick comedy akin to Chaplin or Keaton, Mr. Bean captures audiences with its innocent approach of a buffoonish character caught in one embarrassing situation after another.  Rowan Atkinson commands the role of the jacket and tie wearing mute with perfect comedic timing that breaks the chains of language barriers and delivers one of comedies most hysterical creations.  Whether Mr. Bean is struggling to take an exam, swimming in the local pool or simply eating a sandwich in the park, issues arise that only Atkinson’s awkward delivery can weed Mr. Bean out of.  Its simple set ups and reoccurring gags including, a knee-slapping feud with a blue Regal Supervan that normally meets a crushing fate courtesy of Mr. Bean, is one of the many pleasures that keeps viewers overwhelmed with laughter.  As a man with the personality of a child, Mr. Bean finds friendship in his appropriately named teddy bear, Teddy, and taps into the relatable and downright comical scenarios of falling asleep during Mass and trying to remain calm during a particularly scary film.  Coasting along in most episodes in his miniaturized vehicle, Mr. Bean rarely needs words to convey his frustrations and enthusiasm with goofball mannerisms and excellent straight men allowing Atkinson’s comedic force to burst off the screen with even greater impact.

    Airing for what seems like a shockingly short episode count, Mr. Bean ran for an impressive five years on the UK’s ITV network before, catapulting to worldwide success that would net the comedic gem countless, well deserved awards including, the Rose d’Or.  A short-lived animated series and two feature films would follow to much financial and critical success cementing Mr. Bean’s status as an icon of comedy.  While, Atkinson has flirted with the notion of retiring his beloved character in recent years, Mr. Bean remains the performer’s greatest success with his moronic innocence and delightful physical abilities that continue to keep audiences in stitches.  A quarter century old, Mr. Bean is a timeless gem of nonstop laughs that perfectly encapsulates the unwavering charm of slapstick shenanigans, wonderfully realized by Atkinson’s unstoppable talent.

    Fabulous Films presents all 14 episodes of Mr. Bean digitally remastered and sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  A suitable boost in quality from their original broadcast, Mr. Bean still shows signs of its inherent video source but, hardly disappoints with a clean picture, adequate colors and no signs of wear and tear to speak of.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Mr. Bean, although scant on dialogue, still offers audible levels leaving nothing in the dust while, its prominent laugh track comes across strong with viewers’ own laughter most assuredly drowning it out.  Graciously celebrating its 25th anniversary, special features run aplenty with Missing Scenes including “Turkey Weight” (1:29), “Armchair Sale” (2:57), “Marching” (0:42) and “Playing with Matches” (0:37).  In addition, The Story of Mr. Bean  Documentary (39:57) finds Rowan Atkinson and other key talent discuss the genesis of the character and the success of the popular series.  Plus, Never Before Seen-On-TV Sketches for “Bus Stop” (5:45) and “Library” (9:30) are included along with, The Best Bits of Mr. Bean (71:47), a Mr. Bean: The Animated Series Trailer (0:49) and a 7-page episode guide with accompanying stills rounding out the supplemental offerings.

    Influenced by the silent film stars of yesteryear, Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean is a modern day response that is equally timeless and hilarious as those before him.  The clumsy actions and physical hijinks that ensue in their aftermath have established Mr. Bean as a bonafide gem of comedy that continues to tickle the funny bones of audiences everywhere since its debut in 1990.  Fabulous Films' digitally remastered collection of all things Bean greatly improves from the original broadcasts, preserving the iconic show for another 25 years of ripe discovery and endless revisiting.  Released in conjunction with pop culture enthusiasts, Shout! Factory, and packed with terrific bonus content, the strength and sheer memorability of Atkinson’s vastly uncoordinated character earns Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean the highest of recommendations!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available March 24th from Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series DVD Review

    Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Yūta Mochizuki, Sejiu Umon, Hideki Fujiwara, Takumi Hashimoto, Reiko Chiba & Shiro Izumi

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as the first series in the popular Super Sentai franchise to be adapted for the American market, Super Sentai Zyuranger centers on the evil witch Bandora who after 170 million years of imprisonment is hellbent on exacting revenge upon Earth.  Meanwhile, five ancient warriors are summoned from their suspended animation to defend the planet and its citizens against Bandora and her wicked henchmen, utilizing enchanted weapons and giant robots known as the Guardian Beasts.  

    Beginning in 1975, the long-running Super Sentai franchise has marveled the imaginations of Japanese children since its inception while, casual viewers recognize their prominence for inspiring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series in the early 1990s that would rise to immense popularity in America and the rest of the world.  Interestingly enough, Super Sentai Zyuranger would mark the sixteenth season of the popular series with extensive footage from its 50 episode run incorporated into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers inaugural season.  With the exception of its action footage recycled and reformatted for the American audience, the majority of Super Sentai Zyuranger including its characters and episode narratives are vastly different to its American interpretation.  Instead of summoning five teens with attitude, Super Sentai Zyuranger’s protagonists are a team of ancient warriors utilizing the power of prehistoric dinosaurs and robotic beasts to battle Bandora.  More noticeable changes that left Mighty Morphin fans bewildered for years become clear in Super Sentai Zyuranger such as the original male yellow ranger explaining why the pink ranger was the only one bearing a skirt-like costume in its American incarnation.  While, devoted fans of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series will be familiar with much of the episodes’ footage, those uninitiated with the Japanese program will revel in each adventures original intent.  Noticeably more fantastical than its more superhero driven international version, Super Sentai Zyuranger also possesses a slightly more adult edge with characters using such mild language as “hell” and “damn”.  In addition, the sinister witch Bandora (Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) is often threatening to kill her colorful enemies instead of the more commonly used “destroy” term.  

    Filled with marvelous martial arts sequences, vibrant colors and countless Kaiju-like battles, first-time viewers accustomed to the teenagers of Angel Grove will discover a wholly unique experience in Super Sentai Zyuranger that is equally exciting and action-packed.  Containing all 50 episodes across a whopping 10 discs, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series is a long-awaited addition into every Power Rangers fans collection and one that will stand proudly next to its American offerings as the series that truly started it all.

    Shout! Factory presents Super Sentai Zyuranger full frame, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  True to its original broadcast appearance, Super Sentai Zyuranger appears murky at times with colors slightly diluted, no question attributed to the show’s low-budget.  Never deal-breaking and with expectations kept at bay, the Japanese program looks as good as can be expected after nearly 25 years and will most definitely please enthusiasts of Shout! Factory’s previous Power Rangers releases.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Super Sentai Zyuranger arrives with its original Japanese audio intact and optional English subtitles.  Dialogue, the show’s catchy theme song and its explosive battle sequences come across with no issues while, all subtitles appear clearly and easy to follow.  Special features include the sole Power Progenitors: Super Sentai Zyuranger Power Morphicon 2014 Panel where three cast members from the original show field questions from adoring fans with their responses relayed in English subtitles (26:54).

    Marking its DVD debut, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series finally offers likeminded fans the opportunity to experience the original Japanese hit that would eventually birth the global sensation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Endlessly fun and packed with dynamic eye candy, Super Sentai Zyuranger delivers everything that made its American rangers a blast but, with a slightly more fantastical flair.  After doing the impossible and presenting the first 20 years of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and beyond for home entertainment, Shout! Factory goes back to the franchise’s roots and delivers another bonafide helping of morphenomenal awesomeness.

     RATING: 4/5

    Available February 17th from Shout! Factory, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Compleat Al (1985) DVD Review

    The Compleat Al (1985)

    Director(s): Jay Levey & Robert K. Weiss

    Starring: “Weird Al” Yankovic

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Similar to 1984’s rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the almost-true story of another rock and roll legend is hilariously retold.  Tracing the early rise and mass success of Grammy award-winner “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Compleat Al takes viewers behind the scenes and into the comedic genius that is Al.  Rescued from VHS obscurity, Shout! Factory invites viewers once again to embrace their weird side with this concocted chronicle.

    Blending fiction and reality, The Compleat Al is the hysterical mockumentary that takes viewers behind the curtains of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s rise to fame.  From his childhood years to successful stardom, The Compleat Al captures classic moments of Yankovic‘s many journeys and contains eight of “Weird Al’s” classic music videos.  

    MOVIE:

    Riffing the 1982 renowned documentary The Compleat Beatles, the prince of parody, “Weird Al” Yankovic, continues his goofy shenanigans with his own faux rockumentary, tracing the genesis of his creative genius.  Incorporating actual home videos and scripted, albeit comical, interviews with the real Mr. & Mrs. Yankovic, The Compleat Al chronicles “Weird Al’s” early interest in music continuing through his high school and college years before hitting the big time.  Yankovic takes great pride in poking fun at the typical road to stardom story by embellishing the greater majority of his tale with over the top interpretations.  In addition, The Compleat Al incorporates footage from Yankovic’s short-lived MTV show, Al TV, which was a parody of the network itself along with awkwardly funny moments of Yankovic’s Japanese trip.  With the utmost respect for The King of Pop, “Weird Al” reinterprets his encounter with Jackson in gaining permission to parody “Beat It” with knee-slapping results.  Best viewed as a greatest hits package of “Weird Al’s” countless comedy hits, The Compleat Al also contains eight music video classics including “Ricky”, “Eat It”, “I Love Rocky Road”, “I Lost on Jeopardy” and more.

    Falling only slightly short of Yankovic’s feature film classic, UHF, The Compleat Al is a laughable look at the distorted history of “Weird Al”.  A true product of its time with its comedic integrity still intact, Dick Clark, Rick Derringer and Phil Ramone all offer their own phony accounts with Yankovic’s talent, proving the infectiously fun nature of this entertaining “real-life” account.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    The Compleat Al arrives in a full-screen transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Previously only available on home video and LaserDisc, The Compleat Al makes its DVD debut bearing its VHS roots.  Containing flakes, speckles and occasional tracking lines, the mockumentary still manages to relay decent colors given Yankovic’s eccentric and flashy styles.  Considering its obscurity, The Compleat Al provides a nostalgic viewing experience for Gen Xers who recall catching the faux tale on Showtime or their personal VCRs.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, The Compleat Al never sounds extravagant or greatly disappoints.  Dialogue is even and clear with no audio dropouts while, Yankovic’s music videos do embrace a slightly louder kick.  Restrained to its video age limits, The Compleat Al relays the necessary goods, providing a suitable, yet contained, listen.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Film Trailer (0:32)

    • Extended Film Trailer (5:18)

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Collecting cobwebs on the shelves of VHS collectors for nearly 30 years, The Compleat Al finally makes it long-awaited DVD debut.  Off the wall and far from true, “Weird Al” Yankovic weaves a hilarious tale of dreams and successful triumph with his music videos serving as the bread and butter of this obscure mockumentary.  Shout! Factory has treated fans to another welcome slice from “Weird Al’s” comedic career, missing in action for far too long.  True to its video age appearance and scant on special features, the previous unavailability and its genuine strength of hilarity within, The Compleat Al is a necessary addition for fans of the funny, the weird or more likely, both.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thThe Compleat Al can be purchased via Shout! FactoryAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • UHF (1989) 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    UHF (1989)

    Director: Jay Levey

    Starring: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Michael Richards, Kevin McCarthy & Fran Drescher

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Best known for his music video parodies and Grammy Award-winning records, “Weird Al” Yankovic has been the leading force in pop culture satire for nearly four decades.  Considered a box-office blunder at the time of release, video and cable airings would propel Yankovic’s 1989 outing to cult classic status.  Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Shout! Factory proudly presents UHF, on Blu-ray for the first time ever, bursting with bonus content and newly crafted cover art, courtesy of James Hance.

    UHF stars “Weird Al” Yankovic as unemployed daydreamer George Newman.  After being hired as the station manager for the struggling Channel 62, Newman successfully attracts countless viewers with a variety of wacky programming.  When a rival station manager threatens Channel 62’s popularity, Newman and his band of unlikely misfits come together to save their station.  Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Michael Richards (Seinfeld), David Bowe (The Rock), Fran Drescher (The Nanny), Gedde Watanbe (Sixteen Candles) and Victoria Jackson (Saturday Night Live) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Following highly successful test screenings, UHF nearly bankrupted the strained Orion Pictures with its abysmal box-office grosses and negative reviews.  Resurrected by the MTV generations addiction to cable and video renting, UHF would cement its place in cult cinema history.  The beauty and genuine hilarity of the film stems from Yankovic’s straight man approach, causing the eccentric supporting characters and outlandish situations appear all the greater.  Guided by an overactive imagination, George Newman (Yankovic) finds himself daydreaming as cinematic heroes Indiana Jones and John Rambo to escape the daily grind.  Easily identifiable, Newman connects with the majority of young adults struggling to find their footing in a corporate world dominated by CEOs.  By circumstance, Newman along with friend Bob (David Bowe), are placed in charge of the lowly Channel 62 station in hopes of turning it around.  Joined by an odd staff including, wannabe reporter Pamela Finklestein (Fran Drescher), otherworldly engineer Philo (Anthony Geary), childlike janitor Stanley Spadowski (Michael Richards) and more, Newman has his work cut out for him.  The dependably annoying Drescher is surprisingly well cast, using her raspy tone and gaudy ways to excellent advantages.  Meanwhile, scene stealer Michael Richards delivers a peculiar yet, hilarious performance as janitor turned children’s show host with an obsession for mops.  With Newman’s ridiculously offbeat and popular programming choices including, Wheel of Fish and Raul’s Wild Kingdom, the wrath of rival station manager R.J. Fletcher (Kevin McCarthy) looms over Channel 62’s success.  In addition, a costly debt must be paid in order for Newman’s station to continue airing, prompting the outsiders to host an extravagant telethon unlike any seen before.

    While, some may fault the film’s parody moments for sacrificing plot, UHF shines all the brighter for mocking everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Dire Straits‘ “Money for Nothing” music video.  Trivial moments of a dog being thrown into a punch bowl and a television advertisement for Gandhi II allows viewers to relish in all its sidesplitting hilarity.  Its simple story of underappreciated losers tasked with putting on a show, led by the comedic genius of “Weird Al” is not only a genre highlight of the decade but, one of the most hilarious comedies of all time.  Never crude and always entertaining, UHF combines the talent and charm of Yankovic with a cast of knee-slapping performers, guaranteeing a zany time of comedic bliss.

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    UHF arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of several moments of softness attributed to intendedly cheap green screen effects, UHF is a stunner in high-definition.  Natural skin tones and fine detail in facial close-ups are on full display with, bold colors popping from Philo’s vast test tubes to “Weird Al’s” wildly bright clothing choices.  Flakes and specks do make minimal appearances throughout the runtime with no deterring effects while, black levels are well handled with reasonably inky appearances.  Chaotically colorful and retaining its filmic allure, UHF is celebrated in style with this impressive transfer.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix, UHF presents dialogue crisply with no hiccups noticed.  In addition, music, including Yankovic’s parody of “Money for Nothing”, is robust with a well rounded bass sound pulsing through your speakers.  Footage of Stanley Spadowski’s Clubhouse with loud audience interaction is especially well balanced, prioritizing elements properly.  While, UHF’s audio levels may not tackle bigger Hollywood blockbusters, its mix is commendable and suits the low-budget effort well.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Director Jay Levey and Star “Weird Al” Yankovic: Ported over from MGM’s previous DVD release.

    • The Wonderful World of “Weird Al” Yankovic Panel (51:06): Recorded at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, Yankovic discusses his entire career in front of a packed crowd.  The comedy legend speaks about his influences, his recoding history, UHF’s 25th anniversary and his latest album, Mandatory Fun, marking Yankovic’s first #1 album.

    • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (3:39): Vintage EPK with brief interviews from “Weird Al” Yankovic and fly on the wall footage from UHF’s shoot.

    • Deleted Scenes (19:12)

    • Music Video (4:30)

    • Production Stills: 182 in total.

    • Easter Eggs: Although advertised, at the time of this review, none have been uncovered.

    • Teaser Trailer (0:39)

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:25)

    • Posters and Stuff: 25 images in total.

    • Reversible cover art: Bearing the original 1-sheet poster.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    At a time where quality television is severely lacking, UHF feels more pertinent than ever.  Hilariously entertaining and exploding with eccentricities, “Weird Al” Yankovic speaks to the daydreamer in all of us with a tale that will leave you in stitches.  Rolling out the pop culture carpet, Shout! Factory presents Yankovic’s cult staple with a crisp and colorful transfer plus, a robust assortment of special features including, James Hance’s remarkable new cover art.  Although, you may not need any stinking badgers, cult enthusiasts need UHF in their Blu-ray collection.  Grab yourself a Twinkie Wiener sandwich and embrace your weird side by enjoying one of the funniest comedies committed to celluloid.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thUHF can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.