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Currently showing posts tagged 1980s

  • The Unholy (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Unholy (1988)

    Director: Camilo Vila

    Starring: Ben Cross, Ned Beatty, William Russ, Jill Carroll, Hal Holbrook & Trevor Howard

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in New Orleans where a dark underbelly of satanic worship resides, The Unholy centers on Father Michael (Ben Cross, Chariots of Fire), the newly appointed priest of St. Agnes Church.  Following the brutal and unsolved murders of the parishes previous pastors, an ungodly evil threatens the house of worship with Michael’s pure soul being its last hope of survival.  Ned Beatty (Toy Story 3), William Russ (Boy Meets World), Jill Carroll (Psycho II), Hal Holbrook (The Fog) and Trevor Howard (The Third Man) costar.

    Channeling the satanic allure of The Exorcist and The Omen having been originally scripted in their wake and revived more than a decade later, The Unholy injects more special-effects wizardry into its proceedings where demonic beasts and grisly deaths reign while struggling to remain narratively appealing.  Miraculously surviving a fall off a building, Father Michael is appointed to reopen the dormant St. Agnes Church in New Orleans following the tragic murder of his predecessor.  Considered to be “the chosen one” by his mentors, Father Michael is quickly haunted by nightmarish visions of a seductive temptress while investigating the unsolved murders plaguing his church.  Stumbling upon a black magic-worshipping nightclub in his research, Father Michael’s encounter with teenage runaway Millie (Carroll), who confided in the deceased Father Dennis, begins to reveal a frightening truth.  Skeptical of Millie’s insistence that demonic forces are at play, strange occurrences including, a dog slain at the church’s alter and threats made by Millie’s club-owning over protector Luke (Russ) persist.  Juxtaposing between more nightmare-fueled visions of the scantly clad vixen and a victim, intestines gruesomely hanging, displayed as an inverted cross, The Unholy pays off with gory sights and a faith vs. demonic monster showdown during its climax yet, fails to dig deeper into Father Michael’s psyche as the chosen one.  Furthermore, while potential reasons and accused culprits behind the sinister happenings are unnecessarily named, none prove conclusive and simply serve as a way to buffer the runtime and muddy the waters of an effort best blamed simply on the devil.  Mildly taxing for these reasons yet, redeeming in its showcase of visual effects, creature designs and the red stuff, The Unholy offers more in its style than its substance.

    Debuting as the tenth inclusion of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate presents The Unholy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Photographed during nighttime sequences or under dimly-lit circumstances, black levels are commendable while occasionally looking grainier than desired.  Furthermore, skin tones are natural with Millie’s 80s-centric makeup popping nicely.  Although the film’s few daytime sequences of sunshine understandably soften up the picture, this softness, although not wildly overwhelming, carries over throughout much of the film, appearing not as sharp as one would hope but also not an uncommon sight for lower-budgeted films from this era.  Meanwhile, moments of neck-torn gore and detail observed in the demonic creatures earn some of the transfer’s highest marks of clarity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue never disappoints while, the film’s synth-heavy score by Roger Bellon (Waxwork) sounds excellent.  

    Exceptionally packed with content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Camilo Vila, Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon, an Audio Interview with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, featuring Isolated Selections from his Unused Score.  Also included, Sins of the Father with Ben Cross (19:09) where the film’s star covers his adolescent fascination with the arts, attending drama school, early days rooming with the film’s director and praise for his costars.  Demons in the Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy (22:26) catches up with Make-Up Effects Designer Jerry Macaluso who scored the job on the feature as a teenager in high school with additional insight into the film’s reworked ending from Art Director/Additional Special Effects Unit Steve Hardie and Effects Artist/Special Effects Unit Neil Gorton.  Prayer Offerings with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca (18:35) and the Original Ending featuring Optional Audio Commentary with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca (15:02) are also on-hand while, the Theatrical Trailer (1:17), TV Spots (2:15), Radio Spots (2:25), an Original Storyboard Gallery (18:40) and a Still Gallery (11:51) round out this five-star offering of supplements conducted by the tireless Red Shirt Pictures.

    An imperfect tale of satanic seduction that rightly has its dedicated fans, The Unholy certainly has its moments of fright-filled anarchy but has difficulty crafting characters that command our attention.  Worshippers of the black magic horror opus will be overjoyed by its inclusion in the Vestron Video Collector’s Series that blesses it with a respectable HD upgrade and an ungodly awesome stash of newly recorded bonus extras.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 27th from Lionsgate, The Unholy can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • They're Playing with Fire (1984) Blu-ray Review

    They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

    Director: Howard Avedis

    Starring: Sybil Danning, Eric Brown, Andrew Prine & Paul Clemens

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Combining skin and thrills, They’re Playing with Fire stars Sybil Danning (Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf) as a sultry college professor who seduces a horny student (Eric Brown, Private Lessons), entangling him in a dangerous plot to obtain her in-laws wealthy inheritance.  Andrew Prine (Amityville II: The Possession) and Paul Clemens (The Beast Within) costar.

    Shrouded as a wild sex-romp in tune with most young men’s desires, They’re Playing with Fire, albeit being very tantalizing, pulls the carpet under its audience in one of the oddest genre switch ups of the decade.  Incessantly drooling over his foxy professor, Mrs. Diane Stevens, and performing odd jobs aboard her luxurious yacht, college student Jay Richard’s lusting pays off when seduced by the blonde bombshell.  Unknowingly plotting a scheme with her husband Michael (Prine) to inherit his family riches from her in-laws, a virtually harmless crack at prowling to scare off the elderly Stevens’ backfires on Jay when a masked assailant ruthlessly knocks off Michael’s mother and grandmother instead.  Trapping him in a seductive love triangle with life or death stakes, Jay’s hormonal jackpot grows grayer by the day.  Regarded as exploitation royalty, Sybil Danning makes mouths water with her fiercely flirtatious performance and sizzling nude sequences that, much to the delight of teenage boys during the video boom, are plentiful.  In a deliriously unexpected spin for viewers assuming the plot from its provocative poster art, They’re Playing with Fire morphs into an erotically-charged thriller with slasher elements that pollinate the film with bloody bursts of violence catching first time watchers off guard.  Helmed by Howard Avedis (Scorchy, Mortuary), They’re Playing with Fire, rightly earning Danning one of her finest performances in a career of countlessly sexy and sleazy roles, is a wild effort right down to its even kookier reveal of the true murderer that is as unusually different as it is libido driving.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics upgrades They’re Playing with Fire with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Revealing satisfying layers of detail in facial features, skin tones are sound with Danning certainly showing off her fair share during the film’s many moments of passion.  Meanwhile, costumes, background pieces and bolder colored vehicles pop quite decently with the film’s source material arriving in tiptop shape and generally free of any unsavory scratches.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles character exchanges, both in intimate, hushed tones and louder barroom environments, nicely while, music cues are well orchestrated and ear-pleasing.  Special features include, Sun & Seduction with Sybil Danning (18:25) where the still mightily attractive lead reveals she landed the role based on her appearance in Playboy Magazine and her initial concerns that the script was overly convoluted.  Furthermore, Danning recalls many a fan encounters where the film played heavily into their puberty and instances of teens stealing the videotape from their fathers!  The genre titan, although finding him cute, reveals costar Eric Brown made the shoot difficult due to his unwillingness to be nude in the film.  Lastly, Trailers for They’re Playing with Fire (1:25), The Bitch (2:38) and The Stud (2:52) conclude the disc’s supplements.

    Beloved by Mr. Skin himself and most young men who experienced the film’s sumptuous offerings during its heyday, They’re Playing with Fire offers plenty of bare-breasted Sybil Danning and a chameleon-like plot that supplies an alarmingly fun touch of slasher elements for fans of the decade’s body count pictures.  A career high for the buxom B-movie queen, carnal delights never tasted this sweet or deadly before her voluptuous college professor wraps her legs around such impressionable hound dogs.  KL Studio Classics’ high-def handling of the sexy sizzler is a solid boost in quality with Danning’s newly recorded chatty sit-down a fine inclusion.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, They’re Playing with Fire can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Up All Night with Severin Films: Blackenstein (1973), Cathy's Curse (1977) & The Other Hell (1981) Blu-ray Reviews

      

    Blackenstein (1973)

    Director: William A. Levy

    Starring: John Hart, Ivory Stone, Andrea King, Liz Renay, Roosevelt Jackson, Joe De Sue, Nick Bolin, Cardella Di Milo, James Cousar & Marva Farmer

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Piggybacking on the success of American International Pictures’ black bloodsucker of the previous year, Blackenstein loosely modernizes Mary Shelley’s classic work for a new generation of exploitation-loving jive ass turkeys.  Attempting to rehabilitate her armless and legless Vietnam veteran boyfriend back to health, Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) turns to her mentor Dr. Stein (John Hart, The Lone Ranger) to work medical miracles.  After rejecting a fellow lab assistant’s advances, the disgruntled helper sabotages Winifred’s lovers progress, transforming him into hulking monster.  Stalking the streets of Los Angeles in the shiniest of boots and ripping limbs off of unsuspecting whities before meeting his fate at the fangs of ferocious dobermans, Blackenstein is a tightly paced hoot that plays itself surprisingly straight for such a cooky concept whose behind-the-scenes making is even stranger and sadly more tragic than its own fiction.  

    Befit with a solid-looking 1080p transfer, presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films honors the blaxploitation-horror oddity with strong colors and only fleeting instances of cigarette burns while, its DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix relays dialogue crisply with no cracks or pops intruding.  Offering both its preferred Theatrical (1:17:46) and Video Release (1:27:05) versions, additional supplements include, Monster Kid (19:02) where June Kirk, sister of Writer/Producer Frank R. Saletri, reminisces about her multitalented brother, his lavish mansion previously owned by Bela Lugosi and later Johnny Depp, his genuine sense of pride producing Blackenstein and the emotional circumstances surrounding Salteri’s still unsolved murder in 1982.  Furthermore, an Archive News Broadcast on the Murder of Frank R. Saletri (6:17), Ken Osborne and Robert Dix Remember Frank Saletri (6:36), culled from the filming of Severin Films’ Al Adamson documentary, Bill Created Blackenstein (9:13) featuring an audio interview with Creature Designer Bill Munns (Swamp Thing, The Return of the Living Dead) and lastly, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (3:24) are also featured.  Electrifying with bolts of undead absurdity, Blackenstein rises from the examination table, courtesy of resurrectors Severin Films, with a striking HD upgrade, revealing extras and dual versions for completists of the underexploitated world of blaxploitation frighteners.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Blackenstein can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Cathy’s Curse (1977)

    Director: Eddy Matalon

    Starring: Alan Scarfe, Beverly Murray, Randi Allen, Roy Witham, Mary Morter & Dorothy Davis

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Using other satanically-charged killer kiddie flicks such as The Exorcist and The Omen as moneymaking references, the peculiar French/Canadian production of Cathy’s Curse unspools with a fatal car accident that leaves a stressed out father and his young daughter burning alive like logs on a flame.  Returning to his childhood home decades later, older brother George Gimble (Alan Scarfe, Double Impact) looks to start anew with his emotionally troubled wife and sweet daughter Cathy.  Shortly after stumbling upon her late aunt’s creepy doll, Cathy turns sour and is possessed, giving evil a prime spot at the dinner table.  Riddled with discombobulating jump cuts and eerie keyboard tunes, Cathy’s Curse lets the blonde little devil work her supernatural magic by forcing the housemaid out a window, hypnotizing the drunken caretaker with spiders, snakes and rats slithering across his still body while, a blood-filled bathtub and leeches are utilized to further her mother’s descent into madness.  A noble yet, imperfect terror effort from the tax-sheltered north, Cathy’s Curse may not spew pea soup across viewers but does make ample use of a minor amusingly spit firing profanities and rearing her own ghastly burnt face in a final showdown against mommy dearest.

    Newly transferred in 2K from recently discovered elements, Cathy’s Curse makes the wildly unexpected leap to high-definition with sound results that buries its previously underwhelming outings on home video.  Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio, flashy colors seen in gaudier wallpaper selections pop appreciatively while, white levels, witnessed in snowfall and sunshine creeping through windows, appear naturally softer.  Meanwhile, print damage remains vastly minimal.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that captures dialogue with general ease and only mild hiss detected, the film’s aforementioned keyboard selections are the track’s most memorable cues.  Featuring both the film’s go-to Director’s Cut (1:30:44) and an Alternate U.S. Release Cut (1:21:49), other bonus feature offerings include, an Audio Commentary with BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins & Filmmaker Simon Barret (U.S. Release Cut only), Tricks and Treats: Director Eddy Matalon on Cathy’s Curse (20:16), where the filmmaker, speaking mostly in French with subtitles provided, discusses the production, crew and incredible affordability shooting in Canada.  In addition, Cathy and Mum (12:42) catches up with the elusive Randi Allen who played the possessed titular character and her mother Joyce Allen who acted as the film’s Costume Designer.  Lastly, an Introduction to the Cinematic Void Screening at American Cinematheque by BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins (4:28) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:36) wrap up the disc’s extras.  A true deep cut of Canadian chillers of the possessed persuasion, Cathy’s Curse has the power once more thanks to a crowd pleasing restoration fans will assume was achieved through a deal with the devil himself (at least we hope so!).

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Cathy's Curse can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Other Hell (1981)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno & Susan Forget

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A sacrilege slice of nunsploitation, Italian cult cinema heavyweight Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror), under the pseudonym Stefan Oblowsky, paints church walls red in The Other Hell.  Following several questionable suicides at a nunnery, the depraved Mother Vincenza (Franca Stoppi, Beyond the Darkness) attempts to derail Father Valerio's (Carlo De Mejo, City of the Living Dead) investigation so that her devilish methods may continue.  Narratively messy and lacking such sleaze factors as ample nudity and lesbianism, The Other Hell does little to rattle the cages of excess while, supernatural happenings stake their claim in the form of bloody stigmata and Hell’s head honcho rearing his red blazing eyes, revealing themselves to only be laughable light-up bulbs.  Certain that the evil happenings are the work of a flesh and blood deviant, Father Valerio asks for more than he bargained when a flashback sequence reveals the Mother Superior’s baby was violently boiled and, as the daughter of Satan, the living and badly burned child’s otherworldly abilities are the cause for the convents twisted events.  Certainly seedy with nuns performing grisly abortions and flexing their stabbing reflexes routinely, The Other Hell hardly lives up to its reputation as one of the subgenres best with Mattei and Stoppo’s attachment being the only cause for a passing glance.

    A mild improvement from its previous standard definition release, Severin Films readies The Other Hell with a 1080p transfer, culled from 35mm blow-up elements presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Still showing signs of noticeable wear in the form of scratches, cigarette burns and an intruding vertical line during one dinner sequence in particular, black levels show improvement but remain imperfect while insert shots of the Mother Superior stabbing Father Valerio appear to be sourced from a lesser reference.  Meanwhile, the LPCM 2.0 mix is audible with the English dub track relayed decently but, not without its own faults of cracks, pop and a thin veil of hiss detected throughout.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso, moderated by Freak-O-Rama’s Federico Caddea, Sister Franca (13:13) catches up with Actress Franca Stoppi where she reveals working on The Other Hell and The True Story of the Nun of Monza simultaneously, often working on the same sets.  In addition, Stoppi recalls the warm and fun relationship working with Carlo De Mejo and as a niece of two nuns growing up, loved the aspect of dressing up as one for films.  Furthermore, To Hell and Back (11:22) features archive interviews with Director Bruno Mattei and Actor Carlo De Mejo with The Other Hell Trailer (3:34) and Reversible Cover Art concluding the release’s extras.  One may not require a bath in holy water after viewing The Other Hell but, that doesn’t make it the worst of its kind either, just simply less blasphemous than one might expect.  Completists of Mattei’s demented filmography won’t blink twice adding this unholy feature to their shelves with Severin’s noble efforts saving it from certain annihilation well worth falling to your knees for.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, The Other Hell can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Teen Witch (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Teen Witch (1989)

    Director: Dorian Walker

    Starring: Robyn Lively, Zelda Rubinstein, Dan Gauthier, Joshua Miller & Dick Sargent

    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A bonafide titan of cult cinema categorized by many under the “so bad, it’s good” section, Teen Witch exudes a laughable charm with countless quotable one-liners and even goofier musical interludes that must be seen to be believed.  Originally intended as the female equivalent to the Teen Wolf films, Teen Witch casts its own spell focusing on high school nobody Louise Miller (Robyn Lively, The Karate Kid Part III) whose crush on senior hunk Brad (Dan Gauthier, Son in Law) and hopes of popular acceptance are a stretch far from her reality.  Learning of her ties to Salem’s witches on her 16th birthday, Louise, mentored by palm reader Madame Serena (Zelda Rubinstein, Poltergeist), uses her spectacular powers to turn herself from brainy introvert to the most popular girl in school.  Helmed by Making the Grade’s Dorian Walker, this supernatural love story remains a riot from start to finish with Louise’s hilariously cruel and occasionally creepy younger brother Richie (Joshua Miller, Near Dark) stealing scenes as he dramatically ridicules his sister for being a dog before having the tables turned on him.  While its girl meets boy and falls in love structure is certifiably formulaic, Teen Witch’s major draws come from the not-so intentional humor derived from its gaudy 80s sensibilities and beyond wacky rap battle song numbers that will leave viewers crying with tears of laughter.  Sprinkled with quintessential sexy sax music and rise to popularity montages, Louise’s decision to ultimately ditch spells in order to gain real love is as cheesily enjoyable as one might expect.  Sharing company with similar misunderstood blunders as The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and Howard the Duck, Teen Witch, much like its counterparts, is a wildly fun concoction fit for cult loving cinema hounds.

    Kino Lorber presents Teen Witch with a radiant 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Minor specking aside, colors featured in the loud clothing and makeup choices of the era pop solidly while, skin tones remain strong with natural grain layers firmly intact.  Sharp and crisp-looking throughout, Teen Witch has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clear-sounding with musical moments during the girl’s locker room sequence, the infamous rap duel and the closing prom night scene all offering increased weight much to the delight of listeners.  

    Packaged with a first-rate supply of newly crafted supplements, the disc’s many special features include, an Audio Commentary with Stars Robyn Lively, Joshua Miller, Dan Gauthier & Mandy Ingber, Finest Hour: Robyn Lively on Teen Witch (23:19) sits down with the lovable lead today as she recalls the audition process and heaves praise for each one of her cast members, Dan Gauthier Remembers Teen Witch (20:14) catches up with Brad today in an equally lengthy interview where viewers learn the production introduced him to his costar and future wife.  Furthermore, Lisa Fuller Remembers Teen Witch (3:50) echoes many of her husband’s warm sentiments making the film with hazier clarity, Maken It Big: Mandy Ingber Remembers Teen Witch (16:19) discusses her love for costar Lively, her lack of confidence in Walker’s vision and embarrassment having to film the much discussed rap scene while, The Music of Teen Witch (21:18) catches up with Music Producers Larry & Tom Weir as they discuss their approaches to the film’s pop and rap numbers, the latter of which they knew little to nothing about after the production insisted upon its inclusion in the film.  Finally, Top That: A Conversation with Robyn Lively & Mandy Ingber (15:38) is a sweet and candid reunion between the two friends as they exchange memories from the shoot.  The film’s Trailer (2:17) concludes the impressive slate of extras.  A financial disaster left to die, Teen Witch has not only survived years of ridicule but, reemerged as a justifiable treasure of cult cinema.  Spells, dreamy hunks, gorgeous girls and… rap all serve their role in making this cheesy good time one that dares to be topped.  Kino Lorber outdoes themselves with the care given to such a B-movie favorite with its definitive collection of extras leaving fans bewitched.  Top that!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber, Teen Witch can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Witchtrap (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Witchtrap (1989)

    Director: Kevin Tenney

    Starring: Linnea Quigley, James Quinn, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, Hal Havins & Rob Zapple

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bearing its alternate The Presence title card, Witchtrap, aggressively marketed as not a sequel to 1987’s Witchboard, scares up the screen as Director Kevin Tenney’s most overlooked spooktacular showcase from the wild and waning late 80s.  Afflicted with a reputation for being haunted and further confirmed following an unexplainable death on its grounds, the Lauder House, failing to sell to potential buyers attempts to reinvent itself as a bed and breakfast.  Hired by the property’s inheritor (Tenney in a brief role), a team of paranormal experts, aided by a trio of security operatives, use their tools and know-how to cleanse the home of its sinister evil but find themselves meeting fatal demises the longer they stay.  Boasting charmingly clunky acting and genuinely funny dialogue, Witchtrap delivers a black mass of gory special effects mayhem including, automobile impalements, exploding noggins, a bullet (sans gunfire) through the skull and the always dependable axe to the head.  In addition, scream queen Linnea Quigley reteams with her Night of the Demons helmer for a minor but, wildly memorable role that finds her baring her full assets and landing the film’s highlight death scene with a shower head driven through her neck.  Another low-budget marvel in Tenney’s rolodex of features overrun with possessed partygoers and eerie Ouija boards, Witchtrap keeps the fun rolling well into its final act where smart-assed lone survivor Tony Vincente (James Quinn, Witchboard) goes head to head with the black magic-worshipping entity of Avery Lauder (J.P. Luebsen, also of Witchboard fame) in a ghost busting brawl for the ghoul’s heart.

    Newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Witchtrap fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Cleansed to perfection while maintaining its filmic integrity, skin tones are highly detailed and warmly accurate while, colors found in the bedrooms of the Lauder House and its surrounding greenery burst with vibrancy.  In addition, the film’s gorier moments are further enhanced by the image’s crispness revealing all the technical team’s efforts.  Lastly, black levels are deeply inky and universally sound, chalking up another flawless restoration for the consistent indie label.  Joined by a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the film’s dubbed dialogue is handled effectively while its overall usage is occasionally jarring in motion.  Furthermore, the eerie atmospherics and musical underscores are appropriately balanced for a less forceful but nonetheless efficiently pleasing listening experience.

    Packed to the brim with content, special features include, a chatty Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett & Actor Hal Havins, several newly recorded interview featurettes including, Making Witchtrap with Kevin Tenney (23:36) who discusses his film school days before exiting once landing the opportunity to helm Witchboard and his other successive features and the hardships of making smaller budgeted films, Acting Witchtrap with Linnea Quigley (13:40) who recounts her chance encounter falling into acting and her creative relationship with Tenney, Shooting Witchtrap: An Interview with Tom Jewett (15:90) plus, Special Effects with Tassilo Baur (17:11).  Additionally, Audio Interviews with Special Makeup Artist Judy Yonemoto (8:18) and Music Composer Dennis Michael Tenney (13:13) are provided along with the Witchtrap Video Trailer (2:55), Book of Joe Short Film directed by Kevin Tenney (23:23) and an Alternate Ending for Book of Joe (3:44).  Lastly, a Production/Promotional Still Gallery (12 in total), DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original and favored VHS poster close out the robust spread of supplements.  A supernaturally splendid hodgepodge from the last breathes of the 1980s featuring a haunted house and buckets of blood, Witchtrap sits proudly next to Tenney’s other cult favorites from the era while earnestly deserving more praise than time has provided for its tightly budgeted and highly entertaining execution in satanic shrieks.  Treating viewers to the missing link in Tenney’s early trifecta of terror, Vinegar Syndrome outdoes themselves with the film’s definitive release.  Perfect in quality and presentation in all its uncut glory, the included bonus features are a staggering sight to behold and a pleasure to be possessed by.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Witchtrap can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2017)

    Director: Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As a surge of trailer compilations celebrating exploitation’s finest offerings continue to make their way to home video, Severin Films, in assosciation with The Cube, assaults viewers once more with a second helping of bone-cracking madness in Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury!  Collecting another 35 trailers consisting of over two hours of sizzling martial arts badassery, this celebration of kung fu cinema’s peak decades during the 70s and 80s spotlights such legends as, Angela Mao, Don Wong, Chang Yi and Bruce Li in some of their most prized efforts.  Unspooling in all their high-definition glory, prominent inclusions encompass, Thunderbolt, Kung Fu Master Named Drunk Cat, The Invisible Terrorist, Bruce and the Iron Finger, The Owl, White Haired Devil Lady, The Super Kung-Fu Fighter, Revenge of the Shaolin Kid, The Old Master, Itchy Fingers, The Dragon and the Tiger Kids, The Avenging Boxer among many more.  A natural extension of its impressive predecessor, Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury ensures a doubling of brutality and energetic fight choreography to make serious martial arts movie aficionados bowing in approval at its continued depth and preservation of these nostalgically tattered promotional pieces.  

    Severin Films presents Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio on the overwhelming majority of bumpers included.  While each trailer contains expected and varying levels of age-related anomalies including, faded colors, scratches, vertical lines and film tears, their enhanced resolution is evident with the overall quality of the 35 trailers surprisingly besting the original volume’s 31 without question.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that suffers from similar battle wounds with cracks and pops common on each trailer, traces of hiss and a general narrowness in their pitch are also unfortunately present but nonetheless expected given the condition of their elements.  Included as the disc’s sole special feature, an Audio Commentary with Kung Fu Movie Experts Ric Meyers, Frank Djeng, Greg Schiller & Rich Stelow is wonderfully chatty and informative, capturing the vibe of a casual party-like conversation with some of the genre’s biggest fans whose passion is as deep as their vast knowledge for the subjects on hand.  Fans breaking wooden boards in anticipation for another tidal wave of hand-to-hand combat trailers will be most pleased with Severin Films’ Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury.  Bearing their grindhouse wear with pride, two additional hours of content with yet another insightful commentary track is the perfect opponent for your Blu-ray player to do battle with. 

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) Blu-ray Review

    No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

    Director: Corey Yuen

    Starring: Kurt McKinney, J.W. Fails, Ron Pohnel, Kathie Sileno, Peter Cunningham, Kent Lipham & Jean-Claude Van Damme

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unquestionably reminiscent of other more prominent teenage-geared martial arts pictures, No Retreat, No Surrender plays far more emphasis on its combat sequences as evidenced by its unoriginal narrative and charmingly cheesy performances.  After a pack of threatening mobsters with plans of taking over every dojo in the country descends on his father’s establishment, Bruce Lee obsessed teen Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney, Guiding Light) and his family head to Seattle to start anew.  Finding a pal in the break-dancing R.J. Madison (J.W. Fails, 21 Jump Street) and rekindling a romance with a former flame, Jason finds himself targeted by overweight bully Scott (Kent Lipham, Extreme Prejudice) and local karate hothead Dean Ramsay (Dale Jacoby, Ring of Fire) on the regular.  Consistently outmatched by his peers and punished by his father for his improper use of fighting, Jason seeks solace at the gravesite of martial arts legend Bruce Lee.  Training in an abandoned house with a shrine to his hero, Jason is stunned when the ghost of Lee returns to personally guide him on his path to becoming a prized fighter.  Trouble strikes again when a local tournament is disrupted by the mobsters and their deadly enforcer Ivan “The Russian” Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kickboxer) who ravages the competition with only young Jason left to defend the community and his family’s name.  An unsurprisingly first time effort for much of the principal talent, No Retreat, No Surrender is a ridiculous fight feature with hilarity to be had at the expense of the film’s goofy screenplay and unexpectedly silly plot device of Bruce Lee returning from the grave to play sensei.  Adorned with amusing training montages, a feverishly high-powered theme song and a fast-paced final round bout between the American teen and oh-so-80s Russian villain, No Retreat, No Surrender can’t help but be a fun time, using its amateurish shortcomings to its full advantage.

    KL Studio Classics presents No Retreat, No Surrender for the first time on high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing surface scrapes and scratches throughout its runtime, colors are bold and exacting seen through the bright costume choices with sharp detail observed in facial closeups.  Furthermore, skin tones are consummately natural with a solidly filmic presence left intact.  Joined by a rather shoddy DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that struggles to make any definable distinctions, dialogue is serviceable while, music, roaring crowds and the clatter of punches being thrown fall flat and underwhelming.  Although pops and other such anomalies are virtually absent, a large increase in volume during viewing is essential for the rather subdued track.  

    Containing both its recommend International (1:38:55) and U.S. Theatrical Cuts (1:24:01), additional special features include, an Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg, Stand on Your Own with Kurt McKinney (17:12) where the film’s star recalls training in martial arts his entire life, landing the gig during an open casting call and the production spending more rehearsal time on fight choreography than the actual performances.  In addition, McKinney delves into the rather shady circumstances that convinced both he and Van Damme to pass on the sequel.  Lastly, Trailers for the International Cut of No Retreat, No Surrender (3:20), An Eye for an Eye (1:52), Enter the Ninja (2:53), Avenging Force (1:18), Revenge of the Ninja (1:41) and Steele Justice (1:36) are also on hand.  Delightfully silly with respectable fight sequences featured, No Retreat, No Surrender may technically be a poorly made effort but, one that cult enthusiasts will revel in for all its dodgy issues and valiant efforts.  Making its Blu-ray debut with both cuts included, KL Studio Classics delivers a roundhouse kick of satisfaction to fans anxiously awaiting for this Cold War of martial arts movies.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, No Retreat, No Surrender can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Deadtime Stories (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Deadtime Stories (1986)

    Director: Jeffrey Delman

    Starring: Scott Valentine, Melissa Leo, Cathryn DePrume, Anne Redfern, Nicole Picard, Matt Mitler, Kathy Fleig & Phyllis Craig

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As imperfect as most horror anthologies go, Deadtime Stories is a mixed bag of mostly tricks and few treats where nightmares and fairy tales converge.  In order to put his monster-fearing nephew to bed, a disgruntled man retells three beloved bedtime fables with a macabre twist.  With the exception of atmospheric scenery, Peter and the Witches acts as the film’s unfortunate Sandman story where an enslaved boy (Scott Valentine, My Demon Lover) must kidnap a fair maiden for his witch captors to use in a sacrificial ceremony to resurrect their deceased sister.  Featuring effective make-up effects of a gory corpse being reanimated, the chiller’s first chapter is anything but a page turner.  Next up, Little Red Runninghood finds an attractive teen stalked by a ravenous werewolf who blames the sexually curious girl for mistakenly stealing his meds.  A decently modeled beast taken down by a silver cake server during a tense standoff, the second segment remains far from memorable but, a modest improvement over its predecessor.  Lastly, the final and most enjoyable of the trio, Goldi Lox and the Three Baers finds Mama (future Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, The Fighter) breaking her criminally insane husband and son from the loony bin only to learn their shady residence has been taken over by the homicidally telekinetic Goldi Lox (Cathryn De Prume, Wild).  Turning the absurdity into overdrive with over the top performances so intentionally bad, they’re a hoot, the closing tale is the true saving grace in this otherwise lackluster anthology of not-so-many frights.

    Boasting a new HD transfer culled from the original camera negative, Scream Factory presents Deadtime Stores with a solid 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that puts to shame previous bargain bin releases sourced from grainy and barely watchable VHS prints.  Retaining a natural grain structure and robust colors, the film has never seen better days.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers dialogue and music, most notably the goofy opening song by Taj, solidly, the track satisfies fine.  Kicking off with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jeffrey Delman, additional special features include, I Like the Grotesque: A Conversation with Jef Delman (15:42) that finds the filmmaker discussing everything from shooting in Westchester County, NY and the difficulty in selling an anthology picture to the special effects, casting, locations and music of the film.  Furthermore, A Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories (15:35) catches up with Cathryn DePrune (Goldi Lox), Melissa Leo (“Mama” Baer) and Scott Valentine (Peter) as they reminisce on their clique at the time of the movie’s making and their warm regards for the project’s loyal following.  Lastly, The Black Forest (29:49), the original short film version of the Peter and the Witches segment with an introduction by Delman, Deleted Scenes (2:32) also prefaced by Delman, Theatrical Trailers (3:12), a Photo Gallery (4:14) and DVD Edition wrap up the release’s bonus features.  Offering sporadic bursts of intentional and not-so intentional ridiculousness, Deadtime Stories may have its followers but, its trifecta of tales do little to terrify and much to disappoint.  Thankfully for fans, Scream Factory have rescued the film from tape-sourced hell with a new high-definition makeover and a modest spread of supplements that demonstrate the class of Academy Award winners humbly unashamed of their earliest beginnings.  Cautiously recommended to horror anthology curiosos.  

    RATING: 2.5/5 

    Available now from Scream Factory, Deadtime Stories can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazom.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Gate (1987) Blu-ray Review

    The Gate (1987)

    Director: Tibor Takacs 

    Starring: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp & Christa Denton

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an innocent backyard excavation for crystal stones unearths something sinister, The Gate finds best friends Glen (Stephen Dorff, Somewhere) and Terry (Louis Tripp, Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird) forced to defend themselves against a siege of demons and determine a way to close the evil portal before it’s too late.

    Eliminating parents and other authority figures as rapidly as possible, The Gate pits unsupervised adolescents against the forces of darkness, using only their ingenuity and household items to defend themselves against the ghouls and goblins of the underworld.  Inadvertently opening a hellish backyard portal with the assistance of a satanic heavy metal album, best friends Glen and Terry are confronted with a series of nightmarish images of deceased parents back from the dead and the painful realities of a beloved pet’s passing to shake their youthful cores.  With no adults in sight and Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton, 8 Million Ways to Die) taking full advantage with a house party rampant with underage drinking and levitation attempts turned frighteningly real, the demonic forces grow stronger in their attempt to invade the teen’s quaint suburban existence.  Pursued by a pint-sized army of fiendish minions realized through a series of technical tricks ranging from costumed performers, stop-motion animation and forced perspective, Glen, Terry and Al must face their fears in order to definitively close the gate before time runs out.  Although slow-building with a genuine innocence captured in the chemistry between the young performers, The Gate stretches the boundaries of its PG-13 rating with macabre touches of a dead construction worker emerging from the walls, a punctured eyeball through a child’s hand and an overgrown demon flinging his young victims with no remorse to effectively chill preteen audiences.  With false senses of security at every turn and survival seemingly futile, the trio of teens rely on Barbie dolls, dad’s shotgun and model rockets to banish the demons in Director Tibor Takacs’ (I, Madman) effectively realized and certifiably scary devil-raising feature.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate presents The Gate with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The latest addition in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the film is a remarkable upgrade from its near decade old DVD release that honors filmic integrity, mildly soft but still natural-looking skin tones and a sharp color scheme present in the suburban greenery as well as Glen’s red space camp jacket and Al’s lime green sweater.  In addition, black levels are solid with detail largely admired in the creature designs while, only the slightest hint of speckling is observed in this otherwise picturesque presentation of the 80s cult classic.  Equipped with a perfectly adequate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue with ease, heavy metal tunes, lightning storms and rocket blasts all offer solid emphases on the well-orchestrated track.

    Much like the demons bursting from the gate, the overflowing wealth of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, a second Audio Commentary with Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere & Matte Photographer Bill Taylor plus, an Isolated Score and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig & J. Peter Robinson.  In addition, Red Shirt Pictures delivers several newly recorded featurettes that explore many of the low-budget effort’s technical achievements including, The Gate: Unlocked (27:54) where Takacs and Cook discuss the film’s making in-depth, Minion Maker with Craig Reardon (22:36), From Hell It Came with Andras Hamori (13:13), The Workman Speaks! with Carl Kraines (12:22) and the most interesting Made in Canada (28:28) that sits down with six local cast and crew members from the Canadian shoot as they recall their own unique experiences making the film.  Meanwhile, ported over from the 2009 release, From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate (14:53), The Gatekeepers with Tibor Takacs & Michael Nankin (15:46) and The Making of The Gate (22:55) are also on-hand with the Teaser Trailer (1:08), Theatrical Trailer (1:50), TV Spot (0:32), Storyboard Gallery (9:27) and a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (10:20) rounding out the profound assortment of extras.

    A childhood staple that still stands up, The Gate is a fiendishly fun effort of teens going toe to toe with demonic beings with no one but themselves to rely on.  Incorporating the then timely black sheep of heavy metal into its vortex of fear, Tibor Takacs’ sharply constructed and gloriously effects-driven opus plays largely into the comforting confines of nostalgia where its discovery for many through video rental and repeat cable viewings made it a longstanding favorite.  Hoped for since its line’s formation, The Gate makes it high-definition debut with remarkable technical grades that far exceed its previous release and an overwhelming supply of bonus features earning it the highest praise as one of Vestron Video’s best offerings to date!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available February 28th from Lionsgate, The Gate can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Band of the Hand (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Band of the Hand (1986)

    Director: Paul Michael Glaser

    Starring: Stephen Lang, James Remar, Michael Carmine, Leon Robinson, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Al Shannon, Lauren Holly & Larry Fishburne 

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Executive produced by Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), Band of the Hand finds five incarcerated youths released to an intense rehab program that teaches them survival and value for one another.  Returning to the gang-infested streets of Miami, the one time criminals wage their own war against the drug kingpins destroying it.  

    Retaining the dangerously seductive allure of Mann’s hit television series Miami Vice with the backwoods survival instincts of Lord of the Flies, Band of the Hand makes crime and violence essential to the scenery that both corrupts and cures the film’s pack of anti-heroes.  Serving time for a multitude of offenses, five juvenile felons including, drug trafficker Carlos Aragon (Danny Quinn, Stradivari), punk turned murderer J.L. McEwen (John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), car thief and attempted prison escapee Dorcey Bridger (Al Shannon, Casualties of War) and rival gang leaders Ruben Pancecho (Michael Carmine, Leviathan) and Moss Roosevelt (Leon Robinson, Cool Runnings) find themselves facing lengthy sentences until fate intervenes.  Unknowingly transported to the swampy Everglades and under the watchful eye of Native American Vietnam veteran Joe Tegra (Stephen Lang, Avatar), the hot blooded teens must learn to work together and survive the cruel conditions of nature in an intensely experimental rehabilitation program.  Sharpening their skills and developing a trusting foundation, the group return to the mean streets of Miami where after revitalizing an abandoned house, seek to do the same for the crime-ridden community.  Igniting a war against feared pimp Cream (Larry Fishburne, Boyz n the Hood) and black magic worshipping drug lord Nestor (James Remar, The Warriors) who claimed Carlos’s girlfriend Nikki (Lauren Holly, Dumb & Dumber) for his own, the band of vigilantes have their work cut out for them.

    Helmed with style and a rebelliously youthful attitude by Paul Michael Glaser (The Running Man), Band of the Hand takes cues once again from Crockett and Tubbs with a pop-rock soundtrack of hits from Bob Dylan (who supplies the film’s title track with assistance from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Prince and Mr. Mister that brings aggressive synergy to the onscreen action.  Following an explosive shootout between the band and Miami’s worst leaving one of their own dead, a go for broke retaliation on Nestor’s drug facility leaves the screen littered with enough bullet holes and bodies to quench the thirst of action hounds.  While the film may be less refined than Mann’s weekly crime series set in the same city, Band of the Hand funnels similar ingredients of fast cars, drug pushers, sexy women and ghettos through the delinquent eyes of teenage thugs turned saviors, making it a worthy and largely overlooked crime thriller drenched in 80s decadence and pastel hues.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Band of the Hand with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While the film bears its fair share of speckling, rearing its head most noticeably in black levels during countless nighttime sequences, skin tones are generally satisfying with colors found in the vibrant costume choices prevalent during the 80s Miami scene popping as appreciatively as one might hope.  Natural grain is notably retained while, screen jitter is observed but mostly held to the film’s opening sequences.  A mixed bag of quality that thankfully never gravely disappoints where it counts, Band of the Hand makes a respectable first leap to high-definition.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that treats dialogue with prioritization while, the film’s selection of songs celebrates a healthier emphasis of authority, much like sequences of explosive inferno and machine gun fire, the track is a middle of the road affair that suffices.  Although no on-disc special features are included, a Reversible Cover Art revealing slightly modified poster imagery is provided.

    The heat is on as teenage badasses return to their former stomping ground to clean up the filth and mayhem controlling the streets.  Taking on the likes of pimps and pushers, Band of the Hand mimics the style and energy of Miami Vice with enhanced violence and an imperfect yet, still entertaining execution.  Well casted and vibrantly photographed, Glaser’s directorial feature film debut is a promising urban action opus unfortunately missed by many during its initial release.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Mill Creek Entertainment offers the film a decent debut that admires the colorful sights of its 80s fashion choices and Miami hotspots with appreciable quality.  Void of bonus content, the inclusion of reversible cover art is a rare and welcome treat from the budget label.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Band of the Hand can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Wild Beasts (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Wild Beasts (1984)

    Director: Franco E. Prosperi

    Starring: Lorraine De Selle, John Aldrich, Louisa Lloyd & Ugo Bologna

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in Rome, Wild Beasts finds a city zoo of animals running amuck when their water supply is contaminated with PCP.  Escaping from the confines of their cages and waging bloody destruction throughout the city, the drug-crazed creatures revert to their savage instincts to feast upon the unsuspecting population.  Boasting notable faces from the many avenues of Italian cult cinema, the Godfather of Mondo Franco E. Prosperi (Mondo Cane) directs.

    In shock documentary maker Franco E. Prosperi’s final film outing, Wild Beasts delivers a bark as loud as its ferocious bite, ranking highly amongst the siege of naturicide pictures from the wild and crazy heyday of Italian made insanity.  After an unexplainable contamination of the local zoo’s water supply with hallucinogenic angel dust, the normally well-behaved animals go rogue, escaping from their barred dwellings to hunt fresh meat found in the unexplored region of the city.  Tasked with determining the cause of the animal’s bloodthirsty behavior, zoologist Rupert Berner (John Aldrich) and Inspector Nat Braun (Ugo Bologna, Nightmare City) combine their efforts to save the citizens now considered prey.  In addition, Berner’s girlfriend, Laura Schwartz (Lorraine De Selle, Cannibal Ferox), independently stranded in the chaos struggles to reach her young daughter who is also embroiled in her own animalistic nightmare along with her fellow dance classmates.  With its shocking sequences of beastly brutality brought to life by trained circus tamers under animal attack, Wild Beasts supplies ample doses of blood splattering carnage and wild life lunacy that must be seen to be believed.  Featuring a backseat rendezvous of intimacy disrupted by gnawing sewer rats, face-flattening elephants, a hungry cheetah in pursuit of a Volkswagen Beetle, explosive car wrecks, lions, tigers and much more, Wild Beasts is rabid with over the top energy and chaotic shaky camera kills that adds a level of documentary-like realism to its already impressively captured moments of vicious animal feasting.  Topped with dependably silly dubbed dialogue and a shocking twist that contaminates more than the zoo’s residents, Wild Beasts stands as one of the best and most brutal “animals attack” features that supplies everything and more one would hope to find in an Italian production of its maniacal caliber.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Severin Films welcomes Wild Beasts with a newly remastered 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Outside of minimal speckling, filmic quality is consistent throughout while, skin tones are appropriately natural-looking and gore effects nicely detailed.  In addition, the film’s few prominent colors found in Laura’s bright red attire pops strongly with textures found in animal fur also well preserved.  Predominately set under the cloak of nighttime, black levels are impressively handled with visibility never questioned.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers the English dubbed dialogue with crispness, animal roars, car crashes and the film’s mix of sax and synth stylings by Composer Daniele Patucchi (Sacrifice!, Warrior of the Lost World) all leave exacting and effective marks.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is also included.  

    Special features include, Altered Beasts: Interview with Director Franco E. Prosperi (15:33) reveals the film’s original intention to shoot entirely in Rhodesia before war broke out and a frightening encounter with terrorists prompted the production to relocate to South Africa.  Shortly after recommencing filming, Prosperi recalls his association with Mondo Cane pushed the production out once again before finally settling back in Italy for the remainder of the shoot.  Several funny tales concerning the difficulty of wrangling the film’s many animals are also shared in this intriguing interview with its maker.  Wild Tony: Interview with Actor Tony Di Leo (12:54) finds the film’s lead, credited as John Aldrich, sharing his early beginnings in a musical band before becoming a circus tamer turned into an opportunity at acting.  Di Leo fondly recalls Prosperi’s humorous spirit, his personal distaste for his performance in the film and the fear he held shooting scenes with the animals regardless of his taming experience.  Furthermore, Cut After Cut: Interview with Editor & Mondo Filmmaker Mario Morra (34:54) covers Morra’s lengthy career highlights in detail while, The Circus is in Town: Interview with Animal Wrangler Roberto Tiberti’s son Carlo Tiberti (10:25) discusses the family’s long history and many experiences in the circus business.  Lastly, House of Wild Beasts: A Visit to the Home of Franco E. Prosperi (12:42) and the film’s International Trailer (2:24) conclude the release’s bonus features.

    A top-tier inclusion of the ravenous animals gone mad subgenre, Wild Beasts insanely puts drug-tripping lions, tigers and hyenas at the forefront of this solidly produced slice of spaghetti cinema.  Effectively realized with in-camera animal attacks and grisly gore for likeminded cult enthusiasts to feast upon, Wild Beasts is a stampede of entertaining screams.  Brought to high-definition with a praiseworthy remastering by Severin Films, Freak-O-Rama’s helping of newly produced bonus features is the icing on top of this blood dripping cake.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available February 7th from Severin Films, Wild Beasts can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988)

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

    Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson & Geraldine Fitzgerald / Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke & Zelda Rubinstein

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Haunting high-definition once more in new Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory, the horror/cult subsidiary of Shout! Factory, welcomes the continued terrorization of the Freeling family to their catalog of frights!  Following the traumatic events of the original film, Poltergeist II: The Other Side finds the Freeling’s attempting to revert back to a normal existence until the forces of darkness, led by the chilling Henry Kane, pursue their clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne with ungodly vengeance.  Next up, from the suburbs to the big city of Chicago, Poltergeist III sees the young Carol Anne living with her aunt and uncle when the restless Reverend Kane weaves his devilish powers upon their daunting high-rise.  

    They’re back as suburban scares persist in the supernatural followup to Steven Spielberg’s original ghostly production of 1982.  Struggling financially in the wake of their house’s frightening decimation, Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Coach and JoBeth Williams, Kramer vs. Kramer respectively), along with their children Robbie (Oliver Robbins, Airplane II: The Sequel) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Happy Days) (sans older sister Dana (played originally by Dominique Dunne who was tragically killed following production on the original film)), attempt to start anew in the house of Diane’s elderly mother.  Retaining her clairvoyant touch, it doesn’t take long before the spirits thought left behind in Cuesta Verde emerge once more to claim Carol Anne for themselves.  Discovering an underground tomb located deeper beneath the Freeling’s former home, trusted psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Sixteen Candles) and Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) sense the greater danger that now targets the evading family.  Stalked by the chilling and skeletal-looking Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club), Taylor rushes to the Freelings’ aide in order to prepare them for the dark battle that awaits.  Demonstrating impressively refined special effects that can’t be understated with Native American mysticism and a disturbingly memorable villain, Poltergeist II: The Other Side admirably balances what made the original a suspenseful success while, instilling its own chilling parameters that stand on their own.  Topped with Jerry Goldsmith’s score that blends innocence and dread effortlessly, climactic seat-jumpers featuring nightmarish braces gone wild, floating chainsaws (originally intended for 3-D effectiveness), an unforgettable regurgitated monster worm and a final showdown into the ghostly netherworld all make this sequel a respectably fun and grossly underrated followup to its pitch perfect predecessor.

    Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s own fantastical continuation Through the-Looking Glass, Poltergeist III ditches small-town frights and much of its original cast for a towering continuation of lofty ideas that struggle to land their mark.  Relocating to Chicago for placement in a school for gifted children, Carol Anne, cared for by her Aunt Trisch (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and teenage cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne’s World), finds herself frightened by reoccurring images of Reverend Kane (played by Flowers in the Attic’s Nathan Davis following the passing of original actor Julian Beck after wrapping production on its sequel) from beyond the grave.  Sensing Kane’s return and his pursuit of Carol Anne, faithful psychic Tangina (Rubinstein returning once more) seeks to stop the evildoer once and for all.  Jeopardized by budgetary limitations and a personal black cloud of despair following O’Rourke’s untimely passing during the film’s post-production phase, Poltergeist III’s skyscraper setting lends an intriguing visual change of pace for the series that ultimately falls second best to the familiarity of safe suburbia.  In addition, although Skerritt and Allen’s chemistry feels genuine together, Aunt Trisch’s random spouts of disdain for her troubled niece feels uncomfortably out of touch for a character that audiences should see as more maternally understanding.  Furthermore, while the return of Tangina is most welcome, Zelda Rubinstein appears particularly fatigued in the role, further underlining the fumes the franchise is running on.  Passionately directed by genre helmer Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Poltergeist III conveys several worthy concepts through terrifying reflections, demonic doppelgängers, possessed teenagers and Kane’s hellish wrath literally freezing over the high-rise building.  Unavoidably imperfect given its tragic history, Poltergeist III, although busting at the box-office and ranking lowest on the franchise totem pole, delivers just enough light from the other side to draw the curious into its vortex for a brief time.        

    Boasting new 2K scans from their interpositives, Scream Factory presents both sequels with 1080p transfers, preserving their respective 2.35:1 (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) and 1.85:1 (Poltergeist III) aspect ratios.  While both films received above average debuts on the format in years past, their latest outings are that much cleaner, washing away the slight hints of softness found previously with strong skin tones, vibrant color grades, deep black levels and otherwise graciously filmic appearances on hand, leaving both films in their best conditions to date.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that captures crisp dialogue levels and energetic stabs during supernatural attacks, the film’s scores are excellently handled adding necessary emphasis to their quieter moments and rise to their thrilling tempos.  In addition, both films are accompanied with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes for your listening pleasure.

    Supplements pertaining to Poltergeist II: The Other Side include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, both of which are newly recorded for this release.  Additionally, Robbie’s Return with Oliver Robins (14:25) catches up with the middle Freeling child today as he commends Director Brian Gibson’s vision for the film, the fun atmosphere making a feature as a child and the sequel’s special effects sequences.  Meanwhile, The Spirit World (22:09) is a first-rate featurette catching up with Special Creature Effects Artists Steve Johnson & Screaming Mad George as well as Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund to discuss the many memorable monsters and apparitions that separated the film from the original.  Furthermore, Ghosts of Giger (21:02) takes a look back at the iconic H.R. Giger’s contributions to the film through slideshows and interviews with Steve Johnson and Giger’s agent Les Barany.  Lastly, vintage offerings consisting of They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II (6:15), Monster Shop (2:45), Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II (6:28), the Theatrical Trailer (1:22) and TV Spots (2:04) are on hand while, a Still Gallery (73 in total), the Poltergeist II Script and Reversible Cover Art retaining the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the bonus features.

    Bonus features found on Poltergeist III include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Director Gary Sherman and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney, both newly recorded.  In addition, High Spirits with Co-Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16:02) finds the writer sharing warm memories of his collaborative relationship with Sherman, the film’s budget cuts, O’Rourke’s passing and his friendship with the wise and occasionally feisty Rubinstein.  Reflections with Actress Nancy Allen (12:15) sits down with the star who commends Sherman’s approach to the project, O’Rourke’s old soul personality and her unforgettably sad funeral plus, her working relationship with Skerritt who notes is the only actor she had an argument with in her career.  Furthermore, Mirror Images with Special Make-Up Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (12:47), an Alternate Ending (2:50) that lacks audio with dialogue from the original script added in as subtitles, the Theatrical Trailer (1:04), TV Spots (2:06), a Still Gallery (77 in total) and the Poltergeist III Script are also on hand.  Lastly, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet imagery completes the release’s supplements.

    Topping the television fuzz and tree attacking terror of the original classic may be no easy feat but, the combined efforts of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III make strong cases for followups of underrated merit.  While, Reverend Kane’s initial attack on the Freeling family is by far the superior sequel, Poltergeist III, although ranking in last place, still maintains a mild charm that continues to persevere through its many setbacks.  Honoring both features with wonderful new scans, a plentiful sum of bonus features exploring the film’s makings and frighteningly fantastic new artwork by Justin Osbourn, Scream Factory welcomes fans back to the ghostly netherworld where your house will be all the cleaner with both Collector’s Edition sequels in them.

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Scream Factory, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, 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.

  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

    Starring: Joe Spinnell, Rebecca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli & William Kennedy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of his final film roles, Joe Spinnell (Maniac) stars in The Undertaker as a crazed mortician who takes pleasure in making the local population apart of his personal body collection.  As more people go missing, his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin) grows suspicious of Uncle Roscoe’s devious activities pitting him and those closest in harm’s way.

    Helmed by no shortage of four directors under a phony foreign pseudonym and virtually lost to time for the better part of 30 years, The Undertaker adheres to the bloody tropes of slasher cinema with cult heavyweight Joe Spinnell delivering a most stupefyingly peculiar performance.  Mumbling through much of his role as a high-strung funeral director with a fetish for corpses, Spinnell’s deranged demeanor can hardly be contained as he sobs uncontrollably before savagely ripping his victims apart making the unpredictability of his range the film’s main vocal point.  After being lectured on the subject of necrophilia at his local university, Roscoe’s nephew Nick quickly grows weary of his uncle’s funeral parlor exploits, opening a can of worms he wished he never did.  Muddled by several promising but, nonetheless wasteful subplots involving the local police investigating a series of missing persons and a movie theater security guard who’s certain of Roscoe’s dirty deeds, The Undertaker keeps the “bigger is better” hairstyles of the era, ample helpings of T&A and top-notch deaths including, a switchbladed eyeball, scorched face via frying pan and a beheading in healthy supply.  Methodically tracking his victims, leading to a climatic assault on Nick’s teacher Ms. Hayes (Rebecca Yaron) with machete in hand and an abrupt final frame from beyond the grave, The Undertaker may not be a bonafide diamond in the rough but, its excavation remains of utmost importance for exploitation hounds that will treasure Spinnell’s maddening performance put to celluloid only a year before his untimely death.  

    Scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome ushers The Undertaker to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  At the mercy of incorporating six minutes of VHS workprint footage to ensure an uncut presentation, the overwhelming majority of the film looks splendid with rich colors, natural skin tones and sharp detail observing Spinnell’s facial scars all looking tip-top.  Understandably, the VHS-culled sequences are in rather drab shape although, footage from a satanic feature Roscoe watches looks more effective in its ratty condition.  The final showdown in Ms. Hayes’s apartment and Roscoe’s dimly-lit basement dwelling can also be harder to make out but these brief moments of unavoidable haziness are a minor setback to an otherwise sound presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that encounters strides of sharp sibilance, dialogue is sufficiently projected with soundtrack cues occasionally overwhelming exchanges.  Furthermore, cracks and pops are far and few between.  

    Special features include, a Director’s Intro (0:15) by William Kennedy, Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy and Making The Undertaker with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy (20:45) that provides curious viewers with answers to everything and more regarding the troubled production as well as Kennedy’s praise for what he believes is one of Spinnell’s finest performances.  In addition, Rough Cut Outtakes (9:54), an Archival Promotional Video (5:07), a Production Still Gallery (17 in total) and a 6-page booklet featuring an exemplary essay by Michael Gingold is also included.  A DVD edition of the release is also on hand.

    Following vastly murky bootlegs and a previously released censored version, The Undertaker makes its Blu-ray debut in style with a rewarding transfer that can only be praised for its restored bliss and completeness.  Coupled with intriguing supplements and a blood splattered, coffin shaped O-card, Vinegar Syndrome, much like Roscoe’s penchant for bodies, makes The Undertaker one victim of a release Spinnell fans won’t want to miss in their collection.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome and limited to 3,000 units, The Undertaker can be purchased exclusively via VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • Moving Violations (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Moving Violations (1985)

    Director: Neal Israel

    Starring: John Murray, Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Wendy Jo Sperber & Sally Kellerman

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After breaking the rules of the road, Moving Violations finds lazy landscaper Dana Cannon (John Murray, Scrooged) and a group of other disobedient drivers sentenced to traffic school.  When their tight-laced patrolman teacher (James Keach, The Long Riders) and a corrupt judge (Sally Kellerman, Back to School) conspire to cash in on their impounded vehicles, the reckless class shift into high gear to get even.  Neil Israel (Bachelor Party) takes the directing wheel in this comedy crash course.

    From the makers behind Police Academy and borrowing heavily from the boys in blue’s formula, Moving Violations sets an unlucky band of motor vehicilists off in the hilarious race of their lives against the man.  Headlining in one of his few film roles and uncannily exuding the comic charm of elder brother Bill, John Murray’s Dana finds himself wrestling the feathers of traffic deputies Halik (Kean) and Morris (Lisa Hart Carroll, Terms of Endearment) enough to lose his license and land himself behind a desk in a teeth-pulling traffic course.  Joined by a ditzy rocket scientist (Jennifer Tilly, Bride of Chucky), a geeky puppeteer (Brian Backer, The Burning), an unwavering hypochondriac (Wendy Jo Sperber, Back to the Future), a pipe-smoking car doctor (Fred Willard, Best in Show) and a horror movie hound (Ned Eisenberg, Hiding Out) among others, Dana’s incessant sarcasm and class clownish hijinks do him no favors against his strict arresting officer and new teacher, ensuring his class a tough as nails road ahead.  Sparing time for romance with his raspy-voiced NASA classmate and a memorable lovemaking sequence in zero gravity, the classes troubles are only beginning when Halik and their sentencing judge hatch a plan to fail them at all costs in order to split the cost of their impounded cars.  Bending the rules and going behind enemy lines, the license-less students attempt to retrieve the necessary evidence only to have a convention hall of officers on their tails.  Featuring Don Cheadle (The Avengers: Age of Ultron) in his film debut as a fast food server and capturing nostalgic footage of new wave punkers, Moving Violations drives wildly and attracts big laughs thanks to an animated cast and a simplistically silly tale that saves seriousness for the other slowpokes on the road.  A solid entry into the underdogs against higher society genre of comedy making, Moving Violations rarely misses a funny beat and keeps the hilarity honking.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Moving Violations with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a healthily filmic appearance with only very scant traces of flakes and speckles, colors are prominent in bold costume choices while, skin tones always read naturally and well-detailed.  Furthermore, exterior daytime sequences seen in the film’s big chase finale are crisply photographed with a nighttime scene set outside of a punk club handling the lower lighting and neon signage just as appropriately.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that prioritizes dialogue with ease, hiss and cracks are unnoticed while, Sammy Hagar’s “I Can’t Drive 55” makes a notably rockin’ appearance on the track.  Special features include a lively Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Neal Israel that covers all aspects of the film’s development and shooting including, its fast-paced writing process and interesting revelations regarding Michael J. Fox’s interest in the lead role before producer concerns about his age cancelled what could have been and Israel’s own experiences in traffic school.  Finally, Trailers for Moving Violations (1:28), Up the Creek (3:16), Porky’s II: The Next Day (2:26), Porky’s Revenge (1:27) & Miracle Beach (2:01) round out the supplements.

    A well-oiled comedy that hits the ground running with ample absurdity, Moving Violations is a pleasant detour through familiar territory from the era that still holds up.  Featuring funny performances from all, namely Murray, whose comedic timing and mannerisms eerily echo that of his Ghostbusters starring brother, this laugh at punished drivers never runs out of gas.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics takes viewers for a ride with a solid HD transfer and a director commentary track well worth listening to.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Moving Violations can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Pete's Dragon (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Pete’s Dragon (2016)

    Director: David Lowery

    Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban & Robert Redford

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Reimagining the classic 1977 original, Pete’s Dragon finds the titular child (Oakes Fegley, This Is Where I Leave You) fending for himself in the wilderness following the tragic death of his parents.  Befriending an enormous green dragon, Pete’s unconventional upbringing is interrupted by fearful lumberjacks and the prospect of being apart of a family once again.  Bryce Dallas Howard (Jurassic World), Wes Bentley (Interstellar), Karl Urban (Star Trek Beyond) and Robert Redford (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) co-star.

    Substituting the musical DNA of its Mickey Rooney starring predecessor, Pete’s Dragon refocuses its whimsical tale as an intimate family-driven drama concerning loss, love and magic.  Set in the 1980s while maintaining an otherwise timeless tone, Director David Lowery’s (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) story about a boy and his dragon charmingly tugs at the heart strings of viewers from young Pete’s initial introduction to the lovable Elliot through their shattering separation following local lumberjacks fearfully capturing the winged creature.  After several years of living off the land side by side his fantastical companion, Pete encounters Park Ranger Grace Meacham (Howard) who, after a failed escape from local wilderness men, is retrieved from the sprawling woods and cared for in the neighboring town.  Anxious to reunite with Elliot, Pete is embraced by Grace, her boyfriend Jack and soon-to-be stepdaughter Natalie (Oona Laurence, Southpaw) while, Jack’s disgruntled brother Gavin (Urban) seeks to capture the creature he’s certain he saw.  Conflicted by the support offered by Grace’s family and his love for Elliot, Pete is emotionally tested once more after Gavin’s ruthless recovery of the dragon into town forces him to question his standing amongst the frantic townspeople.  Aided by those closest to him including Grace’s dragon believing father (Redford), the resourceful boy embarks on a spirited mission to free his best friend.

    Exceptionally achieved through the computer-generated wizardry of Weta Digital (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar), Elliot’s furry and big-eyed presence is breathtakingly realistic, allowing viewers young and old to easily suspend any and all disbelief.  Taking much creative license with its source material, Pete’s Dragon adheres to the general structure of what came before with its dramatically heavier narrative, winsome performances and picturesque New Zealand shooting locations enhancing its more magical touches.  Provided with a wonderfully earthy score by Composer Daniel Hart (Tumbledown), Pete’s Dragon, although a comparatively quieter effort next to Disney’s other tentpole summer blockbusters, is enchantingly saccharine and ably continues the quality of the Mouse House’s other reinterpreted features.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Pete’s Dragon with a healthy 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting natural skin tones and highlighting the luscious greenery of its New Zealand filming locations, black levels seen in shadowy shades and Elliot’s dark cave are impressively inky while, the digital rendering of Pete’s dragon is exceptionally detailed allowing viewers to fully appreciate the intricacies of his green fur.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely handled with the utmost clarity while, the ambiance of the wilderness provides subtle yet effecting statements.  In addition, the powerful whips of wind from Elliot’s wings give appropriate rise to the film’s many flying sequences while, the ethereal sounds of Daniel Hart’s music blankets the feature in glorious fantasy bliss.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Lowery, Co-Writer Toby Halbrooks and Actors Oakes Fegley & Oona Laurence, Notes to Self: A Director’s Diary (7:31) offers a personal look into Lowery’s intimate passages kept throughout production, intertwined with onset footage and interviews from the cast.  Furthermore, Making Magic (2:12) is a brief featurette exploring the visual design and characteristics implemented in bringing Elliot to life while, “Disappearing” Moments: Deleted, Alternate and Extended Scenes (9:12) and Bloopers (1:28) are also included.  Finally, the “Nobody Knows” Music Video by The Lumineers (3:12), the “Something Wild” Music Video by Lindsey Stirling featuring Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (3:45), a Welcome to New Zealand Promo (1:56) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), the Disney Conservation Fund (1:02), a Disney Vacations Promo (1:32), Elena of Avalor (0:32) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) conclude the disc’s supplemental package while, a DVD edition and Digital HD are also provided.

    A modest sleeper hit that enchanted audiences while moving many to tears, Pete’s Dragon is a magical coming-of-age tale that warmly continues Disney’s recent streak of reinterpretations for a new generation.  Charmed with a remarkable high-definition presentation and a moderate spread of bonus features including an audio commentary from the filmmakers and select cast members, Pete’s Dragon deserves to fly under many a Christmas trees this holiday season.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 29th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pete’s Dragon can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989) Blu-ray Review

    C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989)

    Director: David Irving

    Starring: Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Gerrit Graham & Robert Vaughn

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a corpse used for a high school science experiment goes missing, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud finds three best friends fearing for their grades as they snatch a decomposing cadaver infected with a cannibalistic virus.  Shortly after being resurrected, the undead army experiment gone wrong goes on a killing spree, adding townspeople to his ravenous flock and leaving the young trio to save the community from themselves!  Brian Robbins (Head of the Class), Bill Calvert (Terror Squad), Tricia Leigh Fisher (Pretty Smart), Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise) and Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) star.

    Loosely borrowing from its more horror centric predecessor, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud makes a swift tonal change, relying on laughs and enhanced camp to bring life to the formally underground dwellers once more.  Scripted by Ed Naha (Troll, Dolls) (under the pseudonym M. Kane Jeeves), the misleading mutant populated artwork stretches the truth as the monsters are simpler, fang-toothed zombie types whose bite spreads their plague to other unsuspecting suburbanites.  Panicking after losing the intended corpse for their science experiment, Steve (Robbins) and Kevin (Calvert) don’t hesitate in stealing a thought to be dead replacement from the local Center for Disease Control to salvage their grade.  Roping fellow friend Katie (Fisher) into the mix, an accidental electrocution reanimates the corpse known as Bud (Graham) who’s wildly hungry for human flesh.  Infecting the small town one victim at a time with army officials attempting to quietly and unsuccessfully contain the situation, the three teenagers must put an end to the madness as Bud leads his hungry, hungry pack to the local Halloween dance.  Lacking the gritty grime of its New York based original, the quirky followup’s fresh-faced stars fully embrace the last gasps of the Gen X decade to the amusement of viewers while, Gerrit Graham’s gruntingly hilarious performance as the deathly infected Bud make his physicality and peculiar face movements a hoot to be seen.  Climaxing at a swimming pool where the bikini-donning Katie lures the C.H.U.D. infected citizens to their frozen farewell, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud by no means upstages its originator but, possesses a contagiously fun energy largely overlooked by cult cinema watching humanoids.

    Lionsgate presents C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually free of scratches or other such anomalies, natural film grain is apparent while overall image quality reads mildly soft.  Skin tones are healthy with the film’s color scheme found in costumes, Bud’s simple make-up design and the teen’s favored burger joint popping nicely.  Discovered and predominately viewed during its VHS era, Bud devotees will be overly pleased with its new life on high-definition.  Supplied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfyingly captured with ease while, Emmy Award winning Composer Nicholas Pike’s (Graveyard Shift, Critters 2) score of synth and rock queues see noticeable rises on the track.  

    Graced with rewarding supplements as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, extras include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Irving, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, Bud Speaks! with Gerrit Graham (16:18) where the actor reflects on how he never imagined his career to be so permeated by horror/cult credits, his improvisational background, the freedom of having no dialogue in the film and his embracement of the role’s physicality.  Furthermore, Katie’s Kalamity with Tricia Leigh Fisher (12:45) catches up with the actress today as she recalls many laughs shared onset with her costars Robbins and Calvert, praise for Graham’s campy performance and a humorous story during the shoot when a day trip to a local amusement park resulted in countless messages being left on her answering machine ordering her to the set.  Finally, This C.H.U.D.’s For You! with Allan Apone (14:44) hosts the special effects artist as he discusses the experimental freedom working on horror films in the 80s while, a Video Trailer (1:47) and Still Gallery (6:20) round out the bonus features.

    A comedic changeup that substitutes the humanoid monsters from New York for razor-toothed zombies with three science failing high schoolers tasked to clean up the mess, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud is built for absurdity and generally wets the appetite of bad movie appreciators.  Making its high-definition debut alongside the timely release of its 1984 original, the Vestron Video Collector’s Series continues to spread the genre love high and low with its treatment of this bottom-dwelling sequel sure to make most stiffs wiggle with glee.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 22nd from Lionsgate, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • C.H.U.D. (1984) Blu-ray Review

    C.H.U.D. (1984)

    Director: Douglas Creek

    Starring: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Kim Griest, J.C. Quinn, Michael O’Hare & George Martin

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Beneath the seedy depths of New York City, C.H.U.D. awaits!  Following the disappearance of countless citizens including a police captain’s wife, monstrous beings residing in the city tunnels stalk their unsuspecting prey.  When the concerned captain (Christopher Curry, Red Dragon), a prominent photographer (John Heard, Home Alone) and a soup kitchen operator (Daniel Stern, Bushwhacked) band together to expose the truth, terror invades the streets.

    With its campy acronym fueling its decades long reputation, C.H.U.D. stands tall as a radioactive slice of creature featuretainment that captures the glory days of the Big Apple’s graffiti-stained era where poverty and danger reigned.  While the titular monsters may appear less than expected for such a B-movie treasure, their calculated appearances allow the film to craft a much stronger narrative than it deserves surrounding a trio of city souls from different walks of life.  After a spike in persons, predominately the homeless, go missing, police Captain Bosch, coping with own wife’s disappearance, finds a lead when soup kitchen operator A.J. Shepherd alerts him of a growing number of underground residing friends missing in action.  Earning praise for his photographs of the city’s street people and trust from his subjects, George Cooper finds himself entangled in their dilemma after setting sights on their gruesomely fanged attackers.  Political coverups, a stock supply of toxic waste permeating under the city streets and the multiplying hazard of cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers threatens the safety of all around resulting in the trio of believers to stop them.  Featuring early appearances from John Goodman (Argo) and Sam McMurray (Freaks and Geeks) as New York’s finest, C.H.U.D. oozes tight pacing, impressive creature effects and a splash of pertinent social commentary that joyously reeks of a city that has all but been lost to time.  

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents C.H.U.D. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining its gritty edge with occasional sequences appearing softer than others, unsightly blemishes in the form of scuffs or scratches are absent while, skin tones and facial closeups reveal natural shades and sharp detail especially in the film’s killer creatures.  In addition, textures in costumes and the uncared for city backgrounds read nicely with black levels seen throughout the dark city sewers and tunnels presented with the utmost clarity.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is audibly exchanged with no hisses present while, the synth-heavy score sounds terrific.  Although not wholly impressive given its limited soundscape, the track is more than adequate.  

    Featuring the film’s Integral Cut (1:36:25) on Disc 1 and its Original Theatrical Cut (1:26:29) on Disc 2 (included as a limited edition exclusive), special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Douglas Creek, Writer Shepard Abbot and Actors John Heard, Daniel Stern & Christopher Curry plus, an Isolated Score and Audio Interviews with Composers Martin Cooper & David A. Hughes.  Furthermore, Red Shirt Pictures rolls up their sleeves with such newly produced extras as A Dirty Look with William Bilowit (19:11) where the production designer discusses his origins in documentaries before transitioning with such films as, Nightmare, Creepshow and of course, C.H.U.D.  Dweller Designs with John Caglione, Jr. (12:07) sits down with the film’s special make-up effects and creature designer while, Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations C.H.U.D. (9:10) finds Writer/Director Ted Geoghegan (We Are Still Here) and Writer/Editor of Rue Morgue Michael Gingold touring the film’s shooting spots today.  Finally, a Behind-the-Scenes Gallery (5:32), an Extended Shower Scene (1:24), the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:36), a 22-page booklet featuring a new essay from Michael Gingold and Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the supplemental offerings.

    Smart, slimy and downright entertaining, C.H.U.D. has remained in the upper pantheons of cult cinema’s good graces for over three decades with its mutant-like creatures and capturing of New York’s hellish days prime examples of its charm.  Resurrected from the sewers with a crisp 2K scan, multiple cuts and a well-supplied stock of bonus features, Arrow Video gives fans the ultimate reason to continue partying in the underground!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 22nd from Arrow Video, C.H.U.D. can be purchased via Amazon.com

    and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Child’s Play can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Burial Ground can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Lady in White can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • Fender Bender (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Fender Bender (2016)

    Director: Mark Pavia

    Starring: Makenzie Vega, Dre Davis, Cassidy Freeman, Kesley Leos Montoya, Harrison Sim & Bill Sage

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a New Mexican town, Fender Bender finds teenage Hilary (Makenzie Vega, The Good Wife) experiencing the downside of being a newly licensed driver after suffering her first accident.  Unharmed yet rattled, Hilary innocently exchanges information with her striker only to be grounded for the accidental damage later that evening.  Home alone during a violent storm, Hilary’s friends stop by only for the unsuspecting trio to be terrorized by a masked maniac.  Dre Davis (Pretty Little Liars), Cassidy Freeman (Longmire), Kesley Leos Montoya (The Guest), Harrison Sim (Pizza Girl Massacre) and Bill Sage (We Are What We Are) co-star.

    In the suspenseful spirit of slasherfests from yesteryear, Fender Bender takes the fun yet consistently recycled subgenre and finds a uniquely relatable occurrence to construct its contemporary chiller.  Modern in its setting, Makenzie Vega leads the cast as the diversely selected Hispanic heroine whose day of catching her cheating boyfriend in the act goes from bad to worse after being rear ended in her mother’s new car.  After a briefly awkward exchange of personal information with the fellow driver, Hilary is reprimand by her parents and forced to stay home alone for the night.  Spooked by the loneliness and harshness of a brewing storm, Hilary is further unsettled by texts from her mysterious acquaintance and other questionable events.  Relieved by the arrival of her best friends, Hilary’s night of terror is only just beginning when a leather-masked madman crashes the party, intent on sharply cutting the small guest list.  Marking the return of long absent Writer/Director Mark Pavia (The Night Flier), Fender Bender plays to its strengths with classic tropes of an innocent teen in peril and a stranger in the house with genuine conviction, sparing viewers any self-referential nods that have become commonplace in similar films influenced by previous decades.  While its dialogue is cheesily delivered, a satisfying bodycount and a rather bleak showdown between Hilary and her masked assailant in the final act provides ample entertainment for horror hounds yearning for modern mayhem with inner retro workings.  Enhanced by an evocative, Carpenter-esque score by Night Runner, Fender Bender is a competently constructed slasher that although not perfect, manages to inject a breath of originality into the genre that likeminded viewers will greatly appreciate.

    Scream Factory presents Fender Bender with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, this modern day slasher boasts sharp contrast and strong colors most noticeably in exterior foliage while, skin tones read naturally and well-defined.  Scratch free with only fleeting moments of digital noise during dimly lit sequences, black levels are generally strong with the leather texture of the killer’s mask shimmering nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that plays strongly to the film’s synth score and suspenseful moments, dialogue is rightly prioritized while, sound effects of varying degrees all make commendable strides.  Special features include, a Retro VHS Version viewing option that perfectly brings audiences back to the nostalgic-fueled days of rewinding with accurately cheesy bumpers and tracking lines prevalent throughout the film’s runtime.  In addition, an Audio Commentary with Director Mark Pavia and a second Audio Commentary with Co-Producers Joshua Bunting, Carl Lucas, Jordan Fields & Gus Krieger who deliver information of substance while hilariously playing a drinking game with onscreen actions is also included.  Furthermore, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (9:16), a “Slashback” Trailer Reel (38:39) promoting many other Scream Factory releases, the Original Trailer & TV Spot (2:07) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring a commissioned design by Justin Osbourn alongside a Digital HD code conclude the supplemental offerings.        

    After years of preserving cult favorites and introducing viewers to horror’s newest nightmares, Scream Factory’s first originally produced effort, in association with Chiller Films, is a suspenseful treat with surprisingly relatable themes and a heavily 80s-influenced score that will transport fans back to the days of video rental stores and big hair.  Making a sound transition to high-definition, Director Mark Pavia’s long-awaited return to horror treats viewers with several supplements and a most enjoyable Retro VHS viewing option.  A conservative blend of new school meets old school, Fender Bender burns rubber and sends Scream Factory off on a strong start in their latest and hopefully enduring new endeavor of crafting original scares for today’s audiences.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Fender Bender can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983)

    Director: Charles Band

    Starring: Jeffrey Byron, Mike Preston, Tim Thomerson, Kelly Preston & Richard Moll

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on the desert planet of Lemuria, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D finds a miner and his daughter Dhyana (Kelly Preston, Death Sentence) caught in the crossfire of the titular warlord.  Joining forces with brave space ranger Dogen (Jeffrey Byron, The Dungeonmaster) after the murder of her father, the peacekeepers seek to stop Syn and his crusade to enslave the Cyclopian race.  Mike Preston (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior), Tim Thomerson (Trancers), R. David Smith (Fletch Lives) and Richard Moll (Night Court) costar.

    Melding the post-apocalyptic with a fantastical science fiction flair, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D memorably blasts space-age action with in-your-face depth at the cusp of 3D’s short-lived return.  Otherworldly and futuristic, Cyclop warriors, intergalactic wizardry and wasteland armored vehicles permeate this wild west sendup set amongst the stars.  As the human population of Lemuria struggle to survive, crystals become the sole item of value to the mining community of scavengers.  As the evil Jared-Syn (Preston), aided by his half-cyborg son Baal (Smith), break a sacred treaty and wage war for power, Syn’s life draining crystals help further his control on the weak.  Combining their efforts after the death of her father, Dhyana and savior Dogen seek justice when Baal’s dangerous green acid submerges Dogen into a nightmarish state, allowing Dhyana to be captured.  Determined to save her, the lone warrior travels to Zhor and reconnects with grizzled warrior Rhodes (Thomerson).  Risking their lives on a journey to the Cyclopian mainland to recover a sacred mask to aid them in their battle, leader of the pack Hurok (Moll) confronts the duo, prompting a hellish battle for survival that proves invaluable on their road to defeating Syn.  Enlightening the Cyclopian people of Syn’s true motives, a climactic battle between good and evil takes place before a laser-blasting skybike chase between Dogan and Syn through the mountainous landscape transpires.  

    Although sporting memorable moments of action-geared fun and impressive mutant design work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D struggles to fully live up to its imaginative poster art, remaining in first gear for much of its runtime.  Achieving a considerable amount of eye candy on its limited budget, Director Charles Band’s (Pulse Pounders, Doctor Mordrid) second 3D effort following 1982’s Parasite lifts off on a shaky screenplay that never catches up with its nonstop visual agenda.  An imperfect genre smash set at the end of the universe, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not achieve all it hoped yet, remains a mildly entertaining B-grade space adventure with intentions of more installments that never came to fruition.

    Newly remastered in both 3D and 2D, Scream Factory presents Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  In their first 3D-related release since Amityville 3-D, the horror/cult subdivision of Shout! Factory supplies each version of the film on their own Blu-ray disc.  Kindly alerting viewers of unresolvable issues on the source material for its 3D form, depth reaching attempts from Baal lunging with his cyborg arm and laser blasts whizzing towards the screen work nicely while, occasional out of focus photography creates hazier outlines around characters that can be sometimes dizzying to the eye.  Additionally, and true to Scream Factory’s disclaimer, darker smudges in corners of the frame arise throughout the film that although unpleasant, are understandable given the state of the vault materials.  A retro serving of antiquated 3D effects work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is hardly reference quality for the format but, still offers several moments of depth-filled goofiness that may or may not rattle your vision.  More preferable for obvious reasons, the 2D version has healthy layers of film grain that only occasionally teeter into murky waters given the film’s desert-like location.  Otherwise, skin tones are pleasing, detail is revealing in Moll’s Cyclops makeup and print damage is largely infrequent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the track is very middle of the road offering audible dialogue levels while, more action-oriented sequences and accompanying sound effects fail to make stronger impacts.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix of comparable quality is also included.  

    Special features (located on the 2D disc version) include, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures’ latest featurette High Noon at the End of Universe: The Making of Metalstorm (42:13).  Catching up with a multitude of talking heads including, Director/Producer Charles Band, Actors Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll, Tim Thomerson, Screenwriter/Co-Producer Alan J. Adler and former Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Michael Gingold, Daniel Griffith’s excellently edited and nicely constructed effort is an enjoyably interesting watch.  Also included, a Still & Promotional Gallery (10:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:23) and a Radio Spot (0:30).

    Concluding on an open-ended note that was never explored again, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not be nearly as cool as its advertisements built up but, achieves a vast array of special effects and nifty creature designs that can be enjoyed by all ages.  A welcome and overdue return to hi-def 3D, Scream Factory rolls the dice on this science fiction fantasy from Empire Pictures founder Charles Band that although plagued with inherent issues, appreciatively provides viewers with both 2D/3D options.  Joined by Daniel Griffith’s wonderful new retrospective that’s worth the price of admission alone, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D’s mileage will vary by viewer but, will be a no-brainer for lifelong fans of Band’s illustrious career in the world of cult cinema.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

    Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette La France, Roger Dauer, Max Morris & Drew Godderis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving up a goofy helping of gore, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series welcomes Blood Diner to the menu!  When brainwashed brothers Michael (Rich Burks, The Under Achievers) and George (Carl Crew, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer) Tutman are ordered by their deceased uncle to resurrect the goddess Sheetar, the duo use their successful restaurant to lure scandalous women for their body parts and to sacrifice a pure virgin to complete their black magic ritual.

    Originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, the Jackie Kong (Night Patrol) helmed cannibalistic comedy throws everything but an ounce of seriousness into its buffet of blood and over the top absurdity.  20 years after witnessing the death of their serial killing uncle, brothers Michael and George Tutman loyally dig up his remains and have the eyes and brain of Uncle Anwar guide them on their mission to resurrect the powerful Egyptian goddess Sheetar.  Serving the local community with their restaurant’s popular healthy food options containing secret ingredients sure to make the masses barf, Michael and George are ordered to collect multiple body parts from promiscuous female prospects and most importantly, locate a virgin to be presented to the mighty Sheetar during the aptly named blood buffet ceremony.  As butchered bodies begin turning up all over the city, Detectives Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer, My Lovely Monster) and Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France in her only film credit) seek to bring the criminal minds to justice.  

    Boasting unbelievably silly performances, ridiculous dialogue and cartoonish levels of blood splattering violence, Blood Diner had routinely earned the reputation as a “bad movie” and remarkably found itself banned in several countries for its extreme content.  While its low-budget limitations and amateurish nature is evident, Blood Diner remains buckets of gooey fun that commits to its comedic sensibilities and never lets up.  Tonally bizarre with a bevy of personalities ranging from punkers and rockabilly boppers to greasers and Hitler lookalikes, the VHS cult favorite keeps viewers head-scratchingly rocking along to its uniquely selected soundtrack of 50s doo-wop tunes incorporating an added dimension of oddness.  Mixing independent wrestling, nude aerobics and a rock club finale that turns patrons into green, poorly face-painted flesh eaters to the already insane festivities, the highly unusual blend of wackiness and trashiness make Blood Diner an entertaining, freaky feature like few others.

    Newly remastered from the film’s original vault materials, Lionsgate presents Blood Diner fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably cleaned up with no troublesome signs of dirt or scratches, the cheaply made feature casts a softer appearance that maintains skin tones nicely while, enriching the bright red, bloody offerings rampant throughout the film.  Furthermore, no digital scrubbing is apparent ensuring a naturally filmic presentation that honors appreciative black levels during the film’s final club sequence and strong details observed in makeup choices and Sheetar’s razor-toothed design work.  Much like the debut installment of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Blood Diner appears light years ahead of its grainy tape sourced predecessors.  Although moderately restrained in its projection, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix supports audible levels of dialogue and caters to its doo-wop and rockabilly centered track selections nicely.  While the mix may not be wildly dynamic, sound quality is more than efficient.

    Loaded with a smorgasbord of bonus features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong and the top-notch retrospective Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner (1:04:31).  Produced by Red Shirt Pictures, this impressive five-part featurette hosts interviews with the rarely public Jackie Kong, Screenwriter Michael Sonye, Producer Jimmy Maslon, Creative Consultant Bill Osco and countless cast members covering the film’s origin, its lengthy writing process, the tragic passing of Star Rick Burks and the film’s ongoing appreciation by cult lovers.  In a career of crafting deeply researched retrospectives on B-movie favorites, Killer Cuisine ranks as one of Red Shirt Pictures’ best efforts.  Also included, an Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin (8:01) recorded in 2009, Theatrical Trailers (4:49), TV Spots (1:34) and a Still Gallery (5:34).

    In only their sophomore outing, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series keeps its high-caliber quality in tune for the unbelievable domestic high-def debut of Blood Diner.  As ridiculously loony and uproariously funny as remembered, Director Jackie Kong’s goofy gore show looks splendid and arrives with another wildly impressive serving of delectable extras to chomp into.  Available for a limited time, Blood Diner is one of the best, fully-loaded genre treats to land in dedicated fan’s collections this Halloween season or any other for that matter!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Blood Diner can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

    Director: Jerry Belson

    Starring: Mark Blankfield, Bess Armstrong, Tim Thomerson, Krista Errickson & Michael McGuire

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Turning the classic tale on its head, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again centers on the brilliantly shy Dr. Daniel Jekyll (Mark Blankfield, The Incredible Shrinking Woman) whose experimental research developing a drug to substitute all surgeries accidentally works its unexpected magic on the reserved surgeon.  Morphing into a wild and crazy ladies man known as Hyde, nonstop partying and a skyrocketing sexual appetite unleashes the beast within the doctor formally known as Jekyll.  Bess Armstrong (My So-Called Life), Tim Thomerson (Near Dark), Krista Errickson (The First Time) and Michael McGuire (Hard Times) costar.

    Unfathomably produced by Hollywood heavyweight Paramount Pictures, this painfully unfunny modern desecration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella is a chemical catastrophe of epic proportions and lamebrain hijinks.  Uptight and awkward, Dr. Daniel Jekyll’s reputation as a master surgeon is unanimously respected by his peers while, his passion has been rerouted to medical research leaving hospital director and his future father-in-law (McGuire) enraged.  Struggling to conceive a substance that would eliminate all surgeries, Jekyll dozes away in front of his experimental powders and ridiculously snorts the concoction triggering a total personality alteration.  Sprouting chest hair, gold chains, a quintessential 80s stache and a handy coke nail, the intoxicated freakazoid, guided by his raging hormones, falls for punk rock singing hooker Ivy Venus (Errickson) before his chemical high wears off, reverting him back to his serious self.  Juggling his commitment to his prissy fiancée (Armstrong) while unable to kick the addiction to his wild Hyde side, Jekyll’s extensive research earns him a whopping $500,000 prize to be awarded in London where he demonstrates a trailer trash impromptu performance in front of royalties finest and his two contrasting lovers.  

    Scripted by no less than four writers including, co-creator of The Cosby Show Michael Leeson, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again manages to only invoke laughs of pity at how poorly conceived its flat jokes and cheap gags bomb.  Featuring minor appearances from Cassandra Peterson (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), Lin Shaye (Insidious) and Barret Oliver (The NeverEnding Story) in a blink and you’ll miss role as a child in a supermarket, this lab disaster of a picture fittingly ends with Stevenson’s rotting skeleton turning in its grave, summing up the anything but humorous feature exquisitely.

    Olive Films presents Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Presumably recycling the same transfer from Legend’s 2011 release, video quality is respectably healthy with skin tones and color choices in hospital scrubs and other standout attire striking nicely.  Age-related artifacts are minimal with only minor speckling seen during nighttime sequences leaving the film in an otherwise pleasing state.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, static is present during the film’s opening organ music before steady and clear dialogue levels right the ship.  Ivy’s performance at Madam Woo Woo’s is surprisingly robust and thunderous while, arcade ambiance of Pac-Man sound effects and the like make fitting compliments to the track.  No special features have been included on this release.

    A comedic experiment gone severely wry, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again fails on every conceivable level to be funny or even mildly interesting.  Retrospectively notable for its major studio promotional campaign that poked fun at the very rampant cocaine consumption of the decade, this frustratingly flat feature is a total buzzkill and will certainly smash anyone’s high.  For still curious viewers, Olive Films at least curates an appreciatively decent presentation albeit without any supplements.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dead-End Drive-In (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dead-End Drive-In (1986)

    Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

    Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Dave Gibson, Sandie Lillingston, Ollie Hall & Wilbur Wilde

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Aussie exploitation maverick Brian Trenchard-Smith (Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits), Dead-End Drive-In takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the economy has crumbled and crime runs rampant.  When the government orders local drive-ins to become concentration camps for society’s wild youth, lone rebel “Crabs” (Ned Manning, Looking for Alibrandi) plots his escape from the imprisoning wasteland.  

    An unquestionable by product of George Miller’s motor-charged Mad Max game changers, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead-End Drive-In takes unexpected sharp turns to deliver a unique, neon lit offering of nuclear punkery.  Home to a ravaged world of polluted red skies, gang warfare and food shortage, cars and their associated parts are the leading commodities in a devastatingly unemployed and substance addicted society.  After sneaking off with his older brother’s prized 56 Chevy, physically fit Jimmy, better known as “Crabs”, whisks his foxy, leather-wearing girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry, Cassandra) to the Star Drive-In for a night of exploitation movies and backseat intimacy.  After the local police force steal Crabs’ wheels leaving the couple stranded, the government implements a strict lockdown for all patrons of the drive-in.  Populated by face painted punks, new wavers and skinheads, the outdoor movie house keeps its rowdy guests pacified with B-grade pictures, junk food and endless drugs to occupy their extended stay.  While Carmen forms friendships with the local crowd, Crabs’ cabin fever and growing suspicion that all is not what it seems generates friction amongst other rebel rousers.  When countless refugees are transported to the already overpopulated space, racism and hate dominates the self-medicating punkers from realizing their true status as prisoners.  Going for broke, Crabs forms a getaway plan pitting himself against the gun-carrying police and the Star Drive-In’s corrupt owner (Peter Whitford, Running from the Guns).  

    Although a much different beast than expected, Dead-End Drive-In paves its own path that raises intriguing political commentary on the stranglehold of materialistic addictiveness and  racism.  Impressively art directed with graffiti tattered vehicles and brickwork shepherded by Muralist Vladimir Chevepanoff, Dead-End Drive-In stylistically soars with its trashcan burning, drive-in warzone and vibrantly vile supporting players making the film one of the visually richest of the endless wave of post-nuke imitators.  Disappointingly lighter on action until the film’s climactic escape where Crabs literally leaps away from his oppressive environment in a thrilling car stunt, Dead-End Drive-In still makes good with its new wave heavy soundtrack, oddball characters and effective sense of dystopian depravity that solidly leaves Trenchard-Smith’s anarchic Ozzie mark.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dead-End Drive-In with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shining brightly through the film’s vast neon-signage, colorful makeup designs on its many punk performers and Crabs’ bright red Chevy, skin tones are naturally pleasing while, black levels waver from solidly inky to areas of speckling that are apparent yet, never overly distracting.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clearly projected with the film’s excellent new wave cuts booming loudly.  Mildly restrained, quality is generally efficient while, slightly more authority during action sequences would have been preferred.  Special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, The Stuntmen (48:46), Trenchard-Smith’s 1973 documentary on Aussie stuntmen Bob Woodham, Grant Page and others plus, Hospitals Don’t Burn Down! (24:10), an Aussie pubic service film shot by Trenchard-Smith circa 1978 detailing the dangers of in-patient smoking.  Furthermore, a Vladimir Cherepanoff Gallery (19 slides in total), the Theatrical Trailer (1:36) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and musings on Dead-End Drive-In and Trenchard-Smith’s other accompanying on disc films from Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell are included.  Finally, a Reversible Sleeve boasting newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and the film’s original poster design conclude the supplemental offerings.

    Not quite the punk free for all it’s advertised to be, Dead-End Drive-In follows similar post-nuke guidelines such as a dependency on vehicles while, its greater focus rests on the imprisonment of disillusioned youth and their subsequent brainwashing of complacency.  Fantastically designed and boasting few but, still wildly impressive stunts, Trenchard-Smith’s Ozploitation odyssey of a destructive future may not always live up to all expectations but, succeeds in carving out its own identity.  Arrow Video continues their liberation of the New World Pictures catalog with another praiseworthy transfer and a pleasing spread of supplements that will be of particular interest to Trenchard-Smith completists.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dead-End Drive-In can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chopping Mall (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Chopping Mall (1986)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Kattie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky & Suzee Slater

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off their anticipated Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate proudly presents Chopping Mall.  Set in the Park Plaza Mall, Director Jim Wynorski’s (Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth) cult classic finds revolutionary security robots short circuiting and transforming into malfunctioning murderers with sights set on a group of trapped teenagers.  Fresh-faced talent and memorable cult stars including, Paul Bartel (Hollywood Boulevard), Mary Woronov (Rock ’n’ Roll High School), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2) appear.

    Also known as Killbots, Chopping Mall turns a sex-filled evening of fun for eight teenagers into a hellish run-in with deadly droids where survival is tougher than a fair deal at the mall.  Shortly after being introduced as the Park Plaza Mall’s newest line of late night security, several bolts of lightning rattles the computer systems of the high-tech robotic protectors turning them into ruthless killers with polite manners.  Simultaneously, four horny couples plan to throw their own after hours party within a furniture storefront where booze and plenty of beds are on hand.  Exterminating several mall employees, the trio of metallic stalkers turn their attention to the scantily clad teens, leaving blood and destruction in their wake.  With escape impossible, the resourceful survivors must combat their enemies with makeshift traps and found weapons in order to see the next business day.  Centering its futuristic madness at the epicenter of every teen’s former recreational haven, Valley Girl meets Westworld in this Roger Corman produced cheapie that celebrates the bubbly blondes and yuppie horndogs of yesteryear whose trespassing earns them laser blast attacks and exploding heads.  Headlined by a youthful cast of thespians including, Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and others, Chopping Mall remains snappily brisk and endlessly fun keeping blood, breasts and bots in steady supply.  

    Self-promoting his own works with visible posters for Sorceress and The Lost Empire on display, Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski also honors mentor and producer Roger Corman with several nods including, a Little Shop of Pets storefront and Attack of the Crab Monsters promptly televised for the film’s necking couples.  Predominately shot on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California’s San Fernando Valley, Chopping Mall keeps its action well-paced as the technological terrors utilize tasers and death grips against the dwindling youngsters with Maroney confidently defending herself with a crack shot and crafty ingenuity within a paint shop.  Released the same year as other offbeat, eventual cult favorites including, Night of the Creeps and TerrorVision, Chopping Mall endures as one of the era’s most gleefully silly and finely-tuned sci-fi sideshows that warmly ranks as one, if not, Wynorski’s finest directorial effort in a spectacularly diverse career spanning well over 100 features.

    Newly restored from the original negative materials, Lionsgate’s limited edition release of Chopping Mall arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of marginal debris and inherent vertical lines during its opening title sequence, the quality of the B-movie favorite is a revelation.  Boasting exceptionally healthy skin tones and crisp detail within background posters and the metallic intricacies of its killers, colors found in the vibrant wardrobe choices of the era pop wonderfully while, the purplish hues of robotic laser blasts satisfy equally.  Miles ahead of ratty-looking bootlegs and fullscreen video sourced editions, Chopping Mall preserves its filmic integrity to look better than ever before!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with bustling mall ambiance nicely balanced.  In addition, Chuck Cirino’s (The Return of Swamp Thing) synth/bass heavy score greatly impresses and effectively underscores the onscreen chaos while, the killbots’ fast-turning gears, gasoline explosions and shattering glass make appropriately sharp stakes on the track.  

    Bursting with supplements, an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell is joined by a second Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital & Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop.  Furthermore, a third Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell, recorded in 2004, is also included.  With an Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino, Newly-crafted featurettes include, Back to the Mall: Interviews with the Victims and Makers (26:29) that explores the entire genesis of the film and its impact with interviews from Wynorski, Mitchell, Maroney, Todd, Crampton and countless others who look back on the experience with fond memories and deep appreciation to the fans who have kept it alive.  Chopping Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (8:19), Talkin’ About… The Killbots with Robot Creator Robert Short (12:11), Scoring Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Composer Chuck Cirino (11:04) and The Robot Speaks!: Ten Questions with the Killbot (2:12) are also included that bring great insight to the many different behind-the-scenes contributions to the film.  Also included, The Lost Scene (3:01) finds Wynorski and Mitchell prefacing an additional scene with Bartel and Wornov that was never shot before sharing its script pages while, An Army of One: A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri (6:01) who fortunately owns the only surviving bot from the film is also on hand.  Finally, a vintage Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots (15:41) featurette is carried over with the film’s Trailer (0:50).

    Rooftop pleas by diehard fans have finally been answered with Lionsgate’s newfound commitment to honoring B-movie treasures.  Arguably their most requested title, Chopping Mall makes its far too long awaited Blu-ray debut with jaw-dropping clarity and sonically splendid sound.  Proudly living up to its Collector’s Series banner, hours of newly made bonus features will find killbot enthusiasts enjoyably spending overtime in the mall.  With fans more than eager to offer arms and legs to see Wynroski’s beloved cult classic enter the HD realm for years, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line has made a laser-blasting debut essential to all genre lovers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Chopping Mall can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Haunted Honeymoon (1986)

    Director: Gene Wilder

    Starring: Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Dom DeLuise, Jonathan Pryce & Paul L. Smith

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Heading into their wedding weekend, Haunted Honeymoon finds Larry Abbot (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) and his fiancé Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live) visiting the gothic mansion of his great Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, Silent Movie).  Unbeknownst to Larry, his loved ones are secretly conducting a psychological procedure to help the talented actor overcome his irrational phobias and frantic nerves by scaring him to death.  When creepy happenings occur and a potential werewolf on the loose, Larry begins suspecting someone in his family wants him gone for good.  Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Peter Vaughn (Straw Dogs), Paul L. Smith (Sonny Boy) and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) costar.

    In his final directorial outing, Gene Wilder reteams with his late offscreen wife Gilda Radner and Blazing Saddles costar Dom DeLuise for a bone tickling blend of humor and haunts.  Best known as the popular stars of the radio hit program Manhattan’s Mystery Theater, engaged couple Larry and Vickie look to officially tie the knot at the grand homestead of Larry’s eccentric Aunt Kate.  Feeling on top of the world yet, struggling to overcome his unexpected bouts of nervous phobias, Larry’s uncle, Dr. Paul Abbot (Smith), has discovered a cure for his nephew that involves scaring him beyond belief.  With family and loved ones congregating at the mammoth mansion, Aunt Kate confidentially wills her fortunes to Larry while Dr. Abbot secretly informs the others of his planned experiment.  Before long, an electrical blackout, a thunderous storm and talk of a werewolf leaves the entire estate uneasy and suspicious of one another, fueling the notion that someone close to Larry may be jealous of his eventual riches.  Establishing a wonderful gothic ambiance and romantically real chemistry between Wilder and Radner, Haunted Honeymoon offers delightful doses of comedic spurts thanks largely to DeLuise’s hilarious turn in drag as the passive aggressive Aunt Kate.  In addition, Radner and DeLuise cut a rug during a wonderful song and dance routine that ranks as one of the film’s shining moments.  Proving to be capable behind the camera as well as in front, Wilder’s charm and comedic timing can hardly be matched with a knee-slapping sequence involving Wilder’s Larry using the legs of unconscious butler Pfister (Bryan Pingle, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) as his own during police questioning.  While its murder mystery style plot may have been dated for its time resulting in a box-office bomb, Haunted Honeymoon, although no classic to be sure, has aged favorably and juggles lighthearted laughs with innocent scares nicely.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Haunted Honeymoon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly remastered, Wilder’s horror/comedy retains its intended, foggy appearance with skin tones remaining steady throughout.  In addition, colors are crisp with detail nicely impressing in the mansion’s decrepit walls and rain droplets on the leather gloves of Larry’s stalker displayed vividly.  Boasting healthy black levels and a noticeably clean appearance, the creepy comedy makes a healthy HD debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue makes easy and clear transitions with the lively score, notably Radner and DeLuise’s musical number, thunderstorm effects and spooky sound cues making the most of their efforts.  Unfortunately limited to just Trailers for Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (2:53) and Life Stinks (2:01), the lack of bonus contents is disappointing nonetheless.  

    Tapping into the familiar horror/comedy formula of Young Frankenstein albeit with lesser results, Haunted Honeymoon still offers plenty of laughs with Wilder and Radner’s chemistry and DeLuise’s dragtastic performance being of particular note.  In the wake of Wilder’s passing, his final bow behind the camera, as well as his curtain call collaborations with Radner and DeLuise, may still not be a comedy masterpiece but will undoubtedly bring delight to those who can’t howl at the moon without laughing.  Graduating to high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done admirable work in preserving this comedy chiller for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Road House (1989) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Road House (1989)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    Starring: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliot, Ben Gazzara, Marshall R. Teague & Julie Michaels

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brawling bar business, Road House stars Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) as cool-headed and physically fit bouncer Dalton.  When the chaotically run Double Deuce hires him to clean up their image, the widely respected and increasingly disliked pub protector finds himself at odds with corrupt business tycoon Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, The Thomas Crown Affair).  Kelly Lynch (Curly Sue), Sam Elliot (Grandma), Marshall R. Teague (The Rock) and Julie Michaels (Witchboard 2 ) co-star.

    Teetering on the cusp of ridiculousness and unabashed entertainment, Road House serves up viewers with a tidal wave of bottle breaking, beat ’em up insanity in a dead end Missouri town with hunkish ladies man Patrick Swayze kicking ass and taking names politely.  Highly regarded for his uniquely qualified skills, one-of-a-kind cooler Dalton is persuaded to restore balance to the dangerous Double Deuce bar when the price proves right.  Quietly observing the reckless environment and the temperamentally unfit and dishonest employee roster, Dalton’s take charge persona quickly earns him enemies.  As his junker of a vehicle is consistently trashed and new lethal threats find their way to the Double Deuce, Dalton meets town baddie Brad Wesley who pawns off small businesses and strikes fear into the local community.  After teaching several of Wesley’s henchmen a lesson in barroom manners, a knife wound and emergency room visit introduces the muscled drifter to the supremely sexy Dr. Elizabeth “Doc” Clay (Lynch) with romance and bed-sharing hobbies percolating soon after.  With business and security thriving at the newly renovated bar, Wesley’s distaste for Dalton increases following a business refusal, prompting the corrupt mogul to derail the Double Deuce from succeeding further.  Seeking assistance from his grizzled mentor Wade Garrett (Elliot), Dalton’s liberation of the locals causes neighboring businesses to be set aflame and those closest to the bouncer to be put in harm’s way.  Outnumbered and overpowered, Dalton’s feud with the powerful Wesley will be the deadliest last call of his life with only one man left standing.

    A redecorated western trading hats for mullets and horses for monster trucks, Road House makes no apologies for its absurd premise and over the top personalities yet, wins viewers over with its commitment to the material and colorful conflict between unconventional heroes and money-driven baddies.  Eliciting hilariously quotable dialogue and featuring generous doses of gratuitous nudity including, but not limited to, a skintastically revealing Kelly Lynch and the bare backside of Swayze, Road House stands tall with the blazing tunes of blind, blues virtuoso Jeff Healey who appears as the featured house band in the film.  Boasting commendable stunt work and fight choreography overwhelmingly achieved by the actors themselves, Director Rowdy Herrington’s (Jack’s Back) bar battering feature is throat-rippingly rockin’, exceeding common misconceptions of being “so bad, it’s good”, Road House is flat-out fun from its first drink served to its last punch thrown.

    Featuring a new 2K scan of the interpositive, supervised and approved by Director of Photography Dean Cundey (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park), Shout Select presents Road House with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A welcome and preferable upgrade over MGM’s previous HD release, skin tones are effectively natural-looking with pleasing detail.  In addition, overall picture quality is noticeably brighter than its more brooding predecessor with pastel colors in costumes and neon lighting seen in bar sequences casting effective shades.  While slight softness rears its head occasionally during outdoor scenes, Shout Select’s notably cleaned-up and eye-pleasingly filmic transfer looks in top form.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, while not troubled by hiss or distortion, is decently relayed while, bar brawls, revving car motors and Jeff Healey’s guitar-dominating music make much stronger notices on the track.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included.  Spanning two Blu-ray’s, special features on disc 1 include, the ported over Audio Commentary with Director Rowdy Herrington and the fan-favorite Audio Commentary with Road House Fans Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier.

    Kicking off disc 2’s Collector’s Edition release is several newly-crafted supplements including, the impressive I Thought You’d Be Bigger: The Making of Road House (1:03:14) featuring new interviews with Herrington, cast members Kelly Lynch, John Doe, Julie Michaels, Director of Photography Dean Cundey, Lisa Niemi Swayze and many others in this definitive look back on the cult classic.  Next up, A Conversation with Director Rowdy Herrington (29:38), Pain Don’t Hurt: The Stunts of Road House (22:29), Pretty Good for a Blind White Boy: The Music of Road House (9:22) and Remembering Patrick Swayze (15:06) with beautiful insight and shared memories of the late actor from his lovely widow and cast members.  In addition, vintage supplements On the Road House (17:23) and What Would Dalton Do? (12:26) are joined by the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), On the Set (3:44) featurette, a Patrick Swayze Profile (2:41), Selected Soundbites (11:00) and a Photo Gallery (3:20) marking the last word in bonus content for the late 80s favorite.

    A bar bouncing good time with enough action, foxy ladies and hard-rockin’ tunes to make it last all night, Road House plays to the crowd with its hammed up plot and contagiously fun characters rightly earning its stripes in the pantheons of cult cinema awesomeness.  Reintroducing viewers to the tirelessly rented and cable darling hit, Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition release will make fans graciously tipsy with their Cundey approved 2K transfer and keg-sized offering of bonus features, making the Double Deuce the only roundhouse kicking dive you’ll want to be in.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Road House can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Return of Godzilla (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Return of Godzilla (1984)

    Director: Koji Hashimoto

    Starring: Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yosuke Natsuki, Keiju Kobayashi, Shin Takuma & Kenpachiro Satsuma

    Released by: Kraken Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A direct sequel to the original Japanese classic, The Return of Godzilla finds the gargantuan monster awakening following a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island.  With a local sea vessel left destroyed and only one surviving mate, a young Tokyo reporter, joined by a brilliant professor and his assistant’s technological advancements, seek to stop the destructive beast before nuclear means bring an end to the attacked country.  

    Following flailing box-office returns and decreased interest in their once treasured franchise, Toho would seek to rejuvenate their nuclear powered star after nearly a decade of hibernation and false starts.  Excluding any monster-sized costars and recapturing the darker tone of its originator, The Return of Godzilla is a powerhouse redemption that makes the titular character once again a menacing force to be reckoned with under a clout of anti-nuclear sublimation, heightened by the real world fears of Cold War armageddon.  Awarded an increased budget and a higher stature for Godzilla than ever before, the long-awaited sequel impresses with detailed miniature sets of the bustling metropolis, a robotically controlled and emotionally prevalent head for its monster, and franchise veteran Kenpachiro Satsuma (Godzilla VS. Hedorah, Godzilla VS. Biollante) bringing destructive grace to the character under its rubber suit.  After Godzilla’s return is quietly downplayed by the government and an attacked Soviet submarine increases tension between the region and the United States, the truth of Japan’s ultimate destructor can no longer be contained.  As diplomats and the military scramble to combat expected attacks from the monster, local reporter Goro Maki (Tanaka), Godzilla survivor Hiroshi Okumura (Takuma), his sister Naoko (Sawaguchi) and the noted Professor Hayashida (Natsuki) develop an experimental homing device to lure the beast away from civilization.  As other nations gear up for defense, a destructive Soviet missile is accidentally launched creating further chaos and increased energy for the battered Godzilla.  Skyline rampages and explosive wreckage ensues before the civilians succeed in luring the King of the Monsters to the actively volcanic Mt. Mihara  in hopes of a fatal eruption.

    While the bulk of its runtime is regulated to governmental squabbling and laboratory developments to thwart the beast, The Return of Godzilla makes the wait well worth it with an entertainingly catastrophic third act that pits Godzilla against the armored fortress known as Super X that temporarily defuses the enemy with cadmium shells.  Earning Japan’s Academy Award for Special Effects, The Return of Godzilla would prove moderately successful for the studio with overseas versions, namely New World Pictures’ Americanized Godzilla 1985 effort, making controversial changes and drifting away from its intendedly darker approach.  Regardless of its preferred viewing form (presented here only in its uncut original incarnation), The Return of Godzilla succeeds in diminishing the colorful hero of sorts the character evolved into and reverting the beast and the franchise back to its gloomier roots of nuclear devastation.

    Kraken Releasing presents The Return of Godzilla with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Repurposing the master utilized on its Japanese counterpart, quality appears relatively dated and lacking sharpness in skin tones while, select costume choices featuring bolder colors pop appropriately.  While no severe age-related scratches or scuffs are on hand, black levels are serviceable yet, suffer from inherent graininess.  Although not quite as desirably crisp as hoped for, The Return of Godzilla looks as good as to be expected.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Japanese dialect, joined by English subtitles (including burned-in captions applied over occasional non-Japanese dialogue), is satisfactory while missile blasts, building destruction and Godzilla’s iconic roar suffer from lackluster pushes on the track.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English mix has also been included.  Unfortunately minimal, bonus features include, a Theatrical Promo (3:03) and an Also Available from Kraken Releasing section featuring trailers for Ebirah - Horror of the Deep (2:16), Godzilla VS. Gigan (2:11) and Godzilla VS. Hedorah (2:09).

    Anxiously awaited although hardly definitive with the legally convoluted Godzilla 1985 cut notably absent, The Return of Godzilla, presented in its original uncut Japanese glory, ranks as one of the series’ best offerings that channels the original film’s anti-nuclear message and returns the radioactive breathing monster back to his villainous standing.  Continuing their domestic releases of the Godzilla franchise, Kraken Releasing welcomes the 1984 sequel with serviceable grades that while imperfect, will leave fans satisfied enough to fill the void in their monster collections with.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 13th from Kraken Releasing, The Return of Godzilla can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Grandview, U.S.A. (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Grandview, U.S.A. (1984)

    Director: Randal Kleiser

    Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, C. Thomas Howell, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Jason Leigh, M. Emmet Walsh & Troy Donahue

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Grease, Grandview, U.S.A. centers on the romantic love triangle between demolition derby owner Michelle “Mike” Cody (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween), her hotshot driver Ernie “Slam” Webster (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing) and high school graduate Tim Pearson (C. Thomas Howell, The Outsiders) in the rural community they call home.  

    Longing to follow his dreams of studying oceanography, recent high school graduate Tim Pearson finds himself bewitched by the beautiful proprietor of Cody’s Speedway Mike Cody after requiring a tow.  Struggling to keep up with repairs to her late father’s business while her star driver Slam Webster discovers his wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight) is cheating on him, heartache and confusion settles in for the grease-monkey enthusiasts.  Displeased with his father’s dishonesty to shut down Mike’s business for the town’s own greedy advancements, Tim’s music video styled daydreams about Mike prompts a romantic fling between the two and a demolition derby debut for the former high schooler.  Meanwhile, intoxicated with anger towards his estranged wife and getting even by hilariously bulldozing his former residence, Slam’s own desires for Mike come to light forging an emotionally sensitive crossroad between the trio.  Shot on location in Illinois, Grandview, U.S.A. spotlights an impressive cast of young talent at the peak of their careers, an idyllic small-town American setting and a soundtrack of MTV hits from Air Supply and Robert Ponger & Falco.  Although boasting watchable performances with appealing chemistry plus, brief appearances from Michael Winslow (Police Academy) and the Cusack siblings, Grandview, U.S.A. missteps with an unraveling third act that hosts a business in flames and relationships forged that make Tim’s encounter with Mike all but pointless.  Driving off into the sunset with Slam’s damaged vehicle and his intended future ahead, Grandview, U.S.A. works itself out far too simply with little regard to its promising setup.  Hardly a destructive mess, this three-lane love story runs out of fuel by its conclusion, leaving viewers only decently entertained and mildly disappointed.

    Newly remastered in high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Grandview, U.S.A. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing rather radiant sans minor speckling, colors in costumes are boastful while skin tones are natural and nicely detailed.  Meanwhile, the rural farmland community is lusciously preserved with film grain firmly intact.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently handled with zero cracks or pops sidetracking its presentation.  Music cuts and car crashing effects prominently heard during derby sequences make ample notices on the mix as well.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Unfortunately, no special features of any kind are included on this release.

    With promising ingredients from its homey setting and talented leads, Grandview, U.S.A. takes an unfortunate detour into mediocrity with a finale that puts all its pieces back together haphazardly.  Worthy of a view for its cast assemblage alone, Kino Lorber Studio Classics debuts the film on high-definition with a gorgeously filmic presentation that should easily appease viewers while, the lack of any supplemental offerings remains unfortunate.  Although viewers may not want to remain full-time residents, Grandview, U.S.A. is still cautiously recommended to visit.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Grandview, U.S.A. can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones & Lucy Lawless

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after saving humanity from demonic takeover, Ash vs Evil Dead finds aging stock boy Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead) revving up the chainsaw once more after foolishly unleashing the Deadites back into the world.  Teaming up with two directionless co-workers, the trio head out on the open road to put the definitive stake into hell’s minions.  Ray Santiago (Sex Ed), Dana DeLorenzo (The Mad Ones), Jill Marie Jones (Girlfriends) and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) co-star.

    Following the medieval madness of 1992’s Army of Darkness, Evil Dead heads have yearned for the endlessly hinted at fourth adventure of everyone’s favorite monster-hunting stock boy.  Reigniting the franchise torch with a financially successful and fan divided 2013 remake, the likelihood of continuing the continuity of yesteryear appeared dead and buried until the groovy world of television extended itself to all its blood splattering campiness.  Acting as co-executive producer and pilot director, original series helmer Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell) and Star Bruce Campbell return to their stomping grounds, ensuring Ash vs Evil Dead to be the madcap followup viewers have been waiting for.  Living a trailer park life and holding down a dead end position at ValueShop, Ash Williams uses his nincompoop charm and wooden hand to swoon bar floozies into bathroom quickies.  Regressing the horrific events of his past while keeping the demon calling Necronomicon book of the dead locked up, Ash’s own idiocy and a night of high times with a blonde finds the flunky reading from the dreaded tome and unleashing evil yet again.  In true irresponsible fashion, Ash aims to skip town to avoid his problems, inadvertently wrapping up fellow hombre Pablo (Santiago) and his crush Kelly (DeLorenzo) in the mix.  With white-eyed demons on the prowl, Ash’s attempts to undo the damage fail forcing him back into the role as the world’s most unlikely yet, nonetheless badass defender.  Embarking on a hellacious road trip for answers to stop the Deadites, the authorities and a mysterious figure with questionable intentions pursue Ash and his sidekicks through 10 episodes of gloriously over the top gory carnage.

    As cheeky and horrific as its cinematic predecessors, Ash vs Evil Dead captures the tone of Raimi’s backwoods frightfests with absolute precision while, Campbell’s equally cool and corny personality sells the onscreen exploits with his acknowledged age and out of touchness with today’s times making the character funnier than ever.  Always the lone wolf, Ash is served well by his cronies in demon disposing who enhance the show’s humor with their characters gelling solidly with the inherently funny Campbell.  While Ash’s graying hair and belly girdle are the butt of many jokes, Ash vs Evil Dead has a hoot laughing in the face of today’s politically correct mindset taking lighthearted racial and sexist jabs at the expense of his teammates.  Matched with phenomenal makeup designs for its many monsters and geysering with bloodshed albeit, overly reliant on unflattering computer-generated gore, each episode paints the screen red, laughing wildly to its end credits.  Smartly forging new roads from its onset with the establishment of new characters including, the bizarre Ruby (Lawless) who holds Ash solely responsible for the evil’s outbreak and harbors her own desires to own the Necronomicon, Ash vs Evil Dead comes full circle welcoming viewers back to a familiar setting for a horrifically action-packed finale.  A hilariously macabre delight, Ash vs Evil Dead plays all the right notes and fits like a chainsaw, standing proudly as a hail-worthy small screen sequel to Raimi’s three theatrical favorites.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents all 10 episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, each episode is blemish free with top-notch detail observed in facial features, costumes and Ash’s messy trailer while, skin tones are exceptionally natural with colors radiating off the screen from Ruby’s red hot vehicle to more subdued shades found in Ash’s navy blue shirts.  In addition, black levels are deep and appealing with only faint noise spotted throughout darkly lit basement sequences in the season finale.  Equipped with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixes, sound quality is exquisite with dialogue clear as crystal, screams and chainsaws sharply relayed and the show’s phenomenal soundtrack selections from Deep Purple, The Stooges, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and AC/DC making thoroughly rockin’ statements.  With the pilot episode, “El Jefe”, arriving with an optional Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Rob Tapert & Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell, each subsequent episode contain commentary tracks from a variety of interchanging guests including, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and Actors Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Jill Marie Jones and Lucy Lawless.  Additional special features include, Inside the World of Ash vs Evil Dead (15:59).  Attached to the end’s of each episode during their original airings, the creators and cast sit-down for brief interviews about their makings.  Furthermore, the self explanatory How to Kill a Deadite (2:31) and the sizzle reel Best of Ash (1:27) round out the bonus offerings.

    Reopening the Book of the Dead after nearly 25 years, fans have much to hail for with Ash vs Evil Dead.  Seamlessly appearing as an extended overdue sequel, Campbell and company have loaded this boomstick debut season with enough humor, horror and buckets of red stuff to have made the wait well worth it.  Deservedly renewed for another season of undead mayhem and snappy one-liners, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents the program with exceptional high-def merits and a generous spread of supplements including, informatively funny commentary tracks on each episode.  Groovy doesn’t even begin to describe Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season but, it’s one hell of a start!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 23rd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)

    Director(s): Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon

    Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala & Jayson Lamb

    Released by: Drafthouse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Transfixed by Director Steven Spielberg’s trailblazing 1981 blockbuster, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made documents the journey of three 11-year-old boys from Mississippi who took home movies to an unprecedented level with their own shot-for-shot adaptation, filmed over the course of seven grueling years.  With the exception of the film’s explosive airplane sequence, the tenacious trio and their loyal supporters reunite 20 years later to complete their ambitious project.

    A testament to childhood dreams coming true and quite possibly the most disciplined example of sticktoitiveness, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made recounts the unbelievably true tale of Mississippi youths who, from the wreckage of divorced families and introverted personalities, escaped their realities to capture the greatest adventure of their lives on videotape.  After bonding over their mutual love for Spielberg’s archeological hero and his cinematic debut, Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos would forge a friendship built on their love for film and their desire to helm their own grassroots adaptation.  Teaming with fellow eccentric Jayson Lamb and a revolving door of younger siblings and neighborhood kids, Zala, acting as director in addition to playing multiple onscreen roles while, Strompolos dons the iconic fedora and whip as Indiana Jones, sacrifice summer vacations and weekends over several years to do their treasured feature justice.  Risking life and limb with little to no interference from overprotective parents, Zala and Strompolos leap and drag themselves from moving vehicles while nearly burning their house and selves on fire to capture the perfect shots during the pre-Internet days of youth.  Juxtaposing the two friends detailing the early origins of the film and their regrettably final missing sequence, filmmaker Eli Roth (Cabin Fever), Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles and Raiders of the Lost Ark star John Rhys-Davies make talking head appearances expressing their admiration and discovery of their diamond in the rough accomplishment.

    In addition, Zala and Strompolos’ parents, wives and supportive crew members are on hand to shape the narrative that is littered with as much agony as there are triumphs.  Endless frustration, high school romances, jealousy and an eventual fallout between the two friends would halt production for years creating two very different life paths that would merge once again following the cult popularity of their circulated childhood tape.  Potentially sacrificing their day jobs to fulfill what they started in their southern backyards years earlier, Zala and Strompolos, tighter than ever before, attempt to finally wrap their long in-development shoot with the highly explosive airplane sequence from the original film.  Plagued with horrendous weather conditions, ballooning budgets and a frightening onset accident, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is emotionally riveting and overwhelmingly inspiring.  Living vicariously through the colorful subjects who never lost sight of a vision that seemed impossible, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made will leave viewers joyously teary-eyed and tipping their own fedoras at real-life heroes that will make you feel that all dreams are within reach.

    Drafthouse Films presents Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Produced in the high-def digital age, footage is pleasingly sharp and well-detailed during the predominate interview sequences and onset footage with only snippets from the VHS sourced Raiders adaptation being of expected lesser quality.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is excellently captured while, the chaotic footage of the airplane sequence boasts several explosions that bode nicely on the track.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tim Skousen & Producer/Director Jeremy Coon plus, a second Audio Commentary with The Raiders Guys Eric Zala & Chris Strompolos.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes (32:39), Outtakes from the Adaptation (19:33), the Q&A at Alamo Drafthouse Premiere of the Adaptation (40:43) captured on May 31, 2003, Trailers for Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made’s Theatrical Trailer (2:08) and other Drafthouse Films features including, 20,000 Days on Earth (2:15), A Band Called Death (2:12), The Final Member (2:02) and I Declare War (1:47) are also included.  Lastly, a 16-page booklet containing reproductions of Zala’s hand drawn storyboards for the adaptation, a DVD edition, Digital HD Code and Reversible Cover Art round out the supplements.

    Akin to Indy defying the Nazi’s and heroically saving the day, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is the embodiment of movie magic come to life.  Retracing their ambitious, troubled and above all, dedicated passion project from their preteen years to its midlife conclusion, John Williams’ goosebump-inducing anthem will no longer conjure images of just everyone’s favorite archeologist but also, the Mississippi boys to men who dared to dream with the Holy Grail always in their mind’s eye.  Drafthouse Films’ acquisition and top-notch presentation of this first-rate documentary makes for one of the most emotionally uplifting chronicles of the year!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Drafthouse Films, Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made can be purchased via DrafthouseFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Microwave Massacre (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Microwave Massacre (1983)

    Director: Wayne Berwick

    Starring: Jackie Vernon, Claire Ginsberg, Loren Schein, Al Troupe & Lou Ann Webber

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fed up with his nagging wife and her subpar homemade meals, Microwave Massacre finds disgruntled construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon, Frosty the Snowman) offing his significant other and nuking her remains in their oversized microwave.  Developing a sweet tooth for the taste of human flesh in the process, Donald’s rabid hunger can only be pacified through the collection of more bodies.

    Following a buxom pair of bare breasts getting caught in a peep hole much to the enjoyment of drooling construction workers, Microwave Massacre goes from weird to weirder.  Contrary to its horrific sounding title, this exploitative cannibal chuckler is played entirely for laughs, albeit pitch black ones with funnyman Jackie Vernon leading the festivities with hilarious deadpan delivery and fourth wall breaking asides.  Worn down by his blue-collar profession and his wife’s insistence on preparing exotic meals than simple dishes, Donald loses his cool during a drunken rage and bludgeons her death with a salt grinder.  Using their washer-dryer sized microwave to ditch her painfully phony limbs, Donald’s tastebuds go wild for human flesh forcing the new bachelor to scour the local prostitute population for more of the same.  As ridiculous as one might expect, Microwave Massacre finds Donald uncontrollably slicing and dicing his way through street hustling morsels and cannibalistic shish kebabs while, acknowledging his wrongdoings by seeking psychiatric help only to have his therapist nap through his confessions.  Impressing his libido driving co-workers with his meaty lunches and the need for more “ingredients” always at a premium, too much of a tasty thing proves fatal to pacemaker possessor Donald.  Barely creeping its way onto video during the VHS era with gore-geous cover art, Microwave Massacre’s cult appeal is inherit in its bonkers concept and highly unserious tone that makes it difficult not to enjoy much like buttery microwavable popcorn.

    Arrow Video presents Microwave Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Scanning the original 35mm camera negative in 2K, this low-budget schlocker dazzles in high-definition with robust colors in costumes and its bright red main titles, accurate flesh tones and excellent contrast.  While minor speckling is spotted and occasional traces of digital noise observed during nighttime sequences, Microwave Massacre looks exceptional to devour.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is always easily relayed with only slight cases of cracks and pops, mostly during reel changes, picked up but never of any serious concern.  Supplemental offerings include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Craig Muckler, moderated by Mike Tristano, My Microwave Massacre Memories (21:07) features newly captured interviews with Director Wayne Berwick, Writer/Producer Craig Muckler and Actor Loren Schein who recall the project’s early beginnings, Berwick’s father’s showbiz career serving as a launch pad and their working relationship with the late Jackie Vernon.  In addition, an Image Gallery (18 in total), Trailer (1:25), the Original Treatment and 8-page Synopsis (BD/DVD-Rom content) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and an updated essay from Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Author Stephen Thrower are also included.  Finally, a DVD counterpart and Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s memorable VHS design conclude the bonus features.

    While it may not be cooked to perfection, Microwave Massacre’s loose canon approach to flesh-eating ridiculousness is just goofy enough to make itself worthy of consumption for bad taste sticklers.  Boasting amateurish acting, generous helpings of nudity and a tone so laughably self-aware of its absurdity, Microwave Massacre is one daffy detour off the highway of exploitation weirdness.  Exceeding expectations, Arrow Video has treated cultphiles with a crowd pleasing restoration and a tasty selection of bonus features that explore the offbeat pictures making and niche appeal.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 16th from Arrow Video, Microwave Massacre can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

    Director: W.D. Richter

    Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Smith & Ronald Lacey

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A cocktail of genre mashups, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension stars Peter Weller (RoboCop) as the titular, jack of all trades hero who dabbles in neurosurgery while, fronting a popular rock band and saves the world for kicks.  After his breakthrough matter traveling device, the Oscillation Overthruster, is sought after by a threatening squad of aliens, Banzai and his pals seek to protect humanity from the wrath of their thick-accented leader Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow, Raising Cain).  

    Bodaciously bizarre and quirky as can be, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cinematic odyssey of science fiction insanity coupled with rock n’ roll style and madcap extravagance.  After the exceedingly cool and brilliant Buckaroo Banzai breaks the sound barrier and travels through solid matter to return with an alien organism in tow, the enviously unhinged and incarcerated Dr. Emilio Lizardo, whose failed experiment into the 8th dimension from years past, caused his mind to be consumed by the wicked Lord John Whorfin prompts the physicist to spring himself from the looney bin to snatch Banzai’s working invention.  As leader of the martian-esque Red Lectroids who operate under human disguises, Whorfin seeks to overthrow their nemeses, the Black Lectroids, reclaim their home Planet 10 and annihilate Earth.  Respected for his brains and beloved for his rockin’ six-string skills, global hero Buckaroo Banzai, joined by his loyal comrades The Hong Kong Cavaliers and a peaceful Black Lectroid with Jamaican flavor, stand in Whorfin’s path of inter-dimensional dominance.  After falling for his former flame’s twin sister, Whorfin’s abduction of the blonde barfly makes Banzai’s protection of the great state of New Jersey and the rest of the planet extremely personal and chaotically action-packed.

    An otherworldly product of its time, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension abolishes standard categorization, thriving on its unusual tone, skyrocketingly over the top performances and colorfully cooky inclusions of space aliens, scientific jargon and Star Peter Weller successfully pulling off blindingly red framed eyeglasses and bowties in his mission to save mankind.  Further complimented by appearances from Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption) as Banzai’s piano playing lieutenant and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) hamming it up in a cowboy outfit, the film’s villainous trio including, the brilliant John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns) are a trifecta of planet invading fun.  While the film appropriately arrives with no adherence to any one genre, Banzai’s head over heels interest in his late wife’s literal doppelgänger (Ellen Barkin, Sea of Love) and determination to rescue her feels forced and largely underdeveloped.  Promising a sequel that would never come to pass, a scatterbrained marketing campaign and a difficult to peg plot left the eccentric effort lost at the box-office.  With repeat viewings sometimes necessary to fully embrace its full absurdity, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension would rightfully explode into the cult charmer that it is.  Tuned with a dizzyingly catchy synth score from Composer Michael Boddicker (Get Crazy), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is understatedly unlike most pictures.  Akin to a wild and crazy improvisational guitar solo, this little bit of everything feature easily ranks as one of the 80s most bonkers times put to celluloid.

    Shout Select presents The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Looking notably clean and absent of age-related damage, skin tones are exceptionally natural and well-detailed while, bold and softer colors alike burst in every frame.  In addition, black levels boast welcome inkiness with beautiful natural film grain apparent throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisp and easily heard while, Banzai’s brief rock club gig and Composer Michael Boddicker’s equally satisfying score shake things up nicely.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Kicking off the Blu-ray disc, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Director W.D. Richter & Writer Earl Mac Rauch plus, a second Audio Commentary with Michael & Denise Okuda.  Unquestionably, the true gem of the release is the newly produced Into the 8th Dimension (2:08:16).  This exhaustive eight part featurette covers the origins, visual effects, casting, design work and many other aspects of the film and its lukewarm release before its acceptance as a cult classic.  With insight from Director W.D. Richter, Producer Neil Canton, Stars Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, Composer Michael Boddicker and countless others, this first-rate achievement from Producer Brian Ward is the holy grail for Buckaroo devotees.  

    Presented in standard definition on its DVD counterpart, additional special features consist of the vintage making-of featurette Buckaroo Banzai Declassified (22:41), an Alternate Opening (7:12), 14 Deleted Scenes (14:11), the New Jet Car Trailer (2:25) and the Theatrical Trailer (1:17).  Lastly, in addition to Paul Shipper’s top-notch new design work, the Reversible Cover Art hosts the film’s original 1-sheet imagery.

    Fun, flashy and enjoyably insane, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has always been an acquired taste for many, leaving others perplexed by its inter dimensional zaniness.  A one of a kind original, W.D. Richter’s sole directorial effort concocts a sloppy joe of genre touches with an eclectic cast having the time of their lives facing off against reptilian spacemen with oddball tech, ingenuity and the power of rock n’ roll as their tools of defense.  For the inaugural release of Shout! Factory’s film fan driven Shout Select line, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Collector’s Edition blasts to soaring heights with its virtually flawless presentation and jaw-droppingly impressive special features that have raised the bar in terms of fan service and definitive documentation.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 16th from Shout Select, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hellhole (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Hellhole (1985)

    Director: Pierre De Moro

    Starring: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Terry Moore & Mary Woronov 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After witnessing the brutal death of her mother and harboring incriminating evidence against her attacker, Hellhole finds amnesiac teen Susan (Judy Lander, Dr. Alien) recovering in Ashland Sanitarium where her assailant continues to stalk her.  Making matters worse, sanitarium head Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov, Rock ’n’ Roll High School) carries out shocking lobotomy experimentations in a dingy lab with Susan targeted as her next subject.  Ray Sharkey (The Idolmaker), Marjoe Gortner (Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw), Edy Williams (Bad Girls from Mars) and Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young) co-star.

    Cut from the same cloth as other incarcerated women pictures, Hellhole devises a slightly unique setup to compliment its dependably sleazy tropes.  Surviving an attack that left her mother dead, blonde beauty Susan wakes up with no memory in a sanitarium for mentally troubled females.  Disguised as an orderly, Silk (Sharkey), the leather-clad murderer with a penchant for nursery rhymes, monitors the teen in hopes of finishing what he started before Susan can regain her memory.  Assisted by caring hospital staffer Ron (Richard Cox, Cruising) who believes the sanitarium is harboring its own secrets, Susan finds herself caught in the web of the deranged Dr. Fletcher whose sexual desires and ungodly experimentations on the inmates spell certain doom for those who cross her path.  Struggling to survive and expose the hellish torture chambers on property, Susan and Ron must combat the depraved and homicidal abusers before they become permanent guinea pigs of the nightmarish institution.  

    Appropriately supplied with seedy characters, shower brawls, lesbian fueled mud baths and titillating levels of nudity, Hellhole makes good on its marketed ingredients while, the cat and mouse pursuit of a murderer and its big-haired starlet provide a suspenseful twist to the tantalizing T&A festivities.  Led by a cult curated roster of talent including, Ray Sharkey as the leather-daddy thug and Mary Woronov as the film’s prototypical wicked warden figure who administers syringes into the heads of her victims, fellow genre stars Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop), Cliff Emmich (Halloween II) and Dyanne Thorne (Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS) as a delusional inmate also make welcome appearances.  Approved by drive-in cinema connoisseur Joe Bob Briggs, Hellhole melds scantly clad women, psychotic experimentations and a murder plot to deliver an admirable and just unique enough installment into the women behind bars subgenre, well worth spending time in solitary confinement with.

    Scream Factory presents Hellhole with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Alerting viewers that the utilized interpositive was missing scenes, a 35mm print of the film was incorporated to present the feature in its complete form.  Boasting pleasing skin tones that only occasionally favor pinkish hues, black levels are strongly supported with a generally inky appearance and minimal instances of muddiness.  Matching the look of the higher quality interpositive to the best of their abilities, the change in elements is minimal with only fleeting notices of vertical lines spotted.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is adequately handled with only minor pops heard during reel changes.  Meanwhile special features include, a newly recored Interview with Mary Woronov (4:54).  Although brief, Woronov is spirited throughout her sit-down and recalls having a ball on the set of a film she thought no one would ever remember.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (1:54) and a DVD edition of the release is also included.

    After countless delays and two years of searching for sufficient elements, Hellhole makes its long-awaited HD debut much to the glee of cult cinema addicts.  With over the top performances peppered throughout and remaining true to its sleazy tropes while, injecting a welcome murderous subplot more in tune with traditional horror fare, Hellhole deserves honorable mention in the pantheons of chicks in chains cinema.  Refusing to throw in the towel during their endless pursuit, Scream Factory rightly deserves praise for ensuring this forgotten trashfest saw the light of day once more.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Hellhole can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

    Director: Dan O’Bannon

    Starring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Miguel Núñez, Brian Peck, Linnea Quigley & Mark Venturini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When an employee’s rookie mistake at a medical supply warehouse releases a toxic gas, The Return of the Living Dead finds corpses reanimating from a nearby cemetery with an undying hunger for human brains.  While a hard-partying pack of punks rage the night away, the ravenously deceased intend to make the tough-looking teens their main course.  Featuring a diverse cast from Clu Gulager (The Last Picture Show) and James Karen (Wall Street) to Thom Mathews (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) and scream queen Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons), this beloved horror-comedy proudly declares it’s party time!

    Cheekily proclaiming itself to be based on true events, The Return of the Living Dead is a brain-chomping romp that seamlessly blends the frightening takeover of zombies with the comedic knee-jerk reactions of those caught within its grasp.  Shortly after warehouse foreman Frank (Karen) introduces new employee Freddy (Mathews) to a decrepit military tank containing a reanimated corpse, faulty craftsmanship unloads a toxic gas into the air jumpstarting their Fourth of July weekend for the worse.  Uncontrollably hacking from the fumes and panicking over the disappearance of the bottled body, the two nervous nellies call warehouse superior Burt (Gulager) after a previously frozen cadaver grows energetically impatient in the meat locker.  While the trio attempt to hack and slash their problems to pieces, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina and his gang of leather-clad punker pals kill time in the graffiti-laden cemetery near the medical supply warehouse.  After several failed attempts to return the cadaver to its quieter state, the blue-collar workers swing by the local mortuary hoping to coax undertaker Ernie (Calfa) to incinerate the chopped up limbs, unknowingly unleashing the fumes into the rainy exterior to bring life to the cemeteries longterm residents who return with an appetite for brains.  Surrounded by hundreds of flesh-eating zombies, the middle-aged adults and punks find themselves combining their efforts to keep the undead far from their noggins.   

    From a story co-conceived by John Russo (Night of the Living Dead), Dan O’Bannon’s directorial debut aptly separates itself from George A. Romero’s groundbreaking, if not grimmer, series of zombie features with a refreshing take that keeps its tongue steadfast to its cheek.  Featuring two universally different groups of characters that work hard for the money while, partying and zero responsibility define the younger rebels, The Return of the Living Dead, exemplified by its teased hairstyles and punktastic soundtrack featuring such acts as 45 Grave, The Cramps and The Flesh Eaters affirms itself as the definitive zombie feature for the 80s.  Showered with knee-slapping one liners, topnotch makeup effects and a career making striptease atop a tombstone from the vivacious Linnea Quigley who remains in her birthday suit for the duration of the film, The Return of the Living Dead has endured and entertainingly corrupted more brains than imagined proving this genre-blending cocktail is more than a statement, it’s a bloody fun lifestyle!

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the inter-positive, Scream Factory presents The Return of the Living Dead with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting a noticeable boost in contrast with skin tones appearing more natural than ever before, colors found in the punks’ loud ensembles and the gooey zombie designs are of particular mention, easily trumping previous releases more subdued appearances.  Meanwhile, black levels are strongly handled crowning Scream Factory’s presentation as the definitive go-to transfer for the cult feature.  Equipped with the film’s Original DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, fans will be pleased to hear the zombies original dialogue on the track while, The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance” remains MIA but not for the lack of trying on Scream Factory’s behalf.  Joined by a sizably impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue with ease and ups the ante on the film’s punk soundtrack, an additional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Easily Scream Factory’s most packed Collector’s Edition release to date, the multitude of bonus content spans two discs with Disc 1 featuring a new Audio Commentary with Author Gary Smart and Chris Griffiths, along with a second newly-produced Audio Commentary with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin & Make-Up Effects Artist Tony Gardner.  Furthermore, two vintage Audio Commentaries featuring Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout along with a Cast and Crew edition hosting Production Designer William Stout and Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph & Allan Trautman are also included.  Ported over from the previous MGM release, The Decade of Darkness (23:23) is a thoroughly impressive featurette on ‘80s horror cinema with such talking heads as Joe Dante (The Howling), Stuart Gordon (Dolls), Elvira, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and others featured plus, Theatrical Trailers (8:31), TV Spots (5:22), a Still Gallery (86 in total) showcasing Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills and other Behind-the-Scenes materials whereas a second Still Gallery (23 in total) displays photos from Special Make-Up Effects Artist Kenny Myers’ personal collection.  Finally, Zombie Subtitles for the film and In Their Own Words - The Zombies Speak where onscreen descriptions for what the brain eaters are thinking round out the disc’s supplements.

    Continuing the onslaught of special features, Disc 2 hosts the phenomenal More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead (1:59:43) documentary from 2011, The FX of the Living Dead (32:49) where Production Designer William Stout, Special Effects Make-Up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Actor Brian Peck and others discuss the development and designs of the film’s undead characters while, Party Time!: The Music of Return of the Living Dead (29:31) catches up with Music Consultants Budd Carr, Steve Pross, Dinah Cancer of 45 Grave, Chris D of The Flesh Eaters, Greg Hetson of The Circle Jerks and many more on how the building of the soundtrack on a limited budget was achieved.  Next up, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (10:15) finds host Sean Clark as he revisits many of the film’s shooting locations today, A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview (28:32) is a candid and at times tearjerking sit-down with the film’s writer/director as he discusses the many challenges and rewards that came with making the film while, The Origins of Return of the Living Dead (15:12) interviews John A. Russo.  In addition, The Dead Have Risen (20:34) interviews the cast of the film in this vintage yet, highly entertaining featurette, Designing the Dead (13:39) hosts Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout as they chart their early beginnings in the industry and their eventual collaboration.  Lastly, although appearing in rough shape and SD sourced, the Workprint Version of The Return of the Living Dead (1:48:05) offers fans an early, 20 extra minute cut of the film for preservations sake.  Advertised with Graham Humphreys exceptional new cover design, the Reversible Cover Art features the film’s original 1-sheet poster imagery as well.

    Darkly hilarious and carnivorously campy, The Return of the Living Dead remains one of the zombie genres greatest efforts with its party-like atmosphere and punk rock attitude loudly making itself known as the most fun you’ll have evading the undead.  A cult classic in the truest sense, Scream Factory has stepped up to the plate to salute the brain-eating feature with a glorious new 2K transfer, several audio options and their most impressive output of bonus features yet amounting to over 12 whopping hours of content.  As definitive as can be, more brains won’t be necessary as Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of The Return of the Living Dead will surely quench the appetites for both the living and the reanimated.  It’s party time!!!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, The Return of the Living Dead can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

    Director: Richard Linklater

    Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Ryan Guzman & Zoey Deutch

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed as the spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! centers on college freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner, Glee) as he navigates through his first rambunctious weekend with his new teammates during the summer of 1980.  Featuring an ensemble cast of rising stars, Academy Award nominated director Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood) latest coming of age tale celebrates the girls, wild parties and baseball that bring the competitively hilarious players together.  

    Returning back to the stomping grounds of Texas for his collegiate odyssey of hard partying 80s jocks, Director Richard Linklater’s long weekend of baseball and bromance told through the eyes of arriving freshman Jake revisits the stoner-induced good times of his tonally reminiscent 70s era feature, refashioned for a new decade.  Trading up tie-dye threads for bats and booze, Everybody Wants Some!! introduces viewers to the eccentric players that share Jake’s new off campus dwelling and their various personality quirks.  Shortly after his house tour, the Southeast Texas Cherokees saddle Jake up for a joyride of the campus where a flirtatious encounter with fellow student Beverly (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy) sets the speed for the libido surging weekend ahead of classes.  Privy to the rowdy players’ party-filled tour of local hotspots including, the dance-centric disco Sound Station, a “Cotton-Eyed Joe” blasting country bar and a punk rock show, the horny athletes dance the night away with Texas’ most beautiful Southern belles, get involved in a bar fight and are witness to a female mud-wrestling showdown.  With testosterone surging in the house, the teammates never shy away from competing with one another as their short-tempers are demonstrated following lost bets, ping pong defeats and scoring hits off each other’s fast balls.  Further hilarity ensues when pot-smoking and an attempt at telepathy proves mostly unsuccessful while, the drug of choice opens the film up to physiological conversations and one’s place in the bigger picture of life that Linklater excels at.

    Boasting a soundtrack of perfect hits from The Knack, Sugarhill Gang, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Devo and many others, Everybody Wants Some!! worries little about traditional character development instead, allowing viewers to grow with the characters by being an unofficial member of the squad and witness to their ball-busting shenanigans and deep-rooted camaraderie shared only by teammates.  In addition, although a strongly suggested romance between Jake and performing-arts major Beverly appears imminent, Everybody Wants Some!! wisely takes the highroad leaving audiences to wonder while, the period piece comedy keeps it focus on the seminal snapshot of college life experiences and the joy those memories continue to bring.  Smart and unforgettably funny, Everybody Wants Some!! captures the nostalgia of the 80s with the onscreen chemistry of its young cast perfectly demonstrating the wild and crazy energy of youth.

    Paramount Pictures presents Everybody Wants Some!! with a 1080p transfer, boasting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  From its yellow-bolded opening titles to the end credits, colors and clarity are flawless with skin tones appearing exceptionally detailed.  The 80s wardrobes and discotheque interiors of the film are also relayed with well-defined textures that spotlight the tiniest of background features.  Free of any discernible hiccups, Everybody Wants Some!! looks rockin’.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is unimpaired and prioritized while, the chart-topping hits of its soundtrack explode from the speakers with head-bopping force.  Special features include, Everybody Wants Some!! More Stuff That’s Not in the Movie (25:24) featuring hilarious outtakes and other onset goofs, Rickipedia (3:57) finds the young cast praising Linklater’s exhaustive knowledge of proper fads and terminology of the 1980s that helped give the film its authenticity while, Baseball Players Can Dance (6:42) documents the intensive dance and baseball training the cast went through to embody their characters.  In addition, Skill Videos (5:17) and History 101: Stylin’ the 80s (4:20) providing an inside look at how the cast were transformed into 80s-era twenty somethings are also included.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD code round out the supplemental package.

    Cut from the same cloth as Linklater’s 1993 stoner comedy, Everybody Wants Some!! takes its coming of age formula and delivers a new tale of friendship and partying that excels in every area.  Produced with an uncanny design of its intended decade, Linklater’s sports chuckler keeps the good times rolling for anyone whose ever been young, dumb and looking for fun.  Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ high-definition treatment is technically pristine with a spread of bonus features that compliment the film’s fun atmosphere.  Critically hailed, Everybody Wants Some!! ranks as one of the year’s best offerings that will leave you consumed by its spot-on recreation of a familiar time and place and the nonstop entertainment only jocks like these could produce.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 12th from Paramount Pictures, Everybody Wants Some!! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Slasher: Season One Blu-ray Review

    Slasher: Season One 

    Director: Craig David Wallace

    Starring: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Dean McDermott & Wendy Crewson

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after her parents were brutally slain, Slasher finds Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath, Jurassic World) and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) returning to her hometown of Waterbury when a series of copycat murders begin occurring.  With each victim’s death centered around one of the seven deadly sins, the identity of The Executioner comes into question as the original killer remains behind bars.  With the sleepy community’s body count rising, dark secrets of those closest to Sarah are brought to light making everyone a potential suspect.

    Descending from the northern region that bred such classics as My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night, Slasher rewards fans of body count pictures with a contemporary model that adheres to the beloved tropes of its influences while taking advantage of its episodic narrative to concoct a mysteriously geared plot and multi-layered characters.  Headlined by rising newcomer Katie McGrath whose Irish accent sneaks its way into many a episodes, Sarah Bennett’s return to her hometown of Waterbury is met with promise before slowly unraveling when a new series of murders takes place modeled after the seven deadly sins.  Racially and sexually diverse, Sarah’s friends and fellow townspeople including gay couple Justin (Mark Ghanimé, Helix) and Robin (Christopher Jacot, Rogue), her husband’s boss and publisher of the Waterbury Bulletin Alison Sutherland (Mayko Nguyen, Cracked) and the incarcerated Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow, Poltergeist) responsible for the murder of Sarah’s parents all become targets of the blade-wielding Executioner.  Shortly after surviving her own brush with the masked murderer, Sarah’s investigation into her past reveals unsavory secrets and deeply buried skeletons in the closet that paint a disturbing picture of the parents she never knew.  Determined to learn the truth regarding her parents and insight into who may be responsible for the new killings, Sarah relies on visits with Tom Winston to pave the way to answers.  Meanwhile, Sarah’s husband Dylan, serving as editor-in-chief of the local paper is conflicted when his own journalistic drive for a career making story unveils a series of lies pertaining to his relationship with his wife.  

    Notably influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween and modern cult favorite It Follows, Slasher boasts a sometimes overabundant cast of characters, each with their own dark secrets that luckily all pay off with unexpected plot twists, intensely graphic demises or both.  Starring a cast of predominant Canucks, Dean McDermott (Power Play), impressively bouncing back from reality television hogwash, appears as Waterbury’s corrupt police chief and delivers the standout performance of the series showcasing the Toronto native’s diverse chops.  Creatively overseen by Creator/Writer Aaron Martin (The Best Years) and Director Craig David Wallace (Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), Slasher’s quality standards are evident in its plotting and suspense-driven jolts that never shy from cutting limbs off victims or showcasing a particularly unsettling drug overdose to make their violent points yet, gore never remains the primary focus for this tightly crafted whodunit.  Marking the Chiller Network’s first original program, Slasher may be horror’s closest answer to HBO’s True Detective with its small-town murder spree revived decades later where characters, many of whom corrupted by various factors, are hardly what they appear to be.  A fine melding of mystery, scandal and murder, Slasher may have minor setbacks namely its killer’s motivations but, its pros strongly outweigh its cons.

    Scream Factory presents Slasher with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Presenting its eight episode debut season across two discs, black levels appear soundly inky with detail sharply evident in The Executioner’s leather hood while, skin tones look lush and natural.  Meanwhile, colors found in wardrobe choices and the show’s many blood splattering moments pop exceptionally well allowing for a respectably solid high-definition presentation for a modern series of its ilk.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue never suffers and is consummately projected with the series’ more climactic areas involving stalking sequences, frightened screams, gunshots and police sirens making effective statements.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes are also provided on each episode.  Although brief, the sole Behind the Scenes (14:59) featurette provides a decent general overview of the series’ making with the majority of the headlining cast on hand for interviews plus, Creator Aaron Martin and Series Director Craig David Wallace discuss the show’s influences ranging from John Carpenter and Brian De Palma to Dario Argento.

    Hitting a home run with their first slice of original content, Chiller Network’s Slasher takes obvious cues from its 70s and 80s influences while spearheading a modern mystery brought to life by a diverse pool of onscreen talent and ripe with some of television’s most grisly gore.  Basking in an era of top-quality, small screen frights, Slasher may be the new killer on the block but cuts to the point with its terrifying and scandalous turns leaving viewers glued.  In only their second television series acquisition to date, Scream Factory has made a razor-sharp call adding this acclaimed newcomer to their ever-growing catalog, one that horror hounds will surely find much to chomp into.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Scream Factory, Slasher: Season One can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

    Director: John De Bello

    Starring: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin & J. Stephen Peace

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A decade after the events of the original film, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! finds cooky Professor Gangreen (John Astin, The Addams Family) using the feared veggie-fruit to give life to an army of muscle-bound soldiers for a hostile takeover.  Chocked full of ridiculous humor and shamelessly funny product placement, roommates Chad (Anthony Starke, The George Carlin Show) and Matt (George Clooney, Tomorrowland), aided by veterans of the Great Tomato War, are the only ones that can save the day and rescue Chad’s juicy new girlfriend Tara (Karen Mistal, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death).

    Following its predecessors status as a glorified cult classic, continued interest from video sales would plant the seed for the deadly veggies to return during the deliciously gaudy 1980s.  Outlawed since the original disaster, wacky-haired Professor Gangreen uses his breakthroughs in gene splicing to morph tomatoes into an army of Rambo-style brutes to take over the world.  Working alongside his uncle and hero of the Great Tomato War at Finletter’s Pizzeria, Chad is smitten with Gangreen's beautiful assistant and former tomato Tara who turns to the delivery boy after escaping from her makers evil clutches.  Using music as a strength this time instead of a weakness for his creations, Gangreen, aided by the pearly-teethed, broadcasting obsessed Igor (Steve Lundquist, The Sleeping Car), aims to use his meatheads to retrieve a villainous ally from incarceration.  After Tara is captured, Chad and his ladies man best bud Matt must band together, break the fourth wall, hilariously promote Pepsi, Nestlé Crunch bars and booze to fund the remainder of the film in order to rescue Chad’s main squeeze and encourage viewers to purchase cuddly stuffed tomatoes wherever products are sold.

    Unapologetically aware of the B-movie product being produced, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! takes hilarious potshots at the industry’s increased reliance on product placement, delivering one of the funnier statements on the subject.  Laughing right alongside viewers, the cheeky followup has an absolute blast with the absurdity of its concept although gargantuan-sized tomatoes are lacking.  Hosting comical narration accusing the film of cheaply recycling footage from its originator, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! obliterates the fourth wall as the crew including, Writer/Director John De Bello, moan about running out of money and are shaken down by a SAG representative.  From Astin’s over the top mad scientist performance to Clooney’s intendedly deadpan deliveries and bodacious midsize mullet, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! knows precisely what it is, leaving viewers giggling while ripping the carpet out from underneath them with its unexpected wit and mockery of an industry embracing the greed is good mantra.  

    Restored in 2K from a 35mm Interpositive, Arrow Video presents Return of the Killer Tomatoes! with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving noticeably over its many standard-def releases, colors are far more luscious with only mild scuffs remaining while, black levels are respectably deep with occasional instances of speckling spotted.  Clarity on the countless Pepsi logos and Clooney’s fearless mullet are thankfully never compromised.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is delivered with ease making for a most accommodating listening experience.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John De Bello, Hanging with Chad with Anthony Starke (17:24) features the film’s star recollecting on the shoot and Clooney’s humorous personality while, a Stills Gallery (2:27), the Theatrical Trailer (2:15) and a TV Spot (0:31) are also included.  Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a worthwhile essay by Film Historian James Oliver on the film’s making and the surprising legs of its franchise are covered with a Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet poster rounding out the bonus features.

    Bearing a title as ludicrous as Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, the decade late sequel to the original drive-in favorite is entertainingly silly and surprisingly smarter than expected.  Continuing the low-budget zaniness one might expect, the vegetable fearing comedy makes a mockery of the Hollywood system and itself while happily inviting viewers in on the joke.  Graduating to the realm of high-definition, Arrow Video delivers a certifiably fresh viewing experience of the B-picture with supplements that may be few yet, entertain and enrich all the same.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from Arrow Video, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fender Bender (2016) Review

    Fender Bender (2016)

    Director: Mark Pavia

    Starring: Makenzie Vega, Dre Davis, Cassidy Freeman, Kesley Leos Montoya, Harrison Sim & Bill Sage

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a New Mexican town, Fender Bender finds teenage Hilary (Makenzie Vega, The Good Wife) experiencing the downside of being a newly licensed driver after suffering her first accident.  Unharmed yet rattled, Hilary innocently exchanges information with her striker only to be grounded for the accidental damage later that evening.  Home alone during a violent storm, Hilary’s friends stop by only for the unsuspecting trio to be terrorized by a masked maniac.  Dre Davis (Pretty Little Liars), Cassidy Freeman (Longmire), Kesley Leos Montoya (The Guest), Harrison Sim (Pizza Girl Massacre) and Bill Sage (We Are What We Are) co-star.

    In the suspenseful spirit of slasherfests from yesteryear, Fender Bender takes the fun yet consistently recycled subgenre and finds a uniquely relatable occurrence to construct its contemporary chiller.  Modern in its setting, Makenzie Vega leads the cast as the diversely selected Hispanic heroine whose day of catching her cheating boyfriend in the act goes from bad to worse after being rear ended in her mother’s new car.  After a briefly awkward exchange of personal information with the fellow driver, Hilary is reprimand by her parents and forced to stay home alone for the night.  Spooked by the loneliness and harshness of a brewing storm, Hilary is further unsettled by texts from her mysterious acquaintance and other questionable events.  Relieved by the arrival of her best friends, Hilary’s night of terror is only just beginning when a leather-masked madman crashes the party, intent on sharply cutting the small guest list.  Marking the return of long absent Writer/Director Mark Pavia (The Night Flier), Fender Bender plays to its strengths with classic tropes of an innocent teen in peril and a stranger in the house with genuine conviction, sparing viewers any self-referential nods that have become commonplace in similar films influenced by previous decades.  While its dialogue is cheesily delivered, a satisfying bodycount and a rather bleak showdown between Hilary and her masked assailant in the final act provides ample entertainment for horror hounds yearning for modern mayhem with inner retro workings.  Enhanced by an evocative, Carpenter-esque score by Night Runner, Fender Bender is a competently constructed slasher that although not perfect, manages to inject a breath of originality into the genre that likeminded viewers will greatly appreciate.

    After years of preserving cult favorites and introducing viewers to horror’s newest nightmares, Scream Factory’s first originally produced effort, in association with Chiller Films, is a suspenseful treat with surprisingly relatable themes and a heavily 80s-influenced score that will transport fans back to the days of video rental stores and big hair.  A conservative blend of new school meets old school, Fender Bender burns rubber and sends Scream Factory off on a strong start in their latest and hopefully enduring new endeavor of crafting original scares for today’s audiences.

    Premiering Friday, June 3rd at 9PM on Chiller, Fender Bender will be available on home video later this year by Scream Factory.

  • Krampus (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Krampus (2015)

    Director: Michael Dougherty

    Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen & Krista Stadler

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) turns his back on the Christmas spirit.  Unfortunately, in doing so, an ancient evil is awakened as the demonic Krampus casts his powerful forces upon the non-believers.  In order to survive the night, the shattered family must band together to overthrow the shadow of Saint Nicholas.  Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Conchata Ferrel (Edward Scissorhands), Stefania LaVie Owen (The Lovely Bones) and Krista Stadler (Lena Rais) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Following his frightful statement on the Halloween season with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, Director Michael Dougherty submerges viewers in a snowstorm of scares with his darkly comical tale based on the Christmas folklore.  After penning a desperate letter to Santa Claus to restore his families yuletide spirit, Max’s (Anthony) holiday is all but wrecked following the arrival of his trailer park relatives who further discourage his hopes.  Overwhelmed with anger and sadness, Max tears up his letter, prompting a deadly snowstorm to take hold of his small-town as the goat-like Krampus descends on the home of the non-believers.  Transforming the jolliest time of the year into a wintertime hell, Krampus, aided by his monstrous minions and evil gingerbread creatures, ravages the idyllic location ensuring that all who cross his path are on his naughty list.  Sharing a special bond with his Austrian grandmother Omi (Stadler) who recalls the monster from her own childhood, Max and his family learn more about the evil overtaking their household with their fight for survival bringing them closer than ever before.  With children and adults fair game to the film’s horrific antagonist, a white Christmas may not be what awaits under the tree this year.

    Headlined by a sidesplittingly stellar cast of youngsters and dependable funnymen including, Adam Scott and David Koechner, Krampus seamlessly balances the rare Christmas chiller that packs ample jumps with stark black comedy achieved in spades.  In addition, Director Michael Dougherty’s sophomore effort harmoniously joins the two worlds of modern day effects and practical wizardry, granting the film an authenticity that rarely betrays viewers eyes and their sense of movie magic.  Channeling the genre-blending excitement common in its 80s influences, Krampus is a relentlessly fun, seat-jumping alternative to the warm, family-oriented fare routinely programmed during the holiday season.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Krampus with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy, natural skin tones with festive holiday decorations and colorful clothing attire popping nicely, black levels are generally strong-looking with only occasional hints of murkiness due to the film’s intended lack of natural light.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely delivered while shotgun blasts and the chaotic energy of the film’s attacking monsters serve the track strongly.  Meanwhile, snowy ambiance and the crackling of firewood further compliment the prominent screams of terror which permeate the mix with authority.  Packed with plenty of supplemental presents, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Michael Dougherty and Co-Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields, an Alternate Ending (1:24), Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:41) and a Gag Reel (5:15).  In addition, Blu-ray exclusives feature Krampus Comes Alive! (29:36), an in-depth, five part featurette covering the film’s origin, casting, special effects and production design while, Behind the Scenes at WETA Workshop: Krampus (9:54) delves into the fascinating development of the film’s monster effects.  Finally, several Galleries (478 in total) featuring poster art, creature art, storyboards and more are accompanied by a DVD counterpart and a Digital HD Code.  

    Joining the ranks of niche Christmastime frightfests, Krampus successfully treads the line of comedy and terror reminiscent of the free-spirited hijinks of Amblin Entertainment’s enduring 80s efforts.  Complimented by exceptional high-definition merits and a thorough spread of bonus features, Krampus may be best devoured around the holidays yet, remains a devilishly fun gift that entertains year round.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Krampus can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989)

    Director(s): Robert Kirk / Gérard Kikoïne

    Starring: Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Lyle Alzado & Anthony Perkins / Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur Thorp & David Lodge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Uniquely paired, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a double helping of frights starring everyone’s favorite psycho.  After muscular madman Ivan Moser (football legend Lyle Alzado, Ernest Goes to Camp) is sentenced to the electric chair, Destroyer finds a film crew setting up shop in the same prison where Moser unexplainably disappeared eighteen months earlier.  Before long, the crew find themselves trapped inside the abandoned penitentiary with the thought to be dead murderer making his own casting cuts.  Familiar 80s faces Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl), Clayton Rohner (Just One of the Guys) and of course, Anthony Perkins (Psycho II) star.  Next up, presented in its uncut form, Edge of Sanity stars Anthony Perkins as the respected Dr. Henry Jekyll who after a lab experiment gone wrong undergoes a horrific transformation into the murderous Jack Hyde.  Unleashing a wave of mutilated prostitutes in his wake, Jekyll’s battle for his sanity is severely tested with no certainty if it will be reclaimed.   

    Bearing its original Shadow of Death title, Destroyer wastes little time establishing its hulkish antagonist, serial killer Ivan Moser (Alzado), before failing to electrically execute the inmate.  Suffering a jolting shock before a power outage causes a prison riot, Moser, suspected dead, disappears without a trace as the prison shuts its doors permanently shortly after.  Attempting to capitalize on its production value, an exploitation film crew, headed by its director (Perkins), descend on the abandoned location while, spiky haired screenwriter David Harris (Rohner) is hellbent on learning more behind the riot that occurred.  Haunted by disturbing nightmares set in the prison, David’s stuntwoman girlfriend Susan Malone (Foreman) attempts to keep it cool until the “half-alive” Moser begins his killing spree once again.  Outside of painting a pointless link to Moser’s father and helping hand on his path of destruction, Destroyer has fun within its simplistic borders of behind the bars mayhem.  While Perkins has little to do outside of being comically frustrated with his B-movie lead actress, Foreman and Rohner give appreciable performances with Alzado’s over the top energy taking the cake.  Mindlessly entertaining, bloody high points include, a corrupt warden being torched, a fellow officer being introduced to a jackhammer and Perkins’ director being eye-poppingly electrocuted.  Scant on exposition, Destroyer lives for cheeky absurdity and generally succeeds when piling on the body count.

    Beautifully photographed with lavish production design displayed, Edge of Sanity combines the tall tale of Jekyll & Hyde with the infamous murder spree of Jack the Ripper for a uniquely styled shocker.  Appearing in one of his final film roles, Anthony Perkins fits naturally into his character’s dual personality with a keen balance of derangement and normalcy.  Following a lab accident amongst chemicals, Dr. Henry Jekyll’s personality alters into the depraved Jack Hyde.  Stalking the London streets for women of the night, Hyde lures the promiscuous beauties into the shadows where his sexual urges are overpowered by homicidal rage.  Erotically charged, Hyde’s interest in local whore Susannah (Sarah Maur Thorp, River of Death), who bears a striking resemblance to a prostitute Jekyll encountered as a child, becomes his obsession as he indulges her with his addictive substance in order to carry out his murderous deeds.  A British production, Edge of Sanity maintains an air of class amongst its more brutal set pieces with its performances and surrealistic touches raising its quality over many of the decade’s attempts at atmospheric horror.  Criminally underrated and one of Perkins’ more undervalued roles, Edge of Sanity is an effective opus with one foot in timeless literature and the other seeped in the mystery of real world terror.    

    Both films arrive with 1080p transfers, screened in their respective 1.78:1 (Destroyer) and 1.85:1 (Edge of Sanity) aspect ratios.  Newly mastered from the only surviving elements, Destroyer appears noticeably soft at times with skin tones reading infrequently oversaturated.  Meanwhile, colors found in Foreman’s bright attire and Alzado’s burnt make-up effects are nicely balanced while, black levels are generally pleasing with only mild speckling on display.  Furthermore, Edge of Sanity excels as a sharper transfer all around with little to no anomalies, excellent detail and an overall filmic appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Destroyer hosts occasional cracks and pops with dialogue never compromised although, range can be moderately subdued.  In addition, Edge of Sanity offers solid audio levels with strong dialogue delivery and Composer Frédéric Talgorn’s (Buried Alive) score authoritatively delivered.  Lastly, the sole supplements included are a Destroyer Trailer (1:03) and an Edge of Insanity Trailer (1:08). 

    Eccentrically billed, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity make for an unusual combination of features, both headlined by the remarkably talented Anthony Perkins.  While Destroyer is a harmlessly fun romp that boasts an eccentric killer and even wilder death sequences, Edge of Sanity is unquestionably the better made feature with frightening surrealism and an underrated performance from Perkins.  Inviting more appreciation to these overlooked efforts, Scream Factory’s latest double feature may be a bit mad but, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 12th from Scream Factory, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2016)

    Director: Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In association with The Cube, Severin Films assaults viewers with over two hours of fist-smashing awesomeness in Kung Fu Trailers of Fury!  Presenting 31 of the genre’s rarest trailers from 1972-1983, subtitled mayhem ensues as prominent kung fu stars ranging from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lo Lieh, Angelo Mao and Jimmy Wang Yu deliver intense intervals of high-octane martial arts.  Action-packed and rarely taking a breather, trailer highlights include, The Way of the Dragon, Daggers 8, Brutal Boxer, Enter the Fat Dragon, Kung Fu VS. Yoga, The Story of Drunken Master and The Damned.  While general audiences may be largely aware of Bruce Lee’s impact on the genre, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury opens the floodgates to countless other gems that provide hard-hitting punches and ample excitement all within the confines of a few minutes each.  A treasure trove of over-the-top brutality and eccentric performances, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury is a nostalgic necessity for genre enthusiasts raised on eastern culture’s cinema that shared marquee space with prominent blaxploitation and horror efforts during the grind house’s heyday.

    Presented in 1080p and sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films serves their smorgasbord of kung fu with obvious signs of wear.  Each trailer contains noticeable, if not unexpected, levels of dirt, debris and scratches, all varying in their severity.  Miraculously surviving through years of excessive damage, the trailers never adhere to immaculate standards yet, are wholly enjoyed under their more distressed presentations reminiscent of their original theatrical runs.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, cracks and pops are ever-present while never uprooting the realistic expectations from viewers.  While audio is far from perfect, the native-spoken trailers are attached with English subtitles allowing for nothing lost in translation.  Surpassing the enjoyability of the trailers themselves, newly produced special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writers Ric Meyers, Michael Worth, Martial Arts Instructor Greg Schiller and Drunken Master Video’s Rick Stelow.  In addition, A Brief History of Kung Fu Cinema (28:09) provides viewers with a solid crash course into the genre’s history and influence with expert insight from Ric Meyers and Frank Djeng.  Finally, The Way of the Cube (11:19) explores the inner workings of the beloved UK cinema and the owners’ surprising discovery of the original 35mm trailers utilized for the release.

    In a delectable year for trailer compilations, Severin Films’ Kung Fu Trailers of Fury gives fans a much-needed injection of roundhouse kicks and high-speed nun chucking.  Programmed with rarely seen favorites and scholarly supplements that arguably exceed its main feature, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury is a necessary board worthy of breaking into your collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

    Starring: Rob Lowe, Jacqueline Bisset, Andrew McCarthy & Cliff Robertson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after arriving at his new prestigious prep-school, lonesome Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy, Mannequin) is motivated by his outgoing roommate Skip (Rob Lowe, The Grinder) to explore uncharted dating zones.  Catching the attention of a sexy and sophisticated woman, Jonathan’s affair turns out to be more than he imagined after learning it’s with Skip’s mother.  Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt), John Cusack (Say Anything…), Alan Ruck (Ferris Buller’s Day Off) and Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man) co-star.

    Keeping in tradition with other teenage hormonal features of its era, Class balances the scandalous love affair between a high school senior and his roommates mother with obvious humor and surprisingly well-handled, if not unexpected, dramatics.  After being encouraged by best friend Skip (Lowe) to hitch a ride to Chicago for a steamy one-night stand, Jonathan (McCarthy) finds himself captivated by the mature and breathtaking Ellen (Bisset) leading to a sexual rendezvous in an elevator before relocating to a hotel room.  Riding high on his conquest, Jonathan and Ellen’s affair develops over the weeks with the prep-schooler falling madly in love with his new flame.  Shortly after Jonathan’s true identity is revealed, their blossoming relationship is unsurprisingly damaged, sending the heartbroken teen on a downward spiral of depression.  In order to lift his best friend’s spirits, Skip invites Jonathan over to his house for the holidays realizing his recent bombshell is in fact Skip’s own mother.  Awkward encounters and mounting lies steer Class into a more dramatic territory that separates itself from similar pictures without ever sacrificing quality.  Furthermore, fellow brat packers Lowe and McCarthy gel excellently together, making practical jokes and playfully insulting one another to create one of the great bromances of the decade.  As the damaging news of his mother’s affair hits Skip in the final act while, a school investigation to sniff out cheaters potentially threatens Jonathan’s livelihood, the two best friends prove after beating the bejesus out of one another that bros still apparently come before hoes, including your own alcoholic mother.  While its setup would normally lend itself to countless skintastic scenarios, Class is relatively tame with the major exception being Virginia Madsen (Dune), in her first role, having her blouse torn off in a most comical sequence.  Accompanied by a romantically elegant score by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters), Class may not be the most sexually exploitative teen flick of the 80s but, still manages to be particularly funny and a pinch more sophisticated than expected.

    Olive Films presents Class with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing filmic and free of any dirt or other aging artifacts, Class relays accurate skin readings while, the film’s color scheme of browns and other earth tones satisfy with Skip’s red hot sports car popping most impressively.  In addition, black levels spotted in shadowy rooms and jet-black prep school coats are inky and defined.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently prioritized with no difficulties in audibility present.  Cracks and pops are nonexistent with Bernstein’s score and the film’s few soundtrack bits also relayed appropriately.  Typically scant, the sole special feature is the film’s Trailer (2:30).

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Class can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Sisters (2015) Unrated Blu-ray Review

    Sisters (2015)

    Director: Jason Moore

    Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo & John Cena

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite in the sibling comedy Sisters.  After their parents choose to sell their home, sisters Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis return to clean out their childhood bedrooms but, plan to go out with a bang.  Inviting former classmates to recapture some old fashioned debauchery, the Ellis sisters engage in an unforgettable night of partying while, working out their own adult issues.  Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors), John Leguizamo (Chef) and John Cena (Trainwreck) co-star.

    Reteaming for their third cinematic outing, Sisters combines the comedic talent of Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) for their most hilarious effort yet.  After recently divorced nurse Maura (Poehler) is given the unfortunate task of informing her older and constantly unemployed sister Kate (Fey) of the sale of their childhood home, the Ellis sisters must travel to Orlando to empty their bedrooms.  While Maura struggles with meeting someone new, Kate’s irresponsible lifestyle has created a rift between her and her daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), prompting the sisters to salvage the glory of their younger days.  Before their house is officially taken over by its new owners, Maura and Kate splurge to throw one last party with their fellow classmates who are equally in dire need of letting loose.  Flirtatiously inviting local handyman James (Barinholtz) to the gathering, Maura’s opportunity to party wildly while the normally rambunctious Kate wears the hat of responsibility leads to cataclysmic hilarity.  With a wide variety of drugs provided by Dave (Leguizamo) and his buff dealer Pazuzu (Cena), the Ellis sisters take great delight aggressively making fun of high school foe Brinda (Rudolph).  Dance offs, drunken chimney climbing and 80s references funneled through the fast-paced improvisational cracks of Fey and Poehler make Sisters the funniest high school reunion you ever snuck into.

    Boldly facing off against a seismic blockbuster from a galaxy far, far away, Sisters held steady in bringing audiences to the vulgar festivities hosted by the undeniable chemistry of Fey and Poehler.  Buffered with knee-slapping supporting turns from James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can), Dianne Wiest (Parenthood), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) and Samantha Bee (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Sisters turns back the clock for a hard-partying rager that offers nonstop laughs and expected life lessons along the way.  

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Sisters with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting pristine clarity, skin tones are exceptionally lifelike and well detailed while, clothing choices pop nicely against the illuminated interior of the Ellis sisters’ home.  With solid black levels and lush greenery permeating the Florida setting, Sisters makes a rockin’ statement on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly supported with no hitches while, the track offers sizable pushes to its bass during party sequences where loud music and record spinning rule.  In addition to both its Unrated (2:02:24) and Theatrical (1:57:46) version, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jason Moore, Writer Paula Pell, Star/Producer Tina Fey and Star/Executive Producer Amy Poehler, Deleted Scenes (18:03), Extended Scenes (16:54), Gag Reel (3:17) and The Improvorama (3:17).  Furthermore exclusive Blu-ray content includes, How to Throw a Party (1:36), Grown-Up Parties Suck (5:18), The Alex Chronicles (2:51), The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles (2:05), A Teen Movie… For Adults (10:26), The Original Sister (6:40) where the cast take turns reading from Screenwriter Paula Pell’s actual teenage diary entries and a showcase of the film’s Pool Collapse VFX (0:50).  Finally, a DVD edition and a Digital HD Code round the supplemental offerings.

    From keg stands and adult irresponsibility to sibling rivalry and beyond, Sisters brings the teenage spirit of John Hughes outside to smoke a joint with the crudeness of Seth Rogen.  With all-around funny performances from its players and the infectious chemistry of Fey and Poehler, the latest comedy reunion from the gals of Saturday Night Live makes it way to the top of the class.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers an immaculate high-definition experience and a plethora of bonus features including, alternate cuts of the film, a worthwhile commentary, hilarious making-of featurettes and gag reels.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 15th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sisters can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Way Out (1987) Blu-ray Review

    No Way Out (1987)

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton & Howard Duff

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel “The Big Clock” by Kenneth Fearing, No Way Out finds Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman, The French Connection) murdering his mistress Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner) in a fit of jealousy.  Determined to protect his superior, loyal aide Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Remember the Titans) invents a cover-up scheme thrusting blame onto an unknown Russian spy.  Enlisting Naval Commander and friend Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) to hunt down the killer, all roads lead back to Farrell and his own enticing connection to the victim.

    Weaving a tale of suspense and scandal, No Way Out is a tightly paced thriller where the political underbelly of Washington sets the stage for a whodunit marking its protagonist as public enemy number one.  After a chance encounter at a political ball leads to limo lovemaking, Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) falls deeply for the attractive Susan Atwell (Young).  Admitting to engaging with Farrell’s new boss Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman), Susan agrees to call off the affair only to fatally fall victim to Brice’s jealous rage.  In true closed door political fashion, a cover-up is established pointing fingers to a suspected Russian spy within the confines of the Pentagon, instructing Farrell to uncover the man responsible.  With other selected assassins ordered to eradicate anyone with knowledge of Brice’s involvement, Farrell finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place as each new development implements him in Susan’s death.  Trapped within the walls of the Pentagon as 80s computer technology and prowling eyewitnesses threaten Farrell’s safety, No Way Out rarely lets viewers catch a breath while, an exciting chase sequence beginning behind the wheel before shifting to rooftops and subways keeps the thrills coming.  Featuring the handsome Costner in a role that propelled him to leading man heights and Sean Young at the peak of her sexiness plus, a brief appearance by the beautiful Iman (Surrender, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) as Susan’s trusted friend, Director Roger Donaldson’s (Species) well-received feature keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with a twisty conclusion not seen coming.

    Shout! Factory presents No Way Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of fleeting flakes and speckles during the opening moments, the film conveys a pleasingly filmic appearance with facial tones reading appropriately.  Although not wildly colorful, textures in Hackman’s suit, Costner’s pressed Naval uniform and other costume choices are well saturated while, black levels during Costner and Young’s backseat romp are quite clear and free of any abusive crush.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, quality is satisfactory with dialogue levels delivered clearly as scoring cues and the film’s intense wave crashing ship scene offer nice balance to the otherwise tame mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and the film’s Trailer (1:30).

    Perfect viewing for the political season, No Way Out combines sex, scandal and murder for a gripping narrative set in our nation’s capital.  A solid cast and stylish direction compliment the film’s pace that allows itself to sharply pull the rug out from under the audience during its fleeting moments.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory upgrades this Costner starring thrill ride with an admirable high-definition transfer and a pleasing commentary track from its helmer.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, No Way Out can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Mutilator (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Mutilator (1985)

    Director: Buddy Cooper

    Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Connie Rogers, Frances Raines, Morey Lampley, Jack Chatham & Ben Moore

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Years after accidentally misfiring at his mother, The Mutilator centers on Ed (Matt Mitler, Deadtime Stories) who’s asked by his father to lock up his condo for the winter season.  With nothing to do on their fall break, Ed and his friends retreat to the beachside getaway for a few days of rest and relaxation.  Unfortunately, a shadowy figure awaits their arrival, prepared to make their vacation a nightmare.  

    Bearing its original Fall Break title card, The Mutilator, while a late inclusion for the already waining slasher genre, remains a standout effort of blood splattering, special effects wizardry.  Shot on location in North Carolina, Buddy Cooper’s sole directorial feature follows the tried and true trope of young adults in search of excitement only to find themselves at the mercy of an unhinged murderer.  With little to do on their break, Ed’s (Mitler) instructions to lock up his father’s condo turns into a weekend retreat for his tight knit group of friends.  Journeying there to the sounds of one of the most upbeat songs in slasher history, the gang loads up on booze as Ed shares stories about his peculiar father amongst his personal collection of taxidermy animals.  Meandering through household duties, Monopoly and eventually skinny-dipping, a mysterious stalker makes his presence known, introducing the unsuspecting horndogs to his sharp weaponry.  Oddly enough, The Mutilator hosts a drug free cast of victims while, nudity and fornication are virtually nonexistent making each character’s fate slightly less predictable.  Like its tagline suggests, the ruthless killer terminates his victims with a fine assortment of tools including, an axe, fishhook, pitchfork and even a boating motor.  While the cast is likable enough with their shenanigans rather tame, The Mutilator’s true claim to fame is its execution of gory effects work, expertly achieved by a young Mark Shostrom (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Evil Dead II).  Building a menagerie of victims in the condo’s dingy garage for its antagonist, decapitations, plywood through a cheek and a gnarly severing in its final act seal the slasher’s grisly reputation.

    Graced with one of the most memorable poster designs of the genre, The Mutilator’s reputation although secondary to other prominent slashers including, Friday the 13th and The Burning, has persisted as overwhelming darkness made watchability less than ideal since its original release.  A bonafide cult classic for stalk-and-slash aficionados, Cooper’s cheaply produced body count picture may not have the most wildly exciting characters or location but, stands equally with its contemporaries for its “let’s make a picture” tenacity and exceptionally bloody effects that still hold up.

    Arrow Video presents The Mutilator with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Recovering an uncut 35mm print and scanning it in 2K, mild softness exists during early daytime sequences while, skin tones are nicely saturated with clothing choices popping nicely.  Instances of dirt and debris are present but hardly of any serious bother in this suitably filmic presentation.  In addition, although possessing slight murkiness and occasional intrusions of red tint creeping into the sides of its frame, black levels are a true revelation, allowing viewers to finally witness all the film’s bloody sequences with ease.  With a lack of suitable materials preventing a release for countless years and fans losing all hope of an official release, Arrow Video’s restoration may arguably be the greatest magic trick of 2016.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is audibly handled while, Michael Minard’s Fall Break opening song leaves a surprisingly authoritative stamp on the track.  In addition, suspenseful music cues are effective with hiss and pops non detectable.  Appropriately packed, special features include, an Introduction to the film with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper and Assistant Special Make-Up Effects Artist/Assistant Editor Edmund Ferrell (1:08), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper, Assistant Special Make-Up Effects Artist/Assistant Editor Edmund Ferrell, Co-Director John Douglass and Star Matt Mitler and a second Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper and Star Ruth Martinez Tutterow.  In addition, Fall Breakers: The Making of The Mutilator (1:15:01) is an exceptional feature-length retrospective with new interviews from the cast and crew discussing the film’s production and long-lasting popularity amongst slasher fans.  Mutilator Memories with Mark Shostrom (15:57) sits down with the talented effects artist as he reminisces on the 30-year-old effort while, Tunes for the Dunes (8:13) catches up with Composer Michael Minard and his building of the film’s effective score and upbeat title track.  A Behind-the-Scenes Reel (16:31), Screen Tests (13:03) and Opening Scene Storyboards (4:27) are also included alongside Trailers and TV Spots for: Fall Break Trailer (1:42), Fall Break TV Spot (0:32), The Mutilator Trailer (1:57), The Mutilator TV Spot Version A (0:32), The Mutilator TV Spot Version B (0:32) and Radio Spots (0:57).  Furthermore, Alternate Opening Titles (4:32), Music featuring Fall Break (3:30) and its instrumental take (3:30), a Still Gallery (8:49), the Original Fall Break Screenplay (featured on BD/DVD-ROM) and a 26-page booklet featuring photos and essays by Ewan Cant and Tim Ferrante are also featured.  Finally, a Reversible Cover Art utilizing alternate artwork under the original Fall Break title and a DVD edition of the release round out the exhaustively excellent supplements.

    Serving as a bloody good slice of slashertainment during the genre’s downward spiral, The Mutilator lives up to its garishly gory artwork with polished special effects that enriches the film’s low-budget identity.  Like Houdini achieving the impossible, Arrow Video has painstakingly restored this holy grail of horror to a state that viewers can appreciatively witness after decades of overly dark presentations.  In addition to its nearly unfathomable high-definition upgrade, special features including, audio commentaries, a top-notch feature length look back, liner notes and tons more easily nominate The Mutilator as one of 2016’s most impressive releases.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, The Mutilator can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pray for Death (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Pray for Death (1985)

    Director: Gordon Hessler

    Starring: Sho Kosugi, James Booth, Donna Kei Benz, Norman Burton, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi & Matthew Constantine

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Longing for a better life for his family, Pray for Death finds Akira Saito (Sho Kosugi, Enter the Ninja) relocating with his wife and two children to achieve the American dream.  When their new beginning is threatened by a gang of dangerous jewel thieves, Akira must rely on his deadly ninja skills to protect his loved ones.  James Booth (Zulu), Donna Kei Benz (The Challenge), Norman Burton (The Towering Inferno), Kane Kosugi (Ninja sentai Kakurenjâ), Shane Kosugi (Nine Deaths of the Ninja) and Matthew Constantine (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) co-star.

    Released at the height of ninja fever, Pray for Death hosts skilled martial artist Sho Kosugi as he powerfully kicks his way through the decay of urban America.  After closing the door on his ninja roots that previously divided Akira and his late brother, the Japanese businessman happily agrees to relocate to Los Angeles to appease his American-born wife Aiko.  Joined by their two sons, the Saito’s stake claim in a crumbling neighborhood where their new business was previously home to shady dealings.  After a corrupt copper gets greedy and snatches a flashy Van Adda necklace for himself, mobster Mr. Newman and his associates grow understandably concerned.  Convinced Akira and his family are responsible for stealing their merchandise, efforts, courtesy of Newman’s deadly enforcer Limehouse Willie (Booth who also provided the film’s screenplay), are made to fatally punish the new residents.  Savagely running down his wife and child while, abducting his other son, Akira is forced to resurrect his roots as a ninja assassin to make the gang pay.  

    Admittedly going through the generic motions of most revenge tales and containing plenty of unintentionally hilarious performances from its thugs, Pray for Death is easily forgiven for what it lacks in originality, makes up for in action-packed combat.  Relentlessly barbaric, Limehouse Willie never bats an eyelash when taking a crowbar to an elderly man before setting him ablaze while, paying a hospital visit to a recuperating Aiko only to shred her clothes off and brutally stab her to death.  Widowed and determined to protect his children, the gloves are off as Akira crafts a new katana blade and dons a metallically intimidating getup to bring the fight to Newman and his baddies.  Oddly enough, the towering Limehouse gives the ninja much too hard a time as he punctures his leg repeatedly amongst a warehouse of creepy mannequins.  For as many ninja stars thrown, bloody fatalities are a plenty in this martial arts beatdown with slashed throats, snapped necks and for good measure, an exploding pickup truck permeating the runtime.  In addition, as the Japanese ninja restores his dignity during the intense final battle with Limehouse, Akira unloads swift nun chucking skills on his skull before sending his wife’s murderer through a spinning wood saw.  Intriguingly directed by Gordon Hessler, better known for helming such Vincent Price starrers as The Oblong Box and Cry of the Banshee, Pray for Death comes well recommended for ninja nuts who never tire of the sword-clashing excitement that was best served in the 80s.  

    Arrow Video presents Pray for Death with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a clean picture with only fleeting instances of dust on display, natural grain is firmly intact with skin tones and color choices making fine leaps in high-definition.  With the exception of reinstated uncut footage which is noticeably softer and at times grainier, black levels are acceptable with no crushing artifacts seen.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, the stereo presentation projects distinctly clear dialogue levels while, Peggy Abernathy’s reoccurring synth jam “Back to the Shadow” sounds especially solid.  In addition to the Unrated (1:38:27) and R-rated (1:34:31) versions of the film, special features include, Sho and Tell Part One: Birth of a Ninja (19:05) featuring a newly shot sit-down with star Sho Kosugi, Sho Kosugi on Martial Art Forms (18:57) is a vintage interview with the leading man from 1985.  Furthermore, a Sho Kosugi Trailer Gallery presenting Enter the Ninja (2:53), Revenge of the Ninja (1:41), Pray for Death (2:11) and Rage of Honor (1:35) are also included with a 23-page booklet featuring stills and an essay by James Oliver.  Finally, a Reversible Cover Art displaying alternate imagery round out the supplements.

    Destroying his American dream before it was ever realized, Pray for Death would appear paint by numbers but, this revenge-fueled opus slashes its way to greater ranks thanks to its stylized martial arts sequences and gritty violence.  Arrow Video may bow its head in honor for preserving the film’s uncut presentation and supplying another batch of engaging supplemental content for one of the decade’s fast-kicking ninja highlights.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Pray for Death can be purchased via MVDB2B.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • My Science Project (1985) Blu-ray Review

    My Science Project (1985)

    Director: Jonathan R. Betuel

    Starring: John Stockwell, Danielle von Zerneck, Fisher Stevens & Dennis Hopper

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fearing ineligibility to graduate from high school, My Science Project centers on grease monkey Michael Harlan (John Stockwell, Radioactive Dreams) as he scours for a science project to avoid flunking.  Searching a military junkyard, Michael uncovers an extraterrestrial device that unleashes a dimensional time warp of past, present and future danger upon Michael’s sleepy town.  Faced against unfathomable power, Michael and his friends must devise a way to close the vortex before their world is permanently jeopardized.  Daniella von Zerneck (La Bamba), Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) and Dennis Hopper (Apocalypse Now) co-star.

    Released in the wake of Robert Zemeckis’ game-changing Delorean starring adventure, My Science Project is the other time-traveling effort of 1985.  Raiding a military junk pile proves fruitful for teenage mechanic Michael Harlan (Stockwell) whose biggest dilemmas are failing to graduate and the embarrassment of other students knowing his wheels broke down.  Desperate to pass anything off that remotely looks scientific for a project, Michael’s encounter with a weirdly illuminated device becomes even odder after electrically frying countless appliances within its reach.  Stumped at its purpose, Michael and his Brooklyn-born buddy Vince Latello (Stockwell) find themselves personally affected after the contraption speeds up time, making the duo miss their final exam.  With nowhere to turn, Michael leans on his hilariously hippie-like science teacher, referred to simply as Bob (Hopper), for help as the globe-shaped instrument unexpectedly reveals its full power.  Opening a dangerous vortex where the past and future can materialize, Michael, along with his bookish love interest Ellie Sawyer (Zerneck), Vince and class nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge, Risky Business) must cut the power supply to save humanity.

    Tightly budgeted yet, supplying admirable visual effects for its size, My Science Project is a fun teenage adventure with far less emphasis on its time traveling element than proposed.  Fisher Stevens steals the thunder from the headlining Stockwell with his quotable lines while, Easy Rider’s Dennis Hopper hams up his free love mantra for the MTV generation.  While the film’s MacGuffin creates countless fireworks for the screen, its true harm isn’t fully exposed until the third act when the Viet Cong, post-apocalyptic mutants and dinosaurs go head to head with Michael and his machine gun carrying cohorts.  Although introducing added eye-candy, the historical antagonists’ appearances take place a tad too late and leave a slightly underwhelming effect.  Making groovy pop culture nods with high school hooligans rocking stormtrooper helmets and boob tube cameos from Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Davy Crockett, My Science Project is a moderately radical time where teenage heroes take on the whirlwind of scientific insanity.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents My Science Project with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing softer during early 1957 set sequences and visual effects moments before improving slightly, skin tones are average-looking with moderate levels of dirt and debris on hand.  Meanwhile, black levels fall on the grainier side with visibility not impossible yet, largely unimpressive.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible while, its mono presentation underwhelms machine gun fire and soundtrack selections including Scandal’s “The Warrior”, making otherwise more impactful moments sound far too flat for taste.  Expectedly, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, My Science Project can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pretty Peaches Trilogy: Pretty Peaches (1978), Pretty Peaches 2 (1987) & Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Pretty Peaches Trilogy (1978-1989)

    Director: Alex de Renzy

    Starring: Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson, Joey Silvera, John Leslie & Paul Thomas / Siobhan Hunter, Tracey Adams, Hershel Savage, Ron Jeremy & Jamie Gillis / Keisha, Tracey Adams, Marc Wallice, Eric Price, Rachel Ryan & Jamie Gillis 

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the sultans of smut, proudly present erotic maestro Alex de Renzy’s Pretty Peaches trilogy in all its uncut glory!  In the original classic, Desiree Cousteau (Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls) stars as the bubbly and vivacious Peaches who after attending her father’s wedding, winds up in an accident resulting in a severe case of amnesia.  Rescued, for better or worse, by two horny men, Peaches’ road to recovery will be a long and hard one.  Next up, Pretty Peaches 2 centers on the sexually curious Peaches (Siobhan Hunter, Summer Lovers) as she hits the road to educate herself only to end up in San Francisco at her eccentric Uncle Howard’s (Ron Jeremy, Terms of Endowment) house.  Finally, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest finds Peaches (Keisha, Uniform Behavior) ditching her trailer park life to search for spiritual enlightenment, leading to a series of sexual explorations.  

    Long considered de Renzy’s pornographic masterpiece, Pretty Peaches is equal parts scandalous and humorous made possible by the optimistically dopey performance of the gorgeous Desiree Cousteau.  After being knocked unconscious and sneakily raped by an uncontrollable fellow, Peaches awakes with no memory of herself prompting her two manipulative rescuers to take her in.  Concerned for his daughter’s whereabouts after her speedy exit from his wedding, Hugh (John Leslie, Candy Goes to Hollywood) attempts to enjoy his honeymoon with his black bride.  Between penetrating his new wife to a soundtrack of bed squeaks and engaging in a sweaty threesome with his blonde housekeeper, Peaches is no closer to remembering her identity.  Shuttled to the uncle of her rapist to help with her condition, the four-eyed horn dog instead performs an enema on Peaches, prompting the short-haired beauty to geyser everywhere in the film’s most hilariously over the top moment.  In addition, more bizarreness occurs when Peaches attempts to secure work as a dancer only to be sexually dog-piled by a swarm of strap-on wearing lesbians for the enjoyment of an audience.  As her unfavorable keepers get lucky with a duo of blondes, Peaches gets her own education from an especially thorough doctor.  Increased silliness and sexually-charged pandemonium converges at a lubed up swingers party where a most unexpected family reunion takes place restoring Peaches’ memory.  Deservedly awarded Best Actress by the Adult Film Association of America for her performance, Desiree Cousteau drives the picture in earnest with her adorably cute performance and unbelievably natural curves.  Providing wall to wall sequences of hot sex, Pretty Peaches’ notable sense of humor separates itself from other efforts as a bonafide erotic classic.

    Nearly a decade after the original film’s debut, Pretty Peaches 2 focuses on nearly 20-year-old Peaches (Hunter) longing for a crash course in sex.  Blocked from going all the way with her hunkish boyfriend Bobby (Peter North, The Bigger the Better), Peaches’ foxy mother Eunice (Tracey Adams, Angels of Passion) instead helps to ease his “lovers nuts” while, her stepfather (Hershel Savage, Losing Control) influences Peaches to seek answers out in the wild.  Hightailing it to San Francisco to shack up at her uncle’s pad, the sexually clueless picks up tips from a truck driver’s private party with a prostitute before arriving at casa de weird.  Ron Jeremy’s hilarious turn as the brightly dressed Uncle Howard is the film’s nonsexual highlight before engaging in an incestuous threesome with his wife and equally wacky son at the dinner table.  While former star Cousteau is sorely missing in action, Siobhan Hunter does well as the luscious Peaches of the 80s although, her role is limited to that of an observer until the film’s final act where she finally puts her lessons to use with a masquerading grandma played by Jamie Gillis (Corruption) and a steamy lesbian engagement.  Furthermore, although her fictional daughter headlines, Tracey Adams arguably steals the show with her knockout figure and increasingly hot encounters with several gents.  Sexier and surprisingly funnier than its predecessor, fans of big hair, amongst other “big” things, will take delight in de Renzy’s better late than never followup.

    Recasting the title role yet again, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest finds sex queen Keisha stepping into the iconic role of Peaches in de Renzy’s underwhelming final chapter.  Unrelated to its previous installment where our protagonist was in search of sexual knowledge, Peaches, living in a trailer park with her attractive mother (played again by bombshell Tracey Adams), longs for spiritual enlightenment in her mundane life.  Under motherly orders, Peaches meets with the not-so-subtle Dr. Thunderpussy (Rachel Ryan, Private Places) to help ease her mind.  After a very lubricated examination, the lesbian doctor retreats to a backroom to fornicate with a sex doll.  Consistently gullible, our virginal lead then takes pity on a grieving TV preacher (Jamie Gillis returning in a new role) and aims to join him and his big-breasted assistant.  Just as things are getting hot and heavy, the FBI zeroes in on the deceitful preacher, edging Peaches out of her chances of enlightenment.  Persistent as ever, Peaches continues her journey leading her to a religious commune where she backs out of a lesbian threesome before losing her virginity to a hunk in a dojo-looking room.  Concerned for her whereabouts, Peaches’ mother and meathead boyfriend Bobby (Gene Carrera, Rock ’n Roll Heaven) pursue her, only to predictably end up riding the hobby horse together with muscles keeping his Reeboks well fastened.  Ultimately failing to find what she was searching for, Peaches is rejuvenated by a drunken hobo, inspiring her to be a strong voice for the needy.  Far too redundant to be original, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest seemingly forgets the humor and boundary pushing elements that made its predecessors so memorable.  In addition, although attractive, Keisha is the least charismatic of the Peaches stars while, the film’s scandalous sequences appear by the numbers and lacking steam.  Understandably all great things must come to an end but, unfortunately Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest stands as the weakest chapter in a franchise that began so enthusiastically.

    Boasting a new encode restored in 2K from 35mm elements, Vinegar Syndrome presents the original film with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Filmically beautiful, natural grain is ever-present while, skin tones are highly detailed with colors of every variety making stunning impressions.  Mild instances of light scratches are occasionally spotted but hardly a cause for concern.  Meanwhile, its sequels, also restored in 2K from 35mm and 16mm elements with 1.85:1 aspect ratios, share equally pleasing presentations although, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest suffers from noisy backgrounds and vertical splices appearing every now and again.  Individually equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mixes, dialogue is well-handled while music choices are appropriately balanced with wailing cries of ecstasy.  Once again, the third installment does suffer from noticeably lower pitches that require increases in volume to fully collect dialogue deliveries and other potent audio.  Although special features from Pretty Peaches’ original limited edition Blu-ray are not ported over making it a worthy keeper, the sole supplement is the Pretty Peaches 2 Trailer (3:38).

    Collecting underground pornographer Alex de Renzy’s trilogy of forbidden fruit, these golden age classics of erotica are of noted importance to adult connoisseurs for their sense of humor and sexual explorations of its charismatic title character.  In what appears to be a monthly basis, Vinegar Syndrome has yet again proven to porn preservers the labor of their efforts with another first-rate accomplishment sure to be appreciated for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, the Pretty Peaches Trilogy can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Ice Pirates (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ice Pirates (1984)

    Director: Stewart Raffill

    Starring: Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roberts, Anjelica Huston & Jack Matuszak

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an intergalactic future where water is of utmost value and controlled by the evil Templars, The Ice Pirates centers on a motley crew of swashbuckling adventure seekers who dare to rebel.  Accompanied by an attractive princess, the unlikely heroes charter a mission to locate her missing father on a rumored planet engulfed with the prized resource.  Robert Urich (S.W.A.T.), Mary Crosby (Dallas), Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man), Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) and Jack Matuszak (The Goonies) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Influenced by George Lucas’ Star Wars saga and the post-apocalyptic insanity of Mad Max, The Ice Pirates protrudes its tongue into cheek for an inherently comic space adventure.  Ravaged by the villainous Templars, the future of the galaxy appears grim with water in short supply.  Led by the daring Jason (Urich) and his loyal team of pirates, the understandable thieves attempt to steal ice from the regime before crossing paths with the royal Princess Karina (Crosby).  While others evade capture, Jason and best friend Roscoe (Roberts) are sentenced to slavery where the unpleasant procedure of castration is performed before joining other high-pitched, leotard wearing prisoners.  Fortunately, the princess has other plans when she hires Jason and his soon to be reunited crew on a dangerous mission to recover her father.  From valiant sword fights to destructive droid battles and a trippy time-warp conclusion, the fate of the universe rests on the futuristic pirates discovering a mythical water planet that may or may not exist.

    Modestly successful at the box-office, The Ice Pirates adheres to the tropes of other such space epics of the era while, taking itself none too seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers.  Marking an early appearance from Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as one of Jason’s fellow cronies and one of the respected John Carradine’s (House of Frankenstein) final efforts, The Ice Pirates delivers top-notch special effects magic and enthralling production design that unashamedly caters to its over the top decade.  Packed with hilarious racial jokes and sexual innuendoes that unquestionably flew over the heads of its intended PG-rated audience, The Ice Pirates is a bonafide cult favorite that keeps its action rolling while laughing all the way to the end credits.

    Warner Archive presents The Ice Pirates with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, detail is sharp with textures in costumes choices and skin tones pleasing throughout.  Colors found in the neon buttons of various space shuttles and other robotic characters pop nicely while, black levels waver from moments of satisfaction to instances of speckles and mild noise.  A healthy upgrade from previous releases, The Ice Pirates makes an impressive high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and audible with action sequences involving laser blasts, explosions and other chaos registering with a slightly restrained presence.  Meanwhile, special features include, the film’s Trailer (2:20).

    Although imperfect, The Ice Pirates is a genuinely fun and engaging exploration of 80s science fiction that aligns impressive visuals with harmless mockery of its very genre.  Warp speeding to Blu-ray for the first time ever, Warner Archive presents the cult hit with an overly pleasing presentation sure to quench the thirst of the nostalgic and first time curios.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, The Ice Pirates can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

    presents

    THE 2015 HOLIDAY GIFT

    • The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition: While the tikes of today rightly associate the artistry of stop-motion animation with the works of Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman), The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition presents viewers of all ages with timeless holiday entertainment from the influential Rankin/Bass Productions.  With such Christmas cartoon classics as UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns, this must-have collection also includes Rankin/Bass’ most beloved holiday-themed specials including, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  Joined by additional special features such as sing-alongs and how-to tutorials on drawing your own Rudolph or Frosty, The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition comes highly recommended and will undoubtedly enjoy heavy rotation by viewers this holiday season.  Available now!

    • Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Celebrating its unbelievable 25th anniversary, the original John Hughes produced classic returns to Blu-ray boasting a new superior-looking 4K restoration.  Collected in a paint can familiar to fans of the films, this excellently timed collector’s edition includes other treats such as, a collectible ornament, rubber spider, Battle Plan reproduction and a Wanted poster looking for the Wet Bandits.  While its equally beloved sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also included on Blu-ray, purists will be slightly disappointed that later installments, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist arrive only on DVD.  Although the lack of a complete high-definition collection is unfortunate, the original film’s highly improved transfer and conversation starting packaging makes Home Alone’s 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition well worth upgrading this Christmas.  Available now! 

    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Similar to Home Alone’s previous outings on high-definition, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has been the victim of dated masters leaving viewers with more to be visually desired.  Thankfully, Warner Bros. have heard fans’ calls and appropriately rescanned this Chevy Chase favorite in 2K from a brand-new interpositive.  Boasting a more filmic appearance and stronger skin tones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, carrying all previous supplements from its past releases, finally arrives in the presentation fans of the Griswolds rightfully deserve.  Available now!

    • Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy: Marking Marty and Doc’s infamous journey into the distant future of 2015, Universal Studios proudly celebrates the occasion with an exceptional high-definition repackaging of the historic time traveling trilogy.  With all three films looking and sounding stellar, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy comes overwhelmingly packed with vintage supplements as well as other goodies including, Doc Brown Saves the World! with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doctor Emmett Brown in this newly-produced short film.  In addition, diehard fans will be overjoyed with Universal Studios’ alternate limited edition release of Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures.  Housed in a light-up faux flux capacitor, this must-have set contains the film trilogy, a 64-page collectible booklet and all 26 episodes of the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon on DVD for the first time ever.  Hailed as one of the greatest franchises of all time, Christmas morning won’t be complete without journeying into the past with these ageless adventures.  Available now!

     

    • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Continuing the popular exploits of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) returns to the explosive franchise for his most dangerous mission yet.  When the IMF is shut down by the CIA, a dangerous network known as the Syndicate, comprised of former agents gone rogue, threatens the safety of the globe.  Wanted by their own government, Ethan and his loyal team, along with a mysterious double agent (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), must combine their limited efforts to bring the Syndicate down and restore their names.  Helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation combines death-deifying stunts, intense action and a suspenseful narrative that stands proudly with Ghost Protocol’s universally hailed installment.  Arriving with reference worthy high-definition specs and countless special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Christopher McQuarrie and Star Tom Cruise plus, several making-of featurettes, the fifth installment of Cruise’s exciting series is a mission all viewers should choose to accept this holiday season.  Available December 15th!

     

    • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Limited to just 3,000 units, Writer/Director Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Manhattan) love letter to cinema is an achingly moving achievement comprised of magic and romance.  Perfectly casted, Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) star in this Great Depression-set tale about a movie obsessed dreamer enchanted by the arrival of her movie star crush who leaps off the screen to woo her.  A bonafide gem in Allen’s rich catalog of classics, The Purple Rose of Cairo casts an enchanting spell on viewers while, Film Historian Julie Kirgo’s enthralling liner notes increase ones appreciation for the content.  Available now!

    • The End of the Tour: Based on David Lipsky’s best-seller, this probing character study of Lipsky’s journalistic road-trip interviewing Author David Foster Wallace in the wake of his successful novel is one of the year’s smartest and genuine features.  Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) are excellently matched as two intelligent creatives, butting heads as they explore fame and the desire for normalcy on a journey of unexpected friendship and understanding.  Humorous and heartbreaking, this indie favorite arrives with an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman and more.  Critically applauded, The End of the Tour is a moving piece of drama well worth taking the journey with.  Available now! 

    • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition: From the creative minds of Pixar, Inside Out marks their most unique tale to date centering on the many emotions of an 11-year-old girl as she copes with her unexpected move to San Francisco.  Starring an eclectically hilarious voice cast including, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Phyllis Smith (The Office), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Director Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc., Up) deeply personal exploration of the mind is endlessly charming with audiences young and old finding themselves profoundly moved by its  conclusion.  Presented with immersive 3D and countless bonus features, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year perfect for acquisition this holiday season.  Available now!

     

    • Aladdin Diamond Edition: Highly anticipated and finally unleashed from the Disney vault, Aladdin makes its domestic high-definition debut with jaw-droppingly colorful clarity and countless special features including, the desirable and never-before-seen Genie outtakes performed by the late Robin Williams.  A magical tour de force, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved features and a wish come true for all street rats and riff raffs this Christmas.  Available now!   

    • Minions 3D: In Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me prequel, the yellow colored tribe find themselves deeply depressed following the accidental losses of their last several evil leaders.  Set in the progressive 1960s and determined to find their next kingpin, optimistic Minion Kevin, along with Stuart and Bob, road trip to Villain Con International to join forces with evil diva Scarlett Overkill.  After traveling to England to overthrow the Queen, the Minions must devise a way to correct their deeds in order to save their fellow friends and the world.  Accompanied by vocal work from Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) and Geoffrey Rush (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Minions slapstick scenarios and soundtrack of rockin’ hits from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.  Packed with eye-popping 3D and three brand-new mini movies, Minions is the animated release making audiences go bananas.  Available December 8th! 

    • Cinderella: Continuing their successful string of live-action features based on their esteemed animated classics, Disney brings the whimsy of Cinderella to a new generation.  Bursting with magic and elegance, Director Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet, Thor) modernization pays homage while, surpassing its 1950 counterpart with its grandiose production design and exceptional performances from Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the titular role and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her wicked stepmother.  One of the finest films of the year, Disney’s Cinderella is the glass slipper that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.  Available now!

    • 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition: Although unhappy with the film’s visual outcome, Walt Disney’s dazzling London-based tale has long been cherished by adoring audiences since its debut in 1961.  Stylistically unique to the delicate precision of other Disney efforts, 101 Dalmatians offers an adventurous tale accompanied by memorable songs and one of Disney’s most beloved antagonists Cruella De Vil.  Shining brighter than ever on Blu-ray, reasons for scooping up 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition this season far exceeds the number of its lovable polka-dotted puppies.  Available now! 

    • Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection: A quarter century since its debut, Rowan Atkinson’s hilariously dimwitted character returns with all 14 episodes of his memorable television show.  Presented by Fabulous Films, in association with Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection provides viewers with suitable supplemental content while, the sheer silliness and physical hijinks of Atkinson’s predominately mum character in all his timeless sketches will most definitely tickle the funny bones of all viewers.  Available now! 

    • Star Wars Rebels - Complete Season One: With less than a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes hold of audiences worldwide, Disney’s first attempts at reestablishing the brand ensures that the Force is in very capable hands.  Taking place before the events of the original film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a ragtag crew of do-gooders determined to take down the Galactic Empire.  With guest appearances from Star Wars alumni such as, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Yoda, this computer-generated Disney XD series packs high-octane action and exciting new characters that have quickly become fan favorites.  With season two airing now, catching up with the crew of the Ghost in their first 15 adventures is the perfect training for young Padawans and Jedi Masters alike.  Available now! 

    • Manimal - The Complete Series: Airing for only a short-lived eight episodes, Fabulous Films and Shout! Factory welcome the animalistic adventures of Manimal: The Complete Series to DVD for the first time ever in the U.S.!  Centering on the wealthy and dashing Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws 3-D), Manimal finds Chase using his abilities to morph into any animal of his choosing to aid the authorities in solving crimes.  Scheduled against the soap opera titan Dallas, Manimal found itself quickly extinct due to low ratings but, has maintained a cult appeal for its over the top premise and impressive transformation sequences.  Wickedly fun, Manimal: The Complete Series also arrives with an interview with Series Creator Co-Creator Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.), Concept & Production Notes, an episode booklet and more.  With Will Ferrel (Elf) and Adam McKay (Step Brothers) actively developing a film version, reliving its goofy originator this holiday season will serve as an ideal journey down memory lane.  Available now!

    • Automan - The Complete Series: From the creative minds behind Tron and Knight Rider, Automan unashamedly melds the two contrasting concepts for this long lost gem of Generation X.  Including all 13 episodes and countless bonus content including, an all-new 42 minute retrospective, Automan centers on computer nerd Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnez Jr., House of the Long Shadows) as he minds his desk work at the local police department.  Using his programming skills, Walter develops an artificial hologram that can exist in the real world.  Accompanied by the computer engineered Automan and a small droid, Walter hits the streets to battle crime.  Cancelled prematurely, Automan: The Complete Series is a sci-fi spectacle of 80s technology and street crime that has thankfully resurfaced in its entirety for the first time in America.  Available now!

    • Agent Carter - The Complete First Season: Reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell stars as secret agent Peggy Carter as she attempts to cope with the loss of Steve Rogers and juggle her position in the male-dominated workforce of the 1940s.  After learning her friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has been framed for supplying weapons to the enemy, Agent Carter must fight to clear his name and recover the stolen goods.  Delivering one of television’s stronger and well-written female characters, Marvel’s Agent Carter is an engaging, tightly paced mini-series that  fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will find themselves instantly hooked on.  Available now!

    • Blood and Lace: Long desired and finally available for the first time on home video, Blood and Lace serves as a bizarre precursor to what would become the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s.  Following the grizzly murder of her prostituting mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is placed in an orphanage, fearful that she will become the next target of her mother’s hammer-wielding assailant.  With orphanage head Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life) and her seedy handyman concealing their share of disturbing secrets, Ellie’s safety becomes even more uncertain.  Filled with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a disturbing twist ending, Blood and Lace is joined by an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title, its theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  In a year of seemingly endless titles from Scream Factory, Blood and Lace stands out as one of their most coveted.  Available now! 

    • The Car: Powered by high-octane evil, this cult classic from Director Elliot Silverstein (Nightmare Honeymoon) stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as a newly appointed sheriff in a desert town disturbed by a devilish automobile hellbent on destroying anyone in its path.  Joined by new interviews with its director and Actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, a theatrical trailer, a newly designed cover art by Scream Factory favorite Justin Osbourn and more, The Car races to Blu-ray just in time for viewers to hitch a ride this Christmas.  Available December 15th! 

    • Eaten Alive: Continuing to impress domestic audiences with their diverse output, Arrow Video delivers another first-rate effort with Tobe Hooper’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Eaten Alive.  Set in the Louisiana wetlands at the seedy Starlight Hotel, owner Judd’s (Neville Brand, The Police Connection) homicidal tendencies run amuck as he feeds unsuspecting guests to his hungry alligator.  Bloody and bizarre, Hooper’s underrated gem arrives restored in 2K from the OCN while, bonus content runs deep with endless featurettes and an impressive 22-page booklet.  As if anymore bait were needed to lure viewers, Eaten Alive is one of the exploitation genres top releases of the year.  Available now!

    • Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, four elderly friends are haunted by a ghostly apparition in their wintry New England town.  Headlined by seasoned icons including, Fred Astaire (Swing Time), Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Little Caesar) and John Houseman (Rollerball), Ghost Story oozes atmosphere and supernatural tension.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory delivers this perfectly timed release with a filmic presentation and a slew of special features from an Audio Commentary with Director John Irvin and new interviews with key cast and crew to vintage trailers and a spooky reversible cover art.  Chilling and stylistically paced, Ghost Story makes for a frightening addition into your horror library this winter season.  Available now!

    • Goodnight Mommy: Hailing from Austria, twin brothers Elias and Lukas are troubled when their mother returns home from surgery, heavily bandaged and acting differently.  Growing more unconvinced of the woman who claims to be their mother, the twins take drastic measures to uncover the terrifying truth.  Similar to an unnerving fever dream, Goodnight Mommy seeps under viewers’ skin with an unsettling tone and an even more frightening finale.  Accompanied with a conversational interview with Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a shocking slice of foreign cinema that easily stands as one of the year’s standout contemporary horror releases.  Available now!

    • White of the Eye: All is not as it seems in 1987’s White of the Eye when an attractive woman falls victims to a demented killer of housewives who uses Indian rituals in his murders.  Helmed by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) and starring David Keith (Firestarter) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), this suspenseful thriller will keep viewers’ blood thoroughly chilled.  Repurposing U.K. distributor Arrow Video’s superb transfer, Scream Factory compliments its release with an Audio Commentary with Director Donald Cammell and Biographer Sam Umland, deleted scenes, an interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg, reversible cover art and more.  Available now!

    • Society: Nightmarish and bold, Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator) directorial debut arrives in a definitive high-definition release from Arrow Video.  Suspecting his wealth family and privileged peers are hiding sinister secrets, paranoid teen Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Days of Our Lives) uncovers a twisted subculture for the richies of Beverly Hills.  Sporting a virtually flawless presentation bursting with bold colors and exceptional clarity, Society comes dripping with newly crafted bonus content that leaves no stone left unturned.  Although its original flesh-covered packaging edition has since sold out, Arrow Video’s standard release of Society is unquestionably one of the best horror releases of 2015!  Available now!

    • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman: Celebrating its 75th anniversary, J.B. Kaufman’s definitive overview of Walt Disney’s animated followup to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a marvel to behold.  Containing over 200 pieces of art and culled from various interviews and recorded conferences, Kaufman’s expertly researched achievement is the finest of its kind and stands as our book of the year!  Available now! 

    • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk: Complimenting the 30th anniversary re-release of the famed trilogy, Klastorin and Atamniuk’s literary companion is a treasure trove for dedicated fans.  Packed with overwhelming insight into each film’s extensive shooting schedule and incredible imagery of production art, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History also treats readers to several removable posters and reproduction pieces.  Further documenting Back to the Future’s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and their exciting attraction at Universal Studios’ theme parks, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passion project is essential reading for all Back to the Future devotees.  Available now!

    • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt: Highlighting the eternally youthful enthusiasm of Writer/Director John Hughes, Honeycutt’s career spanning work contains interviews with Hughes collaborators including, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Buller’s Day Off), Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and more.  Providing insight into Hughes’ family life and heartwarming friendship with the late John Candy, Honeycutt’s humanizing and photograph-filled coverage of Hughes is one you won’t soon forget.  Available now!

    • The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie by Jerry Schmitz: Making their cinematic return this year, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang comes alive in their first CG-animated 3D feature.  Adapting the simplistic yet, treasured designs and wit of Schulz’s beloved creations was no easy task as covered in Schmitz’s enthralling read.  With a foreword by Director Steve Martino, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie describes the painstaking detail in bringing Charlie Brown and friends into a 3D realm while, cracking a story that would faithfully honor their 50-plus year legacy.  Unquestionably one of the year’s best making-of books, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is an invaluable resource for one of the year’s finest films.  Available now!

    • Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films by Douglas Brode: Chronologically ordered, Brode’s historical journey through science-fiction’s latest and greatest cinematic achievements are compiled in one passionate collection.  From 1927’s influential Metropolis to the many gems consisting of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wizardry, Brode’s analysis also awards George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Pixar’s Wall-E and Marvel Studio’s most recent Guardians of the Galaxy as sci-fi’s most remarkable efforts.  Accompanied with rare photographs, ratings and background information on each production, Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films will make a suitable stocking-stuffer for all sci-fi fans.  Available now!

    • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury: Considered one of our favorite films of the year, Mark Salisbury’s stunning look into Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance is breathtaking.  With inspired production art and intriguing character bios, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also explores the practical and digital means in bringing the film’s ghostly creations to life.  With several takeaway items including, a miniature film poster, Salisbury’s guide to one of the year’s most eerily seductive films is an exceptional entryway into del Toro’s fantastical imagination.  Available now!

    • Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke: As Walt Disney looked beyond the success of his short films to the future of animated features, the educational efforts to perfect his artists’ abilities were increased.  Dormant for nearly 80 years, Hahn and Miller-Zarneke’s latest effort resurrects the countless lectures and transcribed classes Disney’s artists were educated in leading up to the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Animation enthusiasts will be fascinated by its indispensable lessons and extraordinary artwork making it one of Disney Editions’ most outstanding gems of the year.  Available now!

    • Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One with Commentary by Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte: Serving as a bonafide nostalgia trip, Abrams Comicarts compiles all five collectible sets and stickers of Topps’ original Star Wars trading cards.  Presented in their entirety, first generation fans will be delighted to own the entire run in this wonderfully presented hardcover.  With welcome commentary from original cards editor Gary Gerani and four bonus trading cards included, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One will return fans back to a childhood from a galaxy far, far away.  Available now!

    • Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace: Akin to Harper Design’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, Insight Editions’ 30 year overview of the Ghostbusters franchise is a rewarding read that traces the pop culture phenomenon of the original two films, their animated television shows plus, the endless merchandise that exploded in their wake.  With interviews from key talent and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and other specialty items, bustin’ will make you feel good after reading Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual HistoryAvailable now!

     

     

  • Assault on New Releases #8: Army of Darkness Collector's Edition (1993), Pixels (2015) & Get Mean (1975) Blu-ray Reviews

     

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #8

    Army of Darkness (1993)

    Director: Sam Raimi

    Starring: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz, Marcus Gilbert, Ian Abercrombie & Richard Grove

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the conclusion of The Evil Dead trilogy, Bruce Campbell (Maniac Cop) headlines Army of Darkness as the chainsaw-wielding Ash, whisked away to the Dark Ages by demons.  Forced to recover the Necronomicon in order to return home, Ash must first lead a castle of knights against an undead army and save his medieval lover (Embeth Davidtz, Matilda) from a devilish version of himself.  Much like its predecessor, Army of Darkness reinterprets its simplistic backstory to offer a uniquely fitted tale without compromising the charms and quirks of its headlining hero.  Transported to the year 1300, Ash finds himself out of his element amongst chivalry until the all too familiar demons of his recent past make their presence known once again.  Using his offbeat charm, Ash woos the beautiful Sheila before awakening an army of skeletons following his own buffoonish missteps in reclaiming the Book of the Dead.  Preserving the horror and comedy of its previous entries, Army of Darkness increases the silliness with slapstick gags at every turn and action-packed sword battles.  Inspired by Jason and the Argonauts, the film’s exciting finale finds our heroes doing battle against a siege of skeletons, impressively brought to life by stop-motion artistry.  In addition, the horrific Deadites, excellently designed by KNB’s Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) and Howard Berger (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), mark a series high for the franchise.  Absurdly entertaining and lovingly over the top, Army of Darkness is arguably the grooviest of The Evil Dead three with a grander scale of charming effects work and Campbell’s dependable charisma packing a shotguns worth of fun.

    Marking its definitive release, Scream Factory proudly presents Army of Darkness’ multiple cuts across a sprawling three discs.  Bearing 1080p transfers, the film’s Theatrical Version (1.85:1, Disc 1), Director’s Cut (1.78:1, Disc 2) and International Cut (1.78:1, Disc 3) arrive with varying pros and cons.  Although a brief omission of footage located in the Theatrical Version has been recognized by the distributor with corrective measures taking place, all three transfers range from respectable to excellent with healthy filmic appearances.  Admittedly, the Director’s Cut, although decently presented, boasts moments of inherent dirt and debris with occasionally splotchy black levels while, the International Cut, sourced from a new 4K scan from the inter-positive, packs the cleanest punch.  Although slight imperfections are noted in each varying transfer, Scream Factory’s efforts have unquestionably surpassed previous releases for the better.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes and optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is efficient and robust while, the film’s goofy sound effects and sword clattering battle sequences ring appreciatively loud.  

    Practically possessed with extensive special features, the well deserved Collector’s Edition release offers on Disc 1, Red Shirt Pictures’ latest and possibly greatest retrospective Medieval Times: The Making of Army of Darkness (1:36:35), the Original Ending (4:37), an Alternate Opening with Commentary by Director Sam Raimi & Actor Bruce Campbell (2:58), Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Director Sam Raimi & Actor Bruce Campbell (11:06), Theatrical Trailer (2:05), TV Spots (1:56) and a U.S. Video Promo (0:32).  In addition, Disc 2 boasts an Audio Commentary with Director Sam Raimi, Actor Bruce Campbell and Co-Writer Ivan Raimi, On-Set Video Footage Compilation (4:40), Creating the Deadities (21:29) where KNB’s Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger showcase how the film’s memorable monsters were concocted, Behind the Scenes Footage from KNB Effects (53:54), Vintage Making of Featurette (4:51) and Extended Interview Clips (5:02).  Furthermore, Disc 3 contains the film’s TV Cut (presented in 1080i, Fullscreen 1:33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix), the International Theatrical Trailer (2:08), Still Galleries with Rare Behind-the-Scenes Photos (28:16), Still Gallery of Props and Rare Photos (4:05), Storyboards (7:37) and The Men Behind the Army featurette (18:58).  Lastly, a Reversible Cover Art including the film’s 1-sheet poster is also included on Scream Factory’s prominently packed release of this cult treasure.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Army of Darkness can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Pixels (2015)

    Director: Chris Columbus

    Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage & Josh Gad

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the 2010 short film by Director Patrick Jean, Pixels finds a decades old video feed misinterpreted by alien lifeforms as a declaration of war.  Utilizing popular characters from 1980s video games to attack Earth, President Will Cooper (Kevin James, Paul Blart: Mall Cop) calls on best friend and former video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler, Hotel Transylvania) and his fellow cronies to use their unique skills to save the planet.  Marking yet another box-office success in Sandler’s long history of triumphs, Pixels blends arcade nostalgia with cutting-edge visuals for a spirited execution in humor and planet destructing action.  Joined by a supporting trio including Michelle Monaghan (True Detective), Peter Dinklage (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Josh Gad (Frozen), Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) finds a playful middle ground allowing him to harken back to his earliest experiences at Amblin Entertainment while, effortlessly catering to Sandler’s comedic sensibilities.  With notable appearances from video game titans such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede, Qbert and more, Pixels keeps laughs fully stocked and our heroes’ colorfully pixelated brawls with extraterrestrials thoroughly entertaining.  Proving to be one of Sandler’s more unique family entertainment offerings in recent years, Pixels is unashamedly fun and fit for unpretentious viewers.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Pixels with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Exceptionally crisp and vibrant, colors leap off the screen with the film’s video game antagonists greatly impressing with their bigger than life appearances.  In addition, skin tones appear natural and excellently detailed while, black levels during climactic battle sequences are consistently inky and excused of any digital disturbances.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is generally strong and authoritative while, the film’s many action sequences serve the track its highest merits.  From car crashes and laser blasts to the iconic sound effects of its 8-bit characters, depth and impressive volume levels never disappoint.  Meanwhile, special features include, the cast and crew discussing the appearances and creations of Pac-Man (4:32), Donkey Kong (4:07), Centipede (3:36), Galaga (3:33), Dojo Quest (4:20) and Qbert (2:32).  In addition, God of the Machine (1:36) finds Pac-Man Creator Toru Iwatani discussing his cameo as an arcade repairman while, a “Game On” Music Video by Waka Flocka featuring Good Charlotte (3:59), The Space Invader (1:40) and a Photo Gallery (42 in total) are also included.  Finally, Previews for Goosebumps (2:32), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2:30), Aloha (2:41), Ricki and the Flash (2:40) and Hotel Transylvania 2 (1:52) are joined by a Digital HD Code and a Pixels Play Along Game App Code.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Pixels can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Get Mean (1975)

    Director: Ferdinando Baldi

    Starring: Tony Anthony, Lloyd Battista, Raf Baldassarre, Diana Lorys & David Dreyer

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the final adventure of the popular Stranger saga, Get Mean finds the mysterious drifter (Tony Anthony, Blindman) approached by a pack of gypsies to escort their princess (Diana Lorys, The Awful Dr. Orlof) back to their native Spain.  Promised a handsome reward upon her safe return, the Stranger finds himself entangled in a war between brutal barbarians and the Moors leading to an explosive showdown of violence.  Unquestionably kooky in comparison to standard spaghetti western fare, Get Mean finds our wild west hero defying time and space on a distant journey to a war-torn Spain littered with hotheaded barbarians.  In hopes of securing a large fortune for the return of Princess Elizabeth Maria De Burgos, the Stranger is confronted with the gloriously over the top barbarian leader Diego (Raf Baldassarre, Thor the Conqueror), his hilariously feminine advisor Alfonso (David Dreyer, Fuzz) and the consistently backstabbing hunchback Sombra (Lloyd Battista, Last Plane Out).  Shot on location in Spain, Get Mean serves as a bizarre time traveling western where historical inaccuracies reign supreme and astounding production value meets shotgun blasting, sword wielding action.  In addition to armies of fur decorated musclemen, the Stranger finds himself briefly overcome by wolflike characteristics at the hands of supernatural forces.  While its tone is intendedly eccentric, Get Mean is rarely uninteresting with a dependable finale that finds our hero taking on the cavalry with the assistance of a fearsome shotgun and a pair of poisonous scorpions.  

    Making its domestic Blu-ray debut, Blue Underground presents Get Mean with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Featuring a brand new high-definition upgrade, colors appear strong with skin tones registering naturally.  Possessing a noticeably filmic appearance throughout its runtime with scratches virtually nonexistent, Get Mean makes its sprawling desert sequences and Spanish castles pop accordingly with rewarding detail found in costume choices.  In addition, black levels are generally strong with only mild hints of crush during several occasions.  While previous spaghetti western releases have been met with questionable results, Get Mean stands as one of Blue Underground’s crowning achievements.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently delivered while music and the abundance of explosions and gunshots make a greater impact.  Joined by a generous supply of extras, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer/Star Tony Anthony, Co-Writer/Star Lloyd Battista & Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider, The Story of the Stranger (23:12) finds Anthony recalling the history of his enduring character, Looking for Richard (11:33) sits down with Battista as he reminisces on the filmmaking experience and his longtime friendship with Anthony.  Also included, Beating a Dead Horse (9:50) where Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider shares his experiences, Tony & I (8:19) with Director Ferdinando Baldi discussing his onset relationship with Anthony, Deleted Scenes (8:28), a Theatrical Trailer (3:23), French Trailer (3:21), Radio Spots (2:00) and a Poster & Still Gallery (56 in total).  Finally, a 16-page Booklet with an engaging essay by Spaghetti Western expert Howard Hughes and a DVD edition of the release conclude the supplemental package.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Blue Underground in a limited edition release, Get Mean can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Last American Virgin (1982) Blu-ray Review

    The Last American Virgin (1982)

    Director: Boaz Davidson

    Starring: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin, Joe Rubbo & Louisa Moritz

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brightly colored 1980s of Los Angeles, The Last American Virgin centers on three best friends, lovestruck virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), chick magnet Rick (Steve Antin, The Goonies) and jokester David (Joe Rubbo, Hot Chili) as they navigate the emotional waters of high school in pursuit of love, parties and sex.  Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead…), Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks), Brian Peck (The Return of the Living Dead) and Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000) co-star.

    Based upon Israel’s popular Lemon Popsicle franchise, The Last American Virgin kicks off as a series of sex comedy clichés finding our three horny teenage leads in search of equally promiscuous females.  From awkwardly hilarious attempts to woo ladies with mock cocaine to joyriding in a pink station wagon and contracting crabs from a lady of the night, the hijinks of teenage hormones is never scarce.  After falling head over heels for the beautiful Karen (Franklin), Gary’s (Monoson) admiration from afar is crushed following best friend Rick’s (Antin) swift moves on her.  Emotionally conflicted, Gary is caught between his genuine feelings for Karen and jealousy towards Rick who views his new girlfriend as merely a source of sexual pleasure.  In a dramatic third act change of gears, The Last American Virgin finds Karen in a fragile predicament with Gary as her only source of support.  Fully devoted to Karen in her desperate time of need, suggested sparks of romance blossom between them.

    Boasting arguably one of the most memorable soundtracks of the decade with top-charting talent including, Blondie, Oingo Boingo, Journey, The Police and REO Speedwagon, The Last American Virgin packs sufficient skin and laughs while remarkably emerging as an honest and heartbreaking account of those tender teenage years.  In one of the more striking tonal shifts in 80s coming-of-age cinema, The Last American Virgin continues to endure for its acute ability to capture the delight and suffering of youth and why it’s all so hard to give up in the end.

    Olive Films presents The Last American Virgin with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of muddier appearances in dim lighting, skin tones appear generally warm and eye-pleasing.  Brightly colored costume choices pop nicely as does the neon lighting found in the film’s diner sequences.  With natural grain evident, occasional instances of flakes, speckles and mild softness are on display yet never overly distracting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue tends to be overshadowed at times by the film’s popular soundtrack.  Similar to past home video releases, the inclusion of Human League’s “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” has once again been substituted by Devo’s “Whip It” while the remainder of songs are intact and pleasantly robust.  Most glaring in comparison to recently stacked overseas editions, no special features are included on this domestic release much to the disappointment of viewers.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Last American Virgin can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983)

    Director: Enzo G. Castellari

    Starring: Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory & Stefania Girolami / Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman, Anna Kakis & Giovanni Frezza / Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D’Obici, Timothy Brent & Antonio Sabato

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blue Underground braces viewers for three doses of post apocalyptic devastation and motorcycle street gangs, Italian style!  First up, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the no man’s land of the Bronx circa 1990 where attempts at law and order have been eliminated.  When a wealthy woman from Manhattan escapes into the wasteland, her corrupt father hires a trained mercenary to recover her.  Unfortunately for the cities corporate brass, gang leader Trash unites rival street dwellers to wage war in order to protect their turf.  Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie), Christopher Connelly (Manhattan Baby), Fred Williamson (Hammer), Mark Gregory (Thunder) and Stefania Girolami (The Last Shark) star.  Next up, set in the year 2019, The New Barbarians takes place in the aftermath of nuclear devastation where the brutal Templars and their leader One rule with an iron fist.  When the lone warrior Scorpion rescues the gorgeous Alma from their grasp, Scorpion joins forces with the tactical Nadir and a struggling group of survivors to battle their evil oppressors.  Giancarlo Prete (Street Law), Fred Williamson (The Legend of Nigger Charley), George Eastman (Stagefright), Anna Kakis (2019: After the Fall of New York) and Giovanni Frezza (The House by the Cemetery) star.  Finally, continuing the exploits of Bronx Warrior Trash (Mark Gregory), Escape from the Bronx takes place in the year 2000 where a wealthy corporation seeks to bulldoze the entire borough to create an upscale community.  Sending death squads to clear out the remaining inhabitants, Trash and fellow gang members refuse to go out without a fight.  Henry Silva (Trapped), Valeria D’Obici (Midnight Killer), Timothy Brent (Ladyhawke) and Antonio Sabato (Grand Prix) co-star.      

    Reminiscent of 1979’s The Warriors, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the gang-infested wasteland of the Bronx where police presence and public safety is nothing but a memory.  When the wealthy and attractive Ann (Girolami) travels to the dangerous area to escape her Manhattan existence, she quickly falls for sympathetic gang leader Trash (Gregory).  Heiress to the family’s powerful company, her corrupt father hires ruthless mercenary Hammer (Morrow) to retrieve her only to be met with resistance from the Bronx’s motorcycle riding deviants.  Shot on location in the increasingly dangerous borough, 1990: The Bronx Warriors comes loaded with top-notch production value from a grittier New York that no longer exists.  Action is a plenty when Ann is captured by the rival Zombies gang, prompting Trash and his loyal Riders to risk life and limb trekking across their danger zone.  Seeking assistance from the King of the Bronx himself, The Ogre (Williamson), Trash and his companions battle countless goofy gang members from tunnel dwelling freakazoids to glitter-faced baton twirlers with hand to hand combat and deadly spears.  As Hammer simultaneously infiltrates the Bronx with blowtorch equipped troops, alliances are compromised amongst Trash and his friends leading to an explosive conclusion with the ruthless Hammer receiving a gloriously pointy demise.  An excellent product of gang war wastelands protecting their turf from the man, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is action-fueled spaghetti cinema at its finest.

    Also known as Warriors of the Wasteland, The New Barbarians rides high on the post-apocalyptic success of 1981’s The Road Warrior.  Following a similar plot line, this Italian production once again realized by Director Enzo G. Castellari (Light Blast) takes place in the not too distant future of 2019 where nuclear devastation has eliminated virtually all life.  Predominately populated by the book hating, totalitarian warriors The Templars and their leader One (Eastman), innocent civilians starve and fear for their lives.  Unapologetic in his disdain for the ruthless gang, lone warrior Scorpion (Prete) rescues the beautiful Alma (Kanakis) from them, determined to find permanent salvation for her.  Shot on location in Rome, The New Barbarians injects an added production value of futuristic vehicles and laughable space age costumes matched with a funky, synth-heavy score courtesy of Claudio Simonetti (Demons) of Goblin fame.  Although teaming up with ace marksman Nadir (Williamson) to protect a group of innocent survivors and Alma, Scorpion suffers the wrath of The Templars by being captured and unexpectedly raped by the skunk-haired One before retaliating full force.  While explosive car stunts impress with plenty of decapitated heads and impaled torsos, The New Barbarians falls somewhere in the middle of mediocrity during a time where Mad Max ripoffs were reaching their maximum.  With plenty of fun to still be had and Williamson stealing scenes with his amusing performance, The New Barbarians entertains but, oftentimes sticks too close to formula to stand on its own merits.

    Following the events of 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx takes place a decade into the future where the neglected borough has continued to rot into further decay.  Former leader of The Riders, Trash (Gregory) is now a respected loner who is once again pulled back into the fire following the murder of his parents by a mega-corporation.  Hellbent on exercising the existing Bronx in order to make way for an idyllic community, the General Construction Corporation send in countless death squads, headed by the savage Floyd Wangler (Silva), to exterminate any remaining occupants.  Joining forces with hometown reporter Moon Gray (Dobson), underground dweller Strike (Brent) and his young son Junior (Alessandro Prete, Ironmaster), the trio rally the support of fellow gangs to fight off the man once again.  Bursting with action and featuring nearly 200 casualties, Escape from the Bronx is a no holds barred followup that manages to bring the Bronx to an even more rubbled state.  With the exception of Henry Silva’s excellent appearance and Timothy Brent’s Strike bludgeoning a villain with the butt of a shotgun, the sequel lacks more memorable supporting characters to compliment Trash’s war against corporate tycoons.  Shot on location in the Bronx and Rome, Escape from the Bronx, under its alternate Escape 2000 title, was lovingly roasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its seventh season awarding it even more cult acclaim.  While falling slightly shorter than its originator, Escape from the Bronx will ultimately leave action buffs raging with testosterone at the sheer volume of over the top fatalities and nonstop explosions.

    Newly transferred in high-definition, Blue Underground presents all three films with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios.  With all films appearing free of any prominent scratches or scruffs, skin tones look pleasing and non waxy with respectable detail on display.  While not entirely free of digital noise, instances of pixelation can be spotted most prominently in the backgrounds of dilapidated buildings seen in 1990: The Bronx Warriors.  Fortunately, these issues are far from deal breaking and are still a vast improvement over their standard definition predecessors.  Colors spotted in flashier costume choices and gore pop nicely offering solid contrast to the bland and desolate environments of the films.  In addition, black levels during the films’ underground sequences can often appear murky and lacking inkier levels.  Admittedly, the transfers do have their shortcomings but, the effort to deliver upgraded products is equally evident with their lush colors and noticeably cleaner appearances leaving expectant fans generally pleased with the results.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is always robust and clear without a trace of hiss or distortion.  Each film’s respective score along with sequences of intense gunfire, laser blasts and fiery explosions emerge from the speakers with noticeable authority that is well balanced throughout.  Bestowed with Collector’s Edition banners, each film arrives with a plethora of exciting bonus content with 1990: The Bronx Warriors including, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 1 (14:09), Sourcing the Weaponry (11:55) where Castellari guides us through the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci and Adventures in the Bronx (7:20) with Stuntmen Massimo Vanni interviewed about his experiences on the film.  In addition, Theatrical Trailers including, the International Trailer (2:42), Italian Trailer (2:41), Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25) are also provided with a Poster & Still Gallery (100 in total) and a DVD edition of the release rounding out the supplemental package.  Next up, The New Barbarians arrives with an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2 (13:55), Tales of the Hammer (20:22) with Star Fred Williamson offering a fascinating career retrospective that stands as the disc’s standout feature.  Also included are Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:25), Italian Trailer #1 (3:26), Italian Trailer #2 (1:58), 1990: The Bronx Warriors Trailer (2:42) and Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15).  Finally, a Poster & Still Gallery (97 in total) and a DVD edition of the release conclude the bonus offerings.  Lastly, Escape from the Bronx includes, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 (13:16), The Hunt for Trash (12:42) with Bronx Warriors Superfan Lance Lanley sharing his passion and enthusiasm for the films along with Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:15), Italian Trailer (3:15), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (2:42) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25).  A Poster & Still Gallery (77 in total) and a DVD edition of the release are also included.  

    Submerging viewers with a trinity of post-apocalyptic warfare and urban gang battles, Blue Underground ensures an action-packed serving of spaghetti cinema for cult enthusiasts.  While 1990: The Bronx Warriors is the fan favorite of the three, The New Barbarians still offers a fun dose of futuristic goofiness with Escape from the Bronx assaulting viewers with endless action.  Newly transferred in high-definition, each film makes earnest strides, with a few warts along the way, in delivering noticeable upgrades from their past releases.  With impressive remastered mixes and brand new, quality bonus features, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx make their Blu-ray debuts with a thundering crash, ready to wage war on your cult library!

    1990: The Bronx Warriors RATING: 4/5

    The New Barbarians RATING: 3.5/5

    Escape from the Bronx RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Thrashin' (1986) / Johnny Be Good (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Thrashin‘ (1986) / Johnny Be Good (1988)

    Director(s): David Winters / Bud Smith

    Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley & Sherilyn Fenn / Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Gleason & Uma Thurman

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Riding the retro waves, Olive Films presents two bodacious favorites from the 1980s.  Starring Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) as competing skater Corey Webster, Thrashin’ finds the hotshot California kid, along with his posse of Ramp Locals, heading to Los Angeles for the intense downhill skating competition.  Along the way, Corey falls for the gorgeous Chrissy (Pamela Gidley, Cherry 2000) and butts heads with rival skate gang, The Daggers.  Robert Rusler (Weird Science), Brooke McCarter (The Lost Boys), Chuck McCann (DuckTales) and Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) co-star.  Next up, Johnny Be Good stars Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles) as high school quarterback Johnny Walker.  Sought out by the country’s top colleges, Johnny is torn between lucrative offers or joining his girlfriend to pursue a well-rounded education.  Navigating difficult decisions, Johnny finds himself in countless comedic situations.  Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) co-star  

    Cashing in on the thriving popularity of skateboarding, Thrashin’ centers on ambitious teenager Corey Webster (Brolin) as he heads to Los Angeles to compete in the downhill skating competition with hopes of being sponsored by a successful skate company.  Joined by his pals The Ramp Locals, Corey grinds and kickflips his way into the heart of the gorgeous Chrissy (Gidley) who’s visiting her older brother, Tommy Hook (Rusler), and leader of rival skategang, The Daggers.  Determined to win the downhill race and fuming over his sister’s new romance, Tommy and Corey’s rivalry intensifies.  Infamously known for casting Johnny Depp in the lead role, along with then girlfriend Sherilyn Fenn, before being rejected by the producer, Thrashin‘s plot may be paint by numbers but, knows how to have fun within its simplicities.  Highlighting early appearances from iconic skaters including, Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi, along with a musical performance from the up and coming Red Hot Chili Peppers, the film serves as a charming time capsule of California hotspots during the decadent decade.  With much of the film capturing exciting skate sequences, other memorable moments include a hilarious jousting scene between Corey and Tommy that is as ridiculous as it sounds and Rusler’s Tommy negatively informing break dancers that “breakin‘ is a memory”.  While its teenage underdog tale is as predictable as it comes, Thrashin‘ delights with its flashy style and remains a cinematic document for skate culture during its transition into the mainstream.

    Marking his sole directing effort, veteran editor Bud Smith (Cruising, The Karate Kid) finds Anthony Michael Hall continuing to stretch beyond the geekier roles that ushered him to prominence.  High school football prospect Johnny Walker (Hall) is being courted by every desirable university in the country while juggling with his desire for top dollars and his loyalty to girlfriend Georgia (Thurman).  Complimented by teen flick favorites Paul Gleason (She’s Having a Baby) and Robert Downey Jr. (Tuff Turf), Johnny Be Good ultimately suffers from a dull storyline that lacks any sizable laughs.  Previously serving as a solid supporting player in Weird Science and Back to School, Downey Jr.’s attempts at comedic relief crash and burn while, his chemistry with Hall is nonexistent.  As Johnny travels the country visiting different potential universities, the intended debauchery that ensues is poorly constructed and a bore.  With limited screen time, Uma Thurman’s turn as Johnny’s girlfriend Georgia feels forced and does little to provide an engaging romance between the characters.  Reaching its end zone in a rather obvious manner, Johnny Be Good is as underwhelming as it comes with Hall arguably turning in his most forgettable performance of the decade.  

    Olive Films presents both Thrashin‘ and Johnny Be Good with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Boasting filmic layers of grain, skin tones are refreshingly natural while bolder colors found in Thrashin‘s skateboarding attire and Johnny Be Good’s football uniforms pop nicely.  Flakes and speckles are minimally displayed with Thrashin‘ boasting slightly more during more intense skating sequences.  Meanwhile, black levels are displayed clearly with no intruding levels of crush.  Unquestionably, both films have never looked better!  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films project dialogue richly while soundtrack selections offer a mild, slightly underwhelming, boost in authority.  No special features are included on either release.

    Turning back the clock to the fun-loving 1980s, Olive Films upgrades two efforts centering on skateboarders and jocks respectively.  Spotlighting the sunny avenues of Los Angeles, Thrashin‘ is a brightly colored snapshot of skate culture’s rise to popularity. Equally fun and cheesy, the Josh Brolin-starrer is a blast from the past that is built on adrenaline and fun.  Unfortunately, Johnny Be Good is a lackluster effort with bland characters, zero laughs and Anthony Michael Hall phoning in one of his weakest performances.  With the exception of ditching Thrashin’s previously available supplements, Olive Films ushers both films on high-definition with pleasing results that rank highly over past releases.

    Thrashin‘ RATING: 4/5

    Johnny Be Good RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Thrashin‘ and Johnny Be Good can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.