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Currently showing posts tagged 1995

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

    Tales from the Hood (1995)

    Director: Rusty Cundieff

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Village of the Damned (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Village of the Damned (1995)

    Director: John Carpenter

    Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Mark Hamill & Meredith Salenger

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Director John Carpenter’s (Halloween, The Thing) modernization of the 1960 British feature, Village of the Damned finds the small village of Midwich interrupted by unseen forces, leaving ten of the town’s women mysteriously pregnant.  Joining together to uncover the truth behind the phenomenon, local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve, Superman) and government scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley, Look Who’s Talking) realize the birth of the bleach blonde children is only the beginning of Midwich’s troubles.  Linda Kozlowski (Crocodile Dundee), Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Meredith Salenger (Lake Placid) co-star.

    Retaining the town’s name but substituting its original British location for northern California, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned remains relatively close to its source material while, injecting subtle perspective changes through its narrative.  Starring the late Christopher Reeve in his final role before his devastating paralyzation, Carpenter’s remake, unlike that of his reimagining of 1952’s The Thing from Another World, takes little creative risk in crafting a truly unique experience with character development for the film’s adult actors appearing stunted and uneven, indubitably caused by studio interference.  Following Midwich’s bizarre blackout leaving ten women impregnated, the film attempts to shift focus onto single mother Jill McGowan (Kozlowski) and the weight of raising her peculiar newborn son and grieving over the loss of her husband.  An inspired deviation from the original film, Village of the Damned unfortunately never affords the proper time to fully invest in its soon-to-be victims as attention is juxtaposed with scientist Dr. Susan Verner’s (Alley) own interest in the children’s development.  Highly intelligent and appearing intendedly from another era, the blonde-haired younglings finesse their supernatural powers of mind control, prompting an increase of harrowing suicides in the community.  With humanity all but lost on the majority of the sinister children, recently widowed local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Reeve) makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring stability to the human race.  

    Pronounced by Carpenter to be more a contractual obligation than a passion project, Village of the Damned offers strong performances from Reeve as Midwich’s good-natured doctor confronted with otherworldly forces while, Lindsey Haun (True Blood) as the clan’s evil leader and Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the only blonde child with a heart deliver both effective and emotional moments.  Surely not as daring as other Carpenter efforts, Village of the Damned has aged better than expected, amid its developmental character struggles, to remain suitably entertaining.

    Scream Factory presents Village of the Damned with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Featuring beautiful photography of its sunny, rural locations, colors are prominent with flesh tones appearing equally lush and finely detailed.  In addition, the blindingly blonde hair of the film’s antagonists pop accordingly with black levels always appearing smooth and balanced.  With no signs of damage and boasting an exceptionally filmic quality, Village of the Damned makes an impactful leap to high-def.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, Carpenter and Dave Davies of The Kinks’ music establish intended levels of eeriness.  Suspenseful sound queues and explosive gunfire in the film’s third act also provide the mix with a strong depth that appropriately enhances the viewing experience.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Rightly earning itself a spot in Scream Factory’s coveted Collector’s Edition series, plentiful special features include, It Takes a Village: The Making of John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (49:17).  This top-notch featurette finds Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King, Special Make Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero and countless cast members reflecting on their experiences making the troubled film with nothing but warm memories and an overflow of behind-the-scenes info.  In addition, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:58) finds host Sean Clark revisiting the original shooting locations today, The Go To Guy: Peter Jason on John Carpenter (45:13) sits down with the Carpenter regular as he reflects on his many collaborations with the famed director plus, Vintage Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes (24:40), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:59), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (23 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster round out another knockout spread of supplements for the horror sub label.

    While not one of Carpenter’s finest moments but, by no means his worst, Village of the Damned has its setbacks yet, contains sizable levels of fun that likeminded viewers shouldn’t dismiss.  With more studio support, Carpenter’s contractual obligation could have fared far better than originally received although, its final product has aged more gracefully than most modern remakes.  In quite possibly their home video swan song to the director’s filmography, Scream Factory ensures an exceptional high-definition transfer and a glut of bonus features that will surely control viewers minds.  Beware the children cautiously but, resisting Village of the Damned’s Collector’s Edition will be futile!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 12th from Scream Factory, Village of the Damned can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Living in Oblivion (1995) 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    Living in Oblivion (1995)

    Director: Tom DiCillo

    Starring: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, James Le Gros & Peter Dinklage

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Centering on the problematic struggles of independent filmmaking, Living in Oblivion stars Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire) as strung out movie maker Nick Reve.  Low on patience and intensely overwhelmed with obtaining the necessary scenes for his latest film, hilarious insanity ensues amongst onset drama, egotistical actors and his own elderly mother walking onto set.  Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Dermot Mulroney (Stoker), James Le Gros (Point Break) and Peter Dinklage (Games of Thrones) co-star.

    Developed out of Director Tom DiCillo’s (Johnny Suede) own frustrations helming his debut effort and continuous problems securing financing for future projects, Living in Oblivion takes a satirical yet, bizarrely accurate look at the insanity of crafting cinema.  Divided into three sections, the indie effort juxtaposes between black-and-white photography and color as passionate filmmaker Nick Reve (Buscemi) is haunted by nightmare scenarios taking place on set of his latest picture.  From intrusive boom mics slipping into frame to the camera operator falling ill mid sequence, the line between fantasy and fiction become drastically melded.  Also experiencing anxiety riddled dreams, lead actress Nicole Springer (Keener) attempts to conceal a one-night stand with her conceited co-star Chad Palomino (Le Gros) that eventually spills onto set, causing an all-out war amongst Nick and his headliners.  Amusingly segueing to the reality of the set, Nick attempts to stage a dream sequence involving Nicole and hot-headed dwarf Tito (Dinkalge in his film debut) who doesn’t take kindly to direction.  Making matters worse, Nick’s senile mother wanders onto set to become the unexpected savior of the troubled production.

    Shot during a fast-paced 16 day schedule and funded through close friends, Living in Oblivion is a comical depiction of the pain and compromise seldom discussed about the filmmaking process.  Steve Buscemi shines as the hopeful director attempting to roll with the hiccups while, simultaneously losing his mind.  Supported by side-splitting turns by Dermot Mulroney as the eye-patch wearing cameraman Wolf and James Le Gros as a Hollywood hotshot chasing arthouse praise, their conflicting personalities and antagonizing exchanges with one another make for some of the film’s most humorous moments.  While the indie wave of the decade paved the way for such notable talents as Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Richard Linklater (Slacker), no feature captured the pride swallowing agonies of no budget filmmaking in such a supremely quirky and playful way as Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion.

    Shout! Factory presents Living in Oblivion with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a new restoration supervised by DiCillo, the film, shot on 16mm with its later half upgraded to 35mm, debuts with considerable speckling during its opening titles that decrease during its runtime while, boasting occasional scratches elsewhere.  Early moments incorporating black-and-white photography also appear expectedly soft but never unacceptable.  Considering its minimal budget and chosen film stock, the feature looks as good as can be expected with skin tones registering mostly natural and bold colors found in lively wardrobe choices and the faux set popping most nicely.  While it may not always sparkle and shine like most Hollywood blockbusters, Shout! Factory’s most recent restoration of this low-budget favorite marks its finest home video appearance to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible and pleasing with only minor instances of pops heard.  Character driven and light on dynamic sound effects, the mix is more than adequate for the film’s limited means.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tom DiCillo, the newly produced retrospective In Our Own Oblivion: The Miracle of Making a Film (42:20) welcomes DiCillo, Producer Marcus Viscidi and Stars Steve Buscemi, James Le Gros, Danielle von Zerneck and Peter Dinklage as they share their memories of the production.  In addition, a Deleted Scene (2:07), Q&A with Tom DiCillo & Steve Buscemi (16:43) and a DVD edition round out the gracious supplemental package.

    Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Living in Oblivion, although mildly dated in how technologically simple indie productions have become to produce, still feels refreshingly accurate in tracing the dilemmas and never-ending setbacks involved in movie-making.  Snappily written and earning the Best Screenplay Award during 1995’s Sundance Film Festival, Director Tom DiCillo’s heartache and frustrations thankfully gave birth to an ingeniously funny examination of guerrilla filmmaking and its dementedly devoted creators like few have.  Wonderfully appreciated by its distributor, Shout! Factory honors the beloved indie favorite with an admirable restoration and a pleasing spread of vintage and newly produced special features.  Sometimes surreal but always hysterical, Living in Oblivion has yet to lose its delightfully offbeat charm.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 17th from Shout! Factory, Living in Oblivion can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Babysitter (1995) Blu-ray Review

    The Babysitter (1995)

    Director: Guy Ferland

    Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Jeremy London, J.T. Walsh, Nicky Katt & George Segal

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following her turn as ditzy blonde bombshell in Clueless, Alicia Silverstone stars in The Babysitter.  When Harry and Dolly Tucker (J.T. Walsh, The Negotiator and Lee Garlington, Psycho II) attend a local party, the attractive Jennifer (Silverstone) is entrusted to babysit their children.  As the night progresses, Jennifer receives advances from her drunken boyfriend Jack (Jeremy London, Mallrats) and his manipulative friend Mark (Nicky Katt, Insomnia).  In addition to being the object of the elder Harry’s sexual desires, Jennifer’s quiet night of babysitting spirals into an unnerving evening she won’t soon forget.

    Overly relying on erotic daydreams of its attractive lead concocted by most of the supporting cast, The Babysitter lacks knowledge of its own intentions.  While Harry quietly drools over the teenage babysitter, Jennifer’s boyfriend Jack is pursued by his estranged former friend Mark forcing viewers to endure meandering dialogue of little value.  As the film’s parental figures drunkenly long for passionate affairs, Jack is duped into stalking his own girlfriend after kindly being told to not visit her while babysitting.  Crosscutting between the film’s reality, Harry’s own scandalous fantasies and Jack’s never ending thoughts of “what if” possibilities, The Babysitter never finds it footing as the erotic thriller it strives to be.  Attempting to resuscitate itself in its final fleeting moments with the core characters brought together by tragedy, Director Guy Ferland’s (Telling Lies in America) directorial debut fails to weave a compelling tale with character development greatly suffering.  Unsurprisingly, The Babysitter was lambasted direct to video during its original release with time doing little good to this tensionless feature.  Scared and confused, Jennifer asks her bizarrely weak-minded boyfriend what he was thinking following the film’s events, leaving viewers asking similar questions regarding the film’s quality or lack thereof.  

    Olive Films presents The Babysitter with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Presumably struck from a dated master, the picture boasts a softness that yields a less than desirably sharper appearance.  Colors are mostly satisfying with Mark’s sports car popping nicely and black levels possessing inky levels.  Meanwhile, skin tones range from mediocre to unpleasantly muddled in closeups while flakes and speckles are largely kept to a minimum but still occasionally present.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficiently audible with little else of merit.  No special features have been included on this release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Babysitter can be purchased via OliveFilms.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Tank Girl (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Tank Girl (1995)
    Director: Rachel Talalay
    Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts & Malcolm McDowell
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cult classics are found in many shapes and sizes and this 1995 futuristic flick is no exception.  Based on the popular British comic-strip from creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, this zany exercise in post-apocalyptic storytelling mixed with an action-packed extravaganza dished out by a ruthless sex-bomb makes this a film to be experienced firsthand.  With a unique cast and an eccentric production design, does Tank Girl have the chops to truly be hailed as the cult classic many seem to claim it is?  Load up your ammunition and let’s explore, shall we...

    Tank Girl takes place in the year 2033 where after a meteor has struck the planet, humanity just isn’t quite the same.  Water has become the most sought after item and Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of Water & Power, controls all the water in the world... or so he thinks.  An army of half-men/half-kangaroos known as The Rippers and a kick ass girl (Lori Petty) with a tank in tow are this villains roadblock in complete domination of the planet.  Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-star in this wildly action-packed flick.

    MOVIE:
    Films that are hailed as “cult classics” tread a very thin line between an unsuspecting viewer loving or hating the material.  In positive experiences, the timing and a heavy dose of nostalgia play into fans falling in love with a particular film that most mainstream audiences just “didn’t get”.  In the case of Tank Girl, I approached the material for the first time having only an appreciation for the cast and crew and a brief knowledge of the films background.  Director Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine) explains in the discs supplemental features that Tank Girl is a film that should rate between a one or a 10 for viewers, but hopefully not somewhere in the middle.  For better or worse, that’s exactly where Tank Girl fell for me as the end credits graced my screen.  The chaotic spirit and lack of a strong narrative, which apparently was keeping true to its comic book source, had its moments of charm but would also tread on the lines of annoyance.  Lori Petty’s performance is what makes the film what it is, but there lied the problems.  While at one moment I’d be rooting for Tank Girl, scenes later I’d feel utterly irritated by Petty’s corkiness.  It’s an odd complaint which ultimately made this film fall somewhere in the middle of the road for me.  The supporting cast of Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Cat People), Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) add great sparks to the film with McDowell hamming it up as a mix between a wacky James Bond villain and a culprit Mystery Inc. would nab.  A shy Watts, quiet and reserved, injects a nice air of gravity to Petty’s time-bomb performance while Ice-T, covered in a phenomenal make-up design by the late Stan Winston (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) does a great job being himself frankly.  One of the film’s strongest points is the spectacular production design contributed by Catherine Hardwicke who would go onto a successful directing career with hits like Thirteen and Twilight.  The film manages to accomplish quite a lot with the modest budget they were on and attempted to break the mold of action-orientated movies by having a female pulling all the stops both in front and behind the camera.  Talalay brought so much passion to the material that is evident in every frame and it’s a shame to see she hasn’t directed a feature film since as she has a wonderful eye.  Tank Girl is a film that I didn’t love nor hate with a passion, I appreciated many attributes to it while also wrestling with moments of annoyance.  The film packs wonderful doses of action, shootouts and explosions galore with a radical soundtrack to boot.  It’s easy to see why this film wears the medal of a “cult classic”, a lot of audiences just “got it” and continue to discover it while others didn’t and probably never will.  Fortunately, my first experience with the film was far from a disaster and one I look forward to revisiting in the future to see how kind time will be to it.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Shout! Factory presents Tank Girl in 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For my money, the film looks wonderful.  Colors and detail are robust while skin tones are remarkably accurate and black levels appear clear as can be.  McDowell’s icy blue eyes never looked creepier and subtleties like facial makeup look superb.  Sure, there’s a few minor notices of dust and specks but the healthy layer of grain adds a juicy filmic essence to its presentation.  I’m not entirely sure I could have asked for more.  Well done!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tank Girl comes accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that sounds just as terrific as its video presentation looks.  From the opening title sequence where Devo’s "Girl U Want" plays, you know you’re in for a nice, loud treat.  Dialogue comes across with no hitches and sound effects, particularly during larger action scenes, the mix really rattles your speakers for an enjoyable listen.  A terrific companion to a terrific video presentation!  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is included.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Dubbed a Collector’s Edition, Shout! Factory does justice to this cult classic with a juicy assortment of vintage and newly made supplements.

    - Audio Commentary with Actress Lori Petty and Director Rachel Talalay

    - Baseball, Tank and Bad Tattoos: An Interview with Lori Petty: A nice interview with leading lady Lori Petty that runs over 20 minutes.  Petty not only discusses her involvement with and impact of Tank Girl but also touches upon other noteworthy titles in her filmography such as Point Break, A League of Their Own as well as Freddy’s Nightmares.

    - Too Hip for Spielberg: An Interview with Rachel Talalay: Another over 20 minute interview, this time with Director Rachel Talalay where she touches on her first encounter with the source material, props that she retained from the making of the film and the uphill battle to get Tank Girl made.  Talalay’s enthusiasm and interesting tidbits on the production easily made this my favorite featurette.

    - Creative Chaos: Designing the World of Tank Girl with Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke: Hardwicke sits down for over 18 minutes discussing her lucky break with Tank Girl and exciting stories during the making of the film.  Hardwicke injects a humorous tale about Courtney Love taking up a brief residency in her home at the time of the film’s making.

    - Vintage Making of Tank Girl Featurette

    - Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tank Girl is a unique, frantic and wildly ambitious film that will leave most audiences loving or hating it by its finale.  Personally, the film fell somewhere in between with an appreciation for the cast and crew and the strong production design being the major highlights.  It’s too early to tell if Tank Girl will age like a fine wine or spoil like outdated milk but in the meantime, I’m content knowing the film didn’t fall entirely flat for me.  Director Rachel Talalay has found a successful career directing mainly television but a return to feature films is long overdue as the woman has a great eye for popcorn cinema.  Shout! Factory did an exquisite job making this Collector’s Edition shine with involvement from not only its leading star but also its Director and Production Designer who has gone onto much higher levels of success since 1995.  The video and audio presentation are as strong as I could have anticipated and the inclusion of a reversible cover was a nice bow on an already well handled package.  While, Tank Girl left me slightly stranded in the middle, Shout! Factory’s care into this release earns flying colors and a strong recommendation for any lover of cult cinema.
    RATING: 4.5/5