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  • Bambi (1942) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Bambi (1942)

    Director(s): David Hand, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield & Normal Wright

    Starring: Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, Peter Behn, Stan Alexander, Paula Winslowe, Will Wright & Ann Gillis

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Felix Salten’s novel, Bambi charts a young deer’s adventures in the wild from infancy to maturity as memorable moments and dangerous encounters shape him into the prince of the forest he was born to be.

    Intended to be Walt Disney’s followup to his critically acclaimed debut of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the tale’s bleaker tone and Disney’s perfectionism to capture realistic animated depictions of the characters required years of extensive development before fully coming to fruition.  A master of intuitive storytelling, Disney’s softening of the material for his family-friendly audience proved wise while, the slow and oftentimes demanding nature of bringing more lifelike expression to forest animals than ever before would payoff as one of the studio’s most visually dazzling sights.  Quieter on dialogue with the changing of seasons, complimented by musical orchestrations and the chimes of nature’s critters, unfolding the narrative, Bambi invites viewers to the miracle of a baby deer’s birth as we witness his first steps and words before befriending lifelong friends Thumper, the adorable scene-stealing bunny, and Flower, a bashful skunk.  Cared for by his protective mother and slowly learning how to survive the harsh winter seasons, the threat of gun-touting hunters alter the young deer’s life forever in a sequence long considered one of Disney’s most tragically effective.  Taken in by the fatherly great prince of the woods, Bambi comes of age, returning to the wilderness of his youth to reunite with old friends, falls for a fellow deer and faces his greatest challenge yet when his home is engulfed in flames.  

    The fifth of Disney’s cherished animated features only behind other such classics as Fantasia and Dumbo, Bambi excels through its gorgeous visuals and flawless animation that once again set a new bar of excellence for the studio.  A costly investment that failed to recoup its original budget, Bambi’s impact on audiences has never wavered and continues to delight viewers with its humorous moments of Bambi struggling to find his balance on ice and the tearjerking drama conveyed through its moments of personal loss.  A touchstone achievement with timeless themes of love and conservation at its core, Bambi stands as animation’s lasting love letter to nature and all its majestic inhabitants.

    Recycling their Diamond Edition transfer from 2011, Walt Disney Studios’ Home Entertainment’s 1080p transfer (1:33:1) of Bambi is just as marvelous as before with the gorgeous greenery of the woods, vibrants colors found in the various furs of the animals and fantastic background paintings looking flawless.  Meanwhile, the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is once again on hand delivering dialogue clearly and giving eloquent force to Frank Churchill and Edward H. Plumb’s beautifully dreamy score.  

    In addition to presenting the Original Theatrical Edition (1:09:50) with optional DisneyView and a thoroughly interesting Inside Walt’s Story Meetings: Extended Edition (1:35:55), new supplements include, Studio Stories: Bambi (4:56) featuring archival recordings of Walt Disney culled from interviews circa 1956, Deleted Scenes (7:25) with introductions by Animator Floyd Norman, an Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Africa Before Dark (5:50) short film, The Bambi Effect (3:00) and Bambi Fawn Facts (3:34).  Furthermore, vintage bonus features carried over feature Classic Deleted Scenes (3:07), a Deleted Song: “Twitterpated” (1:52), The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born (53:15), Tricks of Our Trade (Excerpt) (7:18), Inside the Disney Archives (8:39), The Old Mill: Animated Short (8:58), The Golden Age (6:24) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12).  Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Cars 3 (0:57) and Beauty and the Beast (1:38) round out the on-disc extras.  Additionally, Celebrating Tyrus Wong (8:56), available only digitally, examines the long life of the famed artist, who passed away only last year at the age of 106, and his lasting impressions on Bambi.  Fans are also treated to a Collectible Tyrus Wong Lithograph in the packaging’s interior while, a DVD edition and Digital HD are also provided.

    Retaining the same splendid audio and visual specifications as its previous outing on Blu-ray, Bambi’s Signature Collection Edition joins the line with several new worthy supplements including a new Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short while, a stash, albeit incomplete, selection of classic extras are also on-hand.  Lovers, young and old, of Disney’s golden age efforts will be delighted to add this quintessential feature into their collections if they haven’t already and cherish the breathtaking sights of Bambi and his furry friends for years to come.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Bambi can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pinocchio (1940) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Pinocchio (1940)

    Director(s): Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Norman Ferguson, Jack Kinney, Wilfred Jackson & T. Hee

    Starring: Dickie Jones, Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards, Mel Blanc, Charles Judels & Evelyn Venable

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Walt Disney’s animated masterpiece, Pinocchio finds a magical wooden puppet coming to life and assisted by his conscience, the faithful Jiminy Cricket.  In an adventurous quest that tests the impressionable marionette’s bravery and honesty, the wave crashing events will determine his desire to become a real boy to his loving creator Geppetto.

    Based on, albeit severely deviating, from Carlo Collodi’s enduring tale, Disney’s followup to the spectacle of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs eclipses its predecessor in every way.  With the profits of Disney’s animated feature-length debut handy, technical advancements from blended color effects to animated underwater realism and a profound desire to prove his studio and artists were more than one-trick ponies, Pinocchio stands as the defining work of a creator unrestricted by his limitless imagination, never to be seen or experienced on such a grand scale again.  Yearning for a child of his own, lonely toymaker Geppetto wishes upon a star for his latest puppet to become a real boy.  Given life to his wooden body by the enchanting Blue Fairy, Pinocchio must prove himself honest and brave before the wish can truly come to fruition.  Narrating the film’s proceedings and serving as Pinocchio’s personal conscience, pint-sized Jiminy Cricket promises to guide the now stringless puppet on his journey of self-discovery.  As temptation rears its head and ignoring the advice of Jiminy, Pinocchio finds himself conned by the swindling Honest John and his feline companion Gideon before being sold to the heinous Stromboli as a moneymaker in his puppet sideshow and whisked away to the anarchic Pleasure Island by a devilish Coachman.  While Geppetto, along with his faithful pets Figaro and Cleo, frantically search for his son, Pinocchio is absorbed by the island’s seedy activities and ultimately transformed into a donkey.  Before long, Pinocchio’s family is swallowed whole by the ghastly whale Monstro, inspiring the wooden boy and Jiminy Cricket to risk life and limb to save them from certain doom and rightly earning his place as a real boy.

    A clear advancement over Walt Disney’s game-changing opus just three years earlier, Pinocchio is the fullest embodiment of Disney’s visionary style and also the studio’s bleakest effort produced during its Golden era.  Retaining the cautionary tone of age-old folktales, Pinocchio urges young viewers to mind menacing temptations and remain truthful while, at its core, is a heartfelt story concerning fathers and sons.  From its serene beginnings in Geppetto’s warm workshop to the foreboding downpours and unwholesome characters Pinocchio encounters on his road to righteousness, the film serves as a fabled account of prepubescent maturity.  Through the garishly intriguing sights of Pleasure Island and Pinocchio’s frightening confrontation with Monstro, the unrelenting suspense and drama captured in these sequences are unparalleled in Disney’s vast history.  Juxtaposed with touching yet, not overly sentimental warmth and comical sight gags at the expense of the puppet’s naiveté, Pinocchio runs the emotional gamut with ease and utmost precision.  With his money firmly placed where his mouth was once again, Disney spared no expense from the film’s grandest moments to its more rudimentary details presenting a feature eclipsing anything produced by its makers, earning its place as Disney’s gold standard for all other features to be compared to.

    Recycling the technical specifications of its Platinum Edition release, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Pinocchio with a 1080p transfer, retaining its 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  A mark of high-definition excellence, colors are vast and bold with age-related anomalies nonexistent and black levels appearing deeply rich.  Furthermore, the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix strongly relays the film’s dialogue levels and award winning score with only mild exchanges of softness that is less a complaint then an observation.  Newly produced supplements on this release include, the two-part featurette The Pinocchio Project: “When You Wish Upon A Star” with The Project (3:03) focusing on the recoding of the beloved track’s cover with interviews from the musical participants while, The Video (2:49) presents the finished music video of the completed song.  In addition, Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island (7:14) takes transcriptions from 1938-1939 story meetings and presents them with recreated narrations and stills to detail the development of this awe-inspiring sequence.  Also included, In Walt’s Words - Pinocchio (4:48) is an archival recording of Walt Disney from interviews conducted in 1956 and his thoughts on his animated followup.  Lastly, Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” (5:19), an animated short featuring Disney’s pre-Mickey star rounds out the release’s new to disc bonus  features.

    Offering the film’s Original Theatrical Edition, DisneyView and Sing-Along with the Movie options, classic bonus features ported over include, No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio (56:09), Deleted Scenes (10:33), The Sweatbox (6:25), Geppetto’s Then and Now (10:57), Live-Action Reference Footage (9:57) and a Publicity section featuring the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52), the 1984 re-release Theatrical Trailer (1:25) and the 1992 re-release Theatrical Trailer (1:33).  Furthermore, “When You Wish Upon A Star” Music Video by Meaghan Jette Martin (3:14), A Wish Come True: The Making of Pinocchio (5:06), a Storyboard-To-Film Final Comparison (4:04) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:17), Elena of Avalor (0:17), Born in China (1:14), 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) and Moana (1:37) round out the entirety of the disc’s supplemental offerings while, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Simply stated, the artistic majesty, adventurous storytelling and iconic characters of Disney’s Pinocchio make the film a direct result of wishing upon a star and witnessing true magic come alive.  Released in a golden era of unequivocal classics, Disney’s daring second feature is unlike anything else with a beauty and emotional core unmatched, soaring above the others as the studio’s towering achievement.  Retaining its Platinum Edition’s already flawless restoration, the Signature Collection’s handful of new and stockpile of vintage supplements make those without this essential slice of animated perfection a no-brainer.  

    RATING: 5/5

    Available January 31st from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pinocchio can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Black Christmas (1974) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Black Christmas (1974)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder & John Saxon 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, A Christmas Story), Black Christmas finds a houseful of sorority sisters stalked by a menacing stranger.  Harassed with obscene phone calls and violently picked off by the mysterious killer, fear and panic overwhelms the friends when their assailant proves to be closer than they thought.  Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) star.

    Hailing from the chilly Canadian north and predating John Carpenter’s 1978 trick-or-treating opus, Black Christmas, largely overlooked for its impact within the genre casts a masterfully suspenseful tone that continues to cut like a sharp icicle over four decades later.  Set within the bustling college town of Bedford, the ladies of the Pi Kappa Sigma house are prepping for their holiday getaways from school when terror strikes.  Disturbingly vulgar phone calls quickly turns into murder leaving the remaining sorority sisters scared for their own lives.  Brought to life by a diverse cast of local talent and thriving domestic stars, the house residents quickly gain the admiration of audiences for their naturalness and their unique character developments that find them struggling with alcoholism and relationship woes.  Unsettled by the murder of a young child and disappearance of their dwindling housemates, an investigation, led by Lt. Kenneth Fuller (Saxon), turns up more questions than answers related to the true culprit.  Incorporating POV footage from the killer long before its use became commonplace and encasing the film in a suffocating grip of dread eased only by well-injected touches of light humor, Black Christmas excels in its methodical plotting that although, slower-paced, serves the pre-slasher effort increasingly well.  Successfully tripping viewers up with several red herrings, tightly edited death scenes juxtaposed with Christmas caroling children and a strong “less is more” approach to its macabre narrative, Black Christmas remains one of the finest slices of holiday horror with twists not seen coming and a frightening finale that lives up to its cheeky tagline.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the original negative, Disc 1 features Black Christmas with a 1080p transfer, sporting the director’s preferred 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In order to temper expectations, Scream Factory appreciatively alerted viewers of inherent damage to the negative that remains present although, not hopefully intrusive.  True to their word and free of any digital noise, skin tones are natural-looking while, contrast is nicely more boosted than previous releases with colors in costume textures and patterns appearing lively.  Instances of speckling remain on display throughout the film but remain noticeably more cleaned up than before while, black levels also even out nicely with passing moments of murkiness observed.  Amidst its age-related anomalies, presentation is filmic as can be earning Black Christmas its best HD outing to date.  For completists, Disc 2 includes the equally adequate 2006 Critical Mass HD Master, screened in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio for those who fancy it.  Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that hones pleasing exchanges of dialogue, blowing winds and creaky floorboard ambiance in the sorority house, controversy has emerged regarding the track’s uses of substituted sound effects and drowned out lines while, its accompanying audio options (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and Mono mixes, namely the latter) suffers from substantial cracks and pops.  Although an internal investigation appears to be underway for the tracks, the 5.1 mix remains the most effective listening option.

    Predominately packaged with recycled extras on top of a few new exclusives, Disc 1’s special features consist of three vintage Audio Commentary tracks.  The first including Director Bob Clark, the second featuring Actors John Saxon & Keir Dullea and lastly, one from “Billy”.  In addition, an Audio Interview with Director Bob Clark, lasting roughly 30 minutes, can also be listened to while observing the feature.

    Meanwhile, Disc 2’s bonus feature packed offerings include, the newly captured Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle (26:11) and Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin (26:35), both of which dig deep into the thespians respective careers and their time making Bob Clark’s Christmastime shocker.  Vintage additions cover, Black Christmas Legacy (40:22), a 40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 (18:02), On Screen!: Black Christmas (48:41), 12 Days of Black Christmas (19:48), Black Christmas Revisited (36:25), Archival Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark & John Saxon (1:41:30), a Midnight Screening Q&A with John Saxon, Bob Clark & Carl Zittrer (20:21) and Two Scenes with a new soundtrack (3:04).  Finally, English and French Theatrical Trailers (8:16), Original TV and Radio Spots (3:09), an Alternate Title Sequence (2:47) utilizing the film’s Silent Night, Evil Night moniker and a Photo Gallery (53 in total) conclude the on-disc treats while, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also provided.

    A genre staple that made way for the masked madman antics of the 1980s, Black Christmas has endured due to its chilling tone and strangulating suspense that makes it one of the scariest gift wrapped features to revisit during the jolliest time of year.  Early reports and ongoing speculation into the release’s audio issues aside, Scream Factory’s new 2K transfer makes for an early Christmas miracle that should easily satisfy dedicated fans while, the release’s few new extras and Joel Robinson’s cover artwork nicely compliment the hefty sum of repurposed supplements.  While its technical merits have rightly been questioned with a hopefully pleasing resolution to follow, Black Christmas remains highly recommend for the trailblazing shocker it is. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Scream Factory, Black Christmas can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Beauty and the Beast (1991) 25th Anniversary Edition: Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Beauty and the Beast (1991)

    Director(s): Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

    Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury, Bradley Michael Pierce, Rex Everheart & Jesse Corti

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Disney’s 30th animated feature, Beauty and the Beast finds independent bookworm Belle (Paige O’Hara, Enchanted) rescuing her father from an enchanted castle and a cruel beast’s (Robby Benson, Running Brave) captivity.  Sacrificing her own freedom and looking deep within to see the beast’s inner beauty, the blossoming love between the two unlikely housemates will prove magically invaluable in breaking the spell cast on the titanic castle and its residents.

    A tale as old as time and beloved by generations worldwide, Beauty and the Beast continues the triumphant return to form of Disney’s animation division following the runaway success of The Little Mermaid.  Once again combining timeless characters, brilliant musical arrangements by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, and a story of true love, the romantic fairy tale enchants viewers with its grace, humor and themes of acceptance.  Attempted several times throughout Walt Disney’s career to no avail, Beauty and the Beast continues the magical traditions of its golden age forefathers with mesmerizing art and catchy tunes while, charting its own breathtaking path earning itself the first Best Picture Academy Award nomination for an animated film.  Seeped in gothic romance with glitzy broadway style musical sequences, the valued vocal efforts of Jerry Orbach (Law & Order), David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H*) and Angela Lansbury (Murder, She Wrote) bring impressionable life to their memorable roles as Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts but, more importantly make viewers feel warmly at home within their company.  In addition, brute Gaston (Richard White, House of Mouse), along with his hilariously buffoonish accomplice Lefou (Jesse Corti, Zootopia), make for some of Disney’s grandest antagonists while, the development of Belle and Beast’s evolving love may be the most beautiful of all the mouse house’s animated features.

    Showered in critical praise, deserved awards and box-office riches upon its initial release, Beauty and the Beast would continue to welcomes guests to its enchanted castle through a Broadway musical, two direct-to-video followups, an enduring Disney Park presence and a theatrical 3D re-release.  With its reputation graciously preceding itself after a quarter century, Beauty and the Beast’s impact and instantly recognizable songs can’t be understated.  A perfect storm of splendid storytelling and exemplary animation, Beauty and the Beast not only ranks as the crowning jewel of the Disney Renaissance that consisted of other such masterworks as Aladdin and The Lion King but, also one of the studio’s most treasured features of all-time.

    Repurposing their already flawless 1080p (1.78:1) transfer and sonically hailed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix from its 2010 release, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment once again supplies three versions of the film including the preferred Original Theatrical Edition (1:24:54), Special Extended Edition (1:31:44) and a Sing-A-Long Version (1:24:54).  Also recycling its Audio Commentary (Extended Edition Only) with Directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale, Producer Don Hahn & Composer Alan Menken, new on-disc supplements include, Always Belle (11:32) as Paige O’Hara reflects on her role and childhood love for the arts, Menken & Friends: 25 Years of Musical Inspiration (19:06) where fellow Disney composers Stephen Schwartz (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Moana) and Robert & Kristen-Anderson Lopez (Frozen) rap with Menken about the film’s memorable music, #1074: Walt, Fairy Tales & Beauty and the Beast (9:36) details Disney’s earliest developments of the film, The Recording Sessions (3:48) invites viewers into raw footage of the actors laying down their lines and 25 Fun Facts About Beauty and the Beast (5:24) hosted by Kayla Maisonet of Stuck in the Middle and Gus Kamp of Best Friends Whenever.  In addition, a Beauty and the Beast Sneak Peek (1:24) at the 2017 live-action feature, Song Selection (Sing-A-Long Edition Only), a Classic Bonus Preview (0:43) and Sneak Peeks at 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37), The BFG (1:38), Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), a Disney Princess Promo (1:32), Elena of Avalor (1:02), Moana (1:26) and Finding Dory (1:39) are also included.

    For better or worse, several more hours of supplemental content including such new featurettes as Character Development: Lumiere (2:50), Character Development: Beast (3:49) and countless others are available only digitally along with other vintage bonus features.  While their inclusion is plentiful, their lack of on-disc appearances is disparaging for physical media purists.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code round out the release’s extensive extras.

    Celebrating its 25th anniversary before asking viewers to be their guest in 2017 for its live-action counterpart, Beauty and the Beast remains as magical and captivating as ever.  With several newly created bonus features included and a reference quality presentation preserved, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has prepped a sumptuous meal of hi-def majesty for Disney lovers to partake in.  A towering animated achievement and simply one of Disney’s best, Beauty and the Beast deserves a spot in every collector’s west wing!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Beauty and the Beast can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Iron Giant (1999) Signature Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Iron Giant (1999)

    Director: Brad Bird

    Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald & M. Emmet Walsh

    Released by: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the small town of Rockwell, Maine circa 1957, The Iron Giant centers on imaginative nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal, American Pie) and his magical friendship with an extraterrestrial robot (Vin Diesel, The Fast and the Furious franchise).  When government officials investigate suspicious happenings, the giant’s protection becomes Hogarth’s prime responsibility.  Jennifer Aniston (Friends), Harry Connick, Jr. (Dolphin Tale), James Gammon (Major League), Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein), John Mahoney (Say Anything…), Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) and M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) comprise the vocal talent in Director Brad Bird’s (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) feature-length debut.

    Capturing the golden age of American suburbia juxtaposed with the tenseness of Cold War paranoia, The Iron Giant stretches its impressive gears to deliver an animated spectacle, unafraid to tackle heavier themes while uplifting viewers to awe-inspiring heights.  After a lightning crash-landing strikes the fictional town of Rockwell, incessantly curious neighborhood tike Hogarth Hughes investigates his wooded surroundings with army helmet and toy rifle in tow.  Happening upon a skyscraper high iron giant feasting on electrical metal generating the town, Hogarth saves the colossal being from a near-fatal shock, forming the basis of an unexpected bond and quite likely the greatest discovery since television.  Teaching his new friend simple phrases and keeping him hidden from a panicky public, Hogarth befriends local beatnik and shrap metal yard owner Dean (Connick, Jr.) in order to better conceal their unsubtle pal.  As the otherworldly robot learns the value of friendship and the painful truths of life and death, investigative U.S. agent Kent Mansley (McDonald) arrives in Rockwell to validate recent reports of unexplainable phenomena and extinguish any potential threats.  Following an innocent game that reveals the giant’s intended purpose of construction, the nosey Kent catches onto Hogarth’s secret prompting troops to storm the idyllic community in search of the so-called national threat.  Through soul-searching and recognizing one’s destiny and true purpose in life, The Iron Giant navigates through emotional highs and lows while weaving a beautifully constructed anti-violence theme that celebrates the best in humans and those we open our hearts to.

    Underbudgeted and brought to fruition by a team of inexperienced animators, The Iron Giant would generate historic pre-release buzz that would be jeopardized by an uneventfully bland marketing campaign and a scatterbrained release date.  Based loosely on the book by Ted Hughes, Co-Writer/Director Brad Bird would take personal tragedy and his experience in breakneck episodic animation to mesmerize viewers with an underdog feature fueled purely on heart.  Touching the souls of all who experienced the film during its financially disappointing theatrical run, The Iron Giant has aged gracefully and appears even more potent in the troubling times of today’s violence.  Channeling the fears and childlike fascination of the Atomic Age with a Rockwellian design approach and seamless computer-generated artistry, The Iron Giant dazzles visually and relates universally to all audiences as one of the great under appreciated classics to be seen, animated or otherwise.

    Presenting both its Signature Edition (1:29:58) with two new scenes instated and its Theatrical Version (1:26:39), Warner Bros. Home Entertainment debuts The Iron Giant on high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Masterfully transferred with gorgeous color grades and a handsome handling of nighttime sequences, this filmic-looking presentation spares any unsightly anomalies and awards viewers with an ideal watching experience, worthy of its director’s approval.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed with perfect clarity while, the iron giant’s heavy stomping, outdoorsy ambiance and the film’s ammunition geared finale shows off its impressive dynamics with the highest of praise.  

    The vast assortment of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Brad Bird, Head of Animation Tony Fucile, Story Department Head Jeff Lynch and Animation Supervisor (Giant) Steven Markowski.  Furthermore, the newly-crafted The Giant’s Dream: The Making of The Iron Giant (55:47) is a first-rate, deeply personal retrospective that charts Bird’s initial interest in animation to his Disney internship and subsequent firing from the company to the long, challenging road developing The Iron Giant.  Told predominately through animation, vintage footage and narration from invaluable players of the production team today, this heartfelt full circle is essential viewing for fans.  Meanwhile, vintage supplements from 2003 include, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Brad Bird (15:16), Teddy Newton: The X Factor (5:38), Duck and Cover Sequence (2:23), The Voice of The Iron Giant (8:16), The Score (4:49), Behind the Armor (17:31) and a Motion Gallery (4:22).  Accompanied with a “Brad Bird” Trailer (1:29) and Signature Edition Trailer (2:32), 1999’s The Making of The Iron Giant (22:05), Vintage Easter Eggs (1:48), The Salt Mines (7:06) where Digital Effects Artist Andrew Jimenez travels to the underground Kansas storage facility where the film’s original art is held and Hand Drawn (1:40) featuring Bird expressing his eternal devotion to the art form concludes the virtually endless quantity of extras.

    Aesthetically and narratively perfect, The Iron Giant survived the fallout of box-office ruin and persevered to be rightly embraced for all its outstanding qualities.  Appreciated more than ever by curious new audiences and revisited by original believers, Director Brad Bird’s ironclad adventure of friendship and nonviolence bravely explores emotionally dense themes leaving viewers all the richer for its commitment.  Answering the pleas of devoted fans and its passionate creators, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment issues The Iron Giant in a long-awaited and flawlessly presented high-def debut, lovingly equipped with a generous share of nuts and bolts supplements.  Also available in a desirable Ultimate Collector’s Edition variant, The Iron Giant crash lands as one of animation’s greatest gifts and one of the year’s premier releases!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, The Iron Giant can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980)

    Director: Frank Martin

    Starring: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal & Donald O’Brien

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fully restored from their original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents both versions of the infamous grindhouse classic Doctor Butcher M.D.!  After a hospital orderly is discovered feasting on deceased bodies, anthropologist Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli, The New York Ripper) and Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch, Zombie) make a connection to the cannibals exotic home island and chart an expedition to further investigate.  Assisted by the local Doctor Obrero (Donald O’Brien, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals), the unsuspecting team find themselves hunted by a cannibalistic tribe and reanimated zombies, shockingly developed by the unhinged Obrero.

    As goretastically eyeball-plucking as promoted, Doctor Butcher M.D. continues the flesh devouring exploits of other Italian gutbucket efforts of the era that would, thanks solely to its American distributor, make 42nd Street history with its genius marketing campaign and exceptionally exploitative re-titling.  After a series of bizarre human consuming episodes occur at several hospitals, smart and sexy anthropologist Lori and the noted Dr. Peter Chandler discover all the assailants hail from a territory of Asian islands that surely will reveal more answers to the stumped scholars after journeying there.  Joined by Chandler’s assistant George (Peter O’Neal) and his journalist girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan, Tentacles), the team are warmly welcomed by Doctor Obrero and his loyal guides.  Before long, the unwelcome visitors are targeted by the cannibalistic tribesman using makeshift bamboo traps to puncture the nosy outlanders with fatal precision.  Armed with firearms do little good as the crew are largely outnumbered and fall victim to having their intestines revealed and their eyeballs gouged for vile consumption.  While the film remains narratively similar to other foreign travel pictures gone horrifyingly south, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains graphically entertaining with its over the top, bloodthirsty excess and zombie corpses who, although visually striking, interestingly enough don’t indulge in the eating of its victims.  As the deranged Doctor Obrero’s twisted experimentations are revealed to the good doctor Chandler, the tribe’s abduction of Lori goes haywire when her godly nude bodice sporting painted rose pedals prompts the cannibals to rebel and dine on their former puppet master instead.        

    Tightly trimming several sequences and tagging on a brief opening from an unfinished Roy Frumkes (Street Trash) horror opus, Doctor Butcher M.D. is the epitome of exploitation mayhem that would excitedly rouse the Deuce’s red light district where junkies, prostitutes and gorehounds all got their rocks off.  Further supported by a window dropping suicide, throat slashings and nauseating brain operations, Director Marino Girolami's (Nude Odeon) (working under the pseudonym Frank Martin) sadistically fun people eater feature can’t be praised for being wholly original but, takes mammoth sized bites with its flesh-tearing gore output and its one of a kind title that depraved viewers can’t help but love.

    Severin Films presents Doctor Butcher M.D. (and its original Zombie Holocaust cut) with 1080p transfers, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing battle scars from its grindhouse cinema days, scratches, scuffs (most commonly during the Frumkes shot opening scene) and occasional vertical lines are not uncommon during viewing yet, never deter from one’s enjoyment.  Excellently overseen, Severin Films’ new scans easily trump past international releases of the film with a much more naturalistic color scheme and warmer skin tones that rectify the unpleasant faded quality of previous versions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the English track is well-handled with easy to follow dialogue levels while, its Zombie Holocaust counterpart features an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English dubbed Mono mix along with an Italian LPCM 2.0 track san subtitles.  

    In addition to including both the Doctor Butcher M.D. (1:21:46) and Zombie Holocaust (1:28:57) cuts of the film, special features found on Disc 1 include, Butchery & Ballyhoo: An Interview with Aquarius Releasing's Terry Levine (31:36) which serves as the release’s finest inclusion hosts Levine as he charts his career in the film business, the many different releases he acquired throughout the years and their unique promotions, and the unfortunate demise of the 42nd Street of yesteryear.  Next up, Down on the Deuce: Nostalgic Tour of 42nd Street with Filmmaker Roy Frumkes & Temple of Schlock’s Chris Pogialli (21:55) is an excellent journey through the tourist trap of today’s Times Square as Frumkes and Pogialli detail what stood before the McDonalds and Starbucks of the block took over.  Also included, Roy Frumkes' Segment of Unfinished Anthology Film Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out (8:07), The Butcher Mobile: A Conversation with Gore Gazette’s Rick Sullivan (12:33), Cutting Doctor Butcher: An Interview with Editor Jim Markovic (10:12) plus, Trailers for the film’s Theatrical (2:44) and Video (1:14) / (0:56) releases.  Finally, the towering first serving of supplements concludes with Gary Hertz’s Essay: “Experiments with a Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street)”.

    Hosting the Zombie Holocaust edit, special features continue on Disc 2 with Voodoo Man: Interview with Star Ian McCulloch (8:14), Blood of the Zombies: Interview with FX Master Rosario Prestopino (23:03), Enzo on Marino: Enzo Castellari Recalls his Father Marino Girolami (7:46), Sherry Holocaust: Interview with Actress Sherry Buchanan (24:04) and Neurosurgery Italian Style: Interview with FX Artist Maurizio Trani (4:36).  In addition, New York Filming Locations: Then VS. Now (3:03), Ian McCulloch Sings “Down By the River” (2:40) recorded in 1964 and a Theatrical Trailer (4:16) joined by a German Trailer (3:17) is also included.  Finally, the release tops itself off with a Reversible Cover Art featuring the equally eye-catching Zombie Holocaust 1-sheet artwork while, an Official Barf Bag (limited to the first 5,000 units) is packaged inside for more squeamish audiences.

    Choke full of face-chewing craziness and blood splattering cannibals, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains a grindhouse heavyweight that turned its roadside marketing into a theatrical spectacle, worthy of disapproving riots.  Continuing to assault new generations of exploitation junkies through VHS discovery and enduring word of mouth, Severin Films has delivered the definitive house call in the film’s long running infamous history.  Presenting both versions newly restored, sadistically uncut and barf bag full of phenomenal bonus features, Doctor Butcher M.D. is an essential cut for gore and guts connoisseurs while, Severin Films’ finger lickin’ good release ranks as one of the year’s best!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 26th from Severin Films, Doctor Butcher M.D. can be purchased via Severin-Films.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. 

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Signature Collection Blu-ray Review

    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

    Director(s): William Cottrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce & Ben Sharpsteen

    Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Lucille La Verne, Harry Stockwell, Roy Atwell, Pinto Colvig, Otis Harlan, Scotty Mattraw, Billy Gilbert, Eddie Collins, Moroni Olsen & Stuart Buchanan

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Disney’s first feature-length animated production, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs tells the timeless tale of pure and innocent Snow White who fears for her life when her vile stepmother the Queen, seeks to eliminate her from becoming the fairest in the land.  In order to evade capture, Snow White falls in the kind company of seven mining dwarfs who open their hearts to the young girl.  Falling for a charming prince and combatting the evil Queen, love conquers all in this seminal classic.

    Garnering worldwide acclaim for his Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies short subjects, forward-thinking Walt Disney was determined to push his studio’s abilities further into uncharted territories.  Developed over an astounding four year period and predicted by many skeptics to be “Disney’s Folly”, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would cost the thriving studio nearly $1.5 million on a project with unproven potential.  Inspired by Disney’s earliest cinematic encounters, the risky fairy tale adaptation would prompt Disney to mortgage his house and disregard the concerns of his wife Lillian and brother Roy in order to fully realize his vision.  Exploring new possibilities in the realm of animation and pushing his artists to the challenge of creating convincingly human characters, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became a daily struggle with its completion being the embodiment of groundbreaking artistry.  

    Simplifying its narrative and dazzling viewers with its storybook opening into the Queen’s lair, achieved by the newly created multiplane camera system, sets a fantastical tone ensuring a journey of indubitable beauty.  From its awe-inspiring backgrounds to the scope of the Queen’s castle and the quaint comforts of the dwarfs cottage, the animated debut feature equally serves as a moving piece of high art as it does a compelling tale.  As Disney’s inaugural princess, Snow White is the definition of purity with her jovial spirit and harmonious singing of “I’m Wishing” melting the hearts of viewers.  Memorably joined by the colorful personalities of the short statured miners, the seven dwarfs, whether digging for diamonds and whistling while they work or questioning the benefits of washing up before mealtime, comprise the film’s many adorable sight gags.  In addition to Snow White’s scary dash through the forest, the Queen and her wicked ways deliver other such effectively dark sequences including, the infamous apple eating moment cementing the evildoers cold heart while, Snow White’s courageous love interest, the Prince, feels noticeably one-dimensional in a production bursting with unforgettable characters.  Spellbinding in all its gorgeous technicolor and sending audiences through a gamut of emotions, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs remains Disney’s unprecedented achievement that captured the hearts of millions nearly eight decades ago with its magic still firmly intact.  Nearly perfect (Disney’s sophomore effort, Pinocchio, being his true masterpiece), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is an artistic marvel that will forever stand the test of time.

    Repurposing its gorgeous transfer from the previously available Diamond Edition, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1080p, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any age-related scuffs or other such damage, Disney’s first fairy tale exudes perfection with bright colors leaping off the screen and handsome detail allowing viewers to further appreciate the glorious backgrounds.  In addition, black levels found in the Queen’s cape, the mischievous vultures and Snow White’s dash through the dreary forest are exceptionally inky.  Although no alterations are detected from its previous release, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can appropriately be filed under the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category.  Furthermore, DisneyView is once again included to optionally view the film with Toby Bluth’s (The Tigger Movie) artwork replacing the vertical black bars.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is prominently positioned with no distortion on hand.  Music is richly soothing while, the film’s climatic finale succeeds in drumming up appropriate excitement.  

    Newly included special features contain, In Walt’s Words: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:22), culled from archive recording interviews from 1956, Iconography (7:16) finds modern artists discussing the impact of the film’s long-lasting imagery and powerful symbolism.  In addition, @DisneyAnimation: Designing Disney’s First Princess (5:16) hosts Animator Mark Henn (Pocahontas), Art Directors Michael Giaimo (Frozen), Bill Schwab (Wreck-It Ralph) and Lorelay Bové (Big Hero 6) on the evolution of the film’s titular character and its striking design choices that continue to influence today, The Fairest Facts of Them All: All 7 Things You May Not Know About Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (4:37) hosted by Sofia Carson of Disney’s Descendants, Snow White in Seventy Seconds (1:12), Alternate Sequence: The Prince Meets Snow White (3:39) and Disney’s First Feature: The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (33:15) serving as an extended version of a previously available featurette conclude the release’s latest offerings.  Meanwhile, vintage supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Roy E. Disney and Historian John Canemaker with recordings by Walt Disney, Bringing Snow White to Life (11:35), Hyperion Studios Tour (30:36), Decoding the Exposure Sheet (6:49), Story Meetings: The Dwarfs (5:51), Story Meetings: The Huntsman (3:55), Deleted Scene: Soup Eating Sequence (6:28) and Animation Voice Talent (6:20).  Finally, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), The Disney Store (0:32), Disney Parks (0:32), Zootopia (1:38) and The Good Dinosaur (1:38) are included with a DVD edition of the release and, for the first time ever, a Digital HD Code.

    Appropriately kickstarting Disney’s new Signature Collection, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the defining tale that gave immediate acceptance to the animated feature.  Magical, frightening and heartwarming, the endearing classic not only stands as one of the mediums finest achievements but, also one of cinema’s most prized efforts.  Boasting its same spectacular presentation from its 2009 Diamond Edition release, newly included supplements join a plethora of vintage content for a satisfyingly packed high-def sophomore outing.  Mirror, mirror on the wall, Disney appreciators and lovers of all cinema should not fathom being without Disney’s essential first feature.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 2nd from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • It Follows (2014) Blu-ray Review

    It Follows (2014)

    Director: David Robert Mitchell

    Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe, Daniel Zovatto & Jake Weary

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    For gorgeous college student Jay Height (Maika Monroe,The Guest) life couldn’t be better until, an innocent date and sexual encounter takes place, plaguing Jay with nightmarish visions and paranoia that something is after her.  Comforted by her sister and friends, Jay must find a way to combat the evil entity before it’s too late.  Keir Gilchrist (It’s Kind of a Funny Story), Olivia Luccardi (The Rewrite), Lili Sepe (Spork), Daniel Zovatto (Beneath) and Jake Weary (As the World Turns) co-stars.

    From the director of The Myth of the American Sleepover, It Follows is far from an easily describable film but, one that captures the very foundation of subconscious fear.  Simply stated, following a should-be romantic date and a steamy sexual encounter in the backseat of a car, the beautiful Jay Height (Monroe) is struck with a startling sense of fear that an unknown force is stalking her.  Forewarned after being set up by her date, Jay has inherited the evil being as she questions her sanity and turns to her sister and friends for protection.  While its premise feels anything less than ordinary by genre standards, It Follows taps into a dreadful tone found only in nightmares responsible for countless sleepless nights.  Objecting to drown itself in expositions, the film is reliant on its unsettling atmosphere and the entities unrelenting will to follow its victims to separate itself from the crowd.  Constantly altering its appearance from a scantly clad elder woman to a freakishly tall man lacking eyes, the supernatural force perfectly embodies dream logic with little rhyme or reason for its existence while, never failing to startle the audience.  For as unsettling as the many faces of “it” appear to be, It Follows is also aided by its unidentifiable time period set in Detroit, Michigan.  With a cellphone making a minor appearance, household appliances, vintage station wagons and outdated appliances including, tube televisions and characters only witnessing black and white films continue to cement the film’s surreal logic of not quite grasping where you are.  In addition, Composer Disasterpeace’s score of tranquil and aggressive synthesizer use is unlike any score heard in decades that feels familiar yet, wildly unique.  Influenced by the works of John Carpenter, Disasterpeace’s applauded efforts take shape as a character of their own, startling viewers at every dramatic turn.  Unsurprisingly, some may be left with more questions than answers regarding the film’s narrative while, akin to our most chilling nightmares of little to no explanation, It Follows runs its course like a fever dream of fear, leaving viewers sometimes unsure but nonetheless terrified.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents It Follows with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Demonstrating excellent clarity and bold colors, the transfer shines with its naturally pleasing skin tones and admirably handled inky black levels.  Free of any digital rendering or intrusive anomalies, It Follows looks pitch perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, dialogue is always audible, even during the film’s many hushed moments.  In addition, Disasterpeace’s lauded synth score is beautifully handled offering a powerful effect leaving listeners in a state of absolute bliss with its mix.  Although falling on the lighter side, special features include, an Audio Commentary hosted by Scott Weinberg of Nerdist fame with Critics Eric O. Snider (Moviebs), Britt Hayes (Screencrush), Samuel D. Zimmerman (Shock Till You Drop), Alison Natasi (Flavorwire) and Eric Vespe (Ain’t It Cool News).  In addition, A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace (4:56), the Theatrical Trailer (2:13), a Poster Art Gallery (5 in total) and a Digital HD Code are also included.  

    Hailed by many as an instant classic, It Follows is a daring exploration of fear that oozes originality.  With a naturalistic, likable cast and an addictive score from another era, Director David Robert Mitchell’s terrifying tale of dream logic hits all the right notes for those willing to surrender themselves to its abstract sensibilities.  Complimenting the film’s quality, Anchor Bay Entertainment succeeds with a flawless transfer and audio mix although, a juicier supplemental package would have been most appreciated.  Creepy and refreshing, It Follows will bring your nightmares to life.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 14th from Anchor Bay Entertainment, It Follows can be purchased via Amazon.com

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

    Director: Henry Levin

    Starring: James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson & Thayer David

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Journey to the Center of the Earth is another grand science fiction film entrée from the 1950s, a great blending of classic actors with a movie that has many fantastical elements and monsters.  The great James Mason (North by Northwest, Odd Man Out) leads an expedition to the center of the Earth along with Pat Boone (All Hands on Deck), Arlene Dahl (Slightly Scarlet) and Peter Ronson (his only film).  On their journey they encounter both wonderful and treacherous findings along the way.

    Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (Mason), an Edinburgh science professor has stumbled upon centuries old evidence from another scientist, Arne Saknussemm, detailing a pathway located in Icelandic volcanoes leading to the center of the Earth.  Lindenbrook assembles his team, student Alec McKuen (Boone), farmhand Hans (Ronson), his duck Gertrude and Carla Goetaburg (Arlene Dahl).  Previously, Carla’s late husband Peter Goetaburg, was prepping his own expedition to the bowels of the Earth but was killed by Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) to claim the glory of his ancestor.  Continuing his tradition, the Count intends to follow the Lindenbrook expedition to the center and eventually kill them.  Once the team is assembled, they head inside the volcano to find many different exotic and dangerous areas.  Unknowingly, the group is followed by Count Saknussemm but, join alliances as they continue their treacherous journey.  Once at the bottom, the five of them nearly get eaten by a group of Dimetrodon but manage to escape to the water which then gets sucked into a whirlpool.  Landing in the lost city of Atlantis, the team discover the century-old remains of Arne Saknussemm pointing a way to get back to the top of the volcano.  With escape in sight, a giant chameleon stands in the way of the crew getting back from within the Earth. 

    Once inside the volcano, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a highly entertaining film as we follow the cast into parts unknown.  The first half of the film could be considered a drama with heavy dialogue with the inclusion of a musical number.  A very well-known singer, songwriter and entertainer, Pat Boone does such that in one scene during the film.  The last half of the film becomes pure science fiction when the cast heads down the paths inside the volcano.  While the film may be considered slow to some expecting full-blown action, the ample running time allows the film to build as the characters congregate to form their expedition.  Upon entering the volcano, we are treated to some wonderful visuals and gorgeous cinematography including lakes, a land of large mushrooms and some convincing, practically achieved prehistoric monsters.  James Mason is especially great as Lindenbrook, showing both a serious side as a Professor and his adventurous side as the explorer of a new world.  He also has some snappy dialogue with Arlene Dahl playing the widow of a man who planned his own expedition.  Reportedly, the two of did not get along very well during the making of this film and it shows in their scenes together. 

    Twilight Time has reissued Journey to the Center of the Earth using 4K technology and it’s a big winner.  The 4K restoration here is phenomenal, much improved over the first release. This is a very visually stunning encoded 1080p, 2:35:1 transfer.  The colors are even more vivid with a crisp, polished look to it and excellent contrast to boot.  In addition, the optional DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are top notch as well.  To add more icing on the cake, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Actress Diane Baker and Film Historians Steven C. Smith & Nick Redman, an Isolated Score Track, the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8-page Booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

    With a satisfying runtime, great cast and some really wonderful effects, Journey to the Center of the Earth stands out as not being just another low-budget B movie.  Rich in plot, with terrific acting, excellent cinematography, and of course, the great Dimetrodon scene for monster lovers, Journey to the Center of the Earth remains one of the better classic fantasy films of the 1950s. 

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, Journey to the Center of the Earth can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • The Breakfast Club (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Breakfast Club (1985)

    Director: John Hughes

    Starring: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall & Ally Sheedy

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the defining films of the 1980s, The Breakfast Club follows five uniquely different teenagers as they are subjected to a Saturday detention together.  Having little to nothing in common on the surface, the group bear their souls to one another, stripping the layers of their stereotypes away.  Judd Nelson (St. Elmo’s Fire), Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles), Emilio Estevez (Repo Man), Anthony Michael Hall (Weird Science) and Ally Sheedy (Short Circuit) comprise the teenage cast.

    Following up on his 1984 directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, Writer/Director John Hughes would re-team with Hall and Ringwald to tell his coming of age masterpiece that continues to speak to new generations of teenagers.  Fitting in and struggling to be understood as a teen has changed little since 1985 but, where The Breakfast Club maintains its universal appeal is within its ability to tap into the youthful emotions of those trapped within the often unpleasant realm of high school.  Shot in sequence, the talented quintet of Nelson, Ringwald, Estevez, Hall and Sheedy deliver phenomenal performances that capture the stereotypes of several high school cliques.  While, each performance is emotionally challenging and throughly engaging, Nelson, who reportedly stayed in character offset, delivers an angst-filled turn as class criminal John Bender.  Insistent on insults and highly perceptive to those around him, Bender carries baggage of a broken home, leaving him to take his aggression out on the world.  In addition, Ringwald as the fiery-haired richy Claire Standish and Estevez as star athlete Andrew Clark both reveal their inner demons that allow those closest to them to dictate their lives.  Meanwhile, Hall, the youngest cast member of the group, emulates the suffocating pressure of a teen pushed to his limit to excel at his classes while, the soft-spoken Sheedy as burnout Allison Reynolds is left to wander a world where her parents ignore her very existence.  The naturalistic quality of the performances matched with Hughes’ perfect screenplay brings to life a timeless story of youth that all ages can relate to.  

    Although, dramatically heavy as the teens open up to discover kindred spirits in one another, The Breakfast Club never forgets to have fun, mostly at the expense of their egotistical principal Mr. Vernon (the late Paul Gleason, Die Hard) and a memorable drug sequence that lightens the tone and increases the laughs.  Breaking down the barriers of stereotypes and high school pressures, The Breakfast Club captured lightning in a bottle with a cast that would soon be dubbed “The Brat Pack” and catapulted to immeasurable success during the decade of Reganomics.  Continually appreciated with each passing year, considering The Breakfast Club a classic may seem passé to some but, its impact continues to be felt by those walking locker-filled halls and others who refused to let their heart die, well after they grew up.

    Digitally remastered and restored from original film elements, The Breakfast Club arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on its already pleasing 25th anniversary transfer, Writer/Director John Hughes’ sophomore effort maintains a remarkably clean appearance with no aging artifacts spotted.  In addition, skin tones are relayed warmly and natural while, detail is most pleasing in wardrobe ranging from Bender’s countless layers to the fibers of Brian’s green fleece sweater.  Taking place in virtually one location, The Breakfast Club manages to impress with popping colors in Andrew’s blue sports attire and Claire’s red hair with the library background appearing sharply.  Meanwhile, film grain is always naturally pleasing with no detection of digital manipulation whatsoever.  Dialogue heavy, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provides perfectly audible levels with soundtrack selections injecting a solid oomph, most noticeably during the group’s dance off in the library.  Along with a newly added Accepting the Facts: The Breakfast Club Trivia Track, all special features from the previous anniversary release have been ported over including, an Audio Commentary with Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, the lengthy 12-part Sincerely Yours (51:25) documentary, The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origins of the Brat Pack (5:30), Theatrical Trailer (1:25) and a Digital HD Code.

    Celebrating its 30th anniversary, The Breakfast Club still strikes a nerve with the youth who combat the never-ending struggles of high school pressures.  Kicking off a movement of teen orientated films that took young adults’ fears and desires seriously, The Breakfast Club remains a defining effort of not only the 1980s but, the late John Hughes’ remarkable ability to relate to teenagers like few have, before or since.  A modest although, appreciable improvement over its previous release, Universal Studios’ 30th anniversary edition is the definitive word on this teen classic for those lacking in their collection.  In the simplest terms and most convenient definitions, all brains, athletes, basket cases, princesses and criminals who ever had a teenage heart will always value the unforgettable effect of The Breakfast Club.

    RATING: 5/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #1: Neighbors (2014), Stagefright (1987) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    Neighbors (2014)

    Director: Nicholas Stoller

    Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Parents to a baby girl and new homeowners, Mac (Seth Rogen, This is the End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids), are adjusting to their new suburban existence when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door.  Led by their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment), the frat’s parties continue to grow in size as the Radner’s patience wears thin, prompting a hilarious war between the two neighbors.  Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Carla Gallo (We Bought a Zoo) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-star.  

    Funnyman Seth Rogen teams with Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) in this modern day Animal House tale of debauchery disrupting the lives of two thirtysomethings.  The unlikely combination of Rogen and High School Musical hunk, Zac Efron, hardly screams comedic gold but, Efron makes a surprising turn as the fraternity president who knows no bounds.  The personality clashes and age differences make for hilarious on-screen chemistry and a drunken debate of whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale is the definitive Batman will surely ignite laughter and off-screen arguments amongst viewers.  As a house war erupts between the two parties, sabotage antics reach wild heights in this comedy hit.  Co-stars Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz are the standout performances with hysterical dialogue that further cements their comedic status.  While, the final act may drag itself out a few minutes too long, Neighbors is still an entertaining romp of college humor hijinks that allows fresh blood like Efron to capably play in the Rogen sandbox of modern comedy.

    Universal Studios presents Neighbors with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Crisp and sharp, skin tones appear natural while, colors are always bold and refreshing.  Black levels are also handled very nicely, most noticeably in the neon-lit rave sequence, leaving room for no issues to be seen.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Neighbors sounds just as good as it looks with dialogue always coming across clearly and the modern hits soundtrack offering an added boost for your listening pleasure.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Neighbors arrives with a generous offering of special features including, Blu-ray exclusive content such as an alternate opening (6:40), deleted/alternate scenes (12:55) and On Set with... (3:41), a brief featurette with Dave Franco as your tour guide showcasing a fundraiser Delta Psi Beta hosts in the film.  In addition, a gag reel (5:57) and Line-O-Rama (2:52) join more informative, albeit brief, featurettes covering various areas of the production such as An Unlikely Pair (5:34) focusing on the pairing of Rogen and Efron, Partying with Neighbors (7:17), highlighting the central elements that created the on-screen hilarity and The Frat (5:44) where the cast of Delta Psi Beta discuss fraternity legends.  Finally, a DVD edition and Ultraviolet code round out the supplemental package.

    With little competition combatting it, Neighbors has been crowned by many to be the funniest comedy of the year.  Hardly breaking new ground, Neighbors is still a barrel of laughs allowing Rogen to do what he does best while, inviting welcome newcomers such as Efron, Byrne and Barinholtz to his comedic circle.  Universal Studios’ audio and visual presentation is pitch perfect with a decent array of special features that offer more added humor than informative production accounts. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Neighbors can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Stagefright (1987)

    Director: Michele Soavi

    Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mary Sellers & Piero Vida

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Church and Cemetery Man, Stagefright centers on a group of young actors rehearsing a new musical based on a murderer.  When a madman escapes from the local institution, the show’s director locks his cast inside the theater overnight accidentally with the killer.  With no escape, the stage is set for a night of suspense and blood.  Also available on DVD, Blue Underground proudly presents this Italian shocker, newly transferred in high-definition from the uncut negative, and loaded with newly produced special features.

    A protege of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), Michele Soavi would mark his directorial debut with this low-budget, atmospheric tale of terror.  Set in a dingy theater house where a group of starving artists perfect their experimental musical production, a former actor gone mad escapes the confines of his imprisonment to paint the stage red.  While, the film starts off rather slow with the cast aggressively rehearsing their offbeat production, Stagefright truly shines after the killer takes possession of an equally odd owl mask to fall into character.  Once the show’s director locks his team indoors to rehearse through the night, the escaped maniac utilizes a variety of power tools to make his own personal casting cuts.  Brutal and shocking, Stagefright retains its momentum thanks to Composer Simon Boswell’s (Hardware, Lord of Illusions) blending of operatic, synth-heavy tunes.  Nicely photographed by Renato Tafuri (The Church), Stagefright doesn’t always possess the effortless style of Argento’s earliest works but, obviously demonstrates the chops of a young director from the same school of filmmaking.  A third act confrontation on the theater’s catwalk between the sole injured victim and the masked killer is both thrilling and terrifying, sending Stagefright off on a satisfying final note.  Unique and dreamlike, Stagefright remains one of Soavi’s finest efforts due to its claustrophobic setting, startling gore effects and frantic score courtesy of Simon Boswell.

    Unsurprisingly, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a marvel.  Presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Stagefright improves astonishingly over previous DVD releases.  Detail is most impressive in facial close-ups while, colors pop nicely in this generally low-lit film.  Skin tones always appear natural with healthy film grain left intact.  Handled with the utmost care, black levels are consistently visible and show no signs of crushing or pixelation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion to speak of.  That said, several moments of characters speaking in hushed tones may require the occasional increase in volume.  Boswell’s exhilarating synth-heavy score sounds sensational, making itself a  personal highlight of the mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Blue Underground compliments their rich audio and visual presentation with a plethora of newly produced bonus features including, Theatre of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19:01) where Soavi recounts the difficult shooting schedule and  credits his experiences with Dario Argento in learning how to create tension and atmosphere.  In addition, House of the Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (11:40), Blood on the Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14:00), The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11:21) and The Sounds of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18:02) round out the impressive array of informative interviews found on the disc.  In addition, a theatrical trailer (2:18) and poster & still gallery (74 in total) have also been included.

    Akin to a frightening fever dream, Stagefright uses its limited budget to its advantage.  Predominately centered in a darkened theater, the owl-masked murderer stalks his prey with patience leaving his victims shy of limbs.  Nicely detailed, possessing sound black levels and free of any aging artifacts, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a sight to be seen with an equally impressive sound mix to satisfy viewers.  In addition, the newly-included assortment of special features are a treat to sit through and should appease dedicated fans.  A delightful directorial debut, Michele Soavi’s Stagefright remains a fan-favorite of late 80s Italian horror that is ripe for revisiting.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Stagefright can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McCinn, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Eaten Alive, five youths head out on a weekend getaway in rural Texas only to fall prey to a family of ruthless cannibals.  Shocking and controversial, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has unleashed a world of horror on viewers for over 40 years becoming a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.  Dark Sky Films proudly presents the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an all-new 4K transfer with a newly crafted 7.1 surround sound mix supervised by Director Tobe Hooper.

    Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973 in Austin, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has achieved iconic status for changing the face of cinema with its brutal depiction of macabre realism.  Equally loved and hated, Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper’s enduring opus has unanimously remained in the public conscience as a groundbreaking effort of independent cinema.  Inspired by the heinous exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grows more grizzly with age as its vintage quality and boiling backroads setting leaves viewers with a hellish representation of a living nightmare.  The equally believable cast headlined by Marilyn Burns as Sally, are our guides as their afternoon of fun morphs into an odyssey of madness.  The horror that unfolds at the Sawyer residence, home of Leatherface and his disturbed family, are the film’s most disturbing moments that have lifted it to iconic heights.  Imagery of human bone constructed furniture and a victim hung on a meathook is just the beginning of this grueling experiment in shock value.  Barely maintaining her sanity and survival, Sally is subjected to a terrifying dinner with her captors before attempting her escape.  Drenched in bright red blood on a highway, Sally is confronted and evades the maniacal Leatherface, angrily waving his deadly power tool in an unforgettable final image.

    Chilling and unsettling, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has remained a cinematic landmark since rattling the public’s senses during the tumultuous 1970s.  Simple in its execution, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s grimy production value matched with its uncomfortable tone sends viewers through a relentless viewing experience that feels authentic.

    Scanned in 4K, Dark Sky Films presents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a 1080 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on their already impressive 2008 release, Dark Sky Films’ latest transfer is the best yet!  Shot guerilla-style, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre retains its warm, Texas appearance with skin tones reading reasonably sharp and accurate.  Lines and debris that have plagued so many previous releases are extinct in this transfer while, always maintaing a layer of natural grain.  Consistently underlit, black levels are nicely handled, especially during Leatherface’s pursuit of Sally in the fields.  Action is satisfyingly visible with no crushing to speak of.  Supervised by Writer/Director Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes equipped with a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround mix that picks up dialogue clearly with no intrusions and chaotic moments of chain saw mayhem roars across this impressive mix.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo 2.0 and Original 2.0 Mono mixes have also been included.  

    Bursting with bonus content, the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition arrives with four commentary tracks including: 1) Writer/Producer/Director, Actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 2) Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger & Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns.  Plus, two newly recorded tracks from: 3) Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper and 4) Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J. Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolauo.  A separate Blu-ray disc of additional bonus features include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49), Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (1:11:42), A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03), a vintage walk through tour from 1993.  In addition, Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02), The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27), a new, albeit silent due to the audio being lost, selection of deleted scenes & outtakes (15:07), Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48), Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47), vintage deleted scenes & outtakes (25:23), a blooper reel (2:22), Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (7:40), Horror‘s Hallowed Grounds: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (20:19), where Host Sean Clark visits the original shooting locations, Dr. W.E. Barnes presents Making Grandpa (2:45), a still gallery (2:27) and several trailers, TV & radio spots round out this impressive assortment of special features.  An accompanying DVD edition of the film and special features disc is also included for standard definition needs.

    As effective as it was 40 years ago, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to shock and mesmerize viewers with its unsettling presentation of cannibalistic killers in the barren backroads of Texas.  In a time of endless catalog re-releases of subpar standard, Dark Sky Films have delivered fans the definitive release of this low-budget spectacle.  Beautifully scanned in 4K with an impressive 7.1 surround mix, Dark Sky Films has left no stone unturned with over four hours of bonus content to delve into.  Endlessly disturbing and terrifying, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never fades in quality and Dark Sky Films‘ 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition firmly proves that the saw is still family!

    RATING: 5/5

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available right now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Carrie (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Carrie (2013)
    Director: Kimberly Peirce
    Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde & Portia Doubleday
    Released by: 20th Century Fox/MGM

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As the wheels of the remake train continue to spin, 2013 saw the resurrection of one of Stephen King’s most beloved adaptations.  Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise, Dressed to Kill) brought King’s terrifying novel to life for the first time in 1976 with iconic performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.  Since then, the tale of Carrie White has been expanded into a 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2, as well as a television retelling in 2002 with Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, May) starring as Carrie.  Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don‘t Cry, Stop-Loss) helms this modern update of a troubled outcast with extraordinary abilities and the limits she is pushed to.  By the end, will you know her name?  Let’s find out...

    Carrie stars Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Dark Shadows) as Carrie White, a social outcast who is relentlessly taunted by classmates and abused by her overly religious mother (Julianne Moore).  Carrie soon learns that her anger unleashes newly found telekinetic powers that she harbors.  When she is unexpectedly asked to prom, an unforgivable fate awaits her that leads to a night no one will ever forget.  Judy Greer (Jawbreaker), Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers) and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    In this day and age it’s easy to be dismissive of any new remakes/reimaginings hitting theaters.  Devoted film lovers insist on being served exciting, original material opposed to a stale rehash of an already established classic.  Sometimes, a reimagining comes along that attracts such unique talent that turns everyone’s head in intrigue.  Director Kimberly Peirce, no stranger to shining lights on social outcasts, helms this modern take of the Stephen King best seller.  Peirce approaches the material faithfully with mild updates to relate to a new generation.  The opening, touched upon in the novel, finds Margaret White (Julianne Moore) riling in pain as she enters labor alone in her bedroom.  Giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, the exhausted woman sees this as a test from God and prepares to kill the child for her sinful ways.  Scissors in hand, Margaret is unable to go through with it and chooses to raise her daughter.  The film moves forward in time as we find Carrie White (Moretz), now 15 years-old, shy, awkward and idolizing her fellow female classmates.  Carrie quickly follows suit by retelling an iconic locker room sequence where Carrie frighteningly experiences her first period as classmates taunt and throw tampons at her.  Injecting the modern twist, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) records the embarrassing incident with her cellphone and uploads it to YouTube for fellow classmates and the world to see.  The film continues to remain close to De Palma’s version with the occasional change-up for good measure.  Peirce harkens back to the novel to showcase Margaret White’s bodily harm that makes for some truly squeemish moments to great effect.  

    Peirce assembles a fine cast with the talented Chloë Grace Moretz slipping into Spacek’s iconic role.  Moretz handles the role well and captures the odd and uncomfortable personality of Carrie.  One couldn’t help but feel that Moretz was just a little too pretty to honestly portray the odd girl out.  Moretz’s acting abilities are far from disappointing, but her appearances hurt the believability of the character.  Julianne Moore delivers a disturbing performance as Carrie’s abusive mother, Margaret White.  Moore’s unbrushed greying hair and dressed down appearance complimented her character’s loony behavior.  While, Piper Laurie’s original performance still reigns supreme, Moore delivered a unique spin of her.  In addition, Judy Greer (Jeff Who Lives at Home), co-stars as gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin.  While, a brief role, Greer offers an endearing performance as a shoulder to cry on for Carrie.  Portia Doubleday (Her) stuns as the bitchy Chris Hargensen who makes abusing Carrie her main priority.  Doubleday makes hating her easy with her relentless bullying and stuck-up personality.  Fans of Nancy Allen’s original performance will be made proud.  Finally, Gabriella Wilde does a fine job as Sue Snell, the one teenager with a conscience who enlists her boyfriend to give Carrie the time of her life at prom.  

    Carrie does offer its fair share of CG visual effects, but all to effective results.  The bloody finale at the prom sees Carrie unleashing her wrath after having pig blood dropped on her.  Students are thrown back in a tidal wave of tables and chairs while Carrie uses her powers to create an inferno of flames.  The entire movie is building to this sequence and it hardly disappoints.  As Chris and her boyfriend speed off after the prank, Carrie confronts them before sending the couple to a brutal death.  Chris‘ fate is sheer eye candy and a fitting end for such a hated character.  Carrie heads home to only be greeted by her insane mother who intends on putting an end to her devil child.  A fight to the death ensues between the mother and daughter before a tragic end befalls on them.  The film concludes on a similar note as the original with a much less effective jump-scare administered.

    Like most reimaginings, Carrie doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it still has merit.  Peirce does a fine job harking back to the source material while injecting modern twists of cyberbullying to up the ante.  The core cast was more than capable in their respective roles with Moore and Doubleday offering noteworthy mentions.  Moretz captured the essence of Carrie but her physicality prevented the performance from being all it could be.  One can only wonder how the film would have appeared if Peirce casted Carrie as heavier set as described in the novel.  Moments of violence and chaos are demonstrated well and benefit from today’s movie magic.  Viewing Carrie during its theatrical run, I left the film feeling mediocre towards it.  After revisiting Carrie, it has managed to slightly entertain me more.  With more King reimaginings in the works, time will tell how this retelling of Carrie is best remembered.  Until then, Carrie is a serviceable adaptation of one of King’s finest efforts with a solid cast and a modernization that benefits the film nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Carrie is presented in a beautiful 1080p (2.35:1) transfer that stuns.  Colors appear clear and accurate with detail looking most impressive in close-ups.  The school’s football field, swimming pool and of course, the pig blood look especially lush and bold.  Black levels are superior, most noticeably, during the pig clubbing sequence and the finale at the prom.  As a brand-new film shot and presented in HD, there’s nothing to fear with this transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Carrie comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  Dialogue is clear as a whistle with subtleties such as books slamming or creaky footsteps making a nice impression.  More intense sequences involving inferno, car crashes and screaming students are loud and solid.  The prom sequence will definitely send your speakers for a ride and make for an exceptional listening experience.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce: Peirce serves up an informative listen touching upon the casting process, development of the script, modernizing the film as well as budget and time constraints.  While, Peirce may often focus too much on what’s playing on the screen, the track is still a worthy listen.

    - Alternate Ending: Included as a second option labeled “Theatrical Cut with Alternate Ending”, the new ending offers an extra minute of runtime with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Deleted/Alternate Scenes: 10 minutes worth of scenes again with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Tina on Fire: Stunt Double Dailies: A featurette showcasing how the fire effects were achieved with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Creating Carrie: A making of featurette running over 20 minutes.  Director Kimberly Peirce, Producer Kevin Misher and the core cast discuss the film, their preparation and Stephen King’s original novel.  A terrific companion to the film!

    - The Power of Telekinesis: Talent in front and behind the camera discuss their takes on telekinesis.

    - Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise: A hilarious telekinetic prank that was pulled in a New York coffee shop on unsuspecting customers to promote the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Sneak Peak: Trailers for upcoming MGM titles.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    2013’s reimagining of Carrie didn’t light me entirely on fire, but it was still a serviceable take on an iconic tale.  Director Kimberly Peirce may have been an unexpected choice but her expertise with social outcasts gave this film its flavor.  Peirce did a fine job sticking to King’s source material while injecting the necessary tools to make it a functioning modern take.  Chloë Grace Moretz brought her usual A-game acting chops to the role but her lovely appearance made the believability of the character a constant struggle.  Julianne Moore and Portia Doubleday deserve recognition for their portrayals as dangerously flawed characters.  The film manages to not disappoint in the effects and violence department that pay off in the exciting finale.  The Blu-ray edition of Carrie is quite simply perfection.  A wonderful video presentation matched with an effective and robust audio mix plus a plethora of special features make this release a winner.  In addition, the film comes accompanied with one of the coolest looking lenticular slipcovers in sometime.  Regardless, of your film adaptation preference, 2013’s Carrie has its issues but it has all the potential to become even better with time.
    RATING: 4/5