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  • Home Video Highlights: DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017) & Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day (2017) Reviews

                          

    DuckTales: Woo-oo! (2017): 30 years later, Disney XD revives one of the original Disney Afternoon’s cherished properties with DuckTales.  Based on Carl Banks’ iconic comic strips, DuckTales: Woo-oo! finds clumsy Donald Duck leaving his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie with his Uncle Scrooge while attending a job interview.  Unimpressed with their elderly family member, the triplets are introduced to the young Webby Vanderquack who reveals the many adventures conquered and relics secured by McDuck.  After accidentally unleashing and daringly recapturing evil spirits within the mansion, Scrooge’s sense of adventure is awakened and rounds up his young spectators to recover the Lost Jewel of Atlantis.  Confronted with his nemesis Flintheart Glomgold who is also after the jewel and aided by a clueless Donald, hilarity and excitement ensue in this phenomenal pilot installment to its equally strong first season.  Led by spot-on vocal work by David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones) as Scrooge McDuck, exceptional animation and a newly recorded cover of the memorable 80s theme song, DuckTales: Woo-oo!, accompanied by 6 “Welcome to Duckburg” bonus shorts and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards, DisneyNOW and Disneynature’s Dolphins, is a splashing good time for fans of all ages.

    Available now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, DuckTales: Woo-oo! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    RATING: 4.5/5      

    Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day (2017): In this epic hour-long episode, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day finds Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) looking over the kingdom while her parents take a royal getaway.  Overwhelmed with her role as acting queen and each decision for the kingdom backfiring, Rapunzel is faced with a dire winter storm that pits her parents in mortal danger while young Varian’s pleas to aid his father who is being encased by the recent uprising of mysterious spiky rock formations fall on deaf ears, making Rapunzel’s test run at leading the kingdom her hardest challenge to date.  Perhaps the most dramatic installment of the series to date with its enchanting, brushstroke-like animation continuing to be a feast for the eyes plus, four “Inside the Journal” Shorts as well as the same recycled Sneak Peeks as its fellow animated DisneyXD release, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day is a magical highpoint for the longhaired fairy tale saga.

    Available now on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tangled: The Series - Queen for a Day can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    RATING: 4/5

       

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

    Director(s): Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg

    Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally & Geoffrey Rush

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Crashing into the cinematic seas for its fifth adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales once again finds the flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Alice Through the Looking Glass) caught in the crosshairs of his most formidable foe yet, the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem, Skyfall).  After being outsmarted by Sparrow years earlier and cursed upon entry into the Devil’s Triangle, the vengeful Salazar seeks to make the endlessly drunk pirate pay.  Meanwhile, young Henry Turner’s (Brenton Thwaites, Maleficent) determination to locate the Trident of Poseidon to free his own father from sea-drifting captivity pits him with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner), a resourceful astronomer whose curiosity and intelligence make the journey possible.  Also welcoming Captain Jack’s established frenemy, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, Genius), back to the proceedings, the young newcomers find themselves, for better or worse, in the company of Jack as Salazar hunts the swashbucklers to the Trident’s island in an action-packed climax.

    Billed as the franchise’s curtain call, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to the ghoulish roots of its original chapter with a fresh-faced cast of newcomers playing strongly against Depp’s eccentric captain who continues to prove the chameleon-like thespian is having more fun than ever in the role.  Kickstarting with a hilarious and technically impressive bank robbery by Jack’s crew who accidentally steal the entire bank itself, Javier Bardem sends chills down audiences’ spines as the demonic Captain Salzar whose mouthful of black slobber and undead appearance casts an effectively foreboding shadow upon the film.  With several surprises in store for longtime fans of the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales also gives the treasured Captain Barbossa far more depth than before making the film perhaps the most gratifying for the series veteran.  Far more in line with the charm of the Disney film’s debut outing and boasting top-tier spectacle value, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an above average delight that proves Captain Jack still commands the high seas.

    Marveling with its 1080p transfer, presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment continues to prove its pristine abilities with this flawless presentation that accentuates sharp skin tones, exacting black levels and crisp details spotted in Salazar’s deathly appearance and his man-eating zombie sharks.  Accompanied with a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crisply projected while, the film’s swelling themes provide bonafide boosts to the action-packed proceedings.  Notably shorter than previous Pirates films, special features include, Dead Men Tell More Tales: The Making of a New Adventure (47:50), a seven-part featurette exploring the creation of the epic production with interviews from some of the film’s young stars, the film’s many visual effects and the franchise’s enduring presence in pop culture.  Furthermore, Bloopers of the Caribbean (2:58), a Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (1:40) and Deleted Scenes (2:59) round out the on-disc supplements while, a DVD copy and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Earning a respectable near $800 million while dividing critics and audiences, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a return to form for the franchise that once left fans dizzied by its third adventure before sticking to simplicity with On Stranger Tides.  Harkening back to what made the original film so special without overthrowing it, the fifth installment does an admirable job with its renewed mojo hinting that this may not be Captain Jack’s final sail at sea after all to which we say yo-ho!  Although less desirable in its scant offering of bonus features, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents the film in a quality as visually and sonically rich as the Caribbean itself.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Power Rangers (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Power Rangers (2017)

    Director: Dean Israelite

    Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cycler, Becky G., Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston & Elizabeth Banks

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Revitalizing the television phenomenon for the big-screen, Power Rangers centers on five ordinary teens, chosen by destiny, to form a superhuman team of defenders to save the world from the evil Rita Repulsa’s wrath.  Dean Israelite (Project Almanac) directs from a screenplay by John Gatins (Real Steel, Flight).

    Marking the famous franchise’s return to cinemas in two decades, Power Rangers uses the original and arguably, most popular iteration of the series as a springboard to reintroduce modern audiences and longtime fans back to an Angel Grove in desperate need of heroes.  Establishing an apocalyptic world where the Power Rangers, led by Red Ranger Zordon (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), are losing the battle against their former friend and betrayer Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games), the fading leader seeks to preserve the safety of the desired Zeo Crystal by hiding the coveted power coins in hopes of a new team one day emerging to protect Earth.  Juxtaposing to modern day Angel Grove, high school football star turned delinquent Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery, A Few Less Men) pulls an unruly prank, landing him in detention for the rest of the school year.  Shortly after befriending bullied and autistic classmate Billy Cranston (RJ Cycler, Me and Early and the Dying Girl), Jason is convinced to join Billy at a mine site where an explosion and chance encounters with several other troubled teens including, Kimberly (Naomi Scott, The 33), a former popularity queen now ditched by her friends, Zach (Ludi Lin, Monster Hunt), a wild teen tasked with caring for his ailing mother and Trini (Becky G., Empire), a loner struggling with her own sexuality, converge in an experience that will change their lives.  Discovering the hidden power coins and the nerve center of Zordon, now constrained to its matrix system, and his faithful robot Alpha 5 (voiced by Bill Hader, Inside Out), the teens are appointed as new members of the Power Rangers and must prepare for the inevitable threat of their awakened nemesis, Rita Repulsa.  Learning to trust one another and believe in themselves prove difficult as the fate of Angel Grove and the world hang in the balance against the forces of evil.  

    Darker than its bubble gum pop series but never overly brooding, Power Rangers greatly impresses with its diverse up and coming cast that convey relatable teenage troubles with organic conviction.  Noticeably influenced by the works of John Hughes with so few modern day attempts at capturing youthful voices succeeding, Power Rangers is the rare feat that does so and genuinely makes audiences care through deep character development that, for better or worse, comes at the cost of more high-octane action.  While their self-doubts restrict them from morphing into their costumed counterparts for an extended period, the film’s final act finds the the heroes finally adorned in their eye-catching armored suits to do battle against the bolder-looking Putties and Rita’s visually disappointing henchman, Goldar.  Although a shameless product placement opportunity rears its head into the plot, Elizabeth Banks delivers an enjoyably over-the-top and occasionally frightening performance as lead baddie Rita while, the city-destructing climax of the Rangers facing off in the mighty Megazord is nothing audiences haven’t seen before.  Minor grievances aside for the film’s action set pieces which unfortunately seem to have caused the ballooning $100 million budget, Power Rangers is a surprisingly fresh and energetic effort that although, based on the nostalgically campy series of the same name, takes itself and its audience seriously while having a morphinominally fun time doing it.

    Lionsgate presents Power Rangers with a striking 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Exceptional-looking from start to finish, skin tones are naturally pleasing and detailed while, black levels seen during nighttime sequences at the mine appear deep and inky.  Digital manifestations such as, Alpha 5 and the literal looking Goldar all dazzle with the bolder colors of the rangers suits and Rita’s shimmering green garb leaping off the screen.  Without a false note to report, Power Rangers morphs into action with the utmost clarity.  Equipped with an equally perfect Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal clear with action scenes from the rangers’ training montages to the film’s final zord battle filled with explosive action greatly impress with grand authority.  Furthermore, song selections including, a contemporary rendering of the infamous theme song, all make noticeable statements on the track that push speakers to work overtime.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Dean Israelite & Writer John Gatins, The Power of Present (2:20:12), a comprehensively morphin’ nine-part featurette that looks back at the franchise’s early years to this film’s culmination.  Insight from original series creator Haim Saban as well as the cast and crew are on-hand while, the development of the film’s costumes, the cast’s intensive training and music are all explored in this perfect companion piece to the feature.  Also included, Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes (33:39), Outtakes (3:41) and the Theatrical Trailer with Audio Commentary by Director Dean Israelite (2:21).  Lastly, an Also from Lionsgate (4:40) section offers trailers and promos for Power Rangers: Legacy Wars, The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection, Allegiant and Now You See Me 2.  Additionally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Although struggling to be the massive moneymaker hoped for by the studio, Power Rangers may be the year’s biggest blockbuster surprise that balances the delicate line of respecting its franchise roots while injecting a youthful, harder-edged voice that lifelong fans will appreciate.  Planned for a whopping six-film story arc and teasing the arrival of a certain character of the green persuasion, Power Rangers is hopefully only the beginning in a great new series that deserves more installments.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s phenomenal high-definition release is a technical marvel with a staggering supply of bonus content ranger fans will eat up.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Power Rangers can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Car Wash (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Car Wash (1976)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in sunny Los Angeles, Car Wash hosts a day in the life of a ragtag group of car washers and and the hilarious hijinks that ensue on the job, all to a fast-moving, body-shaking soundtrack of hits.  Scripted by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) and starring a diverse roster of character actors, musicians and comedy’s finest, Michael Schultz (Cooley High, The Last Dragon) directs this hot wax of hilarity.

    Uncontrollably fun and capturing the laughs of the blue-collar grind, Car Wash, originally intended as a Broadway musical, uses its nonlinear construction to great effect, making viewers apart of the onscreen ball-busting camaraderie and radio wave boogieing.  Best known for their “hand job” touch, the stocked staff of a busy car wash including, Justin (Leon Pinkney, Deadly Hero), an African-American constantly hassled by his girlfriend to ditch his position and return to college, T.C. (Franklin Ajaye, Convoy), an afro-rockin’ employee determined to win a local radio contest and woo the local diner’s waitress, Abduallah (Bill Duke, Predator), a Black Muslim revolutionary formerly known as Duane, Lindy (Antonio Fargas, Starsky & Hutch), a flamboyantly gay employee who dishes attitude better than anyone else and the musical, dancing duo of Floyd (Darrow Igus, Fridays) and Lloyd (Otis Day, D.C. Cab), among others all bust a move while making Cali cars sparkle and shine.  From erroneously tackling a customer thought to be a criminal bomber, fellow employee Hippo (Jamie Spinks, The Big Score) knocking the boots with a local prostitute who is hilariously pursued by an all too trusting cabbie (George Carlin, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) for skipping out on a fare and graced by the money-hungry presence of a pimp-like preacher known as Daddy Rich (Richard Pryor, The Toy), Car Wash is never in short supply of comic situations and absurdness.  Rightfully earning a Grammy for Best Album written for a film, Car Wash is never overly crude or falters due to its unconventional plot that is more inclined to let audiences hang with the gang than anything else.  Instead, the cult hit keeps the fun times rolling and holds the jive allowing for an effort doused in outrageous laughs.

    Shout Select presents Car Wash with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With only the faintest of speckling popping up every now and again, colors pop remarkably well with the employee’s orange jumpsuits, bright yellow taxi cabs and the establishment’s big-lettered signage all making top-notch bursts on screen.  Furthermore, skin tones are exceptional with detail evident in close-ups and white levels, most noticeably seen in Daddy Rich’s gaudy suit, looking solidly.  A most filmic representation of the musically-driven comedy, Car Wash truly shimmers in high-definition.  Matched with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is overwhelmingly audible with only occasional moments where outdoor ambiance can drown out character exchanges.  That said, the film’s constant undercurrent of music is balanced appreciatively with talky moments while, specific music-driven cues including the opening and closing titles will leave viewers singing along for days and impressed by the song’s depths.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Workin’ at the Car Wash with Otis Day (12:13) where the actor recalls a 2 week rehearsal period on the Universal soundstages that greatly developed the cast’s chemistry before filming commenced.  Understandably, Day mentions growing incredibly sick of hearing the title song on a daily basis while also praising Schultz’s direction and hailing him as someone who truly cared about the project.  Car Wash from Start to Finish with Gary Stomberg (34:22) finds the film’s producer sharing his early starts in public relations repping the likes of Ray Charles before forming his own company that would ultimately represent Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf and The Doors.  Stromberg also remembers coming up with the idea of Car Wash during a particularly loaded evening citing Robert Altman’s Nashville as an inspiration.  Understanding the music world while Universal were left scratching their heads about the film’s potential, Stromberg’s theory to spread head the project with an album produced by Norman Whitfield that would ultimately pay for the film’s making proved true and one the studio immediately responded to.  Lastly, Radio Spots (2:59), the film’s Trailer (2:21) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the release’s extras.

    Although not an original commercial success before graduating to cult accolades, Car Wash is a hilarious hangout session with the working man where pranks, kooky customers and a rhythm-splitting soundtrack take shotgun.  A groovy time capsule with funny performances from its many principal players, this lighthearted blaxploitation romp is prime picking for all 9-5ers.  Meanwhile, Shout Select’s high-definition upgrade is a filmic stunner with a smaller but, nonetheless engaging offering of extras and dynamite new cover art provided by Paul Shipper that shines the flick up nice.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Car Wash can be purchased ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Don't Give Up the Ship (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Starring: Jerry Lewis, Dina Merril, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mabel Albertson & Chuck Wassil

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unbelievably based on an actual incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship stars Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a wet-behind-the-ears naval newlywed who is whisked away from his honeymoon by a committee investigating the disappearance of the battleship previously under his command.  Suffering a mental block, a blonde bombshell of a psychiatrist (Dina Merril, Operation Petticoat) is brought in to help rattle the officer’s memory.  

    Produced in accordance with the U.S. Navy who are praised for their cooperation and sense of humor at the film’s onset, Don’t Give Up the Ship interrupts the celebratory victory of World War II when a displeased congressman refuses to approve a $4 billion appropriation fund for the Navy due to the mysterious disappearance of destroyer vessel, the U.S.S. Kornblatt.  Tying the knot with his lovely new bride Prudence (Diana Spencer, TV’s Johnny Ringo), the dimwitted but harmless Lieutenant John Paul Steckler VIII is quickly fingered by an investigative committee and summoned to the Pentagon to explain the most unusual circumstance behind the whereabouts of the ship that was under his control.  Ordered to locate the vessel in mere days while being hilariously disrupted at every chance of intimacy with his wife, Steckler’s mental block and seemingly tall tales about the events surrounding the Kornblatt make matters laughably more difficult for the Navy veteran.  Aided by an attractive psychologist tasked with helping Steckler remember the stranger than fiction facts, comical hijinks including, sharing a train compartment with another woman much to the dismay of his wife, being captured by Japanese soldiers unaware of the war’s conclusion and a deep sea exploration finding the goofy cadet and a fellow Navy man confronted by sharks, mermaids and a massive octopus.  While the funnyman’s madcap energy and comedic timing are the heart of the film, Don’t Give Up the Ship is a fairly middle-of-the-road effort from Jerry Lewis’ career of laughs with a plot that runs its course by the time the end credits roll.  Although Steckler’s robbed opportunities at whoopee making become repetitive, Lewis’ brand of childish silliness and knee-slapping physicality still make for a fine time.

    Newly remastered in 4K, KL Studio Classics presents Don’t Give Up the Ship with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A gorgeous sight to behold, the monochrome photography looks stunning with excellent detail observed in skin tones, the fairly basic Navy uniforms and the film’s underwater sequence that is relayed with the utmost quality.  Boasting deeply inky black levels and hardly a scratch to be seen, it doesn’t get much better than this for a film so many decades removed.  Charmed with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that appears basic enough yet, sells dialogue exchanges, city street ambiance, and hurricane winds with top-notch care.  Although unrelated to the main feature, the disc’s sole special feature is Trailers for After the Fox (2:49), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2:23), Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), Life Stinks (2:01), Delirious (2:22) and The Couch Trip (1:14).

    Helmed by Academy Award-winning Director Norman Taurog (Slippy, The Wizard of Oz, albeit uncredited for his contributions on the latter), Don’t Give Up the Ship succeeds in letting Lewis does what he does best while, carrying the otherwise mediocre plot on his shoulders with ease.  Unable to keep your eyes off of the animated thespian for fear of missing the slightest funny nuance, Lewis keeps the ship afloat steadily.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ exceptional 4K mastering of the feature is an absolute knockout and now the only way to view this well-received comedy.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Don’t Give Up the Ship can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

    Director: Art Linson

    Starring: Peter Boyle & Bill Murray

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from the wild and crazy exploits of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Where the Buffalo Roam centers on the eccentric reporter (Bill Murray, Caddyshack) and his ex-attorney Carlo Lazlo, Esq. (Peter Boyle, Young Frankenstein), fueled on drugs and a madness for adventure, as they navigate the politically spiraling and violent days of the late sixties and seventies.

    The first film taken from Thompson’s toxic brand of chaotic intellect, Where the Buffalo Roam takes liberties with the facts concerning the journalist’s construction of a story based on the misadventures of friend and ex-attorney Carlo Lazlo, Esq.  Rewinding to the years 1968-1972 where Lazlo attempts to free an avalanche of San Francisco youths from overly severe drug charges, Thompson drinks and drugs his way through the proceedings while his latest deadline looms.  Rambling his way from one city to the next and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Thompson’s coverage of Super Bowl VI is sidetracked by the equally eccentric Lazlo’s presence who convinces the writer to join him on a mission to supply freedom fighters with heavy artillery.  Bailing on the plane escaping madness once the fuzz show and capturing the attention of young adults across the college campus circuit, Thompson offers sage advice by supporting the notion of illegal substances in the writing process and confronting then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon during an awkward bathroom encounter.  While the chemistry between Murray and Boyle sells and their performances, most notably Murray who does a sound impression of Thompson that was, for better and sometimes worse according to his fellow cast members, carried over to his next season of Saturday Night Live, Where the Buffalo Roam is structurally messy and never as funny or witty as it thinks it is.  Scored by Neil Young in one of his only film efforts, a lackluster screenplay and dismal box-office returns, trifled by Thompson’s own disdain for the finished effort, leaves Where the Buffalo Roam as merely the forgotten predecessor to Terry Gilliam’s much trippier and appreciated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adaptation.

    Shout Select welcomes Where the Buffalo Roam to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A softer sight, colors are favorable but never do much popping while, skin tones remain nicely detailed and natural-looking.  Very scant notices of scuffs aside, a filmic quality is inherent throughout the feature without any over-sharpening techniques applied.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with the mumbling manner of Thompson’s speech requiring an occasional increase in volume while, the film’s excellent music choices (presented for the first time ever on home video!) ranging from cuts by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Temptations, Neil Young and more, offer stronger boosts in range and bass.  

    Billed under Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition banner, special features, although limited, include, Inventing the Buffalo: A Look Back with John Kaye (41:58) where the screenwriter recalls being originally tasked with scripting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, although caring little for its source citing a lackluster narrative structure, while its rights situation was resolved.  Bluntly put, Kaye also admits to being a former drug-addict and cites his research trip with Thompson through such cities as Aspen, Los Angeles and New Orleans as a fun drug binge.  In addition, Kaye felt Art Linson, making his directorial debut on the picture, was in over his head and maintains that his working relationship with Murray was a friendly one with the exception of one evening where the star badgered Kaye to come out and party resulting in Kaye having him removed from his hotel.  Lengthy and refreshingly honest, the interview is a must-watch for fans and detractors alike.  Furthermore, the Theatrical Trailer (3:14) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the supplemental package.

    Rarely funny but earning mild points for Murray’s spot-on interpretation of Thompson and Boyle’s equally worthy performance, Where the Buffalo Roam remains Hollywood’s dusty paperback attempt at bringing Thompson’s madcap brilliance to the big-screen with mostly unfavorable results.  Although its Collector’s Edition status, given its limited supply of extras, may be debated, the quality of Kaye’s interview and the film’s original music fully intact is warrant enough.  Murray completists will be pleased with what he brings to role of one of journalism’s most eccentric voices while, Thompson purists won’t help feeling underwhelmed.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Where the Buffalo Roam can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Tangled: Before Ever After (2017) DVD Review

    Tangled: Before Ever After (2017)

    Director(s): Tom Caulfield & Stephen Sandoval

    Starring: Zachary Levi, Mandy Moore, Eden Espinosa, Clancy Brown, Julie Bowen & Jeffrey Tambor

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Taking place after the events of the original film but before the lead characters’ eventual marriage, Tangled: Before Ever After brings the charming heart and humor of Rapunzel and beau Eugene to the small screen in this original movie event, kickstarting its new episodic series.  Exchanging its slick computer-generated animation for a more traditional 2D style that echoes an illustrated storybook come to life, Rapunzel, although thrilled to be back home and surrounded by loved ones, struggles to adapt to her new royal lifestyle and the responsibilities it demands.  Temporarily turning down the love of her life’s proposal in order to explore sights beyond her castle walls, the barefoot beauty teams up with her resourceful aide Cassandra and encounters a mystical rock formation that returns her lengthy locks.  Attempting to fulfill her coronation ceremony, danger is not far behind as the vengeful Lady Kaine and her ruffians seek to infiltrate the castle leaving Rapunzel and Flynn, along with their animal friends, leading the defense.  Welcoming back the voice talents of Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore, Tangled: Before Ever After sets the stage for the Disney Channel’s seemingly surefire followup to the much loved feature.  Introducing new characters, familiar locations and retaining the enchanting tone audiences fell in love with several years ago, this anticipated return for Corona’s favorite couple, complimented by new original songs by legendary Disney composer Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast), is a romantically fun adventure fans will looks favorably upon.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Tangled: Before Ever After in a widescreen format, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally mastered and warmly preserving its very vibrant color scheme, characters and busier castle backgrounds look solid making the watching experience a satisfactory one.  Joined by a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently handled while, the Menken penned song numbers give the track a subtle but, gracious boost in quality.  Bonus goodies include, four Short Cuts mini movies including, Checkmate (2:32), Prison Bake (2:22), Make Me Smile (2:32) and Hare Peace (2:27).  Furthermore, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Elena of Avalor (0:48), Descendants 2 (0:34) and Born in China (1:16) are also included.  Lastly, an Exclusive Replica of Rapunzel’s Journal, as seen in the film, is also included in the packaging.  Fans awaiting for more fairy tales to be told from the world of Tangled, fear not, as this humorous new beginning for the beloved characters is on par with the magic of its 2010 originator.  With its formal series now airing and already renewed for a second season, Tangled: Before Ever After is the perfect start to catching up with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, making for a prime Easter basket treat for young viewers this holiday season.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tangled: Before Ever After can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mickey and the Roadster Racers DVD Review

    Mickey and the Roadster Racers

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bret Iwan, Russi Taylor, Bill Farmer, Daniel Ross, Tress MacNeille & Nika Futterman

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Less educationally-minded than the preschool geared Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey and the Roadster Racers whizzes into the fast lane of fun for a delightful serving of after school entertainment.  Set in the racer-loving community of Hot Dog Hills, Mickey Mouse and pals Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto compete in the pedal-pushing sport while finding themselves in a series of adventures at home and abroad.  Presenting two tales per episode, the gang sees their vehicles go loony after filling up with Goofy’s experimental gasoline while, Minnie and Daisy, as the Happy Helpers, find their petsitting duties go haywire and their search and rescue of an escaped ape from the zoo be anything but easy.  Also facing off against the infamously unfair Piston Pietro at an international race in Rome, Mickey and friends’ colorful new exploits are a blast from start to finish and ones that young viewers will be glad they took the ride with.  Collecting the program’s first three episodes and featuring appearances from beloved favorites such as, Chip and Dale, Pete, Clarabelle Cow and introducing racing emcee Billy Beagle (voiced by Jay Leno), Mickey and the Roadster Racers is a wildly fun return for the characters where their vibrant personalities and engagement in humorous scenarios takes first place.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents episodes of Mickey and the Roadster Racers in their widescreen (1.78:1) format.  While target viewers may be less enthused by the release’s technical merits than the quality of the show itself, Disney Junior’s latest boasts a colorful vibrancy throughout that makes the computer-generated animation shine nicely.  Likewise, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes make for easy dialogue delivery and heightened sound effects, offering more than acceptable listening enjoyment.  Special features include, a Bonus Episode: “Mickey’s Perfecto Day!” / “Running of the Roadsters!” (the show’s fifth), Music Videos for the “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” Theme Song (1:15) and the “Happy Helpers” Theme Song (1:30) plus, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Tangled: The Series (0:18), Elena of Avalor (0:48), Born in China (1:16) and Cars 3 (0:59).  Lastly, a customizable Metal License Plate is included inside the disc’s packaging.  Screeching into high-gear with plenty of laughs, Mickey and the Roadster Racers is tailor-made for tikes looking to join Disney’s golden characters on a track course built on fast speeds and hearty good times.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Moana 3D (2016) Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Moana (2016)

    Director(s): John Musker & Ron Clements and Chris Williams & Don Hall

    Starring: Auli’i Cravalho & Dwayne Johnson

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A mythic adventure like no other, Moana sets sail on a daring teenager (Auli’i Cravalho in her film debut) whose mission to fulfill her ancestors’ wish teams her up with the powerful and cocky demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas).  Charting the gorgeous seas together, the determined duo encounter waves of danger and immeasurable odds on their journey.

    From the talented twosome that helped redefine a Disney generation with such milestone hits as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Directors John Musker and Ron Clements, with co-direction from Big Hero 6’s Chris Williams and Don Hall, tell a richly original tale seeped in the culture and splendor of the South Pacific islands.  Once great sailors, the ancient islanders have seized voyages for a thousand years until their picturesque home begins to crumble.  Teenage Moana, spiritually connected to the sea since childhood and Polynesian princess to her people, rebels against her land’s reef-fearing rules and sets sails on a daring mission across the sea to restore balance.  Seeking out the aid of demigod Maui whose reputation has since been tarnished, Moana’s youthful ambition matched with Maui’s desire to redeem himself and live up to his heroic mantra make for an unexpectedly ideal combination to face the peril of cantankerous coconut warriors, lava monsters and their own self-doubt.  

    Continuing their virtually flawless streak of quality animation and instantly classic storytelling, Disney’s oceanic adventure adheres to the studio’s high benchmarks of recent years with the film’s uniquely proportioned character designs, mind-blowingly photorealistic settings and inventive interpretation of factual mythology all contributing to its arresting effect.  Creating harmonious chemistry with one another, newcomer Auli’i Cravalho’s range of fearlessness and innocence coupled with the inherent charm and full-of-himself humor of Dwayne Johnson bring true magic to the screen.  Serving as an invaluable component to the film’s rhythmic nature, the combined musical efforts of Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda offer viewers culturally moving compositions and immensely catchy tunes including, but hardly not limited to, the terrific track “You’re Welcome” that showcases Johnson’s surprisingly solid singing chops.  Riding a current of immaculate artistic beauty and a moving story filled with unwavering heart and humor, Moana is yet another shining example of the very best of Disney animation that fans will happily be sailing with for years to come.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Moana with a pitch-perfect 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Thrusting viewers into the action with its depth-fulfilling 3D capabilities, the deep blue waves of the sea and Maui’s constant in your face moments are shining examples of the format solidly put to use while, its 2D transfer is an equally glorious sight of tropical colors, lifelike water effects and the deepest of black levels that are nothing short of reference quality.  Equipped with a striking DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crisply relayed while, oceanic sound effects and the film’s delightful musical numbers seal the track’s fate as another first-rate Disney effort.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Directors Ron Clements & John Musker, Inner Workings (6:26), featuring an introduction by the filmmakers, Disney’s latest short feature examines the struggle between’s a man’s logistical and free-spirited sides in a gorgeous blend of animation styles, a Maui-Mini Movie: Gone Finishing (2:29) and Voice of the Islands (31:13), takes a detailed look at how the Pacific Island people and their vibrant culture impacted the film and its makers.  Additionally, Things You Didn’t Know About… (4:00) hosts Q&A’s with the voice cast and musical teams while, Island Fashion (5:13) catches up with Costume Designer Neysa Bové and her artistic approaches to the film’s garbs plus, The Elements of… (14:14) explores the effects work that brought to life many of the film’s supporting characters in this four-part featurette.  They Know the Way: Making the Music of Moana (12:37) hosts musicians Opetaia Foa’I, Marc Mancina and Lin-Manuel Miranda as they reflect on their life changing involvements crafting the memorable tunes, a Deleted Song: “Warrior Face” (3:41), Fishing for Easter Eggs (2:52) explores the hidden nods to other Disney features found in the film and Deleted Scenes (25:56) with optional filmmaker introductions are also found on the release.  Finally, the “How Far I’ll Go” Music Video by Alessia Cara (3:04), “How Far I’ll Go Around the World” (2:44), a multi-language reel of the song and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Descendants 2 (0:17), Elena of Avalor (0:17), Disney’s Aulani Resort (0:32), Cars 3 (0:57) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) round out the on-disc supplements while, separate 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and DVD editions are provided alongside a Digital HD Code.

    With little else to add except you’re welcome, Disney has once again rode the waves into viewers’ hearts with Moana, delivering delightful characters, exceptional visual sights that seamlessly captures the splendor of the Pacific Islands and a phenomenal selection of songs that rivals the titanic popularity of Frozen’s biggest hits.  Dazzling audiences with yet another pristine presentation of reference worthy 3D and handsome supplements, Disney’s Academy Award nominated feature is a sight of beauty that will move the hearts of many like the rhythm of the sea.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available March 7th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Moana can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Deadtime Stories (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Deadtime Stories (1986)

    Director: Jeffrey Delman

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2.5/5 

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

  • Slaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Slaughterhouse (1987)

    Director: Rich Roessler

    Starring: Sherry Bendor Leigh, Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Bill Brinsfield, Jane Higginson & William Houck 

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hog wild horror ensues in Slaughterhouse when financially ruined butcher Lester Bacon (Don Barrett, Hobgoblins) finds his business rival, with an informed lawyer and town sheriff in his back pocket, itching to buy his decrepit property.  Convinced a conspiracy is at hand, the eccentric old-timer orders his cleaver-wielding, pig sound-making son Buddy (Joe B. Barton, Blood Diner) to take care of the offenders.  An above average slasher offering from the glory days of video rentals, Slaughterhouse delivers a simplistically sound plot that takes pride in its story better than most of its indie competitors where body count was always priority.  Following a dare to remain in the foreclosed kill kennel the longest, four teenagers, befit with big hair and hammy dialogue, find themselves at the mercy of the overall-wearing madman where the film truly lives up to it name.  Graced with hilariously oddball performances from Barrett and Barton, Slaughterhouse draws blood with a variety of kills including, limb chopping, skull crushing and taking advantage of the tools at their disposal, corpse grinding.  Climaxing with an expected yet, surprisingly well-orchestrated showdown between the hulkish killer and the film’s final girl surrounded by a shrine of meathooked victims, the inexpensively shot Slaughterhouse may not reinvent the cycle yet, stands as a solid entry next to other southern comfort slashers where its buckets of blood will make likeminded viewers squeal like piggies.

    Exceptionally restored in 2K from the original 35MM interpositive, Vinegary Syndrome proudly presents Slaughterhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Shattering preemptive expectations based on the scratchy American Artists logo at the film’s onset, the low-budget slasher dazzles like never before.  Boasting stable skin tones, bold color grades throughout costume choices and the film’s bloodier moments to deep black levels offering a clear presentation of the onscreen occurrences, Slaughterhouse shines with filmic grace and a virtually spotless cleanup that definitively puts to bed shoddier standard definition and overseas releases alike.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that honors the film’s original Ultra-Stereo track for the first time on home video, dialogue is clear and robust while musical selections are handled with fine authority, making the feature a delightful listen.  Additionally, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 is also included.  

    Packed with both new and vintage supplements, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rich Roessler, Producer Jerry Encoe & Production Designer Michael Scaglione, Reminiscene: Interview with Sherry Bendorf Leigh (10:40) catches up with the film’s leading lady as she reflects on the wild time making the film, Making a Low Budget Indie with Writer/Director Rick Roessler (28:16) sits down with the filmmaker as he recounts the development process of the slasher and his goal to push plot while, The Art of Producing a Low Budget Feature with Executive Producer Jerry Encoe (5:37) echoes many of Roessler’s sentiments including, their boredom making military training films that encouraged them to make Slaughterhouse and the difficulty of financing the project.  In addition, an Archival Interview with Rick Roessler from 1999 (15:16), an Archival Interview with Jerry Encoe from 1999 (10:45), Epilogue: 30 Years After the Slaughter (1:13), a Radio Interview Featurette from 1987 (4:50), Local News Coverage of Slaughterhouse Premiere (3:59) and a Shooting the Scenes: Behind the Scenes Featurette (20:48) is also included.  Lastly, Outtakes (3:08), a “No Smoking” - Slaughterhouse Theatrical Snipe (0:28), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (4:26), Radio Spots (0:45), the Slaughterhouse Shooting Script, a DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art conclude the mammoth spread of supplements.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary in true style, Vinegar Syndrome continues to prove their status as one of cult cinema’s leading distributors with its sparkling 2K restoration of this pigsploitation slasher, tailor-made for fans hogtied by its bloodtastically promising cover art.      

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Fuller House: The Complete First Season DVD Review

    Fuller House: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campon, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas & Dashiell & Fox Messitt

    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of the small screen’s most popular revival series embraced by nostalgic fans and newbies alike, Fuller House: The Complete First Season returns to San Francisco where the family who hugs and laughs like no other are back.  Widowed with three young sons to raise, dedicated mother and veterinarian D.J. Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure, The View) takes over her childhood home as younger sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin, Walt Before Mickey) and best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber, The Skateboard Kid 2), along with her own young daughter, move in to help care for her kids.  A carbon copy of the original show’s premise that stands proudly on its own, Fuller House retains the innocently cornballish comedy and lovably cheesy saccharine heart that fans have come to expect with a playful new self referential spirit in stock.  Inviting former series regulars to the festivities sans youngest sister Michelle (famously played by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) including, John Stamos (Grandfathered), Bob Saget (Bob Saget: That Ain’t Right), Dave Coulier (The Real Ghostbusters) and Lori Loughlin (90210), the new series balances the fan favorite stars exceptionally well, making their appearances enjoyably welcome without ever derailing the show into a constant series of tired reunion episodes.  Matured while fitting back into their original roles like a glove, the self-proclaimed She-Wolf pack of D.J., Stephanie and Kimmy bounce off each other with a vibrancy as if they never left us.  Accompanied by an equally talented roster of child actors, hilarity and hijinks ensue as Kimmy’s Ricardo-esque husband Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace, Mamma Mia!) wins her heart back, the She-Wolf pack dance off during a girl’s night out and D.J. decides between love with a new flame or picking things back up with hungry high school boyfriend Steve (Scott Weinger, Aladdin).  Good old fashioned family fun across 13 episodes, Fuller House: The Complete First Season will make being back home a bonafide treat of familiar faces and never enough hugs to go around.

    Warner Bros. presents Fuller House: The Complete First Season in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio that is both crisp and colorful while, celebrating the familiar sets of the show, wardrobe choices and nicely detailed and throughly natural skin tones of its cast.  Although a newly produced program of its caliber would have only further benefitted from a Blu-ray release, the DVD quality of the episodes are most satisfactory all the same.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that offer sound dialogue deliveries, the well balanced laughter of recorded studio audiences and Carly Rae Jepsen’s new rendition of the title song are handled most appropriately.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.  With its second season currently streaming on Netflix and a third already greenlit for production, the fans have spoken with their approval for the lighthearted shenanigans of San Francisco’s most loving family.  While its debut season doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it intend to, Fuller House: The Complete First Season is a humorous return to form for family sitcoms that will win audiences over that previously embraced big hair, quickly solved household dilemmas and harmlessly cheesy catchphrases.  Have mercy!

    RATING: 4/5

    (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.)

    Available February 28th from Warner Bros., Fuller House: The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

    Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

    Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson & Kyra Sedgwick

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Scavenger Hunt (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Scavenger Hunt (1979)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Stephen Furst & Richard Masur

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After the passing of eccentrically wealthy game maker Milton Parker (Vincent Price, House of Wax), Scavenger Hunt brings his fifteen diverse would-be heirs together for a competitive shot at his $200 million estate.  Simply instructed, whoever finds all the items by the day’s end will be hailed as the winner in this mad dash through the streets of sunny California.  Michael Schultz (Car Wash) helms the ensemble comedy.

    Feeding the flame that gave rise to other comical rat races in pursuit of cold hard cash, Scavenger Hunt follows the formula admirably with a mansion sized cast serving as its most prized asset.  Summoned for the announcement of dearly departed millionaire Milton Parker’s will, fifteen possible heirs to his fortune including, his staff of servants: Jenkins (Roddy McDowall, Fright Night), Henri (James Coco, Man of La Mancha), Jackson (Cleavon Little, Once Bitten) and Babette (Stephanie Faracy, The Great Outdoors), son-in-law Henry Motely (Tony Randall, The Odd Couple) and his four children, Parker’s widowed sister Mildred Carruthers (Cloris Leachman, The Last Picture Show), her buffoonish son Georgie (Richard Masur, The Thing) and their greedy attorney Stewart Sellsome (Richard Benjamin, Westworld) plus, Parker’s nephews Kenny (Willie Aames, Charles in Charge) and Jeff (Dirk Benedict, The A-Team) Stephens, joined by Mildred’s stepdaughter Lisa (Maureen Taffy, Grease 2) and thoughtless cabbie Marvin Dummitz (Richard Mulligan, Empty Nest) all arrive with a once in a lifetime opportunity at luxury and wealth.  Required to retrieve an endless supply of oddball items including, but surely not limited to, an ostrich, crystal ball, toilet, safe, moose head, false teeth, fox tail and even a fat person, the diverse pool of participants form five separate teams in order to better their odds at the desirable $200 million.  

    Featuring additional appearances from Scatman Crothers (The Shining), Meat Loaf (Roadie) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) as a fitness instructor, Scavenger Hunt is littered with one loony sequence after another when Richard Benjamin’s Stewart suffers from a case of bad luck with elevators and a run-in with a violent biker gang while, a high-speed pursuit of the many scavengers through San Diego is met with expected crashes and a lemon meringue mess.  While the film may not be the laugh-a-minute bonanza one might expect with a runtime that overextends itself by a minuscule margin, Scavenger Hunt packs plenty of physical sight gags and feverish energy to make the ride a worthy one.  Additionally, the dynamite selection of performers also ranks as one of the finer ensemble casts found in a star-studded comedy of its ilk.

    KL Studio Classics welcomes Scavenger Hunt to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Maintaining intermittent moments of softness, colors are bright and bold with Kenny and Jeff’s orange van as well as Stewart’s baby blue suit popping most effectively.  Furthermore, skin tones are healthy and respectably detailed with the greenery of the San Diego Zoo making an authentic presence.  Natural grain is evident throughout with no digital-noise tinkering observed.  Equipped with a rather hollow sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible yet, lacks a stronger push that trickles down to the film’s rather lifeless score and dull-sounding action sequences.  A faint hiss is detected throughout but hardly a deal breaking bother.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Play to Win with Richard Benjamin (10:07) where the star recalls his early work on the stage and other career highlights while, addressing Wile E. Coyote’s direct inspiration on his character in the film.  Benjamin also praises Schultz’s generous nature and his love for Laurel & Hardy that he also injected into the film’s many physically funny moments.  In addition, Winner Take All with Richard Masur (10:12) confirms the obvious that the film was consciously attempting to be Hellzapoppin’ and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for the late 70s.  Masur shares that his character and mannerisms in the film were based on a young neighbor while, recalling the difficulty of handling an ostrich which can be extremely dangerous to contain.  The Risky Business star also praises Leachman and her underrated comedic abilities.  Lastly, Trailers for Moving Violations (1:28), After the Fox (2:49) and Married to the Mob (2:09) are also included along with Reversible Cover Art.

    A zany romp where the working class and well off compete for a shot at millions, Scavenger Hunt stays the course of similar ensemble efforts before it with varying results.  While its laughs aren’t always as huge or memorable as its impressive cast, the film’s hunt for absurd items and the physical exploits that follow in their pursuit make for an entertaining journey to take with the fellow scavengers.  Arriving on Blu-ray with strong albeit, uneven technical grades, KL Studio Classics buffers the release with a welcome assortment of new cast interviews and a filmmaker’s commentary worth exploring.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Scavenger Hunt can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Parents (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Parents (1989)

    Director: Bob Balaban

    Starring: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt & Sandy Dennis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the suburban comfort of the 1950s, Parents centers on ten-year-old outcast Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky in his only film role) who suspects that his model mother and father (played by Mary Beth Hurt, The World According to Garp and Randy Quaid, Kingpin respectively) are up to more than meets the eye.  As Michael’s curiosity grows regarding the family’s limitless supply of leftovers, the nightmarish truth is revealed.  Academy Award winner Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) costars in Bob Balaban’s (My Boyfriend’s Back) directorial debut.

    Painted with stark black comedy and horror undertones of cannibalism, Parents is a quirky slice of life from yesteryear demonstrating father (and mother) know best, especially when they’re eating you.  Relocating from Massachusetts during the picturesque 1950s, quiet and peculiar youngster Michael Laemle struggles to fit in his new surroundings while, experiencing a wrath of hellish nightmares that feel all too real.  Hauntingly awkward and an incorrigibly picky eater, Michael sticks out like a sore thumb next to his seemingly perfect All-American parents.  Looks prove deceiving as Nick and Lily Laemle demonstrate their own eccentricities and questionable behavior alerting their young son that all is not kosher at home.  Further troubled by increased nightmares and bloody hallucinations, Michael’s imagination runs wild when determining the origin of the family’s nightly supply of meat.  Sneakily following his father to his job at the local chemical lab where human cadavers are tested upon, Michael’s suspicion blossoms into full-blown fear when discovering the source of the Laemle’s personal meat market.  Developing a trust with the school psychologist (Dennis) while attempting to concretely prove what he already knows, Michael pits himself and the few close to him in finger-lickin’ danger with mommy and daddy.  Never hysterical nor the bodycount picture prevalent at the time, Parents never makes fully clear when we should cackle or wince in terror, making such uncertainty all part of its Rubik’s Cube of unconventional attraction.  Recreating the time with Rockwellian precision, Quaid and Hurt are inspired casting, if not slightly one note, making the entirety of the Laemle family appear rather and perhaps intentionally, subdued throughout the film.  Featuring a grossly underdeveloped friendship between Michael and a female classmate who insists she's an extraterrestrial from the moon, Parents is not immune to miscalculations while serving as an offbeat statement on yesterday’s rarely discussed domestic dilemmas that’s earned its place amongst cult circles.

    (image not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    Lionsgate, as part of their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, presents Parents with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally restored and appearing appreciatively filmic throughout, the bright canvas of suburbia brings attention to the Laemle’s orderly household while, bolder colors found in Nick’s bright yellow sweater vest and the family’s turquoise Oldsmobile pop graciously.  Detail is also strongly admired in facial features and closeups on the cannibalistic parents carving into cooked meat with skin tones reading naturally.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that hones dialogue levels strongly for such a character-driven film, Michael’s nightmares provide suspenseful boosts that rattle the mix comparatively.  

    Graced with a winning serving of supplemental features, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Bob Balaban & Producer Bonnie Palef is on hand with Isolated Score Selections and an Audio Interview with Composer Jonathan Elias also included.  Additionally, Leftovers to Be with Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne (16:48) reveals that prolific producer Ray Stark (Steel Magnolias) was attached to the project before Vestron opted out citing Stark’s high fee as the cause.  Furthermore, Director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Doll House) turned down the film before Balaban joined the production with the latter injecting much of his own childhood into the narrative.  Hawthorne also retells that the parallels between Quaid’s performance and his own father were so close, his parents refused to speak to him for a lengthy period of time.  Mother’s Day with Actress Mary Beth Hurt (14:29) finds the cannibalistic homemaker recalling Balaban offering her the role during a regular charades game that was frequented by the likes of Tim Robbins and Al Franken.  Hurt also expresses her love for the film’s time period and the prospect of its costumes being her major draws to the project.  Next up, Inside Out with Director of Photography Robin Vidgeon (13:58) finds that the cinematographer took over duties after original D.P. Ernie Day’s (Revenge of the Pink Panther) wife fell ill.  Shooting the majority of the film’s interior sequences, Vidgeon believes his work on Hellraiser landed him the job on Parents.  Lastly, Vintage Tastes with Decorative Consultant Yolanda Cuomo (9:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:33), Radio Spots (1:42) and a Still Gallery (4:52) conclude the release’s extra features.

    (images not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    A satirical sendup of 50s family values with a taste for flesh, Parents uniquely portrays every child’s safeguards as the source of their nightmares in this cannibalistic comedy.  Served with a side order of limbs, Bob Balaban’s oddball feature arrives with a fittingly scatterbrained tone and an underlying statement on the romanticized notion of growing up in the wholesome decade.  A cooky concoction of cultish charisma, Parents joins the Vestron Video Collector’s Series with solid technical grades and a most revealing slate of extras sure to fill up the hungry horror fan.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Lionsgate, Parents can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Moving Violations (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Moving Violations (1985)

    Director: Neal Israel

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Creepshow 2 (1987) Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

    Creepshow 2 (1987)

    Director: Michael Gornick

    Starring: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour & Tom Savini

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Once again inspired by the moralistic terror tales of EC Comics, Creepshow 2 lures viewers into three stories of the macabre focused on a vengeful Indian statue, an oil slick hungry for teens and a relentless hitchhiker who won’t take no for an answer.  Starring an ensemble roster including, Lois Chiles (Broadcast News), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Dorothy Lamour (The Greatest Show on Earth) and Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn) as The Creeper, Michael Gornick (TV’s Tales from the Darkside) directs the horror anthology sequel.

    Scripted by original Creepshow helmer George A. Romero, the frightening followup, a victim of reduced budgets and scary segments, struggles to achieve the morbidly gleeful heights of its predecessor while making the best of its efforts with occasional moments of eerie excellence.  Drawing horror hounds into the comic carnage via wrap-around segments starring Special Makeup Effects maestro Tom Savini as the ghoulish Creeper, Creepshow 2’s opening tale, Old Chief Wood’nhead, starring George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour in her final performance as elderly general store operators who fall victim to senseless murder is generally dull as board until the shop’s Native American warrior statue comes alive to retrieve an eye for an eye.  As the thieving trio, headed by a notably long-haired and bare chested hoodlum (Holt McCallany, Alien 3), plan to skip town, Old Chief Wood’nhead’s deliciously un-PC scalping of the assailant nearly forgives the installment’s stale buildup.  Meanwhile, an idyllic day at the lake turned deadly earns The Raft the highest honors for the sequel.  When four horny teens find themselves stranded on water, the stalking presence of a foreboding oil slick slimes its way through the cracks of their raft to dine on their young bodies.  As they drop like flies and a pervy attempt at nookie goes south, The Raft keeps suspense central with a splashingly sinister finale fitting for the lone swimmer who couldn’t keep his hormones under control.  Finally, The Hitch-Hiker finds a wealthy businesswoman and gigolo customer roadblocked by nightmarish images of the hitcher she accidentally killed.  Simple yet effective, gunshots and continued car ramming does little to shake the bloodied man who just wants a ride.  Concluding with an expected jump scare and an animated interstitial where a Venus Fly Trap feasts on a four-course meal of schoolyard bullies, Creepshow 2, a staple of late night programming and weekend rentals, may not equal its predecessor’s tighter stories, sense of humor or star power yet, the followup, specifically the strength of its second lakeside segment, captures a nostalgic charm that makes the ride a worthwhile one.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Creepshow 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably revealing more information on either sides of frame more so than previous releases, colors are radiant as can be with details in Old Chief Wood’nhead’s sunbaked features nicely revealed while, the bright yellow speedo and other skimpy swimwear in The Raft pop brightly.  Furthermore, cleanup, outside of fleeting instances of speckles during darker sequences found in The Hitch-Hiker, is top-notch easily making this presentation the best the sequel has ever looked.  Equipped with varying audio options, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix boasts audible dialogue deliveries with the film’s synth-heavy opening title sequence sounding excellent.  Optional LPCM 1.0 Mono and 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included for your listening pleasure.  

    Well packed with content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin, Screenplay for a Sequel with George A. Romero (10:45) where the zombie cultivator discusses his love for the anthology format and heaps praise on Gornick for delivering a quality picture under unideal circumstances, Tales from the Creep with Tom Savini (7:53) finds the actor discussing the technical process of becoming his ghoulish onscreen character, Poncho’s Last Ride with Daniel Beer (14:44) finds The Raft costar reminiscing on the brutal shoot, his health scare with hypothermia during filming and Gornick’s endless support while, The Road to Dover with Tom Wright (13:51) has the trained actor detailing his early professional roots and his skills as a stuntman that helped land him the role as the deadly hitcher.  Other vintage supplements recycled from the Anchor Bay release include, Nightmares in Foam Rubber (32:03) featuring interviews from FX Artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and My Friend Rick (2:43) where Berger recalls his early encounters and fascination with his mentor Rick Baker while, a Behind-the-Scenes featurette (5:50), Image Gallery (3:34), Trailers & TV Spots (3:24) and the Original Screenplay (BD-ROM) are also on hand.  Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a new essay entitled Deadtime Stories by Michael Blyth is included along with a Creepshow: Pinfall Limited Edition Comic Book that brings life to one of the sequel’s exorcised segments and a Reversible Cover Art featuring both new imagery by Michael Saputo and the film’s original 1-sheet poster rounding out the hefty bonus offerings.

    Nearing its own 30th anniversary, Creepshow 2 suffers from standard sequelitis and a shortened stack of segments that disrupts its full potential while, persevering to deliver shades of genuine fun.  Although The Raft remains the fan-favorite of the followup, its co-features vary in mileage yet retain a charm that makes revisiting them a pleasurable blast from the past.  In their latest excavation from the Lakeshore catalog, Arrow Video has pulled the curtain back on the much-requested anthology with a definitive video treatment, a handsome stack of supplements and a gorgeously designed package sure to hitch a ride with fans.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Arrow Video in a limited 3,000 unit release, Creepshow 2 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The BFG (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The BFG (2016)

    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Starring: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall & Bill Hader

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the beloved book by Roald Dahl, The BFG focuses on orphaned human bean Sophie (Ruby Barnhill in her film debut) and her wondrous friendship with an enormous giant (Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies).  Experiencing unimaginable adventures and facing their biggest fears together, the two once lost souls discover what dreams are made of within each other.

    In a career spanning nearly 50 years filled with countless achievements ranging from fantasy to the factual, The BFG marks Director Steven Spielberg’s first production helmed under the magical Disney banner.  Reteaming with the creative talent responsible for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial including, the late Screenwriter Melissa Mathison, the long-awaited live-action adaptation maintains the whimsy and heartfelt connections to Spielberg’s more fanciful features with the technical advantages of today’s visual effects exquisitely bringing to fruition the film’s larger than life characters.  Exuding unfiltered innocence and bravery to the role of young Sophie, Ruby Barnhill joins the growing list of child actors appearing in a once in a lifetime Spielberg role and excelling beautifully.  Continuing their successful collaboration from Bridge of Spies, Academy Award winner Mark Rylance brings a childlike glee and emotional center to the titular role that enriches the film’s chemistry between the tender tall man and his sweet sidekick.  Furthermore, the combined efforts of Jemaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows) and Bill Hader (Inside Out) welcome hilariously buffoonish and foreboding clout to the villainous residents of Giant Country in their pursuit for human nourishment and tormenting the BFG.  

    Faithfully adapted and retaining the signature tongue of the film’s towering characters, The BFG suffers from a simple-mindedness that although, charming and sweet, inhibits the fantasy feature from topping the flawlessness of Spielberg and Mathison's sci-fi classic.  Built and thriving on the BFG’s bond with Sophie, their dream-catching adventures and the effectively subtle hints into the giant’s previous friendship with a human, the film’s rather bland and uneventful military climax pales in comparison to its more intimate moments.  Bringing renewed laughs to the otherwise cheap gag of fart humor and cloaked with an enchantingly quaint score from go-to Spielberg Composer John Williams (Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark), The BFG may not be an immediate classic but, lovingly reminds viewers of the power and necessity for innocent escapism.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The BFG with a reference quality 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Richly capturing the aging wrinkles and intricate gray hair follicles in the BFG’s motion-captured face, skin tones in the film’s human characters excel with natural bliss while, the fog-entrenched streets of London and the giant’s dimly lit cave showcase the utmost revealing of black levels.  In addition, textures in the costumes, both real and computer generated, are pristine with the luminescent colors of whizzing dreams glowing beautifully.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that captures the clarity of dialogue and the ambiance of floor creeks and meowing cats, the film’s track supports all areas with no disruption.  Furthermore, the bass heavy steps of the giants and John Williams’ highly recommendable score are worthy reminders of the film’s impressive soundscape.  Special features include, Bringing The BFG to Life (27:09), an in-depth series of video diaries hosted by Ruby Barnhill with onset footage and interviews from the likes of Spielberg, Executive Producer Kathleen Kennedy, Producer Frank Marshall and many others scattered throughout.  Furthermore, The Big Friendly Giant and Me (1:55) is a lovely short told through illustrations inspired from Dahl’s books that detail the BFG’s friendship with the bean that preceded Sophie, Gobblefunk: The Wonderful Words of The BFG (3:16) serves as a lighthearted resource to the film’s funky speech patterns and Giants 101 (4:57) finds fellow giants Jemain Clement and Bill Hader detailing the making of their characters and movements.  Lastly, Melissa Mathison: A Tribute (5:54) is a farewell featurette to the memory of Mathison containing priceless footage of her on The BFG set collaborating with Spielberg and company.  A Sneak Peek at 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37), a DVD edition and Digital HD Code formally conclude the release’s supplemental offerings.

    Spielberg’s movie magic teamed with Dahl’s timeless tales may be the cinematic embodiment of pure imagination.  A technical marvel with the relationship between human and giant being the film’s true strengths, The BFG, remaining true to its source material, underwhelms in a third act attempt at action excitement.  Nonetheless, while Spielberg’s latest may be imperfect, the reunion amongst the human beans behind E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial still offers enough heart and a fine farewell from Mathison worth celebrating alone.  Disney’s high-definition presentation is nothing short of remarkable while, its bonus offerings are limited but offer respectable insight into the film’s making.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Finders Keepers (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Finders Keepers (1984)

    Director: Richard Lester

    Starring: Michael O’Keefe, Beverly D’Angelo, David Wayne, Ed Lauter, Brian Dennehy, Pamela Stephenson & Louis Gossett, Jr.

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    On the run from the law and a mob of angry roller derby women, a masquerading con man boards a train and inadvertently finds himself in possession of $5 million bucks sought out by several other equally greedy parties in Finders Keepers.  Featuring an ensemble cast of characters, the madcap comedy stars Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), David Wayne (How to Marry a Millionaire), Ed Lauter (Cujo), Brian Dennehy (Best Seller), Pamela Stephenson (History of the World: Part 1) and Louis Gosset, Jr. (Enemy Mine).

    In the vein of other rat race styled comedies populated by familiar funny faces, Finders Keepers models its narrative appropriately with a high stakes pursuit for loot aboard a moving train and a broad spectrum of talent after it yet, virtually derails for its lack of laughs.  Suiting up in soldier attire to evade law enforcement, smooth operating shyster Michael Rangeloff (O’Keefe) hitches a cross-country train ride pretending to be ushering the remains of a fallen soldier back home.  Shortly after striking up a romance with fellow passenger and neurotic wannabe actress Standish Logan (D’Angelo), the professional con man realizes the contents of the casket contain millions of dollars ripped off by a thief (Lauter) and his runaway girlfriend (Stephenson).  Maintaining bogus identities and dodging the likes of the FBI and a bloodthirsty crook, Michael and Standish, with assistance from the former’s cool as ice mentor Century (Gossett, Jr.), confront a not-so-delusional train conductor, disturb desecrated ground and hobble through a house on wheels to protect their stash of cash.  Featuring an early appearance from a young Jim Carrey (Dumb & Dumber), Finders Keepers struggles to find an engaging rhythm amidst its intendedly frantic developments.  While D’Angelo’s comically judgmental tone and belief that Hollywood is the playground for homos and vibrator salesmen stand as humorous high points, Richard Lester’s followup to blockbuster sequels Superman II and III loses steam almost as quickly as it leaves the station.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Finders Keepers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Kicking off with subpar black levels and skin tones that read overly warm during a nighttime heist, quality vastly improves during daytime sequences where skin pigments, facial details and costume attire relay naturally pleasing levels and vivid colors.  Presentation is clean with no overt levels of print damage while, film grain is abundant and healthy.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably relayed although sequences aboard the train with the clacking sounds of metal across the tracks occasionally overwhelm while slight instances of hiss are also heard.  Hardly a dynamic track, soundtrack cuts from The Beach Boys, Supertramp and Don McLean make strong appearances throughout.  Although no bonus features related to the film itself are included, Trailers for Married to the Mob (2:09), Real Men (1:27), The Couch Trip (1:14), Delirious (2:22) and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (2:11) are on hand.

    While the necessary ingredients to deliver a comedy romp are mostly prevalent, Finders Keepers takes a wrong turn that wastes an otherwise strong cast on a script lacking funnier gusto.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics supplies the ensemble effort to high-definition with decent to strong technical grades but an empty loot bag of relevant extras.

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

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

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

    Director: David Irving

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949) Blu-ray Review

    The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949)

    Director: Preston Sturges

    Starring: Betty Grable, Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee, Olga San Juan, Sterling Holloway, Hugh Herbert, El Brendel, Porter Hall & Pati Behrs

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When sexy saloon gal Freddie Jones (Betty Grable, I Wake Up Screaming) rages with jealousy towards her beau and accidentally shoots a judge, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend finds the crack shot, skipping town, masquerading as a schoolteacher and striking up a new romance with a well-to-do mine owner until trouble finds her again.  Cesar Romero (Batman), Rudy Vallee (Gentlemen Marry Brunettes), Olga San Juan (Variety Girl) and Porter Hall (His Girl Friday) comprise the supporting cast.

    Marking the Technicolor debut of Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels), The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is a lighthearted western-comedy that despite Grable’s lovely singing sequences and its vibrant costume designs, lacks the spark of Sturges’ earlier efforts.  Vivacious and handy with a six-shooter, saloon starlet Freddie Jones lets her emotions get the best of her when her gambling boyfriend Blackie Jobero (Romero) takes up with another woman.  Not one to be walked all over, Freddie’s vengeful rage backfires when a missed gunshot finds its way into the derrière of a judge (Porter), guaranteeing her time behind bars.  When her dependable charm turns clumsy, Freddie, along with her coworker Conchita (San Juan), hightail it to Snake City where her cover as an absent-minded schoolteacher and love interest in a gold miner are tested, jeopardizing her life for completely new reasons.  A box-office blunder with its star thinking none too kindly of its finished product, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend is simplistically silly with slapstick gags on display during a third act shootout that amuse yet, never dares to stray from its innocently contrived formula.  Corralling humorous turns from its supporting players, this hot-headed blonde’s getaway makes for a middle of the road detour in Struges’ otherwise impressive body of work.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  While outdoor sequences occasionally suffer from blown out whites and skin tones, particularly in the male cast, wither into yellowish levels at times, Grable’s rosy cheeks are brightly highlighted.  Elements appear in strong order with little to no fallbacks while, the Technicolor photography brings bold life to the film’s costume choices.  Meanwhile, black levels are consistent yet predominately flat.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that projects crisp dialogue exchanges and even healthier singing sequences, any cracks and pops are insubstantial with gunshot effects emphasized accordingly.  Trailers for I Wake Up Screaming (2:16), Daddy Long Legs (2:14), The Devil’s Disciple (2:56) and Support Your Local Sheriff (3:03) are the only supplements included.

    A lesser work than Sturges’ more prominent favorites, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend passes for casual entertainment with meager staying value.  Mildly funny with the bulk of its humor derived from sexual innuendos in the wake of production code censors, Grable’s a doll but her personality only takes the film so far.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ HD treatment satisfies although no feature related supplements are on hand.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Finding Dory (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Finding Dory (2016)

    Director(s): Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane

    Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba & Dominic West

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to the undersea world of the 2003 hit movie, Finding Dory focuses on the loveably forgetful blue tang (Ellen DeGeneres, Ellen) as memories of her family slowly resurface, inspiring a new quest to find them.  Assisted by a wave of new sea creatures, Dory’s journey won’t be simple but, one of unforgettable adventure.  

    In its long overdue followup, Finding Dory shifts its attention to the fan-favorite costar of the original with her role as the seeker now substituted as the lost traveller in her pursuit for her family.  Treading familiar waters with a less epic journey ahead, Finding Dory’s routine calculations are thankfully offset by DeGeneres’ charisma and the film’s hilarious new supporting players.  A year after reuniting Nemo (Hayden Rolence) with his father Marlin (Albert Brooks, Drive), Dory is struck with memory flashes of the parents (Diane Keaton, Annie Hall and Eugene Levy, American Pie) she became separated from as a child.  With assistance from the bodaciouslly cool sea turtle Crush, Dory, Marlin and Nemo find themselves at the Marine Life Institute in California where the blue tang is certain she resided with her loved ones.  Before long, Dory is separated from her clownfish pals by marine biologists and forced to navigate the interiors of the aquatic development on her own.  Luckily encountering Hank (Ed O’Neill, Modern Family), a particularly crabby octopus with desires of living his days solely in an aquarium, the two find mutual benefits in sticking together while, meeting hilariously lazy sea lions Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba, The Jungle Book and Dominic West, John Carter respectively), a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and a bulbous beluga whale known as Bailey (Ty Burrell, Muppets Most Wanted).

    Warming hearts with flashbacks of an adorably young Dory and rescuing her best friends from a permeant stay in Cleveland during a high-speed truck pursuit, Finding Dory never stumbles in relaying saccharine charm yet, its narrative plays itself too safely that although entertaining, halts the sequel from exceeding the quality of its original.  With Dory and Hank’s at first contentious turned sweet friendship being the film’s finest asset along with its stunning visuals, Finding Dory may not be the next Pixar masterpiece but, remains a throughly fun ride, no matter how simple-minded its journey is.  

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Finding Dory with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Nothing short of perfection, the oceanic environment from the murky, dimly lit depths of the sea to the colorful shades of blue in the waters of the film’s California setting shine beautifully with strong presence and exacting detail.  Furthermore, the bolder hues found in characters such as Hank, Nemo and Dory pop exceptionally while, black levels never falter in relaying the inkiest of depths.  Disney once again has made a high-definition splash viewers will find the utmost delight in.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal clear with the splashing of waves, bubbling ambiance and the film’s lovely musical score all presented with effective priority.  Featuring well over two hours of additional content, Disc 1’s special features include, an Audio Commentary with Directors Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane and Producer Lindsey Collins, Piper (6:05), Pixar’s latest short subject revolving around a baby sandpiper coping with his fear of water, Marine Life Interviews (2:04) featuring humorous sit-downs with the supporting sea creatures about their encounters with Dory, The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar (9:05) deals with the complexities of bringing the tentacled character of Hank to life and What Were We Talking About? (4:31) finds the creative team discussing the titular character and the trickiness of her short-term memory loss.  In addition, Casual Carpool (3:47) finds Director Andrew Stanton chauffeuring Stars Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy and eventually Ed O’Neill as they hilariously fail to discuss fish facts, Animation & Acting (6:57) explores the art of voice acting with the cast and creators while, Deep in the Kelp (3:20) finds Jenna Ortega of Stuck in the Middle hosting a look into Pixar’s oceanic research developing the film and Creature Features (3:02) catches up with the cast as they share tidbits on their real undersea counterparts.  Lastly, Sneak Peeks for Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Elena of Avalor (0:32), Disney Store (0:32), Disney on Ice (1:02), Moana (1:26) and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast (1:37) round out the supplemental smorgasbord.

    Next up on Disc 2, bonus content includes, a Behind the Scenes section of several featurettes covering Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer (4:14), Dory’s Theme (4:57), Rough Day on the Reef (1:11), Finding Nemo As Told by Emoji (2:47) and Fish Schticks (3:35).  Secondly, a selection of bonfire-like ambiance for your television screen featuring unique Living Aquariums are included such as, Sea Grass (3:03:52), Open Ocean (2:48:30), Stingrays (2:48:42) and Swim to the Surface (1:02:20).  Finally, Deleted Scenes (50:15), Trailers ranging from the Sleep Swimming United States Trailer (1:43), Theatrical Payoff Japan Trailer (2:09), Can’t Remember Spain Trailer (1:22) and the Journey Russia Trailer (2:31) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Over a decade since Finding Nemo swam its way into the hearts of audiences worldwide, its belated sequel may have arrived with open arms but, strays too closely to formula to be considered as impactful.  While its dynamics may seem wholly familiar, the returning characters make for delightful company with the hilarious supporting players being responsible for the better part of the film’s laughs.  Falling short of the greatness of Pixar’s Toy Story sequels, Finding Dory keeps its agenda simple and breezy with depths of fun still to be had for audiences who can’t stop swimming for these beloved characters.  Meanwhile, Disney admirably stretches its tentacles to deliver another first-rate high-definition release with hours worth of bonus content to keep viewers drenched in entertainment.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 15th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Finding Dory can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

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

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Director: Anthony Hickox

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

     

  • Fuzz (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Fuzz (1972)

    Director: Richard A. Colla

    Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner & Raquel Welch

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a crazed extortionist targeting public officials descends upon Boston, Fuzz finds the bumbling forces of local law enforcement determined to capture the mysterious criminal using any goofy means necessary.  Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Jack Weston (The Thomas Crown Affair), Tom Skerritt (Top Gun), Yul Brynner (Westworld) and Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage) star in this crime-comedy from Director Richard A. Colla (Battlestar Galactica).

    Set in the 87th Precinct where an apple green makeover is in progress and incompetence runs thick, Fuzz oddly melds police procedural with comedic antics in pursuit of saving Beantown from a mysterious criminal mastermind.  Based on the popular book series and scripted by its creator Ed McBain (under the pseudonym Evan Hunter), Fuzz is as loud and bustling as its set city with rampant activity, chain-smoking and overlapping conversations taking place amongst the undercover detectives’ workspace.  Proving their hilarious nincompoopness time and again, Detective Steve Carella (Reynolds), masquerading as a hobo finds himself torched by youthful punks for kicks while, the arrival of the jaw-droppingly foxy recruit Det. McHenry (Welch) leaves the station struggling to pick their tongues up from the ground.  Following extortion demands and hits on several esteemed city officials from a villainous deaf man (Brynner), the entire department pull their efforts together to bring down the methodical baddie.  Boasting a fine ensemble cast, Fuzz is tonally peculiar but, generally succeeds in capturing laughs while, its more serious agenda as a hard-nosed copper feature feels rather routine.  Although charmingly dated with great moments featuring Reynolds and Weston undercover as nuns while, Welch and Skerritt get trapped within a sleeping bag conducting surveillance, Fuzz has sporadic shades of fun, best served as a nostalgic time capsule where antiquated appearances from speed dial cards and 25 cent peepshow booths take place.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Fuzz with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While its opening titles of city life feature murkier black levels, skin tones are pleasing and well-detailed with the apple green paint applied to the 87th Precinct popping suitably.  In addition, textures seen in costume choices are respectable with natural grain well intact and print damage being of minimal concern.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible but can present challenges attributed to actors intentionally speaking over one another.  Occasionally hollow sounding with street ambiance and other subdued effects proving more fortuitous, the final product is decent at best.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Richard A. Colla, moderated by Filmmaker Elijah Drenner.  Covering a vast array of topics including, Brian De Palma’s original attachment to the film, praising Hunter’s charming script and location shooting versus backlots, Drenner does an admirable job pulling anecdotes from Colla about the production and his television career.  In addition, “Trailers From Hell” with Josh Olson (3:05) and Trailers for Fuzz (2:58), White Lightning (2:25), Gator (1:09), Sam Whiskey (2:24) and Malone (2:00) round out the bonus features.

    Aligning a comedic touch to the more traditional cop drama it becomes in its later half, Fuzz makes its goofiness prominent and enjoyable with the ensemble cast noticeably having a great time.  A relic of its era that still musters mild charm, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the adaptation to high-definition with middle of the road results and enlightening commentary on the film from its maker and Academy Award nominated Screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) respectively.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Joshy (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Joshy (2016)

    Director: Jeff Baena

    Starring: Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Alex Ross Perry, Nick Kroll, Brett Gelman & Jenny Slate

    Released by: Lionsgate 

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Turning tragedy into much needed male bonding, Joshy stars Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley) as a former groom to be who, along with a few friends, turn his intended bachelor party into a weekend of debauchery and emotional awakenings in this indie dramedy.  Adam Pally (The Mindy Project), Alex Ross Perry (Happy Life), Nick Kroll (Dinner for Schmucks), Brett Gelman (30 Minutes or Less) and Jenny Slate (Bob’s Burgers) costar.

    Coping with the sudden loss of his fiancé, a tight knit group of friends follow through with a pre-planned bachelor party weekend to drown out the sorrows of their grieving pal only to slowly unveil their own personal dilemmas.  Retreating to the picturesque region of Ojai, California, Joshy brings together several thirty somethings as they initially choose to ignore the purple elephant in the room while, substituting the obvious with forced smiles, alcohol and ample doses of drugs.  As the pain of their own problematic relationships and internal guilt mounts, the friends soon realize that the bromantic bond between them is essential to their ability to face life again.  Mostly improvised, Joshy captures the surreal predicament of losing a loved one and its emotionally draining aftermath with a wildly comedic cast that effortlessly balances both pain and hilarity, much like the best of life’s friends.  Excellently cast, Thomas Middleditch leads the film with introverted complexity and lovable awkwardness while, his drunken brethren, namely Adam Pally as the curly-haired Ari whose flirtatious nature with the local Jodi (Slate) complicates his own situation, offer wonderfully natural and unpretentious performances with heart.  Featuring minor appearances from Jake Johnson (Jurassic World), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Alison Brie (Community), Joshy may conclude with abrupt open-endedness regarding the character’s emotional state yet, the indie effort crafts a sincere and heartwarming example of male friendship worth celebrating.  

    Lionsgate presents Joshy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, the film shines most notably during sunny outdoor sequences where the depth of the idyllic location is spotlighted.  Furthermore, skin tones are crisp and exacting while, the majority of the film appears rather bland and occasionally soft.  More than sufficient for the character-driven drama it is, Joshy makes a serviceable bow on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that thrives on its strong dialogue levels, the track has little else that stands out as particularly noteworthy but, plays well to its strengths.  Limited in its offerings, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Baena, Producer/Actor Adam Pally & Actor Thomas Middleditch.  In addition, an Also From Lionsgate (9:05) section offers trailers for Dirty Grandpa, Casual, Life After Beth, Sundown and Natural Born Pranksters with a Digital HD Code concluding the scant special features.  

    While its characters may not be fully developed and its conclusion leaving more to be desired, the realness of their personalities and the film’s central theme of friendship coping with grief make Joshy a worthy standout.  Featuring emotional and comically charged performances from its cast, the indie effort stands in as a solid drinking buddy to drown tears in and have a laugh with.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate brings the Sundance selected feature to high-def with satisfactory, if not, uneventful technical grades.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Joshy can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

    Director: Jerry Belson

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

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Haunted Honeymoon (1986)

    Director: Gene Wilder

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • 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.

  • Midnight Run (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Midnight Run (1988)

    Director: Martin Brest

    Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina & Joe Pantoliano

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After embezzling millions from the mob to donate to charity, sensitive accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) skips bail and becomes a moving target for his former employers.  When the financial opportunity of a lifetime arises, Midnight Run finds ex-cop turned bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas) jumping to haul The Duke cross-country back to Los Angeles for a $100,000 payday.  Pursued by both the FBI and the mob, Jack and Jonathan find themselves working together throughout their hilarious adventure to stay alive.  Yaphet Kotto (The Running Man), John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop), Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento) co-star.

    A hilarious road trip that takes thrilling turns and action-packed shifts, Midnight Run boasts one of the decade’s most unexpectedly funny and brilliantly matched casting combinations with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro blending laughs with his valued tough-guy persona and the wildly underrated Charles Grodin’s subtle gentleness and dry demeanor both collectively earning the comedy its true payoff.  Earning a living as a skilled bounty hunter, former Chicago cop Jack Walsh hopes to leave the business behind for good after securing and safely delivering white-collar criminal Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas for a handsome six-figures.  Uncomfortable with his standing as an unbeknownst employee of the mafia, Jonathan embezzles $15 million from mob kingpin Jimmy Serrano (Farina) and nobly donates the funds to charity.  Rightly fearing for his life while the FBI is determined to have The Duke testify against Serrano, Jack hightails it to New York to bring his bounty back west which proves easier said than done.  Comically clashing from their introduction, Jack grows disgruntled with Jonathan by the second after the latter’s fear of flying derails their quick getaway to Los Angeles.  Through trains, automobiles, grand theft auto and dwindling cash, the two polar opposites can’t catch a break as Serrano’s men, the feds and an opposing bounty hunter (Ashton) who continuously falls for Jack’s false kindness close in on them.  From one misadventure to the next, Jonathan’s attempts to get to know his cold companion are typically met with knee-snappingly profane responses before an expected friendly bromance that will save their necks kicks in.

    Boldly casting the lesser known Grodin over prominent funnyman Robin Williams, Producer/Director Martin Brest’s (Scent of a Woman) instincts wisely paid off as the improvisational spirit and inherent chemistry with co-star De Niro is what makes the film a comedy standout.  Excellently juxtaposed with high-speed chases, intense shootouts and perfectly cast supporting turns from veteran character actors, Midnight Run continues Brest’s flawless handling of action and humor following the wild success of the original Beverly Hills Cop.  A modest hit that would continue the further exploits of Jack Walsh with three TV movie sequels starring Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) in the De Niro role, Midnight Run is a flawless romp bursting with hysterical energy and excellently crafted characters that annoy, enlighten and rescue one another, much to the endless enjoyment of backseat viewers along for one of the era’s most undervalued rides.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the interpositive, Shout Select presents Midnight Run with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing strongly organic with natural grain firmly intact, skin tones are quite pleasing with admirable detail while, the textures of Jack’s leather jacket are well presented.  Sunny rural exteriors are lush with black levels containing evidence of speckling that seeps its way into other various sequences.  Commonly spotted in striped clothing or dimly lit moments, the aforementioned speckling may not be deal breaking yet, makes its presence known with varying degrees of intrusion.  Thankfully free of any scratches or scuffs, Midnight Run makes a solidly definitive leap to domestic high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, effects work and Composer Danny Elfman’s (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman) excellent score arrive with sharp clarity and robust range.  An equally pleasing optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Granted Collector’s Edition treatment, special features are headlined with a newly recorded Interview with Robert De Niro (8:51).  Although brief and overly reliant on voiceover narration, De Niro speaks highly of working with Brest who he wishes would produce more features and praises Grodin’s comedic abilities with warm memories all around for the film.  Meanwhile, We Got the Duke: An Interview with Actor Charles Gordin (12:24), Moscone Bail Bonds: An Interview with Actor Joe Pantoliano (14:19), Hey Marvin!: An Interview with Actor John Aston (17:23) and I’m Mosely!: An Audio Interview with Actor Yaphet Kotto (7:36) have all been ported over from Second Sight’s international release.  Lastly, Midnight Writer: An Interview with Screenwriter George Gallo (24:43), a Vintage Making-Of Featurette (7:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:12) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s impressive supplemental offerings.

    Ballooning into a bonafide cult favorite, Midnight Run is the vehicle that fully embraced De Niro’s  comedic diversity while his superb chemistry with the understatedly hilarious Grodin makes the film a cross-country adventure classic.  Making significant improvements over foreign releases, Shout Select’s 2K scan is top-tier with previously available but, nonetheless excellent bonus features ported over on top of a very special new De Niro interview capping this Collector’s Edition on a strong note.  With a tough bounty hunter and a sensitive criminal as your co-passengers on this odyssey of thrills and laughter, Midnight Run is simply the best ride to catch!

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • My Bodyguard (1980) Blu-ray Review

    My Bodyguard (1980)

    Director: Tony Bill

    Starring: Chris Makepeace, Ruth Gordon, Matt Dillon, John Houseman, Craig David Nelson, Kathryn Grody, Adam Baldwin & Martin Mull

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After being hassled by high school bullies and extorted for lunch money, My Bodyguard finds polite teen Clifford Peach (Chris Makepeace, Meatballs) enlisting the services of towering mute Ricky Linderman (Adam Baldwin, Cohen and Tate) to protect him.  As their business arrangement morphs into a budding friendship, the two unlikely pals learn to stand tall against their enemies and depend on one another.  Ruth Gordon (Rosemary’s Baby), Matt Dillon (Little Darlings), John Houseman (The Paper Chase), Craig David Nelson (A Small Circle of Friends) and Martin Mull (Roseanne) co-star.

    A time capsule of adolescent bullying dilemmas and a sincere encapsulation of what it means to not fit in, My Bodyguard takes its cheekily designated title and exceeds the expectations of its jokier marketing campaign to deliver a coming-of-age dramedy with a much deeper substance and potent performances from its young cast.  Marking the directorial debut of Tony Bill (Untamed Heart), mild-mannered teen Clifford Peach finds his new start at a public high school under fire when bad boy Melvin Moody (Dillon) and his cronies target the newbie with daily demands for his pocket money or else.  Reluctant to bow to their demands, Clifford’s harassment reaches a boiling point prompting the clever sophomore to seek assistance from the most intimidating presence in the entire school.  Rumored to have raped a teacher and killed a police officer, oversized mute Ricky Linderman is courted to be Clifford’s personal protection system.  After rejecting the offer, the introverted misfit saves his would-be employer from a painful beating prompting an unexpected friendship between the two.  Harboring a dark past unrelated to schoolyard rumors, Ricky opens up to his new friend as the pair scour junkyards for motorcycle parts and enjoy fine dining with Clifford’s childlike grandmother (Gordon) at a ritzy Chicago hotel managed by his father (Mull).  More trouble arises when Moody hires his own muscular bodyguard to even the odds resulting in a last stand where Clifford and Ricky choose not to walk away from their problems but, defends themselves together.

    Interestingly scripted by Alan Ormsby (Cat People, Porky’s II: The Next Day), My Bodyguard is a charming staple released during the dawn of the teen film that packs enough heart and soul to be celebrated in the same vein as other commonly hailed underdog efforts.  Hot off the success of Meatballs, Star Chris Makepeace is perfectly cast as the shy, scrawny sophomore whose smarts far outweigh his fighting abilities while, Adam Baldwin makes a cunning film debut with his emotionally rattled performance as Ricky.  In addition, Matt Dillon makes hating him an absolute joy with his slicked back hair and occasionally unhinged attitude the driving force of his memorably tormenting character.  Featuring brief glimpses of Joan Cusack (Toy Story 2) as a friendly classmate and George Wendt (Cheers) as a blink and you’ll miss him maintenance man, My Bodyguard may seem superficially silly yet, upon further inspection the low-budget favorite makes important statements on the value of friendship and weaves a much more endearing narrative than one might expect.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents My Bodyguard with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing no severe age-related imperfections and retaining a filmic touch, the small scale production casts a softer focus while, skin tones are respectably presented and bolder colors spotted in the film’s ice blue title sequence pop nicely.  Set in the overcast city of Chicago, gloomy exteriors are not uncommon with black levels appearing decently and containing only slight speckling during skyline overviews.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably relayed with occasional moments suffering from lower levels or echoes off bathroom walls.  Absent of any cracks or pops, Composer Dave Grusin’s (Tootsie) score, best observed during the opening and closing sequences, are also warmly conveyed on the mix.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tony Bill & Film Programmer Jim Healy.  Lively and informative, the two participants explore a variety of topics regarding the film’s making including, the script changes to make the lead character a teen instead of a child, many of the cast members being plucked from Chicago’s respected Second City and the impressive careers so many of the first time performers went on to obtain.  In addition, five TV Spots (2:39) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) are also included.

    Ranked as one of the 50 Best High School Movies by Entertainment Weekly, My Bodyguard takes careful consideration in building a teenage tale that both relates and entertains.  Heartfelt yet, never preachy, the young cast of up and comers sell the film with conviction that allows it to make the notion of high school bodyguards as plausible as the worst of bullies.  Making its high-definition debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics ushers the film with a soft but, true to its source presentation that is most acceptable.  Accompanied with an engaging audio commentary track, My Bodyguard is an essential slice of teen cinema worthy of your lunch money.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 6th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, My Bodyguard can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Nice Guys (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Nice Guys (2016)

    Director: Shane Black

    Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David & Kim Basinger

    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the City of Angels circa 1977, The Nice Guys centers on alcoholic private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling, Drive) and Irish Brooklyn brute enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind) as they team up to locate a highly desired missing girl.  Simultaneously juggling the unrelated death of a foxy porn starlet, the conflicting pair uncover a ring of conspiracy far beyond what they expected.  Angourie Rice (Walking with Dinosaurs 3D), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers), Keith David (The Thing) and Kim Basinger (Batman) co-star.

    Developed and failing to drum up interest in 2001, Co-Screenwriter/Director Shane Black’s (Iron Man 3) throwback to pulpy neo-noirs and hard-nosed buddy comedies gestated in earnest with the double barrel casting blasts of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling pushing the cinematic case through.  Capturing the time and place of the hardy-partying 70s with ease, The Nice Guys finds private investigator Holland March hired by the elderly Mrs. Glenn to locate her recently deceased porn star niece who she firmly believes is still alive.  Identifying an Amelia Kutner (Qualley) as a person of interest, hired tough guy Jackson Healy is paid by the woman in question to rough Holland up to keep her whereabouts unknown.  Shortly after meeting on unpleasantly physical terms, Jackson and Holland find themselves in the crosshairs of several thugs also looking for Amelia, prompting the two to join forces to crack the case they are now embroiled in.  Aided by Holland’s resourceful teenage daughter Holly (Rice), the investigative duo connect Amelia, the murdered centerfold and an experimental film with a political agenda regarding Los Angeles’ increasing smog problem to an intricate web of conspiracy with potential ties to the United States Department of Justice and the mob.  

    Comedically charged and consummately character driven, The Nice Guys is a refreshing reminder of Hollywood filmmaking that is all but extinct.  True to its tone and era without ever dependent on its nostalgia for the past, Black’s love letter to underdog private eyes in way over their heads is amusingly witty and action-packed when it needs to be with the smoggy streets of Los Angeles, host to flashy lights, iconic digs like The Comedy Store and billboards promoting Jaws 2 and the such, making the city a star in its own right.  Unabashedly drunk throughout and yelping like a girl at the sound of gunshots, Gosling’s eccentric performance as “the world’s worst detective” matches perfectly with Crowe’s dry man approach who lets his fists do most of the talking.  In addition, supporting turns from workaholic character actor Keith David as a senior ruffian and the forever gorgeous Kim Basinger as Amelia’s concerned and suspected mother bring added class to the funky feature.  Packing several twists along the way, The Nice Guys makes the strong case that blockbusters mustn’t always be tremendous in scale to make the proper impact with moviegoers.  Playing in the sandbox of multiple genres, Black’s period piece takes it to the max with a snappy screenplay and delightfully fun performances that stay contagiously cool from beginning to end.

    Warner Bros. presents The Nice Guys with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Beautifully relaying the occasionally soft lighting palette of L.A. with gorgeous color reproduction in pastel costume choices and lavish neon lights during a memorable nighttime house party, The Nice Guys presents skin tones and facial details including, wrinkles and five o’clock shadows with the utmost clarity.  Lastly, black levels are solidly inky leaving no room for error in this sharply handled transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisp while, more action-geared moments of gunfire, screeching cars, revving motors and a party rendition of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” deliver knockout punches.  Unfortunately limited, special features include, the paint by numbers EPK Always Bet on Black (5:27) and Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys (6:16) that explores the lengthy road to production for the film, its countless evolutions and character tweaks.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included with the package. 

    Celebrating the era where private dicks soared and genres were enjoyably blurred with little contemplation, The Nice Guys honors the best of both worlds with the casting combination of Crowe and Gosling earning their comedy team badges and Black’s cinematic prowess once again on its A game.  While the lack of supplements are disappointing and desperately in need of a writer/director commentary, Warner Bros.’ high-definition treatment flies and lights up the screen in style.  Can you dig it?

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Bros., The Nice Guys can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

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

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

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

    Director(s): Tim Skousen & Jeremy Coon

    Starring: Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala & Jayson Lamb

    Released by: Drafthouse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Microwave Massacre (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Microwave Massacre (1983)

    Director: Wayne Berwick

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

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

    Director: W.D. Richter

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

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • The Ratings Game (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ratings Game (1984)

    Director: Danny DeVito

    Starring: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Gerrit Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Louis Giambalvo, Frank Sivero & Vincent Schiavelli

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking his directorial debut, Danny DeVito also stars in The Ratings Game as successful Jersey trucking tycoon Vic De Salvo whose aspirations of fame lead him to Hollywood.  Teaming up with his girlfriend (Rhea Perlman, Matilda) who works for the TV ratings service, the tenacious new show runner hatches a scheme to rig the sacred system in his favor.  Gerrit Graham (Used Cars), Kevin McCarthy (Innerspace), Louis Giambalvo (Weekend at Bernie’s), Frank Sivero (Goodfellas) and Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost) co-star.

    Shortly after the cancelation of his successful sitcom Taxi, Asbury Park native Danny DeVito would find himself carrying the torch both behind and in front of the camera for the Showtime network’s debut into original TV movie programming.  Impressing top brass with his comedic creative chops on HBO’s politically funny anthology series Likely Stories, DeVito’s Jersey roots and boisterously Italian heritage rides shotgun in this satirical sendup of showbiz and scandal.  Relocating with his family to Tinseltown and living lavishly off of his trucking business, Vic De Salvo yearns to become a respected TV producer much to the overwhelming disapproval of established players.  After a spiteful decision earns De Salvo a green-lit pilot at the struggling MBC network, the short statured wannabe professional must overcome a suicidal time slot setup by his hilariously unsupportive studio head (Graham).  Teaming up with his girlfriend and fellow Jerseyite Francine (Perlman) who works for the trusted television ratings service, De Salvo’s mafioso-esque plan to rig the system to ensure his show’s popularity shoots his credibility up the charts before a hysterical downward spiral culminates at the annual TV Digest Awards ceremony.  

    Hosting a multitude of appearances from ascending stars including, Michael Richards (Problem Child), George Wendt (Cheers), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) as a dismissive network exec, The Ratings Game is a bonafide only in the 80s knee slapper that makes light of TV programs of the era while, DeVito and Perlman’s lovely onscreen chemistry assures viewers what they see is not just movie magic but, the foundation of a personal and professional relationship that has endured four decades.  Well praised during its original release and sending DeVito off on a successful run of theatrical hits, The Ratings Game would ultimately fall into unwarranted near extinction.  Delectably silly and containing an impressively funny ensemble cast, The Ratings Game has aged considerably well, highly earning itself a rerun.

    Olive Films presents The Ratings Games with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the marks of its TV movie roots with black bars displayed vertically on either sides of frame, bolder colors found in costume choices are eye-catching while, an inherent softness and occasional speckling is unsurprisingly displayed given the film’s original viewing intent.  A vast improvement over its bygone VHS release, The Ratings Game has never looked better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficient, if not underwhelming, with no troubling levels of distortion or hiss detected.  In a welcome change of pace, Olive Films welcomes the release with a generous helping of supplements including, The Short Films of Danny DeVito: The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (20:37), A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (13:48), Minestrone (11:51) and The Sound Sleeper (11:52).  In addition, Deleted Scenes (6:03), a Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:50), Promo Spot (1:41) and a 26-page booklet featuring stills, screenplay excerpts and writings on The Ratings Game and Likely Stories are also included.

    Incorporating his own Garden State upbringing with stereotypical cracks at his Italian ethnicity, Star/Director Danny DeVito’s The Ratings Game makes a splash keeping viewers entertained by its many funny performances and charmed by his and real life wife Perlman’s lovable onscreen romance.  Appreciatively saving and reintroducing audiences to Showtime’s first-ever television movie, Olive Films deserves praise for the feature’s remastered high-def presentation and its welcome inclusion of bonus features that will hopefully continue with future releases.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Jo Johnson, Rainbeaux Smith, Colleen Camp, Rosanne Katon, Ron Hajek, Ric Carrot, Jason Sommers, Ian Sander, Mae Mercer, Jack Denton, John Quade, Bob Minor & George Wallace

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Undercover as sidelining ra ra wailer, The Swinging Cheerleaders centers on Mesa University undergrad Kate (Jo Johnson) as she secretly pens an expose on female exploitation.  Shortly after realizing she’s in good company, Kate discovers a much juicier lead when a gambling circuit concocted by the football coach and his cronies is being carried out.  Fellow cult starlets Rainbeaux Smith (Cinderella), Colleen Camp (Death Game) and Rosanne Katon (The Muthers) co-star.

    Following the action-packed adventures of imprisoned women and the box-office popularity of his back-to-back blaxploitation classics, Director Jack Hill’s (Spider Baby, Pit Stop) field goal into the kinky and burgeoning end zone of the cheerleader feature would be perfectly designed for drive-in consumption.  Although not overly sexy yet, presenting plenty of buxom beauties showcasing their personal pom-poms that would make Russ Meyer proud, The Swinging Cheerleaders finds freethinking journalist Kate landing a spot on Mesa University’s coveted cheerleading squad in order to study the exploitation of women in today’s society.  Using her flirtatious skills and hot bod to her advantage, the undercover student catches the libido of the star quarterback while learning the privileged skinny on her squad-members.  As Lisa (Katon) carries on with an affair with the handsome Professor Thorpe (Jason Sommers, Detroit 9000) and shy virginal Andrea (Smith) finally gives it up through a deflowering gang-bang, Kate gets frisky with head jock Buck as jealous cheer captain Mary Ann (Camp) forces a marriage proposal out of the lug.  Stumbling upon the scandalous discovery that Coach Turner (Jack Denton, Little Cigars), along with a former alumni, is rigging games to further their gambling profits, Kate seeks to expose the truth after winning back the trust of her new friends and rescuing the kidnapped Buck to win the big game.  Boasting a cast of strong, attractive female leads common in Hill productions, The Swinging Cheerleaders may lack the steamier provocativeness that ran rampant in the short-lived genre while, maintaining a narrative that is slightly more politically charged without sacrificing its bubbly personality.  Packed with plenty of pep and a slapsticky finale where the football players charge and tackle a pair of corrupt coppers to save their QB as the cheerleaders do what they do best, Hill’s third to last feature may end rather abruptly but has a sexy and smart time getting there.

    Restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents The Swinging Cheerleaders with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of rougher looking stock footage of football games, skin tones are warmly presented while, the yellow and green colors found in the cheerleaders and ball players’ uniforms pop most appreciatively.  Understandably shot on a limited budget, the film retains a mild softness that although of hardly much concern should still be taken under advisement before viewing.  Furthermore, excessive cleanup and removal of scratches is evident throughout the film’s runtime, ensuring its presentation to be the best to date.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is crisply supervised making for a satisfying watch.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jack Hill while, Jack Hill: Swingin’ Alma Mater (8:08) sits down with the exploitation auteur as he details his earliest encounters with the film industry through his father and his experiences at UCLA’s film school.  Next up, a vintage Interview with Alfred Taylor (10:15) finds the cinematographer explaining his camera innovations that assisted him through productions such as The Swinging Cheerleaders plus, a many years passed Interview with Jack Hill and Johnny Legend (10:37) and the New Beverly Cinema Q&A (19:19) from 2007 with Hill and co-stars Rosanne Katon and Colleen Camp in attendance is also included.  Finally, TV Spots (1:36), a 23-page booklet featuring stills and Cullen Gallagher’s Pom Poms and Politics essay are joined by a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art retaining the original 1-sheet poster.

    Although its title may suggest a sex-filled romp of epic proportions, The Swinging Cheerleaders plays more two-hand touch than full on tackle when it comes to risqué content.  Still managing to share some well-rounded skin with its viewers, Hill’s lively cast of cheerleaders are less bimbo-like while enforcing the film’s strong comedic slant.  Admirably brought to high-definition courtesy of Arrow Video in collaboration with Jack Hill, The Swinging Cheerleaders will undoubtedly make fans of Hill’s illustrious legacy of cult gems squeal with excitement for the home team.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

    Director: Dan O’Bannon

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 5/5

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

  • Silk Stockings (1957) Blu-ray Review

    Silk Stockings (1957)

    Director: Rouben Mamoulian 

    Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias & Joseph Buloff

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Assigned to retrieve her comrades from the seduction of Paris, Silk Stockings finds brass Soviet operative Ninotchka Yoshenka (Cyd Charisse, Party Girl) meeting her match in the form of American film producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn).  Bewitched by Ninotchka’s beauty and revealing personality, the abiding Russian slowly finds herself wrapped up in the finer things the city of love has to offer.  Janis Paige (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies), Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon), Jules Munshin (On the Town), George Tobias (Yankee Doodle Dandy) and Joseph Buloff (Somebody Up There Likes Me) co-star.

    Adapted from the Broadway stage show based on the 1939 film Ninotchka, The Band Wagon combo of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse re-team for this song and dance mashup produced during the waining days of MGM’s musical pictures.  After signing noted Russian composer Peter Illyich Boroff to lend his talents to his latest feature, jovial American producer Steve Canfield hits a minor snag when three dimwitted Soviet soldiers (Lorre, Munshin and Buloff respectively) arrive in Paris to retrieve their fellow citizen.  Using the pleasures and luxuries of the city to his advantage, Canfield easily corrupts the blokes to embrace their new environment only to have hard-nosed female solider Ninotchka Yoshenka ordered to collect her more easily corruptible comrades.  While falsifying reasons to allow Boroff to remain in Paris, Steve finds himself falling for the ultra serious Ninotchka after breaking down the concrete barriers of her politically brainwashed personality to discover a girl embracing love and excitement for the first time.  Dancing his way into her heart and boldly proposing marriage, Steve’s alterations to Boroff’s protective tunes insults the composer and the love his life to return to Moscow promptly.  Separated by the Cold War and the near inability to enter Ninotchka’s snowy home country, Steve gets crafty to ensure his love is not lost forever.

    Aged 57 at the time of its making, Fred Astaire brings his youthful energy and dynamite dancing skills to the forefront in several notable numbers including, his impressive top hat wearing grand finale while, the majority of the film’s musical tunes lack pizazz.  Beautifully shot in lively CinemaScope, Silk Stockings handsomely boasts its theatricality with colorful costume touches and impressive choreography that unfortunately only comes alive sporadically.  Marking Director Rouben Mamoulian’s (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Mark of Zorro) final film before permanently returning to Broadway, Silk Stockings not only failed to be a rousing financial success but, would also mark Astaire’s final musical for the lion-roaring studio.  Lending comical levity courtesy of Lorre, Munshin and Buloff's combined performances, Silk Stockings narrative of opposites attracting may appear largely passé yet, the romantic chemistry between Astaire and Charisse makes the film a modest charmer.

    Warner Archive presents Silk Stockings with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving stunningly filmic, skin tones are most impressive while, the dazzling gowns and other show-stopping outfits of the film pop with divine bursts of color.  Another handsome transfer overseen by the film-loving folks at Warner Archive, Silk Stockings’ appearance is cause for tabletop dancing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is thoroughly crisp whereas the film’s musical numbers offer increased depth and an appreciatively lively push.  With no static or pops detected, the track nicely compliments its impressive visual counterpart.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, special features include, Cole Porter in Hollywood: Satin and Silk (10:15), a brisk yet informative overview of the production’s making hosted by co-star Cyd Charisse, the 1934 short film Paree, Paree (20:53) starring Dorothy Stone and Bob Hope, the Alfred Wallenstein conducted symphony short Poet and Peasant Overture (9:07) from 1955 and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:57).

    While in no great shakes one of MGM’s best musicals, Silk Stockings remains a lovely showcase for its stars’ onscreen chemistry and the stylistic chops of Astaire’s effortless dancing abilities.  Capturing moments of genuine greatness, Silk Stockings stumbles to maintain its momentum throughout its entirety.  Lighthearted and visually sharp, Warner Archive succeeds in promoting the film to high-definition perfection with a solid-sounding mix and vintage supplements including, two musical shorts that will make viewers happily swing and flip.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Silk Stockings can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

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

    Director(s): John Moxey / Jeremy Summers

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

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

    Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

    Director: John De Bello

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Adventures in Babysitting (2016) DVD Review

    Adventures in Babysitting (2016)

    Director: John Schultz

    Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Nikki Hahn, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Mallory James Mahoney, Madison Horcher & Max Gecowets

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Competing for the same internship, Adventures in Babysitting centers on edgy Lola’s (Sabrina Carpenter, Descendants) rookie attempt caring for several children gone disastrous, forcing her to reach out to brainy competitor and fellow babysitter Jenny (Sabrina Carpenter, Girl Meets World) for a helping hand.  Anything that can go wrong does as the two teenage sitters and their pack of kids trek into the big city for a night of endless adventure and hijinks.

    Inspired by Chris Columbus’ (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) 1987 directorial debut, Adventures in Babysitting follows the basic outline of its originator, modernized for today’s audience down to its G-rated revisions of classic dialogue spouted off by former star Elisabeth Shue.  Adding two sitters to the mix this time around, the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie redo pits contrasting personalities Lola and Jenny against one another for a competitive photography internship before a cell phone mixup and deceitful maneuvers land both girls separate babysitting gigs.  Laid back Lola’s lack of focus results in Trey (Max Gecowets, After the Reality) sneaking off to the city for a concert, prompting the unprepared sitter to begrudgingly ask Jenny for assistance.  Rounding up their troops of kids and commandeering one mother’s newly detailed vehicle, the two parties head into the cityscape for a night that finds them avoiding clumsy criminals in possession of an exotic stolen ferret, dodging prison and hastily trying to reclaim their towed car.  In addition to building the self-confidence of their younger companions, Jenny conjures the courage to tell her crush how she feels all before returning home ahead of the parental units, making the night a wild one that brings both sitters together as friends.

    While the young cast, namely Carpenter and Carson, do fine within the confines of the story and gel nicely with one another, Adventures in Babysitting is understandably catered to a younger generation, far removed from the slightly more adult but, nonetheless hilarious original film.  Unfortunately, attempts to recreate memorable moments from its predecessor fall flat with an eye-rolling sequence previously occurring in a smoke-filled blues bar where the cast must partake in a singing number, replaced here with a groan-inducing freestyle rap battle.  Perhaps too safe and occasionally too cornball to be enjoyed by audiences who fondly remember the much preferred original, Adventures in Babysitting will appeal to Disney’s current tween audience to whom this rendition is built for.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Adventures in Babysitting in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Fashioned for television, skin tones, prominent colors in costumes and black levels evident in the nighttime skies in the bustling city are efficiently reproduced yet, lacking an obvious sharpness that could have been remedied under a Blu-ray release.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is appropriately handled with no missteps while, the film’s catchy theme song “Wild Side” (performed by both Carpenter and Carson) provides a lofty oomph to the mix.  In addition to a magnetic picture frame included inside its packaging, special features include, Adventures in Outtakes (1:40) and Sneak Peeks (3:23) at Disney Movie Rewards, Descendants: The Official Mobile Game, Girl Meets World and Finding Dory.

    Refashioning the 80s favorite feature for Disney’s tween TV audience, Adventures in Babysitting is harmless fun for its intended demographic but, fails to hold a candle to the original.  As two of the Disney Channel’s more prominent entertainers, Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson are clearly having a ball as dueling babysitters turned besties and their contagious onscreen enjoyment makes the feature a bearable watch.  Disney Channel addicts should take to the big city, babysitting misadventures nicely while, parents will take greater comfort introducing their own rugrats to the Chris Columbus/Elisabeth Shue effort.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available June 28th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Adventures in Babysitting can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Victor/Victoria (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Victor/Victoria (1982)

    Director: Blake Edwards

    Starring: Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras & John Rhys-Davies

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in Paris 1934, Victor/Victoria stars Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) as the literally starving artist Victoria Grant whose luck turns around after befriending the flamboyantly friendly cabaret performer Carroll “Toddy” Todd (Robert Preston, The Music Man).  Devising an act where Victoria will pretend to be a man performing as a woman, audiences rave while, the rising star’s crush on a dreamy mobster (James Garner, The Great Escape) who slowly suspects the performer is not who “he” claims to be results in a feature of hilarious situations and musical magic.  Lesley Ann Warren (A Night in Heaven), Alex Karras (Webster) and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) co-star.

    A remake of the 1933 German effort Viktor und Viktoria, Writer/Director Blake Edwards’ (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) modern take remains true to its originators time period while, injecting lavish colors and even livelier musical numbers courtesy of the great Henry Mancini (Days of Wine and Roses).  In a tour de force, Julie Andrews brings her lovable charm to a performance that requires both male and female tendencies while, pushing the skillful boundaries of her singing and dancing chops in several show-stopping sequences.  Hilariously supporting Andrews, Robert Preston is magnificent as her self-professed queen best friend who recognizes Victoria’s talent and plants the seed for the show biz scheme of a lifetime.  Taking Paris by storm, Victoria/Victor are an instant smash allowing the gender-bending starlet and her manager to lead the good life until the arrival of suave-looking mobster King Marchand (Preston) lead both King and Victoria to fancy one another.  Convinced the publicized male singer is in fact a woman, King’s tough guy front dissipates before he’s truly sure and passionately plants one on the beauty in one of the film’s most romantic moments.  Further complimented by memorable turns from Lesley Ann Warren as a ditzy Chicago floozy, John Rhys-Davies as a prominent booking agent and Alex Karras as King’s closeted, teddy bear-like bodyguard, Victor/Victoria never suffers a casting flaw while, sillier sequences involving Victoria and Toddy planting cockroaches in a restaurant to avoid paying the check welcome heavy doses of comedy.  Admittedly running slightly longer than necessary, Victor/Victoria never seizes to impress with its well choreographed dance routines, Academy Award-winning score and a pitch perfect cast that gives life to its rhythmic tale of hilarity and love that doesn’t require labels.

    Warner Archive presents Victor/Victoria with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  From its hot pink opening titles to its colorful staged performances, the revered musical makes its high-definition debut with stunning clarity.  Boasting exquisite levels of detail in the more theatrical costume choices and its mid 1930s environments, skin tones are steadily natural while, black levels never disappoint with an overall healthy layer of grain retaining its filmic beauty.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is nicely handled with no qualms to be had.  Meanwhile, the film’s mix truly comes alive during its many music-filled sequences that take full advantage of Andrews’ high-reaching singing notes and the many brass and horn sections that accompany each song.  Carrying over all previously available supplements, the limited bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Star Julie Andrews & Writer/Director Blake Edwards, a DVD Easter Egg (0:36), which although not so secretly hidden, the brief interview snippet features Edwards offering compliments for Andrews’ impressive work on the film.  Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer (2:23) is also included.

    From a decade that exuded a surprising amount of musicals, Victor/Victoria ranks as one of the finest, serving as a career milestone for Andrews.  Strengthened by its theatrical energy and snappy humor, this showbiz tale with a charming love story at its core is a diva of a picture worthy of its reputation.  Warner Archive’s splendid high-definition release is a noticeable upgrade that enhances the film’s many visual charms while retaining its filmic integrity.  Although special features are few and reduced to vintage material, Victor/Victoria’s Blu-ray release remains heartily recommended.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Victor/Victoria can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Funhouse Massacre (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

    Director: Andy Palmer

    Starring: Jere Burns, Scottie Thompson, Clint Howard, Courtney Gains & Robert Englund

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on Halloween night, The Funhouse Massacre centers on a group of the most heinous serial killers in the country as they escape from their secluded asylum.  Descending upon a funhouse attraction themed to their very own murderous exploits, the homicidal lunatics continue their reign of terror on the unsuspecting guests.  In a last ditch effort to save their own lives, a group of college students, a bumbling deputy and a tough sheriff must band together to stop the crazed murderers.  Genre icons Clint Howard (Evilspeak), Courtney Gains (Children of the Corn) and Robert England (A Nightmare on Elm Street) comprise the film’s impressive supporting cast.

    Incapable of taking itself seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers, The Funhouse Massacre uses its over the top violence and familiar faces from the genre to lure viewers into its modern splatterfest of mayhem.  Shortly after breaking out of Statesville Asylum, an insane troop of serial murderers, led by Mental Manny (Jere Burns, Angie Tribeca), target a local horror-themed funhouse to kickstart their old habits.  Joined by a monstrously strong clown, an eerie doll-like vixen with a talent for knives, a bulbous cannibal, a demented dentist and a twisted taxidermist, a racially diverse group of college pals find themselves caught in the crosshairs of the Halloween killings.  Hilariously poking fun at the stereotypical roles in the film, The Funhouse Massacre makes light of the sole Hispanic character and his desire to emulate Danny Trejo’s Machete in a shtick that runs through the film’s bloodier moments.  While the fresh-faced talent carry the film well with a fine handling of its comedy, the film’s boasting of fan favorite horror stars falls short with only Robert Englund’s brief performance as the asylum’s warden being of worthy mention while, Clint Howard and Courtney Gains are reduced to little more than glorified cameos.  Earning itself the award for Best Special Effects (and Best Film) at Horrorhound Weekend Convention’s Film Festival, The Funhouse Massacre’s practical approach to its gory carnage of decapitated heads, knife slashes and body puncturing bullet shots is easily the indie efforts strongest attribute that purists will revel in.  Although not wildly original, The Funhouse Massacre is a decent horror-comedy that delivers several solid laughs and even more impressive effects work that warrants a watch.

    Scream Factory presents The Funhouse Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying nicely balanced colors and strong black levels, this modern feature looks as good as can be expected.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally strong with only Robert Englund’s descriptions of each inmate occasionally being drowned out by music effects.  Otherwise crisply captured with wailing screams and ammunition blasts making the most prominent marks on the track, sound quality is efficient.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Andy Palmer, Producer Warner Davis and Actors Clint Howard & Courtney Gains, Production Diaries (5:35), A Day on the Set (3:15), Popcorn Talk’s Video Commentary with Director Andy Palmer and Co-Writers/Co-Stars Ben Begley and Renne Dorian (1:33:34) (exclusive to Blu-ray).  Finally, the Theatrical Trailer (2:20) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the disc’s bonus content.

    Treading the familiar territory of a funhouse centered murder show, The Funhouse Massacre never dares to be too different yet, satisfies audiences with its handling of laughs and bloodshed.  Although its final product may only be of mediocre quality, there’s no denying the exceedingly well-crafted special effects that brings the film’s gorier moments to life.  Furthermore, Scream Factory’s presentation serves the film solidly with several helpings of special features for homicidal carnies in training to cut into.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Zootopia (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Zootopia (2016)

    Director(s): Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush

    Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk & Shakira

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a metropolis populated by animals, Zootopia centers on Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon a Time), the first bunny on its force, as she seeks to prove her place by cracking her first case.  Confronted with overwhelming odds and minimal support, Judy must team up with scamming fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses) to solve the mystery behind what’s reverting residents back to their savage ways.  

    In Disney’s most creatively designed animated feature in recent memory, Zootopia’s buddy cop dynamic demonstrates exemplary levels of laughs and conflicting personalities that send its furry, mismatched protagonists on an adventure-filled journey of animalistic proportions.  Ginnifer Goodwin’s spunky energy infused into Judy Hopps is excellently matched with the dry wit of Jason Bateman’s conniving fox, setting the tone for a feature about the big city, overcoming social prejudices and making a positive difference in a very turbulent world.  With the exception of a knee-slapping sequence set in Zootopia’s DMV offices, Disney’s animated feature announced itself with a mediocre marketing campaign leaving viewers in the dark of its true potential.  Strongly encouraged by overwhelming word of mouth feedback, Zootopia continues the success of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ most recent hits with heart-filled characters, impressive moments of action and peril (most notably when Judy and Nick infiltrate a hidden underground laboratory responsible for targeting the predators of Zootopia) and the always charming touches of saccharine that Disney has perfected.  While Zootopia’s many merits can be simply identified by its comedic touches and dazzling animation, perhaps its greatest strength is its not-so subtle message that true changes of understanding can only come from us.  In a heated political season where targeting the differences between our fellow man is a source of vile negativity, Zootopia’s message of acceptance and embracement of the various critters that compile our own animal kingdom is a lesson that all audiences, particularly ones of a more mature generation, can forever benefit from.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Zootopia with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Bursting with never-ending colors that leap off the screen, detail is immaculate with impressive clarity picking up delicate animal furs and razor-thin whiskers.  In addition, the unique boroughs of Zootopia’s diverse city are all excellently captured while nighttime sequences are perfectly inky and free of any digital artifacts.  As strong and memorable as its narrative, Zootopia’s high-definition transfer is as perfect as one can get.  Equipped with a flawless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that prioritizes dialogue and gives rise to Composer Michael Giacchino’s (Inside Out) eclectic score, special features include, Research: A True-Life Adventure (9:58) where the filmmakers dive into their characters real worlds for invaluable inspiration, The Origin Story of An Animal Tale (9:15) allows the makers to discuss the evolving changes made to the film and Zoology: The Roundtables (18:23), introduced by Ginnifer Goodwin, these three featurettes center on the characters, environments and animation of the film.  Furthermore, Scoretopia (4:59) dances on the wild side as Composer Michael Giaccino crafts the film’s score while Z.P.D. Forensic Files (8:23) investigates the film’s hidden easter eggs.  Lastly, the “Try Everything” Music Video by Shakira (3:21), Deleted Characters (3:16), Deleted Scenes (28:03), Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), the Disney Store (0:32), Girl Meets World (0:32) and Finding Dory (1:43) are also included alongside a DVD edition and a Digital HD Code.

    Eclipsing Frozen’s opening weekend returns at the domestic box-office, Zootopia would ultimately exceed $1 billion from worldwide grosses and be hailed by audiences and critics alike.  Warm, funny and offering an important lesson to embrace all the unique personalities that comprise our world, Zootopia is yet another glowing chapter in Disney’s tradition of timeless tales.  In addition, the Mouse House’s phenomenal high-definition presentation is nothing short of reference quality while, its supplements are nicely stocked and varied offering well-rounded insight into the film’s making.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

    Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, D’Urville Martin, Lady Reed & Jerry Jones

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Capitalizing on his comedic antics, Rudy Ray Moore (Disco Godfather) lit the blaxploitation genre on fire with his feature film debut Dolemite.  After being released from prison following a frame job, badass pimp Dolemite seeks to reclaim his hotspot club and take revenge on his nemesis Willie Green (D’Urville Martin, Sheba, Baby).  Dressed from top to bottom in the flyest outfits South Central has ever seen and aided by his squad of sexy Kung Fu trained bombshells, Dolemite is determined to take his streets back.  In what lacked in professional training, Moore easily makes up for with his hilarious charisma that comes to life through his larger than life urban superman.  In order to restore his reputation and avenge the murder of his nephew, Dolemite hits the ground running pressing local junkies and a trustworthy Reverend for information while sparing time to spit beat poetry and make sweet love to his flock of lingerie wearing beauties.  Complimented by a soundtrack of funky grooves written by Moore and performed by The Soul Rebellion Orchestra, Dolemite is never in short supply of car chases, shootouts and a climactic table turning brawl concluding with a deliciously over the top, organ ripping death cementing Dolemite’s explosive strength.  With a corrupt honkey mayor puppet mastering the city’s crimewave, Dolemite, with unexpected assistance for a smooth brother from the FBI (Jerry Jones, The Long Goodbye), brings stone cold justice to his tormentors in one of blaxploitation’s first and funniest quasi-parodies.

    Beautifully restored in 2K from the rare 35mm negative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Dolemite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the few exceptions of mild scuffs and scratches, the film is a remarkable upgrade with an undeniable filmic appearance bursting with bold colors, handsome skin tones and solid detail in city streets and interior club dwellings.  An alternate “Boom Mic” version, presented in full screen, is also included showcasing the intrusion of filming equipment and other intendedly offscreen activity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is well preserved with the film’s music cues and firepower effects making stronger mentions on the satisfyingly handled track.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Rudy Ray Moore Biographer Mark Jason Murray, I, Dolemite (24:01), Elijah Drenner’s (That Guy Dick Miller) newly crafted making-of doc on the feature and Lady Reed Uncut (23:14), a vintage sit-down with co-star Lady Reed on her experiences working on the film.  Furthermore, Dolemite Locations: Then and Now (1:47), a Dolemite Theatrical Trailer (2:55), The Human Tornado Theatrical Trailer (2:45), a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art preserving the original 1-sheet artwork wraps up the supplemental offerings.  Flashy and unapologetically fun, Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive restoration of this blaxploitation favorite, joined by a loaded barrel of bonus features, proves that Dolemite is nothing short of dynomite!

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season DVD Review

    Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Carlson Young, John Karna, Tracy Middendorf, Amadeus Serafini, Jason Wiles, Tom Maden & Amelia Rose Blaire

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the town of Lakewood, Scream: The TV Series centers on a damaging YouTube video gone viral and a group of teenagers who find themselves targeted by a masked killer in its wake.  Reminiscent of a decades old tragedy, the current wave of murders may connect to Lakewood’s dark past of death.

    Although sharing the same name as Wes Craven’s (who returns as co-executive producer with Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson) seminal franchise, Scream: The TV Series bears no connection to its predecessors while adhering to their basic formula.  Following the upload of a cyber-bullying YouTube video, high school hottie Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne, The DUFF) finds herself victim to a knife-wielding masked murderer catapulting the town of Lakewood into a frightened panic.  With no suspect in custody, popular girl next door Emma Duvall (Fitzgerald) becomes the prime target of the killer while her fellow classmates including, former best friend Audrey Jensen (Taylor-Klaus), fanatical movie geek Noah Foster (Karna), the attractively spoiled Brooke Maddox (Young) and others find themselves stalked by the unknown killer.  Struggling to stay alive, Emma is simultaneously coping with the break-up of her boyfriend Will Belmont (Weil) and the arrival of new student Kieran Wilcox (Serafini) who quickly develops an attraction towards the fragile teen.  Using modern technology to its advantage, Scream: The TV Series  incorporates texting and Facebook into the fold alongside the killer’s chilling phone calls and physical confrontations best associated with the popular film series.  Meanwhile, Craven alumni Tracy Middendorf (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) appears as Emma’s mother who along with many of the town’s adult figures are harboring a secret to Lakewood’s tragic history that eerily links to its current crop of victims.  As media attention circulates, red herrings are introduced and trust is severely tested as those closest to Emma fall victim to the killer’s blade during 10 thrilling episodes to discover who is responsible and who will survive.

    Broadcast on the anything but musical MTV Network whose priorities have shifted to mindless reality programs would understandably leave many curious watchers timid of its handling of an episodic slasher.  Astonishingly, Scream: The TV Series exceeds expectations, crafting a well-plotted debut season filled with likable characters layered with emotion and the self-referential humor fans have come to expect.  Furthermore, suspense and bloodshed are never spared allowing the series to fully embrace two of the genre’s most valued components.  With episodes helmed by such notable talents as Tim Hunter (River’s Edge), Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Rodman Flender (Idle Hands) and Ti West (The House of the Devil), Scream: The TV Series seamlessly taps into the cornerstones that made Craven’s original masterpiece so refreshing with its modern take greatly appealing to a new generation deeply ingrained in the pitfalls of social media.  Easily one of television’s great surprises of last year, Scream: The TV Series is a rollercoaster ride of mystery and scares that lives up to its iconic name.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Scream: The TV Series in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While skin tones are naturally pleasing and colors are appropriately conveyed, black levels appear decently with occasional hints of crush.  Although presentation is satisfactory, a noticeable sharpness is lacking that could have been easily remedied and far more appreciated on a Blu-ray release.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, audio is strong with clear dialogue levels and suspenseful queues where screams and atmosphere always hit their mark.  Unfortunately light, special features include, a Gag Reel (2:52), Deleted Scenes (5:33) and a Promotional Gallery (8:26).

    Unexpectedly smart and hip, Scream: The TV Series carries the torch of Craven and Williamson’s original quadrilogy while maintaining a solid sense of humor, ample bloodshed and a dizzyingly fun maze of mystery that will keep viewers guessing who until its finale.  Although disappointing in its lack of a Blu-ray release and scarce supplements, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s home video release of MTV’s debut season still gets the job done.  With its anticipated followup season focused on last year’s survivors nearing, Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season is massively entertaining and ranks as one of today’s better film franchises reinterpreted for the small screen.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 10th from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Death Becomes Her (1992) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Death Becomes Her (1992)

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Starring: Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis & Meryl Streep

    Release by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When two bitter rivals obsessed with their appearances discover a potion to keep them forever young, Death Becomes Her finds the cutthroat divas’ rivalry hilariously intensifying to heights beyond human law.  Academy Award winners Meryl Streep (Doubt), Goldie Hawn (Shampoo) and Golden Globe winner Bruce Willis (Unbreakable) star.

    Hanging up his saddle from the wild west of Hill Valley in exchange for a mad scientist’s lab coat, Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) concocts a darkly comical creation centered on fading good looks and madcap hijinks.  After selfishly marrying her bookish best friend’s fiancé, Hollywood star Madeline Ashton (Streep) takes great pleasure in her lavish lifestyle and fawned over looks until the years reveal themselves in her appearance.  Incensed by the sight of her old pal Helen Sharp’s (Hawn) youthful beauty, Madeline discovers a mysterious potion promising the return of her former self.  Further angered by Helen’s advances on her bumbling husband Dr. Ernest Menville (Willis), Madeline ingests the pink substance, returning the fading actresses beauty and increasing her desire to get even with her best friend and worst enemy.  Bowled over by Helen’s newfound interest in him, Dr. Menville and his former flame devise a way to knock off Madeline only to discover that both ladies have been sipping from the same vial, leading to a series of wickedly funny confrontations that demonstrate the immortal effects of their curious youth juice.

    Dazzling viewers with their hypnotic beauty, Streep and Hawn, in one of her last headlining roles, craft hilarious chemistry with one another while, Willis playing against type, surprises in his role as the nerdy, alcoholic surgeon who barely keeps his cool as the loves of his life roam his mansion with their necks twisted and chests blasted by a shotgun.  True to Zemeckis’ desire to experiment with technical advancements, Death Becomes Her memorably shines due to the film’s impressive computer generated effects that bring life to its many head turning and limb twisting touches to its lead actresses.  Although a commercial success, Death Becomes Her slightly dawdles in its final act, nearly exhausting the film’s snappily crafted schtick of Beverly Hills beauties battling for immortal sexiness.  Handsomely winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Death Becomes Her may be flawed and often overlooked yet, stands as one Zemeckis’ more underrated efforts and certainly his quirkiest.

    Scream Factory presents Death Becomes Her with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Sporting healthy skin tones with occasional softness, prominent colors found in Helen’s red ensembles and the potion’s pink glow impress.  Background detail in Madeline and Dr. Menville’s mansion are pleasing while, natural grain is present throughout.  Culled from what appears to be a dated master, Death Becomes Her is not always strikingly sharp but unquestionably is a vast improvement from its standard definition presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is consistently clear while, Composer Alan Silvestri’s (The Walk) score accentuates the film’s over the top tone.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Although not as vast as other Collector’s Edition releases, special features include, The Making of Death Becomes Her (25:03) featuring new interviews with Director Robert Zemeckis, Production Designer Rick Carter, Co-Screenwriter David Koepp, Producer Steve Starkey, Cinematographer Dean Cundey and others.  In addition, a Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (8:58), a Photo Gallery (46 in total), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:05) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster design wraps up the satisfying lineup of supplements.

    An unsung oddity in the vast array of Zemeckis classics, Death Becomes Her showcases the kookier sides of its three leads engaged in a premise doused in black comedy and masterful visual effects.  Co-scripted by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, The Shadow), this often neglected slice of outrageousness outweighs its flaws with its many creative charms.  Accompanied with a respectable high-definition upgrade, supplements may not be as vast as other Collector’s Editions yet makes up for it in quality.  Injecting more laughs into their series of nightmares, Scream Factory’s addition of the underrated Death Becomes Her is essential for Zemeckis devotees.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Krampus (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Krampus (2015)

    Director: Michael Dougherty

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

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • My Summer Story (1994) Blu-ray Review

    My Summer Story (1994)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Charles Grodin, Kieran Culkin & Mary Steenburgen

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the followup to the seminal Christmas classic, My Summer Story centers once again on the Parker family and their many seasonally festive adventures in the Midwest.  Determined to best his schoolyard bully, Ralphie Parker (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) seeks out the perfect spinning top while, The Old Man (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) and Mrs. Parker (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III) combat hilariously noisy neighbors among other suburban hijinks.  

    Released as It Runs in the Family before reverting back to its original title for home video, My Summer Story is a sweet, coming of age tale about family values and the boundless adventures had by children.  Based on Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical stories, Director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story) returns behind the camera with the sights and sounds of 1940s Indiana seamlessly recreated from the Parkers’ wintertime predecessor produced a whopping 11 years prior.  With Shepard providing his eternally charming narration, the recasting of the Parker clan may be jarring at first glance yet all parties make the roles their own, delivering worthwhile performances in the process.  With the changing of the seasons, new adventures await the Parker's as Ralphie (Culkin) seeks to overthrow his arch rival Lug Ditka (Whit Hertford, Jurassic Park) at the competitive game of spinning tops after obtaining an exotic one from the World’s Expedition.  Meanwhile, The Old Man’s (Grodin) never-ending battles with hillbilly neighbors the Bumpus’ heats up after a rickety outhouse is constructed sending the foul-mouthed Parker up in arms.  In addition, Mrs. Parker’s (Steenburgen) own comical exploits to failingly obtain a free weekly piece of dishware from the local theater converges with the housewife arrested for instigating a hilarious revolt against the swindling theater owner (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice).  With Tedde Moore briefly returning as Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields, My Summer Story develops a stronger bond between The Old Man and his oldest son as their early morning fishing trips become a delightful focal point of the film.  Overcoming the hurdle that this is not the same Parkers we last saw in A Christmas Story, accepting My Summer Story on its own merits allows viewers to bask in its many charms and appreciative attention to detail in whisking audiences back to familiar surroundings.

    Olive Films presents My Summer Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining its soft focus to recapture its antiquated time period, skin tones are lively and detailed while, colors in costume choices pop most nicely.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences during The Old Man and Ralphie's fishing excursions offer pleasant black levels with no crushing detected.  Possessing scant instances of scratches, My Summer Story makes a commendable leap to high-def.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is easily relayed with Composer Paul Zaza’s (Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine) familiar music queues from the original film making quaint appearances.  Unfortunately, no special features are included on this release.

    Largely forgotten with many unaware of its connection to Clark’s original holiday classic, My Summer Story may never attain the cultural appeal as its predecessor nor should it be unfairly compared to.  Recast from the ground up, the belated sequel has its heart in the proper place with sufficient fun to be had for those willing to give it an unbiased spin.  Although arriving featureless, Olive Films upgrades the film with a satisfying high-definition makeover.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley & Jim Siedow

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the decade since the original massacre, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider) seeks revenge for his slain kin at the hands of the crazed, cannibalistic Sawyer family.  Joined by local radio DJ Stretch Brock (Caroline Williams, Stepfather II), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 finds Lefty discovering the Sawyers’ underground death dungeons where a revving, gas-powered war is waged.  Bill Johnson (Paramedics), Bill Moseley (House of 1,000 Corpses) and Jim Siedow (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) co-star in Tobe Hooper’s campy followup to his frightening masterwork.

    Concluding his third and final association with low-budget mavericks Cannon Films, Director Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars) would return to the dusty Texas backroads for a new chapter in man-eating debauchery.  In a tonally peculiar departure from the original film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 marinates its horror with an abundance of wacky black comedy and far more blood than its first serving.  As the saw-wielding Sawyer family make their presence known again, vengeful Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper) seeks to make the twisted cannibals finally pay for their reign of terror.  Capturing and replaying the recording of the Sawyers’ latest murder victims to help aid the investigation, local disc jockey Stretch Brock (Williams) finds herself caught in the crosshairs of Leatherface and his demented kin when she finds herself trapped in their underground labyrinth of cannibalism.  Spouting the holy word and armored with his own artillery of chainsaws, Lefty crashes the festivities for an over the top display of southern justice.

    Largely balked at for its extreme emphasis on dark comedy before being rechristened as a bonafide cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 makes no apologies for its campiness that lights up the screen like a murderous game show thriving on excess.  Emerging from a publicized stint in drug rehabilitation, Dennis Hopper, although later disavowing his association with the film, delivers a wildly entertaining turn as an unhinged Texas Ranger that sits handsomely with the thespians other more oddball roles.  In addition, Caroline Williams, adorned in Daisy Dukes, gives viewers the ideal final girl to latch onto with a powerfully shrieking scream for the books.  While Leatherface finds himself bewitched by the alluring looks of Stretch and winds himself up into several comical hissy fits, Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top steals the picture with his lurid make-up design and hilarious dialogue (“lick my plate, you dog dick!”).  In addition, the return of Jim Siedow’s The Cook gives the film an added dose of laughs with his authentic quirkiness.  Greatly enhanced by festering tunnels and the Sawyers’ skeletally constructed dwellings ably conceived by Production Designer Cary White (Gettysburg), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an unconventional followup that left many scratching their heads with a clothes hanger yet, has achieved its proper due for its relentless dedication in seeing viewers laugh as loud as they scream.

    Scream Factory presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Located on disc one and newly mastered in 2K from the inter-positive film element, the film looks impressively vibrant with warmer skin tones, stronger black levels and an enhanced filmic quality over previous releases.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, sound is solid throughout with audible dialogue and powerfully relayed chainsaw motors and screams sharpening the film’s climactic moments.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Sprawled across two separate discs, special features on disc 1 include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan, while vintage tracks include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper and an Audio Commentary with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini.  Furthermore, Extended Outtakes from It Runs in the Family (29:37) featuring never before seen interviews with deceased Screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and the late Lou Perryman who played L.G, several Still Galleries (301 in total), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (3:29), a new Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s Archives (43:35), an Alternate Opening Credit Sequence (1:56) and Deleted Scenes (10:57) offer the impressive release’s first servings.

    Disc 2 includes MGM’s Original HD Master of the film with color correction supervision by Director of Photography Richard Kooris (1080p, 1.85:1), boasting both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  Further packed with additional supplements, newly created featurettes include, House of Pain: The Special Make-Up Effects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (42:32) with interviews from make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich.  Yuppie Meat with Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon (18:59) sits down with the film’s first two casualties as they share their colorful experiences on set.  In addition, Cutting Moments with Editor Alain Jakubowicz (17:19), Behind the Mask with Bob Elmore (13:48) who shares his account as a stuntman and fellow Leatherface performer on the shoot and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (24:33) where host Sean Clark resists the original Austin shooting locations as they are today.  Finally, the beloved 2006 It Runs in the Family (1:21:41) documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s Breakfast Club parody poster completes the smorgasbord of bonus features.

    Previously released domestically with overseas counterparts including a bevy of their own supplements, Scream Factory’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Collector’s Edition makes the definitive statement for the cannibal horror-comedy with two noteworthy HD transfers and hours of newly produced and vintage bonus features.  Topped with Joel Robinson’s colorful collage style cover art, the saw remains family with Scream Factory’s latest edition ranking as one of their prized members!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 19th from Scream Factory, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Susan Slept Here (1954) Blu-ray Review

    Susan Slept Here (1954)

    Director: Frank Tashlin

    Starring: Dick Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Anne Francis, Alvy Moore & Glenda Farrell

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When Oscar winning screenwriter Mark Christopher (Dick Powell, Murder, My Sweet) is overcome with writer’s block, unexpected inspiration arrives in the form of a 17-year-old delinquent (Debbie Reynolds, Singin’ in the Rain).  In order to save her from a Christmas behind bars, Mark does the unthinkable and marries the teen with intentions of annulling the affair when she turns of age.  Uncertain whether she wants to be the ex-Mrs. Christopher, Susan Slept Here delivers comical hijinks in a tale of possibly mismatched love.  Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), Alvy Moore (Green Acres) and Glenda Farrell (Little Caesar) co-star.

    Based on the play by Steve Fisher and Alex Gottlieb with the latter contributing the film’s screenplay, Susan Slept Here is a romantic comedy of taboo sized proportion by today’s standards.  Starring in not only his final film performance before leading a successful television career but, also his only feature photographed in color, Dick Powell appears as acclaimed yet, stumbling screenwriter Mark Christopher whose detective pal unloads teenage hooligan Susan Landis (Reynolds) with him in order to pull Mark out of his creative rut.  Against his better judgement, Mark takes the underage beauty in only to be met with understandable confusion and rage from his dynamite fiancée and actress Isabelle Alexander (Francis).  Although Mark’s best buddy Virgil (Moore), in a role originally considered for Mickey Rooney, and his loyal secretary Maude (Farrell) try to keep a lid on the scandalous situation, the harsh reality of Susan likely spending her remaining days in juvenile detention until her 18th birthday prompts the sympathetic screenwriter to scurry to Las Vegas with Susan for a shotgun wedding.  Originally joined together to showcase Susan’s status as an upstanding citizen, true feelings develop as Mark hastily retreats to the mountains to put pen to paper on his new script, based on his own very unusual situation.  Refusing to sign annulment papers while, Mark’s own uncertainty about their age difference subsides, a chance at true love may still be imminent for the odd couple.

    Helmed by former animation director Frank Tashlin (Artists and Models) whose kinetic energy crafting toons is evident in his live-action output, Susan Slept Here’s charm lies heavily in the adorable bubbly personality of Reynolds whose alluring looks and sense of humor make indelible impressions on viewers and her elder beau.  Cheekily narrated, in quite possibly a cinema first, by an Oscar statuette while, graciously being nominated twice for Best Music, Original Song and Best Sound Recording, Susan Slept Here plays its once controversial premise with sheer heart and tastefully romantic notions.  Topped with a late musical-fantasy sequence bursting with exuberant colors, Susan Slept Here may be wired formulaically but, makes for breezy, light-hearted entertainment from simpler times.

    Warner Archive presents Susan Slept Here with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  From RKO Pictures’ hot pink opening logo to the film’s glowing skin tones, the vibrant Technicolor photography is ushered in with warm detail and exceptional, natural grain levels.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s opening song debuts with a strong, if not slightly sharp, presence before relaying crystal clear dialogue, free of cracks or other observable distortion.  Lastly, the only supplement included is the film’s Trailer (2:17).

    Released to modest success before then studio head Howard Hughes sold off RKO Pictures, Susan Slept Here is a warmly conceived rom-com for a rather head-turning love story.  Reynolds’ youthful exuberance and remarkable beauty matched with Powell’s tender performance makes his feature film finale an endearing one alongside Reynolds’ rising stardom.  Meanwhile, Warner Archive welcomes the Hollywood set charmer with an outstanding hi-def treatment, making sharing a bed with the hearty picture a pleasure.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 19th from Warner Archive, Susan Slept Here can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • My Boyfriend's Back (1993) Blu-ray Review

    My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)

    Director: Bob Balaban

    Starring: Andrew Lowery, Traci Lind, Matthew Fox, Edward Herrmann & Mary Beth Hurt

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Producer Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), My Boyfriend’s Back centers on high school senior Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery, School Ties) as he builds up the courage to ask class hottie Missy McCloud (Traci Lind, Fright Night Part 2) to the prom.  Unfortunately, a fatal setback claims Johnny’s life resulting in his comical return from the grave to his keep his dream date on schedule.  Helmed by noted actor and director Bob Balaban (Parents), this offbeat horror/comedy is an entertainingly cheesy romp that adheres to the basic tropes of teen films while, its cast juggles its silly plot of prom queens and zombie infatuation with big, goofy smiles.  Incapable of taking itself seriously, My Boyfriend’s Back juxtaposes its narrative with comic-like panel transitions as Johnny’s undead existence in suburbia is met with equal parts acceptance by his loving parents (Edward Herrmann, The Lost Boys and Mary Beth Hurt, Young Adult) while, Missy’s ex-boyfriend Buck (Matthew Fox in his film debut) is less than enthusiastic.  Decaying by the day as limbs fall off his body and his hunger for human flesh grows, Johnny and Missy’s romance is tested when gun-toting townspeople want their local zombie buried for good.  Combatting a greedy doctor that seeks Johnny for his own experimentations and swaying the approval of Missy’s sheriff father (Jay O. Sanders, JFK), the living and the undead make the most of their magical evening in their fog-entrenched school gymnasium.  Released in 1993 yet, containing the colorful gaudiness of 80s productions, My Boyfriend’s Back notably introduces the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) in an early role as one of Johnny’s unfortunate meals and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) in a blink-and-you-miss him appearance.  While the genre-blending black comedy may have arrived a few years behind the curve, My Boyfriend’s Back remains an unsophisticatedly screwy good time ripe for digging up.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents My Boyfriend’s Back with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With mild speckling on display, skin tones are surprisingly well-handled with only occasional hints of oversaturation.  Otherwise nicely detailed and relaying rather strong doses of color in blood spread across Johnny’s mouth, interiors of the high school’s locker-filled halls and the EC Comic-like transitions, My Boyfriend’s Back may have occasional hiccups but, remains a generally satisfying watch.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is decently, if not unimpressively, relayed while, the film’s musical selections and intendedly dynamic sound effects are largely flat and disappointing.  No special features have been included on this release.

    Fun and welcomingly out there, My Boyfriend’s Back takes a zombified teenager’s desire for his crush to hilarious heights where undead prejudice and a hunger for limbs are their biggest threats.  Littered with a surprisingly well known cast in early roles, Mill Creek Entertainment ushers this Disney owned skeleton from their Touchstone Pictures banner with a well-handled, filmic transfer while, its audio mix leaves much to be desired.  Admittedly looking better than ever, My Boyfriend’s Back returns from the grave (again) in a manner that should leave fans quite pleased.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, My Boyfriend’s Back can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • A Mighty Wind (2003) Blu-ray Review

    A Mighty Wind (2003)

    Director: Christopher Guest

    Starring: Bob Balaban, Christoper Guest, John Michael Higgins, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Harry Shearer & Fred Willard

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the maestro of mockumentaries, A Mighty Wind reunites Christopher Guest’s (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) stock company of improvisational jokesters for a heartfelt tale centered on folk musicians banding together for a memorial concert in honor of their late manager.  Focusing on former sweethearts Mitch and Mickey (Eugene Levy, American Pie and Catherine O’Hara, Beetlejuice), the not-so-subtle Folksmen trio (Michael McKean, Better Call Saul, Christoper Guest, The Princess Bride and Harry Shearer, The Simpsons) and perky “neufet” The New Main Street Singers (headed by John Michael Higgins, Bad Teacher, Jane Lynch, Glee and Parker Posey, You’ve Got Mail), the 60s-era musicians dust off the acoustic guitars and banjos for a live event larger than originally envisioned.  Admittedly not as hilarious as Guest’s previous parodies, A Mighty Wind still allows for several unquestionably knee-slapping sequences courtesy of the infallibly funny Fred Willard (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy) as a failed television actor turned folk band manager and Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls) as a PR specialist whose inability to hum will leave viewers in stitches.  While Guest and his other cohorts have their own share of humorous bits, their musical abilities and stage performances surpass the laughs in a touching culmination of talent during the film’s televised concert.  A sonic reversal of the heavy metal shenanigans in This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind substitutes constant comedy in order to tug at viewers’ heartstrings and succeeds admirably.

    Warner Archive presents A Mighty Wind with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the markings of a recently cleaned restoration, skin tones greatly impress with filmic quality flourishing in each scene.  Shot on 16mm before being blown up to 35mm for its theatrical release, the documentary feel of the production remains intact with impressive detail spotlighting Mickey’s husband’s model train set while, the pastel colors found in The New Main Street Singers’ costumes pop quite nicely.  Nearly impossible to spot flaws, Warner Archive’s high-def treatment is mighty remarkable.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is easily relayed through the film’s many interview moments while, the climactic concert sequence delivers strong depth that should appease listeners thoroughly.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Actor/Co-Writer/Director Christopher Guest and Actor/Co-Writer Eugene Levy, Additional Scenes (21:59), TV Appearances (9:22), PBN TV Broadcast of Concert and behind-the-scenes Extras (1:20), all of which feature optional audio commentary from Guest and Levy.  In addition, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:26) and a Soundtrack Spot (0:38) are also included.

    Showcasing a more tender side to his comedic exploits, Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind may lack the gauntlet of gags found in his past efforts while, the cast slay their musical-oriented roles with grace and precision.  Sweet if not mediocre compared to more memorable mockumentaries, A Mighty Wind revives the grassroots tunes of the 60s with love and admiration for its originators.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Warner Archive harmonizes an exceptional HD transfer while, carrying over a gust of vintage supplements for fans of this lighthearted love letter to folk music.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, A Mighty Wind can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Linda Cardellini, John Francis Daley, James Franco, Samm Levine, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Becky Ann Baker, Joe Flaherty & Busy Philipps

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Striking a cord with audiences before being unfairly cancelled after only 12 of its 18 short episodes aired, the legacy of Freaks and Geeks continues to grow with each new generation fortunate enough to discover its timeless themes and painfully relatable characters.  Created by admitted high school nerd Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), the 80s set coming-of-age series takes place at the fictional McKinley High School in Detroit where two groups of opposing outsiders comprised of pot-smoking, misbehaved toughies and brainy, Dungeons and Dragons playing squares navigate the often difficult course of their teenage years.  Ditching her bookish personality, Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini, Scooby-Doo) attaches herself with the school’s infamous freak population consisting of dreamy burnout Daniel Desario (James Franco, The Pineapple Express), awkwardly friendly Nick Andopolis (Jason Segel, The Muppets) who develops a crush on Lindsay, sarcastically off-putting Ken Miller (Seth Rogen, Neighbors) and Daniel’s hotheaded on/off again girlfriend Kim Kelly (Busy Philipps, Cougar Town).  Overcoming social hurdles with her new clique, Lindsay’s newfound friendships and their many mischievous adventures guide the series while, her younger brother Sam (John Francis Daley, Bones) and his geeky pals, comedy connoisseur Neal Schweiber (Samm Levine, The Inglorious Bastards) and four-eyed Bill Haverchuck (Martin Starr, Silicon Valley), charter their own path to fit in despite their social status.  

    Executive produced by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), Freaks and Geeks digs into the heart and soul of what growing up is all about.  Although set at the dawn of Regan’s presidency, this beloved, gone too soon program universally appeals to any teenager that felt uncomfortable in their own skin while, learning the ropes of life through humorous and heart wrenching experiences that stay with you forever.  High school crushes, bullying, accepting yourself, family dilemmas and sticking by your friends are reinforced throughout the flawless sole season with the utmost sincerity and appreciation for its audience who have walked similar paths as McKinley’s students.  Reminiscent of The Wonder Years, Freaks and Geeks guides its characters through their suburban surroundings with an astonishing selection of hits from Van Halen, Joan Jett, Styx, The Who, KISS, Kenny Loggins, Rush, Billy Joel and many more, making it one of television’s most authentically utilized and unstoppably entertaining soundtracks.  Although concluding on an open-ended note in its unplanned series finale, Freaks and Geeks is the rare perfect storm that announced itself on audiences with its unwavering heart, hilarious comedy and beautifully true writing.  Although wrongly stripped of its full potential, Paul Feig’s achingly honest depiction of high school and those we share the locker-filled halls with continues to fill the hole in our teenage hearts long after we’ve left the training ground of our lives.

    Painstakingly restored from new 4K scans of the original camera negatives, Shout! Factory treats die-hard fans with remastered episodes in both their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and a special 1.78:1 widescreen presentation.  Overseen by series Cinematographer Russ T. Alsobrook, the series has never looked better with dirt and scratches removed while, filmic quality exceeds episodes’ original broadcast airings.  Skin tones are splendid, wardrobe choices reveal more detail than previously seen and interiors of McKinley High and the Weirs’ often seen home are appreciatively lush.  While purists may instinctively stick with the original broadcast ratios, the newly crafted widescreen transfers reveal a third more content of what was shot than what televisions could capably screen during its original run.  Boasting crystal-clear picture quality, the widescreen counterparts are an exceptional inclusion and one fans won’t be disappointed with.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue is perfectly audible while, Nick’s roaring drum fills and the show’s unforgettable soundtrack cuts make impressive appearances throughout the 18 episode run.  In addition to 28 recycled commentary tracks from cast, crew and even fans over the entire series, the newly included In Conversation with Creator Paul Feig and Executive Producer Judd Apatow (45:59), moderated by Los Angeles Times Critic Robert Lloyd leads the virtually endless supply of other previously available supplements including, hours worth of audition footage, deleted scenes, outtakes, bloopers, alternate takes, behind-the-scenes footage, original show promotional footage and a 36-page booklet detailing the episodes, their song selections, stills and much more!

    A one of a kind program that instills the foundation and pain of youth, Freaks and Geeks took the trials and tribulations of teenage rebels and their uncool subordinates on an unforgettable journey that was suspended from class after just one season.  From the ashes of their defeat, its cast and crew have graduated to blossoming careers as Hollywood’s most talented voices while, their glory days at McKinley High continue to speak to audiences like most longer-running shows never could.  Treating it like the gem it is since their original 2004 DVD release, Shout! Factory have given fans the definitive edition of their favorite high school series with beautiful HD presentations in both its original and newly crafted widescreen aspect ratios.  Overloaded with vintage bonus content and a brand new sit-down with Feig and Apatow, Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series will conjure your teenage spirit like your yearbook could never do.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available March 22nd from Shout! Factory, Freak and Geeks: The Complete Series can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015) DVD Review

    Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)

    Director(s): Michael Hegner & Martin Skov

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the pint-sized adventures of the galaxy’s finest heroes, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is the exciting five-part mini-series centered around C-3PO and R2-D2’s many exploits.  As the gold protocol droid retells their tales to various listeners, his faithful companion is abducted by a mysterious figure prompting him to save his short, spunky friend.

    Taking place after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales finds the celebrating rebels gathering together as their dependable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 recall their many adventures dating back to the Clone Wars.  Voiced once more by Anthony Daniels, C-3PO engages listeners with the events unfolded in the prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones before R2-D2 is stolen away by a hooded figure.  Struggling with his own fears, the timid droid pursues the mysterious individual in order to reclaim his closest friend while, continuing to tell more of their many escapades to anyone who will listen.  Chocked full of hilarious commentaries on the films and never shying from flinging Jar Jar Binks into space for laughs, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales coasts too closely to events fans have long been accustomed to, making unique storytelling opportunities limited.  Fortunately, an early encounter with Kanan and the Ghost crew of Star Wars Rebels makes for some of the series’ finest moments while, the final episode leading C-3PO to the planet of Geonosis and a confrontation with General Veers makes for a fun sendoff to a mini-series that may lack originality but excels as usual with comedy and delightful animation.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales digitally mastered in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although not nearly as sharp or defined as high-definition, colors are plentiful and pop nicely while, black levels are quite respectable and lack any intrusions of crush.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally clear but may require increases in volume to capture their full extent.  Furthermore, Composer John Williams’ original music, along with his iconic reused themes, offer sizable boosts to the track’s limited capabilities.  Although scant, special features include Sneak Peeks (5:00) at Star Wars Rebels, Zootopia and Disney Movie Rewards.  In addition, an Exclusive Trading Card Set is included inside the packaging.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Sisters (2015) Unrated Blu-ray Review

    Sisters (2015)

    Director: Jason Moore

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

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • My Science Project (1985) Blu-ray Review

    My Science Project (1985)

    Director: Jonathan R. Betuel

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

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Serial (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Serial (1980)

    Director: Bill Persky

    Starring: Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Hellerman, Christopher Lee, Bill Macy, Peter Bonerz & Tom Smothers

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Cyra McFadden, Serial takes a satirical look at the lives of California couples during the late 1970s.  Uptight and increasingly annoyed Harvey Holroyd (Martin Mull, Roseanne) becomes overwhelmed by his wife Kate’s (Tuesday Weld, Thief) new age personality while, their friends’ liberal behavior and stances on feminism, free love and other trendy traits creates a hilarious melting pot of absurdity for the simple-minded Harvey.  Sally Hellerman (Back to School), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Bill Macy (Maude), Peter Bonerz (The Bob Newhart Show) and Tom Smothers (My Brother the Angel) co-star.

    Boasting a respectable ensemble cast and marking the feature film debut of television veteran Bill Persky (Who’s the Boss?, Kate & Allie), Serial is a comical sendup of the progressive culture sweeping the nation during the late 70s.  Undersexed and overwhelmed by his liberal-minded wife and equally ridiculous neighborhood friends, Harvey Holroyd (Mull) seeks a better paying position while, his marriage takes a plummeting turn resulting in both parties shacking up with other partners.  Attempting to fall in with the crowd, Harvey agrees to attending an orgy with his newly appointed secretary and awkwardly ends up in the sexual graces of 19-year-old cashier Marlene (Stacey Nelkin, Halloween III: Season of the Witch).  In addition to losing their daughter to a carnation selling cult, Harvey fails to relate to his new freedom while, Kate’s own flirtatious attraction ends up in disaster after realizing her pet-grooming stud is bisexual.  Poking fun at societies dependence on therapy and quaaludes plus, the gossip-obsessed nosy-bodies of every community, Serial makes pit stops for Harvey to hilariously bemoan Kate’s eco-friendly insistence on denying him to drive a car.  Congregating at a wedding while the groom accepts his role as an asshole, Harvey notably comments “these are exciting times, aren’t they?  Gas is over a dollar a gallon and it’s okay to be an asshole”, summing up the film’s sarcastic stance perfectly.  Aided by a leather-clad gang of gay bikers led by the mysterious Skull (Lee), Harvey and Kate rescue their daughter from the cooky-minded cult and set aside their differences to start anew without organic foods and therapeutic jargon getting in the way.  Although, modern audiences may find little to relate to in this comic time capsule, Mull’s sensibilities and utter distaste for those surrounding him make for the film’s funniest moments while, the narrative has fun taking jabs at the occasionally outdated examples of liberals before the rise of Reganomics.

    Olive Films presents Serial with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing only fleeting instances of speckles, damage is practically nonexistent with the transfer supporting a pleasing filmic appearance.  Skin tones are natural while, colors are generally strong with only occasional moments of softness rearing its head.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably delivered with no hiss or pops detected.  Although audible, some moments appear hollow-sounding, capturing a slight echoey pitch.  With music relegated to its opening/closing credits and the use of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” during the climax, their appearances are not wildly impactful.  Meanwhile, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Grandma (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Grandma (2015)

    Director: Paul Weitz

    Starring: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden, Judy Greer, Laverne Cox & Sam Elliot

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after breaking up with her younger girlfriend, Grandma centers on temperamental scholar Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin, Nine to Five) surprised by the arrival of her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) who’s desperately in need of $600 before sundown.  Equally broke, Elle joins her kin on the unconventional fundraising journey visiting faces from Elle’s past and reopening old wounds along the way.  Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Judy Greer (Ant-Man), Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black) and Sam Elliot (Tombstone) co-star.

    Broken into six distinct chapters, Director Paul Weitz’s (American Pie, Admission) Grandma marks Academy Award nominated Lily Tomlin’s first headlining appearance in nearly 30 years.  Coping with the loss of her longtime partner, Elle Reid (Tomlin) stubbornly ends her brief relationship with her new girlfriend Olivia (Greer) only to be unexpectedly visited by her high school aged granddaughter Sage (Garner).  Confiding to Elle that she is pregnant and in need of several hundred dollars for an abortion, the two broke women hit the open road visiting Sage’s deadbeat boyfriend, Elle’s old friends and her ex-husband Karl (Elliot) in order to secure the necessary funds.  Unearthing painful skeletons and growing closer on their unusual expedition, all roads eventually lead to their strained relationship with Sage’s mother and Elle’s career-oriented daughter Judy (Harden).

    Refreshingly honest and beautifully written, Grandma combines the humor and tragedy that comprises us all with Tomlin’s tough as nails exterior and witty comical sensibilities making way for her most achingly humanistic performance to date.  In an industry unfairly skewed against actresses past particular ages, Tomlin’s feisty role is played with a no-nonsense attitude, further supported by her heartfelt dedication to stick by her granddaughter at all costs.  Free to speak her mind with bluntness and intelligence, Elle takes hits, both physically and emotionally, in order to face her own demons and come to terms with her partner’s passing.  The up and coming Julia Garner keeps up admirably with Tomlin’s powerhouse performance while, good luck charm supporting player Judy Greer portrays the ideal romantic conflict for Elle on her journey of self-discovery.  In addition, Marcia Gay Harden, although briefly seen, makes her limited screen time count in the film’s final act while, Sam Elliot’s shining moment make for some of Grandma’s most emotionally riveting sequences.  Although clocking in under 80 minutes, Weitz’s tender dramedy never shortchanges viewers, instead wonderfully weaving a simple tale of three generations of women finding themselves on firmer ground than when we found them.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Grandma with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Making impressive statements with flourishing natural skin tones and exterior environments appearing nicely detailed, black levels in Elle’s Dodge Royal and a concluding nighttime sequence are also richly inky.  With no jarring technical blemishes to report, Grandma looks splendid on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is rightly prioritized in this character-driven feature that is relayed with strong precision.  Although not wildly wide-ranging in its abilities, the mix is perfectly suitable for what’s required.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Weitz and Stars Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner & Sam Elliot, A Family Portrait: The Making of Grandma (25:15) (Blu-ray exclusive) and a Grandma Q&A (20:58) with Writer/Director Paul Weitz and Stars Lily Tomlin & Sam Elliot, hosted by Pete Hammond.

    Deservedly nominated by the Golden Globes for her stirring performance, Lily Tomlin has ushered in a new dawn of her career with her headlining turn in Grandma.  Candid and emotionally revealing, Director Paul Weitz’s low-budget charmer reveals another layer of his varied career that will most assuredly grab hold of viewers.  Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment treats the critically praised effort with easily recommended technical merits.

    RATING: 4/5

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