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Currently showing posts tagged Daniel Stern

  • C.H.U.D. (1984) Blu-ray Review

    C.H.U.D. (1984)

    Director: Douglas Creek

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    and other fine retailers.

  • 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.

  • Breaking Away (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Breaking Away (1979)

    Director: Peter Yates

    Starring: Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern & Jackie Earle Haley

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Bullitt, Dennis Christopher (Chariots of Fire), Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) star in Breaking Away as a tight-knit group of friends in the university town of Bloomington, Indiana, as they attempt to sort their lives out following high school graduation.  Self-diagnosed as outsiders, Dave (Christopher) takes his passion for cycling to new heights as a competitive race looms in their Middle American town.  

    Winner for Best Screenplay at the 1980 Academy Awards, Breaking Away remains a timeless tale of friendship and suburban serenity.  Sitting proudly with other coming-of-age classics as Kenny & Company and Stand by Me, Breaking Away has retained an enduring shelf life due to its heartwarming notions and unique casting decisions that seal its natural identity of townies uncertain about their future.  Dennis Christopher guides the picture with ease as recent graduate, Dave, obsessed with Italian cycling.  Christopher channels much humor as he attempts to emulate his foreign heroes by learning their language, listening to classical opera music and even shaving his legs much to the dismay of his aggravated father (played wonderfully by Paul Dooley).  The supporting cast shines brightly with Dennis Quaid as Mike, a former high school football player all too aware that his best days are behind him.  In addition, Daniel Stern, in his film debut, and The Bad News Bears‘ Jackie Earle Haley round out Christopher’s best friends, all committed to each other and increasingly fearful of what lies ahead.  Surprisingly, it is Peter Yates‘ direction and Steve Tesich’s charming screenplay, two non-Americans, that capture the film’s gorgeous small town American spirit.  In addition,  Director of Photography Matthew F. Leonetti (Poltergeist) basks the film in dreamy, sun-soaked lighting that romanticizes the setting to great effect.

    As tensions mount with the universities jock population and Dave’s Italian heroes betray him in a race, a chance opportunity to compete in the Little 500 allows Dave’s “cutters” a shot at redemption and self-worth.  Exciting and riveting, the film’s final race sequence will leave viewers on their feet and walking away with a feeling of bliss.  Uplifting and accurate in its depiction of youth, Breaking Away is a coming-of-age gem that is unfortunately lacking in today’s zeitgeist.

    Twilight Time presents Breaking Away with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any dirt or debris, Breaking Away bears a clean picture with natural grain intact and rich detail best appreciated in Dave’s cycling uniform colors and the youthful acne scars on Jackie Earle Haley’s face.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Breaking Away does not exactly offer a grand scope of sounds to rumble its mix but, does offer audible dialogue with no anomalies to speak of.  Special features included are a highly informative Audio Commentary with Actor Dennis Christopher and Film Historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo.  Christopher tells stories from the making of the film with clear memories and vivid detail while, Redman and Kirgo, quickly proving themselves to be the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of film scholars, moderate the track with ample knowledge leaving the viewer with a mountain of new information to absorb.  In addition, two TV spots, Road to Adulthood (0:32) and Academy Booster (0:32) are included along with Dennis Christopher’s Fellini Story (12:53), an audio recording of Christopher’s chance encounter with the famed director that earned him a role in 1972’s Roma.  Finally, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:57), an Isolated Score Track and a 6-page booklet with production photos and yet another compelling essay from Kirgo round out the supplements.  

    Heartfelt and humorous, Breaking Away is a cinematic treasure capturing the lives of youth in an idyllic American town.  The young cast impresses with humble performances that have elevated them all to greater successes in their respective careers.  Twilight Time delivers this charming Oscar-winning story with rewarding audio and video features and an audio commentary well worth its price.  While, quality coming-of-age dramas may be far and few between today, Breaking Away remains one of the finest of its kind.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited edition of 3,000 units, Breaking Away can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Leviathan (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Leviathan (1989)

    Director: George P. Cosmatos

    Starring: Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Richard Creena, Daniel Stern & Ernie Hudson 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Tombstone comes an underwater exploration in terror starring a cast from all avenues of cult cinema.  Featuring special effects wizardry from master showman Stan Winston (Aliens, Predator), Leviathan submerges you deep below the ocean floor where something has gone horribly wrong.  Scream Factory, the horror off-shoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents this oceanic horror film for the first time ever on Blu-ray!

    Leviathan centers on a deep-sea crew led by Steven Beck (Peter Weller, Robocop) in search of silver and other minerals.  Upon discovering a sunken vessel, the team unknowingly welcome a genetic experiment gone wrong on their sea station.  With futile hope of being rescued, the crew must fight for their survival against an aquatic monster.  Richard Crenna (First Blood), Amanda Pays (The Kindred), Daniel Stern (Home Alone), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Michael Carmine (*batteries not included), Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop), Hector Elizondo (Last Man Standing) and Meg Foster (They Live) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    1989 was plagued to be the year of the underwater thriller.  Most famously, Director James Cameron’s The Abyss debuted with several lower-budgeted films such as DeepStar Six, The Evil Below and Lords of the Deep following.  Co-produced by Aurelio De Laurentiis (nephew of Dino De Laurentiis), Leviathan centers on a similar undersea setting with a sizable budget and a remarkably talented cast ranging from ghostbusters to robotic police officers.  Mere days away from wrapping their expedition up, Steven Beck (Weller) and his team unexpectedly come across a sunken Russian vessel.  Shortly after returning to their station, a horrific genetic experiment follows the team, infecting victims before becoming a hideous sea-monster with a hunger for blood.  Leviathan takes its time to establish the claustrophobic environment our characters reside in while, developing their unique personalities.  Admittedly, some may find the first half of this submerged thriller a bore as nothing monster orientated occurs, but the steady build enhances the viewers attachment to the entertaining cast.  As the infecting virus takes the lives of several crew members, a slimy, otherworldly creature is born from the remains of the victims.  Tension builds as the second act heavily borrows the special effects tactics, effectively utilized in John Carpenter’s The Thing combined with the suspenseful tone of Aliens to give a good show.  With survivors scant, Beck along with Willie (Pays) and Jones (Hudson), stock up on flame throwers and other oceanic power tools to combat the savage beast.  Meg Foster (Masters of the Universe) makes a brief appearance via satellite video as the expedition companies CEO that coldly delays the team’s rescue in order to keep matters quiet.  Beck and his remaining crew choose to take down the monster in order to return to the ocean surface alive.  

    Quick cuts and dim lighting keep Stan Winston’s underrated creature designs hidden but ultimately, increasing the film’s fear level.  Although, Leviathan tends to borrow elements from other sci-fi fare, the film is still one of the more effective undersea fright fests in the wake of Cameron’s big-budget, box-office smash.  Headlined by one of the more eclectic cult casts of the decade, Leviathan is a fun, spine-tingling time at sea involving a steroid-induced version of the Gill Man and Peter Weller cold-cocking Meg Foster.  Priceless!

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Scream Factory presents Leviathan in a 1080p widescreen transfer bearing a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Surprisingly, the film is nearly free of any anomalies such as flakes and speckles with a healthy level of grain firmly intact.  Skin tones are relayed naturally with detail relatively crisp although, some close-ups appear not as sharp.  Far from a wildly colorful film, the sea station’s stainless steel and monotone colors come across precise.  In addition, submerged 16,000 feet below the surface, black levels are handled exceptionally well in this oceanic shocker with no crushing to speak of and all activity very visible.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Leviathan is very dialogue driven especially in the film’s first half which is perfectly crisp and audible.  Nice-sounding but generally contained, the mix is allowed to expand with Jerry Goldsmith’s (Chinatown, Poltergeist) soothing score that can be as calm as the sea or as ominously droning when danger is near.  Moments of more intense action give the film a more rewarding boost, enhancing the listening experience.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Leviathan - Monster Melting Pot (40:26): Creature Effects Artists Tom Woodruff Jr. (who also performed, albeit uncredited, the lead creature in the film as well as the Gillman in 1987’s The Monster Squad and as the titular monster in Pumpkinhead), Shannon Shea and Alec Gillis discuss the bombardment of underwater thrillers in 1989.  In addition, the trio speak of their working relationship with Stan Winston and the difficult design challenges of the dive suit costumes and much more.  This lengthy featurette is highly informative and shines a well deserved spotlight on the masters behind the scares.

    • Dissecting Cobb with Hector Elizondo (12:35): Elizondo discusses the humor and “every man” mentality he brought to his role of Cobb while, discussing the less than desirable conditions filming within the dive costumes.  The seasoned thespian also looks back with fond memories and gratitude towards his former cast members and special effects master Stan Winston.

    • Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson (15:01): The Congo star recounts filming on location in Rome and his swimming inexperience which led the production to offer him lessons for his role.  Hudson’s dislike for pointlessly dying in a film resulted in his honorable fate in Leviathan.  Earnest and appreciative, Hudson is still moved when fans express their love for his work.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:51)

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Without Warning, Lake Placid, Saturn 3 and Swamp Thing.

    • Reversible cover art

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Released in a year overloaded with deep sea expeditions uncovering something sinister, Leviathan is a noble, lower-budgeted effort compared to James Cameron’s mega expensive spectacle.  Featuring a wonderfully diverse cast of familiar faces and effective creature designs from Stan Winston and company, Leviathan kicks off slow but eventually builds to a suspense-driven climax akin to Aliens.  While, not the most original concept, Leviathan is still a fun execution in underwater terror that holds up nicely 25 years later.  Scream Factory’s Blu-ray treatment comes with a near perfect video and audio treatment joined by another informative and entertaining assortment of special features provided by the talented Aine Leicht (Deadly Eyes, Ginger Snaps).  How long can you hold your breath without adding this superior entry into your Scream Factory collection?

    RATING: 4/5