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  • Undercover Blues (1993) Blu-ray Review

    Undercover Blues (1993)

    Director: Herbert Ross

    Starring: Kathleen Turner, Dennis Quaid, Fiona Shaw, Stanley Tucci, Larry Miller, Park Overall & Tom Arnold

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When undercover spies Jane (Kathleen Turner, Romancing the Stone) and Jeff (Dennis Quaid, The Rookie) Blue take a well-deserved vacation with their infant daughter, their exploits in espionage are not far behind.  Set in the gorgeous locale of New Orleans, Undercover Blues finds the wildly in love couple pulled back into the fold to stop Czech arms dealer, Novacek (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).  Never ones to take their job too seriously against dangerous odds, hilarity and action ensue during the Blues’ unconventional getaway.  Stanley Tucci (Spotlight), Larry Miller (10 Things I Hate About You), Park Overall (Mississippi Burning) and Tom Arnold (True Lies) co-star.

    From Director Herbert Ross (The Sunshine Boys, Footloose), Undercover Blues matches the comically capable talents of Kathleen Turner and Dennis Quaid for a family-oriented spy adventure set in the romantic Jazz capital of the country.  Shortly after arriving in New Orleans for their long overdue vacation with their new baby, unsuspecting spies Jane (Turner) and Jeff (Quaid) Blue find themselves tangling with street thugs (Academy Award nominated Tucci and comedian Dave Chappelle in his first role) before local law enforcement grow suspicious of the tourists.  Summoned back into field work by their superior (Academy Award nominated Richard Jenkins, The Visitor) to retrieve experimental C-22 explosives from a villainous arms dealer, the Blues see no reason why business should interfere with pleasure.  Taking their daughter to the local zoo and enjoying fine dining while conducting their investigation, the Blues’ sarcastic demeanor and endless tussles with vengeful local criminal Muerte make for the film’s limited highlights.  Although Turner and Quaid create wonderful chemistry together and appear to be having a ball, Undercover Blues’ story is far too generic with lackluster action presented, offering little outside of the Blues’ personality quirks and hilariously unruffled reactions.  Shot on the actual streets of New Orleans, Undercover Blues failed to register with audiences during its original release but, manages to squeeze several laughs out of its otherwise bland plot.

    Olive Films presents Undercover Blues with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Culled from what appears to be a dated master, the opening credits open softly with countless instances of dirt and debris spotted.  Transitioning to the film, skin tones are moderately pleasing ranging from warmly accurate to occasionally softer appearances.  Exterior footage of New Orleans streets and wild animals at a local zoo sport pleasing boosts in color definition while, the few nighttime sequences appear free of any disrupting digital artifacts.  Although dust and speckles continue to arise throughout the runtime, instances are of little to no dilemma.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasantly satisfactory with delivery always audible and crisp.  Meanwhile, jazz parades and the film’s final act involving several explosions, a getaway helicopter and gunfire provide marginal yet, pleasing quality boosts in this otherwise tame mix.  Expectedly scant, the sole special feature included is the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (1:55).

    Although lacking in originality, Undercover Blues delivers entertaining comic performances from Turner and Quaid who make the most of their New Orleans adventure with baby in tow.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films welcomes this forgotten effort with suitable audio and video specifications that should appease most viewers.  While by no means essential, Turner and Quaid’s charm and undeniable likability make Undercover Blues a curious effort.    

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Undercover Blues 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.

  • TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978) DVD Review



    The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978)
    Director(s): Robert Day / Walter Grauman
    Starring: Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany & Morgan Fairchild / Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner & Dennis Quaid
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Embarking on uncharted territory, Scream Factory has jumped into your living room with a double dose of television frights from the 1970s.  Two flicks, both from 1978, center on a college freshmen with psychic powers while the other focuses on a high schooler who becomes the target of a stalker, make up this collection from a time when Dallas and Taxi ruled the airwaves.  In today’s reality TV obsessed culture, how do these bygone made-for-television efforts holds up?  Grab your microwavable dinner, turn out the lights and let’s find out…

    The Initiation of Sarah stars Kay Lenz (House) as Sarah Goodwin, a shy college freshman who joins a sorority as a way to fit in.  Unfortunately, the sorority’s housemother played by Shelley Winters, is a witch who knows Sarah has the gift of psychic abilities.  The twisted old woman encourages Sarah to use her powers for revenge.  The supporting cast includes Morgan Brittany (Dallas) and an exceptionally bitchy Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction).  Next up, Are You in the House Alone?! finds a beautiful high school student (Kathleen Beller of The Sword and the Sorcerer) the target of a sadistic stalker who has been leaving obscene messages in her locker and watching her every move.  The stalker is only getting closer and time is running out!  An all-star cast comprised of a young Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Tony Bill (Shampoo) and Scott Colomby (Porky’s) all make appearances.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/TV_Terrors__Initiation_of_Sara/tv_terrors__initiation_of_sara.html