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Currently showing posts tagged Documentary

  • 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.

  • Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011)

    Director: Gilles Penso

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Spotlighting the revered career and immeasurable talents of one of the industry’s most influential artists, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan features insight from the man himself as he reflects on his many works and techniques with other noted filmmakers including, Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Joe Dante (Gremlins), James Cameron (Avatar) and countless others celebrating the magic of their collective hero.

    Capturing the imaginations of audiences and future moviemakers like few before or since, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan expertly documents the mastery of cinema’s stop-motion wizard from his earliest days as an apprentice for distinguished animator Willis O’Brien through his own fairy tale claymation shorts to his escalating talents that would shape the lauded feature films of his career.  Retold in remarkable detail from the elderly yet, razor-sharp artist himself, Harryhausen provides insight into the painstaking aspects and concentration required for his craft and the many technical advancements he crafted through each one of his pictures.  Long before the days of digital playback, Harryhausen’s imagination and improvisational skills guided the creature crafting genius through grueling months of long sequences that would ultimately be rewarded as the highlights of their respective films.  Spending respectable time on each of the legend’s timeless classics from his gorilla designing work in Mighty Joe Young to his monsterific destruction in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other impressionable sci-fi efforts of the 1950s to his dazzling feats found throughout the Sinbad trilogy, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan leaves no stone left unturned as the master’s body of work is handsomely honored.  Equally as impressive as Harryhausen’s own recollections and invaluable commentary are the plethora of industry leaders from John Lasseter (Toy Story), Phil Tippett (Star Wars), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Dennis Muren (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Henry Selick (Coraline), Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), lifelong friend Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and many more who graciously appear as talking heads to express their awe and admiration for Harryhausen’s boundary pushing efforts.  As loving and thorough as a career-spanning examination can be, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan does the impossible and creates a new dimension of appreciation for the late genius’ iconic achievements.

    Arrow Films presents Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a commonly spotted 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While quality of each interview sequence surely differs with Harryhausen’s appearances possessing a noticeably cloudy tint, other talking head moments emerge equally as soft or only moderately sharper (Dante and Landis’ interviews ranking among the best-looking) yet, none burst with notable detail.  Joined by vintage footage and unsurprisingly worn trailers for Harryhausen’s films, the documentary appears serviceable at best, leaving more to be desired.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently recaptured with each interview recorded crisply and free of any cracks or pops.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Gilles Penso, Producer Alexandre Poincet, Co-Producer Tony Dalton & Timothy Nicholson, A Treasure Trove (13:36) featuring a tour of the Harryhausen Archives where relics from years past are uncovered and Interviews (13:36) with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Peter Lord (Chicken Run), Rick Baker (Ed Wood) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek).  In addition, Interview Outtakes (55:24) featuring many of the film’s participants, Message to Ray (2:16) finds appreciators Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and others sharing their warm praise for the artist while, Deleted Scenes (8:19), On the Set of Sinbad (2:59), the Paris Cinematheque Q&A (18:39) and the London Gate Cinema Q&A (8:58) are also included.  Finally, the Original Trailer (2:48), a Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel (22:15) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the appreciatively stocked supplements.

    Previously released abroad several years back, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan explores the admirable talents and enduring legacy of stop-motion’s grandfather in applause-worthy detail.  Listening to tales from Harryhausen’s own mouth regarding his masterworks and techniques proves equally as enthralling as his most spellbinding sequences while, the flood of Hollywood royalty on display to talk shop about the man is profoundly inspiring.  Although quality appears more dated than expected, Arrow Films compliments the documentary’s loving examination of Harryhausen with a handsome clay mound of bonus features that far exceed the film’s own running time.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Films, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007) Special Edition Blu-ray Review

    Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007)

    Director: Michael Felsher

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating the first creative collaboration between horror maestro George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and the master of suspense Stephen King, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow delves into the beloved anthologies influences, creation and continued appreciation through interviews with its talented cast and crew 25 years after the film’s original release.

    Previously available on Second Sight’s international Blu-ray release of Creepshow, Director Michael Felsher’s love letter to 1982’s anthology frightfest finally arrives domestically, elevated from its previous stature as a mere supplement to be better appreciated for the singular achievement it is.  Universally hailed as a career milestone for zombie popularizer George A. Romero, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow hosts a feature-length retrospective on the film that explores its obvious EC Comics influences and the chance encounter and eventual friendship between Romero and King that would generate their horrific nostalgia-driven opus.  Featuring detailed insight into the film’s development, Romero, Producer Richard P. Rubinstein (Dawn of the Dead, Martin) and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, The Burning) are prominently on hand to discuss the swift 60 day period King took to compose the screenplay, casting more well-known faces than previously used before in other Romero productions and the groundbreaking effects work utilized to bring the film’s monstrous segments to life.  While King is noticeably absent along with new sit-downs from stars including, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and Hal Holbrook, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow welcomes genre legends Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) and most impressively, Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind) as they look back on the making of the film with warm memories, most humorously about Nielsen’s onset practical jokes and his knee-slapping usage of a fart machine.  Also covering extensive ground from behind the scenes talent, Felsher’s documentary spotlights Bernie Wrightson’s artistic contributions to the film’s comic book infused sequences while, First Assistant Director John Harrison details his impressive musical abilities landing him composing duties on the shoot.  Exceptionally thorough, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow joins the ranks of other finely realized retrospectives on genre pictures that provides fans with invaluable insight into the film’s making with vivid detail from its makers.

    Synapse Films presents Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  As a purveyor of bonus features for several genre labels through his Red Shirt Pictures banner, Felsher’s camerawork and interview footage appears unsurprisingly clean and fluid with sharp clarity throughout.  While vintage material and photographs from Creepshow’s shoot is noticeably of lesser quality at times, the doc’s presentation remains professionally rich.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly clear throughout making this predominately talky track most pleasing.  As bloated as its feature is extensive, the whopping assortment of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director/Editor Michael Felsher plus, a second Audio Commentary featuring Interviews with Actor John Amplas, Property Master Bruce Alan Miller & Make-Up Effects Assistant Darryl Ferruccui.  Furthermore, Creepshow Days with Michael Gornick (8:01) finds the Creepshow 2 director discussing his role as cinematographer on the original film and its impressive special effects work.  Also included, Tom Savini’s Behind-the-Screams (26:31) shares rough video recorded footage of the film’s effects in progress, Extended Interview Segments (23:45) with George A. Romero, Tom Savini and Bernie Wrightston plus, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark (14:56) where the spiky-haired horror host explores some of the film’s shooting locations today.  Finally, a Vintage 1982 Evening Magazine Segment (7:31), a Behind-the-Scenes of Creepshow Photo Gallery (8:30) and most excitingly, Scream Greats Volume One: Tom Savini, Master of Horror Effects (52:54) makes its long-awaited home video rerelease following its VHS debut 30 years earlier.

    While many horror aficionados abroad may already possess Felsher’s top-notch effort, domestic viewers who patiently waited for the definitive companion to Romero and King’s classic chiller to arrive have been handsomely rewarded.  Unlike other modern documentaries whose focus covers decades long franchises and their endless sequels, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow makes its one picture coverage an endlessly engaging watch for a game changing anthology that has undeniably stood the test of time.  Distributed by Synapse Films, this special edition release arrives with enough supplemental offerings including, the fan favorite Scream Greats installment that will undoubtedly tide fans over for the foreseeable future.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Synapse Films, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow can be purchased via Synapse-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Elstree 1976 (2015) DVD Review

    Elstree 1976 (2015)

    Director: Jon Spira

    Starring: Various

    Released by: MVD Visual

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the lives of those behind the countless masks and helmets of George Lucas’ original sci-fi phenomenon, Elstree 1976 centers on the diverse personalities of the bit actors and extras that would ultimately comprise the film’s vast galaxy and how their lives have since been affected being apart of its global impact.  

    Spearheaded through a Kickstarter campaign, Director Jon Spira’s (Anyone Can Play Guitar) love letter to the unsung beings that donned heavy makeup and increasingly difficult to see through headwear in the original Star Wars are interviewed to divulge their unique tales landing fleeting yet, generally memorable roles in arguably the greatest blockbuster of all-time.  With many barely grasping the scope of what they were associated with at the time, Elstree 1976 allows each subject to reveal their early beginnings, long before the acting bug took hold.  Emerging from all walks of life across North America and overseas, the selection of interviewees spend considerable time sharing personal childhood memories and their earliest ambitions, providing a deeply rich portrait of each speaker.  Surprisingly, the film’s non-Star Wars related moments prove to be the most engaging as each subject’s candidness makes them solidly grounded and sympathetically relatable.  Featuring David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) as the more prominent talking heads of the documentary, Elstree 1976’s other participants including, Derek Lyons (Temple Guard / Medal Bearer), Angus Maclnnes (Gold Leader) and John Chapman (Drifter), although loquacious in their interviews, have such “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances in the original film that their insight grows tiresome quickly.  

    With many of the participants no longer in the business, Elstree 1976 winds down with an interesting overview of the thriving Star Wars conventions that many of the film’s costumed players attend for financial means.  The interviewees discuss at great length the politics of their appearances and what they consider in bad taste when other unsung extras join the circuit to make a quick buck themselves.  No matter how minuscule their roles may have been, the subjects of Elstree 1976 hold warm memories of their once in a lifetime experiences onset yet, the overwhelming majority of the interviews related to Star Wars are never deeply interesting with the documentary suffering as it drags itself to a conclusion.  A well-intentioned salute to the background players that comprised both sides of the Force, Elstree 1976 is hardly a definitive document on Lucas’ runaway hit but, contains several worthy interviews that Star Wars devotees will find of interest.

    Shot digitally, Elstree 1976 is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that appears as acceptable as can be.  Restrained to tight closeup style interviews, colors are presented adequately while, film clips from several films and onsite footage from autograph conventions also appear with ease.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the controlled settings of each interview allows for perfectly audible dialogue levels to be captured.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.

    Earning the adoration of fans worldwide for their brief but, endearing appearances, Elstree 1976’s willingness to shine an honorary light on Star Wars’ many costumed characters and the men and women behind those faces is a gracious notion yet, one that stumbles with one too many monotonous asides.  While the film’s earliest moments prove most interesting, only dedicated fans of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga will take interest.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from MVD Visual, Elstree 1976 can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986) DVD Review

    In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986)

    Director(s): Lawrence Crowley & William Miller / Jay Cohen

    Starring: Robert W. Morgan / Eric Foster, Maurice Grandmaison & John Tallman

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Experts in exploitation, Vinegar Syndrome, have revived their Drive-In Collection banner to present two wildly different features about one of the world’s most elusive myths.  A genuine documentary capturing a team of Bigfoot trackers and the Sasquatch equivalent to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from the director of Night Train to Terror make for a suitable serving of wild life excitement.  Scanned in 2K from their respective camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome invites you on the expedition of a lifetime to uncover the formidable beast known as Bigfoot.  

    In Search of Bigfoot follows a team of Bigfoot enthusiasts headed by dedicated tracker Robert W. Morgan.  Exploring the forests of Washington State, the team is determined to locate the mysterious creature in this sincere documentary.  From Director Jay Cohen  (Night Train to Terror), Cry Wilderness centers on a young boy (Eric Foster) who has befriended the creature known as Bigfoot.  With his father facing looming danger, Bigfoot instructs the boy to venture into the wilderness to save him.

    MOVIE(s):

    Earnestly told, In Search of Bigfoot follows passionate Bigfoot tracker, Robert W. Morgan, as he leads a team of researchers and scientists into the wilderness of Washington State to retrieve evidence of Bigfoot’s existence.  Morgan’s lack of interest in making friends and determination to get the job done solidifies his belief that this mystifying creatures exists.  Surrounded by a team of noted experts who appear more like average hippies, the documentary follows the team as they collect evidence such as footprints and interviews from local eyewitnesses who claim to have spotted the mammoth beast.  Narrated by Phil Tonken, In Search of Bigfoot carries the clout of respectful journalism by not poking fun at the teams eccentric interest.  Since his first sighting of Bigfoot 20 years previously, Morgan is convinced he is closer than ever to locating the 8-foot-tall creature.  Understandably, after pinning down a general location, a series of forest fires ruin the groups expedition, derailing their high chances of spotting Bigfoot.  Morgan, who only two years later would direct 1978’s Blood Stalkers, is certainly convincing when overwhelmed with emotions after having Bigfoot slip from his grasp yet again.  While, a bit slow at times and never successfully locating the folklore critter, In Search of Bigfoot  does capture beautiful wildlife footage and serves as a unique time capsule for the believers who dedicated much of their lives chasing this phantom beast.

    RATING: 3/5

    Following the theme of a youngster befriending an otherworldly creature, Cry Wilderness is a departure from Director Jay Cohen’s previous surrealistic-horror odyssey, Night Train to Terror.  After being summoned by his friend Bigfoot, Paul Cooper (Eric Foster) ditches his boarding school and hitchhikes back to the wilderness to save his forest ranger father (Maurice Grandmaison, Cataclysm) from danger.  Grandmaison along with Native American friend Jim (John Tallman, Lust for Freedom) deliver painfully dry performances and long spells of awkward laughter.  Oddly enough, Eric Foster serves up the best performance as an otherwise natural surrounded by a swarm of over the top or severely underwhelming adult talent.  Beautifully shot, evoking high quality nature footage, Cry Wilderness finds the actors face to face with a variety of animals including raccoons, bears, cougars and even a tiger.  While, Bigfoot looks cool enough, his appearance is far too brief, leaving the viewer slightly duped.  Instead, Cry Wilderness spends its time on a villainous hunter forced to team up with Paul’s father and Jim to capture an escaped circus tiger who has become destructive in his new environment.  After believing Paul’s stories about Bigfoot, the hunter will stop at nothing to capture the creature, even if it means leading the others into danger.  Cry Wilderness is far from a bad movie but can easily underwhelm due to its lack of Bigfoot.  The hilariously awkward performances from the adult actors matched with the breathtaking wildlife cinematography still offers enough to suffice for a decent 90-minute runtime.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Scanned in 2K from the original 16mm camera negative, In Search of Bigfoot is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Generally speaking, this documentary looks fairly decent with minor blemishes of flakes and speckles cropping into frame.  Occasionally, lines and burn marks will cross into footage but their appearances are brief.  Colors vary in appearance from otherwise natural looking to slightly diluted.  Incredibly difficult to document in the confines of nature on 16mm film stock, In Search of Bigfoot still looks satisfactory for such an effort.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Also scanned in 2K but obtained from the 35mm camera negative, Cry Wilderness is presented widescreen sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  As the more professionally controlled film, Cry Wilderness looks quite nice with the vast wildlife landscapes looking particularly lush and striking.  Skin tones are relayed as naturally as can be with colors popping well, most noticeably in Paul’s red and blue jacket.  While, most of the animal footage was shot specifically for the film, some stock footage arises that appears to be video sourced creating an obvious drop in quality.  Overall, Cry Wilderness is certainly the stronger looking transfer on this double feature.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films are presented with varying differences.  In Search of Bigfoot can encounter issues of muffling even during the more controlled, seated interview segments.  In addition, certain eyewitnesses that are interviewed possess thick accents that can make hearing even more difficult.  Luckily, Tonken’s narration is relayed clearly with little to no issues while, background music from banjos and harmonicas can intrude on the subjects‘ dialogue.  Cry Wilderness is a far more rewarding listening experience with dialogue coming across just fine and Fritz Heede’s score relayed nicely.  An understandably mixed bag of quality but neither of which are severely detrimental to the viewing experience.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

    After a brief hiatus, the return of Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection line is a welcome one.  A double feature highlighting the legendary Bigfoot is a wildly different change of pace for the indie label, better known for their adult entertainment output.  Robert W. Morgan and his team of trackers’ candid insight from In Search of Bigfoot make the documentary an intriguing watch even if they come up empty-handed.  In addition, Cry Wilderness, while disappointing with Bigfoot’s screen time, nearly makes up for itself with the hilariously awful acting and surprisingly stunning nature footage.  This offbeat pairing of Sasquatch stories nicely reminds cult enthusiasts that there’s more to Vinegar Syndrome than just skin.  

    RATING: 3/5

  • Next Goal Wins (2014) DVD Review

    Next Goal Wins (2014)

    Director(s): Mike Brett & Steve Jamison

    Starring: Thomas Rongen, Jaiyah Saelua, Nicky Salapu, Gene Ne’emia & Larry Mana’o

    Released by: Ketchup Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In 2001, the American Samoa soccer team suffered a 31-0 loss to Australia, hailed as the worst defeat in international history.  Before long, losing became a way of life for the struggling team who had seized to win a game in nearly two decades.  Defying the odds and keeping their passion high, the once laughed at team would turn their luck around.  Inspiring and emotional, Ketchup Entertainment proudly presents the critically acclaimed documentary Next Goal Wins, a real-life Cinderella story set in the world of international soccer.

    Next Goal Wins centers on the ragtag American Samoa soccer team, a successfully losing unit for nearly 20 years banished to the bottom of the FIFA World rankings.  Skill levels at a minimum and hope nearly lost, Dutch coach Thomas Rongen invades the islanders lives and pushes them to limits unknown to them.  With a month to prepare for the World Cup Qualification campaign, Rongen sets out on an unbelievable journey with his new team that will leave you cheering on your feet.

    MOVIE:

    While, never being a sports enthusiasts, fictional films or inspiring documentaries on the topic have always been rewarding experiences.  In the vein of Hoop Dreams, Next Goal Wins is an encouraging tale of the American Samoa soccer team who after becoming the laughing stock of the soccer world, manage to remain optimistic against their humility.  Unfortunately, their positive outlook does little to help their athletic skills until American-based coach Thomas Rongen takes on the challenge of guiding them.  Rongen is a tough, no-nonsense coach that is determined to mold the heart of the team into a strategically sound crew.  With the tragedy of a recent tsunami fresh in their minds and the players working several jobs on top of playing soccer for free, the admiration for these hardworking individuals is staggering.  Inviting two off-island players to join the league, the American Samoans’ brotherly love and unwavering support for one another is moving.  The genuine acceptance of all people is spotlighted on Jaiyah Saelua, the first transsexual player to compete in international football, whom her fellow players accept with open arms.  Tirelessly working and perfecting their technique, Thomas Rongen, recently suffering the loss of his daughter, learns much about himself and develops a lasting bond with his squad. 

    Next Goal Wins is exhilarating as the American Samoans embark on a series of World Cup Qualifying games that leave you an emotional wreck.  While, the highly evolved team make great strides, ultimately they don’t win their final qualifying game but that hardly matters.  The heart and lasting message of Next Goal Wins is not about winning but rising above oppression and proving to yourself change is possible with hard work, determination and love.  A true Cinderella story littered with colorful personalities and an emotionally sweeping journey for the viewer ranks Next Goal Wins as one of the finest sports documentaries in recent years.

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Utilizing the RED Epic camera and shot on 5K resolution, Next Goal Wins is presented in a widescreen format (16x9) and looks quiet nicely.  Beautiful footage of the island location is captured while, the bulk of the runtime centers on typical interview style segments and on-field training footage with detail decently relayed.  As most documentaries are shot with little direction and constantly moving, Next Goals Wins looks as fine as any documentary made with today’s technology.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Next Goal Wins is always audible, capturing all dialogue with no real issues to speak of.  Of course, pre-arranged interviews are most likely of slightly better quality but overall the mix has nothing worth complaining about.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 0.5/5

    OVERALL:

    First time documentarians Mike Brett and Steve Jamison have captured an incredibly moving and engaging look into the lives of the undervalued American Samoan soccer team.  Dismissed for years as never-ending losers, Thomas Rongen’s efforts lit a new fire of determination into the struggling team, taking them on the ride of their lifetime.  Non-sports fans need not worry as Next Goal Wins promises to inspire and move you better than most of today’s dramas.  The American Samoans acceptance of all people regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation and their unbreakable optimism is well worth applauding.  The strength of this unforgettable documentary will leave you teary-eyed and determined to make your own dreams a reality.

    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15: Under the Skin, Last Man Standing, NYPD Blue & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15 includes:

    - Last Man Standing Season 1 & 2 (0:36)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    20th Century Fox: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Man-Standing-Season-1/dp/B00K8HAKSW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404850275&sr=8-3&keywords=last+man+standing

    - NYPD Blue Season 6 (7:30)
    Street Date: June 24, 2014
    Shout! Factory: https://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Scavenger Killers (2013) (11:13)
    Street Date: July 1, 2014
    Midnight Releasing: http://midnightreleasing.com/

    - Under the Skin (2013) (17:39)
    Street Date: July 15, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - Invasion of the Scream Queens (1992) (25:19)
    Street Date: June 17, 2014
    Wild Eye Releasing: http://wildeyereleasing.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:25)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #14: Video Nasties, Ravenous, Rollerball, Devil's Knot & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #14 includes:

    - Ravenous (1999) (0:36)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - In the Blood (2014) (10:41)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Devil's Knot (2013) (17:41)
    Street Date: June 10, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) (25:46)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Cult Epics: http://cultepics.com/new_releases.html

    - Rollerball (1975) (33:38)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

    - Video Nasties (2010) (42:54)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Severin Films: https://www.severin-films.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (49:24)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #3: Night of the Demons, Witchboard, Man in the Dark 3D and More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #3 includes:

    - Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Witchboard (1986)
    Street Date: February 4, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Night of the Demons (1988) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: February 4, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Captain Phillips (2013)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Sony Pictures: http://www.sonypictures.com/

    - Man in the Dark 3-D (1953)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www1.screenarchives.com/index.cfm

    - Vic (2006)
    Street Date: December 10, 2013
    Grindhouse Releasing: http://www.grindhousereleasing.com/

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #2: Danny Phantom, Rewind This!, Robocop, Bullet in the Face and More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #2 includes:

    - Bullet in the Face The Complete Series
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Robocop (1987) Unrated Director's Cut
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    MGM: http://www.mgm.com/

    - NYPD Blue Season 5
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Danny Phantom The Complete Series
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Rewind This! (2013)
    Street Date: January 14, 2014
    MPI Home Video: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - Runner Runner (2013)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    20th Century Fox: https://www.foxconnect.com/

    - You're Next (2013)
    Street Date: January 14, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/