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  • 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.

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

    Colors (1988)

    Director: Dennis Hopper

    Starring: Sean Penn, Robert Duvall, Maria Conchita Alonso, Don Cheadle & Damon Wayans

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Eye-opening at the time of its original release and unfortunately still potent in today’s divided society, Colors presents the dangerous world of gang warfare in a realistically gritty light.  Within a year’s reach of retirement, veteran L.A.P.D. officer Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall, The Godfather) is partnered with hot-headed rookie Danny McGavin (Sean Penn, Milk) in an anti-gang unit.  With clashing personalities, the two must learn to trust one another in order to survive the mayhem of Los Angeles’ South Central district.  Returning Academy Award nominee Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) back behind the camera, Colors stages the murder of a Bloods gang member that heightens the turf war between the neighboring Crips and Barrio residing hoodlums, culminating in bullets, bloodshed and the police’s role in the center of their fatal path.  Riskily shot in the thicket of real gang territory that adds a genuine honesty to the proceedings and resulted in the actual shooting of extras during filming, Colors doesn’t flinch at the harsh realities of its crime-infested ghettos while, balancing the line of controversial good cop/bad cop approaches in protecting lawmen’s own and the community.  

    Although the casting of Penn and Duvall is inspired, their characters never fully develop as deeply as anticipated while, gang vengeance toward trigger-happy Crip member Rocket (Don Cheadle, House of Lies) takes control of the final act, leaving Hodges and McGavin’s purpose all but lost in the shuffle and shortchanging a still harrowing but, nonetheless weakened conclusion.  Featuring a chart-topping soundtrack of rap hits from such artists as, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane and Salt-N-Pepa, Colors also costars future players Damon Wayans (Lethal Weapon) as a drug-addicted gangbanger, Tony Todd (Candyman) and Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss him role as a young thug.  An intense examination of gang life that has debatably improved over time, Colors is perhaps best recognized for its capturing of the lifestyle’s arguably darkest era and the L.A.P.D.’s equally deadly attempts to right its ship.

    Preserving its unrated cut for the first time on high-definition, Shout Select presents Colors with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Welcoming natural skin tones and lush radiance during the many sunny daytime sequences, black levels found in officer’s uniforms are deeply inky while, the drama’s filmic integrity remains firmly intact with no major anomalies to speak of.  Equipped with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is never challenged by cracks or pops while, the heavy beats of the film’s hip-hop soundtrack and jackhammering assault of bullets pulverizes onscreen action terrifically.  Carried over from Second Sight’s U.K. edition, special features include, Cry of Alarm: An Interview with Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (28:46) that shares the dangerous risks Schiffer undertook to understand the gang culture and accurately capture members’ speech patterns and slang for the script.  In addition, Cops & Robbers (16:53) hosts Technical Advisor/L.A.P.D. Gang Division Dennis Fanning on his unique career perspectives that were brought to ensure a legitimacy to the story.  Lastly, the film’s Trailer (1:53) is also included while, a hidden Easter Egg (accessed by clicking right of the Trailer in the disc’s bonus features section) offers an additional interview snippet with Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (2:16).  While the lack of supplements may fall short of other Collector’s Edition entries in the Shout Select catalog, what is included is luckily informative.  Appreciatively ensuring the film’s uncut presentation, Colors’ mileage may vary by viewer but, remains a recommendable watch for its believable expression of L.A. gangs and their very real mean streets of the era.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Band of the Hand (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Band of the Hand (1986)

    Director: Paul Michael Glaser

    Starring: Stephen Lang, James Remar, Michael Carmine, Leon Robinson, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Al Shannon, Lauren Holly & Larry Fishburne 

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Executive produced by Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), Band of the Hand finds five incarcerated youths released to an intense rehab program that teaches them survival and value for one another.  Returning to the gang-infested streets of Miami, the one time criminals wage their own war against the drug kingpins destroying it.  

    Retaining the dangerously seductive allure of Mann’s hit television series Miami Vice with the backwoods survival instincts of Lord of the Flies, Band of the Hand makes crime and violence essential to the scenery that both corrupts and cures the film’s pack of anti-heroes.  Serving time for a multitude of offenses, five juvenile felons including, drug trafficker Carlos Aragon (Danny Quinn, Stradivari), punk turned murderer J.L. McEwen (John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), car thief and attempted prison escapee Dorcey Bridger (Al Shannon, Casualties of War) and rival gang leaders Ruben Pancecho (Michael Carmine, Leviathan) and Moss Roosevelt (Leon Robinson, Cool Runnings) find themselves facing lengthy sentences until fate intervenes.  Unknowingly transported to the swampy Everglades and under the watchful eye of Native American Vietnam veteran Joe Tegra (Stephen Lang, Avatar), the hot blooded teens must learn to work together and survive the cruel conditions of nature in an intensely experimental rehabilitation program.  Sharpening their skills and developing a trusting foundation, the group return to the mean streets of Miami where after revitalizing an abandoned house, seek to do the same for the crime-ridden community.  Igniting a war against feared pimp Cream (Larry Fishburne, Boyz n the Hood) and black magic worshipping drug lord Nestor (James Remar, The Warriors) who claimed Carlos’s girlfriend Nikki (Lauren Holly, Dumb & Dumber) for his own, the band of vigilantes have their work cut out for them.

    Helmed with style and a rebelliously youthful attitude by Paul Michael Glaser (The Running Man), Band of the Hand takes cues once again from Crockett and Tubbs with a pop-rock soundtrack of hits from Bob Dylan (who supplies the film’s title track with assistance from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Prince and Mr. Mister that brings aggressive synergy to the onscreen action.  Following an explosive shootout between the band and Miami’s worst leaving one of their own dead, a go for broke retaliation on Nestor’s drug facility leaves the screen littered with enough bullet holes and bodies to quench the thirst of action hounds.  While the film may be less refined than Mann’s weekly crime series set in the same city, Band of the Hand funnels similar ingredients of fast cars, drug pushers, sexy women and ghettos through the delinquent eyes of teenage thugs turned saviors, making it a worthy and largely overlooked crime thriller drenched in 80s decadence and pastel hues.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Band of the Hand with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While the film bears its fair share of speckling, rearing its head most noticeably in black levels during countless nighttime sequences, skin tones are generally satisfying with colors found in the vibrant costume choices prevalent during the 80s Miami scene popping as appreciatively as one might hope.  Natural grain is notably retained while, screen jitter is observed but mostly held to the film’s opening sequences.  A mixed bag of quality that thankfully never gravely disappoints where it counts, Band of the Hand makes a respectable first leap to high-definition.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that treats dialogue with prioritization while, the film’s selection of songs celebrates a healthier emphasis of authority, much like sequences of explosive inferno and machine gun fire, the track is a middle of the road affair that suffices.  Although no on-disc special features are included, a Reversible Cover Art revealing slightly modified poster imagery is provided.

    The heat is on as teenage badasses return to their former stomping ground to clean up the filth and mayhem controlling the streets.  Taking on the likes of pimps and pushers, Band of the Hand mimics the style and energy of Miami Vice with enhanced violence and an imperfect yet, still entertaining execution.  Well casted and vibrantly photographed, Glaser’s directorial feature film debut is a promising urban action opus unfortunately missed by many during its initial release.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Mill Creek Entertainment offers the film a decent debut that admires the colorful sights of its 80s fashion choices and Miami hotspots with appreciable quality.  Void of bonus content, the inclusion of reversible cover art is a rare and welcome treat from the budget label.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Band of the Hand can be purchased via 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.

  • 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.

  • Dead-End Drive-In (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dead-End Drive-In (1986)

    Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

    Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Dave Gibson, Sandie Lillingston, Ollie Hall & Wilbur Wilde

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Aussie exploitation maverick Brian Trenchard-Smith (Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits), Dead-End Drive-In takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the economy has crumbled and crime runs rampant.  When the government orders local drive-ins to become concentration camps for society’s wild youth, lone rebel “Crabs” (Ned Manning, Looking for Alibrandi) plots his escape from the imprisoning wasteland.  

    An unquestionable by product of George Miller’s motor-charged Mad Max game changers, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead-End Drive-In takes unexpected sharp turns to deliver a unique, neon lit offering of nuclear punkery.  Home to a ravaged world of polluted red skies, gang warfare and food shortage, cars and their associated parts are the leading commodities in a devastatingly unemployed and substance addicted society.  After sneaking off with his older brother’s prized 56 Chevy, physically fit Jimmy, better known as “Crabs”, whisks his foxy, leather-wearing girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry, Cassandra) to the Star Drive-In for a night of exploitation movies and backseat intimacy.  After the local police force steal Crabs’ wheels leaving the couple stranded, the government implements a strict lockdown for all patrons of the drive-in.  Populated by face painted punks, new wavers and skinheads, the outdoor movie house keeps its rowdy guests pacified with B-grade pictures, junk food and endless drugs to occupy their extended stay.  While Carmen forms friendships with the local crowd, Crabs’ cabin fever and growing suspicion that all is not what it seems generates friction amongst other rebel rousers.  When countless refugees are transported to the already overpopulated space, racism and hate dominates the self-medicating punkers from realizing their true status as prisoners.  Going for broke, Crabs forms a getaway plan pitting himself against the gun-carrying police and the Star Drive-In’s corrupt owner (Peter Whitford, Running from the Guns).  

    Although a much different beast than expected, Dead-End Drive-In paves its own path that raises intriguing political commentary on the stranglehold of materialistic addictiveness and  racism.  Impressively art directed with graffiti tattered vehicles and brickwork shepherded by Muralist Vladimir Chevepanoff, Dead-End Drive-In stylistically soars with its trashcan burning, drive-in warzone and vibrantly vile supporting players making the film one of the visually richest of the endless wave of post-nuke imitators.  Disappointingly lighter on action until the film’s climactic escape where Crabs literally leaps away from his oppressive environment in a thrilling car stunt, Dead-End Drive-In still makes good with its new wave heavy soundtrack, oddball characters and effective sense of dystopian depravity that solidly leaves Trenchard-Smith’s anarchic Ozzie mark.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dead-End Drive-In with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shining brightly through the film’s vast neon-signage, colorful makeup designs on its many punk performers and Crabs’ bright red Chevy, skin tones are naturally pleasing while, black levels waver from solidly inky to areas of speckling that are apparent yet, never overly distracting.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clearly projected with the film’s excellent new wave cuts booming loudly.  Mildly restrained, quality is generally efficient while, slightly more authority during action sequences would have been preferred.  Special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, The Stuntmen (48:46), Trenchard-Smith’s 1973 documentary on Aussie stuntmen Bob Woodham, Grant Page and others plus, Hospitals Don’t Burn Down! (24:10), an Aussie pubic service film shot by Trenchard-Smith circa 1978 detailing the dangers of in-patient smoking.  Furthermore, a Vladimir Cherepanoff Gallery (19 slides in total), the Theatrical Trailer (1:36) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and musings on Dead-End Drive-In and Trenchard-Smith’s other accompanying on disc films from Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell are included.  Finally, a Reversible Sleeve boasting newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and the film’s original poster design conclude the supplemental offerings.

    Not quite the punk free for all it’s advertised to be, Dead-End Drive-In follows similar post-nuke guidelines such as a dependency on vehicles while, its greater focus rests on the imprisonment of disillusioned youth and their subsequent brainwashing of complacency.  Fantastically designed and boasting few but, still wildly impressive stunts, Trenchard-Smith’s Ozploitation odyssey of a destructive future may not always live up to all expectations but, succeeds in carving out its own identity.  Arrow Video continues their liberation of the New World Pictures catalog with another praiseworthy transfer and a pleasing spread of supplements that will be of particular interest to Trenchard-Smith completists.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dead-End Drive-In 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.

  • 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.

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

    Starring: Rob Lowe, Jacqueline Bisset, Andrew McCarthy & Cliff Robertson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after arriving at his new prestigious prep-school, lonesome Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy, Mannequin) is motivated by his outgoing roommate Skip (Rob Lowe, The Grinder) to explore uncharted dating zones.  Catching the attention of a sexy and sophisticated woman, Jonathan’s affair turns out to be more than he imagined after learning it’s with Skip’s mother.  Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt), John Cusack (Say Anything…), Alan Ruck (Ferris Buller’s Day Off) and Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man) co-star.

    Keeping in tradition with other teenage hormonal features of its era, Class balances the scandalous love affair between a high school senior and his roommates mother with obvious humor and surprisingly well-handled, if not unexpected, dramatics.  After being encouraged by best friend Skip (Lowe) to hitch a ride to Chicago for a steamy one-night stand, Jonathan (McCarthy) finds himself captivated by the mature and breathtaking Ellen (Bisset) leading to a sexual rendezvous in an elevator before relocating to a hotel room.  Riding high on his conquest, Jonathan and Ellen’s affair develops over the weeks with the prep-schooler falling madly in love with his new flame.  Shortly after Jonathan’s true identity is revealed, their blossoming relationship is unsurprisingly damaged, sending the heartbroken teen on a downward spiral of depression.  In order to lift his best friend’s spirits, Skip invites Jonathan over to his house for the holidays realizing his recent bombshell is in fact Skip’s own mother.  Awkward encounters and mounting lies steer Class into a more dramatic territory that separates itself from similar pictures without ever sacrificing quality.  Furthermore, fellow brat packers Lowe and McCarthy gel excellently together, making practical jokes and playfully insulting one another to create one of the great bromances of the decade.  As the damaging news of his mother’s affair hits Skip in the final act while, a school investigation to sniff out cheaters potentially threatens Jonathan’s livelihood, the two best friends prove after beating the bejesus out of one another that bros still apparently come before hoes, including your own alcoholic mother.  While its setup would normally lend itself to countless skintastic scenarios, Class is relatively tame with the major exception being Virginia Madsen (Dune), in her first role, having her blouse torn off in a most comical sequence.  Accompanied by a romantically elegant score by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters), Class may not be the most sexually exploitative teen flick of the 80s but, still manages to be particularly funny and a pinch more sophisticated than expected.

    Olive Films presents Class with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing filmic and free of any dirt or other aging artifacts, Class relays accurate skin readings while, the film’s color scheme of browns and other earth tones satisfy with Skip’s red hot sports car popping most impressively.  In addition, black levels spotted in shadowy rooms and jet-black prep school coats are inky and defined.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently prioritized with no difficulties in audibility present.  Cracks and pops are nonexistent with Bernstein’s score and the film’s few soundtrack bits also relayed appropriately.  Typically scant, the sole special feature is the film’s Trailer (2:30).

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Class can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, 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.

  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

    Director: Marielle Heller

    Starring: Bey Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni & Kristen Wiig

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl centers on 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bey Powley, Equals) at the peak of her sexual awakening.  Longing for love and acceptance, Minnie engages in a secret affair with her mother’s boyfriend while attempting to make sense of the turbulent world around her.  Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins) co-star.

    Marking the directorial debut of Marielle Heller following her stage adaptation of the same novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an oftentimes scandalous yet, never judgmental portrait of the hardships of teen culture.  Set in the free-spirited 70s of San Francisco, aspiring cartoonist and increasingly hormonal teen Minnie Goetze (Powley) finds herself yearning for connection only to find it in the unlikeliest of persons.  Following a drunken night of laughs, Minnie willingly loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend Monroe Rutherford (Skarsgård), jumpstarting an infatuation that neither can resist.  Exploring her newfound sexuality, Minnie embraces her elder partner at every opportunity while experimenting with other teenage curiosities.  Dabbling with drugs and attracting the attention of other boys, Minnie documents her evolution by recording diary cassettes and allowing her thoughts to visually paint pictures of Bakshi-esque animation.  From shy and introverted to eccentric and heartbreaking, Bey Powley is remarkable, encapsulating the confused and emotionally disoriented feelings common to teen survival.  In addition, Alexander Skarsgård proves equally exceptional in a performance that is both layered and complex.  Although appearing less frequently than her co-stars, Kristen Wiig is the film’s cherry on top playing a progressive mother, indulging in the hard-partying culture while the unfathomable takes place behind her back.

    Beautifully honest and channeling the essence of other female driven, coming-of-age tales including Little Darlings and Foxes, The Diary of a Teenage Girl wears its heart on its sleeve, allowing viewers to recall their own teenage insecurities with humor and warmth.  Heller’s acute detail in realizing a bygone San Francisco and pulling the mesmerizing performances from her cast makes the rookie filmmaker one to pay close mind to.  Although told from the female perspective, The Diary of a Teenage Girl transcends sexes and relates to every teenager’s spinning world of emotions, earning itself worthy praise as one of the most memorable films of its ilk in recent years.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Diary of a Teenage Girl with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Adhering to softer tones to capture its intended time period, detail remains crisp with skin tones appearing natural and lifelike.  Textures in costume choices are pleasing while, the color palette of the San Francisco streets and Minnie’s apartment are attractive.  In addition, the film’s brief animation moments pop most pleasingly with wonderful richness.  Meanwhile, dimmer moments with 70s era lamps lighting the way cause backgrounds to appear occasionally muddy but never overpower said scenes.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is appropriately prioritized in this character driven effort while, the film’s choice cuts from such leading acts as The Stooges, T. Rex and Heart provide nicely balanced gains further complimenting the track.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Marielle Heller and Actors Bel Powley & Alexander Skarsgård, Deleted Scenes (5:24) exclusive to Blu-ray, Marielle’s Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life (23:07) exploring Heller’s passion for the project that began as a stage play before boldly taking on the task to adapting it for film.  In addition, an LA Film Festival Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgård and Bel Powley (25:19), the Theatrical Trailer (1:48) and Previews for Irrational Man (2:11), Jimmy’s Hall (2:20), Infinitely Polar Bear (2:23), Truth (2:12), Grandma (2:12) and Labyrinth of Lies (2:01).  Finally, a Digital HD Code has also been provided.

    Deeply personal yet, universally relatable, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of the finest coming-of-age efforts of the decade with its candid exploration of the teenage spirit.  An emotional rollercoaster packed with laughs and pain, Marielle Heller’s first outing behind the camera is an exemplary debut with a career destined for greatness.  Furthermore, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment bestows top-notch technical grades on its release with a sizable supplemental package worthy of indulging.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available January 19th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Diary of a Teenage Girl can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Last American Virgin (1982) Blu-ray Review

    The Last American Virgin (1982)

    Director: Boaz Davidson

    Starring: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin, Joe Rubbo & Louisa Moritz

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brightly colored 1980s of Los Angeles, The Last American Virgin centers on three best friends, lovestruck virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), chick magnet Rick (Steve Antin, The Goonies) and jokester David (Joe Rubbo, Hot Chili) as they navigate the emotional waters of high school in pursuit of love, parties and sex.  Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead…), Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks), Brian Peck (The Return of the Living Dead) and Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000) co-star.

    Based upon Israel’s popular Lemon Popsicle franchise, The Last American Virgin kicks off as a series of sex comedy clichés finding our three horny teenage leads in search of equally promiscuous females.  From awkwardly hilarious attempts to woo ladies with mock cocaine to joyriding in a pink station wagon and contracting crabs from a lady of the night, the hijinks of teenage hormones is never scarce.  After falling head over heels for the beautiful Karen (Franklin), Gary’s (Monoson) admiration from afar is crushed following best friend Rick’s (Antin) swift moves on her.  Emotionally conflicted, Gary is caught between his genuine feelings for Karen and jealousy towards Rick who views his new girlfriend as merely a source of sexual pleasure.  In a dramatic third act change of gears, The Last American Virgin finds Karen in a fragile predicament with Gary as her only source of support.  Fully devoted to Karen in her desperate time of need, suggested sparks of romance blossom between them.

    Boasting arguably one of the most memorable soundtracks of the decade with top-charting talent including, Blondie, Oingo Boingo, Journey, The Police and REO Speedwagon, The Last American Virgin packs sufficient skin and laughs while remarkably emerging as an honest and heartbreaking account of those tender teenage years.  In one of the more striking tonal shifts in 80s coming-of-age cinema, The Last American Virgin continues to endure for its acute ability to capture the delight and suffering of youth and why it’s all so hard to give up in the end.

    Olive Films presents The Last American Virgin with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of muddier appearances in dim lighting, skin tones appear generally warm and eye-pleasing.  Brightly colored costume choices pop nicely as does the neon lighting found in the film’s diner sequences.  With natural grain evident, occasional instances of flakes, speckles and mild softness are on display yet never overly distracting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue tends to be overshadowed at times by the film’s popular soundtrack.  Similar to past home video releases, the inclusion of Human League’s “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” has once again been substituted by Devo’s “Whip It” while the remainder of songs are intact and pleasantly robust.  Most glaring in comparison to recently stacked overseas editions, no special features are included on this domestic release much to the disappointment of viewers.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Last American Virgin can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Some Call It Loving (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Some Call It Loving (1973)

    Director: James B. Harris

    Starring: Zalman King, Carol White, Tisa Farrow, Veronica Anderson & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Etiquette Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the debut release of Etiquette Pictures, the offbeat subdivision of Vinegar Syndrome, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a modernization of the timeless fairy tale Sleeping Beauty.  After obtaining a most peculiar carnival act from a local barker, lonely jazz musician Robert (Zalman King, Blue Sunshine) brings Jennifer (Tisa Farrow, Zombie), a young girl reawakened after many years of sleep, home to his lavish mansion.  Welcoming his newfound love to his unique world, their relationship is tested when Jennifer desires more than Robert can provide.  Carol White (The Man Who Had Power Over Women), Veronica Anderson (The Horror at 37,000 Feet) and Richard Pryor (Stir Crazy) co-star.

    Based on John Collier’s short story, Some Call It Loving is a surrealistic tale of blind love and self-exploration set in a utopia of sexual fantasy.  Sharing a marvelous castle estate with the beautiful Scarlett (White) and their housemaid Angelica (Anderson), Robert (King) moonlights as a jazz musician while yearning for more in life.  Wandering the trashy threshold of a carnival, Robert discovers a bizarre Sleeping Beauty attraction where for one dollar, men can kiss an attractive girl asleep for many years, in hopes of awakening her.  Equally disgusted and tantalized, Robert purchases Jennifer (Farrow) for a hefty sum and whisks her away to his mansion.  Emerging from her long slumber, the young Jennifer, bursting with jovial curiosity, is a product of a more innocent era that Robert recognizes as his escape from his hapless existence.  Introduced to their peculiar role-playing games, the lines of dreams and reality become heavily blurred for Jennifer as she witnesses tap dancing nuns and crash courses in strict etiquette.  Envious of his carefree, drug-addicted friend Jeff (Pryor) and conflicted by the trappings of his own personal utopia, Robert and Jennifer’s hopeful relationship grows complicated.

    Overwhelmingly dismissed by domestic critics yet, revered in France before being revitalized years later by the now defunct Z Channel, Some Call It Loving is an uncompromised vision of unconventional sexploitation matched with arthouse class, making way for a most unusual effort.  More sexually suggestive than it is revealing, Director James B. Harris (Fast-Walking) weaves his camera like a painter’s brush capturing a dreamlike state that refuses to pass judgement on his relatable yet, flawed characters.  While its core cast including, the shy and reserved King to the charmingly green Farrow all make an impression, Richard Pryor’s scene-stealing turn as the drug addled Jeff will leave viewers aching with sympathy from his junkie ramblings and genuine sadness.  Akin to falling down a rabbit hole of strangeness, Mario Tosi’s (Carrie, The Stunt Man) evocative cinematography and Richard Hazard’s (Nickelodeon) raw score cast a dizzying spell of euphoria.  While its passionate imagery of a hollow utopia pleasantly stupefies, its abstract narrative and complex characters may leave viewers unsure of the film’s intentions.  Unflinching in its execution, Some Call It Loving will most assuredly continue to leave audiences split while, simultaneously invoking a gamut of emotions by its completion.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Etiquette Pictures presents Some Call It Loving with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Glazed in a fog-entranced lighting, colors pop admirably with skin tones projecting naturally pleasing levels.  Natural grain is present, if not slightly overwhelming in several sequences, while black levels contain their fair share of speckling during dimly lit sequences in Robert and Scarlett’s mansion and the smoky jazz club.  Regardless of its occasional anomalies, Some Call It Loving rises above its previous home video releases with its finest presentation to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, a mild hiss stakes its claim on the track while dialogue is handled decently.  Amid several instances of cracks and pops, Richard Hazard’s score and most impressively, the jazz club sequences make an impressionable statement.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James B. Harris moderated by Sam Prime, Some Call It History: Looking Back with James B. Harris (6:52) finds Harris recounting his early years producing his friend Stanley Kubrick’s early efforts before turning to directing.  In addition, A Dream So Real: Mario Tosi in Conversation (8:27), Outtake Footage (15:55) with commentary from Harris and Prime, a 6-page booklet with notable linear notes by Kevin John Bozelka, Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original French artwork and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental package.

    Phantasmagorical and emotional, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a unique love story that leaves the viewer and its characters in an inescapable realm between dreams and reality.  From a surreal state of ecstasy to the lowest depths of emptiness, this arthouse fairy tale will leave viewers spinning by its narrative but entranced by its visuals.  In their debut effort, Etiquette Pictures resurrects this largely forgotten opus with a stunning restoration and revealing special features, raising appreciation for the film’s place in independent cinema.  Like so many abstract auteurist efforts, Some Call It Loving will leave audiences divided while, providing an unusually unique viewing experience for all.  With a commitment to preserve experimental independent features, Etiquette Pictures have made a bold first step with increased anticipation for their future endeavors.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Etiquette Pictures, Some Call It Loving can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Report to the Commissioner (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Report to the Commissioner (1975)

    Director: Milton Katselas

    Starring: Michael Moriarty, Yaphet Kotto, Susan Blakely, Hector Elizondo & Tony King

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the gritty landscape of New York City, Report to the Commissioner stars Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) as rookie cop Bo Lockley whose youthful determination leads to the death of a fellow undercover officer.  Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Susan Blakely (The Towering Inferno), Hector Elizondo (Leviathan) and Tony King (Hell Up in Harlem) co-star in this dramatic thriller from the director of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? 

    Based on the novel by James Mills, Report to the Commissioner opens on the tragic aftermath of a shootout leaving one female victim dead.  Redirecting viewers to the events leading up to this fatal outcome, inexperienced cop Bo Lockley (Moriarty) is assigned to track the whereabouts of a young runaway named Chicklet, rumored to be wandering the streets of the Big Apple.  Unbeknownst to Lockley, the alleged runaway is undercover officer Patty Butler (Blakely), willingly shacking up with heroin pusher Thomas “Stick” Henderson (King) in order to gather hard evidence.  While Lockley acts in good confidence to find the missing girl, his role contrived by his superiors is only meant to further convince Stick of his live-in girlfriend’s false identity.  After being advised to forget Chicklet as quickly as he finds her, Lockley is determined to rescue her causing a violent showdown between the inexperienced officer and the neighborhood drug lord.  Shot on location in the bygone grime of New York City’s grindhouse and strip club infested streets, Report to the Commissioner bolsters a strong supporting cast including, Yaphet Kotto as Lockley’s streetwise partner Richard “Crunch” Blackstone, Hector Elizondo as corrupt Captain D’Angelo and a young Richard Gere (American Gigolo) making his screen debut as a fedora wearing pimp.  In addition, Michael Moriarty carries the film superbly well as the conflicted Lockley struggling to maintain a decent stature while, confronted with the dark underbellies of criminals and interdepartmental politics.  After Butler is killed in the middle of gunfire, a tense chase sequence from rooftops to a stalled elevator shaft ensues between Lockley and Stick, leaving the two soaked in perspiration with their guns permanently pointed at one another.  While Lockley’s fate over the shooting of Butler is heavily questioned for the sake of his superiors’ livelihood, Report to the Commissioner concludes on an unexpectedly somber note that will stay with viewers long after the end credits.  Tightly paced and excellently acted, Report to the Commissioner delivers a hard-nosed tale of crime and undercover investigations come undone, leading to a thrilling conclusion.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Report to the Commissioner with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting natural grain and a noticeably filmic quality, Report to the Commissioner contains only minor flakes in its presentation while, skin tones are lifelike with crisp detail revealing aging lines and constant perspiration in facial closeups.  Meanwhile, black levels contain slightly more speckling without ever compromising watchability.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible even during the film’s many exterior scenes set against the hustle and bustle of New York City streets.  Composer Elmer Bernstein’s (The Great Escape, Ghostbusters) score and the film’s few gunfire moments ring loudly when designated.  Arriving virtually barebones, special features included are limited to the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:21).

    In his second to last feature film, Director Milton Katselas’ exploration of a rookie cop’s idealism amongst the crime and politics of New York City delivers ample drama and action.  Supported by a committed cast and the tonally perfect landscape of the Big Apple’s nearly forgotten dangers, Report to the Commissioner is an exceptional police procedural that showcases the seedier sides of those who are meant to uphold the law.  Graduating to an impressive high-definition transfer, Kino Lorber Studio Classics preserves the rich, filmic quality of this gritty drama much to the delight of viewers.  Suspenseful and action-oriented, Report to the Commissioner earns its badge of approval.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 7th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Report to the Commissioner can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Kathryn Loder & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blaxploitation bombshell Pam Grier (Coffy) reteams with Director Jack Hill in Foxy Brown.  High on revenge following the murder of her government agent boyfriend, Foxy goes deep undercover into the seedy world of sex trafficking to make those responsible pay with their lives.  Antonio Fargas (Car Wash), Peter Brown (Teenage Tease), Terry Carter (The Phil Silvers Show), Kathryn Loder (Night of the Witches) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) co-star.

    Following the success of Coffy, American International Pictures hoped to recapture the excitement with a sequel before ditching the idea for an original concept.  With Director Jack Hill and star Pam Grier back in the fold, Foxy Brown may not feel wholly original from their previous collaboration but, most certainly excels in every way.  After her delinquent brother offers up her government agent boyfriend as debt clearance, Foxy Brown is determined to take her revenge.  While her occupation is never revealed, Foxy is a whole lot of woman that is capable of handling herself and anyone who steps in her way.  Adorned with flashy outfits and an even more empowering attitude, Pam Grier once again bears her assets to tantalize her way into a sex trafficking ring linked with high-level drug kingpins.  Grier appears more confident in her role as an independent soul that not only thoroughly entertains but, liberated female audiences during the turbulent decade.  With its theme of revenge carried over from Hill’s previous effort, Foxy Brown is noticeably more extreme with Foxy submitted to forced heroin injections and suggested rape only to respond accordingly by lighting her attackers on fire.  In addition, teaming up with a gang of neighborhood avengers, Foxy castrates a criminal in order to deliver his manparts to his prostitute ring leading girlfriend.  Effective and even more savage much to the delight of exploitation enthusiasts, Foxy Brown has little time for jive, delivering viewers one of blaxploitation’s finest and arguably, Grier’s most entertaining performance.

    Olive Films presents Foxy Brown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Accompanied with fleeting instances of flakes and speckles, the flashy colors found in wardrobe pop nicely with skin tones and detail in facial features benefitting from its hi-def upgrade.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasing while sequences taking place in a crowded bar suffer slightly from too many components overwhelming the track.  Unfortunately, once again surrendering to overseas releases overflowing with supplements, Olive Films provides no special features on this release.

    The creative combination of Director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier has been cemented in the history of cinema as grindhouse gold.  Slicker, sexier and more violent, Foxy Brown stands as one of blaxploitation’s towering achievements and a standout role for Grier that made her an eternal pillar for 42nd Street.  Making its U.S. debut on Blu-ray, Olive Films delivers a transfer well worth celebrating while, the lack of bonus content disappoints.  The strength and essentialness of the film itself warrants Foxy Brown into every blaxploitation fans‘ collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Foxy Brown can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Coffy (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Coffy (1973)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From grindhouse directing icon Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Bird Cage), Coffy stars Pam Grier as Nurse “Coffy” Coffin.  Determined to extract revenge on the drug pushers that hooked her young sister, Coffy uses her undeniable body language and arsenal of heavy firepower to take back the night from society’s scum.  Booker Bradshaw (The Strawberry Statement), Robert DoQui (Robocop), William Elliott (Night of the Lepus), Allan Arbus (Greaser’s Palace) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) co-star.

    Following appearances in several women in prison pictures, Pam Grier would graduate to become one of the fiercest and most beloved icons of blaxploitation cinema.  Shot in a remarkable 18 days and centering on a liberated nurse disgusted with the seedy criminals poisoning society, Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Grier) takes matters into her own hands to avenge the corruption of her young sister to junkies and their organization.  Demanding your attention from its earliest moments, Grier is a magnetic force of beauty that never shies from using her sexuality to con pimps and dealers before putting a bullet in them.  Simple in its execution with revenge her top priority, the stakes are elevated when thugs land Coffy’s longtime copper friend Carter (Elliott) in the hospital.  Displeased with ridding the city of only street level hustlers, Coffy decides to infiltrate drug kingpins with ties to corrupt city officials.  Engulfed in a world of prostitutes and narcotics, Coffy delivers a glorious highlight reel of exploitation from seedy characters and scantly clad women to a barrage of shootouts and an empowered protagonist that talks the talk and walks the walk.  Ever resourceful with razors stashed in her afro and bursting with nonstop attitude, Coffy is a landmark blaxploitation effort that catapulted Grier’s career to new heights and remains one of her most entertaining and enduring works.

    Olive Films presents Coffy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting instances of flakes and speckles, Director Jack Hill’s low-budget effort retains a nice layer of grain while relaying natural skin tones and warm colors.  Black levels are respectable with flakes only slightly more apparent but far from discouraging.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is free of any troubling distortion but occasionally sounds restrained.  Unfortunately, unlike overseas counterparts bursting with bonus content, Olive Films‘ release arrives with no special features.

    Applauded for its tough female lead and exceptional exploitative highlights, Coffy set star Pam Grier on a road to stardom that is still revered today.  Serving as one of the finest examples from blaxploitation’s heyday, Coffy’s vigilante tale of revenge dished out by the baddest chick on the block packs the punches to deserve its rightful praise amongst grindhouse aficionados.  Making its long-awaited domestic HD debut, Olive Films delivers the film with appreciable looks and sounds but, drops the ball with zero special features for such a landmark picture of the 70s.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Coffy can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Varsity Blood (2013) DVD Review

    Varsity Blood (2014)

    Director: Jake Helgren

    Starring: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Natalie Peyton, Elyse Bigler & Debbie Rochon

    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the tropes of body count flicks of the 1980s, this high school set tale finds football players and cheerleaders rooting for their own survival following the exploits of a masked murderer.  Harboring a small town secret, this modern day slasher unleashes beautiful females and the use of practical effects, much to the delight of genre fans.  Presented by Image Entertainment, Varsity Blood invites viewers to take to the field and do their best to survive this bloody experience.

    Varsity Blood centers on the cheerleaders and football players of Hogeye High, a sleepy town harboring a dark secret.  Following the big Halloween game, the group of friends host a wild party where an uninvited guest is waiting.  Disguised as their high school mascot with bow and arrow in stock, this masked murderer will stop at nothing until Hogeye High’s finest take permanent half-times.  

    MOVIE:

    Marking the directorial debut of Jake Helgren, Varsity Blood begins promisingly with scantly clad cheerleaders changing until one beauty is left alone.  Stalked by a masked maniac, the cheerleading captain is forced to run for her life bearing only her bra and panties.  Unfortunately, her fate is grim establishing a classic slasher introduction.  New girl, Hannah Wallace (Lexi Giovagnoli), has recently moved to town and has befriended the popular crowd while, being welcomed into the cheerleading squad.  Hannah, along with her controlling mother (Debbie Rochon, Tromeo and Juliet), suffer the pain of losing her father and is strictly against consuming alcohol.  Surrounded by sexy fellow cheerleaders and handsome jocks, Hannah is unaware of the tragic passing of Principal Graves‘ teenage daughter just a year previously.  Following their Halloween football game, the group descend on an abandoned farmhouse for a victory party, unaware that a killer dressed as their high school mascot awaits.  In true slasher fashion, sex, drugs and death quickly follow for the teens of Hogeye High.

    Possessing all the ingredients to deliver a decent slasher sendup, Varsity Blood stumbles early on and never truly recovers.  The small town secret that plants the town’s brutal killings is simple enough, but is unfortunately over compromised by several characters’ own dark pasts.  Overly complicated, the “character development” offers nothing more than throwing the viewer off course more than necessary.  In addition, Varsity Blood is plagued with horrendously tacky dialogue and paint by numbers exposition that takes the audience for fools.  Surprisingly, this underwhelming slasher does offer an incredibly beautiful spread of up and coming talent who aren’t shy to shed skin.  Plus, impressive practical effects in the form of arrow impalements and decapitations will please the most casual gorehound.  Concluding with a left field reveal and a nauseating Scooby-Doo-esque explanation, Varsity Blood had potential to be more but ultimately suffers from a weak story and poor dialogue.  The underused usage of the impressive practical effects are the film’s major highlight, but are hardly enough to remove the film’s bad taste.

    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:

    Varsity Blood is presented in a widescreen transfer sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The film relays skin tones nicely while, colors, most noticeably in the cheerleaders‘ uniforms, pop decently.  Unfortunately, instances of pixelation arise occasionally against whiter backgrounds and black levels, especially when the gang arrive at the farmhouse, are dreary and largely unimpressive making it difficult to see portions of action.  Overall, a rather mediocre effort for such a recent offering.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Varsity Blood is an audible yet largely unimpressive track.  Dialogue is relayed with no issues but, moments of horrific action and suspense lack a much needed oomph.  Similar to its video presentation, Varsity Blood sounds fine but could have afforded to be more.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

    A modern day approach to the slasher subgenre, Varsity Blood had the potential to be an enjoyable 90-minute excuse in terror.  Unfortunately, a dull screenplay and an unrestrained tendency to over explain, derails the film immensely.  Attractive actresses and a fine usage of practical effects offer some assistance but ultimately, Varsity Blood is a missed opportunity for slasher enthusiasts.  While, special features are nonexistent, Image Entertainment’s video and audio treatment never reach beyond mediocrity which is more than can be said for the film’s quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

  • Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
    Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
    Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare & Steve Zahn
    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In what is being hailed as the role of his career, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Magic Mike) brings the true story of a man’s fight against AIDS, to life.  Diagnosed during the peak of HIV/AIDS prejudice, the determination to survive caused one man to scour the world to prolong his life while simultaneously helping many others infected.  Earning accolades from critics and award ceremonies, let’s investigate the tale of Ron Woodroof.  The Dallas Buyers Club is now open for sale...

    Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a blue-collar Texas electrician, who lives a free-wheeling life until he’s diagnosed HIV-positive.  Given 30 days to live, Woodroof is determined to survive the deadly disease by any means necessary.  Tracking down alternative treatments from all over the globe, often by illegal means, Woodroof heads into business.  Teaming up with a transexual named Rayon (Jared Leto), the two open up a buyer’s club to distribute pharmaceuticals to others infected.  Jennifer Garner (The Odd Life of Timothy Green), Denis O’Hare (J. Edgar) and Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Following the production of the film since the late 1990s, a revolving door of talent from Director Marc Forster (World War Z) with Brad Pitt and Director Craig Gillespie (Blue Valentine) with Ryan Gosling all were once attached to bring Woodroof’s tale to the silver screen.  Fate played an important role when the project finally settled on Director Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria) and Matthew McConaughey in the lead role.  McConaughey, who was quickly falling into the murk of “rom-com” mediocrity in the mid 2000s, reinvented himself with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer.  With a successful string of memorable performances in Mud, Killer Joe and Magic Mike, McConaughey firmly established himself as an actor with more than meets the eye.  Dallas Buyers Club shines an uncomfortable light on the mid 1980s when misunderstanding and fear fueled the publics perception of AIDS.  HIV/AIDS-positive individuals were abandoned by those closest to them and viewed as a black plague of death that could infect anyone with the slightest touch.  Ron Woodroof was a common Texas cowboy who supported himself as an electrician.  Woodroof enjoyed the rodeo and loved his women just as much as his partying.  McConaughey brings the country boy swagger and flirtatious charm to his character effortlessly.  Once diagnosed HIV-positive, Woodroof’s friends and co-workers abandon him, allowing their homophobic personalities to blind them while fueling their disgust.  Early in the film, Woodroof and friends play cards as they stumble upon a newspaper clipping of Rock Hudson’s AIDS related death.  The group make light of the story and come to the conclusion that AIDS is some sort of “gay disease”.  It is this ignorance that even blinds Woodroof when his diagnosis is announced.  McConaughey morphs his appearance from strong rodeo-rider to a gaunt, sickly man with haunting results.  McConaughey’s dedication to the role shines as he convincingly projects a man with an incurable disease.  As Woodroof is shut out by friends, the only welcoming outlet comes from those with a homosexual background who share in his disease.  Woodroof’s reservations are tested when he befriends Rayon, an AIDS-positive transexual.  Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream) delivers, arguably, his finest role to date as a man adorned in full woman’s attire with a spunky attitude.  Leto also makes a heartbreaking physical transformation as his character’s condition worsens.  As Woodroof embarks on securing unapproved FDA pharmaceuticals from foreign countries, Woodroof and Rayon form an unlikely business relationship as a buyer’s club.  Supplying others infected with alternative medications, Woodroof’s selfish nature of prolonging his own life is broken as he comes to the aid of countless others.  McConaughey and Leto’s chemistry is a sight to be seen as prejudices are diminished and a beautiful friendship is formed.  In an emotional moment, Woodroof engages Rayon in a warm hug as the worst seems to be near for Rayon, highlighting the long journey Woodroof has traveled.  Jennifer Garner appears as a trusting doctor who Woodroof and Rayon confide in.  Garner brings a gravity to the role that allows Woodroof to unwind and comfortably feel like his former self.

    Dallas Buyers Club works as an inspiring true-life story about a man dealt an unimaginable weight with no real hope in sight.  Woodroof took the cards he was dealt and embarked on a rigorous journey to not only prolong his life, but many suffering others.  McConaughey’s powerful performance matched with Leto’s equally impressive turn as Rayon made Dallas Buyers Club a film worthy of its praise.  While, a deeper look into Woodroof’s psychological state as his friends abandon him, would have been appreciated, the film makes no apologies for Woodroof taking the situation and quickly, turning it into something beneficial.  

    In an ever-changing world where the threat of terrorism and the less than perfect economy keep us on edge, it’s easy to pay less attention to the AIDS epidemic.  Advancements in medicine have proven to prolong the life spans of those infected, but the troubling reality is that a cure is still unfound.  Dallas Buyers Club is a film that harks back to a time when the majority were terrified by the epidemic and quarantined those infected.  The film is a testament to the enduring spirit of Ron Woodroof and the opportunities he made possible for others.  Battling against countless obstacles other than the disease, Woodroof never stopped waging the good fight.  Matthew McConaughey brings life to Ron Woodroof with incredible range and charisma.  Jared Leto has entered a new level of flawlessness with his portrayal of the transexual outcast, Rayon.  The supporting cast of Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn shine in their limited screen time and bolster the film to marvelous heights.  Dallas Buyers Club is a moving, brilliantly acted film based on an even more remarkable man and his passion for life.  Dallas Buyers Club is the perfect showcase for McConaughey and Leto’s awe-inspiring performances that are destined to tug at your heart.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Universal Studios presents Dallas Buyers Club in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer.  The film looks nothing short of gorgeous, colors are nicely prevalent with skin tones looking accurate as can be.  Black levels are wonderfully handled, most noticeably in Woodroof’s trashy trailer-park residence.  The film seems to have a sense of softness which appears intentional and fitting for its 1980s time period.  Detail is splendid as McConaughey’s thinning hair and frail bone structure come across clear as crystal.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Dallas Buyers Club comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is wonderful.  Dialogue never goes missing and background noises in noisier scenes that take place in bars, pick up everything nicely.  Early moments at the rodeo give the mix a nice shake as the intense nature of the sport invades your speakers.  A clear and robust sound makes this mix a winner!
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Deleted Scenes: Less than five minutes make up for a few scenes left on the cutting room floor.

    - A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club: McConaughey, Garner and Leto appear in this far too short behind the scenes look at the film.

    - Previews: Includes Closed Circuit, The World’s End, Admission, The Place Beyond the Pines, Hyde Park on Hudson, Promised Land and Moonrise Kingdom.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Dallas Buyers Club is a near perfect film with incredible performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  The true-life tale highlights a less than thrilling time of the AIDS epidemic and the individuals battling it.  Director Jean-Marc Vallée conducted a beautiful film with a keen eye that has taken over 20 years to come to fruition.  Universal Studios‘ treatment is remarkable with a clean and nicely presented picture and a terrific audio mix.  Although, the release could have benefitted from more informative special features considering the film’s origins.  Regardless, Dallas Buyers Club is a wonderful, heart-wrenching film that needs to be seen based solely on McConaughey and Leto’s award nominated performances.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Toad Road (2012) DVD Review


    Toad Road (2012)
    Director: Jason Banker
    Starring: James Davidson, Sara Anne Jones, Jim Driscoll, Scott Rader & Jamie Siebold
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cementing their status as one of the leading forces of unique and independent cinema, Artsploitation Films teams up with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision to invite viewers down a hallucinatory path.  Toad Road is Artsploitation Films’ first American acquisition, shot on a shoestring budget that feels akin to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project in its execution.  Honest and disturbing, Toad Road sends chills down your spine in unexpected ways that make you wish for the terror to end.  The barriers of reality and nightmares become blurred as the characters struggle to navigate in this mixture of urban myth lore and documentary.  In order to find out what truly lies on Toad Road, let’s trip out…


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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Toad_Road__Artsploitation_/toad_road__artsploitation_.html

  • That's The Way of the World (1975) Blu-ray Review


    That’s the Way of the World (1975)
    Director: Sig Shore
    Starring: Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson & Earth, Wind & Fire
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor Scorpion Releasing is back with another sting of diversity in their exciting Blu-ray catalog.  Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets) stars as a hot-shot music producer who’s caught between creating the music he cares for and the music he’s forced into by his superiors.  Artistic tensions escalate as seedy business politics and corruption consume the purity of music.  Scorpion Releasing proudly presents That’s the Way of the World in a brand new HD master from an interpositive.  Produced and directed by Sig Shore (Superfly), this unique flick marks a time and place in music history, but is it a golden oldie or a one-hit wonder?  Turn up the jukebox and let’s boogie...

    That’s the Way of the World centers on Coleman Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel), an ambitious young music producer with A-Kord Records.  As he works closely with an up-and-coming band named The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire who also contribute the music to the film) who he believes has what it takes to make it big, Buckmaster is forced to concentrate all his efforts on an unknown trio The Pages.  The pressures and seedy business practices of the industry begin to weigh down on Buckmaster who must make crucial decisions that will impact the bands under his supervision and his personal relationships.

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, I’m a sucker for films that take place deep within the entertainment industry.  There’s never a shortage of crushed hearts and broken dreams when it comes to characters navigating the world of razzle dazzle.  That’s the Way of the World takes place in New York City which is home turf to some of Keitel’s most memorable performances in such fare as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.  Keitel breathes life into the role of music producer Coleman Buckmaster effortlessly.  It’s easy to believe in his performance as he focuses in on musical notes with the same precision a chemist handling chemicals would.  Paying more attention to the knobs and buttons in his recording studio, Keitel invokes a passion in his character that is obvious in his dealing with The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire).  When the president of A-Kord Records interrupts and forces Buckmaster’s attention on an unknown trio, The Pages, tensions rise.  Buckmaster is torn between his passion project with The Group while being forced into a sound he cares nothing for.  The Pages, a wholesome family trio are far from their cookie cutter image of perfection and hide a much darker backstory.  With the strain of industry politics weighing down and his personal and professional relationships suffering, Buckmaster decides to play the game to his advantage.  As the film progresses, Buckmaster’s motivations seem unclear as he surrenders himself to his seemingly hopeless situation by striking up a romance with The Pages‘ lead singer and eventually marrying her.  As the viewer, we’re confused by Buckmaster’s willingness to give up so easily on his passion since he doesn’t even go down the clichéd road of burning out on drugs.  Of course, the reasons behind this are all explained in the finale in a manner that Buckmaster puts as how the way the world works.  It’s a satisfying conclusion that took a road that left slightly more to be desired.  Luckily, the music from Earth, Wind & Fire is a major draw for the film as the influential band were at the peak of their careers.  In addition, live performances from the funkmasters (some of which take place at a roller derby!) are a wonderful sight with stage antics that excite and music that will keep you bopping your head to the beat.

    That’s the Way of the World also makes phenomenal usage of New York City streets that capture an incredible time in not only music, but the city itself.  In addition, when Buckmaster joins The Pages’ lead singer (played by Cynthia Bostick) on a trip to Hollywood, more terrific street shots are captured making this film a great time capsule of some of the country’s greatest cities at such an exciting time.  

    Many industry professionals have praised That’s the Way of the World for its accuracy in capturing the seedy underbelly of the record business.  The film definitely earns its marks in that department but still falls shy from being a truly great gem.  The film packs one of Keitel’s more intriguing performances of the 1970s with a killer soundtrack supplied by the iconic Earth, Wind & Fire along with some prime footage of New York City and the Los Angeles area.  That’s the Way of the World entertained me but fell slightly short due to the lack of drama some of the characters experienced throughout the film.  While, it strayed from selling the typical “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” story, more of that might have been beneficial in making the film all the more entertaining.  That’s the Way of the World is still a film that offers a lot of quality merits and shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing films about the entertainment industry.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    (NOTE: That’s the Way of the World is presented in HD from a slightly different cut than the original theatrical presentation.  Usable HD materials for the theatrical cut were not sufficient hence the cause for the slight difference in its HD presentation).

    That’s the Way of the World is presented in a 1080p anamorphic HD master (1.78:1) from the interpositive.  Overall, the film looks quite nice with a filmic layer of grain intact throughout the entire runtime and skin tones looking strikingly accurate.  Instances of debris and pops in the print are seen occasionally but nothing of real distaste.  Black levels leave slightly more to be desired with a faint haze in darker scenes but again nothing too distracting.  Considering the HD print was struck up from several different sources, I’m quite content with the video presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    That’s the Way of the World comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that is decent enough.  Dialogue scenes come across clear for the most part but there are instances when conversations fall a little on the low side.  Nothing a little raise to the volume button won’t fix.  The powerful music from Earth, Wind & Fire is as loud and robust as one would hope and their musical live performances are some of the standout moments for the audio mix.  It should be noted that actors’ lips were always a hair behind the actual audio track.  This is certainly nothing that takes away from the serviceable audio quality but it couldn’t help but be noticed.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Version: Presented in standard definition, the theatrical cut clocks in nearly four minutes longer than the HD presentation with the most noticeable inclusion being a sex scene between Keitel and Bostick.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Still Gallery

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Horror on Snape Island, Grizzly, Deathship and Day of the Animals.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Scorpion Releasing never seizes to amaze me with their dedication to cult cinema of all genres.  That’s the Way of the World was an intriguing picture with standout performances from Keitel and a soundtrack so catchy, you’ll be singing it for days.  While, the film won’t go down as an essential film about the innerworkings of the record industry, it still comes recommended for its accurate depiction of a business that can make dreams comes true for the fortunate and destroy lives for the unprepared.  Scorpion Releasings‘ handling of the film is quite possibly the best this music-centered flick is bound to see.  The HD master looks about as pristine as one could hope to achieve considering the hurdles that were undergone.  The inclusion of the theatrical cut was also a nice touch for completists sake.  That’s the Way of the World may have fallen short of my expectations but it’s still a film I am pleased to have in my Scorpion collection and one I can see myself revisiting.
    RATING: 3.5/5