Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

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  • 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. 

  • Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (2014) DVD Review

    Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (2014)

    Director: Jake West

    Starring: Sir Graham Bright, Julian Petley, James Ferman & Stephen Thrower

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Moral panic and extreme censorship once again run rampant in Director Jake West’s acclaimed follow-up documentary to 2010’s Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and VideotapeVideo Nasties 2: Draconian Days pulls the curtain back on the shocking witch hunts that took place in the wake of the 1984 Video Recordings Act.  UK horror enthusiasts were subjected to unthinkable censorship measures and preposterous legal penalties for merely owning content deemed a “video nasty”.  Retold by countless film historians, critics, politicians and various archive footage, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days shines a light on one of the darkest ages in censorship history. 

    Expertly researched, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is a vast improvement over its well crafted predecessor.  Director Jake West (Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes) and Producer Marc Morris continue to dig into the past and reveal the shocking censorship skeletons the British Board of Film Classification spewed on UK culture.  As moral censorship advocates such as Sir Graham Bright and Mary Whitehouse continued their attack on content deemed obscene and blasphemous, horror enthusiasts were confronted with both Section 2 and 3 of the Obscene Publications Act, the former placing those in possession of video nasties with fines and/or jail time while, the latter would seize said titles to be regularly destroyed with the owner avoiding prosecution.  West feels far more in control with a sturdy handle on his subject matter while, maintaining a very neutral focus allowing both differentiating viewpoints to come through.  Sir Graham Bright, former BBFC Director James Ferman, Julian Petely, Stephen Thrower and many others offer their scholarly insight as individuals who not only experienced the effects of these restrictions but, were influential in their existence.  With video nasties being blamed for virtually every crime committed, their demand grew but were regulated to underground circles where scoring desirable videotapes held a risky weight of severe punishments.  

    While, some may find the interviews dry, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is unquestionably another remarkable effort from West and Morris who have provided audiences with an insanely educational resource for such a turbulent time in British history.  Insightful and unsettling, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days, along with its previous entry, are the definitive statements on the video nasties phenomenon and essential viewing for horror fanatics interested in their favorites films‘ rocky road to being enjoyed in the privacy of one’s own home.

    Severin Films presents Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Predominately made up of “talking head” interviews and vintage material of slightly lesser quality, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days appears as one would expect with satisfying picture quality that gets the job done.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is hardly dynamic in its sound range but, nicely relays the dialogue of its interview subjects with ease.  Covering a whopping three DVDs, Severin Films delivers an abundance of bonus content that will leave viewers with nearly 13 hours of content to sift through.  Joining the documentary on disc 1, Fanzine Flashback, UK Fanzines 1985-1995 showcases images of countless underground fanzines that made their way through UK circles.  In addition, DPP 72 presents the 39 VHS covers for the films highlighted in Section 2 of the Obscene Publication Act while, DPP 82 covers the 82 VHS covers listed in Section 3 of the Obscene Publication Act.  Discs 2 and 3 collect all 82 “Section 3” trailers including Blood Lust, Cannibals, Dead Kids, Mark of the Devil, Hell Prison and many more with optional introductions from many of the interview subjects found in the documentary.

    As we bask in a time where so many of our favorite video nasties are treated like royalty on home entertainment, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days reminds viewers of a dark period where consuming such content was an actual crime for UK fans.  Almost unbelievable in its absurdity, West presents the facts from those who were on the front lines of this radical moral shift that took hold of a country, harkening back to the days of book burning in Nazi Germany.  Enlightening and culturally important, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days surpasses its acclaimed predecessor and must be seen to be believed.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 10th from Severin Films, Video Nasties: The Defintive Guide Part 2 can be purchased via Severin Films, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Animal (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Animal (2014)

    Director: Brett Simmons

    Starring: Joey Lauren Adams, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Paul Iacono & Elizabeth Gillies

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Drew Barrymore (Whip It), Animal focuses on a group of friends as they head to the wilderness for a weekend getaway.  Upon their arrival, a bloodthirsty creature sets its sight on its latest prey.  Scared and stranded, the friends retreat to an isolated cabin where secrets are revealed and survival appears grim.  Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan), Paul Iacono (The Hard Times of RJ Berger) and Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious) star in this contemporary creature feature from Chiller Films.  

    Reminiscent of backwoods horror films from decades past, Animal welcomes the viewer back to familiar territory with a group of attractive twentysomethings in search of an idyllic getaway only to fight for their survival.  The Chiller Films production wastes little time transitioning to night allowing the group to get lost as an unsuspecting monster stalks their every movements.  Equipped with immense strength and razor sharp teeth, Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s (Scream 4, Piranha 3DD) creature design work is a satisfying sight that charms the viewer with its practical capabilities.  In addition, Animal surprises with buckets of blood that drowns the viewer in corn syrup, much to the delight of gore enthusiasts.  While, Animal satisfies painting the town red, its cast fail to make a lasting impression.  Spending the majority of the runtime evading death, the cast fail to partake in any scandalous activities one would expect from films of this ilk.  In addition, characters are underdeveloped, even as the token gay character makes a late, unexpected reveal that although, intriguing, would have injected more conflict amongst the friends if utilized earlier.  Cast highlight Joey Lauren Adams‘ appearance is almost entirely forgettable despite being one of the most recognized names of the film.  Overall, Animal hardly revolutionizes the backwoods formula audiences have come to expect but, still manages to offer a decent modern take with an efficient pace and topnotch gore achieved the old fashioned way.

    Scream Factory presents Animal with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Picture is clean and clear with natural skin tones intact and well handled black levels for a film that takes place predominately at night.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Animal handles hushed dialogue and the striking volume of the creature’s growls nicely.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix is also provided for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Brett Simmons, Interviews with the Cast (1:43), Behind the Scenes (3:04), Theatrical Trailer (1:45), Teaser Trailer (0:32) and reversible cover art.

    Earnest and gory, Animal doesn’t offer anything horror enthusiasts haven’t been privy to before but, entertains with its effective creature designs and generous supply of bloody carnage.  Applauded for its TLC of cult classics, Scream Factory treats this contemporary offering with sound audio and video specifications as well as a decent spread of bonus content for viewers to bite into.  Available also on DVD, Animal should satisfy those yearning for a modern backwoods rendezvous achieved by practical means.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available on February 17th, Animal can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Compleat Al (1985) DVD Review

    The Compleat Al (1985)

    Director(s): Jay Levey & Robert K. Weiss

    Starring: “Weird Al” Yankovic

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Similar to 1984’s rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, the almost-true story of another rock and roll legend is hilariously retold.  Tracing the early rise and mass success of Grammy award-winner “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Compleat Al takes viewers behind the scenes and into the comedic genius that is Al.  Rescued from VHS obscurity, Shout! Factory invites viewers once again to embrace their weird side with this concocted chronicle.

    Blending fiction and reality, The Compleat Al is the hysterical mockumentary that takes viewers behind the curtains of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s rise to fame.  From his childhood years to successful stardom, The Compleat Al captures classic moments of Yankovic‘s many journeys and contains eight of “Weird Al’s” classic music videos.  

    MOVIE:

    Riffing the 1982 renowned documentary The Compleat Beatles, the prince of parody, “Weird Al” Yankovic, continues his goofy shenanigans with his own faux rockumentary, tracing the genesis of his creative genius.  Incorporating actual home videos and scripted, albeit comical, interviews with the real Mr. & Mrs. Yankovic, The Compleat Al chronicles “Weird Al’s” early interest in music continuing through his high school and college years before hitting the big time.  Yankovic takes great pride in poking fun at the typical road to stardom story by embellishing the greater majority of his tale with over the top interpretations.  In addition, The Compleat Al incorporates footage from Yankovic’s short-lived MTV show, Al TV, which was a parody of the network itself along with awkwardly funny moments of Yankovic’s Japanese trip.  With the utmost respect for The King of Pop, “Weird Al” reinterprets his encounter with Jackson in gaining permission to parody “Beat It” with knee-slapping results.  Best viewed as a greatest hits package of “Weird Al’s” countless comedy hits, The Compleat Al also contains eight music video classics including “Ricky”, “Eat It”, “I Love Rocky Road”, “I Lost on Jeopardy” and more.

    Falling only slightly short of Yankovic’s feature film classic, UHF, The Compleat Al is a laughable look at the distorted history of “Weird Al”.  A true product of its time with its comedic integrity still intact, Dick Clark, Rick Derringer and Phil Ramone all offer their own phony accounts with Yankovic’s talent, proving the infectiously fun nature of this entertaining “real-life” account.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    The Compleat Al arrives in a full-screen transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Previously only available on home video and LaserDisc, The Compleat Al makes its DVD debut bearing its VHS roots.  Containing flakes, speckles and occasional tracking lines, the mockumentary still manages to relay decent colors given Yankovic’s eccentric and flashy styles.  Considering its obscurity, The Compleat Al provides a nostalgic viewing experience for Gen Xers who recall catching the faux tale on Showtime or their personal VCRs.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, The Compleat Al never sounds extravagant or greatly disappoints.  Dialogue is even and clear with no audio dropouts while, Yankovic’s music videos do embrace a slightly louder kick.  Restrained to its video age limits, The Compleat Al relays the necessary goods, providing a suitable, yet contained, listen.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Film Trailer (0:32)

    • Extended Film Trailer (5:18)

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Collecting cobwebs on the shelves of VHS collectors for nearly 30 years, The Compleat Al finally makes it long-awaited DVD debut.  Off the wall and far from true, “Weird Al” Yankovic weaves a hilarious tale of dreams and successful triumph with his music videos serving as the bread and butter of this obscure mockumentary.  Shout! Factory has treated fans to another welcome slice from “Weird Al’s” comedic career, missing in action for far too long.  True to its video age appearance and scant on special features, the previous unavailability and its genuine strength of hilarity within, The Compleat Al is a necessary addition for fans of the funny, the weird or more likely, both.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thThe Compleat Al can be purchased via Shout! FactoryAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #2: Krull (1983), Salvador (1986) and Grave Halloween (2013) Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

    Krull (1983)

    Director: Peter Yates

    Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones & Francesca Annis

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Krull centers on the daring Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) who embarks on a dangerous mission to save his young princess bride (Lysette Anthony).  Imprisoned by the Beast and his fellow slayers, Colwyn must first recover the legendary Glaive blade and join forces with several traveling strangers to overthrow the dark powers that oppress their planet.  

    Highly expensive at the time of its making, Krull clearly borrows from the worlds of George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien to convey its mythic tale of magic and fantasy.  A simple plot of rescue and restoring balance to a fading planet, Prince Colwyn’s mission to locate The Black Fortress proves difficult and teams with a ragtag group of rebels including several fugitives (one played by a young Liam Neeson) and Ergo the Magnificent (David Battley, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), a hilariously clumsy magician, willing to stand by his side.  While, the journey should be as exciting and cinematic as the destination, Krull hits minor speed bumps maintaining its sense of adventure.  Entertaining when they do occur, battle sequences are rather scant for a film Variety labeled “Excalibur meets Star Wars”.  Luckily, the characters are memorable and Composer James Horner’s (Avatar) grand score gives Krull a thrilling soundscape.  Originally a box-office bomb, Krull has gone on to achieve cult status amongst moviegoers that continue to appreciate this massive production decades later.  Beautifully photographed and capturing an epic scale like few productions at the time, Krull is a decent ride that ultimately feels borrowed from too many other sci-fi cinematic milestones.  Fun and sporting impressive visual effects for its time, Krull will most likely be best appreciated with repeated viewings for those who weren’t swept up in its allure during its original run.  

    Lacking with any special features, Mill Creek Entertainment presents Krull in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually clear of any aging artifacts, Krull impresses with healthy skin tones and impressive detail that allows the viewer to best appreciate the film’s whopping 23 sets.  Slight softness occurs during moments of on-screen visual effects while, black levels satisfy with clear visibility and no intruding crushing.  In addition, Krull comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that captures dialogue reasonably well with only several moments coming across lower than expected.  Intense moments of battle and Composer James Horner’s score are the true areas where this mix shines and gives your speakers a nice run for their money.

    Released in a decade of impressive sci-fi productions, Krull tells an all too familiar tale of a damsel in distress and her loving prince, joined by his own army, to save her.  Sparing no expense, Krull is an epic looking film that achieves a gorgeous, otherworldly appearance.  While, it’s easy to see why Krull registers so highly with fans, Director Peter Yates‘ (Bullit) opus isn’t an immediate home-run but, one that can be better appreciated in time.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Krull is available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Salvador (1986)

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Starring: James Woods, James Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage & Elpidia Carrillo

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Writer/Director Oliver Stone’s Salvador centers on sometime journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods, Casino) who embarks to capture the Salvadoran revolution through the eyes of his camera.  Along with his friend Doctor Rock (James Belushi, Curly Sue), Boyle finds himself in dangerous situations with little hope while, trying to protect his local girlfriend and her children.  Michael Murphy (Batman Returns), John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and Elpidia Carrillo (Predator) co-star.

    Politically charged, Salvador served as a last ditch effort for Writer/Director Oliver Stone to convey a more personal story beyond his previous genre fare.  Detailing the Salvadoran revolution, Richard Boyle (Woods), travels via car with fellow down on his luck buddy, Doctor Rock (Belushi) to the war-torn location.  Fueled by alcohol, drugs and the promise of cheap women, Boyle and Rock remind viewers of the Gonzo journalists found in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but, with more agenda.  Caught in the middle of a chaotic, contrived war, Boyle finds himself at odds with the country’s increasing danger and his personal desire to protect his girlfriend (Elpidia Carrillo).  Woods is brilliant in this Oscar-nominated performance of a self-proclaimed weasel of a man who scams and boozes his way to make a living.  Matched with his unforgettable work in Videodrome and Once Upon A Time in America, the 1980s can arguably be seen as Woods‘ most enduring decade.  In addition, Belushi’s Doctor Rock is the perfect yin to Woods‘ yang.  Desperate, broke and scared of his new surroundings, Belushi quickly adapts to El Salvador by drinking with young children, eager to start bar fights at the drop of a hat and falling in love with a prostitute.  Belushi’s rambunctious attitude is refreshing against the grim imagery of murdered civilians by the military government.  Constantly rattling the political cages and putting himself in harms way, Boyle is relentless in trying to establish a story and the pictures to go along with it.  Vastly underrated, Salvador is an intense, fictional account of the Salvadoran revolution spearheaded by Woods and Belushi’s incredible performances of two Americans willingly placed in hell.  In addition, Stone’s rebirth as a filmmaker helped launch a career of other politically fueled and critically acclaimed projects that continue to this day.  

    Presented in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Salvador looks remarkable with a crisp appearance and rich detail found in facial features and the hot Salvadoran climate.  Complexions are always spot-on while, black levels are impressive especially in the dark, jungle settlings where visibility reads well.  Equipped with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion and only minor shake-ups during some of the film’s more chaotic war sequences that can overwhelm speaking bits.  In addition, a DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mix has also been provided.  Meanwhile, special features run a plenty with a worthwhile audio commentary with Writer/Director Oliver Stone, an isolated score track, the impressive and lengthy Into the Valley of Death - The Making of Salvador (1:02:52), deleted scenes (27:47), an original theatrical trailer (1:58) and a MGM 90th Anniversary trailer (2:06).  Plus, a 6-page booklet with Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo lending her expertise on Salvador’s significance round out the disc’s supplements.

    Limited to just 3,000 units, Twilight Time’s impressive treatment of this criminally underrated Stone effort is beyond recommending.  Woods and Belushi’s powerhouse performances guide the viewer on this tour of the hellish El Salvador during a time of revolution and chaos.  As complicated and wild as the war itself, Boyles‘ personal desires are at constant odds with the safety of those closest to him, making Salvador an intensely, captivating ride that never lets up, leaving the fewer with more questions about the state of the world.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Salvador is available now and can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

    Grave Halloween (2013)

    Director: Steven R. Monroe

    Starring: Kaitlyn Leeb, Cassi Thomson, Dejan Loyola, Graham Wardle & Hiro Kanagawa

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When American exchange student Maiko (Kaitlyn Leeb, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings) travels to Japan’s Suicide Forest to uncover the truth of her dead birth mother, a college documentary crew captures her journey.  Unfortunately, on October 31st, the group will disturb something sinister in the grim forest that may destroy them all.  Cassi Thomson (Big Love), Dejan Loyola (Evangeline), Graham Wardle (Heartland) and Hiro Kanagawa (Godzilla) co-star.

    Originally premiered on the SyFy network and “inspired” by true events, Grave Halloween feels like a marriage between The Blair Witch Project and J-Horror imagery found in The Ring.  A decent setup of an attractive exchange student hoping to learn the truth behind her birth mother’s suicide, finds our core cast in an atmospheric, backwoods area near Japan’s Mount Fuji.  Littered with subpar performances, Grave Halloween slightly rises above most TV-movie dreck with crafty practical effects in the form of long hair ripping limbs from a victim.  Intercut with ghostly flashbacks to Maiko’s childhood and digital camera POV shots, Grave Halloween grows tiresome as the Suicide Forest becomes a giant maze causing the group to constantly lose each other for most of the runtime.  Weak jump scares and more Japanese phantoms that bombarded cinemas a decade ago appear to underwhelm the viewer.  As the group dwindles and safety is near for the survivors, a twist, open-ended finale concludes Grave Halloween.  Far from the worst made for TV effort, Grave Halloween is competently shot and possesses some worthy practical gore effects but, never manages to be very memorable.  Ultimately, Grave Halloween is a frankenstein concoction of genres we’ve seen before, only with lesser results.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Grave Halloween in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Drenched in heavy fog, detail is nicely picked up in wardrobe and the eerie backwoods setting while, moments of bloody gore pop nicely.  In addition, black levels read respectively well for DVD quality and should please those tuning in.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Grave Halloween picks up dialogue with no hitches and moments of shrieking terror come across with an added bump.  Unfortunately, no special features are included.

    For TV-movie fare, one could do way worse than Grave Halloween.  Borrowing from different subgenres, namely the tired J-Horror realm, Grave Halloween never manages to be anything wildly original or noteworthy.  On a positive note, the usage of practical effects are worthwhile and serve as the film‘s leading strongpoint.  With the Halloween season in full swing, Grave Halloween is not the worst way to kill 90-minutes, but it certainly won‘t be worth revisiting either.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Grave Halloween is available now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #1: Neighbors (2014), Stagefright (1987) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    Neighbors (2014)

    Director: Nicholas Stoller

    Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Parents to a baby girl and new homeowners, Mac (Seth Rogen, This is the End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids), are adjusting to their new suburban existence when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door.  Led by their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment), the frat’s parties continue to grow in size as the Radner’s patience wears thin, prompting a hilarious war between the two neighbors.  Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Carla Gallo (We Bought a Zoo) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-star.  

    Funnyman Seth Rogen teams with Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) in this modern day Animal House tale of debauchery disrupting the lives of two thirtysomethings.  The unlikely combination of Rogen and High School Musical hunk, Zac Efron, hardly screams comedic gold but, Efron makes a surprising turn as the fraternity president who knows no bounds.  The personality clashes and age differences make for hilarious on-screen chemistry and a drunken debate of whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale is the definitive Batman will surely ignite laughter and off-screen arguments amongst viewers.  As a house war erupts between the two parties, sabotage antics reach wild heights in this comedy hit.  Co-stars Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz are the standout performances with hysterical dialogue that further cements their comedic status.  While, the final act may drag itself out a few minutes too long, Neighbors is still an entertaining romp of college humor hijinks that allows fresh blood like Efron to capably play in the Rogen sandbox of modern comedy.

    Universal Studios presents Neighbors with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Crisp and sharp, skin tones appear natural while, colors are always bold and refreshing.  Black levels are also handled very nicely, most noticeably in the neon-lit rave sequence, leaving room for no issues to be seen.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Neighbors sounds just as good as it looks with dialogue always coming across clearly and the modern hits soundtrack offering an added boost for your listening pleasure.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Neighbors arrives with a generous offering of special features including, Blu-ray exclusive content such as an alternate opening (6:40), deleted/alternate scenes (12:55) and On Set with... (3:41), a brief featurette with Dave Franco as your tour guide showcasing a fundraiser Delta Psi Beta hosts in the film.  In addition, a gag reel (5:57) and Line-O-Rama (2:52) join more informative, albeit brief, featurettes covering various areas of the production such as An Unlikely Pair (5:34) focusing on the pairing of Rogen and Efron, Partying with Neighbors (7:17), highlighting the central elements that created the on-screen hilarity and The Frat (5:44) where the cast of Delta Psi Beta discuss fraternity legends.  Finally, a DVD edition and Ultraviolet code round out the supplemental package.

    With little competition combatting it, Neighbors has been crowned by many to be the funniest comedy of the year.  Hardly breaking new ground, Neighbors is still a barrel of laughs allowing Rogen to do what he does best while, inviting welcome newcomers such as Efron, Byrne and Barinholtz to his comedic circle.  Universal Studios’ audio and visual presentation is pitch perfect with a decent array of special features that offer more added humor than informative production accounts. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Neighbors can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Stagefright (1987)

    Director: Michele Soavi

    Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mary Sellers & Piero Vida

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Church and Cemetery Man, Stagefright centers on a group of young actors rehearsing a new musical based on a murderer.  When a madman escapes from the local institution, the show’s director locks his cast inside the theater overnight accidentally with the killer.  With no escape, the stage is set for a night of suspense and blood.  Also available on DVD, Blue Underground proudly presents this Italian shocker, newly transferred in high-definition from the uncut negative, and loaded with newly produced special features.

    A protege of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), Michele Soavi would mark his directorial debut with this low-budget, atmospheric tale of terror.  Set in a dingy theater house where a group of starving artists perfect their experimental musical production, a former actor gone mad escapes the confines of his imprisonment to paint the stage red.  While, the film starts off rather slow with the cast aggressively rehearsing their offbeat production, Stagefright truly shines after the killer takes possession of an equally odd owl mask to fall into character.  Once the show’s director locks his team indoors to rehearse through the night, the escaped maniac utilizes a variety of power tools to make his own personal casting cuts.  Brutal and shocking, Stagefright retains its momentum thanks to Composer Simon Boswell’s (Hardware, Lord of Illusions) blending of operatic, synth-heavy tunes.  Nicely photographed by Renato Tafuri (The Church), Stagefright doesn’t always possess the effortless style of Argento’s earliest works but, obviously demonstrates the chops of a young director from the same school of filmmaking.  A third act confrontation on the theater’s catwalk between the sole injured victim and the masked killer is both thrilling and terrifying, sending Stagefright off on a satisfying final note.  Unique and dreamlike, Stagefright remains one of Soavi’s finest efforts due to its claustrophobic setting, startling gore effects and frantic score courtesy of Simon Boswell.

    Unsurprisingly, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a marvel.  Presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Stagefright improves astonishingly over previous DVD releases.  Detail is most impressive in facial close-ups while, colors pop nicely in this generally low-lit film.  Skin tones always appear natural with healthy film grain left intact.  Handled with the utmost care, black levels are consistently visible and show no signs of crushing or pixelation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion to speak of.  That said, several moments of characters speaking in hushed tones may require the occasional increase in volume.  Boswell’s exhilarating synth-heavy score sounds sensational, making itself a  personal highlight of the mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Blue Underground compliments their rich audio and visual presentation with a plethora of newly produced bonus features including, Theatre of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19:01) where Soavi recounts the difficult shooting schedule and  credits his experiences with Dario Argento in learning how to create tension and atmosphere.  In addition, House of the Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (11:40), Blood on the Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14:00), The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11:21) and The Sounds of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18:02) round out the impressive array of informative interviews found on the disc.  In addition, a theatrical trailer (2:18) and poster & still gallery (74 in total) have also been included.

    Akin to a frightening fever dream, Stagefright uses its limited budget to its advantage.  Predominately centered in a darkened theater, the owl-masked murderer stalks his prey with patience leaving his victims shy of limbs.  Nicely detailed, possessing sound black levels and free of any aging artifacts, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a sight to be seen with an equally impressive sound mix to satisfy viewers.  In addition, the newly-included assortment of special features are a treat to sit through and should appease dedicated fans.  A delightful directorial debut, Michele Soavi’s Stagefright remains a fan-favorite of late 80s Italian horror that is ripe for revisiting.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Stagefright can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McCinn, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Eaten Alive, five youths head out on a weekend getaway in rural Texas only to fall prey to a family of ruthless cannibals.  Shocking and controversial, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has unleashed a world of horror on viewers for over 40 years becoming a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.  Dark Sky Films proudly presents the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an all-new 4K transfer with a newly crafted 7.1 surround sound mix supervised by Director Tobe Hooper.

    Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973 in Austin, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has achieved iconic status for changing the face of cinema with its brutal depiction of macabre realism.  Equally loved and hated, Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper’s enduring opus has unanimously remained in the public conscience as a groundbreaking effort of independent cinema.  Inspired by the heinous exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grows more grizzly with age as its vintage quality and boiling backroads setting leaves viewers with a hellish representation of a living nightmare.  The equally believable cast headlined by Marilyn Burns as Sally, are our guides as their afternoon of fun morphs into an odyssey of madness.  The horror that unfolds at the Sawyer residence, home of Leatherface and his disturbed family, are the film’s most disturbing moments that have lifted it to iconic heights.  Imagery of human bone constructed furniture and a victim hung on a meathook is just the beginning of this grueling experiment in shock value.  Barely maintaining her sanity and survival, Sally is subjected to a terrifying dinner with her captors before attempting her escape.  Drenched in bright red blood on a highway, Sally is confronted and evades the maniacal Leatherface, angrily waving his deadly power tool in an unforgettable final image.

    Chilling and unsettling, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has remained a cinematic landmark since rattling the public’s senses during the tumultuous 1970s.  Simple in its execution, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s grimy production value matched with its uncomfortable tone sends viewers through a relentless viewing experience that feels authentic.

    Scanned in 4K, Dark Sky Films presents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a 1080 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on their already impressive 2008 release, Dark Sky Films’ latest transfer is the best yet!  Shot guerilla-style, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre retains its warm, Texas appearance with skin tones reading reasonably sharp and accurate.  Lines and debris that have plagued so many previous releases are extinct in this transfer while, always maintaing a layer of natural grain.  Consistently underlit, black levels are nicely handled, especially during Leatherface’s pursuit of Sally in the fields.  Action is satisfyingly visible with no crushing to speak of.  Supervised by Writer/Director Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes equipped with a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround mix that picks up dialogue clearly with no intrusions and chaotic moments of chain saw mayhem roars across this impressive mix.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo 2.0 and Original 2.0 Mono mixes have also been included.  

    Bursting with bonus content, the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition arrives with four commentary tracks including: 1) Writer/Producer/Director, Actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 2) Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger & Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns.  Plus, two newly recorded tracks from: 3) Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper and 4) Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J. Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolauo.  A separate Blu-ray disc of additional bonus features include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49), Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (1:11:42), A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03), a vintage walk through tour from 1993.  In addition, Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02), The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27), a new, albeit silent due to the audio being lost, selection of deleted scenes & outtakes (15:07), Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48), Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47), vintage deleted scenes & outtakes (25:23), a blooper reel (2:22), Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (7:40), Horror‘s Hallowed Grounds: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (20:19), where Host Sean Clark visits the original shooting locations, Dr. W.E. Barnes presents Making Grandpa (2:45), a still gallery (2:27) and several trailers, TV & radio spots round out this impressive assortment of special features.  An accompanying DVD edition of the film and special features disc is also included for standard definition needs.

    As effective as it was 40 years ago, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to shock and mesmerize viewers with its unsettling presentation of cannibalistic killers in the barren backroads of Texas.  In a time of endless catalog re-releases of subpar standard, Dark Sky Films have delivered fans the definitive release of this low-budget spectacle.  Beautifully scanned in 4K with an impressive 7.1 surround mix, Dark Sky Films has left no stone unturned with over four hours of bonus content to delve into.  Endlessly disturbing and terrifying, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never fades in quality and Dark Sky Films‘ 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition firmly proves that the saw is still family!

    RATING: 5/5

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available right now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Worm (2013) Special Edition DVD Review

    Worm (2013)

    Director: Doug Mallette

    Starring: John Ferguson, Shane O’Brien & Jes Mercer

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a future where our dreams are but a distant memory, a new nocturnal product will guide us back to our wildest fantasies at a cost.  Birthed out of a short film presented for Nashville’s “The 48 Hour Film Project”, Synapse Films proudly presents the feature length version of Worm, a unique sci-fi thriller that successfully won the 2013 Dark Carnival Film Festival awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress.  

    Set in the distant future where people no longer dream, Worm centers on the newly developed Fantasites, a worm-like parasite utilized by humans to experience their wildest fantasies as they sleep.  Charles (John Ferguson), a lonely young man, longing for an escape from his uninteresting life begins using the slimy Fantasites to bring him closer to the girl of his dreams.  Eventually, things spiral out of control for Charles and his friends when the government bans the addictive product and people must seek underground means to obtain it.

    MOVIE:

    Shot on a shoestring budget and invoking a Cronenbergian tone, Worm is a wildly unique execution in genre-blending.  This sci-fi thriller takes place in a future where human dreams have been abolished for 30 years and sleep is overtaken by somber darkness.  Genetically engineered worms, known as Fantasites, hit storefronts promising citizens a new doorway into their most euphoric dreams.  Inserting one worm into your ear canal before bedtime ensures a sleep like no other, prompting everyone to subscribe to this new practice.  Shy and awkward Charles (Ferguson), in need of friendship and love, works as a maintenance man at an apartment complex.  Desperate for attention from his neighbor Reed (Shane O’Brien) and the affection of his girlfriend June (Jes Mercer), Charles seeks Fantasites to help him escape his lonely way of living.    As side-effects to the slimy sleep additives are revealed, the government bans the experimental product, birthing an illegal underground world to feed the Fantasite addiction.  Charles and Reed become junkies, surrendering themselves to whatever means necessary to get their kick.  A potential chance with June is fogged as Charles‘ life becomes a whirlwind of heartbreak and destruction.

    Impressively shot without a script, Worm was generally improvised by the actors which equally helps and hurts the film.  Finessing the dialogue would have strengthened the narrative and the characters‘ development, immensely.  In addition, its limited budget is showcased during bizarre dream sequences that fail to be quite as effective.  Luckily, Composer Bill Mitchell’s xylophone chimes feel reminiscent of Danny Elfman’s more gothic contributions, granting Worm another added layer of creepiness.  While, handled unorthodoxly, Worm still packs a solid punch as a peculiar tale of sci-fi, romance and addiction that makes one wish the production had a larger budget to realize the full scope of their intentions.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Worm is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, bearing a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, Worm looks fairly decent with natural skin tones and colors reading fine.  Unfortunately, the digital, student film appearance never lets viewers forget this is an independent production shot on a dime.  Worm looks as it was intendedly shot but, never appears overwhelmingly impressive.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Worm is audible if not, slightly problematic.  Several moments of dialogue are relayed lowly while, others suffer from a lackluster sound mix causing background music to overwhelm character interactions.  Overall, the cons on this mix are not rampant and most can be excused by the production’s low-budget.  

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Doug Mallette, Co-Producers Jeremy Pearce & Jennifer Bonior and Visual Effects Supervisor Julian Herrera: Chatty and enthusiastic, the group of friends keep things on track while injecting informative notes and exchanging laughter.  The difficulty of filming with dogs and the low-budget (less than $10,000), which was raised through an Indiegogo campaign, are all discussed on this worthwhile track.

    - Worm - Original Short Film (7:57): The small seed that planted the feature is apparent, but the original short is too all over the map and incoherent to enjoy beyond a curiosity viewing.

    - Deleted Scenes (10:40): Six scenes omitted from the final cut are included.

    - Original Trailer #1 (1:51)

    - Original Trailer #2 (2:07)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Shot cheaply and with no script, Worm was a risky endeavor that paid off for the most part.  Successfully blending the worlds of science fiction, love and uncontrollable addiction, Worm is one of the standout independent efforts of the year.  Channeling the youth of David Cronenberg and injecting a creepy, childlike score from Bill Mitchell, the nonprofessional cast do their best guiding the slimy story of Worm.  Synapse Films has done a fine service rewarding this indie effort with a wider distribution for more eyes to witness.  Joined by an informative commentary and the original short film, Worm is an engaging specimen with a fresh story that only suffers from common low-budget woes.

    RATING: 3.5/5 

  • Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014) DVD Review

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The memories and output of grindhouse cinemas have managed to stay afloat, many years after the Deuce’s demise and family friendly rebirth.  For every cannibal classic or sleazy stinker that was discovered on 42nd Street’s dingy theaters, a trailer planted the tiny seed of growing interest in cinemagoers’ subconscious.  Often advertised with empty promises, the trailers for grindhouse entertainment promised viewers the world and than some with varying results.  Intervision Picture Corp. proudly presents Grindhouse Trailer Classics, a compilation of the sleaziest and thoroughly entertaining trailers to emerge from the 1960s and 1970s Times Square scene.  

    Before your feature presentation, there was always trailers.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics compiles 55 of the most violent, sexy, gory and action-packed trailers that were projected during the Deuce’s most thriving years of the 1960s and 1970s.  Over two hours of mind-bending, celluloid entertainment awaits lovers of the seediest days of trash cinema in this wild collection.

    MOVIE:

    With the advent of the internet and YouTube, locating the latest or most obscure movie trailers is only a click away.  Preservers of grindhouse cinema have much to appreciate in this high-octane compilation of some of the best trailers to emerge from the Deuce’s heyday.  Nicely collected and presented as one giant loop, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves not only as a terrific resource for these films‘ original marketing campaign but, as the perfect ambience for any get-together amongst friends or an annual Halloween bash.  Drawn in by dramatic narration and the imagery of scantly clad women, ferocious monsters or kung-fu fighting martial artists, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is sure appeal to any serious fan of offbeat cinema and introduce others to a wealth of unforgettable B-movie flicks.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics comes equipped with a whopping 55 trailers to rip your guts out, including:

    • I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin
    • Blood Splattered Bride / I Dismember Mama
    • Switchblade Sisters
    • Caged Heat
    • Eyeball
    • Deranged
    • The Big Doll House
    • Bury Me An Angel
    • The Last House on the Left
    • The Street Fighter
    • Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
    • Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
    • Don’t Open the Window
    • The Human Tornado
    • Caged Virgins
    • Ebony, Ivory and Jade
    • Deadly Weapons
    • Torso
    • They Call Her One Eye
    • Deathship
    • Master of the Flying Guillotine
    • They Came from Within
    • The Thing with Two Heads
    • I Spit on Your Grave
    • Sweet Sugar
    • Girls for Rent
    • The Toolbox Murders
    • The Executioner
    • House of Whipcord
    • Truck Turner
    • God Told Me To
    • Doctor Butcher M.D.
    • Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
    • Night of the Bloody Apes
    • Bloodsucking Freaks
    • Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks
    • The Single Girls
    • The Corpse Grinders
    • Zombie
    • Coffy
    • The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak
    • The Legend of the Wolf Woman
    • Satan’s Sadists
    • Disco Godfather
    • Let Me Die a Woman
    • The Doll Squad
    • Secrets of Sweet Sixteen
    • Cannonball
    • Autopsy
    • Fight For Your Life
    • Love Me Deadly
    • Wham!  Bam!  Thank You, Spaceman!
    • Shogun Assassin
    • Three on a Meathook
    • Journey into the Beyond

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Varying in quality, each trailer is riddled with scratches and lines, some worse than others, but never deterring from the viewing experience.  Understandably, the anomalies in grindhouse features and their trailers are as beloved as their content, making this compilation exactly as you hoped it would look.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, the trailers compliment their rough visual appearance with some encountering minor hiss and pops in their audio.  Never deal-breaking, these trailers sound as good as one could expect.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Bump ‘N Grind - Emily Booth Explores the World of Grindhouse (18:30): Cult presenter, Emily Booth, is your guide in this nutshell journey through grindhouse cinema history.  Breezy and informative, Booth works from a script provided by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents.

    • Grindhouse Poster Gallery: 29 slides showcasing all the glorious one-sheet artwork for the films found in this compilation.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    While, repeat viewings may not occur as frequently, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is an enormously fun journey through 55 of the kookiest genre films to emerge from the sleazy paradise of 42nd Street and such.  Appearing in gloriously vintage shape and paired with an educational crash course in Deuce cinema from Emily Booth, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves as a terrific historical resource and a superb conversation starter during Halloween parties. From dusk ‘till dawn, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is worthy of admission into your cult library.

    RATING: 3.5/5

  • 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4

    Director(s): Unknown

    Starring: Erica Boyer, Linda Shaw, Sharon Kane, Dorothy LeMay & Annie Sprinkle

    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the filthy theater rows of the Deuce comes another salacious marathon of adult loops for your viewing pleasure.  42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 once again invites pornographers to create their own personal booths in the comfort of their living room with this vintage stash of stag.  Re-mastered from original film prints, Impulse Pictures is your guide on this journey of underground sex flicks, captured in up-close intimacy.  

    42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling nearly two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 includes hardcore highlight reels featuring Erica Boyer, Linda Shaw, Sharon Kane, Dorothy LeMay & Annie Sprinkle.

    MOVIE(s):

    Saddling up where we left off, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 presents another wide variety of hardcore loops with intriguing titles and even more intriguing on-screen action.  Featuring 15 different loops, Vol. #4 highlights include Tammy and the Doctor, a subtitled entry that focuses on an ill woman who summons the good doctor for a house call.  Following a physical examination, Doc inserts an IV into Tammy’s backside, exciting the under the weather patient.  Turned on, Tammy puts the moves on her treater and the two engage in oral play, doggy style and Doc climaxing in Tammy‘s mouth.  Exactly what the good doctor ordered!  Another untitled entry finds a ponytail sporting bookworm interrupted by a mask wearing horndog, visibly in support of President Carter.  A fast-paced blow job, more doggy style maneuvering and some spanking follow for the two lovebirds.  Dorothy LeMay (Nightdreams) stars in Wheelchair Mary as a horny redhead confined to a wheelchair.  After Mary is short on cash for her dirty magazines, she produces a ferocious blow job for her trench coat wearing delivery boy.  Full-blown sex ensues with LeMay’s “O-face” appearing catatonic.  In the not so subtle, Fuck My Huge Tits, Annie Sprinkle appears in an interracial session as her hung companion succumbs quickly to the big-breasted Sprinkle’s oral skills.  Plenty more blow jobs follow along with the promise of the loop’s title leaving Sprinkle dosed in man juice.  After the Game, another subtitled entry, follows two sexy females infatuated with a star quarterback.  The girls surprise him with a game of two on one resulting in a plethora of playbook positions.  In this volume’s most bizarre entry, fans of pregnancy porn will rejoice with One in the Oven.  Sharon Mitchell gets frisky with a noticeably showing female, exchanging passionate licks and sensual rubdowns.  Finally, 2 From Column A finds Erica Boyer and Asian star, Mai Lin, pile driving and motorboating each others no-no zones.  

    On par with previous installments, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 continues to provide a nice variety of hardcore loops with a heavy emphasis on lesbianism.  From interracial fornication and leather clad strip downs in Leather Lust to the eyebrow-raising pregnancy fetish of One in the Oven, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 is destined to be another welcome entry in any passionate pornographers collection.

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  As expected, the reels are lined with massive scratches and dirt with colors occasionally dropping out.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, this collection of hardcore stag flicks are badly worn but still watchable and shouldn’t deter dedicated porn enthusiasts from viewing.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 only presents a projector sound effect.

    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Once again, Bougie provides his always insightful knowledge with his latest offering, No One Rides for Free.  Bougie waxes intellectual on the earliest known American stag film from 1915, believed to be filmed in New Jersey (offering a new dimension to the term “Dirty Jerz”) and how stag films‘ intent have not changed much.  In addition, Bougie points out career highlights of some of the more notable faces found in Vol. #4 and their unfortunate fates.  Informative, humorous and far too short, Bougie’s words never disappoint.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:                                     

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 continues to pull back the curtain on forgotten stag films of yesterday.  Presented rough and tough as remembered, Impulse Pictures’ latest entry in their popular line carries a strong emphasis with safer lesbian scenarios and the occasional threesome with well hung lads.  With One in the Oven being the standout loop for its offbeat fetish, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 packs a prominent amount of adult starlets, sure to please peep show purists.  Fans of previous installments should take kindly to this latest volume of Times Square smut.

    RATING: 3/5 

  • Adventure Planet (2012) DVD Review

    Adventure Planet (2012)

    Director: Kompin Kemgumnird

    Starring: Drake Bell, Bailee Madison, Jane Lynch, J.K. Simmons & Brooke Shields

    Released by: Arc Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a world overrun by endless technology and environmental carelessness, a trio of kids embark on an adventure to save it!  Set in the exotic reaches of Thailand, a tech-savvy boy scout is about to learn the beauty of nature and what must be done to ensure its safety.  From Bangkok’s Kantana Animation Studio, Arc Entertainment proudly presents Adventure Planet, an exciting tale about friendship and never underestimating the power of kids.

    Adventure Planet centers on Thailand based sister and brother, Norva (Bailee Madison, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and Jorpe who have the unique abilities to communicate with nature.  After bumping into tech-obsessed boy scout and son of Capital City president, Sam (Drake Bell, Drake and Josh), during an expedition, the trios personalities clash.  With the threat of global warming at an all-time high, Sam’s gadgets fail leaving him to respect his new friends as flaming creatures descend from the skies.  The kids race to Capital City to warn the president of the planet’s energy consumption before disaster strikes everywhere.  Turning off all power on Earth in order to regenerate is the only option, as long as the three adventurous kids can convince everyone.  Jane Lynch (Wreck-It Ralph), J.K. Simmons (Juno) and Brooke Shields (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Slightly more sophisticated but not nearly as fun as an episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Adventure Planet attempts to carve an adventure tale with an environmentally conscience message.  While, the awareness of nature’s safety is an important one, this Thailand-produced, computer-generated effort is far too ambitious for its own good.  Directed by Kompin Kemgumnird, who previously contributed to Disney’s Tarzan and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Adventure Planet’s animation style feels stiff and dated compared to the highly-detailed and naturalistic quality of Dreamworks Animation and Pixar’s output.  Colors run rampant in the lush exotic landscapes with the camera respectably guided, but the characters’ dead pan, emotionless eyes offer little for the viewer to feel.  In addition, the preachy, personality clashing tale is as cliché as they come with a screenplay that is slightly overcomplicated and devoid of any humor.  Notable voice talent such as Drake Bell (Ultimate Spider-Man) and Jane Lynch (Glee) are all present and accounted for, but none offer anything memorable to this otherwise bland film.  Attempting to live up its name, Adventure Planet finds our heroes saving the day in the third act, underwhelming the viewer all the way to the end credits.

    With a tighter story and slicker animation, Adventure Planet could have been halfway decent.  Unfortunately, this independent effort bit off more than it could chew.  With the exception of a few wide shots of the Thailand vistas, Adventure Planet is not particularly well animated and suffers from a generic story that lacks excitement or a quality sense of humor.  Look elsewhere for true animated adventure.  

    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Adventure Planet is presented widescreen preserving its 16:9 aspect ratio.  With colors bursting from the film, Adventure Planet tends to underwhelm in an HD dominated world where other animated films truly come alive.  Lacking superior detail or sharpness, the film looks as decent as can be with nothing notable to speak of in the transfer.  As bland as the film’s quality, the transfer matches nicely.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Adventure Planet sounds halfway decent with dialogue never encountering any issues and more climatic sequences offering a suitable increase in volume and bass.  In addition, a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is also included.  A marginal increase over its video transfer, Adventure Planet’s mix will suffice just fine.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Trailer

    • Vudu Digital Copy

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    With a message audiences, young and old, could benefit from, Adventure Planet ultimately suffers from its stilted animation that prevents any emotional resonance for the viewer.  Furthermore, the story is uninspired and lacks much needed humor.  Arc Entertainment’s video and audio presentation is merely mediocre with only the inclusion of the film’s trailer and a Vudu digital copy code filling out the special features package.  In more capable hands, Adventure Planet could have lived up to its name of excitement and fun.  Sadly, this Bangkok-produced undertaking is best left for the recycling bin.

    RATING: 2/5  

  • 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

  • Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984) DVD Review

    Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984)

    Director: Chris Warfield

    Starring: Laura Lanzare, Michael Morrison & Juliet Anderson / Becky Savage, Rhonda Jo Petty & Rick Cassidy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Injecting a much needed dose of 1980s pornography, Vinegar Syndrome welcomes a Chris Warfield double feature into their popular Peekarama banner.  Working under the pseudonym Billy Thornberg, Warfield weaves tantalizing tales of hotel room romps in Purely Physical and whore house exploits in Cathouse Fever.  Restored in 2K from their original camera negatives, the kings of kink take you back to a decade where more than just Olivia Newton-John was getting physical.

    Purely Physical stars Laura Lanzare (Pleasure Zone) as a journalism major who takes a job as a motel clerk.  Guests check in for a wild time while Lazare develops her own sexual daydreams.  Cathouse Fever centers on Becky (Becky Savage), a lonely secretary desperately in need of a lifestyle change.  Shy and withdrawn, Becky heads to Las Vegas to join up with a popular whorehouse.  Rhonda Jo Petty (Little Orphan Dusty), John Colt (Fever), Rick Cassidy (Swinging Ski Girls) and Chica Moreno (Debbie Does Las Vegas) co-star.

    MOVIE(s):

    Brunette bombshell, Laura Lazare, who held a modest porn career before calling it quits mid-decade headlines Purely Physical in an early role as journalism major, Kathy Harrington.  After landing a job as a motel clerk, Kathy accommodates horny patrons obsessed with one thing on their mind.  Guest highlights include a teenage couple, who falsely check-in as “Mr. & Mrs. A. Lincoln”, embarking on their first sexual encounter.  Slow and cautious, a premature orgasm influences the couple to try again leading to hand jobs and doggy-style romps.  In addition, Charlie (Michael Morrison, Meatballs Part II), a fact touting movie nerd sporting a tacky striped jacket hits the jackpot with a sultry woman.  After some mutual oral play, Charlie is wiped out allowing his lucky lady to make off with his cash.  Meanwhile, Kathy uses her new position to work on her writing, imagining what sexual pleasures her guests are getting themselves into.  High-strung businesswoman, Claudia Sinclair (Juliet Anderson, Aunt Peg), attempts to unsuccessfully put the moves on Kathy prompting her to instead admire her own reflection while pleasuring herself.  An exhausted man frustrated with life is surprised to have two attractive lesbian lovers (one of whom looks eerily similar to Sarah Silverman) pay him a visit.  The trio engage in a sexually-charged threesome including several position changes.  Talk about room service!  Finally, after completing her shift, Kathy submits to her sexual urges and gets wild with a frequent guest.  Purely Physical is a fun early 80s sex fest that continuously feels fresh with each hotel guest hornier than the last.  Laura Lazare is a stunner while, Michael Morrison‘s movie obsessed character is a hoot to watch.  Hosting a cast of attractive players, Purely Physical is rarely boring and almost always engaging.

    RATING: 4/5

    Contrary to what the film’s synopsis indicates, Cathouse Fever has nothing to do with college coeds seeking desperate measures to pay for their tuition.  Instead, Becky Savage (Sex Games) stars as a lonely secretary longing for a change of pace in life.  Gap-toothed and bearing a slight lazy eye, Becky spends much of her time living in her head, fantasizing about herself in sexual scenarios.  Eventually, Becky follows her desires and moves to Las Vegas to work for a popular brothel.  Cathouse Fever captures splendid early 80s footage of Sin City’s iconic strip in all its neon lit glory.  Becky knows she has great legs and is finally ready to soil her oats.  Endlessly moaning and groaning, Becky fornicates with a leather boot wearing cowboy while sporting an Indian headdress.  The performers of Cathouse Fever never shy away from talking dirty and exaggerating their moans, increasing the film’s tantalizing context.  In addition, the cathouse runs rampant with leather clad, chain wearing whores experimenting with dildos on one another.  The staff tirelessly attempt to get a gagged client off resulting in several humorous inserts.  As the newbie, Becky is a vocal vixen when it comes to pleasure and dishes it out as hard as she takes it.  Fearing an addiction to the lifestyles’ fever, Becky longs for meaningful love and fantasizes about the perfect sex session with a well-groomed man under neon lights and sensual music.  Cathouse Fever concludes with Becky returning back to her regular lifestyle but looking back on her wild times with fondness.  Cathouse Fever serves as another refreshing slice of 80s adult entertainment packed with incredibly vocal performers going the distance, all to bodacious tunes that could only emerge from that radical decade.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored in 2K from their respective 35mm camera negatives, both films bear 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Both films look very respectable with only minor flakes and speckles cropping up occasionally.  Purely Physical experiences brief frame jumps but are hardly significant.  Colors pop decently with bolder ones such as the hot red hotel sheets reading well.  Skin tones are very accurate with detail quite crisp, capturing close-up action and near transparent bodily fluid clearly.  Unsurprisingly, these 1980s efforts look as squeaky clean as possible thanks to Vinegar Syndrome’s usual TLC.  

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, each film is audible with relaying their dialogue but issues still exist.  Purely Physical is plagued with an undercurrent of static throughout its runtime.  Similar to a skipping record on a turntable, the noise is most noticeable in quieter scenes but is always apparent which can become tiresome.  Hiccups aside, each film’s hip synth music comes across just dandy.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Purely Physical Trailer

    - Cathouse Fever Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Vinegar Syndrome has successfully filled a void of 80s pornography from Chris Warfield’s late directorial career.  Purely Physical’s motel setting keeps things fun and light allowing each hotel guest to act as a short vignette.  Laura Lazare is a sight to be seen and does well as the journalism student who eventually walks on the wild side.  While, Cathouse Fever’s description is far from accurate, the actual film has much to enjoy for porn enthusiasts with a lonely girl spreading her wings at one of Las Vegas’s popular whorehouses.  Becky Savage is a loud, energetic sexual force that is complimented by an equally dirty talking supporting cast.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment of these forbidden pleasures is another satisfactory effort that should sit handsomely with fans of the beloved, big-haired decade.

    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979) DVD Review

    Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979)

    Director(s): Bob Chinn / Bob Chinn & Jeffrey Neal

    Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Jesie St. James & Kitty Shayne / Laurien Dominique, Sharon Cain & Jon Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Packing a double dose of Bob Chinn skin flicks, the purveyors of pornography, Vinegar Syndrome, invite you to their latest Peekarama offering.  A World War II period piece set in the exotic locale of Hawaii joined by a trippy sexual romp more exotic than Fantasy Island await curious minds.  Restored in 2K from their original camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome will whisk you away with Tropic of Desire and Fantasy World

    Starring Georgina Spelvin (Erotic Adventures of Candy) as the house mom, Tropic of Desire centers on an island-based brothel serving WWII soldiers the very finest in sexual pleasure.  Fantasy World focuses on two groups of friends as their curiosity leads them to a mysterious club in San Francisco where their sexual fantasies become realities.  Lauren Dominique (Hot Legs), Jesie St. James (Talk Dirty to Me) and Sharon Cain (When She Was Bad) star.

    MOVIE(s):

    Set in Director Bob Chinn’s home turf of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire takes place in 1945 during the height of World War II.  Frances‘ is the hottest brothel in town for passing sailors serving their country in search of pleasurable relief.  Stocked with attractive ladies, a group of Navy sailors return to the comfort of the brothel after a long stint at sea.  Jack (Jon Martin) couldn’t be happier to see Donna (Jesie St. James) and get down to business while, Gus (Ken Cotton) wallows in despair at the sudden departure of his favorite whore and lone virgin, Phil (David Blair), loses his nerves.  Tropic of Desire remains relatively light on dialogue opting to focus on the more provocative.  House mother, Frances (Georgina Spelvin), enjoys pleasuring herself by humping a pillow before breaking in Rita’s replacement with oral pleasure.  Meanwhile, the sailors have a gay, old time as Jack reaps the fruits of Donna’s blow job before fornicating and Phil gains an extreme sexual stamina after shedding his virginal wings.  Befriending a fellow soldier, Gus gets over his depression and the two military men sit back with two of Frances‘ finest to witness some highly unusual stag films.  The two get lucky in a variety of ways but surprisingly, the stag film that finds a man losing his watch in a woman after deeply fisting her is what keeps the viewers eyes glued in awe.  Nicely shot with a captivating array of ladies on display, Tropic of Desire is very paint by numbers as far as sexual scenarios are concerned.  A mediocre effort, the film does conclude with a hilarious, poorly staged brawl between a group of Marines and the sailors.

    RATING: 3/5

    Utilizing some of the same sets and actors, Fantasy World yet again finds a trio of Navy sailors hatching the best way to get their rocks off for the evening.  Meanwhile, three beautiful girls touring San Francisco seek some live sexual entertainment for the night as well.  Both groups find themselves at the mysterious Fantasy World nightclub where your most bizarre fantasies become reality.  Hosted by an eccentric MC wearing a white suit and matching face paint, the audience is witness to live reenactments of Adam and Eve that includes Eve getting extra friendly with a real snake before consummating with Adam.  Eventually, members of the two parties are invited on stage to experience their deepest desires.  One sailor longs for the sexual companionship of two women while, one women’s extreme horniness finds her happily administering oral pleasure to several mystery men each with climactic results.  The more prudish and resilient female of the group finds herself in a dominatrix fantasy with the lone sailor as she whips him repeatedly before engaging in endless oral play and doggy style positioning.  The surreal and odd tone of the club makes for a slightly more engaging viewing experience.  The unusual, vaudeville-esque host of the club and the even weirder live sex performances of the evening at the very least make Fantasy World memorable.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored in 2K from their 35mm camera negatives, both films bear 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Each film looks most impressive sporting an overall clean appearance with minimal cases of scratches or debris.  Skin tones are near perfect with natural looking appearances and colors, most noticeable in actresses’ lipstick and nail polish, pop exceptionally well.  Black levels are slightly rougher in Fantasy World where the dark lightning of the club make flakes and speckles all the more noticeable but hardly deterring.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, this latest Peekarama effort maintains a light, static hiss throughout both films with only a few noticeable pops.  Dialogue is otherwise clear and audible with nothing left to interpretation.  In addition, more tantalizing sequences, relaying the swashing of tongues or other body parts is surprisingly crisper than anticipated.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Tropic of Desire Trailer

    - Fantasy World Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Another mature mash-up of erotic features from Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama line should get the job done for fans of Bob Chinn’s output.  While, nicely shot and invoking the exotic climate of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire is a slightly underwhelming effort with its greatest attributes being the attractive employees at Frances‘ and the humorous brawl at the film’s finale.  Meanwhile, Fantasy World makes good on its promise of being more erotic than the Ricardo Montalbán starring television show.  The Corman-like recycling of sets and actors matched with the peculiar host of the sexually charged nightclub make this effort a uniquely oddball piece of pornography.  The inspiration for Burt Reynolds’ Boogie Nights character, Vinegar Syndrome has done another fine service preserving more of iconic pornographer Bob Chinn’s output.

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

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

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE(s):

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 3/5

  • Next Goal Wins (2014) DVD Review

    Next Goal Wins (2014)

    Director(s): Mike Brett & Steve Jamison

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

    Released by: Ketchup Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 0.5/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16: Flatliners, Nymphomaniac, Stage Fright, The Legend of Billie Jean & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16 includes:

    - Flatliners (1990) (0:37)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) (6:56)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - Stage Fright (2014) (14:05)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnet Releasing: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

    - Nymphomaniac Volume I & II (2013) (21:59)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures: http://www.magpictures.com

    - Tourist Trap (1979) (34:55)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Full Moon Features: http://www.fullmoondirect.com

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (43:19)

  • 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2
    Director(s): Unknown
    Starring: Desiree Cousteau, Candida Royalle, Chris Cassidy & John Holmes
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The unabashed building blocks of Times Square’s lovingly dingy peak years have returned!  Impulse Pictures proudly welcomes you back to a time where the insertion of quarters could open an endless world of sexual fantasy right before your eyes with 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2.  Re-mastered in high-definition, classic 8mm loops with familiar adult entertainment faces are included in this tantalizing time capsule.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling over two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 check marks a wide range of fetishes with noteworthy appearances from Desiree Cousteau, Candida Royalle, Chris Cassidy & John Holmes.

    MOVIE(s):
    Private peep show booths were the original gateways for those longing sexual stimulation, all at the price of a few coins.  Generally spanning 15 minute stretches, these hardcore loops presented no shortage of fantasies for those in need of relief.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 compiles another wild variety of loops sure to please the most dedicated of adult cinema fans.  California Girl finds a woman sitting at a basement bar stand while trying to seduce an uninterested man reading his newspaper.  Before long, our horny vixen administers oral pleasure to set the pace, prompting our male player to repay her with a golden shower.  In one of the collections sleazier pieces, Ripe Tomato finds an attractive woman doing yard work before taking a nude break in her bedroom.  A male intruder breaks in and forces himself on the clearly resistant female.  What follows is a series of blow jobs, doggy-style positioning and an expected climax on the victims face.  Uncomfortable and dirty, Ripe Tomato is definitely made for fans of roughies.  Meanwhile, Fucking United finds lesbian stewardesses walking in on a man getting very friendly with a pillow.  Clearly, the more are the merrier as the group enter into a sexy three way.  Other memorable untitled loops include a trio of bachelors inviting a group of ladies into their pad for a giant orgy that includes strap-ons and more.  

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is made for porn connoisseurs hungry for the nostalgic days of seedy adult establishments.  While, there is plenty of skin and hardcore footage on display, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 works best as a wonderful time capsule of the glorious trash infested days of Times Square which are unfortunately behind us.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Needless to say, these stag reels look as rough as one could imagine.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, scratches, lines and washed out colors dominate the reels that are surprisingly still watchable.  Keeping a firm understanding of the content, these loops appear as good as they possibly could be, which was probably never very clean to begin with.  That said, the rough, grindhouse condition of these loops feels accurate to their period and compliments the nostalgic experience nicely.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 only presents a projector sound effect.
    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Bougie returns with 8mm Memories, a fine essay establishing stag films’ place in history.  Bougie’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the adult cinema world is vast and humorous making his inclusion on these releases always a welcome one.  

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is another worthwhile entry in Impulse Pictures’ successful line.  With over two hours of hardcore content, these 8mm loops offer a wild and salacious variety of sexual situations, porn lovers will eat up.  Presented as dirty and scratchy as the content, this latest collection brings viewers back to a sleazier time where sticky theater floors were attributed to more than just soda spills.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 comes recommended as a nostalgic reminder of how far our sleaze has traveled.
    RATING: 3/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:25)

  • Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) / Candy Goes to Hollywood (1979) DVD Review

    Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) / Candy Goes to Hollywood (1979)
    Director: Gail Palmer
    Starring: Carol Connors, John Holmes, Pat Rhea, John Leslie & Turk Lyon
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following her turn in 1972’s iconic Deep Throat, porn princess, Carol Connors, would arguably headline her most memorable role in 1978.  Presented under their popular Peekarama banner, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the hilarious adventures of a shy virgin, curious about sex.  Restored in 2K, Erotic Adventures of Candy, joined by its sequel, co-stars a myriad of familiar adult entertainment faces including John Holmes (Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here), Pat Rhea (Chopstix), John Leslie (Confessions) and Turk Lyon (Pro-Ball Cheerleaders).  Plus, special appearances from Wendy O. Williams (Reform School Girls), Huster-Centerfold, Desiree Cousteau and Miss Nude America, Shadow Neva round out these flicks.

    Erotic Adventures of Candy centers on shy, virginal Candy (Carol Connors), a beautiful girl curious about sex.  Destined to learn from experience, Candy sets out on a steamy adventure of exploration with hilarious results.  Next up, Candy Goes to Hollywood finds our sexy blonde protagonist arriving in Hollywood in search of fame.  After hooking up with a scamming talent agent, Johnny Dooropener (John Leslie), Candy learns the ropes of how to make it in the big city.

    MOVIE(s):
    Naive and airheaded, Candy is a gorgeous college student anxious to lose her virginity.  Repeatedly daydreaming about fornicating with her Hispanic gardener, Candy acts on her impulses with the reality being less romantic than she imagined.  Hilariously, Candy’s father charges into the room to disrupt and a brawl ensues.  Shortly after, with her father in the hospital, Candy sets out on a journey that leads her to chance encounters with strangers, each ending with all parties in their birthday suits.  The charm and jovial spirit of Erotic Adventures of Candy is its similar tone to the teen-sex comedies of the era, only intertwined with moments of hardcore sex.  Notable moments include Candy’s encounter with Sean (John Holmes), a man who guilt trips her into feeling sympathy for his uncircumsized man-part.  Luckily, Sean hits the jackpot, engaging in a variety of different sex acts with the blonde buxom.  Pat Rhea (Lipps & McCain) makes a hysterical turn as Candy’s increasingly horny Aunt Em, who finds herself in quite a few sexual scenarios of her own and enjoying them immeasurably.  In addition, Candy’s first visit to the gynecologist is unforgettable as her doctor does more than just an examination.  Oral pleasure and such follow with Candy happy to accommodate the good doctor.  The wacky humor helps the picture sustain its watchability beyond its hardcore material of which there is plenty.  The film’s climax finds Candy persuaded to enter a spiritual sanctuary where several orgies are taking place in order to reach a “higher spiritual level”.  Blow jobs, salad tossing, lesbianism and even male on male oral play is highlighted.  Predictably, Candy goes with the flow and makes it with her spiritual advisor, before going down on a hooded monk whose identity is a shock.  Packed with enough climaxes and hardcore material to surely suffice, Erotic Adventures of Candy benefits immensely from its ability to not take itself too seriously and have some fun.
    RATING: 3/5

    Opening with a parody of the MGM logo, Candy Goes to Hollywood finds our blonde bombshell in the movie capital of the world in search of fame.  Befriending a talent agent/hypnotist/used car salesman/scam artist, Johnny Dooropener (John Leslie), Candy is thrust into the sharky waters of Tinseltown.  Arriving in Hollywood, wonderful shots of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre plus, Marilyn Monroe and Johnny Carson’s stars are captured.  A Bee Gees rip-off song plays as Candy makes her way down Hollywood Boulevard with peep show theaters, which are conveniently playing Erotic Adventures of Candy and Gail Palmer’s Hot Summer in the City, showcased in the background.  Once again, Candy finds herself in a variety of comical yet scandalous situations including a car ride from a female stranger that escalates to a few drinks and a strap-on being used on Candy.  Plus, Candy lands an appearance on The Dong Show with a woman who launches golfballs from her vagina.  The Unknown Comic makes a brief cameo on stage while, the host of the show gets friendly with Candy behind the curtain.  Clearly a hit, Candy lands a guest spot on the Johnny Farson Show but not before the late night star introduces her to his dressing room.  More parodies ensue when Candy auditions for Samuel Goldicker’s (Turk Lyon) latest film.  Simply reading your lines and sleeping with the director gets the job done for our clueless protagonist.  Recycling actors from the previous film in different roles, Candy Goes to Hollywood leads to a familiar finale with an orgy-centered party.  More oral play, extreme close-ups of penetration and even more shots of climaxes round out this sexually charged sequence.  Johnny Dooropener’s scheme catches up to him when Candy and other girls realize they’ve all been promised the same role, resulting in Dooropener’s cherry being popped.  The zany humor and excellent footage of Hollywood circa 1979 make Candy Goes to Hollywood the superior effort.  In addition, skin fans should be pleased to note that the ante is definitely raised in this installment with Connors looking even more gorgeous.

    Interestingly enough, years following her directorial efforts, Gail Palmer admitted to never contributing to the films and her involvement was a mere front for her then boyfriend, porn distributor Harry Mohney.  Palmer would sue her former flame in 1984 for excluding her from the profits of their films.  Appearing in Playboy in 1977 as a Michigan State girl, Palmer was an active face for the films‘ promotion being used as a spokesperson in the trailers.  Nonetheless, Candy Goes to Hollywood is a fun example of adult film fare that understands the power of a sense of humor while, still delivering all the X-rated goods desired by porn enthusiasts.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Restored in 2K from their 35mm camera negatives and Interpositive respectively, both films sport a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Incredibly sharp and bolstering an array of bold colors, most noticeably in skin tones and Candy’s bright clothing, Candy’s exploits shine.  Occasional scratches and pops arise but hardly take away from the overall clean presentation of these films, a true testament to the care of the original elements.  Admittedly, Candy Goes to Hollywood squeaks by as being the superior transfer due to its nearly scratch-free appearance.  Another remarkable effort from the heavyweights of adult home entertainment.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films come across clearly with dialogue picked up just fine.  Erotic Adventures of Candy does have some minor moments of hiss and pops early on in the film, but smooth sailing beyond.  Satisfactory sound mixes that don’t necessarily offer a ton of range, but still get the job done nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Erotic Adventures of Candy Original Theatrical Trailer

    - Candy Goes to Hollywood Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    After several more films and a directorial effort, Carol Connors retired from the adult industry to start a family (her daughter, Thora Birch, would catch the acting bug and appear in such Hollywood fare as American Beauty and Ghost World).  Vinegar Syndrome has done another sound job preserving two of Connors‘ best remembered works.  Erotic Adventures of Candy and Candy Goes to Hollywood make for a fun double bill of 70s erotica that delivers on skin and casts a charm with its sense of humor, greatly attributed to Connors‘ bimbo-like personality.  A wonderful time capsule of late 70s Hollywood, this latest Peekarama offering should most definitely soothe your sweet tooth.  
    RATING: 3/5  

  • Runaway Nightmare (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Runaway Nightmare (1982)
    Director: Mike Cartel
    Starring: Mike Cartel, Al Valletta, Sijtske Vandenberg & Cindy Donlan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Filmed over the course of several years, Runaway Nightmare serves as an excellent example of renegade filmmaking in the late 70s and early 80s.  Abstract and bizarre, Director Mike Cartel’s sole effort, incorporating elements of horror, black comedy and action, can hardly be labeled under one genre.  Welcomed into Vinegar Syndrome’s limited edition Blu-ray series of 1,000 units, Runaway Nightmare has been scanned and restored in glorious 4K.  Destined to leave you scratching your head in wonderment, this is one nightmare you won’t soon be forgetting!

    Runaway Nightmare focuses on Ralph (Mike Cartel) and Jason (Al Valletta), two worm farmers stationed in Death Valley.  After discovering a woman buried alive, Ralph and Mike find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Shortly after, a sexy all-female cult of gun runners kidnap the men, force them to become their sex slaves and enlist them to help steal a suitcase of platinum from the mafia.  Strange and unusual, Runaway Nightmare co-stars Sijtske Vandenberg (Bitter Pleasure), Cindy Donlan (Schizoid) and Jody Lee Olhava (Three-Way Weekend).  

    MOVIE:
    For better or worse, Director Mike Cartel’s magnum opus is the work of a low-budget auteur.  Beginning in 1978, with principal photography lasting until 1982, Runaway Nightmare manages to not only corral some of the finest looking ladies in Death Valley but also assemble a production team of up and comers, Rowdy Harrington (director of Road House) and Daryn Okada (cinematographer on Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later), who continued to move up the Hollywood ladder.  Runaway Nightmare begins with two local worm farmers, Ralph (Cartel) and Jason (Valletta, director of Alley Cat), bored with their occupation and longing for adventure.  Unwanted excitement comes in the form of a female cult who abducts and keeps them under their watchful eye.  Runaway Nightmare rapidly switches gears, scene to scene as the viewer questions what’s unfolding before their eyes.  Imprisoned by beautiful women has its perks as the ladies never shy from seducing their prisoners.  But, after several tantalizing teases and the array of beautiful women on display, Runaway Nightmare never makes good on any skin.  That said, All Seasons Entertainment’s VHS release did insert several moments of glorious nudity without Cartel’s knowledge.  Moving forward, as the runtime increases, Runaway Nightmare only continues to grow weirder.  A bizarre dinner sequence takes place, feeling Lynchian in tone, where the female gang make statements, making little to no sense, as if there mid-conversation.  In addition, the only heavyset woman of the gang can’t resist randomly shouting “worm farmers” before exploding into uncontrollable laughter.  Fearing for their life and confronted with torture, Ralph and Jason can’t help making off-handed, hilarious comments that would normally feel out of place but, instead are appropriately at home in Runaway Nightmare.  The pitch black comedy mixed with their captors‘ odd sensibilities creates a surrealistic vibe few films can capture.  The climax of the film includes the men being tasked with retrieving a briefcase from the mafia filled with platinum.  Double and even triple-crossings take place that sends the viewer for a head spin keeping up with the overly complicated plot points.

    Actors stumbling over lines and even being replaced midway through shooting cements the indescribable charm of Runaway Nightmare.  Finding sense in Director Mike Cartel’s directorial debut is self-defeating and is best appreciated as a trippy cinematic experience that will leave you spaced out.  Whether Runaway Nightmare is a valiant effort or utter trash is in the eye of the beholder.  Most certainly, an acquired taste that lends itself to repeat viewings, Runaway Nightmare is a unique effort you won’t forget no matter how much you sleep it off.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negatives, Runaway Nightmare is presented in 1080p, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Needles to say, the film looks gorgeous.  The scratch-free appearance matched with the near perfect clarity makes one appreciate the bright blue skies and dry environment of Death Valley.  Skin tones look remarkable with minor details such as aging wrinkles and graying hairs leaping off the screen.  Black levels are decent, albeit, some darker sequences contain more flakes and dust than desired.  In addition, a scene involving a gun dual between two of the cult members, drops significantly in quality, most likely attributed to a different film stock being used.  Overall, Vinegar Syndrome’s outstanding presentation is a dream come true for enthusiasts of this surreal indie effort.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Runaway Nightmare captures all dialogue magnificently.  Captured in post-production, the dialogue comes across louder than one might expect, ensuring you don’t miss a beat.  In addition, the electric, space-age sounding score comes across crisp and effective.  No noticeable signs of distortion or hiss were noticed making this one fulfilling sound mix.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Mike Cartel: Joined by his wife, Mari Cartel, who wore numerous hats on the production and moderated by Joel Rudin and film historian Howard S. Berger, Cartel provides a lively commentary touching on various topics.  The formulation of the project, guerilla filmmaking techniques that included stealing shots without proper permits.  Plus, the songs and the surreal quality of the film are discussed at length making this an ideal commentary to tune into for fans of the film.

    - Alternate Video Scenes: Presented in poor, yet visible VHS quality, the much requested, nudity scenes found in the All Seasons Entertainment VHS release are compiled for all to see.  While, inserted without Cartel’s knowledge, the scenes add a nice air of sex appeal for a film that shied away from skin.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest limited edition Blu-ray release is an experience that is difficult to convey and is best left witnessing firsthand.  Unusual and dreamlike, Runaway Nightmare does not conform to a typical narrative but instead, transcends into the oddest journey through Death Valley you’re bound to take.  Also available in a standard DVD edition from retail outlets, Vinegar Syndrome has answered the call of the weird and accomplished another noble feat with this latest offering.  A beyond satisfactory video presentation, a strong audio mix and a nice selection of special features, including the highly-requested video sequences, make Runaway Nightmare deserving of a spot in your cult library.  
    RATING: 4/5 

  • Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) DVD Review

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977)
    Director: Cesare Canevari
    Starring: Daniela Levy & Marc Loud
    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Keeny

    Appearing on the renowned “video nasties” list of the 1980s and still currently banned in the UK, Intervision unleashes one of the most notorious Nazisploitation epics of all time.  Depraved and sadistic, this Italian production exploits the nightmarish treatment of prisoners at the hands of the Third Reich.  Infamously sleazy, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, also known as Last Orgy of the Third Reich and Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, is not for the faint of heart!

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy stars Daniela Levy as a beautiful concentration camp prisoner forced to endure unthinkable torture and sexual degradation at the hands of Hitler’s minions.  When a Nazi Commandant’s abuse increases, the desperate prisoner is forced to unleash her revenge.

    MOVIE:
    Released during the peak years where Nazisploitation thrived in grindhouse theaters, Gestapo’s Last Orgy is unquestionably more twisted than 1975’s more commonly discussed, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.  Switching from past to present, Lise (Levy), returns to the abandoned scene of her imprisonment with her primary abuser as she recalls the terror she experienced.  Shocking moments included a nude troop of Nazi soldiers having their way with the female prisoners, a female warden tossing a menstruating prisoner to a pack of ferocious Dobermanns and a sickening dinner sequence that is the primary cause for the film’s banishment in the United Kingdom.  Nazi generals and other high-ranking officials feast on the meat of deceased prisoners before stripping down another.  The wicked dinner guests use her naked body as a food platter before igniting her in flames.  Gestapo’s Last Orgy is a sickening slice of trash cinema whose sole purpose is to shock with each scene.  Successful in its execution, this notorious nasty is tasteless and pushes the envelope of extreme brutality.  Lise’s resistance to show fear to the Commandant creates an obsession for the Nazi.  Torturing her with rats and acid pale in comparison to the murder of his own newborn with Lise based on the child’s “half-breed”.

    Revolting and gruesome, Gestapo’s Last Orgy strays closely to the Nazisploitation tropes of past efforts but does little more than shock.  Appropriately praised for its harsh nature, Gestapo’s Last Orgy was not quite my cup of tea and deserves a shower after viewing.  Perhaps, that’s the intent.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Intervision Picture Corp. presents Gestapo’s Last Orgy in an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Reasonably soft looking, the film showcases signs of scratches and flakes throughout its runtime.  Colors pop decently with black levels on the murkier side.  Overall, the presentation is a decent upgrade from past releases and gets the job done fine.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the audio is represented well, if not a tad flat while sporting a low hiss throughout.  Dialogue is audible with composer Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score coming in with static during sharper notes.  A mediocre mix that has its share of hiccups.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - A Brief History of Sadiconazista - Interview with Film Historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger: Dr. Stiglegger of the University of Mainz, Germany sits down for an informative 36-minute interview.  A noted authority and author of several book on the subgenre, Stiglegger provides a scholarly background of Nazisploitation’s roots dating back to anti-Nazi propaganda of the 1940s, the grindhouse era films of the 60s and 70s plus, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  The interview is engaging and a true crash course on the subject.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Gestapo’s Last Orgy remains an ultra sleazy and cruel piece of Nazisploitation.  Shocking and vile, this schlocky piece of grindhouse cinema does little to entertain and is tough to stomach.  The film still deserves the notoriety it receives within the genre for pushing the limits of despair.  Intervision Picture Corp. has done a fine job welcoming this uncut, unforgettable “video nasty” into their diverse library with an interview from Dr. Marcus Stiglegger that is worth the purchase alone.  While, not very impressive, fans of the niche genre will certainly appreciate.
    RATING: 2.5/5 

  • The Final Terror (1983) Blu-ray Review

    The Final Terror (1983)
    Director: Andrew Davis
    Starring: John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Lewis Smith, Daryl Hannah & Joe Pantoliano
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing to feed the fire of their exciting Summer of Fear line-up, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents one of the most sought-after slashers from the 1980s.  Helmed by director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) and produced by Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland), The Final Terror is a frightening experiment in backwoods terror.

    The Final Terror centers on a group of forest rangers enjoying a fun weekend of camping.  Upon intruding on forbidden territory, a savage, camouflaged killer begins stalking the woods for fresh victims.  The few that remain have no choice but to defend themselves against the deranged murderer.  This long-lost slasher stars John Friedrich (Baretta), Adrian Zmed (Bachelor Party), Rachel Ward (Night School), Daryl Hannah (Splash), Ernest Harden Jr. (White Men Can’t Jump), Mark Metcalf (One Crazy Summer), Lewis Smith (Django Unchained) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento).

    MOVIE:
    Shot in 1981 but shelved for distribution issues, The Final Terror would finally be released in 1983 to capitalize on the stardom of Daryl Hannah and Adrian Zmed whose careers were blossoming from their appearances in Blade Runner and Grease 2.  Following in the wake of the slasher genres recent successes at the box-office, The Final Terror feels less Friday the 13th but more Just Before Dawn meets Rituals.  The film begins promisingly enough with a young couple enjoying a motorcycle ride before meeting a bloody demise courtesy of our backwoods killer.  Transitioning to a group of wilderness rangers on a weekend getaway, The Final Terror features one of the more diverse casts including African-American and English actors, both of whom were not as common in other slasher films at the time.  The group is full of unique personalities who all share a mutual dislike for Eggar (Joe Pantoliano), the redneck outcast who makes a living being rude to others.  When the group ignores Eggar’s warnings about intruding on forbidden territory in the woods, Eggar opts to travel by car and agrees to meet them at the end of their journey.  Once alone in the wilderness, the group begin getting picked off by a mysterious figure.  The backwoods setting and deserted group of would-be victims seems conventional enough, but luckily The Final Terror aims for more.  Instead, of the group ignorantly pretending nothing has gone astray, they immediately recognize their dilemma and fight for survival.  Combating the harsh conditions of the outdoors, The Final Terror feels as much as an escape films as it does a slasher.

    While, the film is a product of its genre, The Final Terror lacks the body count and promiscuity that runs rampant in its slasher counterparts.  In addition, following the opening death scene, the film takes half the runtime before anything as exciting occurs, making The Final Terror quite the slow burn.  The final act leads to a predictable outcome although, the reveal and eventual demise of the savage killer is a memorable one that incorporates the survivors putting teamwork and their survival skills to the test.  Ultimately, The Final Terror has its share of pacing issues and a slightly underwhelming amount of slasher tropes.  That said, the film has an entertaining cast that use their heads as opposed to being mere cattle for the killer.  As obscure and forgotten as the film is, The Final Terror still possesses enough enjoyment to proudly welcome into your slasher library.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Final Terror is presented with a 1080p high-definition anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Before the film kicks off, Scream Factory informs us that all materials including the OCN and inter-positive were lost.  The label went to great lengths securing six different film prints from private collectors in order to present the film in the best possible way.  Surprisingly, Scream Factory’s Frankenstein job is mostly successful.  The transfer appears generally clean of scratches and debris allowing the filmic grain layer to be better appreciated.  Colors appear mostly healthy although occasionally skin tones dip in quality.  In addition, dimly lit night sequences have always plagued this film and still remain murky at times but, are luckily far more visible than ever before.  Overall, for a film with no original elements to work with, Scream Factory accomplishes a satisfying transfer that should please fans waiting to relive the film after 31 years.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Final Terror sports decent sound quality with dialogue picking up nicely.  Suspenseful sequences with loud screams are quite striking and help enhance the experience.  The mix is sufficient and works well for all the basic needs.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis

    - Post Terror: Finish the Final Terror: Post-production supervisor Allan Holzman sits down for over 20 minutes to discuss his contributions to the film as well as his early film training editing films for Roger Corman before directing Forbidden World.  Holzman’s wife, composer Susan Justin, also shares her approaches and styles when scoring the film.

    - The First Terror with Adrian Zmed & Lewis Smith: Actors Zmed and Smith, who appear as Marco and Boone respectively, sit down for a 15 minute series of interviews where the two discuss their first interest in acting, shooting in frigid temperatures, producer Joe Roth’s temper and director Andrew Davis‘ remarkable skills behind the camera.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Behind the Scenes Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    The Final Terror is a surprising treat for Scream Factory fans that never imagined this backwoods slasher receiving a second lease on life.  Released in the horror heyday of the early 80s, The Final Terror stars an incredibly likable and diverse cast that use their outdoor surroundings to survive the night.  A slow build and small body count hurts the film’s fun factor, but The Final Terror still manages to entertain and provide great camerawork from talent that would move onto such A-list projects as A Perfect Murder and Holes.  Scream Factory’s dedication to preserving sought after genre titles like The Final Terror makes fans eternally grateful for their efforts.  Combined with a healthy dose of special features, provided once again by Aine Leicht (Witchboard and Night of the Demons), Scream Factory’s release of The Final Terror is the definitive word on this forgotten slasher.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Sugar Cookies (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Sugar Cookies (1973)
    Director: Theodore Gershuny
    Starring: Lynn Lowry, Mary Woronov & George Shannon
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome continues their excavation of the Troma vaults with, according to writer/producer Lloyd Kaufman, “the only adult film to lose money”.  An erotic thriller that is far more artsy than one might expect, Sugar Cookies stars such queens of cult cinema as Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000).  Restored in 4K, this underrated gem arrives on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Sugar Cookies opens with the mysterious death of adult film star Alta (Lynn Lowry) while in the company of her wealthy producer Max (George Shannon).  With the assistance of Alta’s manager, Camilla (Mary Woronov), the two begin hunting for a suitable replacement.  Young and naive actress, Julie (Lowry appearing in a dual role), is discovered and slowly groomed into Max and Camilla’s sadistic world until Julie begins fearing for her own life.

    MOVIE:
    Advertised as a sexy lesbian flick, Sugar Cookies attests to be far more than Times Square peep show entertainment.  Interestingly enough, Sugar Cookies feels ahead of its time and shares more in common with the erotic thrillers of the 1980s, popularized by Brian De Palma (Body Double) and Adrian Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction).  No doubt taking a very Hitchcockian approach to its material, Sugar Cookies still remains very rooted in its adult-underground environment.  Director Theodore Gershuny (Silent Night, Bloody Night), with the assistance of director of photography Hasse Wallin (in his sole credit as cinematographer), commands the camera with a watchful eye and captures beautiful footage warranting the film its “artsy” label.  Lynn Lowry, in her first starring role, handles the portrayal of two very different characters effortlessly.  The shy, reserved nature of Lowry’s sympathetic Julie makes her downward spiral into the caretakers‘ eccentric world all the more impactful.  The beautiful and commanding presence of Mary Woronov is the real highlight of the film as her seduction of Julie showcases the sweet and wickedly dangerous sides of her sinister character.

    Wonderfully shot and nicely acted, Sugar Cookies delivers its fair share of skin from Lowry and Woronov who obviously impress.  The nudity and sexually-charged scenes never feel forced but instead compliment the story which is refreshing.  Unfortunately, Sugar Cookies slightly derails as time is spent on Gus, nephew of sleazy, sex-producer Max.  Admittedly, some moments with Gus inject genuine humor but his overall appearance, along with his sister, amounts to a wasted subplot that never really goes anywhere.  In addition, while the final act mimics the tense opening scene of a sexual game involving a firearm with shocking results, the film ultimately ends on an abrupt note leaving the viewer with a few questions.  Imperfections aside, Sugar Cookies still manages to deliver one of the most intriguing and artistically sound productions from Lloyd Kaufman who became well renowned for Troma’s more outrageous and goofy output.  A financial flop during its original release, Sugar Cookies seemed ahead of the curve by blending the erotic and thriller genres with mostly successful results.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Newly restored in 4K from the original camera negative, Sugar Cookies sports a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Colors are very lush and skin tones, which are best appreciated in close-ups and nude scenes, are relayed quite naturally.  The bright red furniture seen in Camilla’s house also pops exceptionally well.  Minor inherent print damage, in the form of light scratches and flakes, arise but are brief and never intrusive.  Vinegar Syndrome has proved successful yet again with another top-notch transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Sugar Cookies slightly underwhelms.  Music comes across rather loud with little hiss, unfortunately, dialogue tends to be more problematic.  Mostly attributed to the shooting locations, certain scenes find dialogue constantly echoing off walls while, moments of hushed tones certainly require an increase in volume.  That said, the majority of dialogue is still picked up clear and crisp with the pros outweighing the cons.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Making Sugar Cookies with Lynn Lowry: Lowry sits down for nearly 14 minutes discussing her original hesitation to join the film based on the amount of nudity required.  Lowry fondly recalls her working relationship with Woronov as a pleasant one and still finds the film quite an accomplishment.

    - Lloyd Kaufman Remembers Sugar Cookies: Available only on the DVD, Kaufman sits down for a lengthy 35-minute interview and delves into a range of topics including growing up and befriending Oliver Stone, who would be credited as a producer on the film.  In addition, Kaufman discusses the financial hardships for the film, casting and much more.  Kaufman’s interview is incredibly informative and is the supplemental highlight of the release.

    - Mary Woronov Interview: Also only found on the DVD is this brief interview with Woronov ported over from Troma’s original DVD release.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Alternate Theatrical Trailer: Only on DVD.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Sugar Cookies stands as a sexually-charged blending of genres that is both dangerous and tantalizing.  Arguably, ahead of its time, Sugar Cookies is far more rewarding than your average X-rated film and possesses genuine style matched with fine tuned performances.  The story makes a few missteps but never diminishes what is considered one of Kaufman’s most artistic looking efforts.  Vinegar Syndrome has done a superb job restoring this often forgotten gem with a near perfect video presentation, an adequate audio mix and a delicious set of supplements.  If you’re hungry for a truly scandalous thriller with a twist of erotica, then take a bite out of Sugar Cookies.
    RATING: 4/5   

  • The Chambermaids (1974) DVD Review

    The Chambermaids (1974)
    Director: Unknown
    Starring: Eric Edwards, Valerie Marron, Mary Stuart & Andrea True
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Impulse Pictures continues their crusade of delivering more steamy cinema from adult entertainment’s prime decade.  Cheaply produced and showcasing its battle wounds, The Chambermaids comes newly re-mastered and determined to show just how “thorough” the maids at this particular hotel really are.  

    The Chambermaids centers on two attractive hotel maids, tired of their job and frequently short on cash.  Horny and determined, Mary Ellen and Sally hatch a plan to give guests some generous “room service” for extra money.

    MOVIE:
    A paper-thin plot and a painfully amateurish production sets the stage for this breezy hotel-set sexcapade.  Mary Ellen and Sally are far from shy when jumping in the sack with businessman or other women which leads to no shortage of sultry situations.  The Chambermaids comes packaged with a female three way, plenty of oral pleasure with quintessential 70s bush in extreme close-ups and a sexually engaged man with enough body hair to spare a grizzly bear.  Sadly, the players are not terribly attractive and their wooden performances can be laughably awful.  In addition, the poorly dubbed in moments of ecstasy solidify the bargain dollar production of The Chambermaids.  While, Impulse Pictures did a fine service rescuing this skin flick from extinction, The Chambermaids ultimately suffers from its low standards and bore factor.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Impulse Pictures presents The Chambermaids full-frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Utilizing a poorly kept theatrical print, The Chambermaids is plagued with every issue imaginable.  Extensive amounts of scratches and lines consume the picture while, colors are inconsistent and appear washed out.  The presentation is far from ideal but, the film is still watchable and maintains a very grindhouse aesthetic.
    RATING: 2/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Chambermaids sounds unimpressive largely in part to the poorly recorded audio during filming.  Dialogue, what little there is, sounds muffled and difficult to hear at times.  The presumably public-domain music heard during steamy sequences is far from crisp and experience minor dropouts as well.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    The Chambermaids is a low-budget porn cheapie that leaves you vastly underwhelmed.  The array of performers are not exactly lookers and the less than professional production makes the film a chore to get through at times.  That said, Impulse Pictures should be praised for rescuing such an obscurity at the risk of it not surviving many more years based on its tarnished condition.  Uneventful and lazy, The Chambermaids simply doesn’t deserve a tip for their services.
    RATING: 2/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (49:24)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13: The Bob Newhart Show, Dan Curtis' Dracula, Gang War in Milan & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13 includes:

    - Dan Curtis' Dracula (1973) (0:36)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - House in the Alley (2012) (6:28)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series (12:04)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Gang War in Milan (1973) (20:26)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Chances Are (1989) (27:10)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Death Spa (1989) (31:40)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (37:55)

  • Sleepaway Camp (1983) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Sleepaway Camp (1983)
    Director: Robert Hiltzik
    Starring: Mike Kellin, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields & Christopher Collet
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the wake of Friday the 13th’s massive success, the slasher genre was in full boom and the innocence of campgrounds were far from safe.  Familiar but yet wildly unique, the campers of Camp Arawak expecting a summer of fun are met with an onslaught of death by a mysterious killer.  Effectively grizzly and featuring a shocking ending you’ll never forget, Sleepaway Camp is a true slasher classic that still entertains and charms 30 years later.  The mecca of horror home entertainment, Scream Factory, proudly presents this terrifying gem in a rightly deserved collector’s edition choked full of new special features.  Welcome to Camp Arawak because you won’t be coming home!

    Sleepaway Camp centers on shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) living with her off kilter Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten).  With summer in full swing, the kids are sent to Camp Arawak for a season of fun and hijinks.  Shortly after arriving, multiple campers begin turning up dead courtesy of a mysterious killer destined to turn the summer into a nightmare.

    MOVIE:
    Sleepaway Camp was already riding the coattails of Friday the 13th’s second sequel and 1981’s camp-centered slasher, The Burning when it debuted in 1983.  What appeared as a blatant cash grab at a seemingly simple formula became one of the finest slasher installments of the 1980s.  Director Robert Hiltzik’s sole effort (before returning to helm 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp) genuinely captures the spirit of summer camp aside from the brutal slayings.  The success and charm of this slasher gem is practically owed to the young cast who look, act and speak the way actual kids at a summer camp would, a feat that can only be compared to lightning in a bottle.  In addition, the unfazed use of profanity from the young cast gives the film an added dose of realism without making a fuss about it.  Jonathan Tiersten’s trucker mouth is quite comforting in a time where adolescents’ cursing in films is taboo.  The youthful cast is littered with anti-Hollywood types including Karen Fields who plays the bitchy role of Judy.  Far from ugly but not quite the prototypical image of a knockout, Fields perfectly encapsulates an honest representation of a summer camp hottie.  

    Sleepaway Camp makes great use of its slasher movie label by relying on shots of the killers POV and knife slayings.  Interestingly enough, instead of premarital sex and smoking dope, the murders committed in Sleepaway Camp are the result of much deserved revenge on the likes of a molesting cook and obnoxiously cruel campers.  While, the introverted Angela (Rose) is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the mysterious killer gets crafty with his victims thanks to the help of a swarm of bees and a steaming hair straightener.  Softball, summer love and the Camp Arawak counselors that include the righteously cool Gene (Frank Trent Saladino) and the unintentionally hilarious meathead  Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo) add to the overall enjoyment of Sleepaway Camp.  As tension rises and countless more campers end up dead, the film leads to an unexpectedly wild and unforgettable climax that I dare not spoil.  Perfectly capturing the spirit of summer camp and rising to the call of its slasher formula, Sleepaway Camp is a prime example of a camp carnage classic.  Carried out by a brilliantly capable cast and a twist ending that will leave you jaw-dropped, Sleepaway Camp has earned its due and is still as entertaining and bloodcurdling as ever!
    RATING: 5/5          

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Sleepaway Camp in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Marking the label’s first 2K scan from the film’s original camera negative, Sleepaway Camp looks marvelous!  While, the film still retains a slight, inherited softness, the film looks remarkably true to its source with colors gaining a nice boost especially in the campers’ brightly colored shirts.  In addition, flesh tones are relayed accurately with a wonderful amount of detail.  The film projects a nice, scratch-free presentation that makes one appreciate the glorious film grain.  Black levels are respectable if not a tad hazy but still a terrific upgrade from previous releases.  Make no mistake, Sleepaway Camp has never looked quite this good and campers will be more than pleased.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sleepaway Camp sounds fantastic with dialogue coming across clear as crystal with no noticeable dropouts of any kind.  A terrific companion to a near perfect video presentation.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten: Justin Beahm steps in as moderator for this newly produced commentary that brings together on-screen cousins Angela and Ricky who have a ball recalling the shooting of the film.

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik moderated by Jeff Hayes: Another newly recorded commentary with Hiltzik that covers similar ground as its predecessor but still informative nonetheless.  

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik and Actress Felissa Rose: Also moderated by Jeff Hayes, this fun commentary has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.

    - At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp: In his final collaboration with Scream Factory, Justin Beahm delivers fans an incredible 45-minute companion piece to the classic slasher film.  Capturing new interviews with Director Robert Hiltzik, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields and more, this look back finds the cast and crew reminiscing on the formulation of the film, how they obtained their roles as well as on set drama.  Felissa Rose offers a heartfelt and emotional credit to the film for giving her the life she has.  Beahm has certainly outdone himself with this terrific documentary that ranks as one of Scream Factory’s finest extras to date.    

    - Judy - A Short Film by Jeff Hayes: Host of SleepawayCampMovies.com, Jeff Hayes, directs this amateur effort that stars Karen Fields reprising her role of Judy.  Having survived the tragic murders at Camp Arawak, Judy is now grown and dishing out her own form of punishment to those deserved.

    - “Princess” Music Video by Jonathan Tiersten

    - Camp Arawak Scrapbook: 70 behind the scenes images from the making of the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Rare Images from Make-Up Effects Artist Ed French

    - A Demonstration of the 2K Film Scan Process: Technicolor Imaging Technician, Ian Turpen, hosts this informative behind the scenes look at Scream Factory’s first 2K scan for Sleepaway Camp.

    - DVD Copy

    - Reversible cover art: Utilizing the iconic 1-sheet poster imagery.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    What could have been seen as a mere Friday the 13th knock-off has become a bonafide slasher classic that has stood the test of time some 30 years later.  Beautifully capturing the summer camp spirit and weaving a unique tale of slasher carnage that leads up to one of the best finales of the genre will easily make Camp Arawak an annual visit for viewers.  Scream Factory’s collector’s edition of Sleepaway Camp is hands down one of their finest releases to date with a breathtaking video transfer, an ample audio mix and an overwhelmingly awesome abundance of special features that includes Justin Beahm’s terrific final ode, At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp.  Slasher enthusiasts owe it to themselves to add this definitive version of Robert Hiltzik’s original classic to their growing Scream Factory collection!
    RATING: 5/5

  • Jungle Blue (1978) DVD Review

    Jungle Blue (1978)
    Director: Carlos Tobalina
    Starring: Nina Fause, Bill Cable, Carol Bombard, Jose Ferraro, Annette Haven & Chico
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The saviors of the sultry and odd, Vinegar Syndrome, welcome another offering from Director Carlos Tobalina (Marilyn and the Senator).  Strange as can be and endlessly erotic, this jungle bound tale reaches new heights of wild entertainment.  Unforgivingly X rated and never before released on video in the US, Jungle Blue has been restored and presented in all its uncut glory for the first time!  Be prepared to go bananas as you head into this hot jungle of pleasure...

    Jungle Blue tells the story of a group of explorers hunting for hidden fortunes in the wild jungles of South America.  Beyond strange and borrowing from various exploitative sub-genres, the sinister group meet a wild man who lives amongst the animals, his horny gorilla companion and a slew of half nude locals in this supremely scandalous piece of adult cinema.

    MOVIE:
    From its colorful poster art of nude women surrounded by a jungle setting and a fondling  gorilla, Jungle Blue makes promises it actually keeps.  Filmed on location in Colombia and Peru, this X rated exploration of the jungle makes the most of its surroundings and captures beautiful jungles and exotic animals.  While, visually gorgeous, Jungle Blue spares no expense in showcasing the more erotic sides of its story.  Following a sinister group of explorers determined to find precious treasure, the attractive team find themselves meeting a Tarzan-esque fellow who is never shy when sexually exploring women.  As Jungle Blue attempts to weave its story line, Tobalina generously cuts to a random, drug-addled group of tourists engaging in an endless orgy for no particular reason other than to tantalize the audience.  Lesbianism, oral pleasure, doggy style and countless moments of climax are all on full display as one hilariously lonely man can only daydream about what he’s witnessing firsthand.  Jungle Blue also offers a gorilla who has no problem obtaining sexual pleasure as easy as bananas.  One can never have enough man in a rubber monkey suit.

    While, Tobalina’s dreadfully overlong Marilyn and the Senator did little to entertain, Jungle Blue packs an incredible amount of sexual fun while also capturing the beautiful exotic locations and local tribes.  Sexy faces combined with a breezy runtime, Jungle Blue is one hot, oddball excursion into the wild you won’t regret visiting.  Any disappointment can be rooted to the lack of more gorilla suit action.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Jungle Blue is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In short, the film looks remarkably clean and vibrant.  The exotic locations of Peru are captured beautifully while, skin tones and detail look most impressive during close-ups.  The occasional scratches and speckles creep up but nothing that could possibly take away from the overall richness of this absurdly odd piece of X rated madness.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Jungle Blue sounds quite nice for a film of its caliber.  Dialogue is relayed decently but increasing the volume at times wouldn’t hurt.  In addition, interior scenes are sometimes intruded by loud outdoor noises that can be bothersome at times.  Overall, the film sounds decently and will surely get the job done.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    Another round with Director Carlos Tobalina sounded unappealing but interestingly enough, Jungle Blue was a certifiably strange, erotically charged and at times hilarious piece of X rated exploitation.  Tobalina not only knows how to cast attractive performers but managed to film in such beautiful locations that truly enhanced the films quality.  Vinegar Syndrome proves their impressive skills yet again with an uncut presentation of the film that looks lovely.  Special features may be scant, but the absurdity and endless assault of erotica is bound to please fans of the genre and those craving a cocktail of jungle bound exploitation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #12: Countess Dracula, Happy Days, Vampire Academy, Twilight Time & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #12 includes:

    - Grand Piano (2013) (0:42)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures: http://www.magpictures.com/

    - Wild at Heart (1990) (6:59)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www1.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

    - Used Cars (1980) (14:10)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www1.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

    - Vampire Academy (2014) (21:10)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Happy Days Season 5 (27:31)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Paramount: http://www.paramount.com/

    - House of Dust (2013) (31:47)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Countess Dracula (1971) (35:42)
    Street Date: May 6, 2014
    Synapse Films: http://synapsefilms.com/

    - Flying Tigers (1942) (41:32)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    Olive Films: http://www.olivefilms.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (46:52)

  • Home of the Brave (1949) Blu-ray Review

    Home of the Brave (1949)
    Director: Mark Robson
    Starring: Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, James Edwards, Steve Brodie & Jeff Corey
    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a play by Arthur Laurents (Rope), Director Mark Robson (The Harder They Fall, Earthquake) brings to life one of Hollywood’s first true statements on the issue of racism.  Starring a talented cast of actors including Lloyd Bridges (Airplane!) and introducing James Edwards (Patton) as the discriminated Pvt. Peter Moss, Olive Films proudly presents this wartime tale of struggle and degradation for the first time on DVD and Blu-ray.

    Home of the Brave captures the story of a young black soldier, Pvt. Peter Moss (James Edwards), who suffers a nervous breakdown and psychosomatic paralysis.  Troubled by rage after experiences during a reconnaissance mission and a lifetime of discrimination, Moss may walk again if he can overcome his anger and trauma.  Produced by Stanley Kramer (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), Home of the Brave also stars Frank Lovejoy (House of Wax), Lloyd Bridges (High Noon), Steve Brodie (Out of the Past) and Jeff Corey (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid).

    MOVIE:
    Racism has always been the purple elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge.  Hollywood in the 1940s was no exception as studio heads would normally turn a blind eye to the issue.  Hailed as the first motion picture dealing with anti-Negro prejudice, Home of the Brave faces the uncomfortable topic head-on set against the backdrop of war.  Interestingly enough, this 1949 effort was the first film since 1933’s The Emperor Jones issued permission to use the derogatory slur, “nigger”.  Game changing practices aside, Home of the Brave walks the fine line of war film and character driven drama quite well.  The intimate group of soldiers asked to take part in a risky reconnaissance mission handle their roles accordingly.  Upon learning of their latest recruit, Pvt. Pete Moss (Jones), some members of the group have their reservations about the young soldier.  Major Robinson (Douglas Dick) is immediately taken back as he calls his superior to merely inform him of Pvt. Moss’s skin color.  Luckily, Moss is reunited with his high school pal, Finch (Lloyd Bridges), which helps yield tension for the time being.  As the soldiers being their mission to chart a map, the film becomes a character driven exploration of how we view our fellow man.  Hostility rises as T.J. Everett (Steve Brodie) constantly insults African-Americans in Moss’s presence until a brawl with Finch emerges.  The camaraderie between Edwards and Bridges is the glue that holds the film together, flashing back to their high school days to showcase the genuine care Finch has for Moss regardless of his skin color.  

    Eventually, the deadly presence of enemy soldiers hurls the men into a chase for their lives.  Finch and Moss’s relationship becomes tested when Finch reacts hastily by racially insulting his friend.  With his patience and emotions wearing thin, Moss and the soldiers are faced with escaping from their enemies as one of them are killed.  As Moss holds the dying body of his fellow solider, his legs become paralyzed resulting in the other men carrying him to the boat’s safety.  Edwards‘ performance is emotionally charged and commands the camera with his intense stare.  Safe and recuperating, Moss is tended to by a doctor (Jeff Corey) that is committed to helping him come to terms with his experiences and lifelong discrimination.  Moss’s medical rehabilitation feels slightly rushed as he regains feeling in his legs after the good doctor’s unique methods.  In addition, Moss and fellow solider, Sgt. Mingo (Frank Lovejoy) who lost his arm in battle, reconnect and plan to go into business together as they return to a normal existence.  Lovejoy’s character is levelheaded and always kind to Moss which makes their stronger formed friendship a little too safe.  The arrogant and constantly insensitive T.J. would have made a much more interesting choice to experience a drastic change in character.  While, the conclusion of the film nearly jeopardizes its emotional impact by solving the characters’ problems too simply, Home of the Brave still possesses a strong message with solid performances that hold up well, 65 years later.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Home of the Brave is presented with a 1080p transfer in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  Kicking off with typically scratchy war stock footage, the film improves nicely as the narrative begins.  Reasonably clean with a fair amount of flakes, scratches and the occasional vertical lines popping up, the film looks decent with a healthy filmic layer of grain intact.  Black levels, while mainly attributed to underlit sequences, are slightly underwhelming but far from deal-breaking.  Detail is well received in close-ups with perspiration and aging wrinkles clearly seen.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Home of the Brave looks more than acceptable for a film of its age.
    RATING: 3.5/5  

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Home of the Brave, while never having a wide sounding range, provides a suitable mix that relays dialogue well.  A slight hiss is heard early throughout the mix which thankfully never intrudes on character interaction.  In addition, the film possesses an occasional pop in its audio, but no other noticeable issues were found.  That said, the mix is a little low for my liking and is recommended to be cranked up in order to catch all dialogue.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    Quite groundbreaking at the time of its release, Home of the Brave is still a noteworthy statement on the issue of race and discrimination.  Nicely shot and wonderfully acted by the small cast, most notably Edwards, Home of the Brave sells itself short by skimping out on its full emotional potential in the final act.  Olive Films have done a fine service preserving this war drama to the best of their abilities for audiences to enjoy once again.  Home of the Brave still retains an important meaning and serves as one of the earliest WWII films to feature an African-American soldier, breaking the mold of African-Americans regulated to servant and slave roles.
    RATING: 3/5

  • Her (2013) Blu-ray Review

    Her (2013)
    Director: Spike Jonze
    Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara & Scarlett Johansson
    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Awarded the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for his efforts, Spike Jonze (Adaptation., Where the Wild Things Are) introduces a different kind of love story, set in the material world we are all becoming more detached from.  A painful breakup paves the way for a most unusual relationship that could only be imagined from the mind of Jonze.  Starring Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Her invites viewers to reevaluate their own ideas of love in this increasingly-tech obsessed world we live in.  

    Set in Los Angeles in the near future, Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a lonely and poetic man who makes his living writing sweet personal letters for other people.  Depressed and lonely as his divorce drags on, Theodore develops an interest in a highly advanced operating system.  The bright and free-spirited Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), begins to fill a void of companionship lacking in Theodore’s life.  As their friendship strengthens and Samantha becomes more adapted, the two form a genuine love for one another.  Amy Adams (The Master), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) and Chris Pratt (The Lego Movie) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    The concept of a man falling head over heels for his computer system seemed intriguing enough but, under the watchful eye of Director Spike Jonze, Her cemented itself as a film to not be missed.  Headlined by the remarkably consistent, Joaquin Phoenix (We Own the Night) as Theodore, Phoenix fits the bill of a man conflicted with his impending divorce while, longing for a connection with someone new.  Set in the near future where society is even more addicted to their smartphones than human interaction, Theodore makes a living composing beautiful letters for other people.  While, the message of people losing so much personal touch with one another that they feel it necessary to hire ghostwriters is clear, its effect feels a little far removed from reality to just ignore.  Theodore finds solace in Samantha, his new, advanced operating system, who is well-educated and possesses a sense of humor.  While, Theodore aches for excitement and love in his life, he doesn’t strike the viewer as the introverted antisocial that would need the affection of his computer.  Talented and stylish, Theodore never convincingly makes the viewer feel that he couldn’t find another human right for him.  Luckily, Samantha, voiced by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, manages to bring plenty of charisma and personality to her unusual performance.  As their friendship and eventual romance strengthens, so does Samantha’s awareness of her own changing feelings.  Theodore is committed to Samantha while never shutting out the world or the friends that surround him.  Amy Adams (The Muppets) co-stars as one of Theodore’s dearest friends whose marriage is in the midst of crumbling.  Eventually, Adams begins “dating” an operating system as many other humans begin turning to them for intimacy.  Adams plays her subtle role with a lasting effect that constantly sparks chemistry between her and Phoenix.  The idea of more people finding love in operating systems results in the uniqueness of the story feeling like a fad that just attracts insane people.  

    As the operating systems become more self-aware, their spouses end up feeling used and circling back in search of human connections.  While, Her presents a wildly imaginative story with an important message, its emotional impact is bruised due to the disbelief in its characters motivations.  The core cast do a fine job in their roles while, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s (Let the Right One In) cinematography makes the film look gorgeous.  The lack of human interaction we tolerate as we text and tweet our lives away, brings into question the validity of love and our relationships in the modern world.  Filtered through a futuristic fairy-tale, Her makes a strong case for this even if its characters personalities don’t always sell it home.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Warner Bros. presents Her with a 1080p transfer in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Rich in clarity and detail, the film shines in every way imaginable.  The light grey hairs in Phoenix’s moustache and freckles found in Adam’s face are picked up with ease.  Phoenix’s rosey red shirts and light green eyes pack a powerful vibrancy of color.  In addition, dimly lit scenes of Phoenix in his apartment with Samantha are handled remarkably with no crushing or noise to be found.  Simply put, this is a perfect transfer that won’t leave you disappointed.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD 5.1 mix, Her sounds crystal clear with soft-spoken conversations being relayed with no trouble.  The music, provided by Arcade Fire, packs an impressive round sound when needed.  As flawless as its video presentation is, Warner Bros. provides a pitch perfect sound mix for all audiophiles to appreciate.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - A Short Film by Lance Bangs: The Untitled Rick Howard Project Creating Her: This 30 minute behind the scenes look is done far more artistically than most featurettes of its kind.  Following pre-production to fly on the wall perspectives during shooting, this unique “making of” is a wonderful companion to the film itself.

    - Love in the Modern Age: Sitting down several different individuals, the interviewer questions them about their own opinions on love and relationships in the increasingly tech-centered world we’ve adapted to.

    - How Do You Share Your Life with Somebody: Nothing more than an extended trailer for the film mixed with behind the scenes footage.

    - DVD Copy

    - UltraViolet Digital Copy Code

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    While, hopes were high for another go-around in Spike Jonze’s imagination, Her held promise but ultimately, fell into mediocrity.  Joaquin Phoenix and the supporting cast play their roles accordingly but, their personality traits falter the film’s emotional impact.  Luckily, what the film lacks is made up for in Warner Bros.’ five star video and audio presentation.  The film is bursting with clarity and detail that will make you marvel in its visual appearance.  Coupled with a decent array of special features, Spike Jonze’s latest endeavor didn’t win me over entirely, but will certainly please those in search of a love connection only Jonze could concoct.
    RATING: 4/5  

  • Sophie's Choice (1982) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Sophie’s Choice (1982)
    Director: Alan J. Pakula
    Starring: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline & Peter MacNicol
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the best-selling novel by William Styron, Director Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men) brought to life this heartbreaking tale of friendship and the secrets we keep.  Starring Meryl Streep (Doubt), in an Academy Award winning performance, this exhilarating tale is complimented with powerhouse performances that will leave you in awe.  Shout! Factory, in association with ITV Studios, proudly presents Sophie’s Choice in a much deserved collector’s edition.  Ranked #91 in AFI’s Greatest 100 Movies of All Time 2007 list, Sophie’s Choice is a masterwork from all the parties involved.  

    Set in post-World War II Brooklyn, Sophie’s Choice stars Meryl Streep as Sophie Zawistowska, a Polish-Catholic immigrant who survived a Nazi concentration camp.  Living with her middle-aged Jewish boyfriend, Nathan (Kevin Kline), the couple befriend their new neighbor, would-be writer Stingo (Peter MacNicol).  As the couples’ drama unfolds and their bond with Stingo increases, hidden truths are slowly revealed.  

    MOVIE:
    Meryl Streep’s perfectionism to her craft has earned her a record 18 Academy Award nominations and three wins.  Understandably, many consider her to be the greatest living actress with memorable roles in Out of Africa, Adaptation., and August: Osage County.  With a career as illustrious as Streep’s, it becomes difficult to select a favorite let alone a flaw in her works.  Streep’s magnificent turn in Sophie’s Choice is highlighted by her determination to master the Polish and German language in order to perfect her character’s accent.  Almost immediately, the viewer forgets about Meryl Streep and only knows Sophie Zawistowska.  Streep believably sells the role of a Polish-immigrant struggling with the English language in 1940s Brooklyn.  Streep reportedly begged Pakula on her hands and knees for the role that was originally courting Magda Vásáryová.  Sophie’s Jewish, Holocaust obsessed boyfriend, Nathan, is played with equal brilliance by Kevin Kline (The Big Chill), in his feature film debut.  Kline’s energetic performance is akin to Jekyll and Hyde as he adores Sophie one minute and violently grows bitter, jealous and violent the next.  A film debut of this caliber will remind audiences that Kline may have arguably, been the greatest acting discovery of the 1980s.  Sophie and Nathan’s friendship with their new neighbor, Stingo (MacNicol), is the silver lining that bonds the trio.  Texas born, Peter MacNicol (Ghostbusters II) made his film debut only a year earlier with 1981’s Dragonslayer before tackling this intense drama.  A fine character actor with roles in Addams Family Values and Bean, MacNicol brings a breath of gravity to the film amongst his new friends’ complicated relationship.  Destined to write the great American novel, Stingo finds himself swept up in Nathan’s bipolar-esque behavior while, falling for Sophie.

    Bonds strengthen as Nathan’s outbursts become more frequent, resulting in the couples’ dark secrets being revealed.  Stingo learns the truth behind Nathan’s alarming behavior while, Sophie confides in her new friend about her concentration camp experiences. Upon arriving at Auschwitz with her two children, a Nazi soldier forces Sophie with the impossible task of choosing which of one her children will be sent to death.  The emotional impact of this haunting sequence will forever be rooted in your conscience.  As Stingo’s love for Sophie becomes clear and their future together within reach, a darkness is cast over the conclusion to this emotionally-wound, perfectly acted character study.  Sophie’s Choice sweeps the viewer into the trios’ relationship, showcasing the finer sides of true friendship and the dark secrets we all try to suppress.  Beautifully shot and remarkably cast, Sophie’s Choice is a riveting drama and heartbreaking tragedy resulting in cinematic perfection.
    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:
    Sophie’s Choice is presented with a 1080 transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The film is rich with natural grain and accurate skin tones.  Colors are striking and bold, if not, inconsistent at times.  Stingo’s arrival at his new Brooklyn residence pops with bright green lawns and bushes while, dimly lit scenes in Sophie and Nathan’s apartment and Sophie’s time at Auschwitz relay a soft, (most likely) intentional lifeless color scheme.  Moments of flecks and speckles are far and few between with close-ups looking most impressive.  Sophie’s Choice has never had its fair due on home video but thankfully, Shout! Factory’s transfer is the finest its ever looked.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sophie’s Choice is a character driven drama with much dialogue that is nicely and cleanly heard throughout.  No cracks or distortion of any kind intrude, making this mix more than adequate.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - New Roundtable Discussion with Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and More

    - Audio Commentary with Director Alan J. Pakula

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Sophie’s Choice is a lengthy, period piece drama about the company we keep and the secrets we hold even closer.  Never boring and always engaging, the combined efforts of the magnificent Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline (in one of the finest film debuts of all time) and the criminally underrated Peter MacNicol, make this tale of three unlikely friends one of the most impressive works of the decade.  Handled with the utmost care, Shout! Factory have preserved this classic film in a worthy collector’s edition release.  Matched with a lovely video transfer, crisp sound mix and wonderful special features including the fantastic roundtable discussion with the likes of Streep and Kline, Sophie’s Choice is the rare example of a perfect film that can now be better appreciated thanks to Shout! Factory’s impressive collector’s edition.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10: Newhart, Escape from Tomorrow, The Demons, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10 includes:

    - The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) / A Clockwork Blue (1972) (0:39)
    Street Date: March 28, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/

    - Newhart The Complete Third Season (9:25)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Godzilla: The Complete Animated Series (14:06)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Escape from Tomorrow (2013) (20:37)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Cinedigm: http://www.cinedigm.com/

    - The Demons (1973) (29:25)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (34:20)

  • The Black Torment (1964) DVD Review

    The Black Torment (1964)
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
    Starring: John Turner, Heather Sears, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne & Norman Bird
    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Soaked in gothic atmosphere reminiscent of the Hammer horror films of the decade, Compton Films issued their own response with this eerie period piece.  Shot at the iconic Shepperton Studios, Robert Hartford-Davis (Corruption) directs this hauntingly underrated execution in British horror.  Previously released in less than stellar presentations, Kino Lorber, in conjunction with their Redemption line, proudly presents The Black Torment mastered in HD.  Largely forgotten since its theatrical run, The Black Torment has been resurrected with the intent of striking fear into your soul!

    Set in the 18th-century, The Black Torment stars John Turner (The Power of One) as Sir Richard Fordyce returning to his country estate with his new bride played by Heather Sears (The Phantom of the Opera).  After the brutal rape and murder of a young girl, suspicion increases as the locals believe Sir Richard is responsible.  Firm on his innocence, citizens are not convinced while Sir Richard begins experiencing severe mood changes and supernatural events.  As more people continue to disappear, Sir Richard begins questioning his own sanity.

    MOVIE:
    The stalking and eventual murder of a young, beautiful girl sets the gears in motion for this deliciously gothic whodunit.  Returning home from his honeymoon, Sir Richard Fordyce (Turner) is greeted by his wheelchair-bound father, his caretaker and sister of Sir Richard’s late first wife and her cousin Seymour.  Rumors have escalated amongst the townsfolk that Sir Richard is responsible for the girl’s death.  Shot cheaply without compromising style, The Black Torment takes its time establishing its characters while lavish sets and costumes attract the viewers eye.  As more victims disappear, Sir Richard is haunted by visions of his late wife who committed suicide some years earlier.  John Turner balances the gentlemanly and unhinged side of his role convincing the audience something is astray.  The gorgeous Heather Sears compliments Turner as a lovely devoted wife who eventually is consumed to fear him as an erratic and possibly deadly man.  While, often compared to the efforts of Hammer horror and possessing its fair share of eroticism, The Black Torment is far more tame compared to the popular studio.  In addition, death scenes are present but rely on showing less in order to suggest more to the audience, a tactic that is proven successful here.  The Black Torment may be considered slow moving to some but, its patience to develop its principal characters against the gloomy gothic setting works to its advantage.  

    Ghostly happenings and an uncertainty of who’s committing the murders adds a true level of mystery to this entertaining thriller.  As the finale approaches, the culprits dying words answer all questions in a surprising, albeit slightly over explained, attempt at wrapping up loose ends.  Beautifully shot by Peter Newbrook (whose sole directorial effort would come in 1973 with The Asphyx), The Black Torment is a spooky, period piece that wonderfully captures the gothic atmosphere only selected studios could achieve so well.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Released twice before with unimpressive results, Kino Lorber have presented The Black Torment in HD from 35mm archival elements.  Preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, The Black Torment has never looked better.  Black levels are lively and vivid while flesh tones are relayed accurately.  Detail is quite nice and most appreciated in the lavish set design of Sir Richard’s estate.  Most noticeably is the remarkably clean presentation of the transfer.  No lines or scratches to be seen which only enhances the viewing pleasure of the film.  Admittedly, it’s a shame Kino Lorber decided against a Blu-ray release as the appearance of the elements are far superior compared to past Redemption titles issued on the format.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Black Torment is clear and surprisingly very robust.  No distortion to speak of and Robert Richards‘ powerful score rattles your speakers with his thunderous horns and elegant string sections.  No complaints to be seen here!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Robert Hartford-Davis Interview: This rare 13-minute interview finds Hartford-Davis discussing his cost conscience way of filmmaking while mainly speaking of the business side of the movie industry.  The interviewer tends to ask a question before stopping and attempting to simplify its delivery which tends to get tiresome.  The inclusion of this rarity is still a treat for fans of Hartford-Davis‘ work.

    - Trailers: Includes The Blood Beast Terror, Virgin Witch, Killer’s Moon and Burke and Hare.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Banished to obscurity and nearly forgotten, The Black Torment has thankfully been resurrected much to the delight of gothic horror fans.  On par with Hammer horror films, The Black Torment weaves a thrilling tale set against murder and the supernatural.  The lush production design, impressive performances and patient pace make The Black Torment a wonderful addition to British horror’s history.  Kino Lorber’s HD presentation is unquestionably the best the film has ever looked.  The proper aspect ratio preserved and the overall clean appearance of the film will hopefully encourage Kino to issue this underrated gem on Blu-ray in the near future.  Rounding out the release with a rare interview from Director Robert Hartford-Davis should make picking up The Black Torment simple for those with an affection for full moons and the fog infested scenery of British horror.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Marilyn and the Senator (1975) DVD Review

    Marilyn and the Senator (1975)
    Director: Carlos Tobalina
    Starring: William Margold, Nina Fause, Serena, Sharon Thorpe & Dominique St. Clair
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A prolific career consisting of over 50 feature films, Director Carlos Tobalina accomplished all this and also found time to own two Los Angeles movie palaces.  Tobalina would craft one of his most eccentric efforts in 1975 with his mistress, Nina Fause (Sexual Insanity, Jungle Blue), co-starring.  Skin, political scandals and more skin, Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present Marilyn and the Senator in its full length director’s cut, available for the first time on home video.  Bizarre and humorous, let’s find out just how far this flick swings...

    Marilyn and the Senator stars William Margold as The Senator, a married man who has happily agreed to impregnate a gorgeous CIA agent (Nina Fause).  As the senator lacks the ability to perform, his snoopy wife and colleagues become suspicious of his under the radar engagements resulting in hilarious plot twists and plenty of skin to bear.  The film co-stars Serena, Sharon Thorpe, Dominique St. Clair and John Waters star Liz Renay.

    MOVIE:
    Presented under the title Swinging Senators, Director Carlos Tobalina’s opus kicks off with a series of insightful and humorous quotes from the likes of John F. Kennedy and Tobalina himself.  William Margold (Hollywood She-Wolves) appears as a respected senator in Washington, D.C.  Shortly after arriving in his office, adorned with drug store equivalent portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Margold unloads his morning glory (complimented with humorous fart sounds) as a beautiful woman awaits to see him.  CIA agent Marilyn Right (Nina Fause), expresses her admiration for Margold’s character and her desire to become pregnant.  Right has carefully selected Margold to impregnate her in exchange for $10,000 which being a senator, Margold gladly accepts.  As beautiful as Fause is, her inability to remember lines and lack of energy plagues her performance for the duration of the film. The senator and Agent Right make scheduled rendezvous‘ at the Watergate Hotel as per their agreement.  Beautiful and blonde, Fause is a true knockout that bares her goods on full display.  Hilariously, Margold has a difficult time “going to bat” insisting that Right pleasure him with oral sex which she rejects.  This first instance of skintastic footage takes nearly 30 minutes to occur with less than satisfying results.  Thankfully, no stranger to infidelity, the senator has his regular call girl, Nancy (Sharon Thorpe), make orally pleasing visits and then some.  While, the plot and the majority of the performances are humorous enough, Tobalina’s overambitious 128 minute runtime sacrifices the quality of the film.  

    Margold and Fause tread through the same circles of the senator failing to perform causing the routine to run stale quickly.  The senator’s wife, Mildred (Heather Leigh), grows suspicious of her husband’s lack of affection and witnesses secret footage of his recent conquests.  Oddly enough, Mildred blames herself for her husband’s actions and vows to please him the way he deserves.  Scoring tips from his own call girl, Mildred subjects the senator to an orgy with several other women as well whipping him repeatedly before she’s treated to oral pleasure.  For such a lengthy runtime, the film doesn’t have nearly as much sexual situations as one would imagine.  That said, oral sex, lesbianism and plenty of penetrating close-ups do their best to work some erotic magic.

    Marilyn and the Senator fell short of my expectations due in part to Tobalina’s overlong runtime that drowns the film in endless circles.  Luckily, the players are quite attractive with Fause the shining star of the movie.  Humor is present throughout but runs out of steam as Tobalina recycles far too much material.  Marilyn and the Senator would have benefitted from a much tighter runtime enabling the hijinks and story to play out more smoothly.  
    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Marilyn and the Senator in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the film looks remarkable.  Minor instances of faint lines come into frame occasionally but overall, the film looks as clean as can be with colors presented bright and bold.  Detail is nicely relayed in close-ups especially during more erotic scenes.  Another fine job by the sultans of smut!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, Marilyn and the Senator is surprisingly quite clear with little to no hiss or pops present.  At times when characters are speaking in hushed tones, audio is still nicely picked up without ever missing a line of dialogue.  The mix does little to blow your speakers but for what’s needed, this is more than sufficient.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Star & Co-Writer William Margold: Moderated by several folks including Distribpix, Margold provides a very informative and humorous commentary that rivals the actual film itself.  Margold insists that Tobalina was far from a great filmmaker and his loathing for America birthed the idea for Marilyn and the Senator.  The track never bores and provides plenty of great insight.  

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    While, Marilyn and the Senator disappointed due to Tobalina’s much longer and exhausting cut, it’s still a treat to see that Vinegar Syndrome have preserved his original vision for the first time on home video. The film looks and sounds as pleasing as one would expect with a generous amount of special features for fans of the film.  There’s no denying that Marilyn and the Senator would most likely play stronger with a shorter runtime, but witnessing Tobalina’s original vision should make plenty of adult entertainment fans happy.
    RATING: 3/5  

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #9: Grudge Match, Dead Shadows, Nurse 3D & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #9 includes:

    - The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes (0:36)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Grudge Match (2013) (4:44)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Warner Bros.: http://www.warnerbros.com/

    - Dead Shadows (2012) (10:38)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Nurse 3D (2013) (17:22)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - Camp Dread (2014) (25:02)
    Street Date: April 15, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (32:55)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7: Monsters, Odd Thomas, The Slumber Party Massacre, Buck Wild & MORE!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7 includes:

    - Monsters: The Complete Series (0:43)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    eOne Entertainment: http://entertainmentone.com/home

    - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (7:03)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Return to Nuke'Em High Volume 1 (2013) (12:23)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Odd Thomas (2013) (18:12)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Tom Holland's Twisted Tales (2013) (24:34)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Buck Wild (2013) (30:30)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment: http://www.millenniumentertainment.me/

    - The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) (35:09)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Frightmare (1974) (41:08)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)

  • )

    Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #6: Phantom of the Paradise, Dead Kids, Transformers: Armada & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #6 includes:

    - Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (0:33)
    Street Date: February 24, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - In Fear (2013) (8:00)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Dead Kids (1981) (11:46)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - Thirst (1979) (16:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #1 (21:16)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Impulse Pictures: http://synapse-films.com/category/impulse-pictures/

    - Transformers: Armada The Complete Series (25:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:15)

  • The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

    The Invoking (2013)
    Director: Jeremy Berg
    Starring: Trin Miller, Andi Norris, Brandon Anthony, Josh Truax & D’Angelo Midili
    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The dark memories of ones past can only stay buried for so long until they come haunting.  First time Director, Jeremy Berg, explores the sinister past of an adopted woman as she uncovers more than she bargained for in the rural area of Sader Ridge.  Hailed as “chilling” by Fangoria and a “must-see” from FEARnet, The Invoking blends interpersonal drama amongst a group of friends and haunting imagery together to bring a sinister tale to life.  Terror awaits as unspeakable evil plagues a young, up and coming cast in The Invoking...

    The Invoking finds Samantha Harris (Trin Miller) traveling with three friends to her newly inherited house from a family she never knew.  Shortly after arriving, the abandoned house begins plaguing Samantha with horrific visions of evil brutality.  As the forces of darkness become more apparent, Samantha struggles to determine what’s real and fantasy.  Co-starring Andi Norris, Brandon Anthony, Josh Truax & D’Angelo Midili.

    MOVIE:
    A strong story is only as good as its characters and sadly, The Invoking has neither.  Red-headed lead, Trin Miller, stars as Samantha Harris, a woman who was adopted at a young age.  Traveling with a trio of friends to a house she recently inherited from her natural family, the group fail to invoke any sense of natural chemistry and their lack of professional experience is noticeable in their stiff performances.  Andi Norris and Josh Truax co-star as Samantha’s friends that reek of hipster quality and make you cringe with the majority of their delivered lines.  In addition, Brandon Anthony appears as Mark, Samantha’s ex-boyfriend, the token jerk of the group because there always has to be one.  Anthony, for better or worse, plays the most unlikeable role as a jealous buffoon who gets his rocks off giving people an attitude.  Upon arriving at the backwoods house, the group are greeted by Eric (D’Angelo Midili), a local twentysomething that grew up playing with Samantha before she was adopted.  Midili conveys one of the only decent performances of the film as a soft spoken war veteran with skeletons in the closet.  The Invoking spends the better part of an hour establishing the dramatics of the group’s relationships, making the viewer question if this is a horror film they’re watching.  Unfortunately, the attempts at character development are wasted as the cast fail to create any likable personas for the audience to care about.  The more time spent at the house, Samantha begins developing horrific images of her friends acting in evil ways that hardly make sense, often times resulting in unintentional humor.  It becomes clear that Samantha’s natural parents weren’t the finest of folks and the nightmarish imagery being seen are forgotten memories being resurrected.  Eric’s true colors as an unhinged foster child that never moved on from his friendship with Samantha are revealed as he gets closer with her.  Eric plays puppet master over Samantha’s friends as each are killed off leaving Samantha all for himself.  The less than exciting murder sequences are quick and bloodless leaving any horror fan searching for corn syrup disappointed.  The Invoking drags itself to an unsurprisingly anti-climatic ending that will leave you scratching your head at the logic.  

    A group of friends traveling to an abandoned house seems like the ideal, albeit clichéd, premise for an eventful horror movie.  Sadly, The Invoking tells an unfocused story that never scares and fails to intrigue.  The cast of young thespians are far too unnatural to carry the film with the exception of Midili’s slightly creepy performance and Miller’s girl next door appearance that deserved a better project to shine in.  The Invoking appeared intriguing enough but be warned, it doesn’t get any more hollow than this.
    RATING: 1/5

    VIDEO:
    Image Entertainment presents The Invoking in a widescreen (1.78:1) transfer that is far from perfect.  The desolate, rural setting doesn’t leave much room for robust colors resulting in a washed out appearance.  Black levels are disappointing with pixelation and murkiness running rampant, making exterior nighttime sequences barely visible.  Exterior daytime sequences encounter issues with light slightly overblown casting unnatural contrast on actors‘ faces.  While, it all seems downright awful, the film still walks away sufficient enough for a decent presentation, warts and all.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, The Invoking passes with clear dialogue and background noises of chirping birds that come across fine.  Without experiencing any intrusions in the listening experience, the mix never does much to stand out.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili & Andi Norris

    - Behind the Scenes Documentary: This surprisingly lengthy documentary, running nearly 75 minutes, talks to the creative talent about the origins of the project as well as the principal actors.  The documentary is very in-depth although, painful as the talent behind the camera discuss all the components they felt made the film work so well are exactly what the film lacks.  Regardless, this featurette, coupled with the commentaries, makes this a beefy package of special features for such a lackluster flick.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    The Invoking invites viewers to an experience of terror and horror that unfortunately never delivers.  An unfocused story, lame characters and no sense of suspense or thrills leaves The Invoking as a criminal disappointment.  Fortunately, Image Entertainment has provided a reasonable AV presentation plus, an unusually vast and detailed amount of special features that give a firm insight into the making of the film.  Ultimately, The Invoking will leave you more confused than frightened forcing you to keep it buried.
    RATING: 2.5/5

  • Robot Wars (1993) DVD Review (UK)

    Robot Wars (1993)
    Director: Albert Band
    Starring: Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna & Danny Kamekona
    Released by: 88 Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Forming in 1989, Full Moon Features have unloaded a healthy dose of genre films on the public that continues to thrive today.  1993 became a landmark year for the independent company when they founded two more labels, Torchlight Entertainment and Moonbeam Entertainment.  In addition, Full Moon Entertainment CEO Charlie Band, would task his father, Albert Band, to helm a picture involving giant clashing robots.  Starring an impressive line-up of cult stars, Robot Wars would utilize a brisk runtime and impressive stop-motion effects to bring this crushing battle of juggernauts to fruition.  UK based, 88 Films proudly brings this apocalyptic western to DVD with special features and reversible artwork.  Get ready to reestablish world peace as Robot Wars are waged...

    Robot Wars focuses on a foreign dignitary that hijacks the MRAS-2, the last mega-robot of Earth, and threatens to dominate the world.  It’s up to a brave trio consisting of a renegade pilot, his engineer and an archaeologist to retrieve another mega robot hidden under the city to destroy the MRAS-2 in order to restore peace to the Easten Alliance.  Starring Don Michael Paul (Winner Takes All), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next), James Staley (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Lisa Rinna (Melrose Place) and Danny Kamekona (Robot Jox).

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, never being a fan of Full Moon Features’ tiniest of terrors, there’s no denying the appeal of stop-motion robots and a stellar B-movie cast.  Robot Wars casts an inviting spell for being an early 90s offering yet feeling every bit its previous decade.  The tongue in cheek story is far more well acted than it deserves to be with charming chemistry and successful comic relief playing out nicely.  Don Michael Paul stars as Drake, a crafty pilot with an attitude.  Paul invokes a coolness within his character along with a cocky sensibility around women.  B-Movie icon, Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) continues to turn heads with her blonde beauty and an enjoyable performance as an intelligent, self-sufficient archaeologist.  While, the film is less a love story than it is a robot beat’em up flick, Paul and Crampton’s exchanges are a treat to see unfold.  The antagonists’ of the film, Wa-Lee and Chou-Sing, are wonderfully played with a steady dose of cheese by Danny Kamekona and Yuji Okumoto, reuniting after previously playing uncle and nephew in the successful sequel, The Karate Kid, Part IIRobot Wars is pleasantly entertaining thanks to the masterful stop-motion effects for the robot battles, brought to life by the late David Allen (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dolls).  In retrospect, Allen’s stop-motion achievements feel criminally underrated based on the countless genre films he contributed to.

    Clocking in at less than 75 minutes, Robot Wars has a very firm grasp on the film they were trying to be.  Lucking out with a talented and earnest cast, fun stop-motion effects and a tone reminiscent of earlier sci-fi flicks, Robot Wars packs a solid punch of popcorn entertainment.  From the low-budget’s of Full Moon Features, Robot Wars achieved a considerable amount of eye candy with optical effects and laser gun shootouts that make you cherish a more innocent time in moviemaking.  Exceeding expectations, Robot Wars is a delightful slice of early 90s sci-fi cheese that wets the cult appetite just right.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    88 Films presents Robot Wars in a PAL 1.33:1 aspect ratio that is riddled with issues.  Opening titles are plagued with speckles and very pixelated black levels.  Fortunately, the film stabilizes slightly but is still inherently soft, wavering on murky tape quality.  Flakes and speckles pop up occasionally with colors appearing decently but, far from perfect.  Unfortunately, previous releases of Robot Wars appear to be plagued with similar issues making the source material the main culprit.  Perhaps, Robot Wars will see better days on home video but until then, this will have to suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Robot Wars is decently effective with dialogue coming across clearly with only minor dips sporadically.  Robot battles, laser blasts and David Arkenstone’s score ring loudly and work their magic as best they can.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Videozone Behind the Scenes - Robot Wars: A vintage promotional peak at the making of the film with informative interviews from Director Albert Band, the core cast and special FX and stop-motion artists.  For a 10 minute featurette, this covers a fair amount of ground and contains some nice fly on the wall shots on set.

    - Trailer

    - 88 Films Trailer Park: Includes The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, Hideous!, Girl in Gold Boots, Doctor Mordrid, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak & Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever.

    - Reversible cover: Utilizing the original artwork.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Robot Wars is a fun execution in cheap early 90s science fiction matched with an entertaining cast of talent with credits ranging from Re-Animator to The Karate Kid, Part II.  The major selling point of the film is the promise of robot battles that deliver in spades thanks to the phenomenal stop-motion magic of David Allen.  88 Films‘ video presentation fares no better than past releases but, luckily makes up with a decent audio mix and a brief but welcoming assortment of special features.  The strength and entertainment factor of Robot Wars alone warrants this release a firm recommendation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #4: The Jungle Book, Arrow Video, Darkman, The Shadow & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #4 includes:

    - The Jungle Book (1967) Diamond Edition (0:34)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Rocky: The Heavyweight Collection (6:37)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    MGM: http://www.mgm.com/

    - Hellgate (1990) (13:27)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - Darkman (1990) Collector's Edition (20:48)
    Street Date: February 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987) (28:09)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - The Shadow (1994) Collector's Edition (35:33)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

  • Reel Zombies (2008) Special Edition DVD Review

    Reel Zombies (2008)
    Director(s): Mike Masters & David J. Francis
    Starring: Mike Masters, David J. Francis, Stephen Papadimitriou, Sam Hall & Paul Fler
    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Since the golden days of Romero to the recent runaway success of The Walking Dead, zombies have held a grasp on audiences for decades.  With inflated budgets and A-list talent attaching themselves to projects of the living dead, originality is running stale in the genre.  Queue a Canadian team of indie filmmakers with a shoestring budget and playing themselves onscreen to inject some fresh blood.  Synapse Films proudly presents a satirical mockumentary about a ragtag group of friends attempting to stage their latest zombie flick amongst a very real zombie apocalypse.  Grab your weapons and most importantly, your filming equipment as we capture a peek of Reel Zombies...

    Reel Zombies stars Mike Masters and David J. Francis, appearing as themselves, as they eagerly attempt to complete the third film in their Zombie Night trilogy.  Set in the real world of a post zombie apocalypse, Masters and Francis gather up as many of their friends and real zombies to pull off this exciting venture.  With a dirt cheap budget and production woes every step of the way, a documentary crew follows their progress as the danger of actual flesh eating zombies slowly becomes their smallest worry.

    MOVIE:
    While, the zombie genre has grown tired with its overwhelming amount of awareness amongst the masses, a few promising efforts have impressed, most notably World War Z, Shaun of the Dead and Cockneys VS. Zombies.  With so many similar projects competing for audiences‘ attention, it becomes difficult to gauge the entertainment and originality factor for said projects.  The zombie genre has transformed little since George A. Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead debuted, but any attempt to try something unique always attracts attention.  Reel Zombies, completed in 2008, attempts to spin a Christopher Guest-esque mockumentary against a zombie breakout with mostly successful results.  Directors Mike Masters and David J. Francis appear as themselves, along with the rest of their indie filmmaking cronies, when sheer boredom inspires them to shoot a new fictional zombie flick in their infested Canadian homestead.  The charm of Reel Zombies comes from the naturalistic quality of the cast that invites their actual offscreen friendships and humor to shine.  Contrary to popular belief, when asked to “act natural”, most people do the opposite and are not self aware enough to let their true personalities show.  The cast of Reel Zombies have no issue showcasing who they are, opening the floodgates for hilarious banter at every turn.  The documentary that is simultaneously being shot on the making of the film, which is constantly labeled as a mere EPK (Electronic Press Kit, for those unaware) by the cast, captures the good and bad but mostly, the bad.  The fly on the wall footage echos moments of The Office where dimwitted conversation is caught while trying to stage sequences.  Wrangling the real zombies becomes difficult as cast members turn up dead, forcing the makers of the film to take on a “pain is temporary, film is forever” stance and press on.  Reel Zombies not only works as an indie effort in zombie films but, as an effective showcase of the struggles of low-budget filmmaking.  The viewer walks away well informed on many stages of the process without ever feeling like they witnessed a tutorial.

    Reel Zombies works decently as the satirical mockumentary it is but, struggles to shake its less than stellar low-budget feel.  Surely intended, but by the final act, the aesthetic just begins to lose its mojo when the real zombies slowly take over.  As the viewer, we’re supposed to acknowledge these “real” zombies as threats that are endangering our heros but, unfortunately they appear no different than the mock-zombies found in the fictional film.  While, the final act finds the entire cast, with the exception of the documentary crew, meeting an unfortunate end, Reel Zombies still walks away as a decent independent effort that dared to be original.  With a slightly bigger budget and the right cast, Reel Zombies could easily be remade with even better results, but this small Canadian production did a fine job with everything they didn’t have.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Synapse Films presents Reel Zombies in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer.  Captured through the lens of the documentary crews‘ digital camera, the film matches its intended look with off the cuff interviews and shaky camera movements.  The video presentation isn’t flawless but still captures detail and colors quite nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Reel Zombies captures dialogue decently especially in on camera interviews but moments where several people are speaking at once, most notably during the script’s table read, the audio becomes overwhelmed and slightly muffled.  Overall, a decent mix that is relayed sufficiently.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Directors Mike Masters & David J. Francis and Producer Stephen Papadimitriou: The three friends discuss the genesis of the project as well as their past efforts.  Humor and laughter run rampant as well as informative anecdotes about the shoot.

    - Deleted Scenes and Outtakes: Over 40 minutes worth of material.

    - Original Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Reel Zombies is a decent and unique stab at the zombie genre through the eyes of a satirical mockumentary.  The core cast and makers of the film succeed in letting their offscreen personalities shine, creating some truly funny moments.  While, the low-budget angle is clearly intended, it simultaneously hurts the production when attempting to make the real zombies appear menacing.  Synapse Films did a great service acquiring this earnest indie flick which doubles as an informative crash course in no-budget filmmaking.  The video and audio presentation are suitable with a supplemental package of decent extras worth exploring.  Reel Zombies may not be perfect but, it’s desire to try something wildly unique from other zombie efforts deserves a look.
    RATING: 3/5

  • Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978) DVD Review

    Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978)
    Director: Lisa Barr
    Starring: Jesse Chacan, Anita Sands & Liz Renay / Leslie Bovee & Candy Nichols
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the sultans of smut, have officially ushered in 2014 with another double bill of adult pleasuretainment under their new Peekarama banner.  Both films, directed by Joseph Bardo (under the pseudonym of Lisa Barr), involve unique tales of a Native American relocating to Hollywood to sow his oats while, a sexy retelling of Snow White keeps you seated for more scandalous fun.  Scanned in 2K from 35mm archival prints, Vinegar Syndrome continues to raid the vaults treating fans with more bygone executions in adult entertainment.  Let’s find out what awaits in this latest batch of X-rated goodies...

    Deep Roots finds Native American, Billy (Jesse Chacan), leaving his reservation behind to explore the lust capital of Hollywood where he finds himself surrounded by erotic temptation and beautiful women.  In addition, Andy Warhol superstar, Liz Renay (Desperate Living), makes an appearance.  Meanwhile, Starlet Nights performs a sexy retelling of Snow White with evil stepmother, Joyce (Leslie Bovee), attempting to corrupt her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow (Candy Nichols), with the more scandalous side of the Hollywood film industry.

    MOVIE(s):
    Kicking off with our Native American protagonist leaving his reservation in the dust, Billy (Chacan) hightails it to Hollywood on his flashy motorcycle.  It doesn’t take long before Billy befriends big breasted beauty, Joan (Anita Saunds), and the two head to Billy’s pad to get better acquainted.  Learning of Billy’s love for painting, Joan suggests Billy literally paint her nude body.  The two engage in a flirtatious game of foreplay before our uncircumcised Indian dives into steamy sex, covering every position in the book.  A brief scene hinting at Joan’s pending engagement to another man is showcased but never fully explored.  Billy continues his sexual odyssey with another female who begins going down on him before developing virginal nerves.  Billy is understandably frustrated when he exits the apartment and decides to walk a fellow female neighbor home.  Billy humorously speaks his mind and goes on a tangent citing the girl as a “cocktease”.  Luckily, Billy’s cries are heard as the young female neighbor seduces him for yet another successful round of fornication.  Deep Roots is not particularly well acted, leading to many humorous moments and awkward delivery of lines.  Lacking in talent, Deep Roots attempts to make up for in graphic visuals.  Joan, Billy’s first conquest, agitated with her engagement, visits her friend, Liz (Liz Renay), for moral support.  Liz throws on some tunes and urges Joan to join her in a scantily clad burlesque-like dance off.  While, the two never engage each other sexually, the sequence has an air of charm to it.  The climax of the film takes place at a crowded costume party, where “fifty beautiful people” are credited.  Dressed in revealing outfits and a moronic Groucho Marx ratting off jokes to the camera, an energetic orgy takes place amongst the party guests.  Joan wins a raffle prize making her the party’s sexual guinea pig as groups of guests take turns with her.  Plenty of partners are swapped and salads are tossed as this costume ball orgy marks the erotic highlight of the film.  The film concludes with Billy’s only failure, summoning him back to her apartment to finally go all the way.  Once Billy has had enough, he travels back to his reservation where his roots are firmly planted.  Deep Roots makes decent use of its Hollywood setting by capturing footage of the Hollywood sign and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Although, more vintage footage of this ilk would have been appreciated.  The film is poorly edited and injects badly dubbed dialogue during sex scenes, creating unintended humor.  Deep Roots lacks a decent story and wooden performances from its cast, but if all you desire is highly sexualized scenes of pleasure than Deep Roots may suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    Next up, in the tradition of sexy fairy tale retellings, Starlet Nights conducts its own erotic spin with Snow White.  Leslie Bovee (Lustful Feelings) stars as Joyce, wicked stepmother to Snow (Candy Nichols).  Frustrated with her husband’s fawning over his daughter, Joyce intends on ruining Snow’s virginal reputation.  The film begins with Joyce admiring herself in the mirror as she conducts a solo pleasure session on herself.  Summoning her magic mirror’s human entity and a genie, the trio engage in a wild threesome.  Joyce devises a scheme for Snow to meet her agent about acting, where she will be given a poisonous apple to consume.  Joyce never shies away from thanking those helping with the plan such as her agent’s secretary.  The two ladies decide to have a steamy fling on the boss’s desk because, why not?  While, Snow is being pampered and never eats the apple, Joyce organizes a costume party to take place as a way for her to smooze with prestigious producers.  It may be considered laziness or genuine appreciation but, Director Joseph Bardo (who also executive-produced the bitchin Vicious Lips), seemed to really love capturing groups of people fornicating in ridiculous costumes.  Consisting of familiar faces from Deep Roots, the party quickly turns into yet another sexual romp where Joyce engages in more triple action fun, a man is caught having chains clipped to his junk and Snow debuts herself with a kinky striptease.  Taking a cue from Deep Roots again, Snow quickly becomes the highlight of the party and patrons are taking turns with her.  The producer for the television series Charlie’s Devils (clever, right?) gets it on with Snow and casts her in the role Joyce was gunning for.  As Snow gets her big break and begins filming, she finally eats the apple and presumably dies although, it’s never really made clear.  Joyce catches her own break as the same producer wants her for the lead in Francis Ford Cappuccino’s The Godmother trilogy (notice a pattern here?).  Happily agreeing to the role, Joyce repays the favor by engaging in a sex-fueled romp session with said producer but not before inviting the housekeeper to join in.  Starlet Nights offers some of its own vintage Hollywood footage with shots of a Warner Bros. building and billboards for Roots and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The film is far more fun and tongue in cheek than its predecessor and possesses more professionalism with a pro like Bovee in the lead.  While, other X-rated fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella offer more entertainment, Starlet Nights packs a decent story with plenty of erotica to make it the superior flick of this package.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome have scanned both films in 2K from 35mm archival prints and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Deep Roots kicks off in relatively rough shape with scratches and lines apparent and an odd pixelation in each shot.  While, the pixelation appears to be inherent in the transfer and not a technical glitch, the less than pleasing effect is distracting.  Colors are presented decently with detail looking most effective in extreme close ups of penetration and oral pleasure.  The second half of the film improves but imperfections are still prevalent throughout.  Starlet Nights is in much better shape with scratches and hiccups in lesser quantities and colors appearing much bolder.  Vinegar Syndrome’s latest Peekarama installment is a mixed bag with generally decent results.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Both films come equipped with Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes, with varying results.  Deep Roots is plagued with a constant hiss in its track making dialogue a struggle to make out at times.  In addition, audio nearly drops out making a few dialogue moments severely muffled.  These appear to be source related incidents and lack of proper audio handling during filming.  Luckily, Starlet Nights fares much better with a static hiss practically nonexistent and dialogue sounding more robust.  A brief audio drop occurs during a later sex scene which stabilizes quickly.  Certainly, another mixed offering, with Deep Roots borderline disappointing but Starlet Nights more than making up for it.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Nothing to see here, folks!

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s second edition under their Peekarama banner goes down as a mixed offering of erotic selections.  Deep Roots sounded more appealing than it actually was with stiff acting crippling the flick, leaving the steamy sex scenes its only selling point.  Starlet Nights, the scandalous retelling of Snow White, fared much better with a funnier story and comical approaches to the characters.  Leslie Bovee steers the ship like an adult star pro making her the film’s highlight.  Orgy romps, oral pleasure and lesbianism pack all the necessary adult fun to make Starlet Nights the champ of this double bill.  Vinegar Syndrome accomplished the best results they could given the elements they were working from.  While, not stellar treatment, the films have been preserved in much better shape than originally found which is rewarding for all adult film fans. 
    RATING: 3/5 

  • Unidentified (2013) DVD Review

    Unidentified (2013)
    Director: Jason Richard Miller
    Starring: Parry Shen, Colton Dunn, Eddie Mui & Eric Artell
    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A fun-filled road trip to the temptation capital of Las Vegas takes an unexpected turn for four friends when bad luck and a loan shark become the least of their worries.  Jason Richard Miller (co-producer of Hatchet II and Frozen) makes his directorial debut with this micro-budget effort hailed as a cross between The Hangover and Cloverfield.  Focusing their attention on contemporary fare, Dark Sky Films presents Unidentified, blending the worlds of comedy and extraterrestrials for a unique viewing experience.  Arriving on DVD and Digital Download, let’s take a trip to Sin City to see what truly resides in the vast Nevada desert...

    Unidentified centers on four friends set on a yearly road trip to Las Vegas for a weekend of gambling and wild fun.  Unfortunately, trouble with a loan shark and an unpaid debt causes the group to make a swift exit from Sin City.  After becoming stranded in the desert, one of the friends goes missing, only to be found infected and off-kilter.  With their digital camera capturing the unfolding events, their friends‘ condition worsens as the group suspect something alien at large. 

    MOVIE:
    With no opening credits, Unidentified kicks itself off with our lead character, Jodie (Eric Artell), conducting a nerdy YouTube video under the moniker of Jodieman.  Detailing his love for comics and creating his own characters, Jodie, who bares a striking resemblance to a That ‘70s Show-era Topher Grace, uninvitedly joins his brother-in-law and two friends on their annual Vegas road trip.  Capturing the entire weekend with his digital camera, Unidentified makes the limited budget of the film clear.  Joined by a supporting cast of Parry Shen (Hatchet), Colton Dunn (Burning Love) and Eddie Mui (Gone in 60 Seconds), the group struggle with comical improv that bears any semblance to how four friends would converse.  The acting is just beyond painful and caused one too many eye rolls upon viewing.  The central character of Jodie tries far too hard to be the pop culture knowing geek with his silly excitement at seeing a DeLorean and snapping at a character for not quoting Star Trek properly.  Making a pit stop at a diner, Jodie encounters a local drunk who indulges the group about an abandoned compound where alien species have roamed.  After annoying deliberation, Jodie convinces the group to trek there only to be scared off by a thunderous force behind a door.  Filming himself while escaping, Jodie unknowingly captures a background shot of a mysterious red-tinted sky that swoops a bystander away.  This lame attempt at extraterrestrial activity is the only footage we see until the final moments of the film.  Mui’s gambling problem is what sets the story in motion as issues with a loan shark get out of hand after losing a high-stakes poker game for Down’s Syndrome players.  This attempt at lowbrow humor comes 45 minutes after humorless nonsense that makes this sequence just look pathetic.  After dodging their payment, the group’s car mysteriously breaks down in the Nevada desert.  In the middle of the night, Jodie exits the car to relieve himself only to come in contact with an otherworldly object that severely infects him.  The following morning, Jodie’s friends frantically search for him, only to find him appearing sickly and not quite himself.  An encounter with another drunken local warns the group of unknown dangers that exist in the desert as they navigate back to civilization.  Unidentified culminates in an odd and unclear finale where other civilians, presumably under the control of an alien being, wander the desert as the foursome desperately search for help.  The characters make the obnoxious point to continue asking one another “are you really filming this?” to cement their lack at decent improv.  A quick tease at an alien is thrown across screen as government agents of some kind shoot 3/4’s of the group in a panic.  An absurd conclusion to a rather unpleasant flick.

    Unidentified was a horrendous execution in the road comedy genre interwoven with sci-fi elements.  The small cast share zero chemistry with one another and their attempts at improvisational skills scream amateur hour.  A microscopic budget plagued this film by utilizing the handheld digital camera angle that becomes tiresome almost immediately.  Unidentified lacked any sense of suspense or thrills and disappoints by barely showing the alien responsible for Jodie’s condition.  Understandably, the budget would have prevented anything remarkable but, the sheer lack of substantial footage causes the viewer to forget the film ever had a science fiction twist.  Suffice to say, Unidentified is not only a tremendous bore, but one of the laziest independent efforts seen in sometime.  If the house always win, Unidentified certainly left me bankrupt.
    RATING: 0.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Dark Sky Films presents Unidentified in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer.  Shot entirely on a handheld digital camera, the film is certainly true to its source with shakiness and pixels popping up from time to time.  Colors appear decently with flesh tones relayed as well as any digital camera can these days.  With the guerrilla filmmaking style, black levels leave a little more to be desired due to a lack of proper lighting.  Considering the budget, Unidentified is presented as decently as can be.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, audio levels are represented clearly.  With not much in the way of music or background effects, this mix does its duty with relaying the groan inducing dialogue best it can.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Jason Richard Miller: Miller discusses how this found footage project was presented to him well before the current wave of said projects.  In addition, Miller touches upon the casting and how he felt each actor was perfect for their roles as well as his overall laziness with writing.  I would have never noticed.

    - Jodieman YouTube Videos: A selection of phony YouTube videos for Jodie’s character that span roughly 13 minutes.

    - Unidentified Space Cam: A 20 minute behind the scenes look of the cast and crew following a weather ballon of some kind that was used in the making of the final sequence.  An overlong and dull featurette.

    - Trailer

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Unidentified was one of the more painful viewing experiences to be seen in sometime.  The tiny budget and lack of talent from the cast made the film a snooze-inducing borefest.  The discombobulating handheld technique inherently feels cheap and tired.  Unidentified attempted the unique spin of a road movie with aliens but ultimately, failed by presenting a brief and pathetic alien reveal.  Dark Sky Films‘ presentation is nothing more than decent that remains true to its guerrilla style aesthetic.  Unsurprisingly, the selection of supplements included do little to entertain or enlighten.  Sadly, Unidentified failed in every department and is a showcase of just plain lazy filmmaking.
    RATING: 1.5/5 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Stonados (2013) DVD Review


    Stonados (2013)
    Director: Jason Bourque
    Starring: Paul Johansson, Thea Gill, Sebastian Spence & Miranda Frigon
    Released by: ARC Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In similar fashion to other disaster filled TV movies, Stonados bombardes viewers with a very unique breed of twisters, unlike anything seen before.  Airing originally on the SyFy network, a seasoned cast of TV alumni playing Bostonites are set against a force of nature more dangerous than the New York Yankees.  With British Columbia naturally serving as Boston and horrendous CG effects in tow, prepare to take cover as we chase the unfathomable Stonados...

    Stonados takes place in the heart of Boston where an unexpected tornado appears on the waterfront.  Intrigued by the occurrence, former storm chaser Joe Randall (Paul Johansson of One Tree Hill) investigates the matter to learn the unusual storms are moving nearer.  As the city quickly becomes attacked by these “stonados”, Joe along with his sister Maddy (Miranda Frigon of Queer as Folk) and former partner Lee (Sebastian Spence of Fast Track) team up to utilize Joe’s untested weather manipulation theory to stop the havoc.  Pitted against the impending danger of the storms and rescuing Joe’s children, the trio are tasked with the most dangerous mission of their lives.

    MOVIE:
    Stonados bears no shame in the low-budget, cheese induced production it is.  This B-grade TV effort follows the same tropes of other SyFy productions by creating a wildly over the top disaster, incorporating abysmal CG effects to bring it to life and casting a group of somewhat recognizable faces who have seen better gigs to end the destruction.  Admittedly, these goofy popcorn events have attracted a devoted audience with such fan-fare as Sharktopus, Piranhaconda and most recently SharknadoStonados follows the pattern of its predecessors with unfortunately, lesser results.  Compared to past SyFy efforts, the threat in Stonados is just nowhere near as appealing or entertaining as tornados that hurl man-eating sharks at unsuspecting victims.  The laughable CG effects to bring the stone hurling twisters to the screen are painfully bad, but still manage to invoke that oh so cheesy SyFy charm.  Stonados makes a severe mistake in getting far too carried away with overly science-orientated explanations to buffer the plot.  Audiences of this ilk are less concerned in how these ridiculous phenomena came to be and more interested in the destruction.  While, Stonados treats viewers with its fair share of humorous casualties, most noteworthy a fortune teller (shouldn’t she have seen it coming?), the film disappoints with a lack of any blood or goofy CG limbs.  Oddly enough, victims seem to be crushed to dust upon impact of the stones, resulting in anticlimactic eye candy.  

    The principal cast do a competent job but suffer from playing their roles too straight.  In addition, the marquee value of seeing pop sensation Tiffany do battle with a mega piranha or Steve Urkell facing a crocosaurus is far more appealing than an actor best known for a recent CW teenage drama.  The actors also deny themselves of having more fun with their roles which would have benefitted the viewing experience immeasurably.  Sadly, Stonados could have been far more entertaining than it actually was.  The stone hurling twisters pale as a fun vocal point in comparison to past SyFy efforts.  While, the CG effects are undoubtedly bad they still inject plenty of intended laughter for the viewer.  The cast have decent chemistry and perform adequately but their inability to ham it up, suffocates the whole production.  Stonados is not the worst disaster filled flick to appear on SyFy, but than again it does little to make itself memorable.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:
    ARC Entertainment presents Stonados in a serviceable 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Colors are relayed nicely with skin tones appearing accurate.  As expected for a production in 2013, dirt or scratches are nonexistent on this transfer.  While, not mind-blowing, presentation is more than adequate for a TV movie of this level.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Stonados comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that presents dialogue clearly and action sequences nicely.  During moments of city destruction, bass is nicely balanced with screams and glass shattering more than audible.  A decent mix for a rather underwhelming film.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Original Trailer

    RATING: 0.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Stonados never strays far from the tried and trusted SyFy disaster formula but ultimately disappoints.  The concept of a twister heaving dry-iced stones at citizens would seem mildly amusing had more entertaining fare not come before it.  The low-budget CG effects do their job by remaining cheap and giving the viewer a laugh.  Unfortunately, the cast, although competent in their abilities, restrained themselves from having more fun appearing in a production called Stonados.  ARC Entertainment’s presentation is more than suitable for a low-budgeted TV effort like this.  Stonados won’t go down as “so bad, it’s good” or even god awful, it will just straddle the line of bottom bin mediocrity.
    RATING: 2.5/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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