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

    Colors (1988)

    Director: Dennis Hopper

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

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Tank Girl (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Tank Girl (1995)
    Director: Rachel Talalay
    Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts & Malcolm McDowell
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cult classics are found in many shapes and sizes and this 1995 futuristic flick is no exception.  Based on the popular British comic-strip from creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, this zany exercise in post-apocalyptic storytelling mixed with an action-packed extravaganza dished out by a ruthless sex-bomb makes this a film to be experienced firsthand.  With a unique cast and an eccentric production design, does Tank Girl have the chops to truly be hailed as the cult classic many seem to claim it is?  Load up your ammunition and let’s explore, shall we...

    Tank Girl takes place in the year 2033 where after a meteor has struck the planet, humanity just isn’t quite the same.  Water has become the most sought after item and Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of Water & Power, controls all the water in the world... or so he thinks.  An army of half-men/half-kangaroos known as The Rippers and a kick ass girl (Lori Petty) with a tank in tow are this villains roadblock in complete domination of the planet.  Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-star in this wildly action-packed flick.

    MOVIE:
    Films that are hailed as “cult classics” tread a very thin line between an unsuspecting viewer loving or hating the material.  In positive experiences, the timing and a heavy dose of nostalgia play into fans falling in love with a particular film that most mainstream audiences just “didn’t get”.  In the case of Tank Girl, I approached the material for the first time having only an appreciation for the cast and crew and a brief knowledge of the films background.  Director Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine) explains in the discs supplemental features that Tank Girl is a film that should rate between a one or a 10 for viewers, but hopefully not somewhere in the middle.  For better or worse, that’s exactly where Tank Girl fell for me as the end credits graced my screen.  The chaotic spirit and lack of a strong narrative, which apparently was keeping true to its comic book source, had its moments of charm but would also tread on the lines of annoyance.  Lori Petty’s performance is what makes the film what it is, but there lied the problems.  While at one moment I’d be rooting for Tank Girl, scenes later I’d feel utterly irritated by Petty’s corkiness.  It’s an odd complaint which ultimately made this film fall somewhere in the middle of the road for me.  The supporting cast of Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Cat People), Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) add great sparks to the film with McDowell hamming it up as a mix between a wacky James Bond villain and a culprit Mystery Inc. would nab.  A shy Watts, quiet and reserved, injects a nice air of gravity to Petty’s time-bomb performance while Ice-T, covered in a phenomenal make-up design by the late Stan Winston (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) does a great job being himself frankly.  One of the film’s strongest points is the spectacular production design contributed by Catherine Hardwicke who would go onto a successful directing career with hits like Thirteen and Twilight.  The film manages to accomplish quite a lot with the modest budget they were on and attempted to break the mold of action-orientated movies by having a female pulling all the stops both in front and behind the camera.  Talalay brought so much passion to the material that is evident in every frame and it’s a shame to see she hasn’t directed a feature film since as she has a wonderful eye.  Tank Girl is a film that I didn’t love nor hate with a passion, I appreciated many attributes to it while also wrestling with moments of annoyance.  The film packs wonderful doses of action, shootouts and explosions galore with a radical soundtrack to boot.  It’s easy to see why this film wears the medal of a “cult classic”, a lot of audiences just “got it” and continue to discover it while others didn’t and probably never will.  Fortunately, my first experience with the film was far from a disaster and one I look forward to revisiting in the future to see how kind time will be to it.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Shout! Factory presents Tank Girl in 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For my money, the film looks wonderful.  Colors and detail are robust while skin tones are remarkably accurate and black levels appear clear as can be.  McDowell’s icy blue eyes never looked creepier and subtleties like facial makeup look superb.  Sure, there’s a few minor notices of dust and specks but the healthy layer of grain adds a juicy filmic essence to its presentation.  I’m not entirely sure I could have asked for more.  Well done!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tank Girl comes accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that sounds just as terrific as its video presentation looks.  From the opening title sequence where Devo’s "Girl U Want" plays, you know you’re in for a nice, loud treat.  Dialogue comes across with no hitches and sound effects, particularly during larger action scenes, the mix really rattles your speakers for an enjoyable listen.  A terrific companion to a terrific video presentation!  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is included.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Dubbed a Collector’s Edition, Shout! Factory does justice to this cult classic with a juicy assortment of vintage and newly made supplements.

    - Audio Commentary with Actress Lori Petty and Director Rachel Talalay

    - Baseball, Tank and Bad Tattoos: An Interview with Lori Petty: A nice interview with leading lady Lori Petty that runs over 20 minutes.  Petty not only discusses her involvement with and impact of Tank Girl but also touches upon other noteworthy titles in her filmography such as Point Break, A League of Their Own as well as Freddy’s Nightmares.

    - Too Hip for Spielberg: An Interview with Rachel Talalay: Another over 20 minute interview, this time with Director Rachel Talalay where she touches on her first encounter with the source material, props that she retained from the making of the film and the uphill battle to get Tank Girl made.  Talalay’s enthusiasm and interesting tidbits on the production easily made this my favorite featurette.

    - Creative Chaos: Designing the World of Tank Girl with Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke: Hardwicke sits down for over 18 minutes discussing her lucky break with Tank Girl and exciting stories during the making of the film.  Hardwicke injects a humorous tale about Courtney Love taking up a brief residency in her home at the time of the film’s making.

    - Vintage Making of Tank Girl Featurette

    - Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tank Girl is a unique, frantic and wildly ambitious film that will leave most audiences loving or hating it by its finale.  Personally, the film fell somewhere in between with an appreciation for the cast and crew and the strong production design being the major highlights.  It’s too early to tell if Tank Girl will age like a fine wine or spoil like outdated milk but in the meantime, I’m content knowing the film didn’t fall entirely flat for me.  Director Rachel Talalay has found a successful career directing mainly television but a return to feature films is long overdue as the woman has a great eye for popcorn cinema.  Shout! Factory did an exquisite job making this Collector’s Edition shine with involvement from not only its leading star but also its Director and Production Designer who has gone onto much higher levels of success since 1995.  The video and audio presentation are as strong as I could have anticipated and the inclusion of a reversible cover was a nice bow on an already well handled package.  While, Tank Girl left me slightly stranded in the middle, Shout! Factory’s care into this release earns flying colors and a strong recommendation for any lover of cult cinema.
    RATING: 4.5/5