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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.

  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988)

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

    Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson & Geraldine Fitzgerald / Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke & Zelda Rubinstein

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Haunting high-definition once more in new Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory, the horror/cult subsidiary of Shout! Factory, welcomes the continued terrorization of the Freeling family to their catalog of frights!  Following the traumatic events of the original film, Poltergeist II: The Other Side finds the Freeling’s attempting to revert back to a normal existence until the forces of darkness, led by the chilling Henry Kane, pursue their clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne with ungodly vengeance.  Next up, from the suburbs to the big city of Chicago, Poltergeist III sees the young Carol Anne living with her aunt and uncle when the restless Reverend Kane weaves his devilish powers upon their daunting high-rise.  

    They’re back as suburban scares persist in the supernatural followup to Steven Spielberg’s original ghostly production of 1982.  Struggling financially in the wake of their house’s frightening decimation, Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Coach and JoBeth Williams, Kramer vs. Kramer respectively), along with their children Robbie (Oliver Robbins, Airplane II: The Sequel) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Happy Days) (sans older sister Dana (played originally by Dominique Dunne who was tragically killed following production on the original film)), attempt to start anew in the house of Diane’s elderly mother.  Retaining her clairvoyant touch, it doesn’t take long before the spirits thought left behind in Cuesta Verde emerge once more to claim Carol Anne for themselves.  Discovering an underground tomb located deeper beneath the Freeling’s former home, trusted psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Sixteen Candles) and Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) sense the greater danger that now targets the evading family.  Stalked by the chilling and skeletal-looking Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club), Taylor rushes to the Freelings’ aide in order to prepare them for the dark battle that awaits.  Demonstrating impressively refined special effects that can’t be understated with Native American mysticism and a disturbingly memorable villain, Poltergeist II: The Other Side admirably balances what made the original a suspenseful success while, instilling its own chilling parameters that stand on their own.  Topped with Jerry Goldsmith’s score that blends innocence and dread effortlessly, climactic seat-jumpers featuring nightmarish braces gone wild, floating chainsaws (originally intended for 3-D effectiveness), an unforgettable regurgitated monster worm and a final showdown into the ghostly netherworld all make this sequel a respectably fun and grossly underrated followup to its pitch perfect predecessor.

    Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s own fantastical continuation Through the-Looking Glass, Poltergeist III ditches small-town frights and much of its original cast for a towering continuation of lofty ideas that struggle to land their mark.  Relocating to Chicago for placement in a school for gifted children, Carol Anne, cared for by her Aunt Trisch (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and teenage cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne’s World), finds herself frightened by reoccurring images of Reverend Kane (played by Flowers in the Attic’s Nathan Davis following the passing of original actor Julian Beck after wrapping production on its sequel) from beyond the grave.  Sensing Kane’s return and his pursuit of Carol Anne, faithful psychic Tangina (Rubinstein returning once more) seeks to stop the evildoer once and for all.  Jeopardized by budgetary limitations and a personal black cloud of despair following O’Rourke’s untimely passing during the film’s post-production phase, Poltergeist III’s skyscraper setting lends an intriguing visual change of pace for the series that ultimately falls second best to the familiarity of safe suburbia.  In addition, although Skerritt and Allen’s chemistry feels genuine together, Aunt Trisch’s random spouts of disdain for her troubled niece feels uncomfortably out of touch for a character that audiences should see as more maternally understanding.  Furthermore, while the return of Tangina is most welcome, Zelda Rubinstein appears particularly fatigued in the role, further underlining the fumes the franchise is running on.  Passionately directed by genre helmer Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Poltergeist III conveys several worthy concepts through terrifying reflections, demonic doppelgängers, possessed teenagers and Kane’s hellish wrath literally freezing over the high-rise building.  Unavoidably imperfect given its tragic history, Poltergeist III, although busting at the box-office and ranking lowest on the franchise totem pole, delivers just enough light from the other side to draw the curious into its vortex for a brief time.        

    Boasting new 2K scans from their interpositives, Scream Factory presents both sequels with 1080p transfers, preserving their respective 2.35:1 (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) and 1.85:1 (Poltergeist III) aspect ratios.  While both films received above average debuts on the format in years past, their latest outings are that much cleaner, washing away the slight hints of softness found previously with strong skin tones, vibrant color grades, deep black levels and otherwise graciously filmic appearances on hand, leaving both films in their best conditions to date.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that captures crisp dialogue levels and energetic stabs during supernatural attacks, the film’s scores are excellently handled adding necessary emphasis to their quieter moments and rise to their thrilling tempos.  In addition, both films are accompanied with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes for your listening pleasure.

    Supplements pertaining to Poltergeist II: The Other Side include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, both of which are newly recorded for this release.  Additionally, Robbie’s Return with Oliver Robins (14:25) catches up with the middle Freeling child today as he commends Director Brian Gibson’s vision for the film, the fun atmosphere making a feature as a child and the sequel’s special effects sequences.  Meanwhile, The Spirit World (22:09) is a first-rate featurette catching up with Special Creature Effects Artists Steve Johnson & Screaming Mad George as well as Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund to discuss the many memorable monsters and apparitions that separated the film from the original.  Furthermore, Ghosts of Giger (21:02) takes a look back at the iconic H.R. Giger’s contributions to the film through slideshows and interviews with Steve Johnson and Giger’s agent Les Barany.  Lastly, vintage offerings consisting of They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II (6:15), Monster Shop (2:45), Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II (6:28), the Theatrical Trailer (1:22) and TV Spots (2:04) are on hand while, a Still Gallery (73 in total), the Poltergeist II Script and Reversible Cover Art retaining the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the bonus features.

    Bonus features found on Poltergeist III include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Director Gary Sherman and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney, both newly recorded.  In addition, High Spirits with Co-Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16:02) finds the writer sharing warm memories of his collaborative relationship with Sherman, the film’s budget cuts, O’Rourke’s passing and his friendship with the wise and occasionally feisty Rubinstein.  Reflections with Actress Nancy Allen (12:15) sits down with the star who commends Sherman’s approach to the project, O’Rourke’s old soul personality and her unforgettably sad funeral plus, her working relationship with Skerritt who notes is the only actor she had an argument with in her career.  Furthermore, Mirror Images with Special Make-Up Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (12:47), an Alternate Ending (2:50) that lacks audio with dialogue from the original script added in as subtitles, the Theatrical Trailer (1:04), TV Spots (2:06), a Still Gallery (77 in total) and the Poltergeist III Script are also on hand.  Lastly, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet imagery completes the release’s supplements.

    Topping the television fuzz and tree attacking terror of the original classic may be no easy feat but, the combined efforts of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III make strong cases for followups of underrated merit.  While, Reverend Kane’s initial attack on the Freeling family is by far the superior sequel, Poltergeist III, although ranking in last place, still maintains a mild charm that continues to persevere through its many setbacks.  Honoring both features with wonderful new scans, a plentiful sum of bonus features exploring the film’s makings and frighteningly fantastic new artwork by Justin Osbourn, Scream Factory welcomes fans back to the ghostly netherworld where your house will be all the cleaner with both Collector’s Edition sequels in them.

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Scream Factory, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

    Director: John Sturges

    Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Russell Collins & Walter Sande

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a desert ghost town, Bad Day at Black Rock finds WWII veteran John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy, Inherit the Wind) passing through only to find his visit and reasons for doing so confronted with suspicion and threats from the locals, led by Reno Smith (Robert Ryan, The Set-Up).  Unwelcome wherever he roams, Macreedy’s mysterious presence slowly reveals the town’s deadly secret.  John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) helms the drama, nominated for three Academy Awards.

    Beautifully shot in the golden vistas of Lone Pine, California and neighboring Nevada, Bad Day at Black Rock is a captivating viewing experience, blending the realms of western noir and suspenseful intrigue.  Following the aftermath of World War II, handicapped veteran John J. Macreedy travels to the sleepy community of Black Rock in search of a man named Komoko.  Met with unwavering suspicion and coldness from the tight-knit locals, Macreedy finds himself refused a hotel room and overwhelmed with questions regarding his business.  Slowly developing a pleasant relationship with the local doctor while, the town sheriff wallows in self-pity and alcohol, the town’s true leader Remo Smith informs the curious traveler that his Japanese friend was interned during the course of the war.  Refusing to believe the questionable tales spun by Black Rock’s aggressively racist residents, Macreedy investigates matters on his own determining more is not right than previously assumed.  With messages to the state police left unsent and Smith’s henchmen hellbent on making the veteran suffer for not leaving well enough alone, a war is waged between Smith longing to keep the town’s secret intact and the outsider with nothing left to lose.  Battling his own personal fight against alcoholism at the time while being questionably too old for the part, Spencer Tracy dazzles in the lead as a suit-wearing mystery man arriving in a dusty town uncovering the worst and then some.  In addition, Robert Ryan plays the film’s heel with a sharp coyness that makes his violent turn against Macreedy in the final act all the more effective.  Furthermore, Smith’s cronies, played namely by Lee Marvin (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Ernest Borgnine (Marty) who goes toe-to-toe with Macreedy in a barroom brawl, are perfect supporting heavies to Ryan’s calm but dangerous baddie.  An expert demonstration of drama and tensely orchestrated suspense, Bad Day at Black Rock, rightly categorized by Turner Classic Movies’ Robert Osbourne as essential, is just that.

    Warner Archive presents Bad Day at Black Rock with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing the grandiose mountains, blue skies and desert terrain of its setting, colors are bold and beautiful while, skin tones are never comprised.  Featuring crisp levels of detail in the costume’s of Black Rock’s locals and Macreedy’s black suit, sweat beads and dirt scuffs on facial features and attire are captured with ease.  Free of any unwanted scuffs or scratches, the film’s transfer is an absolute stunner.  Equipped with a perfectly suited DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that relays crisp dialogue exchanges and the roar of train engines, quality is of equal measure to its visual counterpart.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Dana Polan and the Theatrical Trailer (3:26).

    Gorgeously photographed and packing powerful performances, Bad Day at Black Rock is a most memorable experience with cutting suspense capable of keeping viewers glued to its unfolding.  Also known as being Spencer Tracy’s last onscreen role for MGM, Warner Archive upgrades this essential slice of cinema to high-definition with splendid clarity and filmic naturalness sure to be hailed as its definitive home video statement.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Bad Day at Black Rock can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Carrie (1976) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Carrie (1976)

    Director: Brian De Palma

    Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, William Katt, P.J. Soles, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley & Piper Laurie

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Stephen King’s esteemed debut novel, Carrie centers on teenage outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter) who quietly discovers powers of telekinesis.  Abused by her religious mother and tormented by sadistic classmates, the shy introvert exacts her revenge during the student body’s most anticipated evening.  John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever), Nancy Allen (RoboCop), William Katt (The Greatest American Hero), P.J. Soles (Halloween), Amy Irving (Voices), Betty Buckley (Eight Is Enough) and Piper Laurie (The Hustler) costar.

    Marking the first of many adaptations based on the works of horror maestro Stephen King, Carrie expertly melds relatable teen angst with supernatural suspense under the stylish direction of Hitchcock devotee Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill).  Awkward and friendless, Carrie White’s desires to fit in amongst her peers are consistently shattered when cruel classmates take delight in making her life a living hell.  Following her first unexpected period in the girl’s locker room, Carrie suffers emotionally shattering and embarrassing abuse when her fellow students manically laugh at her traumatic meltdown and respond by piling the bleeding teen with tampons.  From the damaging hallways of high school to her mentally destructive home life soured by her religiously unhinged mother (Laurie), Carrie’s tidal wave of emotions allows her to channel telekinetic abilities.  While her tormentors are punished for their actions, lead heel Chris Hargensen (Allen) rebels, costing her entry to the much anticipated senior prom and making vengeance against Carrie her main priority.  Developing sincere regret for her part during Carrie’s incident, Sue Snell (Irving) is determined to make peace by excusing herself from the prom and urging her popular boyfriend Tommy Ross (Katt) to take the shy Carrie instead.  Experiencing an evening of dreams come true after being crowned prom queen, unparalleled resentment and hate for the introverted teen creates another scarring moment in her life of endless torment.  Unrestrained and empowered by revenge, supernatural occurrences and a fiery inferno turns the once magical evening into a hellish nightmare.

    Brought to life by a cast of relative newcomers who fully embody their onscreen counterparts, Carrie’s simplicity and timeless approach in capturing the harsh struggles of teenage survival is key to its success.  Perfectly cast as the film’s tragic protagonist, Sissy Spacek, nominated by the Academy for her performance, channels the introvert in all of us while demonstrating a wide range of emotions in her pursuit for happiness and eventually fatal revenge.  In addition, Piper Laurie, also nominated for her equally stunning performance as the crazed Ms. White, issues genuine chills of terror while, Nancy Allen delivers one of cinema’s finest villainous roles as high school hell raiser Chris Hargensen making hating her an audience’s pleasure.  Matched with dreamlike cinematography by Mario Tosi (The Stunt Man), an evocative score by Pino Donaggio (Blow Out) and tight cutting by Editor Paul Hirsch (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back), Carrie maintains its suspenseful build through use of nail biting slo-mo and screen splitting chaos during the film’s fire breathing finale.  Mesmerizingly haunting and easily one of De Palma’s finest hours, Carrie, much like its literary masterpiece, continues to live on as a gold standard example of horror cinema.

    Newly scanned in 4K from the original camera negative, Scream Factory proudly presents Carrie with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on its dated past release, Brian De Palma’s supernatural shocker arrives with natural film grain firmly intact throughout while, skin tones are warmly inviting and nicely detailed.  Furthermore, dirt and debris are virtually absent paving the way for an exceptionally clean presentation.  The surreal, softer focus of Mario Posi’s cinematography demonstrated during sunny exterior sequences are preserved while, black levels cast appreciatively inky levels and bold colors spotted during the iconic pig’s blood poured on Carrie and the prom’s variety of spotlights pop quite nicely.  Without question, Carrie has made her definitive statement with this wholly impressive transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the film’s soundscape has never been regarded for its dynamics yet, dialogue is consummately produced with Pino Donaggio’s exceptional score fully encompassing sequences.  In addition, chaotic screams and destruction of the high school gymnasium offer notable rise.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.

    Spread across two Blu-ray discs, special features located on Disc 1 include, the Theatrical Trailer (2:06) and a Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery (4:12).  Continuing on Disc 2, newly recorded supplements include, Writing Carrie: An Interview with Screenwriter Lawrence Cohen (29:07), Shooting Carrie: An Interview with Director of Photography Mario Tosi (15:22) and Cutting Carrie: An Interview with Casting Director Harriet B. Helberg (16:03).  The repurposed Acting Carrie (42:42) is also joined by the new More Acting Carrie: Featuring Interviews with Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg & P.J. Soles (20:19).  Additionally, the vintage Visualizing Carrie: From Words to Images (41:33) and a brand new featurette, Bucket of Blood (23:53), interviewing the Italian speaking Composer Pino Donaggio about his experiences is included with English subtitles.  Furthermore, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (11:25), hosted by Sean Clark as he visits the shooting locations today and Carrie, The Musical: Singing Carrie (6:23) continue the bonus feature packed release with TV Spots (3:11), Radio Spots (1:29), a Still Gallery - Rare Behind-the-Scenes (59 in total), followed by another Still Gallery - Posters and Lobby Cards (47 in total), Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery (13 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art boasting the original 1-sheet design concluding the nearly endless supply of content.  

    Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Carrie continues to shock viewers with its supernatural scares while effectively tapping into the real-life and arguably more frightening torment outcast teenagers continue to face.  Treasuring De Palma’s adaptation for the classic it is, Scream Factory’s gorgeous 4K transfer, joined by its Collector’s Edition level of new and vintage supplements delivers the home video release of Carrie fans have been clamoring for.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Carrie can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Road House (1989) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Road House (1989)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    Starring: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliot, Ben Gazzara, Marshall R. Teague & Julie Michaels

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brawling bar business, Road House stars Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) as cool-headed and physically fit bouncer Dalton.  When the chaotically run Double Deuce hires him to clean up their image, the widely respected and increasingly disliked pub protector finds himself at odds with corrupt business tycoon Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, The Thomas Crown Affair).  Kelly Lynch (Curly Sue), Sam Elliot (Grandma), Marshall R. Teague (The Rock) and Julie Michaels (Witchboard 2 ) co-star.

    Teetering on the cusp of ridiculousness and unabashed entertainment, Road House serves up viewers with a tidal wave of bottle breaking, beat ’em up insanity in a dead end Missouri town with hunkish ladies man Patrick Swayze kicking ass and taking names politely.  Highly regarded for his uniquely qualified skills, one-of-a-kind cooler Dalton is persuaded to restore balance to the dangerous Double Deuce bar when the price proves right.  Quietly observing the reckless environment and the temperamentally unfit and dishonest employee roster, Dalton’s take charge persona quickly earns him enemies.  As his junker of a vehicle is consistently trashed and new lethal threats find their way to the Double Deuce, Dalton meets town baddie Brad Wesley who pawns off small businesses and strikes fear into the local community.  After teaching several of Wesley’s henchmen a lesson in barroom manners, a knife wound and emergency room visit introduces the muscled drifter to the supremely sexy Dr. Elizabeth “Doc” Clay (Lynch) with romance and bed-sharing hobbies percolating soon after.  With business and security thriving at the newly renovated bar, Wesley’s distaste for Dalton increases following a business refusal, prompting the corrupt mogul to derail the Double Deuce from succeeding further.  Seeking assistance from his grizzled mentor Wade Garrett (Elliot), Dalton’s liberation of the locals causes neighboring businesses to be set aflame and those closest to the bouncer to be put in harm’s way.  Outnumbered and overpowered, Dalton’s feud with the powerful Wesley will be the deadliest last call of his life with only one man left standing.

    A redecorated western trading hats for mullets and horses for monster trucks, Road House makes no apologies for its absurd premise and over the top personalities yet, wins viewers over with its commitment to the material and colorful conflict between unconventional heroes and money-driven baddies.  Eliciting hilariously quotable dialogue and featuring generous doses of gratuitous nudity including, but not limited to, a skintastically revealing Kelly Lynch and the bare backside of Swayze, Road House stands tall with the blazing tunes of blind, blues virtuoso Jeff Healey who appears as the featured house band in the film.  Boasting commendable stunt work and fight choreography overwhelmingly achieved by the actors themselves, Director Rowdy Herrington’s (Jack’s Back) bar battering feature is throat-rippingly rockin’, exceeding common misconceptions of being “so bad, it’s good”, Road House is flat-out fun from its first drink served to its last punch thrown.

    Featuring a new 2K scan of the interpositive, supervised and approved by Director of Photography Dean Cundey (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park), Shout Select presents Road House with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A welcome and preferable upgrade over MGM’s previous HD release, skin tones are effectively natural-looking with pleasing detail.  In addition, overall picture quality is noticeably brighter than its more brooding predecessor with pastel colors in costumes and neon lighting seen in bar sequences casting effective shades.  While slight softness rears its head occasionally during outdoor scenes, Shout Select’s notably cleaned-up and eye-pleasingly filmic transfer looks in top form.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, while not troubled by hiss or distortion, is decently relayed while, bar brawls, revving car motors and Jeff Healey’s guitar-dominating music make much stronger notices on the track.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included.  Spanning two Blu-ray’s, special features on disc 1 include, the ported over Audio Commentary with Director Rowdy Herrington and the fan-favorite Audio Commentary with Road House Fans Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier.

    Kicking off disc 2’s Collector’s Edition release is several newly-crafted supplements including, the impressive I Thought You’d Be Bigger: The Making of Road House (1:03:14) featuring new interviews with Herrington, cast members Kelly Lynch, John Doe, Julie Michaels, Director of Photography Dean Cundey, Lisa Niemi Swayze and many others in this definitive look back on the cult classic.  Next up, A Conversation with Director Rowdy Herrington (29:38), Pain Don’t Hurt: The Stunts of Road House (22:29), Pretty Good for a Blind White Boy: The Music of Road House (9:22) and Remembering Patrick Swayze (15:06) with beautiful insight and shared memories of the late actor from his lovely widow and cast members.  In addition, vintage supplements On the Road House (17:23) and What Would Dalton Do? (12:26) are joined by the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), On the Set (3:44) featurette, a Patrick Swayze Profile (2:41), Selected Soundbites (11:00) and a Photo Gallery (3:20) marking the last word in bonus content for the late 80s favorite.

    A bar bouncing good time with enough action, foxy ladies and hard-rockin’ tunes to make it last all night, Road House plays to the crowd with its hammed up plot and contagiously fun characters rightly earning its stripes in the pantheons of cult cinema awesomeness.  Reintroducing viewers to the tirelessly rented and cable darling hit, Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition release will make fans graciously tipsy with their Cundey approved 2K transfer and keg-sized offering of bonus features, making the Double Deuce the only roundhouse kicking dive you’ll want to be in.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #10 - Scream Factory Edition: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Collector's Edition & Bite (2015) Blu-ray Reviews

    The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

    Director: Nathan Juran

    Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Elaine Devry, Scott Sealey & Robert J. Wilke

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a father-son camping excursion results in dear old dad getting bit by a bloodthirsty beast, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf focuses on curly-haired son Richie (Scott Sealey, Emergency!) and his unsuccessful attempts to prove to the local townsfolk that his father will morph into a turtleneck wearing hairy savage at the next full moon.  In his final directorial effort, Nathan Juran (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) reteams with leading man Kerwin Mathews for this rather bland, modern day retelling of the famous folktale.  Highlighting the sign of the times with Richie’s parents being divorced and turning to child psychology for answers to their son’s manic stories, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf exudes a TV movie atmosphere that struggles to scare while, unintentionally bringing smirks to viewers’ faces courtesy of the film’s enjoyably dated werewolf design.  As Richie’s pleas go unanswered, secondary characters including, a camper humping couple, a monster believing psychologist (George Gaynes, Police Academy) and most hilariously, a bible hugging cult of hippies led by a Jerry Garcia looking messiah cross paths with the beast, few leaving with their lives.  Concluding uneventfully with a setup to a sequel that was not meant to be, this harmless PG rated opus mildly charms with its yesteryear plotting during such an artistically groundbreaking decade while, remaining largely forgettable for its bygone approach.  Paired with the snake-slithering shocker Sssssss throughout its drive-in heyday, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf earnestly howls for suspense but, unfortunately comes up scareless.

    Never before available, Scream Factory presents The Boy Who Cried Werewolf with a new 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Amid instances of minimal speckling, occasional cigarette burns and sporadic nighttime scenes possessing overly grainy appearances, the film’s color scheme is strong and vibrant with detail looking pleasingly sharp.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed while, werewolf howls and the film’s few music cues make decent, if not limited, impacts on the otherwise basic track.  Unsurprisingly limited, special features include, a Photo Gallery (3:32) and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (2:24).  However lackluster the tame, fang-toothed feature is, horror/cult saviors Scream Factory must be graciously thanked for rescuing and presenting, for the first time on home video, a cobweb invested picture such as The Boy Who Cried Werewolf for horror enthusiasts to experience in noteworthy quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum & Veronica Cartwright

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kickstarting a movement of science fiction makeovers for golden age classics that would permeate the following decade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes place in San Francisco where Department of Health associates Matthew (Donald Sutherland, Don’t Look Now) and Elizabeth (Brooke Adams, The Dead Zone) discover a dark phenomenon of mysterious pods cloning the population and discarding the human originals.  Plagued by fear and paranoia, the silent overtaking of the planet increases aggressively as the desperate duo and their equally frantic friends rush to save the human race.  Impressively hailed by audiences and critics alike for its gloomy tone and nail biting suspense, Director Philip Kaufman’s (The Right Stuff) modernization earns the rare honor of taking a revered concept and pollinating it with unique touches that both adheres and expands upon its foundation.  Featuring an eclectic pool of talent from Sutherland and Adams to genre legend Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), Veronica Cartwright (The Birds) and an early appearance from a youthfully scrawny Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) as a failed poet, all are perfectly in synch while, original Body Snatchers star Kevin McCarthy returns for a glorified cameo as a frightened civilian forewarning the danger coming.  Seeped in a cloud of dread that the cast admirably conveys through their frightened performances, Invasion of the Body Snatchers impresses doubly with its gooey special effects work that spotlights unsettling reproductions of the cast being birthed via pods.  In addition, a crossbred dog possessing its human owners face stands as yet another unforgettable snippet of disturbing imagery that enhances the film’s fear inducing aura.  While Jack Finney’s novel has inspired two more adaptations in the wake of Kaufman’s slow-building box-office favorite, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a championed chiller that will leaves audiences in a state of hypnotic fear all the way to its shocking conclusion.

    Scream Factory presents Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appreciatively scanned in 2K from the interpositive, the pod people redo looks refreshingly crisper than previous releases with a filmic quality throughout and colors respectfully leveled to more natural appearances.  Furthermore, detail is most impressive during pod birthing scenes allowing viewers to marvel at the intricate cob-like effects work on the bodies.  While the atmospherically dark cinematography still possesses moderate levels of noise speckling, Scream Factory’s handsome new transfer is a breath of preferable fresh air that should easily appease viewers.  Equipped with a perfectly satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue and startling sound effects effortlessly, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Entered into the label’s esteemed Collector’s Edition series, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman plus, a second vintage Audio Commentary with Director Philip Kaufman.  Other newly recorded supplements courtesy of the relentlessly talented Cavetown Pictures include, Star-Crossed in the Invasion with Brooke Adams (9:06) where the leading lady recounts her working relationship with Kaufman who allowed her to write her own scene in the film as well as her reservations appearing nude on screen.  Next up, Leading the Invasion with Art Hindle (25:04) who portrayed Adams’ quickly overtaken beau recalls his lifelong obsession with science fiction in this chatty featurette while, Re-Creating the Invasion with W.D. Richter (15:43) finds the writer discussing the San Francisco setting of the film and his original intentions and ultimate alterations that occurred throughout the film’s making.  In addition, Scoring the Invasion with Denny Zeitlin (15:34) explores the composer’s sole film credit and his unique approaches to the material.

    Ported over from MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod (16:14) features insight from Kaufman, Sutherland, Richter, Cartwright and others on the film’s enduring impact.  Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (4:38) allows SFX Artist Howard Preston to detail the creation of the film’s impressive opening sequence while, The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47) and The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24) explores the film’s evocative sounds and camerawork respectively.  Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer (2:13), TV Spots (1:02), Radio Spots (4:46), a Photo Gallery (74 in total) and a bonus episode of Science Fiction Theatre’s “Time Is Just A Place” (25:53) based on Finney’s short story and directed by Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) is also included.  Beautifully packaged bearing Justin Osbourn’s newly rendered artwork, a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the stacked supplemental offerings.  At the risk of pumping a dry well by upgrading a previously available favorite, Scream Factory has made the decision a no-brainer with a new top-notch 2K transfer, a pod sized offering of new and vintage extra features and an exceptional new cover design that trumps the original poster art.  If the seed hasn't been planted more firmly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers Collector’s Edition easily earns a spot in your growing collection of cult gems.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bite (2015)

    Director: Chad Archibald

    Starring: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray & Lawrence Denkers

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After returning from a Dominican Republic getaway, Bite centers on uncertain bachelorette Casey (Elma Begovic, Save Yourself) as she succumbs to an infected bug bite that grossly alters her both physically and mentally.  Introducing viewers to a trio of girlfriends through the lens of their shaky camera as alcohol consumption, self-doubt and infidelity paint the portrait of their tropical vacation, Bite spares viewers further found footage style filming as the narrative thankfully reverts to traditional means.  Nursing an itchy insect bite received abroad, Casey’s case of marital cold feet and guilty conscience weighs heavily on the soon-to-be bride as she contemplates her true desires.  Disdained by her fiancé’s mother who disapproves of premarital sex, Casey’s uncertainty of her future increases as her health rapidly declines in the days to come.  Developing hypersensitive hearing and an endless urge to purge, Casey’s metamorphosis into a yellow-eyed, larva spewing insectoid with a killer instinct breeds creepy carnage for those who cross her path.  Embraced by audiences at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Bite suffers from subpar acting, indubitably caused by its shaky screenplay that lacks meat on its bones.  While Casey’s troubling martial woes and dramatics brought upon by her jealous best friend are established if not, secondary to the film’s anticipated moments of gooey nastiness, Bite’s true saving grace is found in star Elma Begovic’s bold performance that strips away her attractive looks for the benefit of becoming a snarling, bug-eyed creature.  Much like Casey’s husband is forced to wait on consummating, viewers are tasked with settling for a mediocre tale until the anti-hero spews acidic vile upon her mother-in-law from hell and engages in a fatal girl on girl smooch while, a head crunchingly awesome blow befalls the creature formally known as Casey.  An impressive showcase of modern day special effects magic with minimal CG enhancements, Bite may not infest in all the right ways but, excels when living up to its creature feature markings.  

    Scream Factory presents Bite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  While early POV footage ranks as some of the more crisper moments of the film, the remainder casts a colder, intentionally shadowier appearance that boasts respectable black levels yet, lacking continuous streams of detail.  Free of any unsightly anomalies, Bite looks as pleasing as can be.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed with sterling clarity while, the slimy sound effects of Casey’s ever-changing body equally impresses.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Producer Chad Archibald and Co-Producers Cody Calahan & Christopher Giroux.  Furthermore, five behind-the-scenes featurettes consisting of Makeup (5:42), On Set (6:02), Fantasia (5:53), Chad’s Wedding (5:16) and Dominican (5:30) are also joined by the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:23) plus, a Reversible Cover Art.  Enjoyably revolting when it wants to be, Bite may make viewers wait for its more larva discharging moments but, thankfully makes the ride worth it in this commendable creepy crawly feature.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Bite can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

    Director: Dan O’Bannon

    Starring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Miguel Núñez, Brian Peck, Linnea Quigley & Mark Venturini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When an employee’s rookie mistake at a medical supply warehouse releases a toxic gas, The Return of the Living Dead finds corpses reanimating from a nearby cemetery with an undying hunger for human brains.  While a hard-partying pack of punks rage the night away, the ravenously deceased intend to make the tough-looking teens their main course.  Featuring a diverse cast from Clu Gulager (The Last Picture Show) and James Karen (Wall Street) to Thom Mathews (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) and scream queen Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons), this beloved horror-comedy proudly declares it’s party time!

    Cheekily proclaiming itself to be based on true events, The Return of the Living Dead is a brain-chomping romp that seamlessly blends the frightening takeover of zombies with the comedic knee-jerk reactions of those caught within its grasp.  Shortly after warehouse foreman Frank (Karen) introduces new employee Freddy (Mathews) to a decrepit military tank containing a reanimated corpse, faulty craftsmanship unloads a toxic gas into the air jumpstarting their Fourth of July weekend for the worse.  Uncontrollably hacking from the fumes and panicking over the disappearance of the bottled body, the two nervous nellies call warehouse superior Burt (Gulager) after a previously frozen cadaver grows energetically impatient in the meat locker.  While the trio attempt to hack and slash their problems to pieces, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina and his gang of leather-clad punker pals kill time in the graffiti-laden cemetery near the medical supply warehouse.  After several failed attempts to return the cadaver to its quieter state, the blue-collar workers swing by the local mortuary hoping to coax undertaker Ernie (Calfa) to incinerate the chopped up limbs, unknowingly unleashing the fumes into the rainy exterior to bring life to the cemeteries longterm residents who return with an appetite for brains.  Surrounded by hundreds of flesh-eating zombies, the middle-aged adults and punks find themselves combining their efforts to keep the undead far from their noggins.   

    From a story co-conceived by John Russo (Night of the Living Dead), Dan O’Bannon’s directorial debut aptly separates itself from George A. Romero’s groundbreaking, if not grimmer, series of zombie features with a refreshing take that keeps its tongue steadfast to its cheek.  Featuring two universally different groups of characters that work hard for the money while, partying and zero responsibility define the younger rebels, The Return of the Living Dead, exemplified by its teased hairstyles and punktastic soundtrack featuring such acts as 45 Grave, The Cramps and The Flesh Eaters affirms itself as the definitive zombie feature for the 80s.  Showered with knee-slapping one liners, topnotch makeup effects and a career making striptease atop a tombstone from the vivacious Linnea Quigley who remains in her birthday suit for the duration of the film, The Return of the Living Dead has endured and entertainingly corrupted more brains than imagined proving this genre-blending cocktail is more than a statement, it’s a bloody fun lifestyle!

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the inter-positive, Scream Factory presents The Return of the Living Dead with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting a noticeable boost in contrast with skin tones appearing more natural than ever before, colors found in the punks’ loud ensembles and the gooey zombie designs are of particular mention, easily trumping previous releases more subdued appearances.  Meanwhile, black levels are strongly handled crowning Scream Factory’s presentation as the definitive go-to transfer for the cult feature.  Equipped with the film’s Original DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, fans will be pleased to hear the zombies original dialogue on the track while, The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance” remains MIA but not for the lack of trying on Scream Factory’s behalf.  Joined by a sizably impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue with ease and ups the ante on the film’s punk soundtrack, an additional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Easily Scream Factory’s most packed Collector’s Edition release to date, the multitude of bonus content spans two discs with Disc 1 featuring a new Audio Commentary with Author Gary Smart and Chris Griffiths, along with a second newly-produced Audio Commentary with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin & Make-Up Effects Artist Tony Gardner.  Furthermore, two vintage Audio Commentaries featuring Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout along with a Cast and Crew edition hosting Production Designer William Stout and Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph & Allan Trautman are also included.  Ported over from the previous MGM release, The Decade of Darkness (23:23) is a thoroughly impressive featurette on ‘80s horror cinema with such talking heads as Joe Dante (The Howling), Stuart Gordon (Dolls), Elvira, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and others featured plus, Theatrical Trailers (8:31), TV Spots (5:22), a Still Gallery (86 in total) showcasing Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills and other Behind-the-Scenes materials whereas a second Still Gallery (23 in total) displays photos from Special Make-Up Effects Artist Kenny Myers’ personal collection.  Finally, Zombie Subtitles for the film and In Their Own Words - The Zombies Speak where onscreen descriptions for what the brain eaters are thinking round out the disc’s supplements.

    Continuing the onslaught of special features, Disc 2 hosts the phenomenal More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead (1:59:43) documentary from 2011, The FX of the Living Dead (32:49) where Production Designer William Stout, Special Effects Make-Up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Actor Brian Peck and others discuss the development and designs of the film’s undead characters while, Party Time!: The Music of Return of the Living Dead (29:31) catches up with Music Consultants Budd Carr, Steve Pross, Dinah Cancer of 45 Grave, Chris D of The Flesh Eaters, Greg Hetson of The Circle Jerks and many more on how the building of the soundtrack on a limited budget was achieved.  Next up, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (10:15) finds host Sean Clark as he revisits many of the film’s shooting locations today, A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview (28:32) is a candid and at times tearjerking sit-down with the film’s writer/director as he discusses the many challenges and rewards that came with making the film while, The Origins of Return of the Living Dead (15:12) interviews John A. Russo.  In addition, The Dead Have Risen (20:34) interviews the cast of the film in this vintage yet, highly entertaining featurette, Designing the Dead (13:39) hosts Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout as they chart their early beginnings in the industry and their eventual collaboration.  Lastly, although appearing in rough shape and SD sourced, the Workprint Version of The Return of the Living Dead (1:48:05) offers fans an early, 20 extra minute cut of the film for preservations sake.  Advertised with Graham Humphreys exceptional new cover design, the Reversible Cover Art features the film’s original 1-sheet poster imagery as well.

    Darkly hilarious and carnivorously campy, The Return of the Living Dead remains one of the zombie genres greatest efforts with its party-like atmosphere and punk rock attitude loudly making itself known as the most fun you’ll have evading the undead.  A cult classic in the truest sense, Scream Factory has stepped up to the plate to salute the brain-eating feature with a glorious new 2K transfer, several audio options and their most impressive output of bonus features yet amounting to over 12 whopping hours of content.  As definitive as can be, more brains won’t be necessary as Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of The Return of the Living Dead will surely quench the appetites for both the living and the reanimated.  It’s party time!!!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, The Return of the Living Dead can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Silk Stockings (1957) Blu-ray Review

    Silk Stockings (1957)

    Director: Rouben Mamoulian 

    Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, George Tobias & Joseph Buloff

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Assigned to retrieve her comrades from the seduction of Paris, Silk Stockings finds brass Soviet operative Ninotchka Yoshenka (Cyd Charisse, Party Girl) meeting her match in the form of American film producer Steve Canfield (Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn).  Bewitched by Ninotchka’s beauty and revealing personality, the abiding Russian slowly finds herself wrapped up in the finer things the city of love has to offer.  Janis Paige (Please Don’t Eat the Daisies), Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon), Jules Munshin (On the Town), George Tobias (Yankee Doodle Dandy) and Joseph Buloff (Somebody Up There Likes Me) co-star.

    Adapted from the Broadway stage show based on the 1939 film Ninotchka, The Band Wagon combo of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse re-team for this song and dance mashup produced during the waining days of MGM’s musical pictures.  After signing noted Russian composer Peter Illyich Boroff to lend his talents to his latest feature, jovial American producer Steve Canfield hits a minor snag when three dimwitted Soviet soldiers (Lorre, Munshin and Buloff respectively) arrive in Paris to retrieve their fellow citizen.  Using the pleasures and luxuries of the city to his advantage, Canfield easily corrupts the blokes to embrace their new environment only to have hard-nosed female solider Ninotchka Yoshenka ordered to collect her more easily corruptible comrades.  While falsifying reasons to allow Boroff to remain in Paris, Steve finds himself falling for the ultra serious Ninotchka after breaking down the concrete barriers of her politically brainwashed personality to discover a girl embracing love and excitement for the first time.  Dancing his way into her heart and boldly proposing marriage, Steve’s alterations to Boroff’s protective tunes insults the composer and the love his life to return to Moscow promptly.  Separated by the Cold War and the near inability to enter Ninotchka’s snowy home country, Steve gets crafty to ensure his love is not lost forever.

    Aged 57 at the time of its making, Fred Astaire brings his youthful energy and dynamite dancing skills to the forefront in several notable numbers including, his impressive top hat wearing grand finale while, the majority of the film’s musical tunes lack pizazz.  Beautifully shot in lively CinemaScope, Silk Stockings handsomely boasts its theatricality with colorful costume touches and impressive choreography that unfortunately only comes alive sporadically.  Marking Director Rouben Mamoulian’s (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Mark of Zorro) final film before permanently returning to Broadway, Silk Stockings not only failed to be a rousing financial success but, would also mark Astaire’s final musical for the lion-roaring studio.  Lending comical levity courtesy of Lorre, Munshin and Buloff's combined performances, Silk Stockings narrative of opposites attracting may appear largely passé yet, the romantic chemistry between Astaire and Charisse makes the film a modest charmer.

    Warner Archive presents Silk Stockings with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving stunningly filmic, skin tones are most impressive while, the dazzling gowns and other show-stopping outfits of the film pop with divine bursts of color.  Another handsome transfer overseen by the film-loving folks at Warner Archive, Silk Stockings’ appearance is cause for tabletop dancing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is thoroughly crisp whereas the film’s musical numbers offer increased depth and an appreciatively lively push.  With no static or pops detected, the track nicely compliments its impressive visual counterpart.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, special features include, Cole Porter in Hollywood: Satin and Silk (10:15), a brisk yet informative overview of the production’s making hosted by co-star Cyd Charisse, the 1934 short film Paree, Paree (20:53) starring Dorothy Stone and Bob Hope, the Alfred Wallenstein conducted symphony short Poet and Peasant Overture (9:07) from 1955 and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:57).

    While in no great shakes one of MGM’s best musicals, Silk Stockings remains a lovely showcase for its stars’ onscreen chemistry and the stylistic chops of Astaire’s effortless dancing abilities.  Capturing moments of genuine greatness, Silk Stockings stumbles to maintain its momentum throughout its entirety.  Lighthearted and visually sharp, Warner Archive succeeds in promoting the film to high-definition perfection with a solid-sounding mix and vintage supplements including, two musical shorts that will make viewers happily swing and flip.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Silk Stockings can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • I Could Go On Singing (1963) Blu-ray Review

    I Could Go On Singing (1963)

    Director: Ronald Neame

    Starring: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Klugman, Aline MacMahon & Gregory Phillips

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In her final film appearance, Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) lights up the stage as American singer Jenny Bowman in I Could Go On Singing.  In London for professional engagements, Jenny’s loneliness leads her to reconnect with her lost lover David Donne (Dirk Bogarde, The Damned) and the teenage son she left behind years ago.  Jack Klugman (12 Angry Men), Aline MacMahon (Gold Diggers of 1933) and Gregory Phillips (The Pumpkin Eater) co-star in this musical melodrama from Director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure).

    Stripping layers of fictional pretenses away, Judy Garland’s curtain call performance in I Could Go On Singing boldly presents the icon in a state that hardly shies from the real world heartache that plagued her career while, reminding viewers of the magical talent that continued to surge through Garland until her untimely death.  Riding high on a tremendous wave of popularity, American singer Jenny Bowman’s arrival in England for a series of concerts at the esteemed London Palladium finds her reconnecting with former flame David Doone following his wife’s passing.  Rattling a sensitive can of worms, Jenny’s desire to see the now 14-year-old son she abandoned with David years earlier is understandably faced with resentment before David’s own kindness gives in.  Informed at a young age that he was adopted, Matt’s (Phillips) introduction to the adored singer is met with excitement and genuine affection as the two strike up a bond that David fears will ultimately be damaging.  Surrounded by agreeable colleagues at all times, Jenny’s insistence to see more of her unaware son fuels the “ask and you shall receive” climate common amongst celebrities in addition to mirroring the all too true reality of Garland’s own situation with two of her children from a failed marriage.  Sincerely charming in her hopes to be rejoined with the loves she should have never left, Garland’s fearless depiction as she drowns her sorrows in Scotch during an especially emotional climax further illustrates the warts and all approach lifted from the star’s own life into her at times heart-wrenching performance.  While Garland’s chemistry with co-star and real-life friend Borgarde (who was also essential in the film’s making) is quiet beautiful, I Could Go On Singing wraps up their turmoils too simply to be considered memorable.  Regardless of its predictable love story conclusion, Garland’s powerful singing sequences bring the film to several halts as viewers marvel at her dazzling showmanship.  Although the film may not achieve the heights of some of Garland’s earlier classics, I Could Go On Singing is a powerful swan song for the eternally loved beauty.

    Twilight Time presents I Could Go On Singing with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with natural grain present, skin tones are generally strong while, Garland’s glitzy onstage apparel shines nicely against bolder colors found in the bright red stage curtain.  Furthermore, black levels are steady with a generally clean picture free of harsh age-related damage.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is consummately handled in this rather speech-driven feature with Garland’s staged singing performances, backed by a lively band, showcasing the finest moments of the mix.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer Lawrence Turman and Film Historians Lem Dobbs & Nick Redman plus, a second Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle & Steven Peros.  Both tracks are enjoyably lively with behind the scenes information and unquestionable appreciation for Garland making both essential listens.  In addition, an Isolated Score Track (with some effects), the Original Theatrical Trailer #1 (3:47), the Original Theatrical Trailer #2 (3:06), a TV Spot (0:57) and the MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06) are also included.  Finally, a 6-page booklet featuring stills and another deeply researched essay from Film Historian Julie Kirgo concludes the release’s bonus content.

    Blurring the lines between fact and fiction more so than most stars would ever dream, I Could Go On Singing shines a revealing spotlight on Garland who stands tall in a performance worthy of applause.  Attempting to tower above such gems as The Wizard of Oz or Meet Me in St. Louis seems grossly unfair yet, Garland’s troubled last effort delivers a role on par with some of her best.  Meanwhile, Twilight Time’s high-definition treatment is rewarding with its film buff centered supplements, capably provided by the wildly knowledgeable efforts of Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, David Del Valle and others offering Garland fans with invaluable insight into the film’s making and beyond.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now in a limited 3,000 unit edition from Twilight Time, I Could Go On Singing can be purchased exclusively via ScreenArchives.com.

  • Victor/Victoria (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Victor/Victoria (1982)

    Director: Blake Edwards

    Starring: Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Ann Warren, Alex Karras & John Rhys-Davies

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in Paris 1934, Victor/Victoria stars Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) as the literally starving artist Victoria Grant whose luck turns around after befriending the flamboyantly friendly cabaret performer Carroll “Toddy” Todd (Robert Preston, The Music Man).  Devising an act where Victoria will pretend to be a man performing as a woman, audiences rave while, the rising star’s crush on a dreamy mobster (James Garner, The Great Escape) who slowly suspects the performer is not who “he” claims to be results in a feature of hilarious situations and musical magic.  Lesley Ann Warren (A Night in Heaven), Alex Karras (Webster) and John Rhys-Davies (Raiders of the Lost Ark) co-star.

    A remake of the 1933 German effort Viktor und Viktoria, Writer/Director Blake Edwards’ (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) modern take remains true to its originators time period while, injecting lavish colors and even livelier musical numbers courtesy of the great Henry Mancini (Days of Wine and Roses).  In a tour de force, Julie Andrews brings her lovable charm to a performance that requires both male and female tendencies while, pushing the skillful boundaries of her singing and dancing chops in several show-stopping sequences.  Hilariously supporting Andrews, Robert Preston is magnificent as her self-professed queen best friend who recognizes Victoria’s talent and plants the seed for the show biz scheme of a lifetime.  Taking Paris by storm, Victoria/Victor are an instant smash allowing the gender-bending starlet and her manager to lead the good life until the arrival of suave-looking mobster King Marchand (Preston) lead both King and Victoria to fancy one another.  Convinced the publicized male singer is in fact a woman, King’s tough guy front dissipates before he’s truly sure and passionately plants one on the beauty in one of the film’s most romantic moments.  Further complimented by memorable turns from Lesley Ann Warren as a ditzy Chicago floozy, John Rhys-Davies as a prominent booking agent and Alex Karras as King’s closeted, teddy bear-like bodyguard, Victor/Victoria never suffers a casting flaw while, sillier sequences involving Victoria and Toddy planting cockroaches in a restaurant to avoid paying the check welcome heavy doses of comedy.  Admittedly running slightly longer than necessary, Victor/Victoria never seizes to impress with its well choreographed dance routines, Academy Award-winning score and a pitch perfect cast that gives life to its rhythmic tale of hilarity and love that doesn’t require labels.

    Warner Archive presents Victor/Victoria with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  From its hot pink opening titles to its colorful staged performances, the revered musical makes its high-definition debut with stunning clarity.  Boasting exquisite levels of detail in the more theatrical costume choices and its mid 1930s environments, skin tones are steadily natural while, black levels never disappoint with an overall healthy layer of grain retaining its filmic beauty.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is nicely handled with no qualms to be had.  Meanwhile, the film’s mix truly comes alive during its many music-filled sequences that take full advantage of Andrews’ high-reaching singing notes and the many brass and horn sections that accompany each song.  Carrying over all previously available supplements, the limited bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Star Julie Andrews & Writer/Director Blake Edwards, a DVD Easter Egg (0:36), which although not so secretly hidden, the brief interview snippet features Edwards offering compliments for Andrews’ impressive work on the film.  Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer (2:23) is also included.

    From a decade that exuded a surprising amount of musicals, Victor/Victoria ranks as one of the finest, serving as a career milestone for Andrews.  Strengthened by its theatrical energy and snappy humor, this showbiz tale with a charming love story at its core is a diva of a picture worthy of its reputation.  Warner Archive’s splendid high-definition release is a noticeable upgrade that enhances the film’s many visual charms while retaining its filmic integrity.  Although special features are few and reduced to vintage material, Victor/Victoria’s Blu-ray release remains heartily recommended.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, Victor/Victoria can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Jeepers Creepers (2001) / Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) Collector's Editions Blu-ray Reviews

    Jeepers Creepers (2001) / Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

    Director: Victor Salva

    Starring: Gina Philips, Justin Long, Jonathan Breck & Eileen Brennan / Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Eric Nenninger, Nicki Aycox & Luke Edwards 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Knowing precisely what’s eating horror fans, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents the definitive home video releases of Director Victor Salva’s (Powder) modern monster features!  In Jeepers Creepers, siblings Trish (Gina Philips, Chained) and Darry (Justin Long, Tusk) are nearly ran off a desolate highway road only to later investigate what they believe are bodies being disposed of down a sewer pipe.  Literally biting off more than they can chew, the terrified teens find themselves targeted by a mysterious monster with a scent for fear.  Next up, Jeepers Creepers 2 centers on a broken down school bus transporting a team of high school athletes who have just become the Creeper’s newest course of flesh.  Testing their fears and own loyalty to one another, the team must stick together in order to survive the final night of the monster’s feeding cycle.   

    Debuting at the tail end of the waining slasher movie cycle, Jeepers Creepers is a consummately constructed ode to the monster movies of yesteryear with an antagonist that appropriately remains shrouded in the shadows and free of a deconstructive backstory.  Headlined by up and comers Gina Philips and Justin Long, the rural set shriekfest wisely makes the leads brother and sister in order to shatter the predictable lovers in peril scenario with the film’s focus prominently placed on their fear of what’s stalking them.  From a tense road game between the traveling teens and an eerie high-speed truck, Jeepers Creepers submerges viewers into the grim underworld of its monster as Trish and Darry foolishly investigate their attackers homestead only to discover a mausoleum of death.  Seeking salvation from the proper authorities, the unsuspecting officers are no match for what awaits them, ultimately leaving the siblings to fend for themselves.  Excellently performed by Jonathan Breck (Everybody Wants Some!!) while doused in impressive makeup design work, the mysterious otherworldly creature packs a sufficiently scary presence with only its computer-generated wingspan showing its age.  Sniffing out the desirable scent of fear, the film’s climax at a blacked-out police station welcomes several opportunities for jump scares and a tense conclusion that surprisingly doesn’t include a celebratory moment of relief for its survivors.  A box-office smash during its original release, Jeepers Creepers was a refreshing jolt of fear during a time when the genre found itself scatterbrained yet again.  Aging gracefully with a simplistic story that makes terror its central priority, Jeepers Creepers still entertains accordingly.

    Emerging two years after its predecessors instant success and downward slide following the September 11th attacks, Jeepers Creepers 2 returns to the scene with its terrorizing monster hungry for seconds.  Following the attack and abduction of his young son, Jack Taggart Sr. (Ray Wise, RoboCop), vows to take vengeance on the winged creature responsible.  Juxtaposing to the final day of the creature’s last eating cycle for the next 23 years, a school bus of athletes are stranded on a backcountry highway with jealousy, racial tension and homophobia tearing them apart.  As nightfall comes, the Creeper sets his sights on the tattered bus, sniffing out his potential victims in what proves to be the longest night of the students’ young lives.  With a larger budget and a bigger cast, Jeepers Creepers 2 follows common sequel tropes by increasing the body count and action set pieces yet, lacking the more intimate punch of its originator.  In addition, although Justin Long returns in a ghostly dream sequence warning clairvoyant cheerleader Minxie (Nicki Aycox, Joy Ride 2: Dead Ahead) of the doom awaiting her friends, the lack of former lead Gina Philips also returning greatly disappoints while, the current crop of characters are mostly unlikeable and almost always out for themselves.  Fortunately, the Creeper is far more high-powered in his latest outing, taking to the skies more frequently and serving up an especially fun decapitation via wing.  Restraining the cast to the enclosed school bus for the bulk of its runtime backfires as the thrills decrease with each passing minute while, Ray Wise’s revenge plot, awesomely carried out by a makeshift harpoon, arrives much later than anticipated.  Exceeding the box-office performance of the original film, Jeepers Creepers 2 proved there was more bite left in the franchise with plans for a third movie still being touted.  While the Creeper truly comes into greater form in the sequel and allows for a larger playing field for its action, Jeepers Creepers 2 ultimately lacks the tighter eeriness of its first effort.            

    Previously released in high-definition by MGM, Scream Factory presents both films with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 and 2.35:1 aspect ratios respectively.  With the original film bearing a new 2K scan of the interpositive, the sunny, rural exteriors appear even more lush than before while, skin tones are topnotch and black levels appear sharply inky with only fleeting instances of speckling.  Meanwhile, its sequel, presumably carrying its originally released transfer, remains equally as pleasing.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, each film makes dialogue prioritized for maximum clarity while, the films suspenseful scores and emphasis on gunshots and expected screams give tremendous rise to their designated sequences.  Furthermore, both film comes equipped with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes as well.  

    Joining the ranks of Scream Factory’s lauded Collector’s Editions, Jeepers Creepers arrives with a new Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Victor Salva and Stars Gina Philips & Justin Long plus, a vintage Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Victor Salva.  Located on the original film’s second disc, Jeepers Creepers: Then and Now (36:45) is a newly recorded look back at the film, its making and continued impact with new insight from Writer/Director Victor Salva, Producer Barry Opper, Director of Photography Don FauntLeRoy, Editor Ed Marx and Actor Tom Tarantini.  Also included, From Critters to Creepers with Barry Opper (19:38) sits down with the film’s producer as he discusses his career highlights leading up to Salva’s monster movie including work on Android and the Critters franchise.  Next up, The Town Psychic with Patricia Belcher (16:34) catches up with the film’s clairvoyant character and how she landed the role while, Behind the Peepers: The Making of Jeepers Creepers (59:02) is ported over from its previous release alongside Deleted Scenes (17:13), a Photo Gallery (7:56), the Theatrical Trailer (1:54), a Radio Spot (1:00) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet design rounding the abundance of special features.

    Surprisingly more packed than the previous film, Jeepers Creepers 2 kicks off disc 1 with an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Victor Salva and Stars Eric Nenninger, Josh Hammon, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Marieh Delfino, Garikayi Mutambirwa & Shaun Fleming.  In addition, a second Audio Commentary with Actor Jonathan Breck, Production Illustrator Brad Parker & Special Effects Makeup Artist Brian Penikas is also included.  Located on its second disc, Jeepers Creepers 2: Then and Now (22:34) finds Writer/Director Victor Salva, Producer Barry Opper, Director of Photography Don FauntLeRoy, Editor Ed Marx and Actor Tom Tarantin returning to discuss the success of the original film and the steps to produce a sequel of equal worth.  Next up, A Father’s Revenge with Ray Wise (15:20) captures a newly recorded sit-down with Wise on his involvement in the project and his love for horror while, Don’t Get off the Bus! (20:52) finds Actors Tom Tarantini, Thom Gossom Jr. and Diane Delano also reminiscing on their experiences.  Vintage supplements ported over include, A Day in Hell: A Look at the Filming of Jeepers Creepers 2 (26:43), Light, Camera, Creeper: The Making of Jeepers Creepers 2 (14:23), Creeper Creation (11:29), Jeepers Creepers 2: The Orphanage Visual Effects Reel (5:23) and Creeper Composer (9:26) featuring interviews with Composer Bennett Salvay and Writer/Director Victor Salva.  Finally, Storyboards (5:35), Deleted Scenes (15:51), two Photo Galleries (15:37), the Theatrical Trailer (2:13) and a Reversible Cover Art sporting the original 1-sheet design concludes the extensive bonus features.

    Separating the art and scandal of its creator, Writer/Director Victor Salva’s twosome of creepy efforts gave modern audiences a new and effectively realized monster of their own.  While the original Jeepers Creepers may be imperfect in its own right, its smaller-scale and mysterious aura of its antagonist makes it the preferred feature to its bigger budgeted and increasingly tiresome sequel.  Making previously available releases virtually unneeded, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Editions are a treasure trove of high quality with their expansive special features requiring two discs to be contained.  Topped off with phenomenal new cover designs by fan-favorite artist Justin Osbourn (Phantom of the Paradise), both releases will surely fill up hungry horror fans.

    Jeepers Creepers RATING: 4/5

    Jeepers Creepers 2 RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 14th from Scream Factory, Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • My Summer Story (1994) Blu-ray Review

    My Summer Story (1994)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Charles Grodin, Kieran Culkin & Mary Steenburgen

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the followup to the seminal Christmas classic, My Summer Story centers once again on the Parker family and their many seasonally festive adventures in the Midwest.  Determined to best his schoolyard bully, Ralphie Parker (Kieran Culkin, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) seeks out the perfect spinning top while, The Old Man (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) and Mrs. Parker (Mary Steenburgen, Back to the Future Part III) combat hilariously noisy neighbors among other suburban hijinks.  

    Released as It Runs in the Family before reverting back to its original title for home video, My Summer Story is a sweet, coming of age tale about family values and the boundless adventures had by children.  Based on Jean Shepard’s semi-autobiographical stories, Director Bob Clark (A Christmas Story) returns behind the camera with the sights and sounds of 1940s Indiana seamlessly recreated from the Parkers’ wintertime predecessor produced a whopping 11 years prior.  With Shepard providing his eternally charming narration, the recasting of the Parker clan may be jarring at first glance yet all parties make the roles their own, delivering worthwhile performances in the process.  With the changing of the seasons, new adventures await the Parker's as Ralphie (Culkin) seeks to overthrow his arch rival Lug Ditka (Whit Hertford, Jurassic Park) at the competitive game of spinning tops after obtaining an exotic one from the World’s Expedition.  Meanwhile, The Old Man’s (Grodin) never-ending battles with hillbilly neighbors the Bumpus’ heats up after a rickety outhouse is constructed sending the foul-mouthed Parker up in arms.  In addition, Mrs. Parker’s (Steenburgen) own comical exploits to failingly obtain a free weekly piece of dishware from the local theater converges with the housewife arrested for instigating a hilarious revolt against the swindling theater owner (Glenn Shadix, Beetlejuice).  With Tedde Moore briefly returning as Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields, My Summer Story develops a stronger bond between The Old Man and his oldest son as their early morning fishing trips become a delightful focal point of the film.  Overcoming the hurdle that this is not the same Parkers we last saw in A Christmas Story, accepting My Summer Story on its own merits allows viewers to bask in its many charms and appreciative attention to detail in whisking audiences back to familiar surroundings.

    Olive Films presents My Summer Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining its soft focus to recapture its antiquated time period, skin tones are lively and detailed while, colors in costume choices pop most nicely.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences during The Old Man and Ralphie's fishing excursions offer pleasant black levels with no crushing detected.  Possessing scant instances of scratches, My Summer Story makes a commendable leap to high-def.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is easily relayed with Composer Paul Zaza’s (Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine) familiar music queues from the original film making quaint appearances.  Unfortunately, no special features are included on this release.

    Largely forgotten with many unaware of its connection to Clark’s original holiday classic, My Summer Story may never attain the cultural appeal as its predecessor nor should it be unfairly compared to.  Recast from the ground up, the belated sequel has its heart in the proper place with sufficient fun to be had for those willing to give it an unbiased spin.  Although arriving featureless, Olive Films upgrades the film with a satisfying high-definition makeover.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, My Summer Story can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley & Jim Siedow

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the decade since the original massacre, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider) seeks revenge for his slain kin at the hands of the crazed, cannibalistic Sawyer family.  Joined by local radio DJ Stretch Brock (Caroline Williams, Stepfather II), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 finds Lefty discovering the Sawyers’ underground death dungeons where a revving, gas-powered war is waged.  Bill Johnson (Paramedics), Bill Moseley (House of 1,000 Corpses) and Jim Siedow (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) co-star in Tobe Hooper’s campy followup to his frightening masterwork.

    Concluding his third and final association with low-budget mavericks Cannon Films, Director Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars) would return to the dusty Texas backroads for a new chapter in man-eating debauchery.  In a tonally peculiar departure from the original film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 marinates its horror with an abundance of wacky black comedy and far more blood than its first serving.  As the saw-wielding Sawyer family make their presence known again, vengeful Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper) seeks to make the twisted cannibals finally pay for their reign of terror.  Capturing and replaying the recording of the Sawyers’ latest murder victims to help aid the investigation, local disc jockey Stretch Brock (Williams) finds herself caught in the crosshairs of Leatherface and his demented kin when she finds herself trapped in their underground labyrinth of cannibalism.  Spouting the holy word and armored with his own artillery of chainsaws, Lefty crashes the festivities for an over the top display of southern justice.

    Largely balked at for its extreme emphasis on dark comedy before being rechristened as a bonafide cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 makes no apologies for its campiness that lights up the screen like a murderous game show thriving on excess.  Emerging from a publicized stint in drug rehabilitation, Dennis Hopper, although later disavowing his association with the film, delivers a wildly entertaining turn as an unhinged Texas Ranger that sits handsomely with the thespians other more oddball roles.  In addition, Caroline Williams, adorned in Daisy Dukes, gives viewers the ideal final girl to latch onto with a powerfully shrieking scream for the books.  While Leatherface finds himself bewitched by the alluring looks of Stretch and winds himself up into several comical hissy fits, Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top steals the picture with his lurid make-up design and hilarious dialogue (“lick my plate, you dog dick!”).  In addition, the return of Jim Siedow’s The Cook gives the film an added dose of laughs with his authentic quirkiness.  Greatly enhanced by festering tunnels and the Sawyers’ skeletally constructed dwellings ably conceived by Production Designer Cary White (Gettysburg), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an unconventional followup that left many scratching their heads with a clothes hanger yet, has achieved its proper due for its relentless dedication in seeing viewers laugh as loud as they scream.

    Scream Factory presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Located on disc one and newly mastered in 2K from the inter-positive film element, the film looks impressively vibrant with warmer skin tones, stronger black levels and an enhanced filmic quality over previous releases.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, sound is solid throughout with audible dialogue and powerfully relayed chainsaw motors and screams sharpening the film’s climactic moments.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Sprawled across two separate discs, special features on disc 1 include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan, while vintage tracks include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper and an Audio Commentary with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini.  Furthermore, Extended Outtakes from It Runs in the Family (29:37) featuring never before seen interviews with deceased Screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and the late Lou Perryman who played L.G, several Still Galleries (301 in total), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (3:29), a new Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s Archives (43:35), an Alternate Opening Credit Sequence (1:56) and Deleted Scenes (10:57) offer the impressive release’s first servings.

    Disc 2 includes MGM’s Original HD Master of the film with color correction supervision by Director of Photography Richard Kooris (1080p, 1.85:1), boasting both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  Further packed with additional supplements, newly created featurettes include, House of Pain: The Special Make-Up Effects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (42:32) with interviews from make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich.  Yuppie Meat with Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon (18:59) sits down with the film’s first two casualties as they share their colorful experiences on set.  In addition, Cutting Moments with Editor Alain Jakubowicz (17:19), Behind the Mask with Bob Elmore (13:48) who shares his account as a stuntman and fellow Leatherface performer on the shoot and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (24:33) where host Sean Clark resists the original Austin shooting locations as they are today.  Finally, the beloved 2006 It Runs in the Family (1:21:41) documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s Breakfast Club parody poster completes the smorgasbord of bonus features.

    Previously released domestically with overseas counterparts including a bevy of their own supplements, Scream Factory’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Collector’s Edition makes the definitive statement for the cannibal horror-comedy with two noteworthy HD transfers and hours of newly produced and vintage bonus features.  Topped with Joel Robinson’s colorful collage style cover art, the saw remains family with Scream Factory’s latest edition ranking as one of their prized members!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 19th from Scream Factory, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Disturbing Behavior (1998) Blu-ray Review

    Disturbing Behavior (1998)

    Director: David Nutter

    Starring: James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, Bruce Greenwood & William Sadler

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following a family tragedy, Steve Clark (James Marsden, X-Men) relocates to the coastal town of Cradle Bay to start anew.  Shortly after arriving at his new high school, Steve suspects something sinister about the popular Blue Ribbons clique who dominate the halls.  Befriended by likeminded outsiders Gavin (Nick Stahl, Sin City) and Rachel (Katie Holmes, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), the rebellious trio uncover a frightening truth that puts Cradle Bay and their own lives at risk.  Scripted by Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity), this teenage response to The Stepford Wives lacks any genuine scares in its science-fiction driven plot with a narrative so tame one questions its own R-rating.  Headlined by a notably fresh-faced cast who would achieve greater success in its wake, Disturbing Behavior merely serves as an uninspired thriller piggybacking off the success of Scream while, never adhering to the same originality or suspense.  Led by the school’s Dr. Calditcott (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek), misguided teens are brainwashed by his experimental procedure into becoming snobby socialites who unapologetically kill those who resist them.  As Steve and Rachel play Nancy Drew to find answers behind the Blue Ribbons’ peculiar demeanors, an unlikely ally is found in the school’s rat-killing janitor Dorian (William Sadler, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight).  Unsurprisingly predictable, the free-thinking teens combat Cradle Bay’s brainwashed population in an underwhelming finale using noise troubling rat traps as their weapon of choice.  Well-documented for being largely re-edited from the director’s original vision, Disturbing Behavior will hold mild nostalgia for select viewers who raged through years of pant sagging fashion choices and rounds of hacky sack but, ultimately is a far cry from more revered 90s fright flicks.  

    Scream Factory presents Disturbing Behavior with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing clean and free of severe anomalies, skin tones waver from nicely detailed to slightly oversaturated at times.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally strong with occasional hints of murkiness in several sequences.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue delivery is strong while other elements of the film’s mediocre sound design are satisfactory.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Nutter, Deleted Scenes (24:42) with optional audio commentary from Director David Nutter and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:31).  

    Admittedly imperfect and largely uneventful, Disturbing Behavior’s cutting room fiasco unquestionably led to its setbacks but, isn’t solely responsible for the film’s overall blandness.  While it may not live up to other teen shockers of the era, fans can take pleasure in Scream Factory’s upgraded HD presentation and the majority of its supplemental package recycled from its past DVD release.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available March 22nd from Scream Factory, Disturbing Behavior can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

    Director: Joseph Zito

    Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch & Melissa Prophet

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Confronted for the first time with terroristic chaos on American soil, the Cannon Group responds with the action-packed Invasion U.S.A.!  Co-scripted and starring Chuck Norris (Lone Wolf McQuade), the bearded martial artist appears as former CIA agent Matt Hunter, living a quiet life in the Florida swamps, wrasslin’ with gators and offering airboat rides to tourists.  When seedy Soviet agent Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams) leads an international squad of terrorists to invade the country, Matt is pulled back into the game to bring his longtime foe down.  As Rostov’s men strike fear into the hearts of citizens, authorities can’t be fully trusted leading Matt to wage a one-man war against hundreds.  Spewed from the infamous Cannon Films during the decadent 1980s, Invasion U.S.A. easily ranks as one of the most over-the-top and entertainingly absurd B-movie action pictures of the era.  Donned in denim and strapped with machine guns, Norris unloads endless rounds of ammunition into the mercenaries as the streets of Miami run rampant with race riots and unprecedented guerrilla warfare.  Other notable highlights include, Rostov slamming a cokehead’s snorting pipe through her nostril while, shooting the gonads off anyone who questions him.  Filming in an Atlanta suburb destined for demolition, a Christmastime celebrating neighborhood is impressively blown to smithereens with another soon-to-be demolished shopping mall equally destroyed by Norris’ 4x4 plowing through its walls.  Littered with bullet holes by its finale, Norris demonstrates hand to hand combat on Lynch’s face before bazooka blasting his enemy in one of the genre’s finest mic drops of all time.  Igniting a war only the 80s could offer, Invasion U.S.A. remains as insanely fun as ever and stands as one of Norris’ best in a career filled with extensive macho ridiculousness.

    Shout! Factory presents Invasion U.S.A. with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, daytime swamp sequences appear mildly soft while, skin tones read naturally with Norris’ iconic beard and Lynch’s scarred neck relayed with detailed clarity.  Excellently cleaned up with dirt and debris overwhelmingly unseen, slight speckling appears in black levels without ever compromising their overall inky appearances.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is effortlessly delivered with precision as the film’s nonstop shootouts and explosive anarchy provide room to showoff.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also provided.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito, Loose Cannons with Screenwriter James Bruner (29:04) and Cannon Carnage: The Make-Up Effects of Invasion U.S.A. (17:48) with interviews from Howard Berger, Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero.  Furthermore, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:33), TV Spot (0:31), a Still Gallery (30 in total) and a Braddock: Missing in Action III Theatrical Trailer (1:32) round out the disc’s supplemental content.

    Trading in his slasher movie card for this action bonanza, Director Joseph Zito’s (The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) Invasion U.S.A. assaults viewers with a war on our home turf that can only be fought by the machine-gun toting bearded one.  Co-starring beloved character actor Richard Lynch, this balls to the wall effort remains a Cannon Films gem for its sheer firepower and preposterously awesome destruction.  Shout! Factory welcomes the long-anticipated cult favorite with a top-notch HD presentation and newly produced supplements sure to catch fire with fans of this fiery feature.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 15th from Shout! Factory, Invasion U.S.A. can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

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

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Class can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Way Out (1987) Blu-ray Review

    No Way Out (1987)

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton & Howard Duff

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel “The Big Clock” by Kenneth Fearing, No Way Out finds Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman, The French Connection) murdering his mistress Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner) in a fit of jealousy.  Determined to protect his superior, loyal aide Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Remember the Titans) invents a cover-up scheme thrusting blame onto an unknown Russian spy.  Enlisting Naval Commander and friend Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) to hunt down the killer, all roads lead back to Farrell and his own enticing connection to the victim.

    Weaving a tale of suspense and scandal, No Way Out is a tightly paced thriller where the political underbelly of Washington sets the stage for a whodunit marking its protagonist as public enemy number one.  After a chance encounter at a political ball leads to limo lovemaking, Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) falls deeply for the attractive Susan Atwell (Young).  Admitting to engaging with Farrell’s new boss Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman), Susan agrees to call off the affair only to fatally fall victim to Brice’s jealous rage.  In true closed door political fashion, a cover-up is established pointing fingers to a suspected Russian spy within the confines of the Pentagon, instructing Farrell to uncover the man responsible.  With other selected assassins ordered to eradicate anyone with knowledge of Brice’s involvement, Farrell finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place as each new development implements him in Susan’s death.  Trapped within the walls of the Pentagon as 80s computer technology and prowling eyewitnesses threaten Farrell’s safety, No Way Out rarely lets viewers catch a breath while, an exciting chase sequence beginning behind the wheel before shifting to rooftops and subways keeps the thrills coming.  Featuring the handsome Costner in a role that propelled him to leading man heights and Sean Young at the peak of her sexiness plus, a brief appearance by the beautiful Iman (Surrender, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) as Susan’s trusted friend, Director Roger Donaldson’s (Species) well-received feature keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with a twisty conclusion not seen coming.

    Shout! Factory presents No Way Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of fleeting flakes and speckles during the opening moments, the film conveys a pleasingly filmic appearance with facial tones reading appropriately.  Although not wildly colorful, textures in Hackman’s suit, Costner’s pressed Naval uniform and other costume choices are well saturated while, black levels during Costner and Young’s backseat romp are quite clear and free of any abusive crush.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, quality is satisfactory with dialogue levels delivered clearly as scoring cues and the film’s intense wave crashing ship scene offer nice balance to the otherwise tame mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and the film’s Trailer (1:30).

    Perfect viewing for the political season, No Way Out combines sex, scandal and murder for a gripping narrative set in our nation’s capital.  A solid cast and stylish direction compliment the film’s pace that allows itself to sharply pull the rug out from under the audience during its fleeting moments.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory upgrades this Costner starring thrill ride with an admirable high-definition transfer and a pleasing commentary track from its helmer.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, No Way Out can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can't Do It (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can’t Do It (1990)

    Director: John Derek

    Starring: Bo Derek, George Kennedy, Andrea Occhipinti, Ana Obregon & Olivia d’Abo / Bo Derek, Anthony Quinn, Don Murray & Julie Newmar 

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring striking beauty Bo Derek (10), Shout! Factory proudly presents a double feature of the sex symbol’s steamiest features!  In Bolero, Derek stars as a curious graduate who intends to discover her womanhood during a journey to the world’s most exotic locations.  George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Andrea Occhipinti (The New York Ripper), Ana Obregon (The Gamble) and Olivia d’Abo (The Wonder Years) co-star.  Next up, Ghosts Can’t Do It centers on happily married couple Katie (Derek) and Scott (Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life) who despite their age difference, lead a fulfilling life.  After coming to terms with her husband’s death, Katie reconnects with Scott’s impatient ghost as she scours the globe for a suitable body for him to be reincarnated in.  Don Murray (Bus Stop) and Julie Newmar (Batman) co-star.  

    Helmed by her late husband John Derek (Tarzan, the Ape Man), Bolero finds virginal graduate Mac MacGillvary (Derek) determined to find her ideal sexual suitor.  Following a celebratory striptease and receiving a lucrative inheritance, Mac, along with best friend Catalina (Obregon) and her faithful chauffeur Cotton (Kennedy), travel to Arabian locales to sow her wild oats only to be underwhelmed by a sleepy shiek mid-seduction.  Hightailing to Spain, Mac becomes enamored with attractive bullfighter Angel (Occhipinti) who successfully deflowers the head over heels American.  Tragedy strikes when her lover is gored, prompting Mac to oversee his full recovery in hopes of spending the rest of their lives together.  A product of the wild Cannon Films, Executive Producer Menahem Golan demanded the film’s many sex sequences be amplified much to the dismay of both Derek’s.  Hardly uncommon for the independent producing mavericks, Bolero, although technically a period piece boasting beautifully scenic locations, is quickly reduced to an exploitative sizzle reel of Derek’s fabulous nude figure.  While its erotic sequences are relatively tame by today’s standards with the uncomfortable exception of 14 year-old Olivia d’Abo appearing fully exposed in several scenes, Golan’s refusal to cut the film to meet proper ratings approval resulted in then distributor MGM to drop the feature.  Released independently, the uninspired effort spotlights Derek having honey suckled off her breasts, nude horseback riding and easily the decade’s cheesiest, fog-entrenched sex scene captured in slow-motion with a hilariously neon lit “extasy” sign in the background.  Dragged through the mud by the Razzie Awards, Bolero would unsurprisingly be nominated for Worst Picture of the Decade (only to lose to 1981’s Mommie Dearest).  Outside of its generous footage of Derek and her female co-stars in their birthday suits, Bolero lacks any true merit, only to be appreciated as a retro train wreck.

    After suffering one of the most talkative heart attacks captured on film, the elderly Scott (Quinn) recovers only to end his own life with a gunshot.  Leaving his gorgeous and much younger wife Katie (Derek) to grieve, Ghosts Can’t Do It finds Scott’s spirit returning to comfort and guide her on a quest for a young body to be reborn into.  Living off the luxuries of Scott’s $2 billion wealth, Katie travels to tropical locales for some fun in the sun while, juggling the responsibilities of Scott’s valued company with assistance from the recently deceased.  In what would be their final creative collaboration between the Derek’s, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a painfully dreadful romcom with a fantasy flair that fails on all levels.  Never shy to shed some skin, Bo Derek’s looks do little to save this turkey from would ultimately be crowned Worst Picture of 1990 by the Golden Raspberry Awards.  With an eye-rolling cameo from The Apprentice star and presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ghosts Can’t Do It never achieves a laugh and dawdles for much of its runtime in a longwinded search for Scott’s ideal body.  Signaling the last headlining appearance by the blue-eyed beauty, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a horrendous effort deserving to rest in peace for all eternity.         

    Shout! Factory presents both films in 1080p, with 1.85:1 (Bolero) and 1.78:1 (Ghosts Can’t Do It) aspect ratios respectively.  Possessing moderate levels of flakes and speckles, Bolero’s skin tones waver from warmly detailed to taking on softer appearances.  Meanwhile, exterior footage of the Moroccan environment, textures in wardrobe and the film’s many horses appears lush while, black levels are so-so.  In its spirited co-feature, picture quality is superior with no intrusive anomalies on display and more consistently accurate skin tones present.  In addition, colors of Derek’s bright ensembles pop magnificently under the film’s sunny climates.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well-handled with nothing lost in translation while, scoring moments are adequately stacked.  Special features include, a Bolero Trailer (2:36) and a Ghosts Can’t Do It Trailer (2:48).

    The magnetic allure of Bo Derek can hardly be overstated with her two starring efforts in this collection prioritizing her outstanding figure.  Although both films are a barrel of disappointment, Bolero can be mildly appreciated for the exploitative influence of Cannon Films while, Ghosts Can’t Do It is an abysmally unfunny feature best forgotten.  Arriving with only their trailers attached, Shout! Factory gives both films commendable high-definition upgrades, ensuring that one fan’s trash can be another’s treasure.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Bolero / Ghosts Can’t Do It can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Jack's Back (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Jack’s Back (1988)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    Starring: James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo, Rod Loomis & Rex Ryon

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    One hundred years after the brutal slayings of Jack the Ripper, Jack’s Back takes place in modern day Los Angeles where a copycat killer stalks the streets, leaving a trail of victims in his wake.  When intelligent medical student John Wesford (James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron) is suspected, the mystery thickens following his own shocking death.  Disturbed by nightmarish visions, John’s estranged twin brother Rick emerges to discover the true culprit.  Cynthia Gibb (Modern Girls), Jim Haynie (The Peacemaker), Robert Picardo (The Howling), Rod Loomis (The Beastmaster) and Rex Ryon (Feds) co-star.

    Marking the directorial debut of Rowdy Herrington (Road House), Jack’s Back is a crafty, murder-mystery whodunit that takes the unsolved legend of Jack the Ripper and transports it to the flashy lights of Los Angeles.  Following a string of copycat murders in the vein of London’s most noteworthy criminal, doctor in training and fellow humanitarian John Wesford (Spader) finds himself in the crosshairs of the supposed killer only to meet a fatal demise.  With evidence linking him to the murders and his own suicide, John’s rough around the edges twin brother Rick is convinced otherwise after experiencing nightmares of his brother’s murder.  Seeking assistance from a hypnotizing psychologist (Picardo) and John’s potential love interest Chris (Gibb), Rick may have bargained for more than he can handle when those close to him are targeted.

    From Paul Saax’s catchy rendition of “Red Harvest” over its opening credits to quintessential 80s saxophone queues throughout, Jack’s Back sets the intended tone of a thriller for its time.  Following his teenage turns in efforts such as Tuff Turf and Pretty in Pink, James Spader graduates to more adult fare as an ace med student and disturbed tough boy, handling both sides of the same coin effectively.  In addition, while coasting the L.A. streets of yesteryear before stumbling upon a seedy peep store for firepower, nostalgic Gen Xers will take comfort as Rick and the attractive Chris pass a neon lit movie house playing Can’t Buy Me Love and La Bamba.  Littered with multiple red herrings and an engaging plot that keeps viewers guessing until its dramatic conclusion, Jack’s Back is far more clever and inventive than credited.

    Boasting a newly struck transfer from the original camera negative, Scream Factory presents Jack’s Back in 1080p, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While black levels found in its opening sequence appear mildly splotchy with other instances possessing hints of noise, skin tones maintain respectable detail.  In addition, interior daytime sequences occasionally suffer from overblown white levels although, the noticeably clean, virtually free of nicks and scratches, transfer sports an overall filmic quality.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is cleanly relayed with Paul Saax’s opening number and the film’s multiple car chases offering decent, if not mediocre, boosts in authority.  Furthermore, no discernible instances of hiss or pops were detected.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington,The Making of Jack’s Back (23:51) featuring new interviews with Herrington, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson, Producer Tim Moore and Actress Cynthia Gibb.  Finally, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (0:57) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplements.

    Suspenseful and smart, Jack’s Back is a well-paced and thrilling showcase for the up and coming Spader before his respected turns in Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Crash.  After a short delay, Scream Factory delivers this underrated effort in a worthy presentation, just in time for its Blu-ray debut.  Joined by a newly recorded commentary and an informative retrospective featurette, Jack’s Back returns for the better.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Jack’s Back can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Undercover Blues (1993) Blu-ray Review

    Undercover Blues (1993)

    Director: Herbert Ross

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

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)

    Director: Rod Amateau 

    Starring: Anthony Newley, Mackenzie Astin & Katie Barberi

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the popular Topps trading card series, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie centers on bullied teenager Dodger (Mackenzie Astin, The Facts of Life) who befriends the Kids after accidentally unleashing them from their magical trash can.  In addition to causing mayhem and helping Dodger woo the fashionably feisty Tangerine (Katie Barberi, Every Witch Way), the Kids find themselves imprisoned at the State Home for the Ugly with Dodger and the crafty Captain Manzini (Anthony Newley, Oliver Twist) as their only hope.

    Created to disgustingly parody the Cabbage Patch Kids phenomenon of the era, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie continues the vile hijinks of Ali Gator, Greaser Greg, Valerie Vomit, Foul Phil and the rest of the gang in their first and only big-screen leap.  Performed by dwarf actors in bizarrely designed costumes, the Kids find themselves free from their trash can detention as they let loose of their manners and hygiene in their new environment.  Following noisy shenanigans at the movies and drunken bar room brawls, the messy misfits look to help their teenage friend Dodger impress the “too cool for school” Tangerine with his fashion sensibilities while, getting even with his bully Juice.  Attracting too much unwanted attention, the Kids find themselves admitted to the State Home for the Ugly alongside fellow inmates Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln.  Although marketed for children, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie left parents even more perplexed by the characters’ caca and poo poo humor that popularized the controversial cards.

    Although devastatingly panned and tanking at the box-office, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie has resurfaced as a bonafide cult classic, enjoyed for its gross-out kiddie humor and over the top, paper thin narrative.  While its abnormally constructed costume designs appear poor, their crude, unnatural appearance give the film its unusually appealing charm.  Considered by many to be as tasteless as a stick of bubblegum, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is unquestionably one of the weirder efforts to emerge from the gaudy 80s yet, signifies a compelling time where hilariously fun dreck of its kind was ushered into theaters for the enjoyment of children.

    Scream Factory presents The Garbage Pail Kids Movie with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing relatively soft, skin tones emerge naturally while select colors including, outdoor greenery and the eye-catching fashion choices of Tangerine and the Kids popping better than others.  Faint specks and occasional vertical lines are noted while, black levels appear hazy and lacking an inkier presence.  Meanwhile, detail is most pleasing in closeups of the off-putting Kids capturing their acne and snot infested faces nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with no noticeable interferences while, bar sequences and music inclusions offer mild boosts in quality.  Crowned a Collector’s Edition, special features include, The Effects of the Garbage Pail Kids Movie (11:46) with new interviews from Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler and Makeup Effects Artist Gino Crognale.  In addition, On Set with 1st AD Thomas A. Irvine (6:22), The Artful Dodger: An Interview with Mackenzie Astin (27:16) and The Kids Aren’t All Right (21:21) with insight from Garbage Pail Kids performers Arturo Gil and Kevin Thompson are also included.  Finally, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a reversible cover art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster conclude the supplemental package.

    Universally trashed since its debut, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie serves the appetites of B-movie purists who find enjoyment in its many quirks and unintentional head-shaking hilarity.  Making suitable leaps from its standard definition days, Scream Factory treats this belch-inducing blunder like the gross gold it is with its supplemental package from Aine Leicht’s Cavetown Pictures being the major sell.  Don’t let your uncontrollable body functions go to waste without the messiness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie by your side!

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990) Blu-ray Reviews

    Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990)

    Director(s): John Carl Buechler / Claudio Fragasso

    Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Phil Fondacaro & June Lockhart / Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby & Deborah Reed

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Casting a spell of fantastical frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a pair of knee-high cult favorites!  Shortly after moving into their new apartment building, Troll finds big brother Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story) recognizing dramatic changes in his little sister’s behavior.  With a mischievous troll behind the trouble, the mythical monster begins transforming the apartments into gardens of evil and their tenants into disgusting hobgoblins with Harry serving as their only hope.  Next up, the vastly unrelated Troll 2 finds a family of four taking a lengthy vacation in a desolate farm community.  Upon arrival, the unsuspecting visitors find themselves as the main course for the town’s human-morphing tribe of goblins.     

    Shot in Italy at the height of Empire Pictures’ success, Troll continues the decade’s trend of dark fantasy family-oriented efforts, albeit on a significantly lower budget.  Boasting one of Empire’s more impressive casts including, prominent child actor Noah Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro (Willow), performing dual roles as Torok the Troll and the heartwarming Professor Malcolm Mallory, to the film debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) and the curious casting of Sonny Bono as a hilarious swinging tenant, Troll hosts an eclectic range of thespians for such a modestly produced effort.  Sporting impressive creature designs crafted by its director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood), this special-effects cheapie, although slowly paced, offers plenty of adolescent fun as Harry Potter Jr. treks into Torok’s vast gardens to retrieve his sister and confront a snarling giant monster.  A bonafide smash on home video that may have influenced a certain student of Hogwarts, Troll has remained a cult favorite for its fairy tale atmosphere and charming effects work.

    Capitalizing on the minor success of 1986’s Troll and helmed by an Italian-speaking crew, Troll 2  serves no connection to its family-fantasy predecessor yet, would develop an unexpected following like no other.  Shot on location in Utah and utilizing local talent, Troll 2, partly plagued by communication breakdowns between cast and crew, is a nonsensical disaster that welcomes more unintended laughter than genuine scares.  Substituting trolls for goblins and witches, the film’s poorly designed monster effects and stilted acting of its inexperienced performers demands how a film of such hilariously poor quality could be crafted.  Traveling to the not so cleverly named town of Nilbog, a vacationing family find themselves encouraged to eat brightly colored green food in order for the local goblin community to better feast upon their flesh.  Young Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson, Beyond Darkness), aided by the spirit of his deceased grandfather, must protect his family at all costs by urinating on their tainted food or devouring a double-stacked bologna sandwich to ward off the vegan-preferred goblins.  Horribly received upon its short-lived release and embarrassingly repressed by most of its creators, Troll 2 would be resurrected as one of the most infamous “bad” movies of all time where it has garnered massive appreciation by devoted cult cinema aficionados.  Uncontrollably funny and reeking of poor quality, Troll 2 remains one of the most entertaining romps for fans of “so bad, they’re good” cinema.  

    Scream Factory presents both Troll and Troll 2 with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Possessing filmic levels of grain, the original film’s moments of effects work can become noticeably more grainy while, skin tones are generally pleasing and detail nicely brings out the impressive creature designs of John Carl Buechler.  Meanwhile, its sequel appears in slightly better condition, sharing the same appearance as its previous Blu-ray release by MGM in 2010.  Clarity is sharp with the film’s brightly colored emphasis on green liquid popping nicely while, detail in the less than effective monster effects pleases with skin tones of the human cast appearing quite naturally.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well handled and prominently prioritized while, sound effects and the sequel’s oddly contrasting synth soundtrack delivers excellent depth.  Special features include, a typically great Scream Factory featurette with Troll Empire: The Making of Troll (50:07) featuring new interviews with Producer Charles Band, Director John Carl Buechler, Writer Ed Naha and many more.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (2:47) and a Photo Gallery (1:27) are included.  Furthermore, its sequel arrives with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Actors George Hardy & Deborah Reed and its Theatrical Trailer (2:21).  Finally, included on DVD, albeit only the first 5,000 units of the release, is 2010’s Best Worst Movie.  Helmed by Troll 2’s Michael Stephenson, this heartfelt and enthralling documentary takes a retrospective look at the disaster of Troll 2 with interviews from its cast and its delusional director Claudio Fragasso who still hails the film as a work of quality.

    Providing viewers with a double dose of fantasy-filled scares and unintended comedy, Scream Factory’s packaging of Director John Carl Buechler’s low-budget charmer with its misleadingly titled catastrophe of a sequel make for solid inclusions into the labels eclectic lineup.  Joined by the wonderfully conceived documentary Best Worst Movie and other newly produced bonus features, this collection of cult favorites is one worth being afraid of for all the right reasons.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Troll / Troll 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991) Blu-ray Review

    Mannequin Two: On the Move (1991)

    Director: Stewart Raffill

    Starring: Kristy Swanson, William Ragsdale, Terry Kiser, Stuart Pankin & Meshach Taylor

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off a thousand years in the past where beautiful peasant girl Jessie (Kristy Swanson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is placed under a wicked freezing spell by an evil sorcerer, Mannequin Two: On the Move switches gears to present day Philadelphia where trainee Jason Williamson (William Ragsdale, Fright Night) aides the newly promoted Hollywood Montrose (Meshach Taylor, Mannequin) of Prince & Company to prep for a new enchanted display.  Following the removal of a female mannequins shimmering necklace, Jessie is awoken to rekindle her love for Jason who wooed her in a former life.  With the evil sorcerer’s descendant Count Gunther Spretzle (Terry Kiser, Weekend at Bernie’s) determined to recapture the peasant girl for his own purposes, Jessie and Jason’s love must overpower all to evade harm.  Far sillier than its predecessor, Mannequin Two: On the Move takes its already fantastically cheesy concept to new heights incorporating sorcery, muscle-bound meatheads and miniaturized race car pursuits through a department store.  Welcoming the return of the fabulously flamboyant Hollywood Montrose, the memorably retro cast from its previous outing are absent while, newcomers Ragsdale and the stunningly attractive Swanson provide fun screen chemistry amongst neon-lit dance clubs and partaking in Phillie staple cheesesteaks.  In addition, Terry Kiser unstoppably hams it up as the dreaded Count with a wacky accent and a hilariously long mole hair.  Scripted by no less than four writers, this higher-budgeted followup failed miserably at the box-office to replicate its originator’s financial success, marking it the final film for its production company Gladden Entertainment.  Recycling Starship’s Academy Award nominated hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” over its end credits, Mannequin Two: On the Move is unquestionably inferior yet, playfully gaudy.  Assuredly predictable, Director Stewart Raffill's (The Ice Pirates, Mac and Me) sequel spares several laughs courtesy of Taylor’s colorful performance but, ultimately fails to capture the charms of its previous effort.

    Olive Films presents Mannequin Two: On the Move with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Containing instances of speckles and softness due its noticeably dated appearance, skin tones remain generally warm and pleasing while, the brightly defined colors of its costume choices and exterior greenery pop appropriately.  Although detail can appear mediocre at times, its natural film grain remains intact throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently placed with dance club sequences and Starship’s synth-heavy tune during the finale registering with greater authority.  Unsurprisingly, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Mannequin Two: On the Move can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Robot Jox (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Robot Jox (1990)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Danny Kamekona & Michael Alldredge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), Robot Jox takes place in a futuristic world where wars are outlawed and international differences are settled via human-controlled robot battles.  When a catastrophic disaster strikes an integral match, the undefeated warrior Achilles (Gary Graham, Alien Nation) must decide to either retire or face off against his reckless nemesis Alexander (Paul Koslo, The Omega Man) once more.  Anne-Marie Johnson (In the Heat of the Night), Danny Kamekona (The Karate Kid, Part II) and Michael Alldredge (The Entity) co-star.

    Continuing their successful working relationship, Director Stuart Gordon and Charles Band’s Empire Pictures would seek to recapture the Kaiju entertainment of yesteryear with their post-apocalyptic tale of giant robots.  Years after a nuclear holocaust decimates the planet, war has been ostracized with international disputes settled via bot vs. bot battles.  With fan favorite pilot Achilles (Graham) embarking on his final fight against Alexander (Koslo), tensions are running high to maintain control of Alaska.  Supported by the guidance of Dr. Matsumoto (Kamekona) and mentor Tex Conway (Alldredge), Achilles heroically attempts to protect civilians from a missile only for his robot to topple and crush hundreds.  Overwhelmed with guilt and the judges ordering a rematch, Achilles finds no reason to continue his career as a robot jox.  When the genetically created Athena (Johnson) is selected as Achilles’ replacement, a web of conspiracy and betrayal is exposed prompting Achilles to redeem himself and defeat Alexander once and for all.  Deemed the most expensive film produced by Empire Pictures, Robot Jox ultimately suffers from an unstable tone that can never decide what it wants to be.  Unsurprisingly, Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Joe Haldeman consistently clashed over the film’s direction resulting in a mishmash of kid-friendly shenanigans and overly serious moments.  While the stop-motion techniques used to create the robot battles are engaging, they are far and few between to keep interest afloat.  Wrapping production in 1987, Robot Jox would gather dust as Empire Pictures confronted bankruptcy woes before being released to unfavorable notices and disappointing box-office returns in 1990.  Developing a minor cult following in the years since its release, Robot Jox is a bland effort that greatly pales in comparison to Gordon’s Lovecraftian excursions.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory presents Robot Jox with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a filmic appearance, minor flakes and speckles are not uncommon while skin tones are warm and lifelike.  Understandably, the robot battle sequences project a slightly softer focus with bright colors found in the robot jox’s red uniforms popping beautifully.  Nicely detailed and natural looking, Robot Jox has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue is audible if not slightly underwhelming at times while the clashing of metal and laser blasts give more depth to their battle sequences.  Serviceable but far from stupendous, Robot Jox sounds as good as can be expected.  Meanwhile, special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon plus, a new Audio Commentary with Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rapport and Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel.  In addition, A Look Back at Robot Jox with Paul Koslo (10:14) finds the film’s antagonist reminiscing about the experience and his co-stars while, Archival Interviews with Director Stuart Gordon (7:27), Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (7:57), Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (7:14), Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (7:48), Animation & Visual Effects’ Chris Endicott & Mark McGee (9:29) are also included.  Lastly, Behind the Scenes Footage (14:16), a Theatrical Trailer (1:25), TV Spot (0:31), Still Galleries for On Location (7:00) and Illustrations (3:40) plus, a Reversible Cover Art round out the generous supplements.

    Well intended but, falling short of expectations, Robot Jox suffers from a scatterbrained tone and minimal robot battles that regrettably only bookend the film.  While Director Stuart Gordon’s futuristic opus of robowars has its admirers, Robot Jox remains one of his weakest efforts.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presents the film with an excellent transfer, adequate sound and a sizable assortment of new and vintage special features for this non-Collector’s Edition release.  Although meant to battle to the death, Robot Jox ends in a draw with its film disappointing but, its presentation satisfying.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Robot Jox can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Thrashin' (1986) / Johnny Be Good (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Thrashin‘ (1986) / Johnny Be Good (1988)

    Director(s): David Winters / Bud Smith

    Starring: Josh Brolin, Robert Rusler, Pamela Gidley & Sherilyn Fenn / Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr., Paul Gleason & Uma Thurman

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Riding the retro waves, Olive Films presents two bodacious favorites from the 1980s.  Starring Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men) as competing skater Corey Webster, Thrashin’ finds the hotshot California kid, along with his posse of Ramp Locals, heading to Los Angeles for the intense downhill skating competition.  Along the way, Corey falls for the gorgeous Chrissy (Pamela Gidley, Cherry 2000) and butts heads with rival skate gang, The Daggers.  Robert Rusler (Weird Science), Brooke McCarter (The Lost Boys), Chuck McCann (DuckTales) and Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) co-star.  Next up, Johnny Be Good stars Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles) as high school quarterback Johnny Walker.  Sought out by the country’s top colleges, Johnny is torn between lucrative offers or joining his girlfriend to pursue a well-rounded education.  Navigating difficult decisions, Johnny finds himself in countless comedic situations.  Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) co-star  

    Cashing in on the thriving popularity of skateboarding, Thrashin’ centers on ambitious teenager Corey Webster (Brolin) as he heads to Los Angeles to compete in the downhill skating competition with hopes of being sponsored by a successful skate company.  Joined by his pals The Ramp Locals, Corey grinds and kickflips his way into the heart of the gorgeous Chrissy (Gidley) who’s visiting her older brother, Tommy Hook (Rusler), and leader of rival skategang, The Daggers.  Determined to win the downhill race and fuming over his sister’s new romance, Tommy and Corey’s rivalry intensifies.  Infamously known for casting Johnny Depp in the lead role, along with then girlfriend Sherilyn Fenn, before being rejected by the producer, Thrashin‘s plot may be paint by numbers but, knows how to have fun within its simplicities.  Highlighting early appearances from iconic skaters including, Tony Hawk and Christian Hosoi, along with a musical performance from the up and coming Red Hot Chili Peppers, the film serves as a charming time capsule of California hotspots during the decadent decade.  With much of the film capturing exciting skate sequences, other memorable moments include a hilarious jousting scene between Corey and Tommy that is as ridiculous as it sounds and Rusler’s Tommy negatively informing break dancers that “breakin‘ is a memory”.  While its teenage underdog tale is as predictable as it comes, Thrashin‘ delights with its flashy style and remains a cinematic document for skate culture during its transition into the mainstream.

    Marking his sole directing effort, veteran editor Bud Smith (Cruising, The Karate Kid) finds Anthony Michael Hall continuing to stretch beyond the geekier roles that ushered him to prominence.  High school football prospect Johnny Walker (Hall) is being courted by every desirable university in the country while juggling with his desire for top dollars and his loyalty to girlfriend Georgia (Thurman).  Complimented by teen flick favorites Paul Gleason (She’s Having a Baby) and Robert Downey Jr. (Tuff Turf), Johnny Be Good ultimately suffers from a dull storyline that lacks any sizable laughs.  Previously serving as a solid supporting player in Weird Science and Back to School, Downey Jr.’s attempts at comedic relief crash and burn while, his chemistry with Hall is nonexistent.  As Johnny travels the country visiting different potential universities, the intended debauchery that ensues is poorly constructed and a bore.  With limited screen time, Uma Thurman’s turn as Johnny’s girlfriend Georgia feels forced and does little to provide an engaging romance between the characters.  Reaching its end zone in a rather obvious manner, Johnny Be Good is as underwhelming as it comes with Hall arguably turning in his most forgettable performance of the decade.  

    Olive Films presents both Thrashin‘ and Johnny Be Good with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Boasting filmic layers of grain, skin tones are refreshingly natural while bolder colors found in Thrashin‘s skateboarding attire and Johnny Be Good’s football uniforms pop nicely.  Flakes and speckles are minimally displayed with Thrashin‘ boasting slightly more during more intense skating sequences.  Meanwhile, black levels are displayed clearly with no intruding levels of crush.  Unquestionably, both films have never looked better!  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films project dialogue richly while soundtrack selections offer a mild, slightly underwhelming, boost in authority.  No special features are included on either release.

    Turning back the clock to the fun-loving 1980s, Olive Films upgrades two efforts centering on skateboarders and jocks respectively.  Spotlighting the sunny avenues of Los Angeles, Thrashin‘ is a brightly colored snapshot of skate culture’s rise to popularity. Equally fun and cheesy, the Josh Brolin-starrer is a blast from the past that is built on adrenaline and fun.  Unfortunately, Johnny Be Good is a lackluster effort with bland characters, zero laughs and Anthony Michael Hall phoning in one of his weakest performances.  With the exception of ditching Thrashin’s previously available supplements, Olive Films ushers both films on high-definition with pleasing results that rank highly over past releases.

    Thrashin‘ RATING: 4/5

    Johnny Be Good RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Thrashin‘ and Johnny Be Good can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Scarecrows (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Scarecrows (1988)

    Director: William Wesley

    Starring: Ted Vernon, Michael Simms & Richard Vidan

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Centering on a band of ex-military criminals, Scarecrows finds the team pulling off a multi-million dollar heist and boarding a getaway plane for Mexico.  Taking hostage a civilian pilot and his teenage daughter, one of their own betrays the group leading to a ground search through a desolate area of farmland.  As night sets in, the heavily armed group find themselves confronted with a nightmarish array of deadly scarecrows.

    Blending the realms of action and horror seemed a novel idea during a decade of much testosterone-induced debauchery.  Unfortunately, Scarecrows never rises above its unique concept to be anything more than mediocre.  Substituting horny teenagers for military criminals, a betrayal by one to keep millions for himself sends his former cronies hunting for him in backwoods country, eerily surrounded by a heavy dose of scarecrows.  Armed to the teeth and with an innocent pilot’s daughter held hostage, the criminals set their new course to locate their backstabber and reclaim their fortune.  While the scarecrow designs, compliments of Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera (Drag Me to Hell) are impressive, the film dawdles for most of its runtime following the criminals’ endless hunt while genuine scares and thrills are kept to a bare minimum.  Admittedly, chemistry between the thugs is apparent and lends itself to moments of humor while machine gun shootouts are plentiful in this unlikely hybrid.  With its true horror colors reserved for its final act where the haunting antagonists finally take center stage, Scarecrows makes a valiant attempt to test new waters but, ultimately suffers from bland characters and overly emphasizing one subgenre over another leading to an uneven tone.

    Scream Factory presents Scarecrows with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Although shrouded in darkness, black levels appear welcomingly inky with no crushing levels even if visibility, attributed to the dimly lit production, isn’t always ideal.  In addition, detail shines through most effectively in Cabrera’s scarecrow designs with skin tones generally pleasing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible with moments of gunfire and Composer Terry Plumeri’s (Sometimes They Come Back) chilling score registering nicely.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  Stuffed like hay, Scarecrows arrives with a plentiful selection of special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director William Wesley & Producer Cami Winikoff, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter Richard Jeffries, Director of Photography Peter Deming & Composer Terry Plumeri.  In addition, The Last Straw with Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera (16:35) finds Cabrera recalling the nonprofessional learning ground the production was for him while, Cornfield Commando with Actor Ted Vernon (8:46) finds the mustached musclemen warmly looking back on his role in the film.  Finally, Original Storyboards (3:48), a Still Gallery (60 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:32) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s supplements.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scarecrows holds a charm for those won over by its action-horror hybrid approach.  While impressing with its make-up designs and awarded for its attempted originality, Scarecrows ultimately procrastinates for much of its run time ditching suspense and scares until its final fleeting act.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s efforts shine with a pleasing technical presentation and a generous helping of quality special features sure to please dedicated fans of this scarecrow stalking cocktail.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Scarecrows can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Invaders from Mars (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Invaders from Mars (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Louise Fletcher & James Karen

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Funhouse) Invaders from Mars centers on space obsessed David Gardener (Hunter Carson, Paris, Texas) who witnesses the landing of alien beings in his backyard.  As the invaders begin taking control of his parents and schoolmates, David must find a way to convince those unaffected of the truth before the entire human race is doomed.  Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses), Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), Laraine Newman (Problem Child 2), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) co-star.

    Sandwiched between his two other Cannon Films collaborations, Lifeforce and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, Director Tobe Hooper’s contemporary remake of the 1953 sci-fi favorite takes full advantage of modern movie magic while, sticking closely to its predecessors blueprints.  Once again told from a child’s point of a view, David Gardener (Carson) is startled to discover the arrival of martians over the hill from his house.  Overwhelmed with fear, David can hardly make sense of what he’s witnessed until his parents fall under the control of the invaders.  Recognizing a scar on the neck’s of those infected, David finds little help at school where his strict teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Fletcher) and fellow classmates have also fallen prey.  By chance, David finds solace in the school nurse, Linda Magnusson (played by Carson’s real-life mother, Karen Black), who finds David’s story horrifyingly true, leading the unlikely duo to seek help.  Relying on the U.S. Marines, headed by General Climet Wilson (James Karen), David and Linda find themselves in the threshold of an underground nightmare where the martians reside.  With time wearing thin and various creatures in their way, the military must use all their might to withstand a worldwide takeover.

    Relying too strongly on the original’s plot and set pieces, Invaders from Mars suffers from never reveling in its 1980s environment therefore, losing a strong sense of personal identity.  In addition, although littered with Academy Award-winning talent and cult icons,  the performances fail to leave a lasting impression on the viewer.  Produced in the heyday of special effects wizardry, Invaders from Mars excels with effective visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars) and exceptional creature designs by the late Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day).  A box-office disappointment better appreciated decades later, Invaders from Mars redresses a mediocre film while, not faring much better due to its lack of risks.  With standout special effects and inherent campiness, Invaders from Mars has its moments but, never manages to fully brainwash earthlings as one would hope.

    Scream Factory presents Invaders from Mars with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying generally warm, if not slightly soft, skin tones, Director Tobe Hooper’s sci-fi remake satisfies with bold colors in wardrobe choices and gooey detail captured in the various creature designs.  Instances of flakes and speckles occur during more dimly lit sequences including, but not limited to, David and Linda evading the martians in the school boiler room.  Generally strong looking, Invaders from Mars makes a satisfying leap to high-definition.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Invaders from Mars relays audible dialogue levels but, registers lower than anticipated prompting several increases in volume.  More climatic sequences of explosions and gunfire fare better but, never overly impress.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Accompanied with a generous supply of supplements, Scream Factory presents a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper while, Red Shirt Pictures delivers The Martians Are Coming!: The Making of Invaders of Mars (36:33) with in-depth interviews from Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Effects Artists Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale and Composer Christopher Young with Gillis and Crognale’s onset memories heavily focused on.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (1:28), TV Spot (0:32), Original Production Illustration Gallery with Commentary from Artist William Stout (14:03), Original Storyboards (4:16), Still Gallery (24 in total) and reversible cover art round out the special features.

    Intended for children but failing to capture a box-office audience, Invaders from Mars would be heavily digested on subsequent television airings and home entertainment to carve out its cult appeal.  Laced with a conscience campiness and some marvelous effects work, Director Tobe Hooper’s homage to a childhood favorite feels far too familiar to be overly praised.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stats easily trump previous releases with its assortment of special features being the disc highlight.  While it may be Hooper’s weakest entry in his unofficial Cannon Films trilogy, Invaders from Mars will most assuredly charm viewers who grew up with this B-movie effort from another planet.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 7th from Scream Factory, Invaders from Mars can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Dangerously Close (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dangerously Close (1986)

    Director: Albert Pyun

    Starring: John Stockwell, Carey Lowell, Madison Mason, Bradford Bancroft & J. Eddie Peck

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Albert Pyun (Cyborg), Dangerously Close focuses on The Sentinels, the self-proclaimed teenage guardians of their high school.  Weeding out those they deem unfit, their gang-like activity is questioned after a student winds up dead.  When the school newspaper editor, Donny Lennox (J. Eddie Peck, The Young and the Restless), seeks the truth, The Sentinels up their aggressive ante to a whole new level.  John Stockwell (Christine), Carey Lowell (Law & Order), Madison Mason (Dreamscape), Bradford Bancroft (3:15) and Dedee Pfeiffer (The Horror Show) co-star.

    While, Cannon Films found their way into every niche genre imaginable during the 1980s, the teen crime film was far and few between for the low-budget titan.  Marking only his third feature after The Sword and the Sorcerer and Radioactive Dreams, Director Albert Pyun makes his Cannon debut with a relatively grounded story about a gang of jocks who deliver “safety” and swift justice to fellow high school students they view as insignificant.  In what would be perceived as the squarest club to be apart of, The Sentinels take their narc-like position very seriously and are constantly at odds with the burnouts and punks of their class who ridicule them for their Nazi-like behavior.  On the surface, protecting the school from graffiti and theft appears noble but, when The Sentinels take unkindly to those who oppose them, over the top pranks turn into actual murder.  Level-headed and intelligent school paper editor, Donny Lennox (Peck), is willing to better understand The Sentinels and is invited into their pack only to be at odds with his mohawk-toting best friend Krooger (Bancroft).  Before long, Donny finds himself deep in the thicket of something sinister resulting in a full blown murder investigation and the disappearance of Krooger.  Donny knows that he must get to the bottom of The Sentinels plans and uncover the truth before he’s next on the chopping block.

    About as exploitative as an episode of 21 Jump Street, Dangerously Close manages to deliver earnest performances from its young cast but, lacks the juicier elements one expects from a production bearing the mark of Cannon.  Meanwhile, horror enthusiasts will be delighted to catch minor appearances from Thom Mathews (The Return of the Living Dead), Miguel A. Núñez Jr. (Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning) and Robert Rusler (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge).  The inclusion of punkish characters and Krooger’s ridiculous Knight Rider-esque car make for fun eye candy although, the film suffers to find a stable footing midway through its runtime.  As Donny teams up with Julie (Lowell), a fellow Sentinels girlfriend, to reveal the true culprit behind the shady doings at their high school, a hilarious albeit, played totally straight, battle incorporating paintball guns and firecrackers ensues.  Bolstering a righteous 80s soundtrack including, hits from Robert Palmer, Fine Young Cannibals and The Smithereens, Dangerously Close isn’t quite the knockout one would hope but, still manages to be a decent Cannon foray centering on high school hooligans.

    Olive Films presents Dangerously Close with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  To viewers‘ delight, this lower-budgeted affair shines in high-definition with natural skin tones and bold colors that pop most effectively.  Detail is rather striking in closeups of The Sentinels painted faces during their “hunting” sequences while, black levels ring decently with slight murkiness appearing at times.  Minimal flaking in its transfer aside, Dangerously Close delivers with a relatively clean and surprisingly rich looking presentation.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Dangerously Close relays dialogue with reasonable authority with some moments requiring a slight raise in volume.  The 80s pop-rock soundtrack delivers with better authority while, the mix overall never suffers from any hiss or other audio distortion.  Finally, the sole special feature included is the Theatrical Trailer (1:33).

    With an enticing plot and a radical soundtrack, Dangerously Close forgets to entertain in its second half with uneventful sequences and a rather underwhelming finale.  Released during a storm of rebellious teen flicks, Dangerously Close settles somewhere in the middle for a film that should have been much more under the shield of Cannon Films.  Thankfully, Olive Films delivers with a wonderful transfer that should easily appease the most dedicated of Pyun fanboys.  Scant on special features, worshippers of the church of Cannon won’t bat an eyelash adding this tale of teenage trouble into their high-definition libraries.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Dangerously Close can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • New Year's Evil (1980) Blu-ray Review

    New Year’s Evil (1980)

    Director: Emmett Alston

    Starring: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, Louisa Moritz & Teri Copley

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Taking place on the hardest partying evening of the year, New Year’s Evil focuses on Diane “Blaze” Sullivan (Roz Kelly, Happy Days), the host of a televised punk/new wave show, who’s receiving eerie phone calls from a mysterious killer.  As the night lingers, murders are committed as each time zone in America brings in the new year, with the killer inching closer to Diane.  Kip Niven (Magnum Force), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), Louisa Moritz (The Last American Virgin), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy of Terror) and Teri Copley (Transylvania Twist) co-star.

    Marking one of the earliest efforts for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus‘ The Cannon Group, New Year’s Evil continues the holiday-themed slasher trend kickstarted by John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Set amongst the punk music scene of Hollywood, New Year’s Evil attempts to turn the formula of a masked killer on its head by showcasing its culprit early on.  As sexy music emcee, Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, hosts her own televised new year’s event, a mysterious caller promising to off victims as each time zone strikes midnight, leaves Diane chilled.  Using a voice modulator and adorning several different costumes, the killer’s unknown, albeit relatively obvious, connection to Diane is the driving force of the film.  Conflicted with fear and all but oblivious to her withdrawn son (Cramer) who suffers from severe headaches, Diane agrees to go on with the show in hopes of luring the maniac out in the open.  A bonafide time capsule of 1980, New Year’s Evil makes great use of its rock show setting with youthful punks and live music from Shadow, who perform the constantly recycled title track.  While, light on its body count, New Year’s Evil offers enjoyable performances from its main cast and a series of notable locations our killer stalks including, a drive-in movie theater hosting an all-night horrothon and a mental sanitarium.  

    Far from perfect and almost always predictable, New Year’s Evil still offers a charming energy that plays to its nostalgic time period and holiday cash-in title.  An unabashed favorite that attempts to differ from its fellow slashers, New Year’s Evil entertains, both intentionally and unintentionally, with its punk sensibilities and campy, neon-lit, atmosphere.  Featuring notable cult stars and a bitchin‘ retro soundtrack, New Year’s Evil serves well as a prime candidate for fun, late-night slasher consumption.

    Previously released on DVD-R as part of MGM’s Limited Edition MOD program, Scream Factory presents New Year’s Evil with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor, barely noticeable aging artifacts, the transfer impresses with a clean appearance, natural skin tones and remarkable detail in close-ups.  In addition, colors pop nicely from Diane’s glittering dress to the neon lights shining on the live rock bands.  Black levels are handled well with appreciable visibility that improves over its previous release.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, New Year’s Evil offers crisp dialogue levels with no distorting interference.  While, not overly impressive, music packs a noticeable punch with more climatic sequences offering an additional edge within its limited constraints.  Special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Emmett Alston, moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red DVD.  Although, plagued with its fair share of dry spells, Alston offers notable anecdotes from the making of the film including, its tight budget and speedy 18 day shooting schedule.  In addition, Aine Leicht (Ginger Snaps, Without Warning) once again provides slasher enthusiasts with another detailed retrospective featurette with Call Me Eeevil...  The Making of New Year’s Evil (37:16).  This lengthy look back includes new interviews with Actors Kip Naven, Grant Cramer, Taaffee O’Connell and Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman discussing their unique involvements with the film.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and reversible cover art round out the supplemental offerings.

    Joining the ranks of other calendar dated slashers including, Halloween and Friday the 13th, New Year’s Evil may fall below the iconic status of its originators but, still casts an identifiable charm for fans with a penchant for its heavy 80s tone.  Littered with punk rockers, gaudy new wave makeup and cheesy tunes, New Year’s Evil offers plenty of slasher staples to keep fans satisfied while, also injecting its own subtle twists for good measure.  Sandwiched between the release of fellow Cannon Film Group slashers, 1980’s Schizoid and 1981‘s Hospital Massacre, New Year’s Evil is an entertaining romp that although, doesn’t pack an overwhelming body count, makes up for in its unrelenting retro atmosphere and willingness to be unique on its limited budget.  Scream Factory’s high-definition treatment is a treasure, offering the film in its best presentation to date with an overly generous supply of bonus content for likeminded fans.  A personal favorite and a proud member of the unofficial holiday slashers collection, New Year’s Evil delights with its campiness and will most assuredly, award viewers with an affection for its bygone decade.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, New Year’s Evil can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Road to Hong Kong (1962) Blu-ray Review

    The Road to Hong Kong (1962)

    Director: Norman Panama

    Starring: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope & Joan Collins

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the final installment in the popular Road pictures, The Road to Hong Kong reteams the talented duo of Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn) and Bob Hope (The Cat and the Canary) this time as Harry Turner (Crosby) and Chester Babcock (Hope).  As they set their sights on their latest scheme, Chester encounters memory issues.  After coming into contact with a miracle drug, Chester memorizes a highly desired top-secret formula making the team wanted by some very unfavorable fellows and within the company of the gorgeously alluring spy, Diane (Joan Collins, Dynasty).  Featuring several cameos including, Road pictures alumni Dorothy Lamour, The Road to Hong Kong continues the gags and giggles tradition audiences have come to expect from previous entries.  

    After a decade long absence, Crosby and Hope would return to their beloved franchise filled with minimal plots and maximum gags.  Fearing series regular Dorothy Lamour was too old to return as a leading lady (Lamour was 48 at the time, compared to her 59 year-old co-stars), Crosby insisted on the younger Joan Collins as her replacement.  Meanwhile, Hope’s loyalty and refusal to do the film without her would lead to Lamour’s extended cameo appearance in this series farewell.  Maintaining its well-established mashup of genres and improvisational bravado, The Road to Hong Kong is as silly as it gets with the aging Crosby and Hope appearing as fraud artists who come into possession of a secret rocket formula.  After recovering from an injury, Chester’s memory is scattered leading the scammers to a Tibetan temple where a miracle drug is administered granting Chester a photographic memory.  Before disposing of the written formula, Chester memorizes its contents making the unlikely duo wanted by an evil spy organization.  Pursued by the beautiful spy Diane, who finds herself involved in a love triangle between the two partners, Harry is driven to turn their misfortune into a profitable one.  Filmed at Shepperton Studios in England and shot in black and white to preserve the series’ integrity, The Road to Hong Kong throws everything and the kitchen sink at its viewer including, song and dances, espionage, slapstick comedy and space travel.  Crosby and Hope’s chemistry is still firmly intact with Hope relying on tried and true gags such as breaking the fourth wall to receive assistance from the special effects team to elude danger.  Plus, Lamour’s extended cameo that includes a song with her former co-stars, makes a laughable passing comment regarding the critics’ view of the film’s plot.   

    While, its quality compared to previous installments is subjective, The Road to Hong Kong is an absolute gas that was oddly ahead of its time, parodying spy movies before the James Bond franchise would popularize the genre.  Scattered with hilarious cameos from Peter Sellers and fellow “Rat Packers” Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, this series finale is an enjoyable romp that while, not nearly as critically appreciated as its Paramount predecessors, still entertains with its over the top shenanigans from its aging  headliners.  

    Olive Films presents The Road to Hong Kong with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor vertical lines, scant scuffs and rougher-looking stock footage, The Road to Hong Kong marvels with an overwhelmingly clean appearance, solid detail and inky black levels allowing viewers to better appreciate  busy Hong Kong backgrounds and Joan Collins‘ jaw-dropping beauty.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, The Road to Hong Kong relays audible dialogue sans distortion or noticeable static.  Finally, the sole special feature included is the original Theatrical Trailer (3:13).

    While, it hardly feels like a definitive conclusion (a proposed sequel, The Road to the Fountain of Youth was scripted in 1977 but, scrapped following Crosby’s death), The Road to Hong Kong manages to conjure its usual array of endless gags and musical numbers much to the delight of fans.  Crosby and Hope, although older, still appear to have a hoot with the material while, Collins injects a welcome youthful presence to a franchise on its final wheel.  Joining her former partners in crime, Dorothy Lamour, and the film’s countless other cameos, give the final Road  picture a memorable sendoff with their appearances.  Marking the only Road installment currently on the format, Olive Films welcomes The Road to Hong Kong to Blu-ray with wonderful technical achievements, awarding the viewer with a satisfying viewing experience.  Containing only the film’s trailer, the quality and hilarity of Crosby and Hope’s final Road outing is well worth hitching a ride with.

    RATING: 4/5    

    Available now from Olive Films, The Road to Hong Kong can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) Blu-ray Review

    The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)

    Director: Norman Jewison

    Starring: Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Winters & Paul Ford

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studios Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on the fictional island of Gloucester off the coast of Massachusetts, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming centers on a Soviet submarine of non-threatening Russians as they run aground near the American island.  Stuck and embarrassed to seek international help, a group of soldiers embark on U.S. soil to locate mechanical assistance, igniting a storm of hilarious panic on the local population.  Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Eva Marie Saint (Grand Prix), Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine), Brian Keith (The Wind and the Lion), Theodore Bikel (The Defiant Ones), Jonathan Winters (The Smurfs) and Paul Ford (The Phil Silvers Show) lead the ensemble cast.

    At the height of Cold War tension and amongst other cinematic wartime responses including The Bedford Incident and Fail-Safe, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming would offer a noticeably more humorous approach to the grim subject.  Based on the novel by Nathaniel Benchley, this satire of wartime worries and Soviet paranoia would headline a charismatic ensemble cast including, Alan Arkin in his film debut and a screenplay from William Rose (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner).  In an instance of art and life coming together, comedic genius Carl Reiner plays vacationing comedy writer Walt Whittaker joined by his loving wife Elspeth (Saint) and their two children.  Soaking in the New England island, an unexpected Soviet submarine, innocently enjoying the American scenery, grounds to a startling halt.  Unable to move, Lieutenant Yuri Rozanov (Arkin), aided by several others, leads a mission to summon local reinforcement to help free them when a series of incidents convince the quiet island’s population that their international enemies have invaded.  Nominated for several Academy Awards, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming follows the local police chief (Keith), along with fellow officer Norman Jonas (Winters), as they attempt to make sense of the fast-traveling news of a Soviet attack.  Meanwhile, the Whittaker’s, aware of the Russians‘ harmless intentions, have little luck improving the situation as hilarious rumor after rumor emerges, increasing the havoc.  As the film follows several groups of characters, as well as highlighting a blooming romance between the Whittaker’s babysitter (Andrea Dromm) and a handsome Russian (John Phillip Law), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming often feels dated, never fully living up to its uproarious reputation.  Comedy icon Carl Reiner as the leading straight man feels vastly underused while, the young Arkin steals the thunder with his uncanny accent and difficulty with the English language.  While, several moments of genuine humor take place, most notably when Reiner and Gloucester’s switchboard operator attempt to escape from Russian capture, the overwhelming lack of music makes most sequences appear drier than intended.

    Notable for shining Russians in a positive light, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming concludes with a heroic display of courage between the local population and their onetime foes sending the film off on a charming note.  Admired for its favorable impact in both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming may not be the most efficient comedy of its kind but, does offer a handful of laughs within its rather lengthy 126 minute runtime that are well worth a shot.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Littered with its fair share of flakes and speckles, colors waver from the satisfying sight of warm skin tones and beautiful exterior shots to the slightly dingy black levels seen in nighttime sequences.  Retaining its natural grain with digital tinkering spared, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming should appease most.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming arrives with dialogue sounding rich and clear while, its brief uses of music and other striking sound effects offer a suitable boost without ever overwhelming.  Special features include a vintage Making-of Featurette hosted by Producer/Director Norman Jewison as he explains the picture’s history in this absorbing watch (23:00) joined by an Original Theatrical Trailer (4:29).

    A critical and commercial hit, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming dares to look into the face of raging war and laugh, side by side with our proposed enemies.  Starring an endlessly talented cast, Director Norman Jewison’s (In the Heat of the Night) wartime parody ultimately suffers from being a dated product of its time and falling short on more laughs than anticipated.  Luckily, Kino Lorber Studio Classics‘ Blu-ray treatment shines with satisfying tech-specs and a worthwhile interview with Jewison.  Worthy of experiencing, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming  contains decent humor but, should not be expected to issue full-blown war on viewers‘ funny bones.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Vampire's Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Vampire’s Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988)

    Director(s): Robert Bierman / Neil Jordan

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso & Jennifer Beals / Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole & Steve Guttenberg

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their exercise in funny frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents yet another high-definition double feature of things that go giggles in the night!  First up, Academy-Award winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in Vampire’s Kiss as womanizing literary agent Peter Loew.  With loneliness invading his life, Peter’s sanity begins to teeter after an encounter with a seductive fanged mistress leaves him thinking he’s turning into a vampire.  As time passes, everyday is a full moon with Peter’s eccentric behavior reaching new heights.  Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2), Elizabeth Ashley (Coma), Kasi Lemmons (Candyman) and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) co-star.  Next up, Peter O’Toole stars as castle-turned-hotel owner Peter Plunkett in High Spirits.  Struck with financial hardships, Plunkett and his faithful employees morph their Irish home into a haunted tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, the hotel guests are unprepared when real ghosts begin appearing, turning their stay into a hilarious holiday.  Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy), Daryl Hannah (Splash), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky), Peter Gallagher (American Beauty) and Liam Neeson (Taken) co-star.       

    Considered a box-office blunder at the time of its release, Vampire’s Kiss has since amassed a cult following most notably for its lead star’s incredibly quirky performance.  Constantly criticized for its lack of plot, Director Robert Bierman’s debut effort is in fact the study of a man’s loneliness and longing for true love that ultimately drives him mad.  Whether audiences choose to recognize this narrative explanation, what can’t be denied is Cage’s oddball performance in all its kooky glory.  Utilizing a distinctly peculiar accent, Cage’s Peter Loew goes through women as quickly as new socks while, maintaining a prestigious job as a literary agent in New York City.  Admittedly lonely and seeking therapy, Loew’s life is altered after a chance encounter with a beautiful woman leaves him with fang bites and a suspicion he’s becoming a vampire.  Professionally acting for nearly 35 years, Cage has amassed a solid body of work although today, noted for his more eccentric and less favorable roles.  Unlike anything before or since, Cage delivers an explosively over the top performance filled with crazy-eyed glares, shouting tangents and absurd body movements allowing him to devour the scenery in every shot.  As his vampiric convictions grow, Loew begins ridiculing a lowly secretary (Maria Conchita Alonso) at his office and purchasing $3.50 plastic fangs to better embrace his transformation.  As Loew’s sanity wavers, the viewer questions the actuality of the film’s events leading to a darkly poetic finale that seals Lowe’s fate as an alleged bloodsucker.  Shot during a less than stellar period in New York City’s history, Director of Photography Stefan Czapsky (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) captures the essence of the metropolis making it feel like a living, breathing character in the film.  Ahead of the curve with its black comedic tone and Cage’s consciously outlandish performance, Vampire’s Kiss will likely still leave audiences divided but, admirers of the thespians more uncontrollable antics will find this late 80s offering priceless.

    From the director of Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, High Spirits is a delightful romp starring some of comedies most recognizable faces of the 1980s and headlined by one of cinema’s most beloved performers.  Incorporating Ireland’s vast folklore, High Spirits takes glorious advantage of its foreign locations, earning itself undeniably rich atmosphere.  As Peter O’Toole’s Peter Plunkett decides to redress his castle into a haunted attraction in order to save it, American tourists arrive but, are none too pleased with Plunkett’s phony shenanigans.  Eventually, actual phantoms appear, unimpressed with their exploitation and determined to give the tourists their money’s worth.  Constantly overruled by his loudmouthed wife (D’Angelo) and enamored with the castle, Jack Crawford (Guttenberg) begins seeing the ghostly, yet beautiful, apparition of Mary Plunkett Brogan (Hannah).  After being murdered at the hands of her husband (Neeson) 200 years prior, Mary’s confining curse is lifted by Jack’s selflessness and mutual attraction, carving out a romantic subplot to the film’s enjoyable narrative.  In addition, up and comers including, Peter Gallagher as a conflicted priest in training, Jennifer Tilly as his flirtatious achilles heel and Martin Ferrero (Jurassic Park) as a ghost debunker all make appearances.  Critically panned and earning Daryl Hannah a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, High Spirits is a hilarious getaway picture where poltergeists are the life of the party.  Reminiscent of Beetlejuice, also released in 1988, High Spirits would fail to ignite the box-office but, was predominately  discovered on late night cable television during HBO and Cinemax’s infancy.  Littered with rewarding visual effects and simple sight gags, High Spirits is an uproarious ghost comedy that’s fun for the whole family.              

    Scream Factory presents both Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits with 1080p transfers, each sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Littered with flakes and occasional lines over its New York City skyline opening title sequence, Vampire’s Kiss quickly improves demonstrating a healthy grain level with warm complexions, rich detail and bold colors seen in bright yellow taxicabs and blood splatters.  Meanwhile, High Spirits presents strong saturation and fine detail in the dimly lit castle setting.  Containing a strong filmic quality, High Spirits suffers only from understandably mild softness during visual effect sequences and barely noticeable speckling. Vibrant and clean, High Spirits certainly aims to please.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Vampire’s Kiss relays dialogue with distinct clarity and offering suitable depth during a loud disco sequence whereas, High Spirits’ rousing score from Composer George Fenton (Gandhi) rocks the mix complimented by its always clear dialogue levelsIn addition, although relatively light on special features, Vampire’s Kiss includes an Audio Commentary with Director Robert Bierman and Star Nicolas Cage ported over from its previous MGM DVD release.  Containing some dry spells, the track is still a worthwhile listen with the two collaborators strolling down memory lane recalling the nonunion shoot causing issues during production and Cage’s intense and at times, difficult, method acting process.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:09) is also included while, High Spirits unfortunately, arrives with zilch.

    Once again trading in their scares for laughs, Scream Factory’s suitable pairing of Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits makes a hauntingly hilarious splash on its viewer.  Nicolas Cage’s extremely eccentric turn as a vampire must be seen to be believed while, the impressive ensemble cast and charming visual effects of High Spirits will leave audiences of all ages with a grin on their face.  Scream Factory’s treatment of these 80s offerings is an admirable one with filmic quality transfers and more than pleasing sound mixes.  While, special features are limited, the thrill of owning these two paranormal retro offerings for the price of one is frighteningly inviting.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th from Scream Factory, Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

    Director: Woody Allen

    Starring: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello & Diane Wiest

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As The Great Depression takes hold of the country, an unhappily married New Jersey waitress (Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby) turns to the magic of the movies for escapism. When her favorite movie star (Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom) emerges from the screen, a charming romance ensues.  Sweet and enchanting, The Purple Rose of Cairo co-stars Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing) and Diane Wiest (Edward Scissorhands).

    Delicately straddling the line between reality and fiction, The Purple Rose of Cairo is a tender love letter to cinema akin to Ed Wood and Matinee.  Critically applauded but, financially stunted at the box-office, Woody Allen’s tragi-comedy speaks to the average day dreamers quietly suffering in their daily lives but, rejuvenated by the alluring glow of the silver screen.  Mia Farrow headlines as Cecilia, an oppressed, overworked wife and waitress, constantly abused by her unfaithful, unemployed husband (intensely portrayed by Danny Aiello).  Cecilia’s escape is at her local movie house where Hollywood’s endless tales transport her to dreamlike states where her favorite actor, Gil Shepherd (Jeff Daniels), melts her heart with his talents and good looks.  Farrow’s wide-eyed, childlike enthusiasm easily relates to those who care deeply for cinema and are as affectionately moved by its sweeping images.  When Shepherd’s latest film, The Purple Rose of Cairo debuts, Cecilia finds herself returning to encore shows only to witness Tom Baxter, Shepherd’s onscreen persona (also played by Daniels), leaping off the screen and entering Cecilia’s reality.  As Baxter lacks real world skills and Cecilia’s desperation to rid herself of her depressing lifestyle becomes clear, the two connect and fall hopelessly in love.  Through all its genuine magic and emotional chemistry perfectly delivered by Farrow and Daniels, Allen injects heaps of playful humor from disgruntled moviegoers less impressed with a movie star stepping through a screen and more concerned with being ripped off.  In addition, Baxter is understandably confused when a working girl (Diane Wiest) invites him to her brothel for an “experimental adventure” leading to an adorably hilarious exchange.  

    As word reaches the Hollywood big shots and Gil Shepherd himself, the pack head to New Jersey to contain the possibility of endless Tom Baxter’s escaping screens.  Genuinely sweet and determined to be more than a supporting actor, Shepherd is quickly taken by Cecilia’s kindness and admiration for his talents.  Before long, Cecilia finds herself in a confusing love triangle where two men, one real, the other fictional, are vying for her love.  As our hearts are invested as much as Cecilia’s, the difficult option of choosing between her fantasies or reality is a heart-rending, bittersweet sendoff that equally delights our imaginations and forces us to confront the imperfect complexities of life.  Delightful and enduring, The Purple Rose of Cairo could very well be Allen’s finest effort and one that wears its adoration for romance and movie magic proudly on its sleeve.

    Twilight Time presents The Purple Rose of Cairo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Gorgeously shot by Cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather), colors, or lack thereof, are relayed nicely while, the transfer bears only minor instances of flakes and speckles.  Closeups aren’t drastically sharp but do offer suitable detail that appease.  Overall, The Purple Rose of Cairo maintains a natural, filmic appearance that delivers considerably.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, The Purple Rose of Cairo projects clear dialogue with no issues to speak of.  Expectedly, the mix never charges with much authority but, does offer an appreciated boost with the loud horn section at the Copacabana.  Relatively light, special features included are an Isolated Score Track, Original Theatrical Trailer (1:37), MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06) and a 6-page booklet bearing stills from the film and another spot-on analysis and appreciation for the film from Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo.

    Remarkably acted and achingly moving, The Purple Rose of Cairo speaks to the dreamers whisked away to exotic lands of adventure and romance from the unspooling of film reels.  Farrow and Daniels could hardly be more perfect with their intoxicating chemistry and Allen’s witty handling of dialogue carving out the film’s optimal quality.  Twilight Time delivers Allen’s 1985 gem with a filmic video appearance and fitting sound mix while, special features unfortunately fall on the lighter side, Julie Kirgo’s latest essay is as always, enriching.  Breezy at only 82 minutes, The Purple Rose of Cairo is essential viewing for anyone swept away by the magic of movies and the enchanting spell they cast.  Fade out.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now in a limited edition of 3,000 units, The Purple Rose of Cairo can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Dolls (1987) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Dolls (1987)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams & Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the bowels of Empire Pictures‘ vast library, Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) puppeteers a dark fantasy of pint-sized playmates with a sinister side.  Executive Produced by Charles Band (Ghoulies, Crawlspace), Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Dolls Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Adorned with plentiful bonus content and newly designed cover art by Nathan Thomas Milliner, Dolls is bone-chilling fun.  

    After a violent storm derails their travels, a precocious little girl and her mean-spirited parents seek shelter at a gothic mansion.  Home to an elderly couple of doll makers, a childlike salesman and two punk-rockers also find their way to the gloomy residence to avoid the harsh weather.  Littered with countless hand-carved toys, something foreboding awaits in the shadows of this ominous home for those causing mischief.  Stephen Lee (Robocop 2), Guy Rolfe (Mr. Sardonicus), Hilary Mason (Don’t Look Now), Ian Patrick Williams (TerrorVision), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Robot Jox) and Carrie Lorraine (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) star.

    MOVIE:

    Lacking the excessive gore of Gordon’s Lovecraftian efforts, Dolls works beautifully as a dark rooted fairy tale with an important comment on childhood.  Serving up tried and true horror tropes including a haunted house, brutal thunderstorms and eerie characters, Dolls feels removed from the bloody decadence of other 1980s offerings.  The talented cast hit all their marks with Guy Rolfe as the kind and equally menacing doll maker injecting an added touch of class to the film.  In addition, the late Stephen Lee shines as the youthful salesman Ralph who is conflicted with embracing his childhood.  Lee conjures up wonderful pathos when reminiscing about his boyhood toys and his late father’s jovial spirit.  Carrie Lorraine does well as the imaginative little girl Judy, who forms a bond with Ralph and the magical yet, deadly dolls.  Shot entirely on Italian sound stages, Dolls offers up wildly effective production design with a decrepit manor hosting the film’s entire tale.  No stranger to recycling their efforts, Empire Pictures would redress the set for use in Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond.  

    Clocking in under 80 minutes, Dolls‘ breezy runtime allows its simple narrative to be told without sacrifice.  Characters are nicely developed and tedious stop-motion animation brings to life the deadly playmates with wonderful results.  Bloody when necessary, Dolls never loses sight of its horror genre label but, is best remembered for its classically gothic tone, soaked in fairy tale lore.  Produced by Brian Yuzna (Society) with a screenplay by Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Dolls predates the short statured slayings of Child’s Play and Puppetmaster while, capturing a spirit of horror from a bygone era.  Suspenseful and humorous, Dolls is an Empire Pictures highlight and stands as one of Gordon’s finest directorial achievements.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Dolls arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor flakes and speckles popping up occasionally and a slight softness during stop-motion sequences, Dolls is a delight in high-definition.  Boasting natural and nicely detailed skin tones, colors pop wonderfully in wardrobe and the various outfits of the highly decorated dolls.  Shrouded in darkness and candle light, black levels are a marvel with no crushing on display and rich visibility observed.  Simply put, Dolls makes a stunning splash with its Blu-ray debut!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Dolls has minor difficulties early on maintaining high dialogue levels.  Luckily, the mix quickly improves allowing speech to flourish with clarity and no other intrusions.  Fuzzbee Morse’s (Ghoulies II) music injects a synth-heavy, jack in the box composition that arrives robustly and further cements the film’s dark fairy tale tone.  Effectively balanced with only brief anomalies, Dolls is a satisfying listening experience.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been provided.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon & Writer Ed Naha: Ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Audio Commentary with Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams: Also ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls (38:22): Red Shirt Pictures presents this detailed retrospective covering Empire Pictures‘ early theatrical releases, their success in the home video market and the lengthy animation techniques utilized in accomplishing Dolls‘ creepier moments.  Executive Producer Charles Band, Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Writer Ed Naha as well as, Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ian Patrick Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gabe Bartalos and John Vulich all offer their insights on this thorough look back on Dolls, dedicated to the memory of the late Stephen Lee.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    • Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (8:21): Three scenes, Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive and Punch’s Little Secret are presented.

    • Still Gallery: 50 in total.

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise and Sleepaway Camp.

    • Reversible cover art: Bearing the memorable VHS artwork of a doll holding its eyeballs.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Kickstarting Executive Producer Charles Band’s obsession with pint-sized killers, Dolls is an effectively dark fairy tale surrounded by gothic horror movie set pieces.  Classier than most summer camp slasher offerings at the time, Dolls is an entertaining romp of haunted house thrills and things that go bump in the night.  Headlined by a memorable cast and painstaking animation techniques, Writer Ed Naha and Director Stuart Gordon’s tale of terrorizing toys remains an Empire Pictures standout.  Looking better than ever, Scream Factory has pulled the right strings in delivering a worthy collector’s edition of one of Gordon’s most loved films.  Sporting a splendid transfer and a newly produced retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures, Dolls Collector’s Edition is yet another must-have shriekfest for Scream Factory enthusiasts.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thDolls Collector's Edition can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Dogs of War (1980) Blu-ray Review

    The Dogs of Wars (1980)

    Director: John Irvin

    Starring: Christopher Walken, Tom Berenger, Colin Blakely & JoBeth Williams

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth, Director John Irvin’s feature film debut is marked by a team of mercenaries led by the iconic Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter).  Smart and action-orientated, The Dogs of War sends viewers to grim territories where civilian lives are insignificant and political power is purchased by the highest bidder.  Available in a limited edition 3,000 unit release, Twilight Time proudly presents The Dogs of War on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    The Dogs of War stars Christopher Walken as Jamie Shannon, a tactful mercenary hired to lead a group of for-profit soldiers into the dark regions of the fictional African country of Zangaro to overthrow a crazed dictator.  Tom Berenger (The Substitute), Colin Blakely (The Pink Panther Strikes Again), Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Jean-François Stévenin (Small Change) and JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Striking and complex, Christopher Walken is the guiding light that causes The Dogs of War to shine so brightly.  A Vietnam vet living in the big city, anxiously awaiting his next job offering, Walken’s Shannon always appears in control and focused.  Compared to other war-torn, emotionally distressed characters, Shannon lives and breathes his work while keeping his guard up at all times.  Sought out by a representative for faceless businessmen, Shannon is hired to trek into the dangerous country of Zangaro in order to eliminate their ruthless dictator.  Shannon rounds up his faithful soldiers and willingly enters a third world hell to make his living.  In what would appear to be the 80s equivalent of The Expendables, The Dogs of War takes a more cautious approach to its storytelling, forging a realistic tone.  While, we’re witness to minor insights into Shannon’s past, including his relationship with his ex-wife (JoBeth Williams), one never truly gets a firm handle on what makes the mercenary tick, fueling the mystery and intrigue of the man.  As their dangerous mission escalates, Shannon develops a sympathy for the region causing him to make alterations to his assignment.  A violently explosive final act commences as Shannon and his team put their risky plan into effect.    

    Walken is surrounded by a splendid supporting cast including a young Tom Berenger and a far too brief appearance from JoBeth Williams.  Significantly cut out in the film’s  U.S. cut, Williams shines as Shannon’s ex-wife who has grown far too savvy regarding her former lover’s lifestyle.  Impressed by her performance, Steven Spielberg reportedly offered Williams the starring role in Poltergeist.  The original international cut of the film may not offer added buckets of bullets and bloodshed but, does reinstate more of Williams‘ role and offers slightly more background into who Shannon was off the battlefield.  Although vastly intriguing, much is never revealed about Shannon with Walken’s performance benefitting from the lack of exposition.  Excluding its final act, The Dogs of War may not offer nonstop action, but remains an intelligent and accurate portrayal of mercenary life.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    The Dogs of War arrives with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Filmic and natural, The Dogs of War boasts accurate skin tones with detail best appreciated in wardrobe and close-ups.  Colors are also nicely represented especially in the wartorn jungle-esque region of Zangaro.  That said, the film contains several moments of varying flakes and speckles that make themselves fully known to the viewer.  Black levels are handled decently with the final action sequences only slightly suffering from the reoccurring flakes.  Overall, the pros outweigh the cons in this otherwise satisfactory presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Dogs of War handles dialogue nicely with only a few minor moments of quieter tones.  With no distortion or audio drop-outs to note, The Dogs of War somewhat underwhelms in its more explosive, action-packed scenes.  The mercenaries’ takeover of Zangaro contains machine gun fire and grenade launchers but falls short in delivering truly solid punches to the mix.  Character-driven, The Dogs of War succeeds where it counts but never overachieves in more climatic instances.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    With the exception of the much preferred international (118 minutes) and U.S. theatrical cuts (104 minutes), special features include:

    • Isolated Score Track

    • Original Theatrical Trailer (2:37)

    • MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06)

    • 6-page Booklet: Julie Kirgo once again lends her expertise on where The Dogs of War sits in film history amongst other mercenary-led tales.  Other interesting anecdotes about the film are presented with Walken’s status of being “the man” scoring highly.  We couldn’t agree more.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Believable and wonderfully acted, The Dogs of War offers an intimate look at rogue soldiers tasked to overthrow a dictator to support their own way of life.  Far from the over-the-top action spectacles of other 80s efforts, The Dogs of War contains a sophistication with intense warfare utilized only when necessary.  Twilight Time has supplied a naturally pleasing video transfer and sufficient audio mix for fans of the film.  Unfortunately, special features are rather scant on this underrated mercenary picture with Kirgo’s always enlightening views the only real highlight.  A skilled feature film debut from Director John Irvin (Hamburger Hill, Next of Kin), The Dogs of War stands as a career highlight in Walken’s vast acting career, well worth uncovering.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    The Dogs of War is available right now and can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • 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/

  • Carrie (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Carrie (2013)
    Director: Kimberly Peirce
    Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde & Portia Doubleday
    Released by: 20th Century Fox/MGM

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As the wheels of the remake train continue to spin, 2013 saw the resurrection of one of Stephen King’s most beloved adaptations.  Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise, Dressed to Kill) brought King’s terrifying novel to life for the first time in 1976 with iconic performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.  Since then, the tale of Carrie White has been expanded into a 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2, as well as a television retelling in 2002 with Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, May) starring as Carrie.  Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don‘t Cry, Stop-Loss) helms this modern update of a troubled outcast with extraordinary abilities and the limits she is pushed to.  By the end, will you know her name?  Let’s find out...

    Carrie stars Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Dark Shadows) as Carrie White, a social outcast who is relentlessly taunted by classmates and abused by her overly religious mother (Julianne Moore).  Carrie soon learns that her anger unleashes newly found telekinetic powers that she harbors.  When she is unexpectedly asked to prom, an unforgivable fate awaits her that leads to a night no one will ever forget.  Judy Greer (Jawbreaker), Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers) and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    In this day and age it’s easy to be dismissive of any new remakes/reimaginings hitting theaters.  Devoted film lovers insist on being served exciting, original material opposed to a stale rehash of an already established classic.  Sometimes, a reimagining comes along that attracts such unique talent that turns everyone’s head in intrigue.  Director Kimberly Peirce, no stranger to shining lights on social outcasts, helms this modern take of the Stephen King best seller.  Peirce approaches the material faithfully with mild updates to relate to a new generation.  The opening, touched upon in the novel, finds Margaret White (Julianne Moore) riling in pain as she enters labor alone in her bedroom.  Giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, the exhausted woman sees this as a test from God and prepares to kill the child for her sinful ways.  Scissors in hand, Margaret is unable to go through with it and chooses to raise her daughter.  The film moves forward in time as we find Carrie White (Moretz), now 15 years-old, shy, awkward and idolizing her fellow female classmates.  Carrie quickly follows suit by retelling an iconic locker room sequence where Carrie frighteningly experiences her first period as classmates taunt and throw tampons at her.  Injecting the modern twist, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) records the embarrassing incident with her cellphone and uploads it to YouTube for fellow classmates and the world to see.  The film continues to remain close to De Palma’s version with the occasional change-up for good measure.  Peirce harkens back to the novel to showcase Margaret White’s bodily harm that makes for some truly squeemish moments to great effect.  

    Peirce assembles a fine cast with the talented Chloë Grace Moretz slipping into Spacek’s iconic role.  Moretz handles the role well and captures the odd and uncomfortable personality of Carrie.  One couldn’t help but feel that Moretz was just a little too pretty to honestly portray the odd girl out.  Moretz’s acting abilities are far from disappointing, but her appearances hurt the believability of the character.  Julianne Moore delivers a disturbing performance as Carrie’s abusive mother, Margaret White.  Moore’s unbrushed greying hair and dressed down appearance complimented her character’s loony behavior.  While, Piper Laurie’s original performance still reigns supreme, Moore delivered a unique spin of her.  In addition, Judy Greer (Jeff Who Lives at Home), co-stars as gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin.  While, a brief role, Greer offers an endearing performance as a shoulder to cry on for Carrie.  Portia Doubleday (Her) stuns as the bitchy Chris Hargensen who makes abusing Carrie her main priority.  Doubleday makes hating her easy with her relentless bullying and stuck-up personality.  Fans of Nancy Allen’s original performance will be made proud.  Finally, Gabriella Wilde does a fine job as Sue Snell, the one teenager with a conscience who enlists her boyfriend to give Carrie the time of her life at prom.  

    Carrie does offer its fair share of CG visual effects, but all to effective results.  The bloody finale at the prom sees Carrie unleashing her wrath after having pig blood dropped on her.  Students are thrown back in a tidal wave of tables and chairs while Carrie uses her powers to create an inferno of flames.  The entire movie is building to this sequence and it hardly disappoints.  As Chris and her boyfriend speed off after the prank, Carrie confronts them before sending the couple to a brutal death.  Chris‘ fate is sheer eye candy and a fitting end for such a hated character.  Carrie heads home to only be greeted by her insane mother who intends on putting an end to her devil child.  A fight to the death ensues between the mother and daughter before a tragic end befalls on them.  The film concludes on a similar note as the original with a much less effective jump-scare administered.

    Like most reimaginings, Carrie doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it still has merit.  Peirce does a fine job harking back to the source material while injecting modern twists of cyberbullying to up the ante.  The core cast was more than capable in their respective roles with Moore and Doubleday offering noteworthy mentions.  Moretz captured the essence of Carrie but her physicality prevented the performance from being all it could be.  One can only wonder how the film would have appeared if Peirce casted Carrie as heavier set as described in the novel.  Moments of violence and chaos are demonstrated well and benefit from today’s movie magic.  Viewing Carrie during its theatrical run, I left the film feeling mediocre towards it.  After revisiting Carrie, it has managed to slightly entertain me more.  With more King reimaginings in the works, time will tell how this retelling of Carrie is best remembered.  Until then, Carrie is a serviceable adaptation of one of King’s finest efforts with a solid cast and a modernization that benefits the film nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Carrie is presented in a beautiful 1080p (2.35:1) transfer that stuns.  Colors appear clear and accurate with detail looking most impressive in close-ups.  The school’s football field, swimming pool and of course, the pig blood look especially lush and bold.  Black levels are superior, most noticeably, during the pig clubbing sequence and the finale at the prom.  As a brand-new film shot and presented in HD, there’s nothing to fear with this transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Carrie comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  Dialogue is clear as a whistle with subtleties such as books slamming or creaky footsteps making a nice impression.  More intense sequences involving inferno, car crashes and screaming students are loud and solid.  The prom sequence will definitely send your speakers for a ride and make for an exceptional listening experience.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce: Peirce serves up an informative listen touching upon the casting process, development of the script, modernizing the film as well as budget and time constraints.  While, Peirce may often focus too much on what’s playing on the screen, the track is still a worthy listen.

    - Alternate Ending: Included as a second option labeled “Theatrical Cut with Alternate Ending”, the new ending offers an extra minute of runtime with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Deleted/Alternate Scenes: 10 minutes worth of scenes again with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Tina on Fire: Stunt Double Dailies: A featurette showcasing how the fire effects were achieved with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Creating Carrie: A making of featurette running over 20 minutes.  Director Kimberly Peirce, Producer Kevin Misher and the core cast discuss the film, their preparation and Stephen King’s original novel.  A terrific companion to the film!

    - The Power of Telekinesis: Talent in front and behind the camera discuss their takes on telekinesis.

    - Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise: A hilarious telekinetic prank that was pulled in a New York coffee shop on unsuspecting customers to promote the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Sneak Peak: Trailers for upcoming MGM titles.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    2013’s reimagining of Carrie didn’t light me entirely on fire, but it was still a serviceable take on an iconic tale.  Director Kimberly Peirce may have been an unexpected choice but her expertise with social outcasts gave this film its flavor.  Peirce did a fine job sticking to King’s source material while injecting the necessary tools to make it a functioning modern take.  Chloë Grace Moretz brought her usual A-game acting chops to the role but her lovely appearance made the believability of the character a constant struggle.  Julianne Moore and Portia Doubleday deserve recognition for their portrayals as dangerously flawed characters.  The film manages to not disappoint in the effects and violence department that pay off in the exciting finale.  The Blu-ray edition of Carrie is quite simply perfection.  A wonderful video presentation matched with an effective and robust audio mix plus a plethora of special features make this release a winner.  In addition, the film comes accompanied with one of the coolest looking lenticular slipcovers in sometime.  Regardless, of your film adaptation preference, 2013’s Carrie has its issues but it has all the potential to become even better with time.
    RATING: 4/5 

  • 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/

  • 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