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Currently showing posts tagged Melissa Leo

  • Deadtime Stories (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Deadtime Stories (1986)

    Director: Jeffrey Delman

    Starring: Scott Valentine, Melissa Leo, Cathryn DePrume, Anne Redfern, Nicole Picard, Matt Mitler, Kathy Fleig & Phyllis Craig

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As imperfect as most horror anthologies go, Deadtime Stories is a mixed bag of mostly tricks and few treats where nightmares and fairy tales converge.  In order to put his monster-fearing nephew to bed, a disgruntled man retells three beloved bedtime fables with a macabre twist.  With the exception of atmospheric scenery, Peter and the Witches acts as the film’s unfortunate Sandman story where an enslaved boy (Scott Valentine, My Demon Lover) must kidnap a fair maiden for his witch captors to use in a sacrificial ceremony to resurrect their deceased sister.  Featuring effective make-up effects of a gory corpse being reanimated, the chiller’s first chapter is anything but a page turner.  Next up, Little Red Runninghood finds an attractive teen stalked by a ravenous werewolf who blames the sexually curious girl for mistakenly stealing his meds.  A decently modeled beast taken down by a silver cake server during a tense standoff, the second segment remains far from memorable but, a modest improvement over its predecessor.  Lastly, the final and most enjoyable of the trio, Goldi Lox and the Three Baers finds Mama (future Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, The Fighter) breaking her criminally insane husband and son from the loony bin only to learn their shady residence has been taken over by the homicidally telekinetic Goldi Lox (Cathryn De Prume, Wild).  Turning the absurdity into overdrive with over the top performances so intentionally bad, they’re a hoot, the closing tale is the true saving grace in this otherwise lackluster anthology of not-so-many frights.

    Boasting a new HD transfer culled from the original camera negative, Scream Factory presents Deadtime Stores with a solid 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that puts to shame previous bargain bin releases sourced from grainy and barely watchable VHS prints.  Retaining a natural grain structure and robust colors, the film has never seen better days.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers dialogue and music, most notably the goofy opening song by Taj, solidly, the track satisfies fine.  Kicking off with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jeffrey Delman, additional special features include, I Like the Grotesque: A Conversation with Jef Delman (15:42) that finds the filmmaker discussing everything from shooting in Westchester County, NY and the difficulty in selling an anthology picture to the special effects, casting, locations and music of the film.  Furthermore, A Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories (15:35) catches up with Cathryn DePrune (Goldi Lox), Melissa Leo (“Mama” Baer) and Scott Valentine (Peter) as they reminisce on their clique at the time of the movie’s making and their warm regards for the project’s loyal following.  Lastly, The Black Forest (29:49), the original short film version of the Peter and the Witches segment with an introduction by Delman, Deleted Scenes (2:32) also prefaced by Delman, Theatrical Trailers (3:12), a Photo Gallery (4:14) and DVD Edition wrap up the release’s bonus features.  Offering sporadic bursts of intentional and not-so intentional ridiculousness, Deadtime Stories may have its followers but, its trifecta of tales do little to terrify and much to disappoint.  Thankfully for fans, Scream Factory have rescued the film from tape-sourced hell with a new high-definition makeover and a modest spread of supplements that demonstrate the class of Academy Award winners humbly unashamed of their earliest beginnings.  Cautiously recommended to horror anthology curiosos.  

    RATING: 2.5/5 

    Available now from Scream Factory, Deadtime Stories can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazom.com and other fine retailers.

  • Snowden (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Snowden (2016)

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant, Rhys Ifans & Nicolas Cage

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the controversial true story, Snowden centers on intelligence employee Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk) who exposed the NSA’s illegal surveillance activities and the political and personal fallout of his decision.  Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars), Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Beyond), Rhys Ifans (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Nicolas Cage (Joe) costar.

    No stranger to tackling the events of recent history and leaving viewers grossly divided over their political intentions, Academy Award winner Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July, World Trade Center) spotlights his most controversial figure to date in the equally grounded and thrilling Snowden.  Juxtaposing from the whistleblower’s 2013 revelation to journalists about the NSA’s secretive surveillance measures on citizens and his decade long ascent to prestigious positions within the CIA and other agencies, Snowden moves swiftly as it constructs the portrait of a brilliant individual willing to serve his country before profound truths question his very principles and threaten his livelihood if exposed.  Proving his abilities as one of his generation’s finest talents, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, possessing a solid resemblance to his real-life character and seamlessly capturing Snowden’s inherent shyness and uncanny speech mannerisms makes his performance a marvel to watch.  Complimented by especially noteworthy performances by Shailene Woodley as Snowden’s dedicated girlfriend Lindsay Mills, Rhys Ifans as Deputy Director Corbin O’Brian and an understated appearance by Academy Award Winner Nicolas Cage as a mentor to the titular character, Snowden bares no weaknesses in its casting calls for any of its talented thespians.  While Snowden’s ultimate decision to reveal his findings to the world were met with equal cries of praise and treachery, Stone’s dramatization of the events provides viewers with a deeper examination of the man’s personal life as well as his increased anxiety, diagnosis with epilepsy and the tightening noose of being privy to such information suffocating his moral compass and obligation to the people of the world.  With the effect of the actual events still impacting the world and people’s view of their governments, Snowden succeeds in navigating the political intricacies of the controversy with precision while, Edward’s personal journal and sacrifices remain the film’s priority delivering viewers an emotionally bonding and dramatically gripping experience that ranks as one of Stone’s best offerings in years.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Snowden with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, skin tones are captured with exceptional clarity and spot-on accurateness while, the sunny shades of the film’s Hawaiian sequences are richly projected with details seen in backgrounds of Edward and Lindsay’s apartments handsomely observed.  Equipped with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dynamics are not wholly diverse in the character-driven piece with dialogue relayed with the utmost crispness that serves it well.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (8:51), Finding the Truth (3:57), a typical EPK with interview snippets from Stone, Gordon-Levitt and clips from the film plus, a Snowden Q&A (41:00) moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, Stone, Gordon-Levitt, Woodley and the real Snowden (via satellite) are on hand in this conversational gathering that covers Snowden’s impressions of a film developed on him as well as the struggle of making the feature.  Lastly, Previews (9:38) for Triple 9, Spotlight, Dope, The Gunman, Rosewater, Nightcrawler, Chef and End of Watch round out the on-disc supplements with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code also included. 

    While the public at large will continue to remain divided over Edward Snowden’s controversial actions, Oliver Stone’s big-screen account of the events will keep moviegoers drawn into its complex questions of principles, freedoms and responsibility.  Chalking up another stirring performance from leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden keeps the global repercussions of the NSA reveal crucial if not secondary to Edward’s personal journey, ensuring an effectively more human story to emerge from the headline-fueled saga.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers pristine efforts in both video and audio although, special features remain overwhelmingly scant.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Snowden can be purchased via  Amazon.com and other fine retailers.