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  • Up All Night with Severin Films: Blackenstein (1973), Cathy's Curse (1977) & The Other Hell (1981) Blu-ray Reviews

      

    Blackenstein (1973)

    Director: William A. Levy

    Starring: John Hart, Ivory Stone, Andrea King, Liz Renay, Roosevelt Jackson, Joe De Sue, Nick Bolin, Cardella Di Milo, James Cousar & Marva Farmer

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Piggybacking on the success of American International Pictures’ black bloodsucker of the previous year, Blackenstein loosely modernizes Mary Shelley’s classic work for a new generation of exploitation-loving jive ass turkeys.  Attempting to rehabilitate her armless and legless Vietnam veteran boyfriend back to health, Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) turns to her mentor Dr. Stein (John Hart, The Lone Ranger) to work medical miracles.  After rejecting a fellow lab assistant’s advances, the disgruntled helper sabotages Winifred’s lovers progress, transforming him into hulking monster.  Stalking the streets of Los Angeles in the shiniest of boots and ripping limbs off of unsuspecting whities before meeting his fate at the fangs of ferocious dobermans, Blackenstein is a tightly paced hoot that plays itself surprisingly straight for such a cooky concept whose behind-the-scenes making is even stranger and sadly more tragic than its own fiction.  

    Befit with a solid-looking 1080p transfer, presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films honors the blaxploitation-horror oddity with strong colors and only fleeting instances of cigarette burns while, its DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix relays dialogue crisply with no cracks or pops intruding.  Offering both its preferred Theatrical (1:17:46) and Video Release (1:27:05) versions, additional supplements include, Monster Kid (19:02) where June Kirk, sister of Writer/Producer Frank R. Saletri, reminisces about her multitalented brother, his lavish mansion previously owned by Bela Lugosi and later Johnny Depp, his genuine sense of pride producing Blackenstein and the emotional circumstances surrounding Salteri’s still unsolved murder in 1982.  Furthermore, an Archive News Broadcast on the Murder of Frank R. Saletri (6:17), Ken Osborne and Robert Dix Remember Frank Saletri (6:36), culled from the filming of Severin Films’ Al Adamson documentary, Bill Created Blackenstein (9:13) featuring an audio interview with Creature Designer Bill Munns (Swamp Thing, The Return of the Living Dead) and lastly, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (3:24) are also featured.  Electrifying with bolts of undead absurdity, Blackenstein rises from the examination table, courtesy of resurrectors Severin Films, with a striking HD upgrade, revealing extras and dual versions for completists of the underexploitated world of blaxploitation frighteners.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Blackenstein can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Cathy’s Curse (1977)

    Director: Eddy Matalon

    Starring: Alan Scarfe, Beverly Murray, Randi Allen, Roy Witham, Mary Morter & Dorothy Davis

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Using other satanically-charged killer kiddie flicks such as The Exorcist and The Omen as moneymaking references, the peculiar French/Canadian production of Cathy’s Curse unspools with a fatal car accident that leaves a stressed out father and his young daughter burning alive like logs on a flame.  Returning to his childhood home decades later, older brother George Gimble (Alan Scarfe, Double Impact) looks to start anew with his emotionally troubled wife and sweet daughter Cathy.  Shortly after stumbling upon her late aunt’s creepy doll, Cathy turns sour and is possessed, giving evil a prime spot at the dinner table.  Riddled with discombobulating jump cuts and eerie keyboard tunes, Cathy’s Curse lets the blonde little devil work her supernatural magic by forcing the housemaid out a window, hypnotizing the drunken caretaker with spiders, snakes and rats slithering across his still body while, a blood-filled bathtub and leeches are utilized to further her mother’s descent into madness.  A noble yet, imperfect terror effort from the tax-sheltered north, Cathy’s Curse may not spew pea soup across viewers but does make ample use of a minor amusingly spit firing profanities and rearing her own ghastly burnt face in a final showdown against mommy dearest.

    Newly transferred in 2K from recently discovered elements, Cathy’s Curse makes the wildly unexpected leap to high-definition with sound results that buries its previously underwhelming outings on home video.  Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio, flashy colors seen in gaudier wallpaper selections pop appreciatively while, white levels, witnessed in snowfall and sunshine creeping through windows, appear naturally softer.  Meanwhile, print damage remains vastly minimal.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that captures dialogue with general ease and only mild hiss detected, the film’s aforementioned keyboard selections are the track’s most memorable cues.  Featuring both the film’s go-to Director’s Cut (1:30:44) and an Alternate U.S. Release Cut (1:21:49), other bonus feature offerings include, an Audio Commentary with BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins & Filmmaker Simon Barret (U.S. Release Cut only), Tricks and Treats: Director Eddy Matalon on Cathy’s Curse (20:16), where the filmmaker, speaking mostly in French with subtitles provided, discusses the production, crew and incredible affordability shooting in Canada.  In addition, Cathy and Mum (12:42) catches up with the elusive Randi Allen who played the possessed titular character and her mother Joyce Allen who acted as the film’s Costume Designer.  Lastly, an Introduction to the Cinematic Void Screening at American Cinematheque by BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins (4:28) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:36) wrap up the disc’s extras.  A true deep cut of Canadian chillers of the possessed persuasion, Cathy’s Curse has the power once more thanks to a crowd pleasing restoration fans will assume was achieved through a deal with the devil himself (at least we hope so!).

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Cathy's Curse can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Other Hell (1981)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno & Susan Forget

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A sacrilege slice of nunsploitation, Italian cult cinema heavyweight Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror), under the pseudonym Stefan Oblowsky, paints church walls red in The Other Hell.  Following several questionable suicides at a nunnery, the depraved Mother Vincenza (Franca Stoppi, Beyond the Darkness) attempts to derail Father Valerio's (Carlo De Mejo, City of the Living Dead) investigation so that her devilish methods may continue.  Narratively messy and lacking such sleaze factors as ample nudity and lesbianism, The Other Hell does little to rattle the cages of excess while, supernatural happenings stake their claim in the form of bloody stigmata and Hell’s head honcho rearing his red blazing eyes, revealing themselves to only be laughable light-up bulbs.  Certain that the evil happenings are the work of a flesh and blood deviant, Father Valerio asks for more than he bargained when a flashback sequence reveals the Mother Superior’s baby was violently boiled and, as the daughter of Satan, the living and badly burned child’s otherworldly abilities are the cause for the convents twisted events.  Certainly seedy with nuns performing grisly abortions and flexing their stabbing reflexes routinely, The Other Hell hardly lives up to its reputation as one of the subgenres best with Mattei and Stoppo’s attachment being the only cause for a passing glance.

    A mild improvement from its previous standard definition release, Severin Films readies The Other Hell with a 1080p transfer, culled from 35mm blow-up elements presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Still showing signs of noticeable wear in the form of scratches, cigarette burns and an intruding vertical line during one dinner sequence in particular, black levels show improvement but remain imperfect while insert shots of the Mother Superior stabbing Father Valerio appear to be sourced from a lesser reference.  Meanwhile, the LPCM 2.0 mix is audible with the English dub track relayed decently but, not without its own faults of cracks, pop and a thin veil of hiss detected throughout.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso, moderated by Freak-O-Rama’s Federico Caddea, Sister Franca (13:13) catches up with Actress Franca Stoppi where she reveals working on The Other Hell and The True Story of the Nun of Monza simultaneously, often working on the same sets.  In addition, Stoppi recalls the warm and fun relationship working with Carlo De Mejo and as a niece of two nuns growing up, loved the aspect of dressing up as one for films.  Furthermore, To Hell and Back (11:22) features archive interviews with Director Bruno Mattei and Actor Carlo De Mejo with The Other Hell Trailer (3:34) and Reversible Cover Art concluding the release’s extras.  One may not require a bath in holy water after viewing The Other Hell but, that doesn’t make it the worst of its kind either, just simply less blasphemous than one might expect.  Completists of Mattei’s demented filmography won’t blink twice adding this unholy feature to their shelves with Severin’s noble efforts saving it from certain annihilation well worth falling to your knees for.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, The Other Hell can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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.

  • Doomwatch (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Doomwatch (1972)

    Director: Peter Sasdy

    Starring: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, Joby Blanshard, George Sanders, Percy Herbert, Geoffrey Keen, Joseph O’Connor & Shelagh Fraser

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When citizens of a small island community develop aggressive behavior and monstrous disfigurements, Doomwatch finds the determined Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen, The Flight of the Phoenix) and local schoolteacher Victoria Brown (Judy Geeson, The Lords of Salem) risking their lives to uncover the horrifying truth.  Costarring the likes of John Paul (A Countess from Hong Kong), Simon Oates (The Terrornauts) and George Sanders (The Jungle Book), Hammer horror veteran Peter Sasdy (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper) directs.

    Spun-off from the short-lived BBC series of the same name while serving little to no consequence for the uninitiated, Doomwatch relegates several cast regulars to supporting parts in exchange for headliners Bannen and Geeson to pave a new path for its big-screen opus.  Marketed with an enticing campaign in tune with its director’s more horror-oriented efforts, Doomwatch’s environmentally cautious tale pits anti-pollution scientist Dr. Del Shaw on an investigation off the island village of Balfe where the citizens have demonstrated peculiar behavior and even more questionable physical changes.  While the townsfolk hold firm to their belief that their sickly states are God’s punishments for generations of inbreeding, Shaw suspects radioactive waste and illegal dumping in their surrounding waters to be the root of the problem.  Untrusted by the masses with many debilitating into murderous mongoloids, Shaw, along with his only onsite ally Victoria Brown and his headquarters of likeminded scientists, must make the citizens understand the gravity of their conditions before Balfe as they know it becomes extinct.  Loaded with lab coat deliberations, scuba-diving investigations and far too seldom appearances from the island’s mutated locals, Doomwatch's not-so subtle message signaling the dangers of pollution feels ahead of its time and far more potent in today’s environmentally conscience society yet, can’t help but mildly disappoint for cloaking itself as the sci-fi thriller it is not.  Boasting a stirring score from John Scott (Man on Fire) and watchable performances from its principal players, Doomwatch may not fully live up to its promotional campaign of island-infested monsters but, delivers a respectable message with a handful of thrills to go around.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Doomwatch with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Making a strong leap to high-definition, skin tones are consistently handled with detail in the disfigured local’s faces nicely highlighted.  Meanwhile, the softness found on the island’s misty surroundings remains intact while, black levels waver from respectable to slightly murky, seen most apparently during the film’s opening.  Lastly, scant scratches are observed but never deter from watchability.  Equipped with a satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is crisp with only heavier accents occasionally requiring a boost in volume due more to their thickness and less with the mix’s performance.  In addition, John Scott’s riveting score provides exceptional ambiance on the track while, several cracks and pops make their presence heard.  Special features include, an On-Camera Intro by Director Peter Sasdy (2:18), an Audio Commentary with Director Peter Sasdy, Doomsday with Judy Geeson (6:20) where the film’s female lead recalls the difficult shoot on Cornwall and its unpredictable weather conditions, her attraction to the hot-button issue of pollution for taking the role and her admirations for her fellow costars.  Lastly, Trailers for The Island of Dr. Moreau (2:12), The Neptune Factor (3:02) and War-Gods of the Deep (2:21) are also included.

    Not quite the deep sea excursion into grotesque beasts one would hope, Doomwatch delivers a halfway decent plot exposing the dangers of pollution and a troubled island of misfits at its mercy.  Sure to please slightly more for those not expecting a B-movie bonanza, the environmental thriller would have only benefitted from more genre tropes but alas, remains a decent effort with a certifiably green agenda.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics delivers the film spinoff with a most pleasing presentation and a welcome array of special features including, a new interview with Star Geeson and commentary track from its 81-year-old director.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Doomwatch can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989) Blu-ray Review

    C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989)

    Director: David Irving

    Starring: Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Gerrit Graham & Robert Vaughn

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a corpse used for a high school science experiment goes missing, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud finds three best friends fearing for their grades as they snatch a decomposing cadaver infected with a cannibalistic virus.  Shortly after being resurrected, the undead army experiment gone wrong goes on a killing spree, adding townspeople to his ravenous flock and leaving the young trio to save the community from themselves!  Brian Robbins (Head of the Class), Bill Calvert (Terror Squad), Tricia Leigh Fisher (Pretty Smart), Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise) and Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) star.

    Loosely borrowing from its more horror centric predecessor, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud makes a swift tonal change, relying on laughs and enhanced camp to bring life to the formally underground dwellers once more.  Scripted by Ed Naha (Troll, Dolls) (under the pseudonym M. Kane Jeeves), the misleading mutant populated artwork stretches the truth as the monsters are simpler, fang-toothed zombie types whose bite spreads their plague to other unsuspecting suburbanites.  Panicking after losing the intended corpse for their science experiment, Steve (Robbins) and Kevin (Calvert) don’t hesitate in stealing a thought to be dead replacement from the local Center for Disease Control to salvage their grade.  Roping fellow friend Katie (Fisher) into the mix, an accidental electrocution reanimates the corpse known as Bud (Graham) who’s wildly hungry for human flesh.  Infecting the small town one victim at a time with army officials attempting to quietly and unsuccessfully contain the situation, the three teenagers must put an end to the madness as Bud leads his hungry, hungry pack to the local Halloween dance.  Lacking the gritty grime of its New York based original, the quirky followup’s fresh-faced stars fully embrace the last gasps of the Gen X decade to the amusement of viewers while, Gerrit Graham’s gruntingly hilarious performance as the deathly infected Bud make his physicality and peculiar face movements a hoot to be seen.  Climaxing at a swimming pool where the bikini-donning Katie lures the C.H.U.D. infected citizens to their frozen farewell, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud by no means upstages its originator but, possesses a contagiously fun energy largely overlooked by cult cinema watching humanoids.

    Lionsgate presents C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually free of scratches or other such anomalies, natural film grain is apparent while overall image quality reads mildly soft.  Skin tones are healthy with the film’s color scheme found in costumes, Bud’s simple make-up design and the teen’s favored burger joint popping nicely.  Discovered and predominately viewed during its VHS era, Bud devotees will be overly pleased with its new life on high-definition.  Supplied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfyingly captured with ease while, Emmy Award winning Composer Nicholas Pike’s (Graveyard Shift, Critters 2) score of synth and rock queues see noticeable rises on the track.  

    Graced with rewarding supplements as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, extras include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Irving, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, Bud Speaks! with Gerrit Graham (16:18) where the actor reflects on how he never imagined his career to be so permeated by horror/cult credits, his improvisational background, the freedom of having no dialogue in the film and his embracement of the role’s physicality.  Furthermore, Katie’s Kalamity with Tricia Leigh Fisher (12:45) catches up with the actress today as she recalls many laughs shared onset with her costars Robbins and Calvert, praise for Graham’s campy performance and a humorous story during the shoot when a day trip to a local amusement park resulted in countless messages being left on her answering machine ordering her to the set.  Finally, This C.H.U.D.’s For You! with Allan Apone (14:44) hosts the special effects artist as he discusses the experimental freedom working on horror films in the 80s while, a Video Trailer (1:47) and Still Gallery (6:20) round out the bonus features.

    A comedic changeup that substitutes the humanoid monsters from New York for razor-toothed zombies with three science failing high schoolers tasked to clean up the mess, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud is built for absurdity and generally wets the appetite of bad movie appreciators.  Making its high-definition debut alongside the timely release of its 1984 original, the Vestron Video Collector’s Series continues to spread the genre love high and low with its treatment of this bottom-dwelling sequel sure to make most stiffs wiggle with glee.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 22nd from Lionsgate, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016)

    Director: Sean O’Reilly

    Starring: Christopher Plummer, Ron Perlman, Jane Curtin & Doug Bradley

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the graphic novel series, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom finds introverted Howard Lovecraft disregarding his father’s warnings and entering a strange new world plagued by an endless winter.  Befriending a frightening looking creature, the unlikely duo brave immense danger and horrifying creatures to return the chilled environment to its former glory.  Christopher Plummer (Up), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Jane Curtin (Saturday Night Live) and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) comprise the film’s vocal talent.

    Comic book publisher turned animation upstart, Arcana Studio brings nightmarish realms and fantastical creatures to life, inspired by the atmospherically peculiar works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Following a visit to his father in the local sanitarium, quiet and reserved Howard Lovecraft ignores emotional ramblings to fear the powerfully scripted Nerconomicon, opening a portal into a dark underworld where a once marvelous kingdom has been overtaken by an eternal blizzard.  After outwitting a hungry tentacled creature, the gloomy-looking child and beast, nicknamed “Spot”, forge an unexpected friendship as they trek across the deathly cold land, encountering a pack of helpful children along the way.  Forging ahead to the Kingdom of R’yleh, Howard and Spot find themselves in the graces of royalty where everybody is not quiet who they claim to be.  Between snowball fights and rounds of hide and go seek, the daring duo’s death-defying mission to end the kingdom’s frozen state pits them against razor-toothed terrors and the occult while searching for a way back home for Howard.  Crafted with a clear passion for the works of its inspirer and monster movies, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom’s crude animation design lends itself nicely to its surreal, fairytale sensibilities while, its plot, heavily reliant on Lovecraftian lingo, may leave younger viewers puzzled.  Gothically colorful and featuring impressive vocal work from terribly underused talent, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom falls short on substance but earns praise for its less refined and refreshingly different animated approach.

    Shout! Factory presents Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing minor occurrences of digital noise, the computer-generated creations radiate striking colors, most prominently in the neon green and purple lighting hues while, black levels are deep and exacting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently audible with sound effects and the film’s accompanying soundtrack, although neither forceful or grossly impressionable, are adequately handled.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sean Patrick O’Reilly, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (3:36) and its Trailer (1:13).  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A passable Lovecraftian toon for tikes with a sequel planned, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom stumbles narratively with greater appreciation to be had for its rough around the edges yet, effectively appealing character designs.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory ushers the animated effort onto home video with a most pleasing hi-def treatment, just in time for younger trick or treaters to welcome in the spookiest time of year.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Krampus (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Krampus (2015)

    Director: Michael Dougherty

    Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen & Krista Stadler

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) turns his back on the Christmas spirit.  Unfortunately, in doing so, an ancient evil is awakened as the demonic Krampus casts his powerful forces upon the non-believers.  In order to survive the night, the shattered family must band together to overthrow the shadow of Saint Nicholas.  Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Conchata Ferrel (Edward Scissorhands), Stefania LaVie Owen (The Lovely Bones) and Krista Stadler (Lena Rais) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Following his frightful statement on the Halloween season with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, Director Michael Dougherty submerges viewers in a snowstorm of scares with his darkly comical tale based on the Christmas folklore.  After penning a desperate letter to Santa Claus to restore his families yuletide spirit, Max’s (Anthony) holiday is all but wrecked following the arrival of his trailer park relatives who further discourage his hopes.  Overwhelmed with anger and sadness, Max tears up his letter, prompting a deadly snowstorm to take hold of his small-town as the goat-like Krampus descends on the home of the non-believers.  Transforming the jolliest time of the year into a wintertime hell, Krampus, aided by his monstrous minions and evil gingerbread creatures, ravages the idyllic location ensuring that all who cross his path are on his naughty list.  Sharing a special bond with his Austrian grandmother Omi (Stadler) who recalls the monster from her own childhood, Max and his family learn more about the evil overtaking their household with their fight for survival bringing them closer than ever before.  With children and adults fair game to the film’s horrific antagonist, a white Christmas may not be what awaits under the tree this year.

    Headlined by a sidesplittingly stellar cast of youngsters and dependable funnymen including, Adam Scott and David Koechner, Krampus seamlessly balances the rare Christmas chiller that packs ample jumps with stark black comedy achieved in spades.  In addition, Director Michael Dougherty’s sophomore effort harmoniously joins the two worlds of modern day effects and practical wizardry, granting the film an authenticity that rarely betrays viewers eyes and their sense of movie magic.  Channeling the genre-blending excitement common in its 80s influences, Krampus is a relentlessly fun, seat-jumping alternative to the warm, family-oriented fare routinely programmed during the holiday season.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Krampus with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy, natural skin tones with festive holiday decorations and colorful clothing attire popping nicely, black levels are generally strong-looking with only occasional hints of murkiness due to the film’s intended lack of natural light.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely delivered while shotgun blasts and the chaotic energy of the film’s attacking monsters serve the track strongly.  Meanwhile, snowy ambiance and the crackling of firewood further compliment the prominent screams of terror which permeate the mix with authority.  Packed with plenty of supplemental presents, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Michael Dougherty and Co-Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields, an Alternate Ending (1:24), Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:41) and a Gag Reel (5:15).  In addition, Blu-ray exclusives feature Krampus Comes Alive! (29:36), an in-depth, five part featurette covering the film’s origin, casting, special effects and production design while, Behind the Scenes at WETA Workshop: Krampus (9:54) delves into the fascinating development of the film’s monster effects.  Finally, several Galleries (478 in total) featuring poster art, creature art, storyboards and more are accompanied by a DVD counterpart and a Digital HD Code.  

    Joining the ranks of niche Christmastime frightfests, Krampus successfully treads the line of comedy and terror reminiscent of the free-spirited hijinks of Amblin Entertainment’s enduring 80s efforts.  Complimented by exceptional high-definition merits and a thorough spread of bonus features, Krampus may be best devoured around the holidays yet, remains a devilishly fun gift that entertains year round.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Goosebumps (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Goosebumps (2015)

    Director: Rob Letterman

    Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan & Jillian Bell

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the best-selling book series, Goosebumps centers on new kid in town Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) who strikes a friendship with his neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush, The Giver), daughter of the mysterious author R.L. Stine (Jack Black, School of Rock).  After Stine’s countless manuscripts are accidentally opened, all the monsters of his stories are unleashed upon their small town with only the author and his young companions to stop them.  Ryan Lee (Super 8), Amy Ryan (Bridge of Spies) and Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) co-star in Director Rob Letterman’s (Gulliver’s Travels) family friendly adventure.

    In development since the conclusion of its Fox Kids television series in 1998, Goosebumps takes a noticeably meta approach to its source material by incorporating an exaggerated version of its creator as a central character.  Shortly after arriving in Madison, Delaware, Zach Cooper (Minnette) develops an attraction to his neighbor Hannah (Rush) before being warned by her overprotective father R.L. Stine (Black) to stay away.  Concerned for her safety, Zach, along with his less than cool new sidekick Champ (Lee), sneak into Hannah’s house, learning the true identity of her grumpy father.  After an accident causes Stine’s locked manuscripts to open, the countless monsters and creatures from his Goosebumps books emerge from the pages.  Led by the rude dummy Slappy (voiced by Black) of Stine’s popular Night of the Living Dummy installments, devilish lawn gnomes, gigantic insects, an abominable snowman, the walking dead and others seeks to take control of Madison.  In order to return the monsters back to their rightful place, Stine and his teenage comrades must develop a new story to trap them.

    Filled with laughs and frightfully fun action, Goosebumps follows our young heroes as they combat the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena on a hockey rink, evade the razor-sharp teeth of The Werewolf of Fever Swamp with supermarket carts and hastily zigzag through the streets of Madison to outrun the destructive praying mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street.  With monsters from all of Stine’s 62 books included, only so many, with Slappy rightfully getting top-billing, get ample screen time while, others are unfortunately regulated to background noise.  Concluding with an exciting showdown at a rundown amusement park and a ghostly twist involving one of its characters, Goosebumps is a haunting adventure style story in the vein of Joe Johnston’s Jumanji.  Although a financial smash and a hit with audiences, the incorporation of all its antagonists in its first outing may eventually prove difficult in sequelizing such a promising franchise.  Nonetheless, Goosebumps will undoubtedly resonate with lifelong readers of the popular books while, its narrative is tailor made for the monster kids of today.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Goosebumps with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing impeccable skin tones with rich detail, colors found in the rambunctious lawn gnomes and costume choices of its cast pop excellently.  Meanwhile, the hairy textures of the abominable snowman and the supermarket dwelling werewolf are most exceptional.  Taking place predominately at night, black levels are strikingly inky in both backgrounds and Black’s appropriately dark attire, showing no signs of digital noise.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is flawless and nicely balanced with Composer Danny Elfman’s (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas) effective score.  In addition, action sequences from an explosive school bus, street destructing praying mantis and a rolling ferris wheel play strongly on the disc’s impressive mix.  Supplements include, a Cast Blooper Reel (3:08), Alternate Opening (3:28), Deleted Scenes (12:39) and All About Slappy (4:44), an entertaining featurette hosted by the devilish dummy with interviews from the real R.L. Stine and Jack Black plus, additional insight on the puppetry and CG effects utilized to bring the character to life are also explored.  Also included, Beginner’s Guide to Surviving a Goosebumps Creature (5:47) hosted by Stars Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee, Strange Things are Happening… On-Set (3:30) showcases Minnette’s haunted video diaries while filming, Creaturefield! (8:56) finds Make-Up and Creature Effect heads Steve Prouty and Fionagh Cush as they teach young viewers homemade make-up techniques and a Cast Screen Test Gallery (7:16).  Finally, Previews for The Goldbergs (0:31), Pixels (2:42), Hotel Transylvania 2 (2:42), The 5th Wave (2:20), The Angry Birds Movie (2:33) and Open Season: Scared Silly (1:32) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Long anticipated by fans who grew up addicted to Stine’s fictional frights, Goosebumps delivers a cinematic counterpart balancing harmless scares and kid friendly humor.  Furthermore, Jack Black adds another entertaining performance in his long line of family suited outings while, the young cast and the film’s creature effects, handled by Sony Pictures Animation, do the film great service.  While some may be disappointed that their favorite monsters were not better represented, Goosebumps aims to please all with younger viewers being most entertained.  Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers a stellar presentation of its latest spooky offering with a supplemental package catered to youngins.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 26th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Goosebumps can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Burying the Ex (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Burying the Ex (2014)

    Director: Joe Dante

    Starring: Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario & Oliver Cooper

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Gremlins, Burying the Ex centers on monster movie aficionado Max (Anton Yelchin, Star Trek) and his beautiful, environmentally devoted girlfriend Evelyn (Ashley Greene, Twilight).  Shortly after moving in together, Max grows weary of Evelyn’s controlling personality but, becomes fearful of calling it quits with her.  By freakish fate, Evelyn is killed in an accident, allowing Max to carry on with his life and fall for likeminded horror movie hottie Olivia (Alexandra Daddario, San Andreas).  Unfortunately, Evelyn returns from the grave to reclaim her boyfriend at all costs.  

    Based on the 2008 short film starring John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks), Burying the Ex brings horror and hilarity to the unpleasant practice of breaking up.  Starring Anton Yelchin as monster fanatic Max with the inability to break up with his “go green” obsessed girlfriend Evelyn (Greene), the scooter-rider has fate do his dirty work for him when Evelyn is tragically killed in a freak accident.  Equally distraught and relieved, Max carries on with his life and finds love again with fellow horror fan and ice cream parlor owner Olivia (Daddario).  While juggling his mundane position at a local horror-themed costume shop, Max’s encounter with a satanic genie lamp comes back to haunt him when his dreaded ex returns from the grave to reclaim what is hers.  Attempting to make his new relationship work while, procrastinating to sever ties with his recently deceased former flame, Max finds himself in six foot deep of trouble.  With its trendy references to horror movie history feeling heavy handed at times, Burying the Ex still delivers an offbeat, quirky effort of young love that won’t die.  Nicely cast with Yelchin and Daddario capturing worthwhile chemistry while, Greene entertains as the eco-friendly love interest before comically flying off the rails with jealousy as the rotting remains of her former self.  In addition, Oliver Cooper (Runner Runner) steals scenes as Max’s half-brother Travis with a weakness for women and a hilarious distaste for Evelyn.

    After a five year film hiatus, Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Matinee) returns once again proving his ability to relate to young souls still has a pulse.  With background appearances from Hammer horror classics and B-movie favorites like Plan 9 From Outer Space, Burying the Ex makes Dante’s love for genre pictures apparent as the director’s encyclopedic knowledge seeps into the character’s adoration for Val Lewton and George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  Simple in its execution with several laughs to be had, Burying the Ex refuses to take itself seriously much to the delight of viewers.  With a youthful cast and Dante’s anarchically fun direction on display, Burying the Ex is well worth digging up.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Burying the Ex with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally produced, Dante’s latest opus appears with natural skin tones and exceptional detail allowing for maximum appreciation of facial details and Greene’s deathly makeup.  In addition, black levels are inky and pleasing with sequences in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery free of any crushing. Meanwhile, colors from Max’s lime green apartment to Daddario’s stunning blue eyes pop off the screen with wonderful clarity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while, bone cracking sound effects and embalming fluid spewing make their presence effectively known.  Musical selections offer a healthy boost to the track with the sequence at the goth-themed Club Death injecting a heavy bass groove.  Unfortunately, no special features are included.

    Fun and reminiscent of Dante’s earlier teen-centered efforts, Burying the Ex blends horror and romance for an entertaining love triangle, left better off dead.  While its screenplay may slightly stumble, the entertaining performances and Dante’s love affair with horror and hijinks pick up the slack with ease.  RLJ Entertainment delivers this comical look at the undead with a superb high-definition transfer and top-notch audio merits that will leave viewers more than satisfied.  Resurrected from the grave, Burying the Ex will satisfy fans of Dante’s zany filmography and cartoony sensibilities.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 28th exclusively at Best Buy, Burying the Ex can also be purchased on DVD August 4th from Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) Blu-ray Review

    The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

    Director: Don Taylor

    Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera & Richard Basehart

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau finds Andrew Braddock (Michael York, Logan’s Run), the sole survivor of a shipwreck, finally discovering land after an extended period at sea.  Home to the brilliant but, mad Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster, The Train), Braddock begins fearing for his life when Moreau’s experiments of animalistic monstrosities become evident.  Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire), Barbara Carrera (Embryo) and Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) co-star.

    Continuing their output of H.G. Wells adaptations following 1976’s The Food of the Gods, American International Pictures would bring to life one of the author’s most noted stories.  Drifting at sea for days, Andrew Braddock (York) finds salvation after discovering an exotic tropical island.  Home and base of genetic experimentations for Dr. Moreau (Lancaster), Braddock turns fearful when Moreau’s god complex of turning wild animals into humans is revealed.  Developing an attraction for the island’s gorgeous Maria (Carrera), Braddock is determined to escape the wrath of Moreau’s bizarre surgeries before he becomes his next target.  Lacking the tense tone of its previous film adaptation, 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, The Island of Dr. Moreau still delivers with lavish scenery, shot on location in The Virgin Islands and the effective casting of Burt Lancaster as the twisted Dr. Moreau.  Displaying an array of wild animals including, lions, tigers, bears and panthers, Director Don Taylor’s (Damien: Omen II) sci-fi oddity packs its most memorable punch with memorable make-up designs courtesy of John Chambers (Planet of the Apes).  With respectable performances from York and Davenport, appearing as Moreau’s assistant Montgomery who develops a conscience only to pay heavily for it, The Island of Dr. Moreau may not tower the effect of its predecessor but, still delivers as a mildly entertaining mad scientist effort with the star power and modern day movie magic to justify its merit.  

    Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Island of Dr. Moreau maintains its share of softness while, colors generally please with skin tones reading naturally.  Detail is most respectable in facial close-ups and the impressive make-up designs of the island’s monstrous creatures.  In addition, black levels appear decently with only mild instances of noise on display.  With its elements in decent shape, The Island of Dr. Moreau makes an acceptable leap to high-definition.  Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix provides clear dialogue levels with hiss or static a nonissue.  Instances of stronger sound effects ranging from gunshots and thunder impress if not, ringing too sharply at times.  Other island ambiance and growling animal noises are also balanced effectively.  Special features include, an Extended Trailer (5:51), Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13) and a Deleted Final Image only included on the network television airing of the film.

    Boasting an impressive performance from Burt Lancaster as the demented Dr. Moreau and top-notch make-up work, The Island of Dr. Moreau slightly suffers from a lack of tension that was so well utilized in its 1932 counterpart.  Missteps aside, Director Don Taylor’s retelling makes serviceable strides in capturing a tone true to Wells’ spirit.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents this jungle nightmare with a pleasing transfer sans mild age-related issues that should satisfy audiences all the same.  Fans of Wells’ timeless tales and American International Pictures’ drive-in opuses will find their fair share of charm in this science fiction shocker.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 23rd from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Island of Dr. Moreau can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

    Director: Henry Levin

    Starring: James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson & Thayer David

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Journey to the Center of the Earth is another grand science fiction film entrée from the 1950s, a great blending of classic actors with a movie that has many fantastical elements and monsters.  The great James Mason (North by Northwest, Odd Man Out) leads an expedition to the center of the Earth along with Pat Boone (All Hands on Deck), Arlene Dahl (Slightly Scarlet) and Peter Ronson (his only film).  On their journey they encounter both wonderful and treacherous findings along the way.

    Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (Mason), an Edinburgh science professor has stumbled upon centuries old evidence from another scientist, Arne Saknussemm, detailing a pathway located in Icelandic volcanoes leading to the center of the Earth.  Lindenbrook assembles his team, student Alec McKuen (Boone), farmhand Hans (Ronson), his duck Gertrude and Carla Goetaburg (Arlene Dahl).  Previously, Carla’s late husband Peter Goetaburg, was prepping his own expedition to the bowels of the Earth but was killed by Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) to claim the glory of his ancestor.  Continuing his tradition, the Count intends to follow the Lindenbrook expedition to the center and eventually kill them.  Once the team is assembled, they head inside the volcano to find many different exotic and dangerous areas.  Unknowingly, the group is followed by Count Saknussemm but, join alliances as they continue their treacherous journey.  Once at the bottom, the five of them nearly get eaten by a group of Dimetrodon but manage to escape to the water which then gets sucked into a whirlpool.  Landing in the lost city of Atlantis, the team discover the century-old remains of Arne Saknussemm pointing a way to get back to the top of the volcano.  With escape in sight, a giant chameleon stands in the way of the crew getting back from within the Earth. 

    Once inside the volcano, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a highly entertaining film as we follow the cast into parts unknown.  The first half of the film could be considered a drama with heavy dialogue with the inclusion of a musical number.  A very well-known singer, songwriter and entertainer, Pat Boone does such that in one scene during the film.  The last half of the film becomes pure science fiction when the cast heads down the paths inside the volcano.  While the film may be considered slow to some expecting full-blown action, the ample running time allows the film to build as the characters congregate to form their expedition.  Upon entering the volcano, we are treated to some wonderful visuals and gorgeous cinematography including lakes, a land of large mushrooms and some convincing, practically achieved prehistoric monsters.  James Mason is especially great as Lindenbrook, showing both a serious side as a Professor and his adventurous side as the explorer of a new world.  He also has some snappy dialogue with Arlene Dahl playing the widow of a man who planned his own expedition.  Reportedly, the two of did not get along very well during the making of this film and it shows in their scenes together. 

    Twilight Time has reissued Journey to the Center of the Earth using 4K technology and it’s a big winner.  The 4K restoration here is phenomenal, much improved over the first release. This is a very visually stunning encoded 1080p, 2:35:1 transfer.  The colors are even more vivid with a crisp, polished look to it and excellent contrast to boot.  In addition, the optional DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are top notch as well.  To add more icing on the cake, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Actress Diane Baker and Film Historians Steven C. Smith & Nick Redman, an Isolated Score Track, the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8-page Booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

    With a satisfying runtime, great cast and some really wonderful effects, Journey to the Center of the Earth stands out as not being just another low-budget B movie.  Rich in plot, with terrific acting, excellent cinematography, and of course, the great Dimetrodon scene for monster lovers, Journey to the Center of the Earth remains one of the better classic fantasy films of the 1950s. 

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, Journey to the Center of the Earth can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series DVD Review

    Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Yūta Mochizuki, Sejiu Umon, Hideki Fujiwara, Takumi Hashimoto, Reiko Chiba & Shiro Izumi

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as the first series in the popular Super Sentai franchise to be adapted for the American market, Super Sentai Zyuranger centers on the evil witch Bandora who after 170 million years of imprisonment is hellbent on exacting revenge upon Earth.  Meanwhile, five ancient warriors are summoned from their suspended animation to defend the planet and its citizens against Bandora and her wicked henchmen, utilizing enchanted weapons and giant robots known as the Guardian Beasts.  

    Beginning in 1975, the long-running Super Sentai franchise has marveled the imaginations of Japanese children since its inception while, casual viewers recognize their prominence for inspiring the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series in the early 1990s that would rise to immense popularity in America and the rest of the world.  Interestingly enough, Super Sentai Zyuranger would mark the sixteenth season of the popular series with extensive footage from its 50 episode run incorporated into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers inaugural season.  With the exception of its action footage recycled and reformatted for the American audience, the majority of Super Sentai Zyuranger including its characters and episode narratives are vastly different to its American interpretation.  Instead of summoning five teens with attitude, Super Sentai Zyuranger’s protagonists are a team of ancient warriors utilizing the power of prehistoric dinosaurs and robotic beasts to battle Bandora.  More noticeable changes that left Mighty Morphin fans bewildered for years become clear in Super Sentai Zyuranger such as the original male yellow ranger explaining why the pink ranger was the only one bearing a skirt-like costume in its American incarnation.  While, devoted fans of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series will be familiar with much of the episodes’ footage, those uninitiated with the Japanese program will revel in each adventures original intent.  Noticeably more fantastical than its more superhero driven international version, Super Sentai Zyuranger also possesses a slightly more adult edge with characters using such mild language as “hell” and “damn”.  In addition, the sinister witch Bandora (Rita Repulsa in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) is often threatening to kill her colorful enemies instead of the more commonly used “destroy” term.  

    Filled with marvelous martial arts sequences, vibrant colors and countless Kaiju-like battles, first-time viewers accustomed to the teenagers of Angel Grove will discover a wholly unique experience in Super Sentai Zyuranger that is equally exciting and action-packed.  Containing all 50 episodes across a whopping 10 discs, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series is a long-awaited addition into every Power Rangers fans collection and one that will stand proudly next to its American offerings as the series that truly started it all.

    Shout! Factory presents Super Sentai Zyuranger full frame, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  True to its original broadcast appearance, Super Sentai Zyuranger appears murky at times with colors slightly diluted, no question attributed to the show’s low-budget.  Never deal-breaking and with expectations kept at bay, the Japanese program looks as good as can be expected after nearly 25 years and will most definitely please enthusiasts of Shout! Factory’s previous Power Rangers releases.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, Super Sentai Zyuranger arrives with its original Japanese audio intact and optional English subtitles.  Dialogue, the show’s catchy theme song and its explosive battle sequences come across with no issues while, all subtitles appear clearly and easy to follow.  Special features include the sole Power Progenitors: Super Sentai Zyuranger Power Morphicon 2014 Panel where three cast members from the original show field questions from adoring fans with their responses relayed in English subtitles (26:54).

    Marking its DVD debut, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series finally offers likeminded fans the opportunity to experience the original Japanese hit that would eventually birth the global sensation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Endlessly fun and packed with dynamic eye candy, Super Sentai Zyuranger delivers everything that made its American rangers a blast but, with a slightly more fantastical flair.  After doing the impossible and presenting the first 20 years of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and beyond for home entertainment, Shout! Factory goes back to the franchise’s roots and delivers another bonafide helping of morphenomenal awesomeness.

     RATING: 4/5

    Available February 17th from Shout! Factory, Super Sentai Zyuranger: The Complete Series can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Godzilla 2000 (1999) Blu-ray Review

    Godzilla 2000 (1999)

    Director: Takao Okawara

    Starring: Takehiro Murata, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki & Hiroshi Abe

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as a reboot to the popular franchise, Godzilla 2000 would tear through Japanese theaters before, arriving stateside to rid the stench of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 disaster.  Theatrically ignored again in the U.S. until Director Gareth Edwards‘ 2014 effort, Godzilla 2000 was meant to propel the notorious monster back into the big leagues, amongst Y2K panic.  Continuing their Toho Godzillla Collection banner, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment proudly presents Godzilla 2000, with both its U.S. and Japanese versions.

    Marking his 23rd appearance, Godzilla 2000 finds the King of the Monsters plowing through Tokyo following the arrival of a flying saucer.  Generated by the sun, the alien ship eventually transforms itself into the monster Orga to conduct city destructing battle against Godzilla.

    MOVIE:

    Following the bad taste from the poor U.S. remake, Toho’s crowning star was ripe for a film worthy of his name again.  Severing connection to previous films, Godzilla 2000 serves as a fresh start to an already iconic character.  Focusing on a father/daughter team dedicated to tracking and predicting Godzilla’s whereabouts, Prof. Yuji Shinoda (Takehiro Murata) believes in studying the monster, as opposed to destroying him.  Meanwhile, Mitsuo Katagiri (Hiroshi Abe), head of the Crisis Control Intelligence, and his team discover an ancient UFO located deep in the Japanese waters.  Upon inspection, the alien spacecraft awakens, forcing Japanese military to intervene.  Always known to crash a party, Godzilla arrives to tangle and is quickly defeated by the fossil-shaped ship.  Fueled by the sun and with knowledge of Godzilla’s regenerative power, the fatal flying saucer patiently recharges its energy.  In addition, Prof. Shinoda, with daughter Io (Mayu Suzuki) and nagging reporter Yuki (Naomi Nishida), rush to better understand Godzilla’s power while, the CCI prepare to combat the UFO.

    Relatively simple in its execution, Godzilla 2000 severely misfires by placing Godzilla on the injured list for much of the runtime.  Following his first encounter with the mysterious UFO, Godzilla is sentenced to a temporary underwater grave while, the viewer is guided through the narrative by an unfortunately dull cast.  Visually, Godzilla’s nemesis is as bland as it comes until, the final act arrives and our hero returns for the ultimate showdown.  Overruled once again, the ship absorbs Godzilla’s DNA to become Millennian, essentially a flying saucer with tentacles.  Before long, the ever-changing alien transforms once more into the colossal Orga monster.  Exceptional looking, Godzilla has finally met his match with a monster as strikingly cool as the Tokyo native.  In true monster mashing fashion, the two adversaries destroy skyscrapers and Godzilla unloads his atomic breath, leading to an expected conclusion.  While, the final battle is decent, it sadly feels too little, too late.  Sticking true to its use of miniatures, Godzilla 2000 is also guilty of dated and sometimes laughable computer-generated effects.  Ushering into a new millennium and utilizing cutting-edge technology, the film’s attempts to rid itself of unintentional special-effects humor may have succeeded but, removes the charm and innocence of previous Godzilla installments.  Preferred by Toho for its pacing improvements, the U.S. cut, running 8-minutes shy of its Japanese counterpart, still bores its audience with uninspiring talent and a general lack of screen time for its star attraction.  Not quite the travesty of Roland Emmerich’s remake, Godzilla 2000 does little more than entertain in the fleeting, final battle moments that arrive far too late to care.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Godzilla 2000 arrives in a 1080p transfer with the U.S. cut sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Drenched in thick fog, the film is free of any aging artifacts while, retaining a slightly soft appearance.  The Japanese overcast does little to improve during daytime sequences with black levels appearing decently, considering the nonstop fog-use.  Mostly monochromatic, Godzilla 2000 never bursts with a wide range of colors but maintains natural skin tones with a slight lack of sharpness.  In comparison, the 2.35:1 framed Japanese cut is noticeably darker and a less pleasing viewing experience.  Free of any anomalies but riding modestly soft, Godzilla 2000 is still a decent-looking effort.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Godzilla 2000’s re-worked U.S. sound design is efficient with audible, English dubbing.  Shattering glass, missile explosions and even Godzilla’s iconic roar offer a noticeable increase in pitch but, slightly underwhelm as they never greatly rumble the mix.  Meanwhile, the Japanese version arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix featured in its native tongue.  While, not experienced firsthand, the mix is provided with optional English and French subtitles.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    With the exception of the U.S. (99 minutes) and Japanese (107 minutes) cuts, the bonus content is as follows:

    • Filmmaker and Crew Commentary (English Version Only): Ported over from the previous DVD release, Uncredited U.S. Writer/Producer Michael Schlesinger, Editor Mike Mahoney and Sound Editor Darren Pascal provide unique insight on the different cuts of the film.  Schlesinger mainly commands the track with interesting anecdotes and his insistence on placing the Toho logo before the film as per the fans.

    • Behind the Scenes (2:15): Also ported over, this brief on-set footage captures moments of Godzilla causing destruction amongst miniaturized sets and against green screens.

    • Original Trailer (1:17): In Japanese.

    • Ultraviolet Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:

    Re-establishing the iconic monster for the premillennial world seemed a nobel effort following, the U.S.’s mistreatment of the character.  Starting from scratch, Godzilla 2000 never strays far from the established formula but, backfires by removing the title character from much of the runtime.  Led by a mundane cast and dated computer-effects, Godzilla 2000 only comes alive in its final moments when the gruesome Orga faces off against our hero, before ending too swiftly.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has generously provided both cuts of the film with varying, but mostly satisfactory A/V qualities.  While, light on special features, an informative commentary carried over from the DVD, highlights the package.  Most certainly not as dreadful as the Matthew Broderick starrer, Godzilla 2000 still fails to register as a notable entry in the iconic monster’s filmography.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 9th from Sony Pictures Home EntertainmentGodzilla 2000 can be purchased via Amazon.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #1: Nightmare City, Die, Monster, Die!, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #1 includes:

    - Nightmare City (1980)
    Street Date: December 31, 2013
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Cat People (1982) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Judy (1969) / The Night Hustlers (1968)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/launch/

    - The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) / The Neanderthal Man (1953)
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

  • Devil's Express (1976) DVD Review



    Devil’s Express (1976)
    Director: Barry Rosen
    Starring: Warhawk Tanzania, Larry Fleischman, Sam De Fazio & Wilfredo Roldan
    Released by: Code Red DVD

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After many years of searching for suitable materials and hope of a release seeming all but lost, Code Red DVD has finally and unexpectedly released one of their most desirable titles yet!  The 75th spine numbered release from the independent distributor comes nearly five years after being announced in what many fans believed was never going to happen.  While the wait has been excruciating, Code Red DVD not only located the original camera negatives for the film but also restored it in HiDef.  After years of waiting, it’s finally time to experience the 50,000 year old death that stalks the subways!  You’ve bought the ticket, now let’s take the ride upon Devil’s Express.  All aboard…

    Devil’s Express tells the story of New York Martial Artist Luke (played by Warhawk Tanzania who quite possibly has the greatest name in history) as he heads to Hong Kong with his student Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan) in order to earn his next level in the Martial Arts world.  It isn’t long until they stumble upon an ancient burial site where an amulet holding demon creatures is found.  Not knowing this, Rodan steals the amulet and takes it back to his gang infested turf of New York City where all hell breaks loose… literally!  Dead bodies start popping up in the subways while the police believe they are a result of gang wars.  It’s up to Luke to confront the demonic beast underground in order to avenge his student before all hope is lost.

    MOVIE:
    With a film like Devil’s Express that has so much expectation, it’s hard to ensure that a film will deliver all that has been promised on the poster and by word of mouth.  Luckily, Devil’s Express is best described as a “grindhouse pizza”, the film has many slices of different subgenres that were populating the theaters found in Times Square at the time like action, martial-arts, horror and blaxploitation.  Every 20 minutes, the film morphs into something else while still pressing on with a story that entertains on a number of levels for its entire 84 minutes.  Sure, there’s hilarity to be found in the less than stellar fighting sequences and Luke’s jive-speech but that all comes with the charming territory.  It’s so often that films get labeled as “grindhouse” simply because they were released in this decade and even played in theaters of its ilk but Devil’s Express is film that not only deserves it, but wears that label proudly.  The film breathes the New York City of the 70s by showcasing alleyway gang fights and wonderful street shots of defunct grindhouse theaters and peepshows that make you long for those days again.  Tanzania’s performance is the light that guides this film through it’s odd journey and manages to make us laugh as well as kick some demon ass.  During the theatrical release of The Warriors, the distributor of Devil’s Express re-titled it as Gang Wars in order to sell it as a gritty gang movie.  While the title is a cool one, Devil’s Express is more fitting and a far more honest description of what the viewer will be getting.  The film took many moons to make its way into our DVD players, but I can safely say that the wait was worth it and deserves a spot on every cult lovers shelf.  Purchase without hesitation, jive-ass turkeys!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Code Red DVD presents Devil’s Express in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen HiDef transfer from the original camera negatives.  In short, the film looks beautiful.  Colors pop nicely with healthy levels of grain intact that even the minor instances of dirt and debris won’t ruin.  For as long as the negatives took to find, many would have imagined the worst for their condition but worry not because Devil’s Express truly looks terrific.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The film is presented in an English Mono track and much like its video counterpart, it sounds great.  The roar of subway trains and fight sequences come across just as well as you could imagine while dialogue comes through without a hitch.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    The disc automatically opens up with a trailer for The King of Kung Fu before heading to the main menu.

    - Devil’s Express Trailer

    - Gang Wars Trailer: An alternate Devil’s Express trailer that utilized the Gang Wars title.

    - Code Red Trailers: A sneak peek at some exciting future flicks like Death Promise, The Black Dragon Revenges the Death of Bruce Lee (which utilizes Spanish title cards), Running Scared, This Is a Hijack! and Shakma.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Devil’s Express is a superb execution in grindhouse greatness where several different subgenres make up a piece of this entertaining pie.  The film is roller-coaster fun and is presented in quite possibly the best presentation it has ever seen.  Code Red DVD’s HiDef transfer blows the socks out of any fuzzy looking bootleg you may have owned previously and while the release is light on extras (although, they were originally planned for but aborted after waiting so many years for cast and crew participation that never came through) the strength of the film alone earns high marks.  Devil’s Express is deliciously awesome and is essential for any and all grindhouse fans!
    RATING: 4.5/5