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Currently showing posts tagged Olive Films

  • Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982)

    Director: Jerry Belson

    Starring: Mark Blankfield, Bess Armstrong, Tim Thomerson, Krista Errickson & Michael McGuire

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Turning the classic tale on its head, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again centers on the brilliantly shy Dr. Daniel Jekyll (Mark Blankfield, The Incredible Shrinking Woman) whose experimental research developing a drug to substitute all surgeries accidentally works its unexpected magic on the reserved surgeon.  Morphing into a wild and crazy ladies man known as Hyde, nonstop partying and a skyrocketing sexual appetite unleashes the beast within the doctor formally known as Jekyll.  Bess Armstrong (My So-Called Life), Tim Thomerson (Near Dark), Krista Errickson (The First Time) and Michael McGuire (Hard Times) costar.

    Unfathomably produced by Hollywood heavyweight Paramount Pictures, this painfully unfunny modern desecration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella is a chemical catastrophe of epic proportions and lamebrain hijinks.  Uptight and awkward, Dr. Daniel Jekyll’s reputation as a master surgeon is unanimously respected by his peers while, his passion has been rerouted to medical research leaving hospital director and his future father-in-law (McGuire) enraged.  Struggling to conceive a substance that would eliminate all surgeries, Jekyll dozes away in front of his experimental powders and ridiculously snorts the concoction triggering a total personality alteration.  Sprouting chest hair, gold chains, a quintessential 80s stache and a handy coke nail, the intoxicated freakazoid, guided by his raging hormones, falls for punk rock singing hooker Ivy Venus (Errickson) before his chemical high wears off, reverting him back to his serious self.  Juggling his commitment to his prissy fiancée (Armstrong) while unable to kick the addiction to his wild Hyde side, Jekyll’s extensive research earns him a whopping $500,000 prize to be awarded in London where he demonstrates a trailer trash impromptu performance in front of royalties finest and his two contrasting lovers.  

    Scripted by no less than four writers including, co-creator of The Cosby Show Michael Leeson, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again manages to only invoke laughs of pity at how poorly conceived its flat jokes and cheap gags bomb.  Featuring minor appearances from Cassandra Peterson (Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), Lin Shaye (Insidious) and Barret Oliver (The NeverEnding Story) in a blink and you’ll miss role as a child in a supermarket, this lab disaster of a picture fittingly ends with Stevenson’s rotting skeleton turning in its grave, summing up the anything but humorous feature exquisitely.

    Olive Films presents Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Presumably recycling the same transfer from Legend’s 2011 release, video quality is respectably healthy with skin tones and color choices in hospital scrubs and other standout attire striking nicely.  Age-related artifacts are minimal with only minor speckling seen during nighttime sequences leaving the film in an otherwise pleasing state.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, static is present during the film’s opening organ music before steady and clear dialogue levels right the ship.  Ivy’s performance at Madam Woo Woo’s is surprisingly robust and thunderous while, arcade ambiance of Pac-Man sound effects and the like make fitting compliments to the track.  No special features have been included on this release.

    A comedic experiment gone severely wry, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again fails on every conceivable level to be funny or even mildly interesting.  Retrospectively notable for its major studio promotional campaign that poked fun at the very rampant cocaine consumption of the decade, this frustratingly flat feature is a total buzzkill and will certainly smash anyone’s high.  For still curious viewers, Olive Films at least curates an appreciatively decent presentation albeit without any supplements.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Ratings Game (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ratings Game (1984)

    Director: Danny DeVito

    Starring: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Gerrit Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Louis Giambalvo, Frank Sivero & Vincent Schiavelli

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking his directorial debut, Danny DeVito also stars in The Ratings Game as successful Jersey trucking tycoon Vic De Salvo whose aspirations of fame lead him to Hollywood.  Teaming up with his girlfriend (Rhea Perlman, Matilda) who works for the TV ratings service, the tenacious new show runner hatches a scheme to rig the sacred system in his favor.  Gerrit Graham (Used Cars), Kevin McCarthy (Innerspace), Louis Giambalvo (Weekend at Bernie’s), Frank Sivero (Goodfellas) and Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost) co-star.

    Shortly after the cancelation of his successful sitcom Taxi, Asbury Park native Danny DeVito would find himself carrying the torch both behind and in front of the camera for the Showtime network’s debut into original TV movie programming.  Impressing top brass with his comedic creative chops on HBO’s politically funny anthology series Likely Stories, DeVito’s Jersey roots and boisterously Italian heritage rides shotgun in this satirical sendup of showbiz and scandal.  Relocating with his family to Tinseltown and living lavishly off of his trucking business, Vic De Salvo yearns to become a respected TV producer much to the overwhelming disapproval of established players.  After a spiteful decision earns De Salvo a green-lit pilot at the struggling MBC network, the short statured wannabe professional must overcome a suicidal time slot setup by his hilariously unsupportive studio head (Graham).  Teaming up with his girlfriend and fellow Jerseyite Francine (Perlman) who works for the trusted television ratings service, De Salvo’s mafioso-esque plan to rig the system to ensure his show’s popularity shoots his credibility up the charts before a hysterical downward spiral culminates at the annual TV Digest Awards ceremony.  

    Hosting a multitude of appearances from ascending stars including, Michael Richards (Problem Child), George Wendt (Cheers), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) as a dismissive network exec, The Ratings Game is a bonafide only in the 80s knee slapper that makes light of TV programs of the era while, DeVito and Perlman’s lovely onscreen chemistry assures viewers what they see is not just movie magic but, the foundation of a personal and professional relationship that has endured four decades.  Well praised during its original release and sending DeVito off on a successful run of theatrical hits, The Ratings Game would ultimately fall into unwarranted near extinction.  Delectably silly and containing an impressively funny ensemble cast, The Ratings Game has aged considerably well, highly earning itself a rerun.

    Olive Films presents The Ratings Games with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the marks of its TV movie roots with black bars displayed vertically on either sides of frame, bolder colors found in costume choices are eye-catching while, an inherent softness and occasional speckling is unsurprisingly displayed given the film’s original viewing intent.  A vast improvement over its bygone VHS release, The Ratings Game has never looked better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficient, if not underwhelming, with no troubling levels of distortion or hiss detected.  In a welcome change of pace, Olive Films welcomes the release with a generous helping of supplements including, The Short Films of Danny DeVito: The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (20:37), A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (13:48), Minestrone (11:51) and The Sound Sleeper (11:52).  In addition, Deleted Scenes (6:03), a Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:50), Promo Spot (1:41) and a 26-page booklet featuring stills, screenplay excerpts and writings on The Ratings Game and Likely Stories are also included.

    Incorporating his own Garden State upbringing with stereotypical cracks at his Italian ethnicity, Star/Director Danny DeVito’s The Ratings Game makes a splash keeping viewers entertained by its many funny performances and charmed by his and real life wife Perlman’s lovable onscreen romance.  Appreciatively saving and reintroducing audiences to Showtime’s first-ever television movie, Olive Films deserves praise for the feature’s remastered high-def presentation and its welcome inclusion of bonus features that will hopefully continue with future releases.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Ratings Game can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • 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.

  • Serial (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Serial (1980)

    Director: Bill Persky

    Starring: Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Hellerman, Christopher Lee, Bill Macy, Peter Bonerz & Tom Smothers

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Cyra McFadden, Serial takes a satirical look at the lives of California couples during the late 1970s.  Uptight and increasingly annoyed Harvey Holroyd (Martin Mull, Roseanne) becomes overwhelmed by his wife Kate’s (Tuesday Weld, Thief) new age personality while, their friends’ liberal behavior and stances on feminism, free love and other trendy traits creates a hilarious melting pot of absurdity for the simple-minded Harvey.  Sally Hellerman (Back to School), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Bill Macy (Maude), Peter Bonerz (The Bob Newhart Show) and Tom Smothers (My Brother the Angel) co-star.

    Boasting a respectable ensemble cast and marking the feature film debut of television veteran Bill Persky (Who’s the Boss?, Kate & Allie), Serial is a comical sendup of the progressive culture sweeping the nation during the late 70s.  Undersexed and overwhelmed by his liberal-minded wife and equally ridiculous neighborhood friends, Harvey Holroyd (Mull) seeks a better paying position while, his marriage takes a plummeting turn resulting in both parties shacking up with other partners.  Attempting to fall in with the crowd, Harvey agrees to attending an orgy with his newly appointed secretary and awkwardly ends up in the sexual graces of 19-year-old cashier Marlene (Stacey Nelkin, Halloween III: Season of the Witch).  In addition to losing their daughter to a carnation selling cult, Harvey fails to relate to his new freedom while, Kate’s own flirtatious attraction ends up in disaster after realizing her pet-grooming stud is bisexual.  Poking fun at societies dependence on therapy and quaaludes plus, the gossip-obsessed nosy-bodies of every community, Serial makes pit stops for Harvey to hilariously bemoan Kate’s eco-friendly insistence on denying him to drive a car.  Congregating at a wedding while the groom accepts his role as an asshole, Harvey notably comments “these are exciting times, aren’t they?  Gas is over a dollar a gallon and it’s okay to be an asshole”, summing up the film’s sarcastic stance perfectly.  Aided by a leather-clad gang of gay bikers led by the mysterious Skull (Lee), Harvey and Kate rescue their daughter from the cooky-minded cult and set aside their differences to start anew without organic foods and therapeutic jargon getting in the way.  Although, modern audiences may find little to relate to in this comic time capsule, Mull’s sensibilities and utter distaste for those surrounding him make for the film’s funniest moments while, the narrative has fun taking jabs at the occasionally outdated examples of liberals before the rise of Reganomics.

    Olive Films presents Serial with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing only fleeting instances of speckles, damage is practically nonexistent with the transfer supporting a pleasing filmic appearance.  Skin tones are natural while, colors are generally strong with only occasional moments of softness rearing its head.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably delivered with no hiss or pops detected.  Although audible, some moments appear hollow-sounding, capturing a slight echoey pitch.  With music relegated to its opening/closing credits and the use of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” during the climax, their appearances are not wildly impactful.  Meanwhile, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Serial can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • Shock 'Em Dead (1991) Blu-ray Review

    Shock ‘Em Dead (1991)

    Director: Mark Freed

    Starring: Traci Lords, Aldo Ray, Troy Donahue & Stephen Quadros

    Released by: Slasher // Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hard rock and homicide come together in Shock ‘Em Dead when rising band manager Lindsay Roberts (Traci Lords, Not of This Earth) discovers guitar virtuoso Angel Martin (Stephen Quadros, Demon Wind) to lead her fiancé’s act to new heights.  Unknown to his fellow band members, Angel has made a pact with evil forces granting him unprecedented musical talent in exchange to feed on living souls.  As infatuation increases, Lindsay’s lust for Angel morphs into fear after discovering his dark secrets.

    Appearing in one of her first mainstream roles following her controversial career in adult entertainment, Traci Lords, although top-billed, plays second string to the film’s heavy metal antagonist.  Making a pact with a voodoo temptress, former nerd Martin morphs into hard-rocking, guitar playing god Angel (Quadros).  After landing a spot in manager Lindsay Roberts’ up and coming band, Angel is met with limitless talent, women and fame only to discover his dark deal requires him to kill in order to sustain his new life.  Coupled with several scantily clad females and heavy guitar licks provided by Nitro’s Michael Angelo Batio, Shock ‘Em Dead joins the niche subgenre of other heavy metal-horror efforts including, Trick or Treat (1986) and Rock ’N’ Roll Nightmare (1987).  Accompanied by a pack of sexy groupies who share a similar arrangement with evil forces, Angel stabs his way through several unsavory characters who treated his former self wrongly while harboring a growing attraction to his manager and bass player’s fiancée.  Before long, Angel’s secret is revealed forcing Lindsay and her beau Greg (Tim Moffett in his film debut) to destroy him by goofily force feeding their twisted band leader and his devilish jezebels to their doom.  Moderately fun with an enjoyable head-explosion during its fleeting moments, Shock ‘Em Dead tends to become routine before its conclusion while, serving as a loving testament to hair metal’s final days that kept heads banging for the better part of the previous decade.  Although not the finest hour for metal/horror hybrids, Shock ‘Em Dead still manages to host a decent party of soul killing mayhem and the very sexy Traci Lords giving an earnest performance.

    Arriving in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Slasher // Video respectfully alerts viewers that Shock ‘Em Dead is not sourced from an HD master but, rather remastered from a 1” tape source and upconverted to Blu-ray specifications.  Appearing noticeably of lesser quality than desired, Shock ‘Em Dead contains inherent softness in its picture common to its outdated source material.  Unquestionably bearing a video age look, colors are relayed decently while, black levels understandably suffer from a hazier appearance during dimly lit sequences.  In addition, minor flakes and speckles are spotted while, tracking lines are thankfully nowhere to be seen.  Considering the best available elements were provided for its release, Shock ‘Em Dead may not look astounding but, certainly fares better than one could hope for under the conditions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue ranges in quality from audible to problematic with exterior factors such as sound effects and guitar riffs overpowering the performers with mild hiss detected intermittently.  Supplied with a surprising number of supplements, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Mark Freed, an Interview with Director Mark Freed (4:53), Cast Reunion 2015 (22:59) and a “Director’s Cut” (1:42) serving as a sizzle reel of the film’s more scandalous moments.  In addition, Deleted & Extended Scenes (5:15), Actor Auditions (6:23), a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (8:27), a Cast Revisits Audition Tapes featurette (6:18), Cast Views & Comments on Deleted Scenes (5:39), the Shock ‘Em Dead Trailer (0:51) and a Poster & Art Gallery (13:36) round out the disc’s bonus content.

    Shortly after her collaborations with King of the B’s Roger Corman and Pink Flamingos director John Waters, Traci Lords would combat rockin’ evil in Shock ‘Em Dead.  Cheaply produced and serving as one of the last heavy metal-horror films of its time, Mark Freed’s headbanging directorial debut contains its moments before running itself in circles.  Although not sourced from ideal elements, Slasher // Video admirably makes fans aware of the film’s visual limitations in order to keep expectations contained.  Presented to the best of its abilities, Shock ‘Em Dead’s generous price tag and favorable amount of supplements make it easily recommendable.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Slasher // Video, Shock ‘Em Dead can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • Madhouse (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1990)

    Director: Tom Ropelewski

    Starring: John Larroquette, Kristie Alley, Alison La Placa, John Diehl & Jessica Lundy

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Tom Ropelewski (Look Who’s Talking Now), Madhouse centers on new homeowners Mark (John Larroquette, Night Court) and Jessie (Kristie Alley, Cheers) Bannister as they enjoy the fruits of their luxurious California residence.  When a series of events lead to a multitude of houseguests invading their home, the Bannisters are pushed to their limits accommodating the increasingly obnoxious visitors.  Similar to other humble abodes gone to hell pictures including Funny Farm and The Money Pit, Madhouse is a hilarious romp that finds the perfect couple’s home life turned upside by a siege of visiting family members, neighbors and a destructive cat with endless lives.  Larroquette and Alley are excellently matched with their comedic timing complimenting one another while, the supporting players of Jessica Lundy (Caddyshack II) as Mark’s talkative and supposedly pregnant relative Bernice offer much of the film’s laughs.  Confronted with increasingly bad luck and more unwanted visitors, other hysterical highlights include, Mark and his desperately broke cousin Fred (John Diehl, Jurassic Park III) engaging in a dance-off, a preteen neighbor mowing a vulgarity into the Bannisters lawn and an explosive finale involving a drug bust at the crumbling home and a baby elephant.  Largely forgotten but nonetheless entertaining, Madhouse is an enjoyable examination of likable yuppies pushed to their wits with Larroquette and Alley delivering the comedy goods.

    Olive Films presents Madhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  From its colorfully animated opening titles to its respectably filmic appearance, image quality is strong with skin tones looking warm and natural.  Although softness is occasionally spotted, the virtually speckle-free transfer and well detailed array of colors and settings offer a pleasing high-definition experience.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is nicely handled with music choices and several explosions giving reasonable boosts to its rather tame soundscape.  Although not wholly dynamic, the mix gets the job done.  Serving as the disc’s sole special feature, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:47) is also included.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Student Bodies (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Student Bodies (1981)

    Director: Mickey Rose

    Starring: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Joe Flood, Joe Talarowski & Jerry Belson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Making light of the popular slasher genre, Student Bodies takes place at Lamab High School where a dimwitted serial killer, nicknamed The Breather, makes the more promiscuous teens his prey.  When good girl Toby (Kristen Riter) begins to unravel the mystery, everyone is considered a suspect in this horror parody.  

    As Paramount Pictures reaped the box-office benefits of Friday the 13th, the studio quickly shifted to mock the popular body count pictures only a year later.  Kicking off on Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday, a bizarre serial killer with severe breathing trouble stakes his claim on the sexually-partaking students of Lamab High School.  With an array of deadly devices at his disposal, The Breather instead makes paperclips, trash bags and eggplant his weapons of choice to tidy up the horny student body.  Best known for its gag of keeping track of its death toll including the swatting of a fly counting as half a kill, Student Bodies leaves no character free of eccentricities with teachers, parents and the uniquely double-jointed janitor Malvert all suspected as the killer.  Following slasher movie tropes, the virginal final girl Toby (Riter) takes matters into her own hands to discover the identity of The Breather while simultaneously being accused as the culprit.  

    Effected by an industry strike during its making, Mickey Rose (Co-Writer of Woody Allen’s Bananas) was credited as sole writer and director although, Michael Richie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) was in fact its lead director.  Silly yet, lacking any sizable laughs, Student Bodies is a parody with its head cut off, intent on making fun of slasher cinema but too reliant on arbitrary gags that never fully pay off.  A box-office bust at the time of its release, Student Bodies would find a second life for insomniacs on late night television.  With a bloodless body count yet hilariously earning itself an R-rating for the silliest of reasons, Student Bodies concludes with a fever dream of delusion that makes the bulk of its runtime nearly void.  Predating the popular parodical Scary Movie series, Student Bodies, haphazardly attempts to craft a horror-comedy hybrid that, much like its moronic killer, never quite catches it breath.

    Olive Films presents Student Bodies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably possessing specks and flakes throughout its runtime, colors appear occasionally washed out but, not nearly deal-breaking.  With natural grain intact, Student Bodies is far from pristine looking but satisfies.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with audibility never a problem.  Meanwhile, sound effects of loud ringing phones, high school band instruments and shattering glass offer a slight burst in impact that is fitting.  No special features are included on this release.

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

  • The Last American Virgin (1982) Blu-ray Review

    The Last American Virgin (1982)

    Director: Boaz Davidson

    Starring: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin, Joe Rubbo & Louisa Moritz

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brightly colored 1980s of Los Angeles, The Last American Virgin centers on three best friends, lovestruck virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), chick magnet Rick (Steve Antin, The Goonies) and jokester David (Joe Rubbo, Hot Chili) as they navigate the emotional waters of high school in pursuit of love, parties and sex.  Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead…), Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks), Brian Peck (The Return of the Living Dead) and Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000) co-star.

    Based upon Israel’s popular Lemon Popsicle franchise, The Last American Virgin kicks off as a series of sex comedy clichés finding our three horny teenage leads in search of equally promiscuous females.  From awkwardly hilarious attempts to woo ladies with mock cocaine to joyriding in a pink station wagon and contracting crabs from a lady of the night, the hijinks of teenage hormones is never scarce.  After falling head over heels for the beautiful Karen (Franklin), Gary’s (Monoson) admiration from afar is crushed following best friend Rick’s (Antin) swift moves on her.  Emotionally conflicted, Gary is caught between his genuine feelings for Karen and jealousy towards Rick who views his new girlfriend as merely a source of sexual pleasure.  In a dramatic third act change of gears, The Last American Virgin finds Karen in a fragile predicament with Gary as her only source of support.  Fully devoted to Karen in her desperate time of need, suggested sparks of romance blossom between them.

    Boasting arguably one of the most memorable soundtracks of the decade with top-charting talent including, Blondie, Oingo Boingo, Journey, The Police and REO Speedwagon, The Last American Virgin packs sufficient skin and laughs while remarkably emerging as an honest and heartbreaking account of those tender teenage years.  In one of the more striking tonal shifts in 80s coming-of-age cinema, The Last American Virgin continues to endure for its acute ability to capture the delight and suffering of youth and why it’s all so hard to give up in the end.

    Olive Films presents The Last American Virgin with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of muddier appearances in dim lighting, skin tones appear generally warm and eye-pleasing.  Brightly colored costume choices pop nicely as does the neon lighting found in the film’s diner sequences.  With natural grain evident, occasional instances of flakes, speckles and mild softness are on display yet never overly distracting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue tends to be overshadowed at times by the film’s popular soundtrack.  Similar to past home video releases, the inclusion of Human League’s “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” has once again been substituted by Devo’s “Whip It” while the remainder of songs are intact and pleasantly robust.  Most glaring in comparison to recently stacked overseas editions, no special features are included on this domestic release much to the disappointment of viewers.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Last American Virgin can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • The Babysitter (1995) Blu-ray Review

    The Babysitter (1995)

    Director: Guy Ferland

    Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Jeremy London, J.T. Walsh, Nicky Katt & George Segal

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following her turn as ditzy blonde bombshell in Clueless, Alicia Silverstone stars in The Babysitter.  When Harry and Dolly Tucker (J.T. Walsh, The Negotiator and Lee Garlington, Psycho II) attend a local party, the attractive Jennifer (Silverstone) is entrusted to babysit their children.  As the night progresses, Jennifer receives advances from her drunken boyfriend Jack (Jeremy London, Mallrats) and his manipulative friend Mark (Nicky Katt, Insomnia).  In addition to being the object of the elder Harry’s sexual desires, Jennifer’s quiet night of babysitting spirals into an unnerving evening she won’t soon forget.

    Overly relying on erotic daydreams of its attractive lead concocted by most of the supporting cast, The Babysitter lacks knowledge of its own intentions.  While Harry quietly drools over the teenage babysitter, Jennifer’s boyfriend Jack is pursued by his estranged former friend Mark forcing viewers to endure meandering dialogue of little value.  As the film’s parental figures drunkenly long for passionate affairs, Jack is duped into stalking his own girlfriend after kindly being told to not visit her while babysitting.  Crosscutting between the film’s reality, Harry’s own scandalous fantasies and Jack’s never ending thoughts of “what if” possibilities, The Babysitter never finds it footing as the erotic thriller it strives to be.  Attempting to resuscitate itself in its final fleeting moments with the core characters brought together by tragedy, Director Guy Ferland’s (Telling Lies in America) directorial debut fails to weave a compelling tale with character development greatly suffering.  Unsurprisingly, The Babysitter was lambasted direct to video during its original release with time doing little good to this tensionless feature.  Scared and confused, Jennifer asks her bizarrely weak-minded boyfriend what he was thinking following the film’s events, leaving viewers asking similar questions regarding the film’s quality or lack thereof.  

    Olive Films presents The Babysitter with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Presumably struck from a dated master, the picture boasts a softness that yields a less than desirably sharper appearance.  Colors are mostly satisfying with Mark’s sports car popping nicely and black levels possessing inky levels.  Meanwhile, skin tones range from mediocre to unpleasantly muddled in closeups while flakes and speckles are largely kept to a minimum but still occasionally present.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficiently audible with little else of merit.  No special features have been included on this release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Babysitter can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Kathryn Loder & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blaxploitation bombshell Pam Grier (Coffy) reteams with Director Jack Hill in Foxy Brown.  High on revenge following the murder of her government agent boyfriend, Foxy goes deep undercover into the seedy world of sex trafficking to make those responsible pay with their lives.  Antonio Fargas (Car Wash), Peter Brown (Teenage Tease), Terry Carter (The Phil Silvers Show), Kathryn Loder (Night of the Witches) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) co-star.

    Following the success of Coffy, American International Pictures hoped to recapture the excitement with a sequel before ditching the idea for an original concept.  With Director Jack Hill and star Pam Grier back in the fold, Foxy Brown may not feel wholly original from their previous collaboration but, most certainly excels in every way.  After her delinquent brother offers up her government agent boyfriend as debt clearance, Foxy Brown is determined to take her revenge.  While her occupation is never revealed, Foxy is a whole lot of woman that is capable of handling herself and anyone who steps in her way.  Adorned with flashy outfits and an even more empowering attitude, Pam Grier once again bears her assets to tantalize her way into a sex trafficking ring linked with high-level drug kingpins.  Grier appears more confident in her role as an independent soul that not only thoroughly entertains but, liberated female audiences during the turbulent decade.  With its theme of revenge carried over from Hill’s previous effort, Foxy Brown is noticeably more extreme with Foxy submitted to forced heroin injections and suggested rape only to respond accordingly by lighting her attackers on fire.  In addition, teaming up with a gang of neighborhood avengers, Foxy castrates a criminal in order to deliver his manparts to his prostitute ring leading girlfriend.  Effective and even more savage much to the delight of exploitation enthusiasts, Foxy Brown has little time for jive, delivering viewers one of blaxploitation’s finest and arguably, Grier’s most entertaining performance.

    Olive Films presents Foxy Brown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Accompanied with fleeting instances of flakes and speckles, the flashy colors found in wardrobe pop nicely with skin tones and detail in facial features benefitting from its hi-def upgrade.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasing while sequences taking place in a crowded bar suffer slightly from too many components overwhelming the track.  Unfortunately, once again surrendering to overseas releases overflowing with supplements, Olive Films provides no special features on this release.

    The creative combination of Director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier has been cemented in the history of cinema as grindhouse gold.  Slicker, sexier and more violent, Foxy Brown stands as one of blaxploitation’s towering achievements and a standout role for Grier that made her an eternal pillar for 42nd Street.  Making its U.S. debut on Blu-ray, Olive Films delivers a transfer well worth celebrating while, the lack of bonus content disappoints.  The strength and essentialness of the film itself warrants Foxy Brown into every blaxploitation fans‘ collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Foxy Brown can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Coffy (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Coffy (1973)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From grindhouse directing icon Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Bird Cage), Coffy stars Pam Grier as Nurse “Coffy” Coffin.  Determined to extract revenge on the drug pushers that hooked her young sister, Coffy uses her undeniable body language and arsenal of heavy firepower to take back the night from society’s scum.  Booker Bradshaw (The Strawberry Statement), Robert DoQui (Robocop), William Elliott (Night of the Lepus), Allan Arbus (Greaser’s Palace) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) co-star.

    Following appearances in several women in prison pictures, Pam Grier would graduate to become one of the fiercest and most beloved icons of blaxploitation cinema.  Shot in a remarkable 18 days and centering on a liberated nurse disgusted with the seedy criminals poisoning society, Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Grier) takes matters into her own hands to avenge the corruption of her young sister to junkies and their organization.  Demanding your attention from its earliest moments, Grier is a magnetic force of beauty that never shies from using her sexuality to con pimps and dealers before putting a bullet in them.  Simple in its execution with revenge her top priority, the stakes are elevated when thugs land Coffy’s longtime copper friend Carter (Elliott) in the hospital.  Displeased with ridding the city of only street level hustlers, Coffy decides to infiltrate drug kingpins with ties to corrupt city officials.  Engulfed in a world of prostitutes and narcotics, Coffy delivers a glorious highlight reel of exploitation from seedy characters and scantly clad women to a barrage of shootouts and an empowered protagonist that talks the talk and walks the walk.  Ever resourceful with razors stashed in her afro and bursting with nonstop attitude, Coffy is a landmark blaxploitation effort that catapulted Grier’s career to new heights and remains one of her most entertaining and enduring works.

    Olive Films presents Coffy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting instances of flakes and speckles, Director Jack Hill’s low-budget effort retains a nice layer of grain while relaying natural skin tones and warm colors.  Black levels are respectable with flakes only slightly more apparent but far from discouraging.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is free of any troubling distortion but occasionally sounds restrained.  Unfortunately, unlike overseas counterparts bursting with bonus content, Olive Films‘ release arrives with no special features.

    Applauded for its tough female lead and exceptional exploitative highlights, Coffy set star Pam Grier on a road to stardom that is still revered today.  Serving as one of the finest examples from blaxploitation’s heyday, Coffy’s vigilante tale of revenge dished out by the baddest chick on the block packs the punches to deserve its rightful praise amongst grindhouse aficionados.  Making its long-awaited domestic HD debut, Olive Films delivers the film with appreciable looks and sounds but, drops the ball with zero special features for such a landmark picture of the 70s.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Coffy can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Night Game (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Night Game (1989)

    Director: Peter Masterson

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Karen Young, Richard Bradford, Carlin Glynn & Paul Gleason

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set against the backdrop of Major League Baseball, Night Game stars Roy Scheider (Sorcerer) as Texas police detective Mike Seaver.  When a string of mysterious murders linked to night baseball games strikes the Galveston area, Seaver must connect the dots before another life is taken.  Karen Young (9 1/2 Weeks), Lane Smith (The Mighty Ducks), Richard Bradford (The Untouchables), Carlin Glynn (Sixteen Candles) and Paul Gleason (Die Hard) co-star.

    Continuing in his string of gritty crime thrillers, Roy Scheider appears unconvincingly as Texas detective Mike Seaver, hot on the case of a ruthless serial killer with a weakness for blondes.  Murdering his victims with a hook-like instrument and leaving them with mysterious notes, Seaver and his team are left with few leads as more bodies begin turning up on Galveston’s beaches.  Juggling his recent engagement to the much younger Roxy (Young) and feeling pressure from his superiors, Mike, a former minor league ball player, takes notice of the questionable coincidences between the murders and the Houston Astros‘ winning streak.  Before long, it’s clear whenever Astros pitcher Silvio Baretto takes the team to victory, another murder is committed leading Seaver on a hot trail to pinning his suspect down.  

    Shot on location in Galveston, Texas and the Astrodome in Houston, Night Game stumbles to build a story of suspense and criminal intrigue.  Considerably miscast, Scheider does little to disguise his New Jersey roots as a Texan and appears generally unenthusiastic in his performance.  Cloaked in far too much mystery until its closing moments, attempts to bulk Scheider’s character up with a past as a former minor leaguer and being the son of a crime boss is suggested but, never serves much purpose to the plot.  With viewers left clueless the entire picture about the killer’s identity, the reveal is ultimately unoriginal and wildly underwhelming.  In addition, wasting the talents of supporting players such as, Lane Smith (My Cousin Vinny) and Paul Gleason (The Breakfast Club) in throwaway roles, Night Game suggests a worthwhile thriller with its alluring slasher-esque poster art but, instead delivers a curveball of disappointment.

    Olive Films presents Night Game with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a natural, filmic appearance and inconsequential moments of speckling, Night Game delivers strong detail with perspiration off baseball players‘ faces and wardrobe relaying sharply.  Skin tones are inviting while, black levels are handled appropriately with little to no crushing observed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and crisp with Composer Pino Donaggio’s (The Howling, Blow Out) score delivered authoritatively and balanced evenly with sound effects.  Unfortunately, Night Game strikes out with no special features.  

    Performing poorly at the box-office, Night Game never strives to be original and wallows in the tropes of other run-of-the-mill crime thrillers.  Instead of weaving a quality tale of mystery, viewers are left oblivious to its uninspired outcome with Scheider closing the decade out on a low note.  Olive Films delivers the film for the time on Blu-ray (and DVD) with pleasing technical achievements sans special features.  Boasting a better poster design than memorable film, Night Game is an unfortunate bust.  

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) Blu-ray Review

    The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)

    Director: Robert Siodmak

    Starring: George Sanders, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ella Raines & Monya MacGill

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a play by Thomas Job, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry centers on aging bachelor Harry Quincey (George Sanders, All About Eve) who finds love with a New York fashion designer (Ella Raines, Impact).  Unfortunately, Harry’s last chance at marriage is threatened when his neurotic sister Lettie (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Dark Victory) uses her health conditions to take advantage of her brother.  Determined to carve a life out for himself, Lettie goes to depraved measures to keep her brother well within her reach.

    Produced by Joan Harrison (Ride the Pink Horse, Alfred Hitchcock Presents), The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry is a thrilling film noir camouflaged under the quaint serenity of a New England town.  Working tirelessly at a fabric mill to provide for his two sisters, Harry Quincey (Sanders) sees no hope of finding true love until Deborah Brown (Raines), a New York fashion designer visiting Harry’s workplace, enters his life.  Immediately taken by Deborah’s free-spirited personality and charming good looks, Harry may have just found true love until, his sister Lettie (Fitzgerald), bedridden for weeks on end and constantly in need of her brother’s attention, does her best to halt the blooming romance.  Geraldine Fitzgerald plays the role of an overbearing woman with a clearly incestuous obsession for her brother with a magnetic quality that boarders on insanity.  As his promising future with Deborah seems over before it started, Harry slowly uncovers startling information about Lettie that prompts him to reevaluate her control on his life.  

    Increasingly engaging and Hitchcockian in tone, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry pushes an ordinary man to his limits to cut out the weakness holding him back.  Keeping viewers on the edge of their seat, the film, well on its way to achieving high-profile status, falls prey to a compromised finale to appease the strict censorship code of the 1940s.  A lasting reminder of the damages of censorship, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry cops out with a predictably happy ending that feels wholly forced in a film that thrives on its deceitful and morbid attributes.  Although, the cast is topnotch in their respective roles and the noirish atmosphere shines through the greater majority of its runtime, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry nearly jeopardizes itself with an ending that should have never been but, alas is.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films presents The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  Showing its neglectful age, the film is littered with considerable scratches and speckling throughout the entirety of its runtime.  At times bothersome, detail is luckily strong in facial features and shadows while, inconsistent black levels waver from steadily inky to overrun with flakes.  Considering the decades since its release, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry makes its first Blu-ray (and DVD) appearance in the best condition possible given the circumstances.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clear and offers nice depth with no audio dropouts to note.  A slight level of hiss is detected but, only makes itself noticeable during completely silent moments of no consequence.  Unfortunately, no special features are offered on this release.

    Beautifully shot and boasting a wickedly intriguing story of incestuous infatuation and homicidal tendencies, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry seemed destined for greatness only to be sabotaged by a painfully forced ending.  While its compromised finale doesn’t doom the entire picture, Director Robert Siodmak’s (The KIllers) film noir still impresses with excellent performances and an unsettling atmosphere.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Olive Films does its best with a respectable transfer that gives film noir buffs the opportunity to experience this worthy effort.  While its presentation may not always be the strongest and lacking any supplemental features, the overall strength of the picture makes this release well recommended.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Facts of Life (1960) Blu-ray Review

    The Facts of Life (1960)

    Director: Melvin Frank

    Starring: Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Don Defore & Ruth Hussey

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of White Christmas, The Facts of Life centers on longtime friends and polar opposites Larry Gilbert (Bob Hope, Some Like It Hot) and Kitty Weaver (Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy).  When their spouses are unable to join them on a planned getaway to Acapulco, the two find themselves enraptured with their surroundings and eventually each other.  As their magical vacation comes to close, Larry and Kitty must wrestle with their guilt and love for each other as they decide their fate.  Don Defore (Hazel), Ruth Hussey (The Uninvited), Philip Ober (North by Northwest) and Marianne Stewart (Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte) co-star.

    Following their previous collaborations on Sorrowful Jones and Fancy Pants, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball would reteam 10 years later for a romantic comedy, plagued with behind the scenes turmoil.  From Ball being knocked unconscious during filming to Director Melvin Frank breaking his ankle, Ball’s own Desilu Studios, where a percentage of filming took place, would also partially burn down.  Production woes aside, The Facts of Life details a simple story of love found in the most unexpected places.  Maintaining a typical suburban existence of raising children and spending time with the same friends, Larry Gilbert (Hope) and Kitty Weaver (Ball) sense something lacking in their personal lives that their own spouses fail to notice.  When a couples vacation to Acapulco is planned, Larry and Kitty’s spouses are unable to join leaving the two casual friends to spend the exotic getaway together.  Before long, Larry and Kitty fall madly in love with one another while celebrating their catch of a marlin and sharing romantic dinners together.  As the sun sets on their unexpected love affair, reality sets in when they return home, conflicted with guilt and overwhelmed with their undeniable attraction for each other.

    Far more romantic than comedic, The Facts of Life weaves a tale from a simpler time where married couples still slept in separate beds.  Hope and Ball’s chemistry is contagious and proves to still be sharp following a decade long hiatus.  While their developing love in Acapulco is charming enough, the inclusion of both characters having children makes their actions feel wildly selfish as opposed to simply leaving unappreciative spouses.  As Larry and Kitty attempt to continue the affair on their home turf, comical situations ensue when their local cleaning man nearly catches the couple necking at a drive-in movie.  Plus, a weekend getaway backfires due to inclement weather and a leaky roof bringing out the grouchier sides of their personalities.  After much discussion involving finances, lawyer fees and the remarriage of their spouses, the spark ignited in Acapulco begins to dim as Larry and Kitty are faced with the hard reality of their choices.  Occasionally sweet and heavy on dramatics, The Facts of Life is a heightened account of a love affair that begins earnestly but, sells itself short with an unsatisfying conclusion.  

    Olive Films presents The Facts of Life with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, the film appears inherently soft with Saul Bass’ animated title sequence looking less than stellar.  Luckily, the black and white photography registers modest detail and generally strong black levels, most evident in Hope’s dark hair and countless pieces of wardrobe.  Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix relays audible, if not inconsistent, dialogue levels that sometimes require an increase in volume.  A slight hiss is detected on the mix but, never intrudes on the picture.  Expectedly, the only special feature offered is the Theatrical Trailer (2:41).

    Nominated for five Academy Awards and winning for Best Costume Design, The Facts of Life is noticeably more dramatic than past Hope/Ball collaborations while, attempting to deliver a romantic tale of forbidden love and its aftereffects.  Hope and Ball’s chemistry is intact and effective but, their motives feel too selfish to fully get behind.  In addition, their final decision regarding their newfound love feels entirely wasted and the picture suffers as a result.  Olive Films ushers the romantic dramedy onto Blu-ray with sufficient quality that is a fair upgrade from past DVD releases.  Viewers expecting a knee-slapping riot with comedic legends like Hope and Ball in the driver’s seat will be disappointed but, as a relatively grounded film on the complexities of love, The Facts of Life suffices.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Facts of Life can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980) Blu-ray Review

    How to Beat the High Cost of Living (1980)

    Director: Robert Scheerer

    Starring: Susan Saint James, Jane Curtain, Jessica Lange & Richard Benjamin

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Susan Saint James (Love at First Bite), Jane Curtain (Saturday Night Live) and Jessica Lange (American Horror Story), How to Beat the High Cost of Living centers on three high school girlfriends, all grown and realizing their marriages and suburban lifestyles are less than idyllic.  Down on their luck and each desperately in need of money, the trio hatch a scheme to steal a stash of prize money from their local mall resulting in a series of hilarious mishaps.  Richard Benjamin (Westworld), Dabney Coleman (WarGames), Eddie Albert (Green Acres), Cathryn Damon (Webster) and Fred Willard (Best in Show) co-star.

    Gestating for nearly a decade, Screenwriter Robert Kaufman (Nothing Personal) would finally see his project come to fruition under Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures after being purchased by Filmways Pictures.  Having originally shown interest from all the major studios and aiming for top-tier talent including, Shirley MacLaine, Faye Dunaway and Sally Field, all of whom, although interested, refused to share the spotlight with two other leading women.  Following Kaufman’s most recent success with 1979’s Love at First Bite, American International Pictures agreed to fund the film with a cast of up and comers, lending the film its greatest assets.  Divorced and attempting to raise her children while, juggling a new boyfriend, Jane (Saint James), is nearly broke after learning she’s pregnant.  Meanwhile, Jane’s best friends are in no better shape with Elaine (Curtain in her film debut), being left by her husband for a younger woman and with no money to pay their mortgage while, Louise (Lange) suffers a devastating blow when her unprofitable antique shop is confronted with a lawsuit by her loving husband (Benjamin) to wipe away the increasing debt.  Left with little money and their undying friendship, the unlikely trio vow to get their finances back in order by cleverly stealing a giveaway prize of cash at the local mall.  Proving they can carry out the scheme just as well as any man, the women find themselves stealing items from a hardware store while, Jane’s children wait in the car and utilizing a bright yellow canoe as their getaway vehicle.  When their once solid plans begin to unravel, Elaine even subjects herself to a hilarious striptease in front of the entire mall in order to recoup the money.

    Earning a slim profit at the time of its release, How to Beat the High Cost of Living stands as a strong female driven comedy long before it was commonplace.  While its humor may, at times, feel dated, its delivery and comedic timing from the film’s lovely trio still extract the necessary laughs from its viewers.  In addition, Richard Benjamin, playing Lange’s hilariously horny veterinarian husband, is a scene stealer, providing excellent chemistry with his onscreen wife while, Jane Curtain’s Saturday Night Live co-star, Garrett Morris, makes a welcome cameo appearance in one of the film’s funnier moments.  Plus, the sultry Sybil Danning (Battle Beyond the Stars) appears as Benjamin’s head turning secretary.  Demonstrating the ever-changing economic times and a woman’s desire to be more than a housewife, How to Beat the High Cost of Living paints its characters in a realistic light while, injecting ample humor into one of the more underrated female-starring gems of the 1980s.

    Olive Films presents How to Beat the High Cost of Living with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting bold colors in its animated opening title sequence, light instances of insignificant flakes and speckles arise throughout the transfer.  Skin tones are warm and natural with excellent detail to be appreciated in close-ups of its three leading ladies.  In addition, occasional moments of mild softness occur mostly in wide, establishing shots with black levels relaying respectable visibility and only scant instances of debris.  Filmic and generally lively looking, How to Beat the High Cost of Living checks out nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and crisp in this talky-driven picture with no hiss or distortion to mention.  Arriving with a single special feature, Olive Films accompanies the film with the Theatrical Trailer (2:55).  

    Centering on a trio of friends confronted with personal dilemmas and financial woes due to inflation, How to Beat the High Cost of Living is not only genuinely comical but, eerily reminiscent of ongoing issues today.  Although, the casting of unknown talent may have been for economic reasons, it generated an unexpected formula of hilarity that would reunite Saint James and Curtin for their successful sitcom, Kate & Allie.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Olive Films rewards fans of this 35 year-old comedy with a delightful transfer that shines in high-definition.  Cleverly crafted and carrying the torch for a future of female-driven comedies, How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a laugh-fest waiting to be rediscovered.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Olive Films, How to Beat the High Cost of Living can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The End of Violence (1997) Blu-ray Review

    The End of Violence (1997)

    Director: Wim Wenders

    Starring: Bill Pullman, Andie MacDowell, Gabriel Byrne, Traci Lind & Loren Dean

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The End of Violence centers on Hollywood producer Mike Max (Bill Pullman, Independence Day) who has made his fortune on big-budget action films with no redeeming social value.  After Max is kidnapped and nearly killed, his life takes a drastic turn when he chooses to ditch his former lifestyle and embrace a new society.  With his unhappy wife (Andie MacDowell, Sex, Lies, and Videotape) on the verge of leaving him and a surveillance expert (Gabriel Byrne, The Usual Suspects) intensely concerned with the fearful security tactics being implemented unknowingly on society, the characters paths cross in this social commentary on commercialism and introspection.

    Entered in the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, The End of Violence sets its course with an interesting plot of Hollywood royalty turned upside down after a near death experience.  Unfortunately, German Director Wim Wenders’ (Paris, Texas) examination of paranoia and consumerism quickly loses its focus with a stock of lifeless performances that fail to attract the viewers’ attention.  After being kidnapped and nearly murdered by two thugs, Hollywood hotshot Mike Max (Pullman) opts out of legal assistance to discover who wants him dead, instead choosing to lay low with his gardener’s Spanish speaking family.  Apparently fueled by paranoia but, adapting to his new surrogate family comfortably, Max attempts to investigate the matter on his own.  Meanwhile, surveilling Los Angeles via security cameras, Ray Bering (Byrne) happens upon Max’s dangerous encounter only to be locked out of his system shortly after by a questionable superior, leading Ray to question the security operations motives.  As an ongoing investigation into Max’s whereabouts persists, Max’s bored wife Page (MacDowell), intent on leaving her husband before his disappearance, decides to move on with her life by capitalizing on his fortunes.  Slowly paced and painstakingly dull, The End of Violence attempts to weave a web of intrigue that never fascinates leaving the cast to dawdle as the plot boringly aligns their stars.

    With supported performances from Director Sam Fuller (Shock Corridor), Loren Dean (Gattaca), Marshall Bell (The Rum Diary), Frederic Forest (Apocalypse Now) and Udo Kier (Melancholia), The End of Violence failed miserably with critics and although, produced for a mere $5 million, tanked at the box-office.  Over halfway through its runtime, Max’s personal snooping around finally reveals his connection to surveillance operator Ray that is hardly surprising, leaving Andie MacDowell with little to do aside from appearing in swimsuits and lingerie.  While, its intentions may have flown over the heads of many, The End of Violence never makes a compelling feature out of its mildly attractive plot ultimately, becoming as forgettable as the dial-up internet connection so prominently found in the film.

    Olive Films presents The End of Violence with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Director Wim Wenders’ poorly received feature arrives with a lively picture that boasts warm skin tones, excellent detail in facial features and Los Angeles backgrounds while, black levels are handled appropriately leaving no disrupting signs of crush on display.  Faint instances of flakes and speckles appear but, never disrupt the viewing experience on this otherwise pleasing transfer.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is relayed with terrific clarity and depth while, music, although relatively scant and uneventful, rings nicely in their passing moments.  Furthermore, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:26) is the sole supplement of the disc.

    Scatterbrained and largely unimpressive, The End of Violence has its intentions in the right place but, sorely fails in its execution with a plot that drives off the rails at times, leaving the talented thespians out to dry.  Luckily, Olive Films’ high-definition treatment services the film nicely with a quality transfer and crisp sound mix but, the film’s lackluster quality and unsympathetic characters severs any hope of a memorable cinematic experience.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The End of Violence can be purchased via OliveFilms.comAmazon.com and other fine retailers.   

  • Best Seller (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Best Seller (1987)

    Director: John Flynn

    Starring: James Woods, Brian Deenehy & Victoria Tennant

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Rolling Thunder, Best Seller centers on veteran police office and best-selling author Dennis Meechum (Brian Deenehy, First Blood).  Widowed and raising his only daughter, Dennis owes his publisher an overdue followup but, suffers from writer’s block.  When Cleve (James Woods, Videodrome), a self-professed career hitman, approaches Dennis about penning his story, Dennis is skeptical but, intrigued.  As the facts surrounding Cleve’s many hits for a high powered executive turn out true, the possibility of the damaging tell-all tale endangers Dennis and those closest to him.  Victoria Tennant (Flowers in the Attic), Allison Balson (Little House on the Prairie) and Paul Shenar (Scarface) co-star.

    Scripted by Larry Cohen (The Stuff, Maniac Cop), although, heavily rewritten by Director John Flynn, Best Seller kicks off in Los Angeles circa 1972 where a trio of Richard Nixon mask wearing gunmen attempt to rob a police evidence facility.  After a struggle ensues and shots are fired, Officer Dennis Meechum (Deenehy) survives the account to publish a novel based on his experiences.  Over a decade later, Meechum, now a detective and raising his only daughter following his wife’s untimely passing, owes his publisher a long overdue followup.  From the shadows, Cleve (Woods) offers Dennis a proposition to pen his life experiences as a career hitman in order to get even with his unappreciative former employer, wealthy executive David Matlock (Shenar).  Curious but, cautious, Dennis is not easily convinced about his collaborators evidence until threats confront them both.  In addition, Dennis realizes that his history with Cleve predates their most recent encounter, making trust between the detective and hitman incredibly tense.  As research continues on the tell-all book, Dennis finds himself in over his head with his daughter in mortal danger.

    Failing to light the box-office on fire, Best Seller is a uniquely different buddy film where law enforcement and career criminal must team up to combat a larger threat.  Brian Deenehy fits comfortably in the role of a respected detective who finds himself unable to produce material for a followup novel.  Dennehy treads the line perfectly of an aggressive cop willing to go to the limits while, possessing an air of sophistication that sells his dual career as a respected author.  Meanwhile, James Woods, in arguably his most underrated role of the decade, plays the snappily dressed Cleve with a fast tongue and an even quicker trigger finger.  Woods brings the right energy that makes Dennis and the viewer equally intrigued and unsure of his questionable motives.  From a kindhearted demeanor to a bloodthirsty killer instinct, Woods’ performance and his yin and yang relationship with Deenehy elevates the film beyond the standard crime picture.  Shot on location in Los Angeles and New York City, Best Seller is a throughly entertaining and tightly orchestrated effort that separates itself from the bunch, courtesy of Woods and Deenehy’s captivating chemistry.

    Olive Films presents Best Seller with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Beginning with a noticeably softer image, the film quickly improves with inviting skin tones and a well-handled color scheme.  Flakes and speckles are mild leading to a nearly blemish free picture while, detail in close-ups wavers in sharpness from decent to strong.  With a healthy layer of grain intact throughout the majority of its runtime, Best Seller satisfies on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix, the film relays all dialogue with clarity and ample range while, Composer Jay Ferguson’s (License to Drive, Bad Dreams) far too brief funky synth score sets the mood accordingly.  Finally, the sole supplement is the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:44).

    Criminally (no pun intended) underrated and capturing top-notch performances from its two leads, Best Seller takes the buddy formula of past crime offerings and delivers a refreshingly suspenseful response.  Olive Films’ high-definition treatment will appease viewers while, the strength of the film and most notably, Woods’ role earning Best Seller a strong recommendation to the uninformed.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Best Seller can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

  • Beach Blanket Bingo (1965) Blu-ray Review

    Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

    Director: William Asher

    Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Deborah Walley & John Ashley

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Everyone’s favorite seaside couple, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, trade in their surfboards for parachutes in Beach Blanket Bingo, the fifth installment of their popular beach party pictures.  When a skydiving publicity stunt to promote the singing career of Sugar Kane (Linda Evans, Dynasty) balloons out of control, Frankie (Avalon) is convinced to take up the dangerous hobby by fellow instructor Bonnie (Deborah Walley, Gidget Goes Hawaiian) in order to make her boyfriend Steve (John Ashley, Young Dillinger) jealous.  Much to her disapproval of Bonnie’s interest in her boyfriend, Dee Dee (Funicello) decides to test out the wild feat of free-falling as well.  Plus, series regular, Bonehead (Jody McCrea, Lady Street Fighter), finds unexpected love with a real mermaid (Marta Kristen, Lost in Space).  Harvey Lembeck (The Phil Silvers Show), Don Rickles (Casino) and Paul Lynde (The Paul Lynde Show) co-star.

    Remaining within the same campy spirit of its predecessors, Beach Blanket Bingo would mark the final starring appearance of Frankie Avalon who, with the exception of a minor role in 1965’s How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, would hang up his bathing suit until the 1987 parody Back to Beach, reuniting him once again with his beach bunny, Funicello.  Giving the waves a break, Frankie (Avalon) and Dee Dee (Funicello) take to the skies for free-falling excitement while, redheaded instructor, Bonnie (Walley), attempts to swoon Frankie in order to make her co-instructor boyfriend (Ashley) a jealous wreck.  Unsurprisingly, Frankie and Dee Dee go through the turbulent motions audiences have come to expect when a new girl strolls along hoping to steal Frankie away.  Still as gorgeous and youthful as their first picture together, Avalon and Funicello’s chemistry remains intact but, one can’t help feel there enthusiasm for the material waning.  Marking the franchise’s fifth installment in less than two years, the formula has become commonplace but, not entirely stale with the welcome return of Eric Von Zipper (Lembeck), joined by his Malibu Rat Pack gang, and Don Rickles, making his fourth appearance in the series in yet another new role enabling him the opportunity to perform stand-up material.  Well-known for its memorable cameo appearances, Beach Blanket Bingo presents the iconic Buster Keaton (having previously appeared in 1964’s Pajama Party) in another hilarious role.  At the ripe age of 70 and only a year before his passing, Keaton demonstrates remarkable energy and accomplishes the physical comedy gags the legend was best known for.

    In addition, introducing an element of fantasy to the long-running series, Bonehead (better known as Deadhead in previous installments), falls madly in love with an exotic mermaid (Kristen) allowing the loyal supporting character to act outside of his usual numskull mentality.  As the film’s antagonist, South Dakota Slim (Timothy Carey, Minnie and Moskowitz), kidnaps singer Sugar Kane (Evans), the beach gang have another dependable rumble and car chase to make the wrongs right before the closing credits.  More catchy tunes and beachside dancing along, with a notable guest appearance from the flamboyant Paul Lynde as Sugar Kane’s agent, allows Beach Blanket Bingo to charm fans who can’t get enough of Frankie and Dee Dee’s fun times under the sun.

    Olive Films presents Beach Blanket Bingo with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Just as colorful and warm as Muscle Beach Party, the fifth installment of the franchise possesses more obvious aging artifacts in the form of specks and flakes.  In addition, skin tones, while generally strong and natural, suffer from an unusual diluted appearance in an early scene that fortunately, lasts only briefly.  Meanwhile, night sequences have a softer appearance that slightly transitions to brighter scenes without greatly disrupting the picture.  With no digital tinkering applied, Beach Blanket Bingo projects a very film quality appearance that pleases but, falls shy of Muscle Beach Party’s transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Frankie and Dee Dee’s latest outing supplies a stronger sound mix than its transfer with clear dialogue and no dropouts to mention.  The original Theatrical Trailer (2:45) is also supplied as the sole special feature.

    The sights and sounds of Beach Blanket Bingo stray close to its established formula, making for more innocent fun with Frankie and Dee Dee.  The supporting cast of McCrea, Rickles and Lembeck supply plenty of laughs and the songs, while not quite as noteworthy as earlier efforts, do their job sufficiently.  Certainly stronger than Beach Party’s original followup, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo’s inclusion of gorgeous mermaids and skydiving excitement is appreciated but, ultimately still falls in the middle of the road.  Olive Films‘ transfer projects bold colors and natural grain although, containing far more aging marks than its fellow sequel.  Relaying sound nicely and including the film’s original trailer (unfortunately, lacking on Muscle Beach Party), Beach Blanket Bingo makes a suitable leap to Blu-ray.  Rounding its final franchise laps, AIP’s fifth beach party romp is far from perfect but, makes earnest attempts to supply some worthwhile additions for Avalon’s final starring sendoff.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Muscle Beach Party (1964) Blu-ray Review

    Muscle Beach Party (1964)

    Director: William Asher

    Starring: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Don Rickles & Luciana Paluzzi

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their fun in the sun, Frankie Avalon (Drums of Africa) and Annette Funicello (Babes in Toyland) return as surfing lovebirds Frankie and Dee Dee in Muscle Beach Party.  When their favorite beach spot is overrun by body-building meatheads and their whistle-blowing trainer, Jack Fanny (Don Rickles, Toy Story), the gang’s getaway of fun looks unlikely.  Plus, when Julie (Luciana Paluzzi, Thunderball), a rich contessa, sets her sights on Frankie, a beach battle gets underway with Frankie and Dee Dee’s love on the line.  Buddy Hackett (The Love Bug), Peter Turgeon (Airport) and Rock Stevens (Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon) co-star.

    Muscle Beach Party, the second of seven popular beach party films produced by James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff’s American International Pictures, finds our attractive leads, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, returning to their sunny playground of good times and maximum surfing.  Upon arrival, the gang find an unfriendly team of body-builders, led by their equally distasteful trainer, Jack Finney, making the beach their own personal hot spot.  Meanwhile, tensions run hot when, to Frankie’s dismay, Dee Dee wants him to long for more in life than just catching the next big wave.  Temperatures skyrocket when the gorgeous and spoiled rich contessa, Julie, steals Frankie away with promises of kickstarting his music career and wealth beyond his wildest dreams.  Following in the same tradition as its predecessor, Muscle Beach Party finds an endless array of attractive teens singing and dancing their cares away to happening surf music.  Simple and innocent, Muscle Beach Party teeters by shining a brighter focus on the clueless meatheads and Julie’s mission to find an attractive lover than the fun-loving couple we had a blast with in the original Beach Party.  Buddy Hackett lends his comedic chops as Julie’s business advisor and voice of reason to Frankie, helping the teen idol learn the errors of his ways.  Meanwhile, Rock Stevens makes his film debut as lead meathead Flex Martian, who catches Julie’s eye before Frankie enters her radar, leading to further tension between the two beach groups.  Minimal on plot but, always prioritized on fun, Muscle Beach Party finds Frankie and Dee Dee patching things up effortlessly just in time for the end credits.  

    Scattered with more original songs, some written by several members of The Beach Boys, sung by its youthful cast, Muscle Beach Party also includes a memorable early appearance by Little Stevie Wonder performing an original tune.  In addition, following Beach Party’s Vincent Price cameo, AIP regular Peter Lorre (The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors) turns up briefly in one of his final film appearances.  Common in most sequels, Muscle Beach Party fails to live up to the nonstop fun of its originator, spending considerable time on its mildly humorous supporting characters than its stars, who are regulated to second best.  Still considered a fun time in the sun, Muscle Beach Party is a noticeably weaker film but, supplies enough of its dependable elements to make this wave worth riding.

    Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Muscle Beach Party is another knockout transfer for Olive Films.  Flowing with bright colors from the teens‘ multicolored bathing suits to their tan complexions, detail is crisp and only showing moments of slight wear in its stock surfing footage.  Infrequent nighttime sequences showcase only mild instances of softness while, sunny daytime scenes take up the bulk of the film’s runtime.  With natural grain firmly intact, Muscle Beach Party has never looked better than this.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, dialogue levels are mostly clean and clear with brief moments of decreased levels during scenes at Scrappy’s.  Musical numbers pack an added boost in volume quality while, Funicello’s rendition of “A Girl Needs A Boy” suffers from a tinny echo which may have been how the song was originally recorded.  Unfortunately, Muscle Beach Party makes its Blu-ray debut with no special features.

    Carrying on the carefree shenanigans of Frankie, Dee Dee and the rest of the beach gang, Muscle Beach Party stumbles with its first half focusing far too heavily on supporting characters while, Avalon and Funicello’s story, as minimal as it is, falls by the wayside.  Luckily, its catchy tunes and appearances from Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles make this Beach Party followup a suitable one.  Although, lacking with any special features, Olive Films‘ Blu-ray treatment arrives with impressive technical feats making the film shine like never before.  A slight disappointment in the wake of the original film, Muscle Beach Party still contains the beaches, babes and tunes audiences come to expect with enough humor to not make this effort a total wipeout.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • How to Murder Your Wife (1965) Blu-ray Review

    How to Murder Your Wife (1965)

    Director: Richard Quine

    Starring: Jack Lemmon, Virna Lisi, Claire Trevor, Eddie Mayehoff & Terry-Thomas

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Sex and the Single Girl, How to Murder Your Wife stars Jack Lemmon (The Apartment) as wealthy cartoonist Stanley Ford, living the luxurious single life in Manhattan.  After a drunken proposal takes place at a friend’s bachelor party, Stanley seeks an immediate divorce.  Unfortunately, the new, strictly Italian speaking Mrs. Ford (Virna Lisi, The Secret of Santana Vittoria) will have none of it, taking over Stanley‘s life in the process.  Frustrated and longing for his freedom, Stanley expresses his internal thoughts through his comic character who devises the perfect murder.  Terry-Thomas (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), Eddie Mayehoff (Artists and Models) and Claire Trevor (Key Largo) co-star.

    Scripted by George Axelrod (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), How to Murder Your Wife takes a man’s seemingly perfect existence and creates his worst nightmare after an excessive evening of drunken dabbling.  Living in a gorgeous Manhattan townhouse adorned with Margaret Keane paintings, Stanley Ford (Lemmon) earns his riches penning the successful Bash Brannigan comic strip.  Pampered by his loyal butler Charles Firbank (Thomas), Stanley takes great pleasure in his bachelor lifestyle with no intentions of settling down.  While, attending a fellow bachelor party, Stanley, noticeably intoxicated, is overwhelmed by the sight of an Italian bikini-clad beauty emerging from a cake.  Before long, Stanley awakes to learn that not only is he married to the bombshell but, she doesn’t speak a lick of English!  Seeking help from his lawyer Harold Lampson (Mayehoff) to no avail and the new Mrs. Ford vehemently against divorce, Stanley finds himself in the biggest pickle of his lifetime.  Desperate to return to his playboy existence, Stanley begins plotting ways to murder his wife through the help of his popular comic strip.

    As its content would surely suggest a darker comedic tone, How to Murder Your Wife is played surprisingly broad with Lemmon’s likable personality allowing the viewer to playfully bask in the otherwise morbid plot.  Defining beauty, Virna Lisi sizzles as Stanley’s Italian wife who although, not able to speak his language immediately, demonstrates a genuine affection for her American mate.  As the marriage lengthens, Stanley’s world is turned hilariously upside down as he gains weight from his wife’s delicious, albeit fattening, home cooking and expelled from his all-male health club after Mrs. Ford’s abrupt appearance.  In addition, Terry-Thomas serving as Stanley’s butler with a bitter distaste for his new bride is one of the film’s shining lights, weaving memorable comedic relief.  While, Stanley uses Bash Brannigan to hatch a plan to pull off the perfect murder, Mrs. Ford takes notice of the not so subtle sketches.  Heartbroken, Stanley’s wife disappears leading authorities to believe he committed actual homicide.  Occasionally humorous with an overtly hokey courtroom sequence where Stanley defends himself to a jury of “lenient” married men, How to Murder Your Wife is a comical depiction of the arresting burden men feel towards marriage and the limits one soul will take to salvage his carefree lifestyle.  Earning Jack Lemmon a Golden Laurel for his performance, How to Murder Your Wife is hardly a sidesplitting affair but, does make for lighthearted entertainment at the expense of marriage turmoil.

    Olive Films presents How to Murder Your Wife with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Bursting with vibrant color and accurately relayed skin tones, How to Murder Your Wife astounds with its clear picture, free of aging artifacts, and remarkable detail.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, How to Murder Your Wife compliments its splendid transfer with a mix of audible dialogue levels leaving little to no room for disappointment.  Finally, an original Theatrical Trailer (3:55) serves as the disc’s only special feature.

    Mildly amusing with appreciable onscreen chemistry between Lemmon and Lisi, How to Murder Your Wife won’t slay its audiences to extreme measures but, injects enough charm worthy of seeking out.  Olive Films presents the Richard Quine comedy with a pristine transfer and satisfactory sound mix that should easily please viewers.  Also including its original trailer, How to Murder Your Wife may be far from a comedic cornerstone but, still makes for decent entertainment.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, How to Murder Your Wife can be purchased via OliveFilms.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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (46:52)

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

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