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Currently showing posts tagged Paramount Pictures

  • The Skull (1965) Blu-ray Review

    The Skull (1965)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris & Christopher Lee

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull centers on occult antiquities collector Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula) whose encounter with the skull of the Maquis de Sade proves frightening.  Forewarned of its effects by friend and former owner of the dreaded remains, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein), Maitland’s livelihood quickly becomes threatened by the skull’s evil forces.

    A supernatural mystery produced by noted Hammer competitor Amicus Productions, The Skull is a stylishly eerie effort from British genre titan Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt) that utilizes atmosphere and improvisational knowhow to its advantage.  Following a historically earlier pre-title sequence where a grave robber’s excavation of the Maquis de Sade’s cranium leaves him dead from an unknown presence, The Skull’s modern day London setting introduces occult collector Dr. Christopher Maitland whose pricy offering of the very same specimen by a shady dealer proves far too expensive albeit, very intriguing to the curious researcher.  Learning the item was stolen from a fellow colleague who was glad to be free of it, warnings of its evil capabilities fall on Maitland’s deaf ears, prompting him to retrieve it after the thieving dealer is unexplainably killed.  Casting a spell of madness and nightmarish hallucinations upon on its new owner, Maitland’s terrifying firsthand experience with the skull reveals its true potential to the previously skeptical scholar.  Headlining the feature with expected grace, Peter Cushing sells his descent into terror with a conviction memorably showcased during a particularly nail biting nightmare sequence of forced Russian roulette.  Appearing in a guest starring role, Christopher Lee’s small but welcome inclusion as a rare non-villain gives an added class to the film’s ghoulish festivities while, Francis’ resourceful direction, demonstrated in the film’s frantic and virtually dialogue-free final act, is overwhelmingly suspenseful regardless of the “floating” skull’s noticeably seen wires.  An early chapter in Amicus’ horror history, The Skull remains an effectively strong picture of its creepy caliber with its direction earning the most praise of all.

    KL Studio Classics presents The Skull with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing noticeable signs of scuffs and speckles throughout its runtime, colors also appear occasionally drab while, skin tones and delicate facial features revealing aging lines and acne scars are well-detailed.  Meanwhile, black levels are mediocre yet, costume textures and the many artifacts spotted in Maitland’s library are agreeable.  Although a fresh scan would have been appreciated, the results remain quite adequate.  Equipped with a rather flat but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled sufficiently while an early encounter between Maitland and Marco, the sleazy dealer, registers slightly lower.  Scoring cues are decent but lacking oomph with a mild layer of hiss detected.  Special features include, an expertly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Jonathan Rigby on The Skull (24:14) and Kim Newman on The Skull (27:18), both of which offer encyclopedic insight into Amicus Productions, its founders, Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s original short story making each featurette invaluable compliments to the film.  Furthermore, The Skull: “Trailers from Hell” with Joe Dante (2:36) and additional Trailers for Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), House of the Long Shadows (2:27) and The Crimson Cult (2:03) are also provided alongside Reversible Cover Art.

    A well recommended Amicus offering, The Skull brings some of gothic cinema’s finest faces together for chilling thrills and consummate direction from Freddie Francis making it a technical sight to appreciate given the film’s originally less than solid screenplay.  Possession, death and the black arts reign wildly in this nightmare come to life with a most fascinating selection of supplements making KL Studio Classics’ upgrade of the film an easy choice for fan’s unholy collections.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Skull can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Don't Give Up the Ship (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Starring: Jerry Lewis, Dina Merril, Diana Spencer, Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert Middleton, Gale Gordon, Mabel Albertson & Chuck Wassil

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Unbelievably based on an actual incident, Don’t Give Up the Ship stars Jerry Lewis (The Nutty Professor) as a wet-behind-the-ears naval newlywed who is whisked away from his honeymoon by a committee investigating the disappearance of the battleship previously under his command.  Suffering a mental block, a blonde bombshell of a psychiatrist (Dina Merril, Operation Petticoat) is brought in to help rattle the officer’s memory.  

    Produced in accordance with the U.S. Navy who are praised for their cooperation and sense of humor at the film’s onset, Don’t Give Up the Ship interrupts the celebratory victory of World War II when a displeased congressman refuses to approve a $4 billion appropriation fund for the Navy due to the mysterious disappearance of destroyer vessel, the U.S.S. Kornblatt.  Tying the knot with his lovely new bride Prudence (Diana Spencer, TV’s Johnny Ringo), the dimwitted but harmless Lieutenant John Paul Steckler VIII is quickly fingered by an investigative committee and summoned to the Pentagon to explain the most unusual circumstance behind the whereabouts of the ship that was under his control.  Ordered to locate the vessel in mere days while being hilariously disrupted at every chance of intimacy with his wife, Steckler’s mental block and seemingly tall tales about the events surrounding the Kornblatt make matters laughably more difficult for the Navy veteran.  Aided by an attractive psychologist tasked with helping Steckler remember the stranger than fiction facts, comical hijinks including, sharing a train compartment with another woman much to the dismay of his wife, being captured by Japanese soldiers unaware of the war’s conclusion and a deep sea exploration finding the goofy cadet and a fellow Navy man confronted by sharks, mermaids and a massive octopus.  While the funnyman’s madcap energy and comedic timing are the heart of the film, Don’t Give Up the Ship is a fairly middle-of-the-road effort from Jerry Lewis’ career of laughs with a plot that runs its course by the time the end credits roll.  Although Steckler’s robbed opportunities at whoopee making become repetitive, Lewis’ brand of childish silliness and knee-slapping physicality still make for a fine time.

    Newly remastered in 4K, KL Studio Classics presents Don’t Give Up the Ship with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A gorgeous sight to behold, the monochrome photography looks stunning with excellent detail observed in skin tones, the fairly basic Navy uniforms and the film’s underwater sequence that is relayed with the utmost quality.  Boasting deeply inky black levels and hardly a scratch to be seen, it doesn’t get much better than this for a film so many decades removed.  Charmed with an equally impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that appears basic enough yet, sells dialogue exchanges, city street ambiance, and hurricane winds with top-notch care.  Although unrelated to the main feature, the disc’s sole special feature is Trailers for After the Fox (2:49), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (2:23), Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), Life Stinks (2:01), Delirious (2:22) and The Couch Trip (1:14).

    Helmed by Academy Award-winning Director Norman Taurog (Slippy, The Wizard of Oz, albeit uncredited for his contributions on the latter), Don’t Give Up the Ship succeeds in letting Lewis does what he does best while, carrying the otherwise mediocre plot on his shoulders with ease.  Unable to keep your eyes off of the animated thespian for fear of missing the slightest funny nuance, Lewis keeps the ship afloat steadily.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics’ exceptional 4K mastering of the feature is an absolute knockout and now the only way to view this well-received comedy.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Don’t Give Up the Ship can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fences (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Fences (2016)

    Director: Denzel Washington

    Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson & Saniyya Sidney

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the award winning play by the late August Wilson who also contributed the film’s screenplay adaptation, Denzel Washington (The Great Debaters) returns to the director’s chair after a decade long hiatus while reprising his Tony Award-winning role from the Broadway revival.  Set in the hardworking community of Pittsburgh during the 1950s, garbage collector Troy Maxson (Washington) carries on to provide for his loving wife Rose (Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder) and teenage son Cory (Jovan Adepo, The Leftovers).  Strict and dismissive of Cory and his elder son Lyons’ (Russell Hornsby, Grimm) ambitions of playing football and music over committing to real careers, Troy’s troubling past of his own abusive father, lengthy imprisonment and unrealized potential as a baseball player weighs heavily on his complicated role as a husband and father.  Proudly promoted as the first African-American garbage truck driver while getting embroiled in an affair with another woman, Troy’s once dominantly controlled world comes under fire as friendships dissolve and family members rebel against him.  Recycling the majority of its talented cast from the 2010 revived production, Fences thrives on Wilson’s written words and powerful performances in its tale of blue-collar hopes and broken dreams.  Retaining the otherwise simplistic nature of a stage production with the rhythmic intensity of the thespians heightened thanks to Washington’s watchful direction, Fences is a powerhouse drama dependent on its first-rate performances, namely Washington in one of his most commanding roles and Viola Davis, who deservedly earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  

    Paramount Pictures presents Fences with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Beautifully shot on film and resulting in an equally filmic and impressively detailed home video experience, the earthy color palette shines while, the Maxson’s red brick house and aged outdoor furniture are handsomely preserved in all their lived-in condition.  Furthermore, skin tones are flawless with detail in facial wrinkles and graying hair reading immaculately.  A solid transfer from start to finish, Fences is built for perfection.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that offers little to overly impress, the film’s dialogue-driven agenda never misses a beat with crisp exchanges throughout yet, the lack of musical interludes or other sonically-challenging moments excuse the track from a grander purpose.  Bonus features include, Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen (8:53) that explores the original stage production and its impact with interviews from its revival’s director Kenny Leon and cast members, The Company of Fences (9:17) details the play’s cast and their leap to bringing the show to the big-screen, Building Fences: Denzel Washington (6:56) sits down with the film’s star and director as he addresses his love for the source material and his artistic approaches in its adaptation, Playing the Part: Rose Maxson (6:57) finds Viola Davis discussing her character in-depth while, August Wilson’s Hill District (6:25) spotlights the real Pittsburgh locations used for the film’s shoot.  Lastly, Digital HD Codes for Fences and the Denzel Washington-starrer The Manchurian Candidate are also included.  One of last year’s critical darlings, Fences brings the work of August Wilson to life on film with the effort’s true calling card being its masterful performances.  Additionally, Paramount Pictures’ home video presentation does not disappoint with its limited supplements offering worthy anecdotes on the film’s making and its enduring stage production.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Paramount Pictures, Fences can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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.

  • Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

    Director: Richard Linklater

    Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Ryan Guzman & Zoey Deutch

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed as the spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! centers on college freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner, Glee) as he navigates through his first rambunctious weekend with his new teammates during the summer of 1980.  Featuring an ensemble cast of rising stars, Academy Award nominated director Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood) latest coming of age tale celebrates the girls, wild parties and baseball that bring the competitively hilarious players together.  

    Returning back to the stomping grounds of Texas for his collegiate odyssey of hard partying 80s jocks, Director Richard Linklater’s long weekend of baseball and bromance told through the eyes of arriving freshman Jake revisits the stoner-induced good times of his tonally reminiscent 70s era feature, refashioned for a new decade.  Trading up tie-dye threads for bats and booze, Everybody Wants Some!! introduces viewers to the eccentric players that share Jake’s new off campus dwelling and their various personality quirks.  Shortly after his house tour, the Southeast Texas Cherokees saddle Jake up for a joyride of the campus where a flirtatious encounter with fellow student Beverly (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy) sets the speed for the libido surging weekend ahead of classes.  Privy to the rowdy players’ party-filled tour of local hotspots including, the dance-centric disco Sound Station, a “Cotton-Eyed Joe” blasting country bar and a punk rock show, the horny athletes dance the night away with Texas’ most beautiful Southern belles, get involved in a bar fight and are witness to a female mud-wrestling showdown.  With testosterone surging in the house, the teammates never shy away from competing with one another as their short-tempers are demonstrated following lost bets, ping pong defeats and scoring hits off each other’s fast balls.  Further hilarity ensues when pot-smoking and an attempt at telepathy proves mostly unsuccessful while, the drug of choice opens the film up to physiological conversations and one’s place in the bigger picture of life that Linklater excels at.

    Boasting a soundtrack of perfect hits from The Knack, Sugarhill Gang, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Devo and many others, Everybody Wants Some!! worries little about traditional character development instead, allowing viewers to grow with the characters by being an unofficial member of the squad and witness to their ball-busting shenanigans and deep-rooted camaraderie shared only by teammates.  In addition, although a strongly suggested romance between Jake and performing-arts major Beverly appears imminent, Everybody Wants Some!! wisely takes the highroad leaving audiences to wonder while, the period piece comedy keeps it focus on the seminal snapshot of college life experiences and the joy those memories continue to bring.  Smart and unforgettably funny, Everybody Wants Some!! captures the nostalgia of the 80s with the onscreen chemistry of its young cast perfectly demonstrating the wild and crazy energy of youth.

    Paramount Pictures presents Everybody Wants Some!! with a 1080p transfer, boasting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  From its yellow-bolded opening titles to the end credits, colors and clarity are flawless with skin tones appearing exceptionally detailed.  The 80s wardrobes and discotheque interiors of the film are also relayed with well-defined textures that spotlight the tiniest of background features.  Free of any discernible hiccups, Everybody Wants Some!! looks rockin’.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is unimpaired and prioritized while, the chart-topping hits of its soundtrack explode from the speakers with head-bopping force.  Special features include, Everybody Wants Some!! More Stuff That’s Not in the Movie (25:24) featuring hilarious outtakes and other onset goofs, Rickipedia (3:57) finds the young cast praising Linklater’s exhaustive knowledge of proper fads and terminology of the 1980s that helped give the film its authenticity while, Baseball Players Can Dance (6:42) documents the intensive dance and baseball training the cast went through to embody their characters.  In addition, Skill Videos (5:17) and History 101: Stylin’ the 80s (4:20) providing an inside look at how the cast were transformed into 80s-era twenty somethings are also included.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD code round out the supplemental package.

    Cut from the same cloth as Linklater’s 1993 stoner comedy, Everybody Wants Some!! takes its coming of age formula and delivers a new tale of friendship and partying that excels in every area.  Produced with an uncanny design of its intended decade, Linklater’s sports chuckler keeps the good times rolling for anyone whose ever been young, dumb and looking for fun.  Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ high-definition treatment is technically pristine with a spread of bonus features that compliment the film’s fun atmosphere.  Critically hailed, Everybody Wants Some!! ranks as one of the year’s best offerings that will leave you consumed by its spot-on recreation of a familiar time and place and the nonstop entertainment only jocks like these could produce.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 12th from Paramount Pictures, Everybody Wants Some!! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Blu-ray Review

    10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

    Director: Dan Trachtenberg

    Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & John Gallagher Jr.

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A distant cousin to Producer J.J. Abrams’ 2008 found footage thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane focuses on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) who after experiencing a near fatal car accident awakens inside the underground bunker of survivalist Howard (John Goodman, Argo).  Assured that she was saved from an apocalyptic attack, Howard’s questionable motives and short-temper leaves Michelle determined to learn the truth.

    From its frantic opening where Michelle is seen packing her belongings for a fast getaway, 10 Cloverfield Lane wastes little time establishing its theme of escape from forces deemed uncontrollable.  Shortly after suffering a severe car accident, the dark-haired beauty finds herself chained in a concrete room before being introduced to her savior Howard.  Overcome with shock, the doomsday planner informs his new bunker guest of the cataclysmic fallout that has occurred above ground, coldly reporting that no survivors remain.  Unwilling to believe her odd host, Michelle savagely fights back only to confirm her own fears that the world she once knew is no longer what it was.  Joined by kindhearted local boy Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., The Newsroom), the three unlikely roommates must forge a union in their new underground home in order to survive a new tomorrow.  Continuously suspicious, Michelle suspects Howard’s motives to be deceitful as his unstable personality and chilling paranoia increases the longer time passes, prompting the resourceful survivor to go above Howard’s head and escape her reportedly safe surrounding.

    After conquering a galaxy far, far away, Producer J.J. Abrams’ top-secret project would unsuspectingly sneak attack the public a mere two months before its theatrical premiere.  Bearing a similar title to its loosely connected predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an entirely different beast that ditches its Kaiju-inspired roots for a far more contained, character-driven tale that relies on razor-sharp suspense and thrills.  Tightly budgeted and featuring a cast of only three, Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a riveting performance of an understandably terrified civilian who overcomes her fears in more ways than one.  In addition, as Hollywood’s unofficial good luck charm, John Goodman taps into the rarely seen dark recesses of his craft, arguably establishing one of the best and most surprising performances of his career.  Best experienced as it was initially promoted with as little information as possible, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a heart-pounding watch with exceptional tension that will leave viewers fighting for air by its conclusion.  Vastly unique from its previous feature, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not only a far superior being but also one of 2016’s best surprises.

    Paramount Pictures presents 10 Cloverfield Lane with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Cast in rather subdued colors, clarity is impressive while, the soft-lighting of the underground bunker is exceptionally balanced allowing for strong detail in skin tones and background props to be crisply represented.  In addition, black levels, most notably during the film’s final act, are perfectly inky, ensuring a spectacular viewing experience from start to finish.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly clear with foreboding music cues, rumbling bass notes and even the film’s few oldies hits making impactful marks.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Dan Trachtenberg & Producer J.J. Abrams plus, seven Featurettes (34:42) ranging from Cloverfield Too, Bunker Mentality, Duck and Cover, Spin-Off, Kelvin Optical, Fine Tuned and End of Story that do a solid job covering the many different aspects of the film’s making.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Materializing from what seemed like nowhere with its brilliantly mysterious marketing campaign, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a refreshingly original stranglehold viewing experience that keeps its grip tightly fastened.  Tensely absorbing, newcomer Dan Trachtenberg’s feature film debut unquestionably stands as one of the year’s most satisfying features with an exceptional high-definition release and an informative special features package to go along with it.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Paramount Pictures, 10 Cloverfield Lane can be purchased via 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. 

  • 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 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.

  • Men, Women & Children (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Men, Women & Children (2014)

    Director: Jason Reitman

    Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer & Dean Norris

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Chad Kultgen, Men, Women & Children takes place in the modern world of social media where a group of high school teens and their parents navigate the complexities of their lives through the internet.  Adam Sandler (Reign Over Me), Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club), Rosemarie DeWitt (The Odd Life of Timothy Green), Judy Greer (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Dean Norris (Under the Dome), Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) and Kaitlyn Dever (Bad Teacher) star.

    Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air) returns with yet another character study, this set time in a Texas community where social media defines the choices and missteps of its many players.  Headlined by a uniquely talented cast of veterans and new blood, Men, Women & Children highlights the relationships of several parents and their children as well as the domineering impact texting and Facebook surfing have on their daily lives.  A disillusioned married couple seeking secret affairs, a high-strung mother obsessed with controlling her teenage daughter’s web interactions and a son, along with his father, coping with the abandonment of his mother propel viewers into a populated world of people longing for connections without the assistance of an Ethernet cable.  Reitman once again proves his directing chops by pulling compelling performances from an emotionally withdrawn Sandler and the up and coming Elgort who, in his limited filmography, continues to hone his craft and deliver the goods.  Best appreciated as an early warning sign, Men, Women & Children showcases our modern world that connects us all with today’s technology but, has greatly damaged the real, tangible human connections we all should strive for.  For all its realistic merits, Men, Women & Children falls short with characters that never evolve the way one would hope.  Filled with worthwhile messages and a wonderful ensemble cast, Men, Women & Children may not be Reitman’s finest effort but, casts an intriguing light on the emotionless connectivity social media has presented.

    Paramount Pictures presents Men, Women & Children in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a clear picture and natural colors, the film is a knockout in high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Reitman’s latest opus hardly offers much range but, delivers where it counts with crisp dialogue levels.  Men, Women & Children arrives on home video with a small assortment of special features including Virtual Intimacy (13:29), Seamless Interface (8:29), Deleted Scenes (8:68) and an UltraViolent digital code rounding out the film’s supplements.  

    Complex and unfortunately accurate, Men, Women & Children showcases the true damage social media has brought upon the modern age with people showing more interest with what’s on their screens than who is in front of them.  Boasting worthwhile performances, Reitman’s latest character driven drama fails to overthrow some of his past successes but, remains a decent effort that speaks loudly to the textually obsessed.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Paramount Pictures, Men, Women & Children can be purchased on Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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