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  • Parents (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Parents (1989)

    Director: Bob Balaban

    Starring: Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt & Sandy Dennis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the suburban comfort of the 1950s, Parents centers on ten-year-old outcast Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky in his only film role) who suspects that his model mother and father (played by Mary Beth Hurt, The World According to Garp and Randy Quaid, Kingpin respectively) are up to more than meets the eye.  As Michael’s curiosity grows regarding the family’s limitless supply of leftovers, the nightmarish truth is revealed.  Academy Award winner Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) costars in Bob Balaban’s (My Boyfriend’s Back) directorial debut.

    Painted with stark black comedy and horror undertones of cannibalism, Parents is a quirky slice of life from yesteryear demonstrating father (and mother) know best, especially when they’re eating you.  Relocating from Massachusetts during the picturesque 1950s, quiet and peculiar youngster Michael Laemle struggles to fit in his new surroundings while, experiencing a wrath of hellish nightmares that feel all too real.  Hauntingly awkward and an incorrigibly picky eater, Michael sticks out like a sore thumb next to his seemingly perfect All-American parents.  Looks prove deceiving as Nick and Lily Laemle demonstrate their own eccentricities and questionable behavior alerting their young son that all is not kosher at home.  Further troubled by increased nightmares and bloody hallucinations, Michael’s imagination runs wild when determining the origin of the family’s nightly supply of meat.  Sneakily following his father to his job at the local chemical lab where human cadavers are tested upon, Michael’s suspicion blossoms into full-blown fear when discovering the source of the Laemle’s personal meat market.  Developing a trust with the school psychologist (Dennis) while attempting to concretely prove what he already knows, Michael pits himself and the few close to him in finger-lickin’ danger with mommy and daddy.  Never hysterical nor the bodycount picture prevalent at the time, Parents never makes fully clear when we should cackle or wince in terror, making such uncertainty all part of its Rubik’s Cube of unconventional attraction.  Recreating the time with Rockwellian precision, Quaid and Hurt are inspired casting, if not slightly one note, making the entirety of the Laemle family appear rather and perhaps intentionally, subdued throughout the film.  Featuring a grossly underdeveloped friendship between Michael and a female classmate who insists she's an extraterrestrial from the moon, Parents is not immune to miscalculations while serving as an offbeat statement on yesterday’s rarely discussed domestic dilemmas that’s earned its place amongst cult circles.

    (image not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    Lionsgate, as part of their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, presents Parents with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Digitally restored and appearing appreciatively filmic throughout, the bright canvas of suburbia brings attention to the Laemle’s orderly household while, bolder colors found in Nick’s bright yellow sweater vest and the family’s turquoise Oldsmobile pop graciously.  Detail is also strongly admired in facial features and closeups on the cannibalistic parents carving into cooked meat with skin tones reading naturally.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that hones dialogue levels strongly for such a character-driven film, Michael’s nightmares provide suspenseful boosts that rattle the mix comparatively.  

    Graced with a winning serving of supplemental features, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Bob Balaban & Producer Bonnie Palef is on hand with Isolated Score Selections and an Audio Interview with Composer Jonathan Elias also included.  Additionally, Leftovers to Be with Screenwriter Christopher Hawthorne (16:48) reveals that prolific producer Ray Stark (Steel Magnolias) was attached to the project before Vestron opted out citing Stark’s high fee as the cause.  Furthermore, Director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Doll House) turned down the film before Balaban joined the production with the latter injecting much of his own childhood into the narrative.  Hawthorne also retells that the parallels between Quaid’s performance and his own father were so close, his parents refused to speak to him for a lengthy period of time.  Mother’s Day with Actress Mary Beth Hurt (14:29) finds the cannibalistic homemaker recalling Balaban offering her the role during a regular charades game that was frequented by the likes of Tim Robbins and Al Franken.  Hurt also expresses her love for the film’s time period and the prospect of its costumes being her major draws to the project.  Next up, Inside Out with Director of Photography Robin Vidgeon (13:58) finds that the cinematographer took over duties after original D.P. Ernie Day’s (Revenge of the Pink Panther) wife fell ill.  Shooting the majority of the film’s interior sequences, Vidgeon believes his work on Hellraiser landed him the job on Parents.  Lastly, Vintage Tastes with Decorative Consultant Yolanda Cuomo (9:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:33), Radio Spots (1:42) and a Still Gallery (4:52) conclude the release’s extra features.

    (images not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    A satirical sendup of 50s family values with a taste for flesh, Parents uniquely portrays every child’s safeguards as the source of their nightmares in this cannibalistic comedy.  Served with a side order of limbs, Bob Balaban’s oddball feature arrives with a fittingly scatterbrained tone and an underlying statement on the romanticized notion of growing up in the wholesome decade.  A cooky concoction of cultish charisma, Parents joins the Vestron Video Collector’s Series with solid technical grades and a most revealing slate of extras sure to fill up the hungry horror fan.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Lionsgate, Parents can be purchased via LionsgateShop.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.