Blu-ray/DVD Reviews


Currently showing posts tagged Politics

  • Where the Buffalo Roam (1980) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

    Director: Art Linson

    Starring: Peter Boyle & Bill Murray

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from the wild and crazy exploits of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Where the Buffalo Roam centers on the eccentric reporter (Bill Murray, Caddyshack) and his ex-attorney Carlo Lazlo, Esq. (Peter Boyle, Young Frankenstein), fueled on drugs and a madness for adventure, as they navigate the politically spiraling and violent days of the late sixties and seventies.

    The first film taken from Thompson’s toxic brand of chaotic intellect, Where the Buffalo Roam takes liberties with the facts concerning the journalist’s construction of a story based on the misadventures of friend and ex-attorney Carlo Lazlo, Esq.  Rewinding to the years 1968-1972 where Lazlo attempts to free an avalanche of San Francisco youths from overly severe drug charges, Thompson drinks and drugs his way through the proceedings while his latest deadline looms.  Rambling his way from one city to the next and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, Thompson’s coverage of Super Bowl VI is sidetracked by the equally eccentric Lazlo’s presence who convinces the writer to join him on a mission to supply freedom fighters with heavy artillery.  Bailing on the plane escaping madness once the fuzz show and capturing the attention of young adults across the college campus circuit, Thompson offers sage advice by supporting the notion of illegal substances in the writing process and confronting then Presidential candidate Richard Nixon during an awkward bathroom encounter.  While the chemistry between Murray and Boyle sells and their performances, most notably Murray who does a sound impression of Thompson that was, for better and sometimes worse according to his fellow cast members, carried over to his next season of Saturday Night Live, Where the Buffalo Roam is structurally messy and never as funny or witty as it thinks it is.  Scored by Neil Young in one of his only film efforts, a lackluster screenplay and dismal box-office returns, trifled by Thompson’s own disdain for the finished effort, leaves Where the Buffalo Roam as merely the forgotten predecessor to Terry Gilliam’s much trippier and appreciated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adaptation.

    Shout Select welcomes Where the Buffalo Roam to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A softer sight, colors are favorable but never do much popping while, skin tones remain nicely detailed and natural-looking.  Very scant notices of scuffs aside, a filmic quality is inherent throughout the feature without any over-sharpening techniques applied.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with the mumbling manner of Thompson’s speech requiring an occasional increase in volume while, the film’s excellent music choices (presented for the first time ever on home video!) ranging from cuts by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Temptations, Neil Young and more, offer stronger boosts in range and bass.  

    Billed under Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition banner, special features, although limited, include, Inventing the Buffalo: A Look Back with John Kaye (41:58) where the screenwriter recalls being originally tasked with scripting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, although caring little for its source citing a lackluster narrative structure, while its rights situation was resolved.  Bluntly put, Kaye also admits to being a former drug-addict and cites his research trip with Thompson through such cities as Aspen, Los Angeles and New Orleans as a fun drug binge.  In addition, Kaye felt Art Linson, making his directorial debut on the picture, was in over his head and maintains that his working relationship with Murray was a friendly one with the exception of one evening where the star badgered Kaye to come out and party resulting in Kaye having him removed from his hotel.  Lengthy and refreshingly honest, the interview is a must-watch for fans and detractors alike.  Furthermore, the Theatrical Trailer (3:14) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the supplemental package.

    Rarely funny but earning mild points for Murray’s spot-on interpretation of Thompson and Boyle’s equally worthy performance, Where the Buffalo Roam remains Hollywood’s dusty paperback attempt at bringing Thompson’s madcap brilliance to the big-screen with mostly unfavorable results.  Although its Collector’s Edition status, given its limited supply of extras, may be debated, the quality of Kaye’s interview and the film’s original music fully intact is warrant enough.  Murray completists will be pleased with what he brings to role of one of journalism’s most eccentric voices while, Thompson purists won’t help feeling underwhelmed.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Where the Buffalo Roam can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Snowden (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Snowden (2016)

    Director: Oliver Stone

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

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • The Purge: Election Year (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Purge: Election Year (2016)

    Director: James DeMonaco

    Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria & Betty Gabriel

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    At the height of a heated political season, The Purge: Election Year centers on survivor turned security chief Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) whose duty to protect presidential nominee Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) is compromised.  As her controversial policies to end the savage Purge are despised by the corrupt, navigating dangerous streets and trusting strangers desperate for change may be the only chance to survive the lawless evening.  Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Joseph Julian Soria (Max) and Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt) costar.

    In a society overrun by one’s anxious desire to brutally slay for one evening, The Purge: Election Year pits the sadistic holiday against a force for change.  Following the murder of her own family during the first annual Purge, Senator Charlie Roan seeks to abolish the barbaric event and expose higher society’s gains from it with her determined presidential run.  Igniting a movement throughout the country and threatening the stability of the corrupt NFFA, Senator Roan, protected by her head of security Leo Barnes and his team, make the necessary preparations ahead of the new year’s Purge where, for the first time in its history, targeting governmental figures is fair game.  Betrayed and forced to evacuate their shelter, Leo and Charlie trek the anarchic streets of Washington D.C. where alliances with working class citizens and anti-Purge rebels is essential to their survival and the Senator’s destiny to alter the course of the country.  Even more fast-paced and action-packed than its predecessor, The Purge: Election Year polishes its simplistic formula with a marketing campaign and over the top violence that cheekily comments on the slogan of one presidential nominee’s to “make America great again”.  Host to choice soundtrack cuts from T. Rex and a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.”, Producer Jason Blum’s (Insidious, Sinister) third installment welcomes Uncle Sam costumed killers, candy bar craving looters and white supremacist soldiers stacking the odds against our heroes while, a bloody gun battle in a church paints the walls red and waves a not-so subtle finger at the seething corruption found within political figures and religious organizations.  Financially soaring past its previous entries, The Purge: Election Year arrives with even more refined energy and violent aggression making it the best of the bunch thus far.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Purge: Election Year with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Although not boasting a broad color scheme, skin tones are nicely detailed and true to appearance while, the film’s level of bloodshed and neon-lit masks of various assailants make for the most eye-popping of visuals.  Furthermore, cast under the shadows of night and taking place in dimly lit bunkers and storefronts, black levels are generally pleasing with only occasional hints of digital noise and murkiness in facial closeups.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that handles dialogue with ease and authority, gunfire blasts, explosions and eerie street ambiance dominate the track for a mostly strong presentation.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (8:05), Inside The Purge (5:31) where returning Director James DeMonaco and his cast reflect on the political themes and increased violence in the film plus, Character Spotlight: Leo (3:34) allows Star Frank Grillo to briefly touch upon his character’s development.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Darkly fun and serving as good escape from the overwhelming presidential race, The Purge: Election Year paints the screen blood red, white and blue with higher stakes than ever before.  Returning anti-hero Frank Grillo leads a small yet effective ensemble cast to survival as masked Abe Lincoln’s and Lady Liberty’s practice their right to purge in our nation’s capital.  Earning its vote for the franchises most violently entertaining entry to date, Universal Studios Home Entertainment supports the onscreen anarchy with above average technical grades but, lacks more substantial bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Purge: Election Year can be purchased via and other fine retailers.

  • No Way Out (1987) Blu-ray Review

    No Way Out (1987)

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton & Howard Duff

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel “The Big Clock” by Kenneth Fearing, No Way Out finds Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman, The French Connection) murdering his mistress Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner) in a fit of jealousy.  Determined to protect his superior, loyal aide Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Remember the Titans) invents a cover-up scheme thrusting blame onto an unknown Russian spy.  Enlisting Naval Commander and friend Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) to hunt down the killer, all roads lead back to Farrell and his own enticing connection to the victim.

    Weaving a tale of suspense and scandal, No Way Out is a tightly paced thriller where the political underbelly of Washington sets the stage for a whodunit marking its protagonist as public enemy number one.  After a chance encounter at a political ball leads to limo lovemaking, Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) falls deeply for the attractive Susan Atwell (Young).  Admitting to engaging with Farrell’s new boss Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman), Susan agrees to call off the affair only to fatally fall victim to Brice’s jealous rage.  In true closed door political fashion, a cover-up is established pointing fingers to a suspected Russian spy within the confines of the Pentagon, instructing Farrell to uncover the man responsible.  With other selected assassins ordered to eradicate anyone with knowledge of Brice’s involvement, Farrell finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place as each new development implements him in Susan’s death.  Trapped within the walls of the Pentagon as 80s computer technology and prowling eyewitnesses threaten Farrell’s safety, No Way Out rarely lets viewers catch a breath while, an exciting chase sequence beginning behind the wheel before shifting to rooftops and subways keeps the thrills coming.  Featuring the handsome Costner in a role that propelled him to leading man heights and Sean Young at the peak of her sexiness plus, a brief appearance by the beautiful Iman (Surrender, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) as Susan’s trusted friend, Director Roger Donaldson’s (Species) well-received feature keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with a twisty conclusion not seen coming.

    Shout! Factory presents No Way Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of fleeting flakes and speckles during the opening moments, the film conveys a pleasingly filmic appearance with facial tones reading appropriately.  Although not wildly colorful, textures in Hackman’s suit, Costner’s pressed Naval uniform and other costume choices are well saturated while, black levels during Costner and Young’s backseat romp are quite clear and free of any abusive crush.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, quality is satisfactory with dialogue levels delivered clearly as scoring cues and the film’s intense wave crashing ship scene offer nice balance to the otherwise tame mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and the film’s Trailer (1:30).

    Perfect viewing for the political season, No Way Out combines sex, scandal and murder for a gripping narrative set in our nation’s capital.  A solid cast and stylish direction compliment the film’s pace that allows itself to sharply pull the rug out from under the audience during its fleeting moments.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory upgrades this Costner starring thrill ride with an admirable high-definition transfer and a pleasing commentary track from its helmer.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, No Way Out can be purchased via, 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, and other fine retailers. 

  • Assault on New Releases #2: Krull (1983), Salvador (1986) and Grave Halloween (2013) Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

    Krull (1983)

    Director: Peter Yates

    Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones & Francesca Annis

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Krull centers on the daring Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) who embarks on a dangerous mission to save his young princess bride (Lysette Anthony).  Imprisoned by the Beast and his fellow slayers, Colwyn must first recover the legendary Glaive blade and join forces with several traveling strangers to overthrow the dark powers that oppress their planet.  

    Highly expensive at the time of its making, Krull clearly borrows from the worlds of George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien to convey its mythic tale of magic and fantasy.  A simple plot of rescue and restoring balance to a fading planet, Prince Colwyn’s mission to locate The Black Fortress proves difficult and teams with a ragtag group of rebels including several fugitives (one played by a young Liam Neeson) and Ergo the Magnificent (David Battley, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), a hilariously clumsy magician, willing to stand by his side.  While, the journey should be as exciting and cinematic as the destination, Krull hits minor speed bumps maintaining its sense of adventure.  Entertaining when they do occur, battle sequences are rather scant for a film Variety labeled “Excalibur meets Star Wars”.  Luckily, the characters are memorable and Composer James Horner’s (Avatar) grand score gives Krull a thrilling soundscape.  Originally a box-office bomb, Krull has gone on to achieve cult status amongst moviegoers that continue to appreciate this massive production decades later.  Beautifully photographed and capturing an epic scale like few productions at the time, Krull is a decent ride that ultimately feels borrowed from too many other sci-fi cinematic milestones.  Fun and sporting impressive visual effects for its time, Krull will most likely be best appreciated with repeated viewings for those who weren’t swept up in its allure during its original run.  

    Lacking with any special features, Mill Creek Entertainment presents Krull in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually clear of any aging artifacts, Krull impresses with healthy skin tones and impressive detail that allows the viewer to best appreciate the film’s whopping 23 sets.  Slight softness occurs during moments of on-screen visual effects while, black levels satisfy with clear visibility and no intruding crushing.  In addition, Krull comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that captures dialogue reasonably well with only several moments coming across lower than expected.  Intense moments of battle and Composer James Horner’s score are the true areas where this mix shines and gives your speakers a nice run for their money.

    Released in a decade of impressive sci-fi productions, Krull tells an all too familiar tale of a damsel in distress and her loving prince, joined by his own army, to save her.  Sparing no expense, Krull is an epic looking film that achieves a gorgeous, otherworldly appearance.  While, it’s easy to see why Krull registers so highly with fans, Director Peter Yates‘ (Bullit) opus isn’t an immediate home-run but, one that can be better appreciated in time.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Krull is available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, and other fine retailers.

    Salvador (1986)

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Starring: James Woods, James Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage & Elpidia Carrillo

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Writer/Director Oliver Stone’s Salvador centers on sometime journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods, Casino) who embarks to capture the Salvadoran revolution through the eyes of his camera.  Along with his friend Doctor Rock (James Belushi, Curly Sue), Boyle finds himself in dangerous situations with little hope while, trying to protect his local girlfriend and her children.  Michael Murphy (Batman Returns), John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and Elpidia Carrillo (Predator) co-star.

    Politically charged, Salvador served as a last ditch effort for Writer/Director Oliver Stone to convey a more personal story beyond his previous genre fare.  Detailing the Salvadoran revolution, Richard Boyle (Woods), travels via car with fellow down on his luck buddy, Doctor Rock (Belushi) to the war-torn location.  Fueled by alcohol, drugs and the promise of cheap women, Boyle and Rock remind viewers of the Gonzo journalists found in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but, with more agenda.  Caught in the middle of a chaotic, contrived war, Boyle finds himself at odds with the country’s increasing danger and his personal desire to protect his girlfriend (Elpidia Carrillo).  Woods is brilliant in this Oscar-nominated performance of a self-proclaimed weasel of a man who scams and boozes his way to make a living.  Matched with his unforgettable work in Videodrome and Once Upon A Time in America, the 1980s can arguably be seen as Woods‘ most enduring decade.  In addition, Belushi’s Doctor Rock is the perfect yin to Woods‘ yang.  Desperate, broke and scared of his new surroundings, Belushi quickly adapts to El Salvador by drinking with young children, eager to start bar fights at the drop of a hat and falling in love with a prostitute.  Belushi’s rambunctious attitude is refreshing against the grim imagery of murdered civilians by the military government.  Constantly rattling the political cages and putting himself in harms way, Boyle is relentless in trying to establish a story and the pictures to go along with it.  Vastly underrated, Salvador is an intense, fictional account of the Salvadoran revolution spearheaded by Woods and Belushi’s incredible performances of two Americans willingly placed in hell.  In addition, Stone’s rebirth as a filmmaker helped launch a career of other politically fueled and critically acclaimed projects that continue to this day.  

    Presented in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Salvador looks remarkable with a crisp appearance and rich detail found in facial features and the hot Salvadoran climate.  Complexions are always spot-on while, black levels are impressive especially in the dark, jungle settlings where visibility reads well.  Equipped with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion and only minor shake-ups during some of the film’s more chaotic war sequences that can overwhelm speaking bits.  In addition, a DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mix has also been provided.  Meanwhile, special features run a plenty with a worthwhile audio commentary with Writer/Director Oliver Stone, an isolated score track, the impressive and lengthy Into the Valley of Death - The Making of Salvador (1:02:52), deleted scenes (27:47), an original theatrical trailer (1:58) and a MGM 90th Anniversary trailer (2:06).  Plus, a 6-page booklet with Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo lending her expertise on Salvador’s significance round out the disc’s supplements.

    Limited to just 3,000 units, Twilight Time’s impressive treatment of this criminally underrated Stone effort is beyond recommending.  Woods and Belushi’s powerhouse performances guide the viewer on this tour of the hellish El Salvador during a time of revolution and chaos.  As complicated and wild as the war itself, Boyles‘ personal desires are at constant odds with the safety of those closest to him, making Salvador an intensely, captivating ride that never lets up, leaving the fewer with more questions about the state of the world.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Salvador is available now and can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

    Grave Halloween (2013)

    Director: Steven R. Monroe

    Starring: Kaitlyn Leeb, Cassi Thomson, Dejan Loyola, Graham Wardle & Hiro Kanagawa

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When American exchange student Maiko (Kaitlyn Leeb, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings) travels to Japan’s Suicide Forest to uncover the truth of her dead birth mother, a college documentary crew captures her journey.  Unfortunately, on October 31st, the group will disturb something sinister in the grim forest that may destroy them all.  Cassi Thomson (Big Love), Dejan Loyola (Evangeline), Graham Wardle (Heartland) and Hiro Kanagawa (Godzilla) co-star.

    Originally premiered on the SyFy network and “inspired” by true events, Grave Halloween feels like a marriage between The Blair Witch Project and J-Horror imagery found in The Ring.  A decent setup of an attractive exchange student hoping to learn the truth behind her birth mother’s suicide, finds our core cast in an atmospheric, backwoods area near Japan’s Mount Fuji.  Littered with subpar performances, Grave Halloween slightly rises above most TV-movie dreck with crafty practical effects in the form of long hair ripping limbs from a victim.  Intercut with ghostly flashbacks to Maiko’s childhood and digital camera POV shots, Grave Halloween grows tiresome as the Suicide Forest becomes a giant maze causing the group to constantly lose each other for most of the runtime.  Weak jump scares and more Japanese phantoms that bombarded cinemas a decade ago appear to underwhelm the viewer.  As the group dwindles and safety is near for the survivors, a twist, open-ended finale concludes Grave Halloween.  Far from the worst made for TV effort, Grave Halloween is competently shot and possesses some worthy practical gore effects but, never manages to be very memorable.  Ultimately, Grave Halloween is a frankenstein concoction of genres we’ve seen before, only with lesser results.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Grave Halloween in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Drenched in heavy fog, detail is nicely picked up in wardrobe and the eerie backwoods setting while, moments of bloody gore pop nicely.  In addition, black levels read respectively well for DVD quality and should please those tuning in.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Grave Halloween picks up dialogue with no hitches and moments of shrieking terror come across with an added bump.  Unfortunately, no special features are included.

    For TV-movie fare, one could do way worse than Grave Halloween.  Borrowing from different subgenres, namely the tired J-Horror realm, Grave Halloween never manages to be anything wildly original or noteworthy.  On a positive note, the usage of practical effects are worthwhile and serve as the film‘s leading strongpoint.  With the Halloween season in full swing, Grave Halloween is not the worst way to kill 90-minutes, but it certainly won‘t be worth revisiting either.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Grave Halloween is available now and can be purchased via and other fine retailers.

  • President Wolfman (2012) DVD Review

    President Wolfman (2012)

    Director: Mike Davis

    Starring: Marc Evan Jackson, Ashley Ann, Anthony Jenkins & Casey Robinson

    Released by: Wild Eye Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Utilizing recycled stock footage and injecting new dialogue plus other enhanced effects, this “green film” is the epitome of camp entertainment.  Part horror-comedy blended with political satire, Director Mike Davis (Sex Galaxy) once again meshes his love for public domain footage and hysterical dialogue for another howlingly fun time.  Award winner at several independent film festivals, President Wolfman is the perfect midnight solution during a full moon.

    President Wolfman centers on John Wolfman, single parent, leader of the free world and part-time werewolf.  Tirelessly fighting off the selling of the United States to China through the proposed “Chimerica Bill”, Wolfman is also pitted with saving his young son from a deadly Vice President.


    Creatively crafted, President Wolfman wields a story of horror and humor in our nation’s capital relying solely on recycled footage.  Reminiscent of 70s exploitation fare, this zany indie effort works wonders by infusing hilarious voice work over pre-existing footage culled from educational shorts, Smokey the Bear commercials, Miss Teen Beauty Pageants and more.  A breezy runtime, absurd dialogue and footage that doesn’t always make sense creates the perfect cheese-fest cocktail for material of this ilk.  At times reminiscent of poor dubbing examples akin to Godzilla films, President Wolfman is firmly aware of their over the top nature and never shies away from pushing the envelope.  Consistently funny and politically incorrect, President Wolfman is an absolute hoot from start to finish.  Admirers of bad cinema will enjoy the tongue in cheek mentality of the film while, equally appreciating the various stock footage used to push the narrative forward.  President Wolfman is the ideal solution for a good laugh, not to be taken seriously.  Presented in “Stag-O-Vision”, this political lycan is a successful experimentation with cut and paste moviemaking worthy of your vote.

    RATING: 4/5


    Wild Eye Releasing presents President Wolfman in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Culled from over 100 pieces of various stock footage, President Wolfman ranges in quality.  Scratches (some purposely intended), lines and faded color are all present but, expected in a film of this caliber.  Understandably, a film consisting of recycled footage should not be judged harshly as it maintains its artistic intent.  While, not pitch perfect looking, President Wolfman appears exactly as it should which makes the ride all the more fun.

    RATING: 3/5


    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, President Wolfman sounds crisp and robust.  As the footage appears as it was found, the re-voiced dialogue and blaxploitation-esque tunes are loud and audible with no issues to speak of.  Obviously, an area where sizable budget was put forth to make the film work its magic.

    RATING: 4/5


    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Mike Davis and Co-Producer Miles Flanagan: Davis and Flanagan waste no time diving into the material explaining the elaborate process of making a “green film” of this kind, work.  Davis mentions 1973’s The Werewolf of Washington starring Dean Stockwell as being the central film selection in guiding his film forward while, plucking other material from various industrial films, educational shorts and driver’s safety films.  Flanagan, who also contributed to the film’s visual effects, explains his subtle uses of digitally adding items into scenes that called for added production value.  Fans of the film will find this commentary to be an interesting listen considering its unusual style.  

    - President Wolfman Outtakes (1:42)

    - President Wolfman Music Video (1:54): The main title sequence reused as a separate feature.

    - President Wolfman Highlight Reel (4:00): Several humorous sequences collected in one reel.

    - Shorts: A collection of various stock footage clips, some in their original form and others repurposed by Davis:

                        - Ban Money (0:59)

                        - Experiments (19:39)

                        - Sudden Birth (22:09)

                        - Talking Car (16:02)

                        - Thank You (0:31)

                        - She Wolf (1:44)

                        - Space Prison Trailer (2:05)

    - Trailers: Includes President Wolfman, Deadly X-Mas, The Disco Exorcist, Murder University, Showgirls 2, Mold! and Swamphead.

    RATING: 3.5/5


    Copy and paste tattered stock footage and invite the gang of Mystery Science Theater 3000 to re-dub the dialogue and you arrive at President Wolfman.  Unbelievably campy and unrelentingly hilarious, this horror-comedy pokes fun at politics with the guided hand of scratchy footage, best remembered through a school projector.  Director Mike Davis‘ latest effort is a laugh out loud riot, enjoyed amongst other B-movie lovers with a weakness for werewolves running the country.  In addition, Wild Eye Releasing has prepared a wide spread of bonus content for fans to cut into including an informative commentary and various stock footage clips.  Resurrecting long-forgotten footage with newly recorded, comical dialogue is a work of genius or insanity.  Regardless, the end result is a roaringly fun experience that will leave you in support for President Wolfman.

    RATING: 4/5

  • The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957) DVD Review

    The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957)
    Director(s): Robert Angus / Art Ford
    Starring: Mamie Van Doren, June Wilkinson & Ted Knight / Martin E. Brooks, Ana Donaldson & Johnny Seven
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented for the first time on home video, Vinegar Syndrome pairs two very different films together that hail from opposite ends of the track.  A salacious political satire and a late period noir, both filmed in beautiful black and white, come together for one unlikely package.  Will women with looks that kill and some knife wielding mobsters earn a spot on your shelf?  Let’s find out...

    The Candidate stars Mamie Van Doren (Untamed Youth) and June Wilkinson (Career Girl) in a political satire involving the sexcapades of an up and coming politician, played by Ted Knight (Caddyshack).  Eric Mason (Kiss of the Tarantula) co-stars in his film debut.  Next up, Johnny Gunman, takes place over the course of a single night in New York where a tense battle is brewing between two mob boss hopefuls.  Martin E. Brooks (The Six Million Dollar Man) stars in his film debut alongside Ana Donaldson (Kraft Theatre), Woodrow Parfrey (Planet of the Apes) and Johnny Seven (The Apartment).

    The sexcapades of an up and coming politician sounds almost more appealing as a documentary for today’s audiences but alas this is the basis of our first feature.  The plot sounds ripe for humorous hijinks and maybe some 1960s skin, but sadly that’s not the case.  The trouble with The Candidate is that it never quite knows what it wants to be.  We start off with a campaign manager (Eric Mason) wooing a politician’s secretary (Mamie Van Doren) in hopes to make his way into the candidate’s good graces.  At this point, I was convinced the story would involve Mason and Van Doren hatching a scheme to catch the candidate in embarrassing sexual situations in order for Mason to take control as the next would be senator himself.  Much to my disappointment, the story went another direction.  The film switches back and forth to past events and then jumping forward where the film becomes a courtroom drama.  Knight’s character isn’t even doing anything “wrong” until he begins seeing the gorgeous June Wilkinson, which Mason believes is a bad political move.  Somewhere along the way, Mason knocks up a random broad which results in her aborting the pregnancy and having a disturbing mental breakdown.  Yikes!  The film concludes in the courtroom where see evidence presented in the form of a stag film starring Knight’s latest squeeze, Wilkinson.  The film in turn finds Knight an unfit selection to assume the role of state senator.  But, don’t worry, as if finding out his old lady starred in a sex flick wasn’t enough, Knight becomes overwhelmed by the film and drops dead because of it!  Needless to say, the film ends on a very unexpected, somber note which fell far from my original expectations.  The Candidate told a story without knowing exactly what it wanted to be or achieve.  Luckily, the one shining light of the film is Van Doren and Wilkinson who are so jaw-droppingly beautiful that you’ll nearly forget about the film and focus entirely on them.  The lack of skin was disappointing but expected for such an early execution in sexploitation.  Nothing more than aggressive kissing and a quick peak at Van Doren’s crack is all you get here.  The Candidate was a snoozefest that baffled me at its inability for consistence.  The film is nothing special and only serves as an odd curiosity of early sexploitation mixed with political satire.
    RATING: 2/5

    Teamed up with The Candidate is the late period noir, Johnny Gunman from 1957.  Set over the course of one night in New York, a tense battle ensues between two mob boss hopefuls that can only end with one of them falling.  This lost flick was Written and Directed by Art Ford which would mark his first and only picture behind the camera.  The premise of the film sounded promising enough but the deeper you get in, the more the appeal wears off.  Johnny Gunman fails from stale performances from its cast, mostly from Ana Donaldson who plays Coffee, a woman with dreams of becoming a writer but plans to ditch the city after that doesn’t pan out.  She enters a cafe on her final night in the Big Apple and decides to spend her final hours with three men, one of whom is a mob boss hoping to gain control of the city.  Donaldson has no range whatsoever and has trouble speaking above a whisper.  Her last stab at trying to find something memorable to write about in these three men comes across as uninteresting due to her lack of enthusiasm.  It’s no surprise Johnny Gunman was her first and only film appearance.  At 67 minutes, the film plays at a snail’s speed with not much in the way of excitement happening.  Eventually, it becomes clear that the only way to decide who will reign the city is to meet on a lonely street and have it out like men.  In what concludes as quite possibly the most anti-climatic fight in film history, Johnny Gunman is a failed attempt at capturing the vibe of a quality noir.  The only appealing moments come in the form of exterior shots of Greenwich Village during a street festival that look marvelous.  In addition, one of the final shots of the film finds our hopeful mob boss driving past a gorgeous movie theatre that was playing The Wizard of Oz at the time.  As you can see, Johnny Gunman is far from a masterpiece and fails to entertain anymore than its co-feature.
    RATING: 2/5

    The Candidate has been restored in 2K from 35mm elements and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The black and white photography looks clean for the most part with only faint cases of lines and scratches present.  Detail comes across nicely, most noticeably in close-ups.  Overall, I walked away pleased with the presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Like The Candidate, Johnny Gunman was restored in 2K from 35mm film elements.  The film is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has its fair share of hiccups.  Scratches and debris are present in the print with exterior shots looking dark and difficult to view.  While close-ups of the cast are nicely detailed, pops in the print occur every so often.  Suffice to say, this is the best Johnny Gunman will ever look and it’s not too shabby, warts and all.
    RATING: 3/5

    The Candidate is accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix which is slightly problematic.  Moments of hissing and an occasional echo of cracks and pops are heard but fortunately don’t intrude on dialogue.  The echo does become tedious as it practically serves as an unintentional piece of background music.  The audio track is serviceable even with these weak spots.
    RATING: 3/5

    Johnny Gunman is equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is also problematic.  A slight hiss is heard throughout the entire runtime.  Dialogue can be heard well enough but the hissing does get tedious.  One quick audio drop was noticed in the final reel but only for a moment.  The audio mix will get you to the finish line but there’s definitely hurdles on the way there.
    RATING: 2/5


    No special features are included in this collection but a reversible cover is provided which gives Johnny Gunman top billing.

    RATING: -/5

    The Candidate was a convoluted mess that strayed far from what its premise described.  The only worthy mention of the film is the appearances of Mamie Van Doren and June Wilkinson who are both drop dead gorgeous.  Unfortunately, Johnny Gunman fared no better as a failed attempt to capture the spirit of the noir genre they were aiming for.  A stale cast, anti-climatic ending and the lack of an effective score doomed this film from becoming entertaining if handled better.  Vinegar Syndrome should still be praised for rescuing two lost films that would have been permanently extinct without them.  The video and audio presentations on both films are as decent as one could expect from the material.  Sadly, the quality and entertainment value of the productions hurt this release considerably.
    RATING: 2/5