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  • Hellions (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Hellions (2015)

    Director: Bruce McDonald

    Starring: Chloe Rose, Robert Patrick, Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson & Luke Bilyk

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on Halloween, Hellions centers on teenage Dora Vogel (Chloe Rose, Degrassi: The Next Generation) who’s forced to defend herself and home against unsavory mischief makers.  Determined to take control of something dear to Dora, the hellacious trick-or-treaters will stop at nothing until they have what they desire.  Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Rossif Sutherland (Timeline), Rachel Wilson (Total Drama) and Luke Bilyk (Degrassi: The Next Generation) co-star.

    Establishing an atmospheric Halloween-time spirit, Hellions melds the year’s most sinister season with intense teenage conflict for a uniquely suited horror outing.  After learning she is pregnant, high school senior Dora Vogel (Rose) scrambles to find the way to tell her boyfriend the unexpected news.  Left home alone while getting ready for a Halloween party, Dora is slowly harassed by several vicious trick-or-treaters with knowledge of her unborn child.  Fearing for her life while pregnancy pains increase at an accelerated rate, Dora finds herself in a nightmarish version of her home as the deadly troublemakers multiply and desire her child.  Aided by Dr. Henry (Sutherland) and neighborhood officer Mike Corman (Patrick), Dora must fight for her survival with household appliances and limited firepower to evade being sacrificed to the hellions’ cause.

    Combining supernatural spooks with a home invasion thriller, Hellions demands to be original and generally succeeds.  The emotional conflict of Dora’s unexpected pregnancy raises the film’s suspense levels while, freakish imagery of the final girl’s evil reflection dining on a bloody fetus is an uncomfortable yet, effective moment.  Although the monstrous hell raisers appear visually reminiscent to Michael Dougherty’s Sam character in his Halloween opus Trick ‘r Treat, the designs work nicely.  In addition, as Dora’s pregnancy increases at a rapid pace throughout the film, Director Bruce McDonald’s (Pontypool) shift into a monotone, nightmarish reality sends the Canadian effort into visual pool of dread.  Collecting a minor body count and concluding on a rather open-ended note, Hellions stands as a contemporary chiller that dares to be different, choosing to blend genres and forming its own entertaining personality.

    Scream Factory presents Hellions with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, skin tones are impressively detailed and natural looking while, the suburban setting and greenery of its local pumpkin patches boast impressive colors.  In addition, black levels are generally strong with the few minor imperfections appearing more artistically driven than true technical defects.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is well handled with only occasional instances of Dora and boyfriend Jace speaking in hushed tones requiring additional volumes boosts.  Otherwise, the hellions’ attack on Dora’s home, shotgun blasts and the fierce weather conditions during Dora’s long night all make strong impressions on the boisterous mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  Unfortunately scant, special features include, the film’s Trailer (1:48) and a Reversible Cover Art displaying alternate poster imagery.  

    Providing a refreshing spin on the Halloween night of terror formula, Hellions layers its central character with greater stakes uncommon to most final girls while, its injection of supernatural forces gives the film leeway to enter nightmarish realms for one eerily intense standoff.  Marking one of their finest contemporary acquisitions from IFC Midnight, Scream Factory presents their latest spookshow with top-notch technical grades although, special features are wholly lacking.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Hellions can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Last Action Hero (1993) Blu-ray Review

    Last Action Hero (1993)
    Director: John McTiernan
    Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien, Robert Prosky, Charles Dance & Tom Noonan
    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The thrills of movie magic literally come alive in this action-adventure from Director John McTernan (Predator, Die Hard).  Exciting, humorous and satirical, Last Action Hero finds superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) playing exaggerated shades of his own tough guy roles with a wide range of Hollywood’s finest popping up at every turn.  Proudly presented back on Blu-ray, Mill Creek Entertainment invites movie lovers to step into a world where shootouts, exciting car chases and explosions are a way of life!

    Last Action Hero centers on Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien), a young movie fan obsessed with the action-packed Jack Slater films.  On the eve of the latest sequels release, Danny is granted a magical movie ticket transporting him into the action.  Teaming up with Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to bring down a crime circuit, Slater’s nemesis gets ahold of Danny’s ticket, unleashing the dangers of the silver screen into reality.  Robert Prosky (Mrs. Doubtfire), F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Art Carney (The Honeymooners), Charles Dance (Alien 3), Frank McRae (The Wizard) and Tom Noonan (Manhunter) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    A box-office blunder that opened a week after Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, Jurassic Park, Schwarzenegger himself considered his meta-action flick his first real failure.  Often overlooked when discussing Schwarzenegger and Director John McTiernan’s career highlights, Last Action Hero is far more smart and entertaining than people care to remember.  Tapping into the common daydream of living the movies, Last Action Hero successfully achieves the escapist fantasies of anyone who’s ever been entertained by cinema.  Danny Madigan (O’Brien, My Girl 2) is relatable as a pre-teen city kid who ditches school and lives for the exploits of his favorite action hero, Jack Slater.  Forming a close friendship with Nick (Prosky), an elderly theater owner, Danny is treated to an early screening of the latest Jack Slater sequel.  Fatherless and financially struggling with his mother, their bond is a charming one as Danny looks to his older friend as a paternal rock.  Nick presents Danny with a magical movie ticket given to him by the great Harry Houdini.  Before long, Jack Slater IV shines across the silver screen and Danny is transported into the film.  Danny‘s gleeful enthusiasm for the movies is intoxicating and one that helps him spot the flaws in his new surroundings.  Engaged in a high-speed shootout with criminals, Jack Slater is surprised by Danny’s appearance and is further intrigued by his knowledge regarding the death of Slater’s favorite second cousin (Carney).  Last Action Hero excels at playfully poking fun at the clichés of the action genre with the murder of Slater’s distant cousin initiating a war against mob criminals.  Danny attempts to tirelessly convince Slater that he is a movie star living in a fabricated world to no avail.  Cameo appearances from Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) and Sharon Stone (Total Recall), Danny pointing out the lack of “average looking women” and all phone numbers beginning with 555 only convince Slater of Danny’s insanity.

    Real trouble ensues when Benedict (Dance), Slater’s archrival responsible for his cousin’s death, comes in possession of Danny’s magical ticket.  An ace shot with an ever-changing glasseye, Benedict embodies the best and the silliest aspects of 007’s rogues gallery.  Joining forces with Ripper (Noonan), an axe-wielding madman responsible for murdering Slater’s son in a previous Slater sequel, Benedict invites the dangers of the fantasy world into Danny’s reality.  Finally, Slater believes the topsy-turvy world he’s living in and must trail Benedict into a world where heroes can die.  A rollercoaster-like finale takes place at the world premiere of Jack Slater IV where star Arnold Schwarzenegger walks the red carpet with then wife Maria Shriver.  A brief, hilarious encounter between Schwarzenegger and Slater takes place with Slater telling Arnie how he really feels about him.  Jean-Claude Van Damme (Bloodsport), Chevy Chase (Caddyshack), James Belushi (According to Jim) and Little Richard also make appearances on the red carpet.  A final showdown between good and evil takes place on the theater’s rooftop mimicking sequences from Slater’s own films.  

    Intentionally over the top and bolstering a heavy rock soundtrack from AC/DC, Def Leppard and Anthrax, Last Action Hero’s overlong runtime does cause the film to misstep, subjecting the audience to emotional meat for Slater’s character that does little good.  The murder of his son never feels like it phases Slater much, serving more as an excuse to have another villain for the hero to battle.  In addition, the brief inclusion of Slater’s attractive daughter (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Mortal Kombat), while serving as wonderful eye candy, never serves any purpose other than to assist her father in a shootout.  Last Action Hero would have benefitted more by focusing solely on Slater’s fish out of water complex as opposed to his broken family saga.  Despite these flubs, Last Action Hero remains a hilarious, action-induced piece of self-referential cinema that left audiences confused.  Ambitious and underrated, Last Action Hero boasted a marketing campaign as over the top as its plot that included the first paid ad in space through NASA.  Unfortunately, a locked-in release date matched with a behind schedule production and eventual negative word of mouth plagued Last Action Hero from reaching box-office glory.  Like a fine wine and ripe for rediscovery, Last Action Hero is a gaudy good time and sure to delight the movie lover in all of us.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Last Action Hero comes with a 1080p transfer sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The film is a mixed bag of mediocre black levels seen in Danny’s real world city streets and the dilapidated movie house he frequents.  Skin tones appear decently while, some close-ups (most noticeably of Nick presenting Danny with the ticket) are quite fuzzy and lack proper detail.  That said, Last Action Hero does bolster some worthwhile moments of color seen in Slater’s fictional realm where explosions of bright inferno often occur.  Not unlike its box-office returns, Last Action Hero is mildly disappointing for an action extravaganza starring Arnold Schwarzenegger but still walks away being a modest improvement over past DVD releases.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Last Action Hero comes with no shortage of gunfire, car crashes and explosions that make great use of its soundscape.  Dialogue comes across with no issues whatsoever (unless you count Frank McRae’s inaudible yelling tantrums) plus, a heavy soundtrack consisting of top acts that will send your speakers for a loud, rockin‘ time!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    An exciting adventure tale starring action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger and helmed by an A-list director seemed destined for box-office greatness, but alas was not meant to be.  Over 20 years later, Schwarzenegger and McTiernan have done better before and after, but Last Action Hero still maintains a charm and wit that is only now being more appreciated.  Packed with an overabundance of rip-roaring sequences and an enjoyable cast of genre actors, this satirical take on action combined with the escapism of movie magic takes the viewer for a hilarious journey worth buckling up for.  Co-penned by fan favorite Shane Black (The Monster Squad, Lethal Weapon) with a story co-provided by Zak Penn (The Avengers), Last Action Hero is an underrated gem of the early 90s that packs a severe punch of originality.
    RATING: 4/5