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Currently showing posts tagged Sci-Fi

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As the resistance grows stronger, the Empire’s new leadership spells greater challenges for the Ghost crew in Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three.  Following the fatal conclusion of last season, young Ezra, now even wiser with the Force and adopting more responsibilities in the fight against evil, faces the fleet’s most daunting adversary to date in Grand Admiral Thrawn.

    Suffering physical and emotional setbacks on Malachor that left Ahsoka dead and Kanan blinded, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three finds the Ghost crew healing their wounds while restrategizing their fight against Imperial forces.  Growing restless with the rebels’ ongoing interference, the Empire instates the strategically deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn to take down the resistance fighters once and for all.  Further tempted and deceived by Sith Lord Darth Maul whose desire to possess the holocrons boarders on obsession, Ezra’s mistrust in Maul weighs heavily on his development as a Jedi while, Thrawn's methodical assault on the resistance slowly begins to take shape.  Continuing to excellently develop the characters in new ways with the scars of battle weighing on their psyche, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three follows its sophomore year with a general sense of the same excitement fans have come to expect while, several episodes involving an Imperial droid sneakily attempting to infiltrate the rebel’s base and another where Chopper comes under the Empire’s control, albeit entertaining enough, serve as mere fodder and deter from the season’s ongoing narrative.  

    Although these one-off character centered tales are few and far between, true highlights of the season find Hera and the crew facing Thrawn during an intense face-off on her home planet, Sabine’s wielding of the Darksaber and her eventual decision to reunite with her Mandalorian family plus, the nail biting suspense of the Empire discovering Agent Kallus as a rebel spy keeps the show’s quality at a premium.  Furthermore, the welcome return of Obi-Wan Kenobi (during a rather underwhelming confrontation against Maul) on Tatooine makes a fan-pleasing nod to the chosen one before the program’s most epic season finale to date takes to the skies.  As the rebels prepare to stage an attack on Lothal, Thrawn discovers their plan, resulting in a cinematic battle amongst the stars that brings old friends, Force wielders and the Empire’s deadliest fleets head to head.  Yet another striking chapter in the rebel’s efforts to overthrow evil with few miscalculations to be had, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three balances drama and action with refined skill ensuring another season’s worth of intergalactic adventure is on the way.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents all 22 episodes of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Once again delivering sterling clarity and highlighting sensational color grades from the many lightsabers to Grand Admiral Thrawn’s glowingly blue skin, the show’s visual presentation continues to impress.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is nicely refined while the many intergalactic sound effects and dramatic scoring cues please immensely.  

    Special features on Disc 1 include, Rebels Recon (51:26) where Star Wars Correspondent Andi Gutierrez acts as your guide in this overview of the show’s first 8 episodes.  In addition, Sneak Peeks at Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2:10) is also included.  Next up, supplements on Disc 2 continue with two Audio Commentary tracks on “Trials of the Darksaber” with Executive Producer Dave Filoni and “Legacy of Mandalore” with Executive Producer Dave Filoni, CG Supervisor/Lighting & EFX Joel Aron, Animation Supervisor Keith Kellogg, Art Director Kilian Plunkett & Supervising Director Justin Ridge.  Furthermore, Rebels Recon (46:24) continues with coverage on episodes 9-16 while, Disc 3 features A Rebel Alliance (6:10) that details the show’s place within Rogue One’s timeline and beyond into its next season, Return to Mandalore (6:59) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the fan-favorite culture and Sabine’s personal struggles this season with uniting her people against a common foe plus, Thrawn: A Legend Returns (6:59) (Blu-ray exclusive) celebrates the rebels mighty new adversary and what his future may hold throughout the series.  Additionally, Apprentices to Outcasts: Kenobi and Maul (8:47) (Blu-ray exclusive) covers the history between the two characters and the epic conclusion to their tale.  

    Also on Disc 3, The Original Rebel: Saw Gerrera Returns - Extended (3:19) (Blu-ray exclusive) catches up with Forest Whitaker as he discusses bringing his character into both live-action and animation, three additional Audio Commentaries on “Through Imperial Eyes” with Executive Producer Dave Filoni, CG Supervisor/Lighting & EFX Joel Aron, Animation Supervisor Keith Kellogg, Art Director Kilian Plunkett & Supervising Director Justin Ridge, “Double Agent Droid” with Executive Producer Dave Filoni, CG Supervisor/Lighting & EFX Joel Aron, Animation Supervisor Keith Kellogg, Art Director Kilian Plunkett, Supervising Director Justin Ridge & Co-Executive Producer Henry Gilroy and “Twin Suns” with Executive Producer Dave Filoni are also on-hand.  Finally, Rebels Recon (44:48) concludes its coverage on the season’s final six episodes.

    While several one-off adventures, albeit entertaining ones, slightly take away from the season’s larger picture, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three greatly captivates with the arrival of the brooding Grand Admiral Thrawn, Sabine’s personal struggles and yet another thrilling season finale to keep Jedi enthusiasts anxiously wanting more.  Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment ensures another first-rate technical package with a supplemental supply that easily bests its previous seasons.       

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Three can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

    Director: Gareth Edwards

    Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen & Forest Whitaker

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    During a time of ruthless Imperial rule, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finds an unlikely band of heroes headed by the daring Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything) and rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, The Terminal) as they plot to steal the coveted plans to the Empire’s most destructive weapon, the Death Star.  Ben Mendelsohn (Una), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Mads Mikkelsen (Doctor Strange), Alan Tudyk (Frozen), Jiang Wen (The Sun Also Rises) and Forest Whitaker (Arrival) costar.

    Marking the first of many planned stand-alone films in the popular sci-fi saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story delivers an action-packed and emotionally riveting tale based on a crucial footnote, often referred to but never explored in the film universe on such a profound scale.  Following the murder of her mother and capturing of her scientist father (Mikkelsen) fifteen years ago, Jyn Erso, resorting to petty theft and anything else to survive in the war-ravaged world the Empire has fashioned, is rescued from incarceration by rebels with an imperative message from her thought to be dead father, Galen Erso.  Using his brilliance to design the Empire’s most invaluable weapon for total domination, Galen alerts Jyn of the Death Star’s near completion and its sole vulnerability.  Aided by rebel officer Cassian Andor and the series’ most hilariously blunt droid to date, K-2SO (Tudyk), to retrieve the elder Erso in an effort to assist the Alliance, Jyn must scour distant and dangerous worlds, confront old foes and ensure the plans to the Death Star are captured in a mission built entirely on hope and outnumbered by the odds.  

    A far riskier endeavor than its previous Episode-connected installment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story forges on with an adventure, visually and thematically, engrained in the spirit of Lucas’ franchise-starting wave of films.  Grittier and focusing on a new breed of unlikely and richly diverse heroes that come together to aid Jyn’s deathly mission, the prequel to A New Hope flourishes with stunning visual effects and a groundbreaking achievement that resurrects the deceased Peter Cushing’s likeness to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin.  As strong and appealing as these new rebels including, the determined Jyn and blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Yen) are individually, their chemistry as a unit lacks and is a far cry from the charming connections seen between the stars of George Lucas’ original trilogy.  While character development issues, also present in his 2014 Godzilla reboot are repeated here, Director Gareth Edwards handles the wealth of the narrative with a steady hand and an obvious appreciation for the detailed universe.  Complimented by a distinct yet familiar score by Michael Giacchino (Tomorrowland, Doctor Strange) that seamlessly taps into John Williams’ beloved themes and featuring the most viciously exciting appearance by Darth Vader on film yet, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, although leading to an unavoidably predictable finale, is a thrilling journey into the galaxy’s past that stands strongly on its own merits.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Immaculately handled, the digital photography detailing the various planet landscapes and colder color textures seen early in the film make for a flawlessly crisp picture.  Furthermore, skin tones are naturally preserved with the deepest of black levels observed during high-flying space battles, death trooper armor and of course, Darth Vader’s iconic garb.  A picturesque high-definition experience on all fronts, the Force is triumphantly strong with this transfer.  Equipped with a fittingly perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that delivers dialogue with the swiftest of precision, Michael Giacchino’s swelling score boldly supports the spectacular visuals while, the whizzing sounds of TIE fighters, X-wings and explosive laser blasts all make reference-worthy statements on the track.

    Respectably stocked and presented on a separate disc, supplements found under The Stories banner include, A Rogue Idea (9:00) that finds ILM’s John Knoll discussing how he came up with the film’s concept that would ultimately launch the Star Wars stand-alone projects, Jyn: The Rebel (6:16) explores the lead character’s traits and backstory with insight from Actress Felicity Jones, Cassian: The Spy (4:14) hosts Actor Diego Luna as he discusses Cassian’s own complexities being a hero against immeasurable odds, K-2SO: The Droid (7:43) details the technical process bringing the droid to life through Alan Tudyk’s performance, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills (6:20) digs deeper into the characters’ backstories and the Chinese superstars playing them, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & The Revolutionary (8:35) finds Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and Riz Ahmed reflecting on their very unique roles as an extremist rebel leader and Imperial pilot gone rogue while, The Empire (8:18) gives a revealing look into the film’s antagonists, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One (8:24) explores the production’s challenge with making a film that could visually fit into the realm of the original trilogy’s appearance, The Princess & The Governor (5:49) sheds light on the impressive movie magic that brought a younger Princess Leia and Governor Tarkin back to the big-screen and Epilogue: The Story Continues (4:15) finds the filmmakers and cast reflecting on the experience with footage from the film’s world premiere included.  In addition, Rogue Connections (4:31) points out all the Easter eggs and references to other films in the Star Wars universe found in the film with a DVD edition and Digital HD Code concluding the bonus feature offerings.

    Following up on the momentum of The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story successfully charts a new course in a universe of stand-alone features that overwhelmingly soars on its first flight.  Minor character development hiccups aside, the prequel invites viewers back to a familiar world, this time told via strangers eyes, who win the affections of its audience through compelling performances and mesmerizing visual effects.  While its ultimate destination may be easily foreseen, the journey and near-impossible mission at hand is as exciting as one could hope for from a new chapter in the Star Wars universe.  Unsurprisingly, Disney’s high-definition presentation is a lavish-looking, reference worthy example of excellence with a serviceable amount of supplements bested only by its own Target exclusive release containing additional on-disc content and a 3D presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 4th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • World Without End (1956) Blu-ray Review

    World Without End (1956)

    Director: Edward Bernds

    Starring: Hugh Marlowe, Nancy Gates, Nelson Leigh, Rod Taylor, Shawn Smith & Lisa Montell

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A cost conscience effort that earnestly takes audiences to infinity and beyond, World Without End, using rocket ship stock footage from 1951’s Flight to Mars as a launchpad, finds four daring astronauts en route back home following a successful mission to Mars when a space warp spirals them centuries ahead into a brooding future.  Crash-landing in the nuclear ravaged Earth of 2508 A.D., our daring explorers are confronted by mutated cyclops-men and overgrown spiders in search of civilization.  Creating a pacifist way of life underground away from the savages, the astronauts are welcomed by a peaceful community of colorful bald cap-wearing men and miniskirted vixens who dare not retake the land above, jeopardizing the existence of mankind’s future generations.  Determined to ensure humanity’s survival, the time traveling outsiders fight back against this Earth’s beastly mutations.  Beautifully shot in CinemaScope (the genre’s very first) and boasting a respectable cast of brave souls including an early appearance from Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, The Birds), World Without End takes what should be a routine saucer men from Mars cheapie and instead delivers a lost in space, time traveling cheapie with commendable style that echoes later genre classics (much to the chagrin of its director who felt ripped off) including, Planet of the Apes.  While not a top-tier sci-fi feature, the film’s vibrant colors, effective but seldomly seen brutes and gorgeous sights of Nancy Gates (Comanche Station) and Lisa Montell (She Gods of Shark Reef) make World Without End an entertaining prime directive from the director of Queen of Outer Space and Return of the Fly.

    Warner Archive welcomes World Without End to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Presented with spotless detail, colors are bold and exacting, giving radiance to matte paintings, earthly greenery and flashy costume choices while, black levels are as deep as one could hope for.  Retaining a prominent layer of natural film grain throughout and rosy skin tones, this lesser revered space effort has never looked and surely will ever look better!  Matched with a pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that offers crisp dialogue levels with no indications of crack or pops, special features are unfortunately void on this release.  A wonderful bone thrown to space-age baby boomers, World Without End is a fun, adventure-filled journey to a ravaged world with only travelers from the past to save it.  Although absent of any supplemental content, Warner Archive has singlehandedly ensured this B-movie favorite a grandiose Blu-ray debut that makes its Cinemascope photography pop like never before.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 28th from Warner Archive, World Without End can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • One Million Years B.C. (1966) Blu-ray Review

    One Million Years B.C. (1966)

    Director: Don Chaffey

    Starring: Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Martine Beswick, Robert Brown, Percy Herbert & Yvonne Horner

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Exchanging gothic ambiance and monsters for prehistoric excellence, One Millions Years B.C. would skyrocket to become Hammer Film Productions’ biggest box-office smash and one of science fiction’s finest efforts of the era.  After being banished by his own tribe, Tumak (John Richardson, Black Sunday) scours the desolate wasteland and stumbles upon the generous and resourceful Shell People.  Finding a kindred spirit in the beautiful Loana (Raquel Welch, Fantastic Voyage), the two decide to face the land on their own, confronting a siege of deadly dinosaurs and other ferocious beasts on their journey.  Guided only by a documentary-like narration by Vic Perrin (The Outer Limits) and grunts of caveman lingo, One Million Years B.C. thrives on its visual splendor of gorgeous rocky vistas and fantastical elements that find our heroes pitted against giant iguanas, spiders and brilliantly conceived stop-motion dinos.  Engineered by Harryhausen-effect driven wizardry and keen direction by Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts), the scantly-clad sight of sex symbol Raquel Welch in the starring role not only is invaluable to the film’s success but, a lasting testament to its impact on popular culture.  Featuring barbaric beatdowns amongst the many tribesmen, soaring Pteranodons flying off with victims and a volcanic finale, One Million Years B.C. is a towering achievement of special effects magic, ranking as one of the best fantasy features of its time.

    Gorgeously restored in 4K, KL Studio Classics welcomes One Million Years B.C. to domestic high-definition with a flawless 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Colorful and crisp, filmic quality is excellent while, skin tones remain immaculate with detail in the film’s stop-motion critters relaying their many intricacies with ease.  A first-rate achievement that will leave fans young and old bewitched by its restoration, stampedes of praise can only be recommended.  Equipped with an equally satisfying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that gives prominence to the thundering crash of dinosaur attacks and the more subtle grunts of its human characters, the track satisfies on all fronts.  Appreciatively appeasing completists of the film, the preferred International Cut (1:40:37) and shorter U.S. Cut (1:31:59) are included on separate discs with Disc 1’s supplemental offerings featuring an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, an Animated Montage of Posters and Images (3:05) and the Original International Theatrical Trailer (3:00).  Joining the U.S. Cut on Disc 2, bonus features include, vintage offerings such as Raquel Welch: In the Valley of the Dinosaurs (7:45), An Interview with Ray Harryhausen (12:29) and a 2016-shot Interview with Martine Beswick (16:36).  Lastly, the Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:08) rounds out the disc’s extras.  A fantastical fun time that highlights some of Harryhausen’s finest stop-motion effects work and the sexy radiance of Raquel Welch, One Million Years B.C. is a primeval journey into the past that glows with imagination and wonder.  Already ranking as one of the year’s genre must-haves, KL Studio Classics’ 4K restoration is a stunning sight that includes both cuts of the film and a healthy spread of bonus content sure to please cavemen from all walks of life.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, One Million Years B.C. can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Who? (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Who? (1975)

    Director: Jack Gold

    Starring: Elliot Gould, Trevor Howard, Joseph Bova, Edward Grover & James Noble

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the disappearance of a noted American scientist after a near fatal wreck in the Soviet Union, Who? finds the survivor reappearing unrecognizable as a robotic-hybrid of his former self.  Tasked with determining the true identity of this metallic being, FBI agent Sean Rogers (Elliot Gould, The Long Goodbye) remains cautiously unsure whether who stands before him is the wounded scientist or an elaborate rouse by Russian forces.  Trevor Howard (Meteor), Joseph Bova (Serpico), Edward Grover (Death Wish) and James Noble (Benson) costar.

    Based on the sci-fi novel by Algis Budrys, Who? stages a tediously dull thriller of uncertain identities and international espionage, brought to life by performances as yawningly robotic as the film’s scientist in metal clothing.  After American scientist and leader of the confidential Neptune Project, Lucas Martino (Bova), vanishes following a deadly car crash along the Soviet border, the thought to be dead professor emerges with his brain and right arm intact whereas the remainder of his body is of robotic material.  Escorted back to the custody of domestic agencies, FBI agent Sean Rogers is all but certain Martino is not who he says he is.  Part paranoid and inclined to trust his instincts, Rogers, through countless interrogations and investigations into the roboman’s past, must determine the truth including the likelihood of Russian intelligence attempting to obtain more information on the Neptune Project.  Juxtaposing between the FBI and the Soviet’s time with the robot assumed to be Martino, Who? is a slow-burn that stumbles to remain interesting or exciting with the exception of a far too short airport runway car chase.  Unintentionally silly in its roboman design and doused in somber tones leaving the film cold to the touch, Who? sounds far more intriguing than it is entertaining resulting in an otherwise forgettable curiosity piece.

    KL Studio Classics presents Who? with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Containing numerous instances of scratches, speckles and cigarette burns to varying degrees, picture quality falls generally softer with black levels, evident in the film’s opening border exchange of Martino, leaving more to be desired.  In addition, skin tones are handled decently while, detail is not of the sharpest caliber with colors occasionally failing to remain consistent.  Although its elements appear to not be the most well maintained, the high-definition transfer remains of average grade.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 that neither gravely disappoints or overwhelming satisfies, dialogue is efficiently exchanged with cracks and pops present mostly during reel changes.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jack Gold, moderated by Film Historian Anthony Sloman.  Finally, a Trailer Gallery consisting of The Long Goodbye (2:31), Busting (2:45), The Offence (1:51) and The Naked Face (2:10) conclude the disc’s supplemental package.

    An intriguing premise that lacks style, Who? short-circuits quickly turning a quality cast into a siege of wooden performances, chalking this Cold War thriller into a battle badly lost.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, KL Studio Classics brings the peculiar spy feature to hi-def with passable grades that bare their fair share of battle wounds yet, get the job done all the same.

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

  • Morgan (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Morgan (2016)

    Director: Luke Scott

    Starring: Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie, Boyd Holbrook, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh & Paul Giamatti

    Released by: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Concocted in a secret laboratory, Morgan finds the groundbreaking development of a genetically engineered human (Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch) crashing down when a shocking series of events unfolds.  Professionally and emotionally conflicted, her scientific creators must determine whether their advancements outweigh their own livelihoods.  Kate Mara (The Martian), Toby Jones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones), Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight) and Paul Giamatti (Billions) star.

    Marking the feature-length directorial debut of Luke Scott and produced by father Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), Morgan scratches the very real surface of genetic evolution and the equally troubling questions of playing maker to artificial life.  Following a violent attack on a fellow scientist, risk-assessment specialist Lee Weathers (Mara) is summoned by superiors to the remote location of the incident.  Developed and studied for several years by a core group of researchers, the human hybrid creation known as Morgan is closely monitored following her unexpected outburst as Weathers evaluates the teenage-looking subject and the operation at large.  As the staff find themselves blindsided by their own emotional connection to the experiment they view as kin, Weathers’s judgement remains reserved until a psychological analysis on Morgan finds a provoking doctor brutally killed.  Convinced Morgan and the entire project should be terminated, Weathers finds herself at odds with a disagreeable staff and an unpredictable Morgan, now on the run and exacting revenge on those who stand in her way.  Featuring strong performances from the ensemble cast and a thoroughly thrilling tone, Morgan may not be revolutionary in its narrative yet, keeps viewers invested in its proceedings that deliver with well-done combat choreography and respectably violent bloodshed.  Performing abysmally to box-office expectations, Morgan, possessing noticeable hints of the Scott touch and featuring a pleasing, if not seen before twist of a finale, may not have found its audience theatrically but, suffices as an efficient first stab at science-fiction for the younger Scott.

    20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Morgan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Featuring color grades that range from dim and sterile as seen in the film’s many laboratory scenes and earthy observed throughout the exteriors shot in Northern Ireland, the film impresses with its handling of inky black levels and handsome skin tones that observes Morgan’s powdered complexion very well.  While not an eye-popping but rather effectively subdued presentation, Morgan offers a strong high-definition picture true to its visual aesthetic.  Equipped with a well-constructed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crystal throughout while, nature ambiance, echoing gunshots in the wilderness and high-speed vehicles all make sturdy statements on this exceptional track.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Luke Scott, Modified Organism: The Science Behind Morgan (19:40) which hosts scientific experts in the field of genetics as well as cast and crew discussing the film’s approach, Deleted Scenes (6:03) with optional audio commentary from Director Luke Scott and Loom (20:27), Scott’s short film that also comes with an optional audio commentary from its maker.  In addition, a Still Gallery (45 in total), Trailers (4:07) and Sneak Peeks (11:08) at a Discover Digital HD Promo, Assassin’s Creed, X-Men: Apocalypse, The Martian and Deadpool round out the on-disc offerings.  Lastly, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A respectably well-paced thriller, Morgan may not be the next great chapter in science-fiction masterpieces in lieu of a concept audiences have seen all too recently yet, its box-office failure is also no indication of its otherwise admirable execution.  With expectations calculated accordingly, Morgan is a dangerous experiment worthy of exploration.  Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment ushers the film to high-definition with exacting technical merits and a decent spread of bonus features including Scott’s first short film.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Morgan can be purchased via FoxConnect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Doomwatch (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Doomwatch (1972)

    Director: Peter Sasdy

    Starring: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, Joby Blanshard, George Sanders, Percy Herbert, Geoffrey Keen, Joseph O’Connor & Shelagh Fraser

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When citizens of a small island community develop aggressive behavior and monstrous disfigurements, Doomwatch finds the determined Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen, The Flight of the Phoenix) and local schoolteacher Victoria Brown (Judy Geeson, The Lords of Salem) risking their lives to uncover the horrifying truth.  Costarring the likes of John Paul (A Countess from Hong Kong), Simon Oates (The Terrornauts) and George Sanders (The Jungle Book), Hammer horror veteran Peter Sasdy (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper) directs.

    Spun-off from the short-lived BBC series of the same name while serving little to no consequence for the uninitiated, Doomwatch relegates several cast regulars to supporting parts in exchange for headliners Bannen and Geeson to pave a new path for its big-screen opus.  Marketed with an enticing campaign in tune with its director’s more horror-oriented efforts, Doomwatch’s environmentally cautious tale pits anti-pollution scientist Dr. Del Shaw on an investigation off the island village of Balfe where the citizens have demonstrated peculiar behavior and even more questionable physical changes.  While the townsfolk hold firm to their belief that their sickly states are God’s punishments for generations of inbreeding, Shaw suspects radioactive waste and illegal dumping in their surrounding waters to be the root of the problem.  Untrusted by the masses with many debilitating into murderous mongoloids, Shaw, along with his only onsite ally Victoria Brown and his headquarters of likeminded scientists, must make the citizens understand the gravity of their conditions before Balfe as they know it becomes extinct.  Loaded with lab coat deliberations, scuba-diving investigations and far too seldom appearances from the island’s mutated locals, Doomwatch's not-so subtle message signaling the dangers of pollution feels ahead of its time and far more potent in today’s environmentally conscience society yet, can’t help but mildly disappoint for cloaking itself as the sci-fi thriller it is not.  Boasting a stirring score from John Scott (Man on Fire) and watchable performances from its principal players, Doomwatch may not fully live up to its promotional campaign of island-infested monsters but, delivers a respectable message with a handful of thrills to go around.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Doomwatch with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Making a strong leap to high-definition, skin tones are consistently handled with detail in the disfigured local’s faces nicely highlighted.  Meanwhile, the softness found on the island’s misty surroundings remains intact while, black levels waver from respectable to slightly murky, seen most apparently during the film’s opening.  Lastly, scant scratches are observed but never deter from watchability.  Equipped with a satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is crisp with only heavier accents occasionally requiring a boost in volume due more to their thickness and less with the mix’s performance.  In addition, John Scott’s riveting score provides exceptional ambiance on the track while, several cracks and pops make their presence heard.  Special features include, an On-Camera Intro by Director Peter Sasdy (2:18), an Audio Commentary with Director Peter Sasdy, Doomsday with Judy Geeson (6:20) where the film’s female lead recalls the difficult shoot on Cornwall and its unpredictable weather conditions, her attraction to the hot-button issue of pollution for taking the role and her admirations for her fellow costars.  Lastly, Trailers for The Island of Dr. Moreau (2:12), The Neptune Factor (3:02) and War-Gods of the Deep (2:21) are also included.

    Not quite the deep sea excursion into grotesque beasts one would hope, Doomwatch delivers a halfway decent plot exposing the dangers of pollution and a troubled island of misfits at its mercy.  Sure to please slightly more for those not expecting a B-movie bonanza, the environmental thriller would have only benefitted from more genre tropes but alas, remains a decent effort with a certifiably green agenda.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics delivers the film spinoff with a most pleasing presentation and a welcome array of special features including, a new interview with Star Geeson and commentary track from its 81-year-old director.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Doomwatch can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Astro-Zombies (1968) Blu-ray Review

    The Astro-Zombies (1968)

    Director: Ted V. Mikels

    Starring: Wendell Corey, John Carradine, Tom Pace, Joan Patrick, Tura Satana & Rafael Campos

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From cult icon Ted V. Mikels (The Doll Squad), The Astro-Zombies centers on mad scientist Dr. DeMarco (John Carradine, House of Frankenstein) whose crazed experimentations on the deceased to bring life to his robotic creations gains the attention of others.  Pursued by international spies, criminals and the CIA, the man made monsters escape leaving a trail of blood in their wake.  

    Unsurprisingly produced in less than a week with a considerable sum of its budget accounted for star John Carradine’s fee, The Astro-Zombies is out of this world awful, daring curious viewers to survive through its wildly overlong runtime and dense plot.  Failing to blend several genres in one, Ted V. Mikels’ sci-fi stinker, long considered one of the worst films ever made, channels paint drying as the elderly Carradine yawningly tinkers with laboratory equipment and spats scientific jargon while, later a topless, body painted dancer flaunts to the camera far longer than required.  Secretly developing solar-powered astro-men who laughably bear similarities to uncoordinated men in Halloween masks, Dr. MeMarco’s efforts are desired by Mexican baddies led by the foxy Santana (Tura Satana, Faster, Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!) while, CIA agents lead an investigation to stop DeMarco at all costs.  Featuring painfully dull characters and overreaching in its attempts to throw everything and the kitchen sink into its final product, The Astro-Zombies remains puzzlingly tedious even when delivering on its colorfully gaudy poster art during the film’s lackluster climax.  Directly influencing horror punk pioneers The Misfits’ memorable song of the same name, The Astro-Zombies merely holds appeal for bad movie aficionados with a glutton for cinematic punishment.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Astro-Zombies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Unavoidably retaining traces of scratches, scuffs and lines, screen judder is routinely present while, colors appear rather drab and inconsistent.  Meanwhile, skin tones waver from natural to pinkish with black levels leaving more to be desired.  A product of its making and unkempt source materials, Mikels’ D-grade picture may not look ideal but surely won’t look any better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue struggles to be heard, often overwhelmed by low recording levels or muffled exchanges.  Underwhelming to say the least, the track thankfully lacks disruptive moments of hiss or pops but, generally disappoints.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy & Bill Corbett of RiffTrax, an Audio Commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels and a third Audio Commentary with Horror Cinema Historian Chris Alexander.  In addition, Trailers for The Astro-Zombies (2:16), Beware! The Blob (1:45), The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (2:13) and Deranged (1:40) are included along with a Reversible Cover Art.

    Far removed from the more direct alien exploits anticipated by its alluring 1-sheet, The Astro-Zombies is a disastrous blunder of nonsensical overindulgence and scatterbrained filmmaking.  Mind-numbingly lame and seemingly never-ending, Kino Lorber Studio Classics appreciatively gives the cult junker a new HD remastering that although, still plagued with anomalies, shows improvement.  Adorned with several vastly unique commentary tracks and a reversible cover art, The Astro-Zombies will unfortunately leave viewers’ faces in a pile of flesh.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available October 11th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Astro-Zombies can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Earth Dies Screaming (1964) Blu-ray Review

    The Earth Dies Screaming (1964)

    Director: Terrence Fisher

    Starring: Willard Parker, Virginia Field, Dennis Price, Thorley Walters, Vanda Godsell, David Spenser & Anna Palk

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following a worldwide extraterrestrial assault, The Earth Dies Screaming follows several survivors whose defenses and ingenuity depends on the future of the human race.  Willard Parker (Kiss Me Kate) headlines this British science fiction opus, scripted by Harry Spalding (Curse of the Fly, The Watcher in the Woods) under the pseudonym Henry Cross.

    Surrounded by a siege of collapsed bodies and witness to vehicular disasters, The Earth Dies Screaming finds civilization ravaged by robotic saucer men, leaving only a handful of survivors to counteract the invasion.  Breezy and immensely entertaining, Director Terrence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Mummy), commonly known for his gothic masterpieces for Hammer Films, brings ample tension and desolate dread to one of his only proper sci-fi centered features.  As the metallic monsters repurpose fallen humans as eerie, white-eyed hunters, The Earth Dies Screaming, led by an American surrounded by local Englishmen, unquestionably bears its influence on George A. Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead while, remaining a terrifically undervalued end of days feature in its own right.  Shot at Shepparton Studios in London, suspicion amongst the surviving humans and an expectant mother contribute added doses of suspense to this space age thriller that concludes on an explosive note.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Earth Dies Screaming with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing no detrimental marks of age-related scuffs, the film’s monochrome photography is beautifully relayed with sharp detail and black levels leaving deeply inky impressions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is well handled and absent of hiss or pops while, the remainder of the rather tame track makes admirable strides through its score and collisions into the alien robots.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an Animated Photo Montage (3:37) and Trailers for The Earth Dies Screaming (2:14), Invisible Invaders (2:00), Chosen Survivors (3:06), Panic in the Year Zero (2:24) and The Satan Bug (2:12) rounding out the supplements.

    Trading Dracula’s fangs for terror from above, The Earth Dies Screaming maintains Terrence Fisher’s exacting touch with thrills and atmospheric suspense.  Wildly underrated while influencing later day genre efforts, the menacingly titled British feature stands out against its rampant American made counterparts of the era.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the sci-fi favorite to high-definition with impressive technical grades that genre fans will be happy to have invade their collections.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Earth Dies Screaming can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D (1983)

    Director: Charles Band

    Starring: Jeffrey Byron, Mike Preston, Tim Thomerson, Kelly Preston & Richard Moll

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on the desert planet of Lemuria, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D finds a miner and his daughter Dhyana (Kelly Preston, Death Sentence) caught in the crossfire of the titular warlord.  Joining forces with brave space ranger Dogen (Jeffrey Byron, The Dungeonmaster) after the murder of her father, the peacekeepers seek to stop Syn and his crusade to enslave the Cyclopian race.  Mike Preston (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior), Tim Thomerson (Trancers), R. David Smith (Fletch Lives) and Richard Moll (Night Court) costar.

    Melding the post-apocalyptic with a fantastical science fiction flair, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D memorably blasts space-age action with in-your-face depth at the cusp of 3D’s short-lived return.  Otherworldly and futuristic, Cyclop warriors, intergalactic wizardry and wasteland armored vehicles permeate this wild west sendup set amongst the stars.  As the human population of Lemuria struggle to survive, crystals become the sole item of value to the mining community of scavengers.  As the evil Jared-Syn (Preston), aided by his half-cyborg son Baal (Smith), break a sacred treaty and wage war for power, Syn’s life draining crystals help further his control on the weak.  Combining their efforts after the death of her father, Dhyana and savior Dogen seek justice when Baal’s dangerous green acid submerges Dogen into a nightmarish state, allowing Dhyana to be captured.  Determined to save her, the lone warrior travels to Zhor and reconnects with grizzled warrior Rhodes (Thomerson).  Risking their lives on a journey to the Cyclopian mainland to recover a sacred mask to aid them in their battle, leader of the pack Hurok (Moll) confronts the duo, prompting a hellish battle for survival that proves invaluable on their road to defeating Syn.  Enlightening the Cyclopian people of Syn’s true motives, a climactic battle between good and evil takes place before a laser-blasting skybike chase between Dogan and Syn through the mountainous landscape transpires.  

    Although sporting memorable moments of action-geared fun and impressive mutant design work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D struggles to fully live up to its imaginative poster art, remaining in first gear for much of its runtime.  Achieving a considerable amount of eye candy on its limited budget, Director Charles Band’s (Pulse Pounders, Doctor Mordrid) second 3D effort following 1982’s Parasite lifts off on a shaky screenplay that never catches up with its nonstop visual agenda.  An imperfect genre smash set at the end of the universe, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not achieve all it hoped yet, remains a mildly entertaining B-grade space adventure with intentions of more installments that never came to fruition.

    Newly remastered in both 3D and 2D, Scream Factory presents Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  In their first 3D-related release since Amityville 3-D, the horror/cult subdivision of Shout! Factory supplies each version of the film on their own Blu-ray disc.  Kindly alerting viewers of unresolvable issues on the source material for its 3D form, depth reaching attempts from Baal lunging with his cyborg arm and laser blasts whizzing towards the screen work nicely while, occasional out of focus photography creates hazier outlines around characters that can be sometimes dizzying to the eye.  Additionally, and true to Scream Factory’s disclaimer, darker smudges in corners of the frame arise throughout the film that although unpleasant, are understandable given the state of the vault materials.  A retro serving of antiquated 3D effects work, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn is hardly reference quality for the format but, still offers several moments of depth-filled goofiness that may or may not rattle your vision.  More preferable for obvious reasons, the 2D version has healthy layers of film grain that only occasionally teeter into murky waters given the film’s desert-like location.  Otherwise, skin tones are pleasing, detail is revealing in Moll’s Cyclops makeup and print damage is largely infrequent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the track is very middle of the road offering audible dialogue levels while, more action-oriented sequences and accompanying sound effects fail to make stronger impacts.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix of comparable quality is also included.  

    Special features (located on the 2D disc version) include, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures’ latest featurette High Noon at the End of Universe: The Making of Metalstorm (42:13).  Catching up with a multitude of talking heads including, Director/Producer Charles Band, Actors Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll, Tim Thomerson, Screenwriter/Co-Producer Alan J. Adler and former Fangoria Editor-in-Chief Michael Gingold, Daniel Griffith’s excellently edited and nicely constructed effort is an enjoyably interesting watch.  Also included, a Still & Promotional Gallery (10:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:23) and a Radio Spot (0:30).

    Concluding on an open-ended note that was never explored again, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D may not be nearly as cool as its advertisements built up but, achieves a vast array of special effects and nifty creature designs that can be enjoyed by all ages.  A welcome and overdue return to hi-def 3D, Scream Factory rolls the dice on this science fiction fantasy from Empire Pictures founder Charles Band that although plagued with inherent issues, appreciatively provides viewers with both 2D/3D options.  Joined by Daniel Griffith’s wonderful new retrospective that’s worth the price of admission alone, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D’s mileage will vary by viewer but, will be a no-brainer for lifelong fans of Band’s illustrious career in the world of cult cinema.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn 3D can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chopping Mall (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Chopping Mall (1986)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Kattie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky & Suzee Slater

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off their anticipated Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate proudly presents Chopping Mall.  Set in the Park Plaza Mall, Director Jim Wynorski’s (Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth) cult classic finds revolutionary security robots short circuiting and transforming into malfunctioning murderers with sights set on a group of trapped teenagers.  Fresh-faced talent and memorable cult stars including, Paul Bartel (Hollywood Boulevard), Mary Woronov (Rock ’n’ Roll High School), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2) appear.

    Also known as Killbots, Chopping Mall turns a sex-filled evening of fun for eight teenagers into a hellish run-in with deadly droids where survival is tougher than a fair deal at the mall.  Shortly after being introduced as the Park Plaza Mall’s newest line of late night security, several bolts of lightning rattles the computer systems of the high-tech robotic protectors turning them into ruthless killers with polite manners.  Simultaneously, four horny couples plan to throw their own after hours party within a furniture storefront where booze and plenty of beds are on hand.  Exterminating several mall employees, the trio of metallic stalkers turn their attention to the scantily clad teens, leaving blood and destruction in their wake.  With escape impossible, the resourceful survivors must combat their enemies with makeshift traps and found weapons in order to see the next business day.  Centering its futuristic madness at the epicenter of every teen’s former recreational haven, Valley Girl meets Westworld in this Roger Corman produced cheapie that celebrates the bubbly blondes and yuppie horndogs of yesteryear whose trespassing earns them laser blast attacks and exploding heads.  Headlined by a youthful cast of thespians including, Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and others, Chopping Mall remains snappily brisk and endlessly fun keeping blood, breasts and bots in steady supply.  

    Self-promoting his own works with visible posters for Sorceress and The Lost Empire on display, Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski also honors mentor and producer Roger Corman with several nods including, a Little Shop of Pets storefront and Attack of the Crab Monsters promptly televised for the film’s necking couples.  Predominately shot on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California’s San Fernando Valley, Chopping Mall keeps its action well-paced as the technological terrors utilize tasers and death grips against the dwindling youngsters with Maroney confidently defending herself with a crack shot and crafty ingenuity within a paint shop.  Released the same year as other offbeat, eventual cult favorites including, Night of the Creeps and TerrorVision, Chopping Mall endures as one of the era’s most gleefully silly and finely-tuned sci-fi sideshows that warmly ranks as one, if not, Wynorski’s finest directorial effort in a spectacularly diverse career spanning well over 100 features.

    Newly restored from the original negative materials, Lionsgate’s limited edition release of Chopping Mall arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of marginal debris and inherent vertical lines during its opening title sequence, the quality of the B-movie favorite is a revelation.  Boasting exceptionally healthy skin tones and crisp detail within background posters and the metallic intricacies of its killers, colors found in the vibrant wardrobe choices of the era pop wonderfully while, the purplish hues of robotic laser blasts satisfy equally.  Miles ahead of ratty-looking bootlegs and fullscreen video sourced editions, Chopping Mall preserves its filmic integrity to look better than ever before!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with bustling mall ambiance nicely balanced.  In addition, Chuck Cirino’s (The Return of Swamp Thing) synth/bass heavy score greatly impresses and effectively underscores the onscreen chaos while, the killbots’ fast-turning gears, gasoline explosions and shattering glass make appropriately sharp stakes on the track.  

    Bursting with supplements, an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell is joined by a second Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital & Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop.  Furthermore, a third Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell, recorded in 2004, is also included.  With an Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino, Newly-crafted featurettes include, Back to the Mall: Interviews with the Victims and Makers (26:29) that explores the entire genesis of the film and its impact with interviews from Wynorski, Mitchell, Maroney, Todd, Crampton and countless others who look back on the experience with fond memories and deep appreciation to the fans who have kept it alive.  Chopping Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (8:19), Talkin’ About… The Killbots with Robot Creator Robert Short (12:11), Scoring Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Composer Chuck Cirino (11:04) and The Robot Speaks!: Ten Questions with the Killbot (2:12) are also included that bring great insight to the many different behind-the-scenes contributions to the film.  Also included, The Lost Scene (3:01) finds Wynorski and Mitchell prefacing an additional scene with Bartel and Wornov that was never shot before sharing its script pages while, An Army of One: A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri (6:01) who fortunately owns the only surviving bot from the film is also on hand.  Finally, a vintage Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots (15:41) featurette is carried over with the film’s Trailer (0:50).

    Rooftop pleas by diehard fans have finally been answered with Lionsgate’s newfound commitment to honoring B-movie treasures.  Arguably their most requested title, Chopping Mall makes its far too long awaited Blu-ray debut with jaw-dropping clarity and sonically splendid sound.  Proudly living up to its Collector’s Series banner, hours of newly made bonus features will find killbot enthusiasts enjoyably spending overtime in the mall.  With fans more than eager to offer arms and legs to see Wynroski’s beloved cult classic enter the HD realm for years, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line has made a laser-blasting debut essential to all genre lovers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Chopping Mall can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Beware! The Blob (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Beware! The Blob (1972)

    Director: Larry Hagman

    Starring: Robert Walker, Gwynne Gilford, Richard Stahl, Richard Webb, Godfrey Cambridge, Carol Lynley, Larry Hagman & Shelley Berman

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the gooey mayhem, Beware! The Blob finds a community under attack when a geologist’s token from the North Pole thaws and unleashes an all-consuming feast on its terrified citizens.  Starring a plethora of familiar faces and cult figures including, Robert Walker (Easy Rider), Gwynne Gilford (Fade to Black), Sid Haig (Spider Baby), Shelley Berman (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan) among others, Jack H. Harris (The Blob, Dark Star) executive produces this followup.

    Oozing to theaters well over a decade after its classic predecessor, Beware! The Blob misfires in capturing the simple charms of its originator and instead opts to embrace the modern hippie culture of its era with droopy, tensionless results.  Returning home from his Arctic job assignment with a frozen keepsake in tow, Chester (Godfrey Cambridge, Watermelon Man) and his wife’s forgetfulness allows the mysterious capsule to thaw unleashing unexpected slimy mayhem.  Consumed while watchingThe Blob on television, Chester’s takeaway from the North Pole descends upon the local population, crossing paths with neighborhood gal Lisa (Gilford) and her boyfriend Bobby (Walker) who live to warn others only to have their cries fall on deaf ears.  Introducing spacey hippies, local law enforcement types and a troop of boy scouts to the festivities, directionless performances and meandering conversations between characters permeate the runtime until the Blob far too sporadically claims victims.  Unsurprisingly improvised with its screenplay greatly ignored, Beware! The Blob collects a diverse pool of talent including, but not limited to, an ape-suit wearing Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise), Burgess Meredith (Rocky) as a rambling wino, Cindy Williams (Laverne & Shirley) toking as a pot-smoking hippie and Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough) as a dorky Scoutmaster, the lackluster sequel overwhelmingly stumbles with a bowling alley attack, akin to the original’s Colonial Theatre stampede but far less exciting, and an intendedly tense ice rink climax that arrives too little, too late.  Helmed by Larry Hagman in his only feature film credit, Beware! The Blob was re-released at the height of Dallas’ popularity, bearing the clever tagline, “The Film that J.R. Shot!” yet, failed to capture anything more than mild curiosity.  Lacking the fun of the original film and dawdling for much of its runtime with its titular monster a near afterthought, Beware! The Blob is a bubbling mess.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Beware! The Blob with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with cases of speckling over its opening titles, the sci-fi sequel appears with a softer focus that can be attributed to its limited budget and on the fly making.  Skin tones are reasonably relayed while, colors in funky fashion choices and the Blob’s pinkish hues impress the most.  A welcome upgrade that still bears its battle wounds, the star-filled feature looks respectably decent.  Equipped with a rather disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, cracks and pops are not uncommon while, dialogue exchange is modest at best with muffled moments and poor sound mixing heavily apparent.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an Alternate Title Sequence (2:42) bearing its Son of Blob moniker and Trailers for Beware! The Blob (1:45), The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (2:14), Deranged (1:34) and Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (2:14).

    A far cry from its iconic 1958 brethren, Beware! The Blob is a clumsy, unguided sequel that misses the mark on what should have been a simple, entertaining formula.  With no shortage of famous faces onscreen, the impaired direction and sheer lack of suspense or Blob-related appearances in the film shatters its chances, leaving it dazed in a cloud of its own bewilderment.  Presented with a new HD master, technical grades waver from sufficient to underwhelming with scant special features rounding out this bland schlockfest to beware.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available September 20th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Beware! The Blob can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Return of Godzilla (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Return of Godzilla (1984)

    Director: Koji Hashimoto

    Starring: Ken Tanaka, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yosuke Natsuki, Keiju Kobayashi, Shin Takuma & Kenpachiro Satsuma

    Released by: Kraken Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A direct sequel to the original Japanese classic, The Return of Godzilla finds the gargantuan monster awakening following a volcanic eruption on Daikoku Island.  With a local sea vessel left destroyed and only one surviving mate, a young Tokyo reporter, joined by a brilliant professor and his assistant’s technological advancements, seek to stop the destructive beast before nuclear means bring an end to the attacked country.  

    Following flailing box-office returns and decreased interest in their once treasured franchise, Toho would seek to rejuvenate their nuclear powered star after nearly a decade of hibernation and false starts.  Excluding any monster-sized costars and recapturing the darker tone of its originator, The Return of Godzilla is a powerhouse redemption that makes the titular character once again a menacing force to be reckoned with under a clout of anti-nuclear sublimation, heightened by the real world fears of Cold War armageddon.  Awarded an increased budget and a higher stature for Godzilla than ever before, the long-awaited sequel impresses with detailed miniature sets of the bustling metropolis, a robotically controlled and emotionally prevalent head for its monster, and franchise veteran Kenpachiro Satsuma (Godzilla VS. Hedorah, Godzilla VS. Biollante) bringing destructive grace to the character under its rubber suit.  After Godzilla’s return is quietly downplayed by the government and an attacked Soviet submarine increases tension between the region and the United States, the truth of Japan’s ultimate destructor can no longer be contained.  As diplomats and the military scramble to combat expected attacks from the monster, local reporter Goro Maki (Tanaka), Godzilla survivor Hiroshi Okumura (Takuma), his sister Naoko (Sawaguchi) and the noted Professor Hayashida (Natsuki) develop an experimental homing device to lure the beast away from civilization.  As other nations gear up for defense, a destructive Soviet missile is accidentally launched creating further chaos and increased energy for the battered Godzilla.  Skyline rampages and explosive wreckage ensues before the civilians succeed in luring the King of the Monsters to the actively volcanic Mt. Mihara  in hopes of a fatal eruption.

    While the bulk of its runtime is regulated to governmental squabbling and laboratory developments to thwart the beast, The Return of Godzilla makes the wait well worth it with an entertainingly catastrophic third act that pits Godzilla against the armored fortress known as Super X that temporarily defuses the enemy with cadmium shells.  Earning Japan’s Academy Award for Special Effects, The Return of Godzilla would prove moderately successful for the studio with overseas versions, namely New World Pictures’ Americanized Godzilla 1985 effort, making controversial changes and drifting away from its intendedly darker approach.  Regardless of its preferred viewing form (presented here only in its uncut original incarnation), The Return of Godzilla succeeds in diminishing the colorful hero of sorts the character evolved into and reverting the beast and the franchise back to its gloomier roots of nuclear devastation.

    Kraken Releasing presents The Return of Godzilla with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Repurposing the master utilized on its Japanese counterpart, quality appears relatively dated and lacking sharpness in skin tones while, select costume choices featuring bolder colors pop appropriately.  While no severe age-related scratches or scuffs are on hand, black levels are serviceable yet, suffer from inherent graininess.  Although not quite as desirably crisp as hoped for, The Return of Godzilla looks as good as to be expected.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Japanese dialect, joined by English subtitles (including burned-in captions applied over occasional non-Japanese dialogue), is satisfactory while missile blasts, building destruction and Godzilla’s iconic roar suffer from lackluster pushes on the track.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English mix has also been included.  Unfortunately minimal, bonus features include, a Theatrical Promo (3:03) and an Also Available from Kraken Releasing section featuring trailers for Ebirah - Horror of the Deep (2:16), Godzilla VS. Gigan (2:11) and Godzilla VS. Hedorah (2:09).

    Anxiously awaited although hardly definitive with the legally convoluted Godzilla 1985 cut notably absent, The Return of Godzilla, presented in its original uncut Japanese glory, ranks as one of the series’ best offerings that channels the original film’s anti-nuclear message and returns the radioactive breathing monster back to his villainous standing.  Continuing their domestic releases of the Godzilla franchise, Kraken Releasing welcomes the 1984 sequel with serviceable grades that while imperfect, will leave fans satisfied enough to fill the void in their monster collections with.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 13th from Kraken Releasing, The Return of Godzilla can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two reconvenes with the crew of the Ghost as they continue their pursuit for freedom under the rule of the Galactic Empire.  As young Ezra continues his own Jedi training under the disciplined Kanan, the rebels find themselves increasingly targeted by new threats from the dark side causing them to forge alliances with others on their journeys.

    Rustling the feathers of the feared Galactic Empire, Darth Vader, aided by fellow Inquisitors, make the capture of the Ghost crew a priority in this action-packed sophomore season of Star Wars Rebels.  With risks increasing and danger constant, the combative freedom fighters join forces with former clone trooper Captain Rex, much to the discontent of Kanan whose reminders of the doomed Clone Wars are far too fresh to initially trust Rex.  Establishing unlikely friendships and trusted alliances with those fighting mutual causes, the Ghost crew’s missions to aid those suffering around the galaxy is met with lethal force from a double threat of new Inquisitors (voiced by Philip Anthony-Rodriguez and Sarah Michelle Gellar respectively).  Richly conceived and crafting even stronger character developments, the second season of Star Wars Rebels finds common themes of teamwork and resisting responsibility central to the proceedings as Ezra’s continued Jedi education and conflicted emotions inch the character forward on his journey of self-discovery.  With appearances from fan-favorite characters including, Ahsoka Tano (who becomes a crucial ally to the rebels), Emperor Palpatine and Princess Leia who the crew aids on a secret mission, Star Wars Rebels continues the turbulent trials of the Ghost when Zeb must work with the evil Agent Kallus in order for both to survive a hostile planet while, the spunky Chopper takes kindly to an Imperial droid during a location scout for a new rebel base.  Unquestionably more intense than its debut season, Star Wars Rebels ups the ante with an epic conclusion involving Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka discovering a living Darth Maul at a sacred temple with the powers of the dark side tempting the young Padawan like never before.  Intensely cinematic, humorous and wildly exciting, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two raises the bar once again with its grandiose storytelling taking our characters into new and potentially darker territories in the future to come.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents all 22 episodes of Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  As colorfully crisp as any theatrically released animated feature, Star Wars Rebels delights with flawless black levels and exceptional detail touches in backgrounds, spaceship interiors and uniquely layered costumes.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is well exchanged with the high speed pursuits of spaceships and lightsaber battles adding robust touches to the show’s sound effects.  Special features on Disc 1 include, Rebels Recon (43:31) where Star Wars Correspondent Andi Gutierrez acts as your guide in this 1-6 episode breakdown of the season.  Sneak Peeks at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43) are also included.  Next up, Disc 2 continues Rebels Recon (49:09) coverage on episodes 7-14 while, Disc 3 concludes Rebels Recon (37:27) on the season’s remaining episodes.  In addition, Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2 (3:30) takes a look at the season’s unique references and hidden easter eggs with the Blu-ray exclusive featurette From Apprentice to Adversary: Vader VS. Ahsoka (6:08) finds Executive Producer Dave Filoni discussing the season’s epic showdown between the former teacher and apprentice.

    An intergalactically epic followup to last year’s explosive debut season, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two exceeds expectations and pushes the quality and emotion of episodic animation within the Star Wars universe.  Continuing to be Disney XD’s strongest and most throughly engaging program, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment weaves the power of the Force with their praiseworthy presentation.  While supplements could surely be more plentiful, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two easily earns a true Jedi’s recommendation.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 30th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season Two can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

    Director: W.D. Richter

    Starring: Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Smith & Ronald Lacey

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A cocktail of genre mashups, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension stars Peter Weller (RoboCop) as the titular, jack of all trades hero who dabbles in neurosurgery while, fronting a popular rock band and saves the world for kicks.  After his breakthrough matter traveling device, the Oscillation Overthruster, is sought after by a threatening squad of aliens, Banzai and his pals seek to protect humanity from the wrath of their thick-accented leader Lord John Whorfin (John Lithgow, Raising Cain).  

    Bodaciously bizarre and quirky as can be, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cinematic odyssey of science fiction insanity coupled with rock n’ roll style and madcap extravagance.  After the exceedingly cool and brilliant Buckaroo Banzai breaks the sound barrier and travels through solid matter to return with an alien organism in tow, the enviously unhinged and incarcerated Dr. Emilio Lizardo, whose failed experiment into the 8th dimension from years past, caused his mind to be consumed by the wicked Lord John Whorfin prompts the physicist to spring himself from the looney bin to snatch Banzai’s working invention.  As leader of the martian-esque Red Lectroids who operate under human disguises, Whorfin seeks to overthrow their nemeses, the Black Lectroids, reclaim their home Planet 10 and annihilate Earth.  Respected for his brains and beloved for his rockin’ six-string skills, global hero Buckaroo Banzai, joined by his loyal comrades The Hong Kong Cavaliers and a peaceful Black Lectroid with Jamaican flavor, stand in Whorfin’s path of inter-dimensional dominance.  After falling for his former flame’s twin sister, Whorfin’s abduction of the blonde barfly makes Banzai’s protection of the great state of New Jersey and the rest of the planet extremely personal and chaotically action-packed.

    An otherworldly product of its time, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension abolishes standard categorization, thriving on its unusual tone, skyrocketingly over the top performances and colorfully cooky inclusions of space aliens, scientific jargon and Star Peter Weller successfully pulling off blindingly red framed eyeglasses and bowties in his mission to save mankind.  Further complimented by appearances from Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption) as Banzai’s piano playing lieutenant and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) hamming it up in a cowboy outfit, the film’s villainous trio including, the brilliant John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) and Vincent Schiavelli (Batman Returns) are a trifecta of planet invading fun.  While the film appropriately arrives with no adherence to any one genre, Banzai’s head over heels interest in his late wife’s literal doppelgänger (Ellen Barkin, Sea of Love) and determination to rescue her feels forced and largely underdeveloped.  Promising a sequel that would never come to pass, a scatterbrained marketing campaign and a difficult to peg plot left the eccentric effort lost at the box-office.  With repeat viewings sometimes necessary to fully embrace its full absurdity, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension would rightfully explode into the cult charmer that it is.  Tuned with a dizzyingly catchy synth score from Composer Michael Boddicker (Get Crazy), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is understatedly unlike most pictures.  Akin to a wild and crazy improvisational guitar solo, this little bit of everything feature easily ranks as one of the 80s most bonkers times put to celluloid.

    Shout Select presents The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Looking notably clean and absent of age-related damage, skin tones are exceptionally natural and well-detailed while, bold and softer colors alike burst in every frame.  In addition, black levels boast welcome inkiness with beautiful natural film grain apparent throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisp and easily heard while, Banzai’s brief rock club gig and Composer Michael Boddicker’s equally satisfying score shake things up nicely.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Kicking off the Blu-ray disc, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Director W.D. Richter & Writer Earl Mac Rauch plus, a second Audio Commentary with Michael & Denise Okuda.  Unquestionably, the true gem of the release is the newly produced Into the 8th Dimension (2:08:16).  This exhaustive eight part featurette covers the origins, visual effects, casting, design work and many other aspects of the film and its lukewarm release before its acceptance as a cult classic.  With insight from Director W.D. Richter, Producer Neil Canton, Stars Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, Composer Michael Boddicker and countless others, this first-rate achievement from Producer Brian Ward is the holy grail for Buckaroo devotees.  

    Presented in standard definition on its DVD counterpart, additional special features consist of the vintage making-of featurette Buckaroo Banzai Declassified (22:41), an Alternate Opening (7:12), 14 Deleted Scenes (14:11), the New Jet Car Trailer (2:25) and the Theatrical Trailer (1:17).  Lastly, in addition to Paul Shipper’s top-notch new design work, the Reversible Cover Art hosts the film’s original 1-sheet imagery.

    Fun, flashy and enjoyably insane, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has always been an acquired taste for many, leaving others perplexed by its inter dimensional zaniness.  A one of a kind original, W.D. Richter’s sole directorial effort concocts a sloppy joe of genre touches with an eclectic cast having the time of their lives facing off against reptilian spacemen with oddball tech, ingenuity and the power of rock n’ roll as their tools of defense.  For the inaugural release of Shout! Factory’s film fan driven Shout Select line, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Collector’s Edition blasts to soaring heights with its virtually flawless presentation and jaw-droppingly impressive special features that have raised the bar in terms of fan service and definitive documentation.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available August 16th from Shout Select, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #10 - Scream Factory Edition: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Collector's Edition & Bite (2015) Blu-ray Reviews

    The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

    Director: Nathan Juran

    Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Elaine Devry, Scott Sealey & Robert J. Wilke

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a father-son camping excursion results in dear old dad getting bit by a bloodthirsty beast, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf focuses on curly-haired son Richie (Scott Sealey, Emergency!) and his unsuccessful attempts to prove to the local townsfolk that his father will morph into a turtleneck wearing hairy savage at the next full moon.  In his final directorial effort, Nathan Juran (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) reteams with leading man Kerwin Mathews for this rather bland, modern day retelling of the famous folktale.  Highlighting the sign of the times with Richie’s parents being divorced and turning to child psychology for answers to their son’s manic stories, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf exudes a TV movie atmosphere that struggles to scare while, unintentionally bringing smirks to viewers’ faces courtesy of the film’s enjoyably dated werewolf design.  As Richie’s pleas go unanswered, secondary characters including, a camper humping couple, a monster believing psychologist (George Gaynes, Police Academy) and most hilariously, a bible hugging cult of hippies led by a Jerry Garcia looking messiah cross paths with the beast, few leaving with their lives.  Concluding uneventfully with a setup to a sequel that was not meant to be, this harmless PG rated opus mildly charms with its yesteryear plotting during such an artistically groundbreaking decade while, remaining largely forgettable for its bygone approach.  Paired with the snake-slithering shocker Sssssss throughout its drive-in heyday, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf earnestly howls for suspense but, unfortunately comes up scareless.

    Never before available, Scream Factory presents The Boy Who Cried Werewolf with a new 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Amid instances of minimal speckling, occasional cigarette burns and sporadic nighttime scenes possessing overly grainy appearances, the film’s color scheme is strong and vibrant with detail looking pleasingly sharp.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed while, werewolf howls and the film’s few music cues make decent, if not limited, impacts on the otherwise basic track.  Unsurprisingly limited, special features include, a Photo Gallery (3:32) and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (2:24).  However lackluster the tame, fang-toothed feature is, horror/cult saviors Scream Factory must be graciously thanked for rescuing and presenting, for the first time on home video, a cobweb invested picture such as The Boy Who Cried Werewolf for horror enthusiasts to experience in noteworthy quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum & Veronica Cartwright

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kickstarting a movement of science fiction makeovers for golden age classics that would permeate the following decade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes place in San Francisco where Department of Health associates Matthew (Donald Sutherland, Don’t Look Now) and Elizabeth (Brooke Adams, The Dead Zone) discover a dark phenomenon of mysterious pods cloning the population and discarding the human originals.  Plagued by fear and paranoia, the silent overtaking of the planet increases aggressively as the desperate duo and their equally frantic friends rush to save the human race.  Impressively hailed by audiences and critics alike for its gloomy tone and nail biting suspense, Director Philip Kaufman’s (The Right Stuff) modernization earns the rare honor of taking a revered concept and pollinating it with unique touches that both adheres and expands upon its foundation.  Featuring an eclectic pool of talent from Sutherland and Adams to genre legend Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), Veronica Cartwright (The Birds) and an early appearance from a youthfully scrawny Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) as a failed poet, all are perfectly in synch while, original Body Snatchers star Kevin McCarthy returns for a glorified cameo as a frightened civilian forewarning the danger coming.  Seeped in a cloud of dread that the cast admirably conveys through their frightened performances, Invasion of the Body Snatchers impresses doubly with its gooey special effects work that spotlights unsettling reproductions of the cast being birthed via pods.  In addition, a crossbred dog possessing its human owners face stands as yet another unforgettable snippet of disturbing imagery that enhances the film’s fear inducing aura.  While Jack Finney’s novel has inspired two more adaptations in the wake of Kaufman’s slow-building box-office favorite, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a championed chiller that will leaves audiences in a state of hypnotic fear all the way to its shocking conclusion.

    Scream Factory presents Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appreciatively scanned in 2K from the interpositive, the pod people redo looks refreshingly crisper than previous releases with a filmic quality throughout and colors respectfully leveled to more natural appearances.  Furthermore, detail is most impressive during pod birthing scenes allowing viewers to marvel at the intricate cob-like effects work on the bodies.  While the atmospherically dark cinematography still possesses moderate levels of noise speckling, Scream Factory’s handsome new transfer is a breath of preferable fresh air that should easily appease viewers.  Equipped with a perfectly satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue and startling sound effects effortlessly, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Entered into the label’s esteemed Collector’s Edition series, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman plus, a second vintage Audio Commentary with Director Philip Kaufman.  Other newly recorded supplements courtesy of the relentlessly talented Cavetown Pictures include, Star-Crossed in the Invasion with Brooke Adams (9:06) where the leading lady recounts her working relationship with Kaufman who allowed her to write her own scene in the film as well as her reservations appearing nude on screen.  Next up, Leading the Invasion with Art Hindle (25:04) who portrayed Adams’ quickly overtaken beau recalls his lifelong obsession with science fiction in this chatty featurette while, Re-Creating the Invasion with W.D. Richter (15:43) finds the writer discussing the San Francisco setting of the film and his original intentions and ultimate alterations that occurred throughout the film’s making.  In addition, Scoring the Invasion with Denny Zeitlin (15:34) explores the composer’s sole film credit and his unique approaches to the material.

    Ported over from MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod (16:14) features insight from Kaufman, Sutherland, Richter, Cartwright and others on the film’s enduring impact.  Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (4:38) allows SFX Artist Howard Preston to detail the creation of the film’s impressive opening sequence while, The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47) and The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24) explores the film’s evocative sounds and camerawork respectively.  Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer (2:13), TV Spots (1:02), Radio Spots (4:46), a Photo Gallery (74 in total) and a bonus episode of Science Fiction Theatre’s “Time Is Just A Place” (25:53) based on Finney’s short story and directed by Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) is also included.  Beautifully packaged bearing Justin Osbourn’s newly rendered artwork, a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the stacked supplemental offerings.  At the risk of pumping a dry well by upgrading a previously available favorite, Scream Factory has made the decision a no-brainer with a new top-notch 2K transfer, a pod sized offering of new and vintage extra features and an exceptional new cover design that trumps the original poster art.  If the seed hasn't been planted more firmly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers Collector’s Edition easily earns a spot in your growing collection of cult gems.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bite (2015)

    Director: Chad Archibald

    Starring: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray & Lawrence Denkers

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After returning from a Dominican Republic getaway, Bite centers on uncertain bachelorette Casey (Elma Begovic, Save Yourself) as she succumbs to an infected bug bite that grossly alters her both physically and mentally.  Introducing viewers to a trio of girlfriends through the lens of their shaky camera as alcohol consumption, self-doubt and infidelity paint the portrait of their tropical vacation, Bite spares viewers further found footage style filming as the narrative thankfully reverts to traditional means.  Nursing an itchy insect bite received abroad, Casey’s case of marital cold feet and guilty conscience weighs heavily on the soon-to-be bride as she contemplates her true desires.  Disdained by her fiancé’s mother who disapproves of premarital sex, Casey’s uncertainty of her future increases as her health rapidly declines in the days to come.  Developing hypersensitive hearing and an endless urge to purge, Casey’s metamorphosis into a yellow-eyed, larva spewing insectoid with a killer instinct breeds creepy carnage for those who cross her path.  Embraced by audiences at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Bite suffers from subpar acting, indubitably caused by its shaky screenplay that lacks meat on its bones.  While Casey’s troubling martial woes and dramatics brought upon by her jealous best friend are established if not, secondary to the film’s anticipated moments of gooey nastiness, Bite’s true saving grace is found in star Elma Begovic’s bold performance that strips away her attractive looks for the benefit of becoming a snarling, bug-eyed creature.  Much like Casey’s husband is forced to wait on consummating, viewers are tasked with settling for a mediocre tale until the anti-hero spews acidic vile upon her mother-in-law from hell and engages in a fatal girl on girl smooch while, a head crunchingly awesome blow befalls the creature formally known as Casey.  An impressive showcase of modern day special effects magic with minimal CG enhancements, Bite may not infest in all the right ways but, excels when living up to its creature feature markings.  

    Scream Factory presents Bite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  While early POV footage ranks as some of the more crisper moments of the film, the remainder casts a colder, intentionally shadowier appearance that boasts respectable black levels yet, lacking continuous streams of detail.  Free of any unsightly anomalies, Bite looks as pleasing as can be.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed with sterling clarity while, the slimy sound effects of Casey’s ever-changing body equally impresses.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Producer Chad Archibald and Co-Producers Cody Calahan & Christopher Giroux.  Furthermore, five behind-the-scenes featurettes consisting of Makeup (5:42), On Set (6:02), Fantasia (5:53), Chad’s Wedding (5:16) and Dominican (5:30) are also joined by the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:23) plus, a Reversible Cover Art.  Enjoyably revolting when it wants to be, Bite may make viewers wait for its more larva discharging moments but, thankfully makes the ride worth it in this commendable creepy crawly feature.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Bite can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011)

    Director: Gilles Penso

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Spotlighting the revered career and immeasurable talents of one of the industry’s most influential artists, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan features insight from the man himself as he reflects on his many works and techniques with other noted filmmakers including, Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Joe Dante (Gremlins), James Cameron (Avatar) and countless others celebrating the magic of their collective hero.

    Capturing the imaginations of audiences and future moviemakers like few before or since, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan expertly documents the mastery of cinema’s stop-motion wizard from his earliest days as an apprentice for distinguished animator Willis O’Brien through his own fairy tale claymation shorts to his escalating talents that would shape the lauded feature films of his career.  Retold in remarkable detail from the elderly yet, razor-sharp artist himself, Harryhausen provides insight into the painstaking aspects and concentration required for his craft and the many technical advancements he crafted through each one of his pictures.  Long before the days of digital playback, Harryhausen’s imagination and improvisational skills guided the creature crafting genius through grueling months of long sequences that would ultimately be rewarded as the highlights of their respective films.  Spending respectable time on each of the legend’s timeless classics from his gorilla designing work in Mighty Joe Young to his monsterific destruction in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other impressionable sci-fi efforts of the 1950s to his dazzling feats found throughout the Sinbad trilogy, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan leaves no stone left unturned as the master’s body of work is handsomely honored.  Equally as impressive as Harryhausen’s own recollections and invaluable commentary are the plethora of industry leaders from John Lasseter (Toy Story), Phil Tippett (Star Wars), Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Dennis Muren (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), Henry Selick (Coraline), Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), lifelong friend Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and many more who graciously appear as talking heads to express their awe and admiration for Harryhausen’s boundary pushing efforts.  As loving and thorough as a career-spanning examination can be, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan does the impossible and creates a new dimension of appreciation for the late genius’ iconic achievements.

    Arrow Films presents Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan with a 1080p transfer, sporting a commonly spotted 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While quality of each interview sequence surely differs with Harryhausen’s appearances possessing a noticeably cloudy tint, other talking head moments emerge equally as soft or only moderately sharper (Dante and Landis’ interviews ranking among the best-looking) yet, none burst with notable detail.  Joined by vintage footage and unsurprisingly worn trailers for Harryhausen’s films, the documentary appears serviceable at best, leaving more to be desired.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently recaptured with each interview recorded crisply and free of any cracks or pops.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Gilles Penso, Producer Alexandre Poincet, Co-Producer Tony Dalton & Timothy Nicholson, A Treasure Trove (13:36) featuring a tour of the Harryhausen Archives where relics from years past are uncovered and Interviews (13:36) with Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), Peter Lord (Chicken Run), Rick Baker (Ed Wood) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek).  In addition, Interview Outtakes (55:24) featuring many of the film’s participants, Message to Ray (2:16) finds appreciators Ray Bradbury, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro and others sharing their warm praise for the artist while, Deleted Scenes (8:19), On the Set of Sinbad (2:59), the Paris Cinematheque Q&A (18:39) and the London Gate Cinema Q&A (8:58) are also included.  Finally, the Original Trailer (2:48), a Ray Harryhausen Trailer Reel (22:15) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the appreciatively stocked supplements.

    Previously released abroad several years back, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan explores the admirable talents and enduring legacy of stop-motion’s grandfather in applause-worthy detail.  Listening to tales from Harryhausen’s own mouth regarding his masterworks and techniques proves equally as enthralling as his most spellbinding sequences while, the flood of Hollywood royalty on display to talk shop about the man is profoundly inspiring.  Although quality appears more dated than expected, Arrow Films compliments the documentary’s loving examination of Harryhausen with a handsome clay mound of bonus features that far exceed the film’s own running time.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Films, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)

    Director: John De Bello

    Starring: Anthony Starke, George Clooney, Karen Mistal, Steve Lundquist, John Astin & J. Stephen Peace

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A decade after the events of the original film, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! finds cooky Professor Gangreen (John Astin, The Addams Family) using the feared veggie-fruit to give life to an army of muscle-bound soldiers for a hostile takeover.  Chocked full of ridiculous humor and shamelessly funny product placement, roommates Chad (Anthony Starke, The George Carlin Show) and Matt (George Clooney, Tomorrowland), aided by veterans of the Great Tomato War, are the only ones that can save the day and rescue Chad’s juicy new girlfriend Tara (Karen Mistal, Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death).

    Following its predecessors status as a glorified cult classic, continued interest from video sales would plant the seed for the deadly veggies to return during the deliciously gaudy 1980s.  Outlawed since the original disaster, wacky-haired Professor Gangreen uses his breakthroughs in gene splicing to morph tomatoes into an army of Rambo-style brutes to take over the world.  Working alongside his uncle and hero of the Great Tomato War at Finletter’s Pizzeria, Chad is smitten with Gangreen's beautiful assistant and former tomato Tara who turns to the delivery boy after escaping from her makers evil clutches.  Using music as a strength this time instead of a weakness for his creations, Gangreen, aided by the pearly-teethed, broadcasting obsessed Igor (Steve Lundquist, The Sleeping Car), aims to use his meatheads to retrieve a villainous ally from incarceration.  After Tara is captured, Chad and his ladies man best bud Matt must band together, break the fourth wall, hilariously promote Pepsi, Nestlé Crunch bars and booze to fund the remainder of the film in order to rescue Chad’s main squeeze and encourage viewers to purchase cuddly stuffed tomatoes wherever products are sold.

    Unapologetically aware of the B-movie product being produced, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! takes hilarious potshots at the industry’s increased reliance on product placement, delivering one of the funnier statements on the subject.  Laughing right alongside viewers, the cheeky followup has an absolute blast with the absurdity of its concept although gargantuan-sized tomatoes are lacking.  Hosting comical narration accusing the film of cheaply recycling footage from its originator, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! obliterates the fourth wall as the crew including, Writer/Director John De Bello, moan about running out of money and are shaken down by a SAG representative.  From Astin’s over the top mad scientist performance to Clooney’s intendedly deadpan deliveries and bodacious midsize mullet, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! knows precisely what it is, leaving viewers giggling while ripping the carpet out from underneath them with its unexpected wit and mockery of an industry embracing the greed is good mantra.  

    Restored in 2K from a 35mm Interpositive, Arrow Video presents Return of the Killer Tomatoes! with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving noticeably over its many standard-def releases, colors are far more luscious with only mild scuffs remaining while, black levels are respectably deep with occasional instances of speckling spotted.  Clarity on the countless Pepsi logos and Clooney’s fearless mullet are thankfully never compromised.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is delivered with ease making for a most accommodating listening experience.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John De Bello, Hanging with Chad with Anthony Starke (17:24) features the film’s star recollecting on the shoot and Clooney’s humorous personality while, a Stills Gallery (2:27), the Theatrical Trailer (2:15) and a TV Spot (0:31) are also included.  Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a worthwhile essay by Film Historian James Oliver on the film’s making and the surprising legs of its franchise are covered with a Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet poster rounding out the bonus features.

    Bearing a title as ludicrous as Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, the decade late sequel to the original drive-in favorite is entertainingly silly and surprisingly smarter than expected.  Continuing the low-budget zaniness one might expect, the vegetable fearing comedy makes a mockery of the Hollywood system and itself while happily inviting viewers in on the joke.  Graduating to the realm of high-definition, Arrow Video delivers a certifiably fresh viewing experience of the B-picture with supplements that may be few yet, entertain and enrich all the same.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from Arrow Video, Return of the Killer Tomatoes! can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Elstree 1976 (2015) DVD Review

    Elstree 1976 (2015)

    Director: Jon Spira

    Starring: Various

    Released by: MVD Visual

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the lives of those behind the countless masks and helmets of George Lucas’ original sci-fi phenomenon, Elstree 1976 centers on the diverse personalities of the bit actors and extras that would ultimately comprise the film’s vast galaxy and how their lives have since been affected being apart of its global impact.  

    Spearheaded through a Kickstarter campaign, Director Jon Spira’s (Anyone Can Play Guitar) love letter to the unsung beings that donned heavy makeup and increasingly difficult to see through headwear in the original Star Wars are interviewed to divulge their unique tales landing fleeting yet, generally memorable roles in arguably the greatest blockbuster of all-time.  With many barely grasping the scope of what they were associated with at the time, Elstree 1976 allows each subject to reveal their early beginnings, long before the acting bug took hold.  Emerging from all walks of life across North America and overseas, the selection of interviewees spend considerable time sharing personal childhood memories and their earliest ambitions, providing a deeply rich portrait of each speaker.  Surprisingly, the film’s non-Star Wars related moments prove to be the most engaging as each subject’s candidness makes them solidly grounded and sympathetically relatable.  Featuring David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) as the more prominent talking heads of the documentary, Elstree 1976’s other participants including, Derek Lyons (Temple Guard / Medal Bearer), Angus Maclnnes (Gold Leader) and John Chapman (Drifter), although loquacious in their interviews, have such “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances in the original film that their insight grows tiresome quickly.  

    With many of the participants no longer in the business, Elstree 1976 winds down with an interesting overview of the thriving Star Wars conventions that many of the film’s costumed players attend for financial means.  The interviewees discuss at great length the politics of their appearances and what they consider in bad taste when other unsung extras join the circuit to make a quick buck themselves.  No matter how minuscule their roles may have been, the subjects of Elstree 1976 hold warm memories of their once in a lifetime experiences onset yet, the overwhelming majority of the interviews related to Star Wars are never deeply interesting with the documentary suffering as it drags itself to a conclusion.  A well-intentioned salute to the background players that comprised both sides of the Force, Elstree 1976 is hardly a definitive document on Lucas’ runaway hit but, contains several worthy interviews that Star Wars devotees will find of interest.

    Shot digitally, Elstree 1976 is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that appears as acceptable as can be.  Restrained to tight closeup style interviews, colors are presented adequately while, film clips from several films and onsite footage from autograph conventions also appear with ease.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the controlled settings of each interview allows for perfectly audible dialogue levels to be captured.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.

    Earning the adoration of fans worldwide for their brief but, endearing appearances, Elstree 1976’s willingness to shine an honorary light on Star Wars’ many costumed characters and the men and women behind those faces is a gracious notion yet, one that stumbles with one too many monotonous asides.  While the film’s earliest moments prove most interesting, only dedicated fans of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga will take interest.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from MVD Visual, Elstree 1976 can be purchased via MVDShop.com, 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.

  • Village of the Damned (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Village of the Damned (1995)

    Director: John Carpenter

    Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Mark Hamill & Meredith Salenger

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In Director John Carpenter’s (Halloween, The Thing) modernization of the 1960 British feature, Village of the Damned finds the small village of Midwich interrupted by unseen forces, leaving ten of the town’s women mysteriously pregnant.  Joining together to uncover the truth behind the phenomenon, local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve, Superman) and government scientist Dr. Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley, Look Who’s Talking) realize the birth of the bleach blonde children is only the beginning of Midwich’s troubles.  Linda Kozlowski (Crocodile Dundee), Michael Paré (Eddie and the Cruisers), Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Meredith Salenger (Lake Placid) co-star.

    Retaining the town’s name but substituting its original British location for northern California, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned remains relatively close to its source material while, injecting subtle perspective changes through its narrative.  Starring the late Christopher Reeve in his final role before his devastating paralyzation, Carpenter’s remake, unlike that of his reimagining of 1952’s The Thing from Another World, takes little creative risk in crafting a truly unique experience with character development for the film’s adult actors appearing stunted and uneven, indubitably caused by studio interference.  Following Midwich’s bizarre blackout leaving ten women impregnated, the film attempts to shift focus onto single mother Jill McGowan (Kozlowski) and the weight of raising her peculiar newborn son and grieving over the loss of her husband.  An inspired deviation from the original film, Village of the Damned unfortunately never affords the proper time to fully invest in its soon-to-be victims as attention is juxtaposed with scientist Dr. Susan Verner’s (Alley) own interest in the children’s development.  Highly intelligent and appearing intendedly from another era, the blonde-haired younglings finesse their supernatural powers of mind control, prompting an increase of harrowing suicides in the community.  With humanity all but lost on the majority of the sinister children, recently widowed local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Reeve) makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring stability to the human race.  

    Pronounced by Carpenter to be more a contractual obligation than a passion project, Village of the Damned offers strong performances from Reeve as Midwich’s good-natured doctor confronted with otherworldly forces while, Lindsey Haun (True Blood) as the clan’s evil leader and Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the only blonde child with a heart deliver both effective and emotional moments.  Surely not as daring as other Carpenter efforts, Village of the Damned has aged better than expected, amid its developmental character struggles, to remain suitably entertaining.

    Scream Factory presents Village of the Damned with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Featuring beautiful photography of its sunny, rural locations, colors are prominent with flesh tones appearing equally lush and finely detailed.  In addition, the blindingly blonde hair of the film’s antagonists pop accordingly with black levels always appearing smooth and balanced.  With no signs of damage and boasting an exceptionally filmic quality, Village of the Damned makes an impactful leap to high-def.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, Carpenter and Dave Davies of The Kinks’ music establish intended levels of eeriness.  Suspenseful sound queues and explosive gunfire in the film’s third act also provide the mix with a strong depth that appropriately enhances the viewing experience.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Rightly earning itself a spot in Scream Factory’s coveted Collector’s Edition series, plentiful special features include, It Takes a Village: The Making of John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (49:17).  This top-notch featurette finds Director John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King, Special Make Up Effects Artist Greg Nicotero and countless cast members reflecting on their experiences making the troubled film with nothing but warm memories and an overflow of behind-the-scenes info.  In addition, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (20:58) finds host Sean Clark revisiting the original shooting locations today, The Go To Guy: Peter Jason on John Carpenter (45:13) sits down with the Carpenter regular as he reflects on his many collaborations with the famed director plus, Vintage Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes (24:40), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:59), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (23 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster round out another knockout spread of supplements for the horror sub label.

    While not one of Carpenter’s finest moments but, by no means his worst, Village of the Damned has its setbacks yet, contains sizable levels of fun that likeminded viewers shouldn’t dismiss.  With more studio support, Carpenter’s contractual obligation could have fared far better than originally received although, its final product has aged more gracefully than most modern remakes.  In quite possibly their home video swan song to the director’s filmography, Scream Factory ensures an exceptional high-definition transfer and a glut of bonus features that will surely control viewers minds.  Beware the children cautiously but, resisting Village of the Damned’s Collector’s Edition will be futile!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 12th from Scream Factory, Village of the Damned can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

    Director: J.J. Abrams

    Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew & Max Von Sydow

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finds the galaxy confronted with a new threat in the form of the First Order.  When a rebellious young heroes are caught in the crosshairs of the galactic war, resistance fighters from the past aid them in their battle against the dark side.  Featuring franchise veterans and impressive up and comers, J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Stark Trek) directs the anticipated seventh episode of George Lucas’ enduring saga.

    Cinematically dormant since the concluding chapter of Lucas’ prequel trilogy in 2005, fans worldwide came to the unfortunate realization that further adventures set in a galaxy far, far away were to be left only to the imagination.  A force was truly awoken in 2012 following Disney’s purchase of Lucas’ illustrious company and the Star Wars franchise with the intent of continuing the beloved legacy set forth in 1977.  With scripting duties by its director, franchise favorite Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns viewers to a world not quite seen since the fall of Darth Vader and the destruction of the evil Empire.  Perfectly encapsulating the dirty, lived-in environments we remember while, setting its course on a journey yet unknown, the latest installment finds the galaxy at the mercy of the ruthless Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, Girls) and the First Order, both born from the ashes of the Empire.  Following the disappearance of sole Jedi master Luke Skywalker, lonesome scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley, Scrawl) and Finn (John Boyega, Attack the Block), a former stormtrooper gone rogue, team up with war hero Han Solo, Chewbacca and the Resistance to locate Skywalker and restore balance to the Force.  Joined by the accomplished Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) as rebel pilot Poe Dameron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens welcomes back its seasoned cast of original stars including but not limited to, Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Harrison Ford who, after years of resistance returning to his famed role, has an absolute blast as everyone’s favorite smuggler.  Juggling the delicate realms of nostalgia and forward-thinking storytelling, Star Wars: The Force Awakens accomplishes both in spades as familiar faces are integral to its narrative yet, never outshine the new and exciting characters introduced to carry the franchise’s respected torch.  

    Furthermore, Abrams and his talented crew restore the charming practicality of the original trilogies special effects and creature designs while, flawlessly injecting modern techniques such as, motion-capture and CG into its narrative that feels both seamless and visually stunning.  Although detractors have sighted the film’s similar structure to A New Hope as a grave flaw, the reoccurring theme between the light and the dark is ever-present in all Star Wars films and can hardly be viewed as a setback in a film crafted with so much heart and obvious respect for its source.  From its scroll defining intro blessed with John Williams’ iconic score to its thrilling cliffhanger conclusion, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wildly exciting adventure bursting with action, heartbreak and nonstop fun.  Through the power of the Force, Abrams and company have magically transported viewers back to a euphoric state of youth where old friends have gathered to welcome us as we warmly embrace the path of our new heroes.  An absolute return to form for the beloved franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has restored the magic for all generations to marvel.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Impressive from start to finish, skin tones are naturally presented with impeccable detail picking up perspiration caused on Jakku and Poe’s blood-spattered face.  In addition, the film’s unique environments from desolate desert landscapes to the lush greenery of Maz Kanata’s planet leap off the screen while, the delicacies of shadowy sequences, prominently seen in the film’s opening battle, are handled beautifully.  Meanwhile, black levels found in the film’s many space battles and Kylo Ren’s costume are brilliantly inky with no disruptions.  A remarkable accomplishment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ transfer is the epitome of perfection.  Equipped with an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is exacting and crisp while, the whizzing noises of high-flying TIE Fighters, X-Wings and of course, the Millennium Falcon make thunderous impressions on your speakers.  In addition, explosions, laser blasts and the thrashing of lightsabers provide ample activity in their respective scenes with the mix only enriching their impact.  Presented on their own Blu-ray disc, special features include, Secrets of the Force: A Cinematic Journey (1:09:14), a four-part overview of the making of The Force Awakens from pre-production to its completion with interviews from cast and crew, The Story Awakens: The Table Read (4:01) finds the cast reflecting on the first group reading of the script with footage from the actual day, Crafting Creatures (9:34) showcases how the various creatures were brought to life using a multitude of different techniques, Building BB-8 (6:03) documents the complicated process of realizing the franchise’s favorite new droid, Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight (7:02) explores the making of the film’s climactic lightsaber duel between Rey and Kylo Ren while, ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force (7:55) dives into the film’s magnificent digital effects work.  In addition, John Williams: The Seventh Symphony (6:51) spotlights the iconic composer as he reflects on his enduring involvement with the Star Wars saga, six Deleted Scenes (4:15) of trivial value and Force For Change (3:22) exploring the series’ humanitarian initiative across the globe round out the healthy assortment of bonus features.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A marvelous journey back to a familiar world plagued with new dangers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens sends viewers on an exhilarating ride that reignites a 30 year old magic like never before.  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment awards the box-office juggernaut with pitch perfect technical grades and an equally pleasing spread of bonus content which, although not entirely definitive and sure to be expanded in future rereleases, still offer tons of enjoyment.  Easily the standout feature of last year and a shoe-in for one of this year’s most impressive home video releases, Star Wars: The Force Awakens achieves our highest recommendation!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 5th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Disturbing Behavior (1998) Blu-ray Review

    Disturbing Behavior (1998)

    Director: David Nutter

    Starring: James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, Bruce Greenwood & William Sadler

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following a family tragedy, Steve Clark (James Marsden, X-Men) relocates to the coastal town of Cradle Bay to start anew.  Shortly after arriving at his new high school, Steve suspects something sinister about the popular Blue Ribbons clique who dominate the halls.  Befriended by likeminded outsiders Gavin (Nick Stahl, Sin City) and Rachel (Katie Holmes, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), the rebellious trio uncover a frightening truth that puts Cradle Bay and their own lives at risk.  Scripted by Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity), this teenage response to The Stepford Wives lacks any genuine scares in its science-fiction driven plot with a narrative so tame one questions its own R-rating.  Headlined by a notably fresh-faced cast who would achieve greater success in its wake, Disturbing Behavior merely serves as an uninspired thriller piggybacking off the success of Scream while, never adhering to the same originality or suspense.  Led by the school’s Dr. Calditcott (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek), misguided teens are brainwashed by his experimental procedure into becoming snobby socialites who unapologetically kill those who resist them.  As Steve and Rachel play Nancy Drew to find answers behind the Blue Ribbons’ peculiar demeanors, an unlikely ally is found in the school’s rat-killing janitor Dorian (William Sadler, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight).  Unsurprisingly predictable, the free-thinking teens combat Cradle Bay’s brainwashed population in an underwhelming finale using noise troubling rat traps as their weapon of choice.  Well-documented for being largely re-edited from the director’s original vision, Disturbing Behavior will hold mild nostalgia for select viewers who raged through years of pant sagging fashion choices and rounds of hacky sack but, ultimately is a far cry from more revered 90s fright flicks.  

    Scream Factory presents Disturbing Behavior with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing clean and free of severe anomalies, skin tones waver from nicely detailed to slightly oversaturated at times.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally strong with occasional hints of murkiness in several sequences.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue delivery is strong while other elements of the film’s mediocre sound design are satisfactory.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Nutter, Deleted Scenes (24:42) with optional audio commentary from Director David Nutter and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:31).  

    Admittedly imperfect and largely uneventful, Disturbing Behavior’s cutting room fiasco unquestionably led to its setbacks but, isn’t solely responsible for the film’s overall blandness.  While it may not live up to other teen shockers of the era, fans can take pleasure in Scream Factory’s upgraded HD presentation and the majority of its supplemental package recycled from its past DVD release.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available March 22nd from Scream Factory, Disturbing Behavior can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015) DVD Review

    Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)

    Director(s): Michael Hegner & Martin Skov

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing the pint-sized adventures of the galaxy’s finest heroes, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is the exciting five-part mini-series centered around C-3PO and R2-D2’s many exploits.  As the gold protocol droid retells their tales to various listeners, his faithful companion is abducted by a mysterious figure prompting him to save his short, spunky friend.

    Taking place after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales finds the celebrating rebels gathering together as their dependable droids C-3PO and R2-D2 recall their many adventures dating back to the Clone Wars.  Voiced once more by Anthony Daniels, C-3PO engages listeners with the events unfolded in the prequels The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones before R2-D2 is stolen away by a hooded figure.  Struggling with his own fears, the timid droid pursues the mysterious individual in order to reclaim his closest friend while, continuing to tell more of their many escapades to anyone who will listen.  Chocked full of hilarious commentaries on the films and never shying from flinging Jar Jar Binks into space for laughs, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales coasts too closely to events fans have long been accustomed to, making unique storytelling opportunities limited.  Fortunately, an early encounter with Kanan and the Ghost crew of Star Wars Rebels makes for some of the series’ finest moments while, the final episode leading C-3PO to the planet of Geonosis and a confrontation with General Veers makes for a fun sendoff to a mini-series that may lack originality but excels as usual with comedy and delightful animation.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales digitally mastered in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although not nearly as sharp or defined as high-definition, colors are plentiful and pop nicely while, black levels are quite respectable and lack any intrusions of crush.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally clear but may require increases in volume to capture their full extent.  Furthermore, Composer John Williams’ original music, along with his iconic reused themes, offer sizable boosts to the track’s limited capabilities.  Although scant, special features include Sneak Peeks (5:00) at Star Wars Rebels, Zootopia and Disney Movie Rewards.  In addition, an Exclusive Trading Card Set is included inside the packaging.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • My Science Project (1985) Blu-ray Review

    My Science Project (1985)

    Director: Jonathan R. Betuel

    Starring: John Stockwell, Danielle von Zerneck, Fisher Stevens & Dennis Hopper

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fearing ineligibility to graduate from high school, My Science Project centers on grease monkey Michael Harlan (John Stockwell, Radioactive Dreams) as he scours for a science project to avoid flunking.  Searching a military junkyard, Michael uncovers an extraterrestrial device that unleashes a dimensional time warp of past, present and future danger upon Michael’s sleepy town.  Faced against unfathomable power, Michael and his friends must devise a way to close the vortex before their world is permanently jeopardized.  Daniella von Zerneck (La Bamba), Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit) and Dennis Hopper (Apocalypse Now) co-star.

    Released in the wake of Robert Zemeckis’ game-changing Delorean starring adventure, My Science Project is the other time-traveling effort of 1985.  Raiding a military junk pile proves fruitful for teenage mechanic Michael Harlan (Stockwell) whose biggest dilemmas are failing to graduate and the embarrassment of other students knowing his wheels broke down.  Desperate to pass anything off that remotely looks scientific for a project, Michael’s encounter with a weirdly illuminated device becomes even odder after electrically frying countless appliances within its reach.  Stumped at its purpose, Michael and his Brooklyn-born buddy Vince Latello (Stockwell) find themselves personally affected after the contraption speeds up time, making the duo miss their final exam.  With nowhere to turn, Michael leans on his hilariously hippie-like science teacher, referred to simply as Bob (Hopper), for help as the globe-shaped instrument unexpectedly reveals its full power.  Opening a dangerous vortex where the past and future can materialize, Michael, along with his bookish love interest Ellie Sawyer (Zerneck), Vince and class nerd Sherman (Raphael Sbarge, Risky Business) must cut the power supply to save humanity.

    Tightly budgeted yet, supplying admirable visual effects for its size, My Science Project is a fun teenage adventure with far less emphasis on its time traveling element than proposed.  Fisher Stevens steals the thunder from the headlining Stockwell with his quotable lines while, Easy Rider’s Dennis Hopper hams up his free love mantra for the MTV generation.  While the film’s MacGuffin creates countless fireworks for the screen, its true harm isn’t fully exposed until the third act when the Viet Cong, post-apocalyptic mutants and dinosaurs go head to head with Michael and his machine gun carrying cohorts.  Although introducing added eye-candy, the historical antagonists’ appearances take place a tad too late and leave a slightly underwhelming effect.  Making groovy pop culture nods with high school hooligans rocking stormtrooper helmets and boob tube cameos from Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Davy Crockett, My Science Project is a moderately radical time where teenage heroes take on the whirlwind of scientific insanity.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents My Science Project with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing softer during early 1957 set sequences and visual effects moments before improving slightly, skin tones are average-looking with moderate levels of dirt and debris on hand.  Meanwhile, black levels fall on the grainier side with visibility not impossible yet, largely unimpressive.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible while, its mono presentation underwhelms machine gun fire and soundtrack selections including Scandal’s “The Warrior”, making otherwise more impactful moments sound far too flat for taste.  Expectedly, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, My Science Project can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Ice Pirates (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ice Pirates (1984)

    Director: Stewart Raffill

    Starring: Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roberts, Anjelica Huston & Jack Matuszak

    Released by: Warner Archive

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an intergalactic future where water is of utmost value and controlled by the evil Templars, The Ice Pirates centers on a motley crew of swashbuckling adventure seekers who dare to rebel.  Accompanied by an attractive princess, the unlikely heroes charter a mission to locate her missing father on a rumored planet engulfed with the prized resource.  Robert Urich (S.W.A.T.), Mary Crosby (Dallas), Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man), Anjelica Huston (The Addams Family) and Jack Matuszak (The Goonies) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Influenced by George Lucas’ Star Wars saga and the post-apocalyptic insanity of Mad Max, The Ice Pirates protrudes its tongue into cheek for an inherently comic space adventure.  Ravaged by the villainous Templars, the future of the galaxy appears grim with water in short supply.  Led by the daring Jason (Urich) and his loyal team of pirates, the understandable thieves attempt to steal ice from the regime before crossing paths with the royal Princess Karina (Crosby).  While others evade capture, Jason and best friend Roscoe (Roberts) are sentenced to slavery where the unpleasant procedure of castration is performed before joining other high-pitched, leotard wearing prisoners.  Fortunately, the princess has other plans when she hires Jason and his soon to be reunited crew on a dangerous mission to recover her father.  From valiant sword fights to destructive droid battles and a trippy time-warp conclusion, the fate of the universe rests on the futuristic pirates discovering a mythical water planet that may or may not exist.

    Modestly successful at the box-office, The Ice Pirates adheres to the tropes of other such space epics of the era while, taking itself none too seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers.  Marking an early appearance from Ron Perlman (Hellboy) as one of Jason’s fellow cronies and one of the respected John Carradine’s (House of Frankenstein) final efforts, The Ice Pirates delivers top-notch special effects magic and enthralling production design that unashamedly caters to its over the top decade.  Packed with hilarious racial jokes and sexual innuendoes that unquestionably flew over the heads of its intended PG-rated audience, The Ice Pirates is a bonafide cult favorite that keeps its action rolling while laughing all the way to the end credits.

    Warner Archive presents The Ice Pirates with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, detail is sharp with textures in costumes choices and skin tones pleasing throughout.  Colors found in the neon buttons of various space shuttles and other robotic characters pop nicely while, black levels waver from moments of satisfaction to instances of speckles and mild noise.  A healthy upgrade from previous releases, The Ice Pirates makes an impressive high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and audible with action sequences involving laser blasts, explosions and other chaos registering with a slightly restrained presence.  Meanwhile, special features include, the film’s Trailer (2:20).

    Although imperfect, The Ice Pirates is a genuinely fun and engaging exploration of 80s science fiction that aligns impressive visuals with harmless mockery of its very genre.  Warp speeding to Blu-ray for the first time ever, Warner Archive presents the cult hit with an overly pleasing presentation sure to quench the thirst of the nostalgic and first time curios.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Warner Archive, The Ice Pirates can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Assault on New Releases #9: Count Dracula (1970), Zombie High (1987), Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976), Women's Prison Massacre (1983), Corruption (1983) & The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1963) Blu-ray Reviews

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams & Paul Muller

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Intent on crafting the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s iconic novel, Director Jess Franco (99 Women) would lure Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) from his fanged appearances for Hammer Films to headline as the Count.  Soaked appreciatively in gothic atmosphere, Franco’s interpretation unfolds faithfully enough before taking several liberties of its own.  Following Jonathan Harker’s (Fred Williams, She Killed in Ecstasy) escape from Castle Dracula, the film dawdles with recuperation and Van Helsing’s (Herbert Lom, Spartacus) convincing of the black arts to several characters permeating the runtime.  Although its narrative proves to be uneventful in several areas, Christopher Lee’s performance is captivating with his bloodshot eyes and graying mustache adding a visual flair to the timeless character.  In addition, Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper), perfectly cast as the disturbed Renfield, is grossly underused in a role otherwise tailor made for the thespians eccentric energy.  While lacking a more erotic flair accustomed to other Franco efforts, Count Dracula achieves moments of glory with Lee’s engrossing performance and the film’s grandiose locations yet, never overcomes its monotonous attempts at plot development.  

    Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films presents Count Dracula with a 1080p transfer capturing natural skin tones and boldly represented colors, best appreciated in the film’s period costume choices.  With the exception of one reinstated sequence of scratchier quality, the transfer is virtually free of any wear and tear while, black levels are satisfactory with only occasional murkiness on display.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with the film’s chilling score effectively relayed throughout.  Accompanied with a five-star spread of supplements, Severin Films includes the expressionistic feature Cuadecuc, Vampir (1:06:18), an Audio Commentary with Horror Historian David Del Valle and Actress Maria Rohm, Beloved Count (26:24) featuring an interview with Director Jess Franco, A Conversation with Jack Taylor (10:00) and Handsome Harker (26:14) with Actor Fred Williams interviewed.  In addition, French Director Christophe Gans hosts an appreciation of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula in Stake Holders (7:32) while, Christopher Lee Reads Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1:24:08) plus, the German, French, Italian & Spanish Alternate Title Sequences (1:36) are also included alongside the film’s German Trailer (3:08).  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Count Dracula can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

    Starring: Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, James Wilder, Sherilyn Fenn, Paul Feig & Kay E. Kuter

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shot entirely at the University of Southern California, Zombie High stars Virginia Madsen (Candyman) as the bright Andrea Miller.  After accepting a scholarship to the prestigious Ettinger boarding school, Andrea takes notice of the unusual drone-like behavior of her fellow students.  Before long, a deep rooted secret amongst the school faculty is revealed leading Andrea and her boyfriend Barry (James Wilder, Delta Phi) to fend for their lives.  Scripted by no less than three writers, Zombie High was the brainchild of USC film stockroom handler Aziz Ghazal who, under a unique circumstance with producers, offered the school’s facilities and equipment in exchange for students to intern on a professional film set.  With the exception of its cast and several behind-the-scenes crew members, Zombie High is an impressive accomplishment yet, not one of renowned quality.  Devoid of any scares whatsoever, Director Rob Mink’s sole feature consists of a cast of talented up and comers including, the future Academy Award nominated Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and future Bridesmaids director Paul Feig delivering a poor man’s Duckie.  While the vibrant young thespians give earnest performances, the dull storyline and two-dimensionality of their characters suffocate the film.  Although professionally produced under its student film-like circumstances, Zombie High is painfully uneventful and seemingly forgets to include its titular creatures until its final fleeting moments.  

    Scream Factory presents Zombie High with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Inherently soft at times, remnants of digital noise can be spotted in the film’s first half during dormitory scenes and dimly lit moments that thankfully subsides later on.  While flesh tones appear decently and bolder colors found in Madsen’s bright sweaters pop best, the transfer is satisfactory given its unconventional history.  Equipped with a disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue registers overwhelmingly low with volume increases essential during viewing.  In addition, the film’s generic rock soundtrack, while providing decent boosts in quality, does so at the expense of drowning out more dialogue.  Limited with its offerings, special features include the film’s Trailer (1:05), uncredited liner notes found on the reverse wrap and a DVD edition of the release.

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

    Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Greene & Frederick R. Friedel / Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Gladys Lavitam & Larry Lambeth

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Restored from their original negatives, Severin Films proudly presents the early efforts of Director Frederick R. Friedel on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Marking his directorial debut, Axe centers on three murderous criminals who seek refuge at an isolated farmhouse occupied by a withdrawn teenager and her paralyzed grandfather.  Shot inexpensively and running barely an hour, Axe is an unsettling tale that presents its characters with little to no exposition yet, never compromising their chilling believability.  Following the murder of a gay man and dehumanizing target practice with a market clerk, the chain-smoking Steele (Jack Canon, Maximum Overdrive), Lomax (Ray Greene) and younger, more hesitant Billy (Frederick R. Friedel) invade a desolate farmhouse to evade capture.  The beautiful Leslie Lee plays the emotionally stunted Lisa as she calmly premeditates her brutal revenge against her unwanted guests.  Contemplating suicide before savagely fighting back, Lisa’s actions are equally warranted and alarming.  Unfairly included on the U.K.’s banned list of video nasties, Axe oozes rural dread with exceptional style and effective editing that increases its artistic quality more than its grindhouse reputation suggests.

    Next up, Kidnapped Coed, billed as The Kidnap Lover, finds money hungry crook Eddie (Canon once again) kidnapping red-headed richie Sandra (Leslie Rivers, Reform School Girls) only to have his hostage form an unusual attraction for her abductor.  Canon excels as the heavy determined to kill if his ransom isn’t delivered with the timid Rivers playing nicely off of him.  Encountering several unsavory characters that arguably rival Eddie’s own demeanor, the cigarette-puffing crook slowly opens up to his victim, igniting an unlikely romance between characters from different tracks of life.  Nicely developed and crafting a well-executed tonal change, Kidnapped Coed is a fitting followup to Friedel’s previous effort in terror that although briefly timed, plays exceedingly well.  

    Severin Films presents Axe and Kidnapped Coed with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Although speckles and instances of cigarette burns are apparent, both films admirably shine with noticeably filmic representations while, appreciative detail, natural skin tones and boldly presented blood pop nicely in both features.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is audibly satisfactory with mild instances of hiss and static occasionally detected.  Although Kidnapped Coed serves as the stronger audio candidate, both films get the job done.  In addition, each film contains an optional German audio track.  Rightly saluting both films with numerous bonus features, Severin Films provides Audio Commentaries on both with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Phil Smoot & Makeup Artist Worth Keeter.  In addition, Friedel’s intriguing hybrid cut of both films entitled Bloody Brothers (1:29:11) is also included with an introduction by Friedel and an Audio Commentary with Nightmare USA Author Stephen Thrower.  Furthermore, At Last…  Total Terror!: The Amazing True Story of the Making of Axe & Kidnapped Coed (1:01:40) is a newly produced retrospective work featuring interviews with key talent and visits to the original shooting locations.  Also included, Moose Magic: The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story (38:35) traces the history of the films’ talented musicians while, Stephen Thrower waxes intellectual on Axe & Kidnapped Coed (9:15) with a selection of Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots (8:31) rounding out the disc’s supplemental content.  Finally, located on a separate compact disc, both films’ original soundtracks are included with 7 bonus tracks from Shaw & Willhelm.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Axe / Kidnapped Coed can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ursula Flores, Maria Romano, Raul Cabrera & Antonella Giacomini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Repurposing much of the same cast and filmed back to back with 1982’s Violence in a Women’s Prison, Director Bruno Mattei’s (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror) Women’s Prison Massacre continues the sleazy tradition of scantly clad females doing hard time.  When reporter Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle) is framed for drug smuggling and sentenced to prison, she is confronted with unspeakable violence from fellow inmates and guards.  While attempting to maintain her sanity, a deadly pack of arriving male prisoners invade the prison as Emanuelle and her trusting cellmates seek to regain control.  Gabriele Tinti (Rider on the Rain), Ursula Flores (Violence in a Women’s Prison), Maria Romano (Thor the Conqueror), Raul Cabrera (Allonsanfan) and Antonella Giacomini (The Seven Magnificent Gladiators) co-star.  A genre staple of grindhouse cinemas and drive-in theaters during the 70s and 80s, Women’s Prison Massacre takes the familiar tropes of attractive females, inhumane violence, corruption and nudity to steer its own exercise in exploitation.  Hypnotically beautiful, Laura Gemser headlines as the wrongly imprisoned Emanuelle who vows to expose the corrupt politician responsible for her incarceration.  In addition to defending her life against pale-skinned inmate Albina (Flores) and mistreatment from guards, Women’s Prison Massacre injects healthy doses of lesbianism for good measure.  Although the arrival of the male prisoners increases the action and exploitation including sequences of rape and a twisted game of Russian roulette, their inclusion feels slightly out of character for a traditional WIP film and steals attention away from Gemser and her supporting players.  Unquestionably cut from the same cloth as other films of its ilk, Women’s Prison Massacre is not nearly as impressive as other efforts although, its hilarious dubbing and jaw-droppingly funny dialogue provide plenty of entertainment.

    Scream Factory presents Women’s Prison Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing a fairly soft appearance, the film is free of any scratches or other extremely undesirable blemishes while, skin tones are modestly pleasing.  In addition, black levels found in the dirty and dimly lit prison appear generally hazy at times yet, never overwhelm ones viewing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the poorly dubbed dialogue is efficient although never overly impressive.  Scoring queues, gunshots and screams show signs of increased authority while remaining generally restrained.  Furthermore, no unfavorable levels of hiss or static were detected.  Surprisingly, no special features have been included on this release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Women’s Prison Massacre can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

    Starring: Jamie Gillis, Kelly Nichols, Tiffany Clark, Tanya Lawson, Tish Ambrose & Vanessa Del Rio

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The desire for power becomes more than one man bargained for in Director Roger Watkins’ Corruption.  Unsure if he can repay a debt owed, Williams (Jamie Gillis, Dracula Sucks) finds his life controlled by his lenders only to have his associate betray him in exchange for his own sense of power.  Following the kidnapping of his sister-in-law, Williams is caught in a deranged sexual underworld with his unsavory half-brother as his guide and unlikely only hope for a way out.  An all-star ensemble of porn royalty including, Kelly Nichols (Dixie Ray Hollywood Star), Tiffany Clark (Hot Dreams), Tanya Lawson (Kinky Business), Tish Ambrose (Streetstar) and Vanessa Del Rio (Lips) co-star.  Although narratively vague in its storytelling, Corruption is undoubtedly a visual splendor, courtesy of valued Cinematographer Larry Revene (Deranged, Doom Asylum) whose lighting and camerawork intoxicates the frames with genuine atmosphere.  Juxtaposed with heavy doses of tantalizing sex sequences ranging from lesbianism and bondage to deep throated decadence and surreal necrophilia, Corruption may not gel with those left questioning its darkly surreal tone yet, deserves utmost appreciation for its rich photography and steamier moments brought to life by some of the eras most favored performers.

    Restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome’s efforts are nothing short of exceptional.  With skin tones looking lively, detail in textures and closeups greatly impressing plus, striking colors found in sexy lingerie making admirable pops, Corruption spoils viewers with its near impeccability.  While black levels seen in a dimly lit bar scene and a sexual encounter in a black room showcase instances of flakes and noticeable digital noise, Vinegar Syndrome has treated the film with an expected level of care leaving it in better shape than ever.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, crackling is occasionally heard but, never interferes in the delivery of dialogue while, the eclectic score of sexy saxophone themes, wailing electric guitars and synthesized beats sound terrific.  Special features include, Through the Lens: Larry Revene & Corruption (12:25) where the talented DP reminisces on the productions charming cast and Watkins’ acute eye and talented abilities as a writer and director.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (3:18), Pressbook Gallery (0:53) and DVD edition of the release are also included.  Furthermore, Vinegar Syndrome has included the profound easter egg of Roger Watkins’ nasty 1977 shocker The Last House on Dead End Street (77:58) on disc.  Although a Blu-ray edition of the film is currently being prepped, this sample course is in fact uncut yet, far from what the finished release will look like.  Finally, a Reverse Cover Art utilizing Corruption’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the supplemental offerings.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Corruption can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com.

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Distributed by independent mavericks American International Pictures, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die centers on Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers, Escape from the Planet of the Apes) who after losing his future bride in an accident, swears to resurrect her through medical experimentations.  Salvaging her head while feverishly scouring for a suitable body replacement, the conscience Jan (Virginia Leith, Violent Saturday) begins losing her mind while planning her revenge on the man who unethically kept her alive.  Cheaply produced for less than $70,000, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die laid dormant following its completion in 1959 before being acquired by AIP several years later.  Pushing its mad scientist agenda of absurdist surgeries and eerie experiments, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die relies equally on buxom beauties and curvy strippers to attract attention.  Following Dr. Bill Cortner’s desperate mission to locate a proper body to attach to the head of his lover, Cortner attends smoky bars and bikini modeling shows for prime candidates.  Busty broads and floor pummeling catfights add to the film’s sexual sleaziness that largely separates it from other Z-grade sci-fi pictures of the time.  Longing to be put out of her misery, Jan befriends an imprisoned creature in Bill’s laboratory to assist in her revenge scheme.  Tearing the arm off of the good doctor’s assistant, the concealed monster (played by noted Israeli circus performer Eddie Carmel a.k.a. “The Jewish Giant”) surprisingly lives up to expectations when his facially deformed, pinheaded self is revealed in the film’s final moments.  Undeniably bizarre and equally entertaining, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die follows the familiar path of a scientist with a god complex while, its inclusion of seductive pinups sells the film even more.

    Scream Factory presents The Brain That Wouldn’t Die with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Newly restored from its negative, this uncut presentation contains mild instances of speckles and cigarette burns while, its black and white photography largely impresses with admirable detail in closeups and wardrobe.  In addition, black levels appearing in Dr. Cortner’s vehicle and the bloody aftermath of Kurt’s arm being removed look refreshingly inky.  With filmic grain present throughout its entirety, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die lives on looking better than ever!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, several cracks and pops arise without sacrificing any dialogue along the way.  Otherwise presented cleanly, speaking bits and the film’s score come through nicely.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Steve Haberman and Author Tony Sasso with Haberman offering plenty of informative anecdotes along the way while, Sasso relies on pointing out the obvious onscreen.  In addition, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode of the film (presented in standard definition) is included alongside, Alternate Model Footage (1:26).  Culled from the international cut and lacking sound, this brief sequence showcases the beautiful Adele Lamont posing nude for photographers.  Finally, a Photo Gallery (3:46) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:54) conclude the disc’s bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ant-Man 3D (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Ant-Man (2015)

    Director: Peyton Reed

    Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña & Michael Douglas

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off Phase Three of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man centers on master cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, Role Models) who joins forces with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, Wall Street) in order to protect the secrets of his breakthrough technology from falling into villainous hands.  Equipped with Pym’s powerful shrinking suit, Scott must pull off the heist of a lifetime before those closest to him and the rest of the world suffer the consequences.  Evangeline Lilly (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris), Bobby Cannavale (Win Win) and Michael Peña (End of Watch) co-star.

    Following countless years of development and fan-favorite director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) departing during pre-production in lieu of creative differences, Ant-Man was plagued with endless obstacles and more uncertainty than any other previous Marvel production.  Replaced by the unusually selected Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) and additional screenplay contributions by Rudd and Adam McKay (Step Brothers, The Other Guys), Marvel’s pint-sized hero would debut strongly, albeit with minor warts, along the way.  Determined to start anew with its latest phase, Marvel’s Ant-Man brings together the heroes elderly originator (Douglas) with a later iteration of the character (Rudd) in order to pull of a challenging heist for the protection of the world.  Cracking his former mentors formula, Darren Cross (Stoll) crafts his own design of the powerful suit to become the evil Yellowjacket with plans of selling the weaponry to the familiar Hydra organization.  Aided by Pym and his daughter Hope (Lilly), Scott, turning his back on his previous lifestyle and caring only for his young daughter, dons the Ant-Man suit to recover Hank’s technology and battle the Yellowjacket on small scales with explosively large stakes.

    Considering its less than smooth road to completion, Ant-Man is an admirable addition to the Marvel Universe with the charismatically funny Rudd leading the pack.  In addition, Evangeline Lilly provides ample support as the film’s strong female lead, ensuring a more heroically-fitted role in later adventures.  Furthermore, Michael Douglas offers an excellent performance as the elder Pym with easily identifiable chemistry with Rudd and Lilly that showcases the sheer fun Douglas had with the role.  Meanwhile, Michael Peña consistently steals scenes with his comedic-timing and hilarious retellings of stories plagued with unimportant details.  Although the film’s fight sequences impress as Ant-Man and Yellowjacket battle amongst toy train sets and inside briefcases with immersive scale and exciting effects work, Darren Cross’ villainous plan feels largely clichéd with his motivations left foggy and underdeveloped.  In addition, Lang’s commitment to his daughter is sweet but, could have benefitted from a stronger push to make Scott’s journey more emotional.  While minor setbacks are apparent in its finished product, Ant-Man remains serviceably entertaining with top-notch action and charming performances that will most definitely continue to blossom in future installments.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Ant-Man with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Given the character’s scaled-down size, the film’s 3D presentation soars with immersive depth and excellent detail that makes viewers feel like they are in the action.  Not shy of injecting more popping effects work, Ant-Man’s fight sequences offer many in-your-face moments of laser blasts and Thomas the Tank Engine leaping off the screen.  Furthermore, the film’s 2D presentation is nothing short of pristine with natural skin tones, vibrantly detailed colors and wonderfully presented black levels.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is effortlessly projected while, the film’s score and bombastic action sequences elevate the mix to a first-rate effort.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Peyton Reed & Star Paul Rudd, the Making of An Ant-Sized Heist: A-How-to Guide (14:34) featuerette, Let’s Go the Macroverse (8:06) detailing the macro photography utilized in capturing Ant-Man’s scaled-down tale, WHIH NewsFront (9:12) hosts a series of faux news clips while, Deleted & Extended Scenes with optional commentary from Reed and Rudd (8:39), a Gag Reel (3:25) and Sneak Peeks for Avengers: Age of Ultron (1:36), Agent Carter (2:42), Ultimate Spider-Man VS. The Sinister 6 (2:15), Avengers: Ultron Revolution (2:25) and Playmation Marvel Avengers (0:32) are also included.  Finally, in addition to separate standard Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D discs, a Digital HD Code has also been provided.

    While it may fall short next to the politically charged Captain America: The Winter Solider or the breakout hit Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Ant-Man makes an enjoyable debut on a smaller scale than his Avengers brethren.  With its humor mostly hitting and its impressive effects work standing out, Ant-Man still stumbles with a case of predictable originitis and an underdeveloped antagonist.  Fearing for certain disaster following auteur Edgar Wright’s departure, Ant-Man manages to entertain where it counts with an even brighter future on the horizon.  Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment delivers Marvel’s latest with glorious high-definition video quality, wildly immersive 3D and a satisfyingly booming sound mix.  Also accompanied by a suitable spread of supplements, Ant-Man infests home video with a powerful punch that Marvel enthusiasts will not swat away.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available December 8th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Ant-Man can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

    presents

    THE 2015 HOLIDAY GIFT

    • The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition: While the tikes of today rightly associate the artistry of stop-motion animation with the works of Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman), The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition presents viewers of all ages with timeless holiday entertainment from the influential Rankin/Bass Productions.  With such Christmas cartoon classics as UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns, this must-have collection also includes Rankin/Bass’ most beloved holiday-themed specials including, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  Joined by additional special features such as sing-alongs and how-to tutorials on drawing your own Rudolph or Frosty, The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition comes highly recommended and will undoubtedly enjoy heavy rotation by viewers this holiday season.  Available now!

    • Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Celebrating its unbelievable 25th anniversary, the original John Hughes produced classic returns to Blu-ray boasting a new superior-looking 4K restoration.  Collected in a paint can familiar to fans of the films, this excellently timed collector’s edition includes other treats such as, a collectible ornament, rubber spider, Battle Plan reproduction and a Wanted poster looking for the Wet Bandits.  While its equally beloved sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also included on Blu-ray, purists will be slightly disappointed that later installments, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist arrive only on DVD.  Although the lack of a complete high-definition collection is unfortunate, the original film’s highly improved transfer and conversation starting packaging makes Home Alone’s 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition well worth upgrading this Christmas.  Available now! 

    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Similar to Home Alone’s previous outings on high-definition, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has been the victim of dated masters leaving viewers with more to be visually desired.  Thankfully, Warner Bros. have heard fans’ calls and appropriately rescanned this Chevy Chase favorite in 2K from a brand-new interpositive.  Boasting a more filmic appearance and stronger skin tones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, carrying all previous supplements from its past releases, finally arrives in the presentation fans of the Griswolds rightfully deserve.  Available now!

    • Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy: Marking Marty and Doc’s infamous journey into the distant future of 2015, Universal Studios proudly celebrates the occasion with an exceptional high-definition repackaging of the historic time traveling trilogy.  With all three films looking and sounding stellar, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy comes overwhelmingly packed with vintage supplements as well as other goodies including, Doc Brown Saves the World! with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doctor Emmett Brown in this newly-produced short film.  In addition, diehard fans will be overjoyed with Universal Studios’ alternate limited edition release of Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures.  Housed in a light-up faux flux capacitor, this must-have set contains the film trilogy, a 64-page collectible booklet and all 26 episodes of the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon on DVD for the first time ever.  Hailed as one of the greatest franchises of all time, Christmas morning won’t be complete without journeying into the past with these ageless adventures.  Available now!

     

    • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Continuing the popular exploits of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) returns to the explosive franchise for his most dangerous mission yet.  When the IMF is shut down by the CIA, a dangerous network known as the Syndicate, comprised of former agents gone rogue, threatens the safety of the globe.  Wanted by their own government, Ethan and his loyal team, along with a mysterious double agent (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), must combine their limited efforts to bring the Syndicate down and restore their names.  Helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation combines death-deifying stunts, intense action and a suspenseful narrative that stands proudly with Ghost Protocol’s universally hailed installment.  Arriving with reference worthy high-definition specs and countless special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Christopher McQuarrie and Star Tom Cruise plus, several making-of featurettes, the fifth installment of Cruise’s exciting series is a mission all viewers should choose to accept this holiday season.  Available December 15th!

     

    • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Limited to just 3,000 units, Writer/Director Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Manhattan) love letter to cinema is an achingly moving achievement comprised of magic and romance.  Perfectly casted, Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) star in this Great Depression-set tale about a movie obsessed dreamer enchanted by the arrival of her movie star crush who leaps off the screen to woo her.  A bonafide gem in Allen’s rich catalog of classics, The Purple Rose of Cairo casts an enchanting spell on viewers while, Film Historian Julie Kirgo’s enthralling liner notes increase ones appreciation for the content.  Available now!

    • The End of the Tour: Based on David Lipsky’s best-seller, this probing character study of Lipsky’s journalistic road-trip interviewing Author David Foster Wallace in the wake of his successful novel is one of the year’s smartest and genuine features.  Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) are excellently matched as two intelligent creatives, butting heads as they explore fame and the desire for normalcy on a journey of unexpected friendship and understanding.  Humorous and heartbreaking, this indie favorite arrives with an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman and more.  Critically applauded, The End of the Tour is a moving piece of drama well worth taking the journey with.  Available now! 

    • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition: From the creative minds of Pixar, Inside Out marks their most unique tale to date centering on the many emotions of an 11-year-old girl as she copes with her unexpected move to San Francisco.  Starring an eclectically hilarious voice cast including, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Phyllis Smith (The Office), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Director Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc., Up) deeply personal exploration of the mind is endlessly charming with audiences young and old finding themselves profoundly moved by its  conclusion.  Presented with immersive 3D and countless bonus features, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year perfect for acquisition this holiday season.  Available now!

     

    • Aladdin Diamond Edition: Highly anticipated and finally unleashed from the Disney vault, Aladdin makes its domestic high-definition debut with jaw-droppingly colorful clarity and countless special features including, the desirable and never-before-seen Genie outtakes performed by the late Robin Williams.  A magical tour de force, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved features and a wish come true for all street rats and riff raffs this Christmas.  Available now!   

    • Minions 3D: In Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me prequel, the yellow colored tribe find themselves deeply depressed following the accidental losses of their last several evil leaders.  Set in the progressive 1960s and determined to find their next kingpin, optimistic Minion Kevin, along with Stuart and Bob, road trip to Villain Con International to join forces with evil diva Scarlett Overkill.  After traveling to England to overthrow the Queen, the Minions must devise a way to correct their deeds in order to save their fellow friends and the world.  Accompanied by vocal work from Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) and Geoffrey Rush (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Minions slapstick scenarios and soundtrack of rockin’ hits from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.  Packed with eye-popping 3D and three brand-new mini movies, Minions is the animated release making audiences go bananas.  Available December 8th! 

    • Cinderella: Continuing their successful string of live-action features based on their esteemed animated classics, Disney brings the whimsy of Cinderella to a new generation.  Bursting with magic and elegance, Director Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet, Thor) modernization pays homage while, surpassing its 1950 counterpart with its grandiose production design and exceptional performances from Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the titular role and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her wicked stepmother.  One of the finest films of the year, Disney’s Cinderella is the glass slipper that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.  Available now!

    • 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition: Although unhappy with the film’s visual outcome, Walt Disney’s dazzling London-based tale has long been cherished by adoring audiences since its debut in 1961.  Stylistically unique to the delicate precision of other Disney efforts, 101 Dalmatians offers an adventurous tale accompanied by memorable songs and one of Disney’s most beloved antagonists Cruella De Vil.  Shining brighter than ever on Blu-ray, reasons for scooping up 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition this season far exceeds the number of its lovable polka-dotted puppies.  Available now! 

    • Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection: A quarter century since its debut, Rowan Atkinson’s hilariously dimwitted character returns with all 14 episodes of his memorable television show.  Presented by Fabulous Films, in association with Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection provides viewers with suitable supplemental content while, the sheer silliness and physical hijinks of Atkinson’s predominately mum character in all his timeless sketches will most definitely tickle the funny bones of all viewers.  Available now! 

    • Star Wars Rebels - Complete Season One: With less than a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes hold of audiences worldwide, Disney’s first attempts at reestablishing the brand ensures that the Force is in very capable hands.  Taking place before the events of the original film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a ragtag crew of do-gooders determined to take down the Galactic Empire.  With guest appearances from Star Wars alumni such as, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Yoda, this computer-generated Disney XD series packs high-octane action and exciting new characters that have quickly become fan favorites.  With season two airing now, catching up with the crew of the Ghost in their first 15 adventures is the perfect training for young Padawans and Jedi Masters alike.  Available now! 

    • Manimal - The Complete Series: Airing for only a short-lived eight episodes, Fabulous Films and Shout! Factory welcome the animalistic adventures of Manimal: The Complete Series to DVD for the first time ever in the U.S.!  Centering on the wealthy and dashing Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws 3-D), Manimal finds Chase using his abilities to morph into any animal of his choosing to aid the authorities in solving crimes.  Scheduled against the soap opera titan Dallas, Manimal found itself quickly extinct due to low ratings but, has maintained a cult appeal for its over the top premise and impressive transformation sequences.  Wickedly fun, Manimal: The Complete Series also arrives with an interview with Series Creator Co-Creator Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.), Concept & Production Notes, an episode booklet and more.  With Will Ferrel (Elf) and Adam McKay (Step Brothers) actively developing a film version, reliving its goofy originator this holiday season will serve as an ideal journey down memory lane.  Available now!

    • Automan - The Complete Series: From the creative minds behind Tron and Knight Rider, Automan unashamedly melds the two contrasting concepts for this long lost gem of Generation X.  Including all 13 episodes and countless bonus content including, an all-new 42 minute retrospective, Automan centers on computer nerd Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnez Jr., House of the Long Shadows) as he minds his desk work at the local police department.  Using his programming skills, Walter develops an artificial hologram that can exist in the real world.  Accompanied by the computer engineered Automan and a small droid, Walter hits the streets to battle crime.  Cancelled prematurely, Automan: The Complete Series is a sci-fi spectacle of 80s technology and street crime that has thankfully resurfaced in its entirety for the first time in America.  Available now!

    • Agent Carter - The Complete First Season: Reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell stars as secret agent Peggy Carter as she attempts to cope with the loss of Steve Rogers and juggle her position in the male-dominated workforce of the 1940s.  After learning her friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has been framed for supplying weapons to the enemy, Agent Carter must fight to clear his name and recover the stolen goods.  Delivering one of television’s stronger and well-written female characters, Marvel’s Agent Carter is an engaging, tightly paced mini-series that  fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will find themselves instantly hooked on.  Available now!

    • Blood and Lace: Long desired and finally available for the first time on home video, Blood and Lace serves as a bizarre precursor to what would become the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s.  Following the grizzly murder of her prostituting mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is placed in an orphanage, fearful that she will become the next target of her mother’s hammer-wielding assailant.  With orphanage head Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life) and her seedy handyman concealing their share of disturbing secrets, Ellie’s safety becomes even more uncertain.  Filled with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a disturbing twist ending, Blood and Lace is joined by an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title, its theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  In a year of seemingly endless titles from Scream Factory, Blood and Lace stands out as one of their most coveted.  Available now! 

    • The Car: Powered by high-octane evil, this cult classic from Director Elliot Silverstein (Nightmare Honeymoon) stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as a newly appointed sheriff in a desert town disturbed by a devilish automobile hellbent on destroying anyone in its path.  Joined by new interviews with its director and Actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, a theatrical trailer, a newly designed cover art by Scream Factory favorite Justin Osbourn and more, The Car races to Blu-ray just in time for viewers to hitch a ride this Christmas.  Available December 15th! 

    • Eaten Alive: Continuing to impress domestic audiences with their diverse output, Arrow Video delivers another first-rate effort with Tobe Hooper’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Eaten Alive.  Set in the Louisiana wetlands at the seedy Starlight Hotel, owner Judd’s (Neville Brand, The Police Connection) homicidal tendencies run amuck as he feeds unsuspecting guests to his hungry alligator.  Bloody and bizarre, Hooper’s underrated gem arrives restored in 2K from the OCN while, bonus content runs deep with endless featurettes and an impressive 22-page booklet.  As if anymore bait were needed to lure viewers, Eaten Alive is one of the exploitation genres top releases of the year.  Available now!

    • Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, four elderly friends are haunted by a ghostly apparition in their wintry New England town.  Headlined by seasoned icons including, Fred Astaire (Swing Time), Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Little Caesar) and John Houseman (Rollerball), Ghost Story oozes atmosphere and supernatural tension.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory delivers this perfectly timed release with a filmic presentation and a slew of special features from an Audio Commentary with Director John Irvin and new interviews with key cast and crew to vintage trailers and a spooky reversible cover art.  Chilling and stylistically paced, Ghost Story makes for a frightening addition into your horror library this winter season.  Available now!

    • Goodnight Mommy: Hailing from Austria, twin brothers Elias and Lukas are troubled when their mother returns home from surgery, heavily bandaged and acting differently.  Growing more unconvinced of the woman who claims to be their mother, the twins take drastic measures to uncover the terrifying truth.  Similar to an unnerving fever dream, Goodnight Mommy seeps under viewers’ skin with an unsettling tone and an even more frightening finale.  Accompanied with a conversational interview with Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a shocking slice of foreign cinema that easily stands as one of the year’s standout contemporary horror releases.  Available now!

    • White of the Eye: All is not as it seems in 1987’s White of the Eye when an attractive woman falls victims to a demented killer of housewives who uses Indian rituals in his murders.  Helmed by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) and starring David Keith (Firestarter) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), this suspenseful thriller will keep viewers’ blood thoroughly chilled.  Repurposing U.K. distributor Arrow Video’s superb transfer, Scream Factory compliments its release with an Audio Commentary with Director Donald Cammell and Biographer Sam Umland, deleted scenes, an interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg, reversible cover art and more.  Available now!

    • Society: Nightmarish and bold, Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator) directorial debut arrives in a definitive high-definition release from Arrow Video.  Suspecting his wealth family and privileged peers are hiding sinister secrets, paranoid teen Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Days of Our Lives) uncovers a twisted subculture for the richies of Beverly Hills.  Sporting a virtually flawless presentation bursting with bold colors and exceptional clarity, Society comes dripping with newly crafted bonus content that leaves no stone left unturned.  Although its original flesh-covered packaging edition has since sold out, Arrow Video’s standard release of Society is unquestionably one of the best horror releases of 2015!  Available now!

    • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman: Celebrating its 75th anniversary, J.B. Kaufman’s definitive overview of Walt Disney’s animated followup to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a marvel to behold.  Containing over 200 pieces of art and culled from various interviews and recorded conferences, Kaufman’s expertly researched achievement is the finest of its kind and stands as our book of the year!  Available now! 

    • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk: Complimenting the 30th anniversary re-release of the famed trilogy, Klastorin and Atamniuk’s literary companion is a treasure trove for dedicated fans.  Packed with overwhelming insight into each film’s extensive shooting schedule and incredible imagery of production art, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History also treats readers to several removable posters and reproduction pieces.  Further documenting Back to the Future’s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and their exciting attraction at Universal Studios’ theme parks, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passion project is essential reading for all Back to the Future devotees.  Available now!

    • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt: Highlighting the eternally youthful enthusiasm of Writer/Director John Hughes, Honeycutt’s career spanning work contains interviews with Hughes collaborators including, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Buller’s Day Off), Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and more.  Providing insight into Hughes’ family life and heartwarming friendship with the late John Candy, Honeycutt’s humanizing and photograph-filled coverage of Hughes is one you won’t soon forget.  Available now!

    • The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie by Jerry Schmitz: Making their cinematic return this year, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang comes alive in their first CG-animated 3D feature.  Adapting the simplistic yet, treasured designs and wit of Schulz’s beloved creations was no easy task as covered in Schmitz’s enthralling read.  With a foreword by Director Steve Martino, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie describes the painstaking detail in bringing Charlie Brown and friends into a 3D realm while, cracking a story that would faithfully honor their 50-plus year legacy.  Unquestionably one of the year’s best making-of books, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is an invaluable resource for one of the year’s finest films.  Available now!

    • Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films by Douglas Brode: Chronologically ordered, Brode’s historical journey through science-fiction’s latest and greatest cinematic achievements are compiled in one passionate collection.  From 1927’s influential Metropolis to the many gems consisting of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wizardry, Brode’s analysis also awards George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Pixar’s Wall-E and Marvel Studio’s most recent Guardians of the Galaxy as sci-fi’s most remarkable efforts.  Accompanied with rare photographs, ratings and background information on each production, Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films will make a suitable stocking-stuffer for all sci-fi fans.  Available now!

    • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury: Considered one of our favorite films of the year, Mark Salisbury’s stunning look into Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance is breathtaking.  With inspired production art and intriguing character bios, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also explores the practical and digital means in bringing the film’s ghostly creations to life.  With several takeaway items including, a miniature film poster, Salisbury’s guide to one of the year’s most eerily seductive films is an exceptional entryway into del Toro’s fantastical imagination.  Available now!

    • Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke: As Walt Disney looked beyond the success of his short films to the future of animated features, the educational efforts to perfect his artists’ abilities were increased.  Dormant for nearly 80 years, Hahn and Miller-Zarneke’s latest effort resurrects the countless lectures and transcribed classes Disney’s artists were educated in leading up to the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Animation enthusiasts will be fascinated by its indispensable lessons and extraordinary artwork making it one of Disney Editions’ most outstanding gems of the year.  Available now!

    • Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One with Commentary by Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte: Serving as a bonafide nostalgia trip, Abrams Comicarts compiles all five collectible sets and stickers of Topps’ original Star Wars trading cards.  Presented in their entirety, first generation fans will be delighted to own the entire run in this wonderfully presented hardcover.  With welcome commentary from original cards editor Gary Gerani and four bonus trading cards included, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One will return fans back to a childhood from a galaxy far, far away.  Available now!

    • Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace: Akin to Harper Design’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, Insight Editions’ 30 year overview of the Ghostbusters franchise is a rewarding read that traces the pop culture phenomenon of the original two films, their animated television shows plus, the endless merchandise that exploded in their wake.  With interviews from key talent and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and other specialty items, bustin’ will make you feel good after reading Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual HistoryAvailable now!

     

     

  • Tomorrowland (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Tomorrowland (2015)

    Director: Brad Bird

    Starring: George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Britt Robertson & Raffey Cassidy

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Incredibles and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Tomorrowland brings former boy-genius Frank Walker (George Clooney, Up in the Air) and curious teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson, The Longest Ride) together for a mission to uncover a mysterious utopian realm that can salvage their own world’s future.  Hugh Laurie (House M.D.), Raffey Cassidy (Dark Shadows), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Words), Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele) and Tim McGraw (The Blind Side) co-star.

    Inspired by the limitless possibilities of a better tomorrow and Walt Disney’s own conceptual views for an innovative utopia, Tomorrowland brings viewers back to a simpler, more optimistic time where a young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson, Harvey Beaks) brings his intelligent enthusiasm to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  Although dismissed for his inventions impractical functionalities, Frank is charmed by Athena (Cassidy) who bestows upon him a mysterious pin leading him to a futuristic world unlike anything seen before.  With hope and promise within reach, present day optimist Casey Newton (Robertson) refuses to accept the declining climate of her world littered with global warming, wars and starvation while, searching for the answers to correct it.  Also granted with a similarly mysterious pin, Casey is given a glimpse into the euphoric world of tomorrow only to be pursued by crazed robots intent on eliminating her.  Joining forces with the eternally youthful-looking Athena and an elder Frank (Clooney), the trio travel to Tomorrowland to learn of an impending apocalyptic disaster claiming their world and must devise a way to change their futures.

    Cloaked in mystery and coyly promoted with a less is more approach, Tomorrowland is a refreshingly original concept that confronts today’s overly cynical audiences with a much needed dose of adventurous buoyancy.  A visual delight of futuristic landscapes and technological advancements, Director Brad Bird’s sci-fi opus delivers strong performances from the always dependable Clooney and his talented young co-stars Robertson and Cassidy.  In addition, Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the cold-hearted Nix is accomplished with glee and well-executed dry humor.  Co-scripted by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus), structural issues unfortunately plague Tomorrowland’s action-packed pace with an abrupt halt that nearly severs its momentum.  Critically divided and failing to impress at the box-office, Tomorrowland remains a wondrous achievement that dares to be unique and generally succeeds.  While it may not be immune to imperfections, Tomorrowland will enchant audiences with repeated viewings and most assuredly grow in appreciation as the future nears.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Tomorrowland with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.20:1 aspect ratio.  Presenting a wide canvas of natural skin tones, space age vistas and flawless detail in costumes and exceptionally crisp black levels, Tomorrowland is a sight of perfection that deserves the moniker of high-definition reference material.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is excellently prioritized while the effective sound design and Composer Michael Giacchino’s (Super 8, Jurassic World) rousing score, which ranks as one of the year’s best, pushes the mix to exciting bounds.  Special features include, a Plus Ultra Short (3:18) to be played optionally before the feature, Remembering the Future: A Personal Journey Through Tomorrowland with Brad Bird (7:09), Casting Tomorrowland (7:27), A Great Big Beautiful Scoring Session (6:03), The World of Tomorrow Science Hour - Hosted by Futurologist David Nix (5:08) and an Animated Short: The Origins of Plus Ultra (3:36) which serves as a slightly extended version of its counterpart.  In addition, Brad Bird Production Diaries (4:34), a Blast from the Past Commercial (0:41), Deleted Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions (23:28) and Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Disney Parks (0:32), K.C. Undercover (0:32), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52) and Inside Out are also included.  Furthermore, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code round out the release’s supplemental offerings.

    Escorted to a great big beautiful adventure, Tomorrowland impresses upon viewers the magical possibilities of a brighter future while bearing in mind the harsh conditions affecting our world today.  Bursting with originality and imagination, Director Brad Bird’s live-action sophomore effort is not without its faults but, ultimately triumphs.  Blasting to home video, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment awards Tomorrowland with reference worthy technical merits creating an out of this world viewing experience.  Transported to a world of unparalleled wonder, Tomorrowland will leave lasting impressions on those considered dreamers.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 13th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Tomorrowland can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

    Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Taylor Gray, Steve Blum, Vanessa Marshall & Tiya Sircar

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set before the events of the original 1977 film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a crew, each individually affected by the Galactic Empire, but determined to change things for the better.  Led by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr., Scooby-Doo), the crew befriends Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray, Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures), a teenage con artist with abilities of the Force to aid them in their rebellion against The Inquisitor (Jason Issacs, Peter Pan) and the Empire.  Vanessa Marshall (Young Justice), Steve Blum (Transformers: Rescue Bots) & Tiya Sircar (The Internship) also comprise the vocal talent.  

    Capturing the excitement and thrills of George Lucas’ original saga, Star Wars Rebels finds the galaxy disrupted following the rise of the Empire.  Focusing on the earliest origins of the Rebel Alliance, a crew, led by Kanan Jarrus (Prinze Jr.), does what they can to disrupt any further damage committed by the Empire.  Circulating the galaxy aboard their starship known as the Ghost, Kanan, along with Hera (Marshall), Zeb (Blum), Sabine (Sircar) and their spunky droid Chopper, crosses paths with the orphaned Ezra Bridger (Gray) struggling to survive, before welcoming him into their motley crew.  Stealing from the Empire in order to aid civilians, the low-profile crew quickly find themselves targeted by The Inquisitor (Issacs), a soulless henchmen of the Empire tasked with hunting surviving Jedi’s.  Conflicted with keeping his Jedi status a secret while training Ezra in the ways of the Force, Kanan must confront his destiny in order to restore balance to the galaxy.  

    With iconic characters including, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2, Yoda and Lando Calrissian making guest appearances, Star Wars Rebels propels Disney’s first tackling of the franchise into a hyperspace of adventure and nonstop action.  Highlighting a period of the saga never cinematically seen before, the debut season delights viewers with topnotch CG animation and well crafted tales that develop characters of continuously growing appeal.  Co-created by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Carrie Beck, Star Wars Rebels takes the very best elements of the sci-fi phenomenon fans have come to love and developed a new chapter of weekly adventures of equal worth.  Returning viewers to a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars Rebels is an animated spectacle giving audiences young and old restored hope that the Force is very much back.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Star Wars Rebels with 1080p transfers, each bearing 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  On par with Disney’s respected animated releases, Star Wars Rebels greatly impresses with vibrant colors and nicely detailed textures while, black levels remain inky and pleasing throughout.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, dialogue is audible and consistent, if not slightly underwhelming.  Meanwhile, action sequences with tried and true lightsaber sound effects and starship blasts along with the show’s Williams-esque music provides suitable boosts to the soundscape.  While not quite as impactful for such an adventurous show of its ilk, the mix is more than sufficient.  Located on Disc 1, special features include, Rebels Recon (36:10) providing behind the scenes insight into several episodes of the season and Sneak Peeks at Star Wars: The Force Awakens (1:52) and Aladdin Diamond Edition (1:19).  In addition, Disc 2’s supplements include, Rebels Recon (45:02) providing more in depth looks at the remaining episodes of the show’s debut season while, Rebels Infiltrates Star Wars Celebration (4:03) gives viewers a brief look at the events hosted this past year in Anaheim, CA in this Blu-ray exclusive featurette.  Furthermore, Star Wars Rebels: The Ultimate Guide (22:05), Rebels Season 2: A Look Ahead (7:06) and four promotional shorts - The Machine in the Ghost (3:02), Art Attack (3:02), Entanglement (3:02) and Property of Ezra Bridger (3:02) - round out the season’s bonus features.

    In Disney’s first attempts at restoring balance to the Force, Star Wars Rebels succeeds in delivering enthralling new tales centered around original characters that have quickly become fan favorites amongst Star Wars enthusiasts.  Matched with high-octane action and stellar animation, this prequel series has deservedly morphed into Disney XD’s must watch program.  Arriving with all 15 episodes of its inaugural season and a respectable batch of bonus features, Star Wars Rebels shines on Blu-ray proving the Force has indeed been awoken for the best.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Star Wars Rebels: Complete Season One can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Dark Summer (2015) / Alien Outpost (2015) Blu-ray Reviews

    Dark Summer (2015) / Alien Outpost (2015)

    Director(s): Paul Solet / Jabbar Raisani

    Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell, Grace Phipps & Peter Stormare / Joe Reegan, Reiley McClendon, Scott Miller, Matthew Holmes, Rick Ravanello & Doug Tait

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In conjunction with IFC Midnight, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, delivers two contemporary offerings of ghosts and extraterrestrials.  First up, from the director of Grace, Dark Summer centers on 17-year-old Daniel Williamson (Keir Gilchrist, It Follows) under house for invading the cyber privacy of a female classmate.  Consumed by loneliness and yearning to reconnect with her, Mona (Grace Phipps, Fright Night) shocks Daniel with a chilling message, rattling the teen’s senses.  A prisoner to his own house, Daniel becomes convinced an evil presence is stalking him to make him pay for his actions.  Stella Maeve (Chicago P.D.), Maestro Harrell (The Wire) and Peter Stormare (8MM) co-star. Next up, Alien Outpost takes place in the years following the near invasion of Earth by a race of aliens known as the Heavies.  With a series of bases established around the globe to ward off future attacks, a documentary crew captures the daily life of soldiers stationed in Outpost 37, the deadliest on Earth.  But when a catastrophic ambush occurs and a soldier goes missing, the understaffed squad attempt to rescue him only to discover a bigger threat at large. 

    Kicking off with intimidating probation officer Stokes (Stormare) installing a house arrest band, 17-year-old Daniel Williamson (Gilchrist) is forbidden from accessing social media or the internet following his cyber invasion of introverted classmate Mona (Phipps).  With his mother away on business, Daniel struggles with his urge to reach out to his victim only to regrettably accept an unexpected video call from her.  Shocked by what he has witnessed, Daniel is consumed with guilt, medicating his pain with alcohol and meds to no avail.  Comforted by his friends Abby (Maeve) and Kevin (Harrell), Daniel begins experiencing nightmarish images of Mona convincing him that supernatural forces are at play.  The more time spent in his own personal prison, Daniel begins to lose focus of reality, leaning on his friends to help him combat the ghostly presence that is after him.  Similar and even referenced by the film’s characters to Disturbia, Dark Summer takes the claustrophobic tone of the latter and melds it with a uniquely conceived contemporary ghost story.  Slow-building and capturing genuine moments of dread, Director Paul Solet’s followup to Grace introduces sound performances from its young stars and a brief but, effective appearance from veteran actor Peter Stormare.  While the film would have benefited by toying with the psychology of Daniel’s mental state more before revealing a true apparition at the helm, Dark Summer ultimately muddles itself with one too many supernatural explanations by its final act.  With infatuation spells, possession and more thrown at the viewer in the film’s fleeting moments, Dark Summer loses the mysterious aura established early on, chalking the film up to only mediocre levels.

    Following Earth’s invasion of the extraterrestrials known as the Heavies in 2021, Alien Outpost transitions to 2033 where a documentary crew are recording the lives of soldiers stationed at Outpost 37.  Originally created to safeguard the planet from remaining Heavies, the years following the First Earth War have led to many outposts being discontinued and less than adequately staffed.  Positioned in the humid Middle East, Outpost 37 remains the most dangerous base with enemy attacks and upheavals from locals on a daily basis.  Juxtaposing from the documentary footage and retrospective interviews with the surviving soldiers, Alien Outpost takes noticeable cues of alien activity set against the backdrop of realistic war zones from 2009’s District 9.  After one of their own is kidnapped following combat, the remaining soldiers attempt to retrieve him only to discover the second coming of the Heavies is on the horizon.  Battling brainwashed locals and losing more soldiers as their unsanctioned rescue mission continues, the troops of Outpost 37 are Earth’s only hope at survival.  From the visual effects realm of Game of Thrones, Director Jabbar Raisani’s feature-length debut demonstrates impressive effects sequences on a limited budget that arguably rivals most Hollywood blockbusters.  Unfortunately, the film’s premise feels far too generic and reminiscent of Director Neil Blomkamp’s recent sci-fi efforts while, the bloated and underdeveloped cast does little to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.  In addition, the uniquely designed Heavies give the film mild hope at redemption only to disappoint with their seldom seen appearances.  Attempting to blend the shaky-camera perspective of Cloverfield with high-stakes military action, Alien Outpost fails to make its landing count.    

    Presented with a 1080p transfer and sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Dark Summer is a product of the digital age projecting an image free of any dirt or debris.  Skin tones are mostly pleasing with suitable detail captured in closeups.  While muddier appearances are evident in swooping camera movements, black levels are encouraging with inky levels in the film’s more dimly lit sequences.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Dark Summer’s quiet soundscape is well preserved with dialogue levels crisp and authoritative while, the ambiance of crickets and ghostly sound effects are delicately placed for the proper effect.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 has also been provided.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Paul Solet, a Director Paul Solet Featurette (2:15), A Conversation with Peter Stormare (15:52), The Kids - Cast Interviews (2:04), Atmosphere and Style Featurette (1:57), The Art of Dark Summer (13:38), The Music of Dark Summer (8:37) and a Theatrical Trailer (1:58).

    Alien Outpost arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Also shot digitally, this contemporary sci-fi effort exudes sharp detail and healthy contrast with strong black levels, evident in the film’s many interview sequences, projecting a welcomingly inky appearance.  While the constant handheld cinematography may overstay its welcome to some, the occasional digital hiccups during heavier movement are intentional and not a flaw in the transfer.  For such a rapidly moving film, Alien Outpost’s presentation is still a crowdpleaser.  Joined by an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, the film delivers exceptional dialogue levels with no distortion heard.  In addition, the film’s combat sequences of explosives, machine guns and other heavy artillery give the mix a run for its money that will leave listeners impressed with its efforts.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  Bonus contents include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jabbar Raisani and Director of Photography/Co-Writer Blake Clifton, Interviews with Cast and Crew (16:23), Deleted Scenes (3:22), two Theatrical Trailers (3:40) and a Reversible Cover Art.

    In the wake of their well-received release of IFC Midnight’s The Babadook, Scream Factory continues their partnership with two recent servings of haunts and alien invaders.  While Dark Summer has slightly more to offer with an intriguing buildup that only loses composure in its final act, Alien Outpost is an utter disappointment that fails to deliver characters worth caring for and a premise too closely compared to other contemporary science fiction features.  Considering their age and digitally shot roots, both films arrive with A/V treatments that range from solid to downright outstanding with a decent spread of special features to explore.  Overall, Dark Summer and Alien Outpost are both competently conceived films but, many of their ideas and executions fail to hit their mark.

    Dark Summer RATING: 3/5

    Alien Outpost RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Dark Summer and Alien Outpost can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Robot Jox (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Robot Jox (1990)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson, Paul Koslo, Danny Kamekona & Michael Alldredge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dolls), Robot Jox takes place in a futuristic world where wars are outlawed and international differences are settled via human-controlled robot battles.  When a catastrophic disaster strikes an integral match, the undefeated warrior Achilles (Gary Graham, Alien Nation) must decide to either retire or face off against his reckless nemesis Alexander (Paul Koslo, The Omega Man) once more.  Anne-Marie Johnson (In the Heat of the Night), Danny Kamekona (The Karate Kid, Part II) and Michael Alldredge (The Entity) co-star.

    Continuing their successful working relationship, Director Stuart Gordon and Charles Band’s Empire Pictures would seek to recapture the Kaiju entertainment of yesteryear with their post-apocalyptic tale of giant robots.  Years after a nuclear holocaust decimates the planet, war has been ostracized with international disputes settled via bot vs. bot battles.  With fan favorite pilot Achilles (Graham) embarking on his final fight against Alexander (Koslo), tensions are running high to maintain control of Alaska.  Supported by the guidance of Dr. Matsumoto (Kamekona) and mentor Tex Conway (Alldredge), Achilles heroically attempts to protect civilians from a missile only for his robot to topple and crush hundreds.  Overwhelmed with guilt and the judges ordering a rematch, Achilles finds no reason to continue his career as a robot jox.  When the genetically created Athena (Johnson) is selected as Achilles’ replacement, a web of conspiracy and betrayal is exposed prompting Achilles to redeem himself and defeat Alexander once and for all.  Deemed the most expensive film produced by Empire Pictures, Robot Jox ultimately suffers from an unstable tone that can never decide what it wants to be.  Unsurprisingly, Director Stuart Gordon and Writer Joe Haldeman consistently clashed over the film’s direction resulting in a mishmash of kid-friendly shenanigans and overly serious moments.  While the stop-motion techniques used to create the robot battles are engaging, they are far and few between to keep interest afloat.  Wrapping production in 1987, Robot Jox would gather dust as Empire Pictures confronted bankruptcy woes before being released to unfavorable notices and disappointing box-office returns in 1990.  Developing a minor cult following in the years since its release, Robot Jox is a bland effort that greatly pales in comparison to Gordon’s Lovecraftian excursions.

    Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory presents Robot Jox with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a filmic appearance, minor flakes and speckles are not uncommon while skin tones are warm and lifelike.  Understandably, the robot battle sequences project a slightly softer focus with bright colors found in the robot jox’s red uniforms popping beautifully.  Nicely detailed and natural looking, Robot Jox has never looked better on home video.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue is audible if not slightly underwhelming at times while the clashing of metal and laser blasts give more depth to their battle sequences.  Serviceable but far from stupendous, Robot Jox sounds as good as can be expected.  Meanwhile, special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon plus, a new Audio Commentary with Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry, Mechanical Effects Artist Mark Rapport and Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel.  In addition, A Look Back at Robot Jox with Paul Koslo (10:14) finds the film’s antagonist reminiscing about the experience and his co-stars while, Archival Interviews with Director Stuart Gordon (7:27), Pyrotechnic Supervisor Joe Viskocil (7:57), Associate Effects Director Paul Gentry (7:14), Stop-Motion Animator Paul Jessel (7:48), Animation & Visual Effects’ Chris Endicott & Mark McGee (9:29) are also included.  Lastly, Behind the Scenes Footage (14:16), a Theatrical Trailer (1:25), TV Spot (0:31), Still Galleries for On Location (7:00) and Illustrations (3:40) plus, a Reversible Cover Art round out the generous supplements.

    Well intended but, falling short of expectations, Robot Jox suffers from a scatterbrained tone and minimal robot battles that regrettably only bookend the film.  While Director Stuart Gordon’s futuristic opus of robowars has its admirers, Robot Jox remains one of his weakest efforts.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presents the film with an excellent transfer, adequate sound and a sizable assortment of new and vintage special features for this non-Collector’s Edition release.  Although meant to battle to the death, Robot Jox ends in a draw with its film disappointing but, its presentation satisfying.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) / The New Barbarians (1983) / Escape from the Bronx (1983)

    Director: Enzo G. Castellari

    Starring: Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory & Stefania Girolami / Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman, Anna Kakis & Giovanni Frezza / Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D’Obici, Timothy Brent & Antonio Sabato

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blue Underground braces viewers for three doses of post apocalyptic devastation and motorcycle street gangs, Italian style!  First up, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the no man’s land of the Bronx circa 1990 where attempts at law and order have been eliminated.  When a wealthy woman from Manhattan escapes into the wasteland, her corrupt father hires a trained mercenary to recover her.  Unfortunately for the cities corporate brass, gang leader Trash unites rival street dwellers to wage war in order to protect their turf.  Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie), Christopher Connelly (Manhattan Baby), Fred Williamson (Hammer), Mark Gregory (Thunder) and Stefania Girolami (The Last Shark) star.  Next up, set in the year 2019, The New Barbarians takes place in the aftermath of nuclear devastation where the brutal Templars and their leader One rule with an iron fist.  When the lone warrior Scorpion rescues the gorgeous Alma from their grasp, Scorpion joins forces with the tactical Nadir and a struggling group of survivors to battle their evil oppressors.  Giancarlo Prete (Street Law), Fred Williamson (The Legend of Nigger Charley), George Eastman (Stagefright), Anna Kakis (2019: After the Fall of New York) and Giovanni Frezza (The House by the Cemetery) star.  Finally, continuing the exploits of Bronx Warrior Trash (Mark Gregory), Escape from the Bronx takes place in the year 2000 where a wealthy corporation seeks to bulldoze the entire borough to create an upscale community.  Sending death squads to clear out the remaining inhabitants, Trash and fellow gang members refuse to go out without a fight.  Henry Silva (Trapped), Valeria D’Obici (Midnight Killer), Timothy Brent (Ladyhawke) and Antonio Sabato (Grand Prix) co-star.      

    Reminiscent of 1979’s The Warriors, 1990: The Bronx Warriors takes place in the gang-infested wasteland of the Bronx where police presence and public safety is nothing but a memory.  When the wealthy and attractive Ann (Girolami) travels to the dangerous area to escape her Manhattan existence, she quickly falls for sympathetic gang leader Trash (Gregory).  Heiress to the family’s powerful company, her corrupt father hires ruthless mercenary Hammer (Morrow) to retrieve her only to be met with resistance from the Bronx’s motorcycle riding deviants.  Shot on location in the increasingly dangerous borough, 1990: The Bronx Warriors comes loaded with top-notch production value from a grittier New York that no longer exists.  Action is a plenty when Ann is captured by the rival Zombies gang, prompting Trash and his loyal Riders to risk life and limb trekking across their danger zone.  Seeking assistance from the King of the Bronx himself, The Ogre (Williamson), Trash and his companions battle countless goofy gang members from tunnel dwelling freakazoids to glitter-faced baton twirlers with hand to hand combat and deadly spears.  As Hammer simultaneously infiltrates the Bronx with blowtorch equipped troops, alliances are compromised amongst Trash and his friends leading to an explosive conclusion with the ruthless Hammer receiving a gloriously pointy demise.  An excellent product of gang war wastelands protecting their turf from the man, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is action-fueled spaghetti cinema at its finest.

    Also known as Warriors of the Wasteland, The New Barbarians rides high on the post-apocalyptic success of 1981’s The Road Warrior.  Following a similar plot line, this Italian production once again realized by Director Enzo G. Castellari (Light Blast) takes place in the not too distant future of 2019 where nuclear devastation has eliminated virtually all life.  Predominately populated by the book hating, totalitarian warriors The Templars and their leader One (Eastman), innocent civilians starve and fear for their lives.  Unapologetic in his disdain for the ruthless gang, lone warrior Scorpion (Prete) rescues the beautiful Alma (Kanakis) from them, determined to find permanent salvation for her.  Shot on location in Rome, The New Barbarians injects an added production value of futuristic vehicles and laughable space age costumes matched with a funky, synth-heavy score courtesy of Claudio Simonetti (Demons) of Goblin fame.  Although teaming up with ace marksman Nadir (Williamson) to protect a group of innocent survivors and Alma, Scorpion suffers the wrath of The Templars by being captured and unexpectedly raped by the skunk-haired One before retaliating full force.  While explosive car stunts impress with plenty of decapitated heads and impaled torsos, The New Barbarians falls somewhere in the middle of mediocrity during a time where Mad Max ripoffs were reaching their maximum.  With plenty of fun to still be had and Williamson stealing scenes with his amusing performance, The New Barbarians entertains but, oftentimes sticks too close to formula to stand on its own merits.

    Following the events of 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx takes place a decade into the future where the neglected borough has continued to rot into further decay.  Former leader of The Riders, Trash (Gregory) is now a respected loner who is once again pulled back into the fire following the murder of his parents by a mega-corporation.  Hellbent on exercising the existing Bronx in order to make way for an idyllic community, the General Construction Corporation send in countless death squads, headed by the savage Floyd Wangler (Silva), to exterminate any remaining occupants.  Joining forces with hometown reporter Moon Gray (Dobson), underground dweller Strike (Brent) and his young son Junior (Alessandro Prete, Ironmaster), the trio rally the support of fellow gangs to fight off the man once again.  Bursting with action and featuring nearly 200 casualties, Escape from the Bronx is a no holds barred followup that manages to bring the Bronx to an even more rubbled state.  With the exception of Henry Silva’s excellent appearance and Timothy Brent’s Strike bludgeoning a villain with the butt of a shotgun, the sequel lacks more memorable supporting characters to compliment Trash’s war against corporate tycoons.  Shot on location in the Bronx and Rome, Escape from the Bronx, under its alternate Escape 2000 title, was lovingly roasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its seventh season awarding it even more cult acclaim.  While falling slightly shorter than its originator, Escape from the Bronx will ultimately leave action buffs raging with testosterone at the sheer volume of over the top fatalities and nonstop explosions.

    Newly transferred in high-definition, Blue Underground presents all three films with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios.  With all films appearing free of any prominent scratches or scruffs, skin tones look pleasing and non waxy with respectable detail on display.  While not entirely free of digital noise, instances of pixelation can be spotted most prominently in the backgrounds of dilapidated buildings seen in 1990: The Bronx Warriors.  Fortunately, these issues are far from deal breaking and are still a vast improvement over their standard definition predecessors.  Colors spotted in flashier costume choices and gore pop nicely offering solid contrast to the bland and desolate environments of the films.  In addition, black levels during the films’ underground sequences can often appear murky and lacking inkier levels.  Admittedly, the transfers do have their shortcomings but, the effort to deliver upgraded products is equally evident with their lush colors and noticeably cleaner appearances leaving expectant fans generally pleased with the results.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is always robust and clear without a trace of hiss or distortion.  Each film’s respective score along with sequences of intense gunfire, laser blasts and fiery explosions emerge from the speakers with noticeable authority that is well balanced throughout.  Bestowed with Collector’s Edition banners, each film arrives with a plethora of exciting bonus content with 1990: The Bronx Warriors including, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 1 (14:09), Sourcing the Weaponry (11:55) where Castellari guides us through the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci and Adventures in the Bronx (7:20) with Stuntmen Massimo Vanni interviewed about his experiences on the film.  In addition, Theatrical Trailers including, the International Trailer (2:42), Italian Trailer (2:41), Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25) are also provided with a Poster & Still Gallery (100 in total) and a DVD edition of the release rounding out the supplemental package.  Next up, The New Barbarians arrives with an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2 (13:55), Tales of the Hammer (20:22) with Star Fred Williamson offering a fascinating career retrospective that stands as the disc’s standout feature.  Also included are Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:25), Italian Trailer #1 (3:26), Italian Trailer #2 (1:58), 1990: The Bronx Warriors Trailer (2:42) and Escape from the Bronx Trailer (3:15).  Finally, a Poster & Still Gallery (97 in total) and a DVD edition of the release conclude the bonus offerings.  Lastly, Escape from the Bronx includes, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari, Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 (13:16), The Hunt for Trash (12:42) with Bronx Warriors Superfan Lance Lanley sharing his passion and enthusiasm for the films along with Theatrical Trailers for the International Trailer (3:15), Italian Trailer (3:15), 1990: The Bronx Warriors (2:42) and The New Barbarians Trailer (3:25).  A Poster & Still Gallery (77 in total) and a DVD edition of the release are also included.  

    Submerging viewers with a trinity of post-apocalyptic warfare and urban gang battles, Blue Underground ensures an action-packed serving of spaghetti cinema for cult enthusiasts.  While 1990: The Bronx Warriors is the fan favorite of the three, The New Barbarians still offers a fun dose of futuristic goofiness with Escape from the Bronx assaulting viewers with endless action.  Newly transferred in high-definition, each film makes earnest strides, with a few warts along the way, in delivering noticeable upgrades from their past releases.  With impressive remastered mixes and brand new, quality bonus features, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx make their Blu-ray debuts with a thundering crash, ready to wage war on your cult library!

    1990: The Bronx Warriors RATING: 4/5

    The New Barbarians RATING: 3.5/5

    Escape from the Bronx RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977) Blu-ray Review

    The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)

    Director: Don Taylor

    Starring: Burt Lancaster, Michael York, Nigel Davenport, Barbara Carrera & Richard Basehart

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, The Island of Dr. Moreau finds Andrew Braddock (Michael York, Logan’s Run), the sole survivor of a shipwreck, finally discovering land after an extended period at sea.  Home to the brilliant but, mad Dr. Moreau (Burt Lancaster, The Train), Braddock begins fearing for his life when Moreau’s experiments of animalistic monstrosities become evident.  Nigel Davenport (Chariots of Fire), Barbara Carrera (Embryo) and Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) co-star.

    Continuing their output of H.G. Wells adaptations following 1976’s The Food of the Gods, American International Pictures would bring to life one of the author’s most noted stories.  Drifting at sea for days, Andrew Braddock (York) finds salvation after discovering an exotic tropical island.  Home and base of genetic experimentations for Dr. Moreau (Lancaster), Braddock turns fearful when Moreau’s god complex of turning wild animals into humans is revealed.  Developing an attraction for the island’s gorgeous Maria (Carrera), Braddock is determined to escape the wrath of Moreau’s bizarre surgeries before he becomes his next target.  Lacking the tense tone of its previous film adaptation, 1932’s Island of Lost Souls, The Island of Dr. Moreau still delivers with lavish scenery, shot on location in The Virgin Islands and the effective casting of Burt Lancaster as the twisted Dr. Moreau.  Displaying an array of wild animals including, lions, tigers, bears and panthers, Director Don Taylor’s (Damien: Omen II) sci-fi oddity packs its most memorable punch with memorable make-up designs courtesy of John Chambers (Planet of the Apes).  With respectable performances from York and Davenport, appearing as Moreau’s assistant Montgomery who develops a conscience only to pay heavily for it, The Island of Dr. Moreau may not tower the effect of its predecessor but, still delivers as a mildly entertaining mad scientist effort with the star power and modern day movie magic to justify its merit.  

    Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, The Island of Dr. Moreau maintains its share of softness while, colors generally please with skin tones reading naturally.  Detail is most respectable in facial close-ups and the impressive make-up designs of the island’s monstrous creatures.  In addition, black levels appear decently with only mild instances of noise on display.  With its elements in decent shape, The Island of Dr. Moreau makes an acceptable leap to high-definition.  Meanwhile, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix provides clear dialogue levels with hiss or static a nonissue.  Instances of stronger sound effects ranging from gunshots and thunder impress if not, ringing too sharply at times.  Other island ambiance and growling animal noises are also balanced effectively.  Special features include, an Extended Trailer (5:51), Original Theatrical Trailer (2:13) and a Deleted Final Image only included on the network television airing of the film.

    Boasting an impressive performance from Burt Lancaster as the demented Dr. Moreau and top-notch make-up work, The Island of Dr. Moreau slightly suffers from a lack of tension that was so well utilized in its 1932 counterpart.  Missteps aside, Director Don Taylor’s retelling makes serviceable strides in capturing a tone true to Wells’ spirit.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents this jungle nightmare with a pleasing transfer sans mild age-related issues that should satisfy audiences all the same.  Fans of Wells’ timeless tales and American International Pictures’ drive-in opuses will find their fair share of charm in this science fiction shocker.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 23rd from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Island of Dr. Moreau can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Tentacles (1977) / Reptilicus (1962) Blu-ray Review

    Tentacles (1977) / Reptilicus (1962)

    Director(s): Ovidio G. Assonitis / Sidney Pink

    Starring: John Huston, Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins & Henry Fonda / Asbjørn Andersen, Carl Ottosen, Ann Smyrner & Mimi Heinrich

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, submerges viewers into a terrifying creature double feature of sea monsters and prehistoric catastrophe.  Starring an ensemble cast including John Huston (The African Queen), Shelley Winters (The Night of the Hunter), Bo Hopkins (Midnight Express) and Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men), Tentacles takes place on a small beach town where a giant killer octopus has wrapped its deadly grip.  Next up, Reptilicus focuses on a team of copper miners who uncover the tail of a prehistoric creature.  When scientists are brought in to research the specimen, the creature regenerates back to life to wreck havoc on Denmark.   

    Riding the coattails of Director Steven Spielberg’s seaside shocker, this Italian production, shot on the sunny California shores makes great strides in delivering a suspenseful B-movie counterpart.  Set on the tourist resort of Ocean Beach, Tentacles finds the sleepy community in danger when an enormous octopus begins claiming victims and sucking their skin dry.  With his suspicions raised, veteran reporter Ned Turner (Huston) suspects the construction of the Trojan company’s underwater tunnel to blame, much to the dismay of owner Mr. Whitehead (Fonda).  Combining efforts, Turner and Marine Biologist Will Gleason (Hopkins) discover irregular levels of radio signals as the cause for the octopus‘ deadly behavior.  Under the direction of Ovidio G. Assonitis (using the pseudonym Oliver Hellman), Tentacles surprises with its ability to weave a tense tale while, restraining its monster’s screen time to great effect.  Headlined by an all-star cast, this blatant foreign ripoff is a well-acted affair providing likable characters the audiences grow to care for.  With a tense yacht race pitting children in peril and a final standoff between Gleason and his trained killer whales against the mammoth octopus, Tentacles  makes a splash as one of the best Jaws imitators of its time.

    Infamously known as Denmark’s first and only monster film, Reptilicus was concocted as a Danish-American production that U.S. distributor American International Pictures found unreleasable at the time of its completion.  Resulting in a lawsuit with U.S. Director Sidney Pink (Journey to the Seventh Planet) that was later dropped, Reptilicus stands as a forgettable slice of drive-in junk food.  After the remains of a lizard-like tail are sent to Copenhagen for scientific research, the tail begins to rapidly regenerate forming a full-sized reptilian dinosaur.  As chaos ensues across the country, scientists and the military band together to destroy the colossal creature.  Following the simple yet, entertaining formula of giant monster flicks, Reptilicus suffers from a painfully wooden cast and a hilariously awful looking monster.  Cheaply produced and displaying dreadful optical effects including, a farmer being swallowed by the enormous monster, Reptilicus has few redeeming qualities outside of its campy production values and genius plan to lay the beast to rest with a powerful sedative.        

    Scream Factory presents Tentacles with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of scant scratches, the film shines in high-definition with prominent colors resulting in lush scenery and warm, natural skin tones.  Detail is also admirable with underwater sequences greatly impressing with their clarity.  Meanwhile, Reptilicus arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Struck from a new HD master, the schlocky monster flick has never looked better.  With the exception of increased scratches during optical effects sequences, Reptilicus awards viewers with bolder colors and appreciated detail lacking in previous home video releases.  Both films come equipped with LPCM 2.0 mixes that project dialogue clearly while music and moments of military gunfire and oceanside screams offer added boosts in quality.  In the special features department, Tentacles arrives with its Theatrical Trailer (1:01), a Photo Gallery (2:01) and Radio Spot (0:58) while, Reptilicus is also joined with its own Theatrical Trailer (1:58), Photo Gallery (2:41) and Radio Spot (1:00).

    Inviting viewers to spine-tingling avenues where multi-legged and prehistoric monsters reside, Scream Factory provides likeminded fans with a complimentary coupling of creature features.  While Tentacles reigns supreme as one of the better Jaws cash-grabs, Reptilicus suffers from an unexciting cast and abysmal effects that simultaneously lend the film its only charm.  Arriving with minimal features, both films have made highly beneficial leaps to HD looking better than ever.  Craving to capture Saturday night B-movie thrills, Scream Factory’s latest double feature is just the solution.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 16th from Scream Factory, Tentacles / Reptilicus can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) Deluxe Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Giant Spider Invasion (1975)

    Director: Bill Rebane

    Starring: Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Robert Easton, Leslie Parrish & Alan Hale Jr.

    Released by: VCI Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Becoming one of the top money grossers of 1975, The Giant Spider Invasion takes place in the rural community of Merrill, Wisconsin where an abrupt black hole appears, ushering in a swarm of giant deadly spiders.  As scientists struggle for a solution, the local population falls victim to the outer space monsters.  Steve Brodie (Out of the Past), Barbara Hale (Perry Mason), Robert Easton (Needful Things), Leslie Parrish (The Devil’s 8) and Alan Hale Jr. (Gilligan’s Island) co-star.

    An ode to the sci-fi efforts of the 50s, The Giant Spider Invasion does little to improve on the low-budget production values set forth by its inspirations while, simultaneously retaining their cheesy charm.  Headlined by a surprisingly memorable cast despite the film’s campy nature, Director Bill Rebane’s (Blood Harvest) Wisconsin shot effort tends to press the viewers’ patience with the increased dramatics of a redneck family resulting in a Z-grade interpretation of The Last Picture Show.  Not soon enough, a meteorite-like explosion takes place on their farmland opening a black hole for eight-legged monsters to wreck havoc on Earth.  As the film’s scientific minds, Dr. Jenny Langer (Hale) and Dr. J.R. Vance (Brodie), are called into the area to better understand questionable data, a drawn out exposition of scientific mumbo jumbo ensues.  Although more desirable spider-centric sequences are withheld until its climax, The Giant Spider Invasion passes time with an enjoyable appearance from Alan Hale Jr. as the town sheriff.  Mainly restrained to his office fielding phone calls, Hale Jr. appears to be having a fun time that is undeniably infectious.  At long last, the hairy-legged critters make their full blown appearance that lives up to their ridiculousness.  Crafted by covering a Volkswagen beetle with fur and mechanical legs, the queen spider is a hilarious concoction that quickly washes away the film’s previous attempts at yawn-inducing NASA explanations and forgettable character development.  Affectionately roasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Giant Spider Invasion is by all accounts, not the poster child for higher art but, instead a glorious staple of B-movie mayhem that remarkably laughed its way to the bank.

    Celebrating the film’s 40th anniversary, VCI Entertainment presents The Giant Spider Invasion with a 1080p transfer and preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relatively soft at times with instances of vertical lines on display, the transfer still manages to relay strong colors and moderately warm skin tones.  Shot cheaply, black levels fall on the muddier side but still worlds above previous releases that made visibility near impossible.  Considering its low-budget and less than stellar home video releases, VCI Entertainment has done an admirable job on this drive-in throwback.  Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clean and free from distortion making the film’s listening experience a pleasant one.  Containing a tremendous cobweb of supplements, special features include, Daniel Griffith’s informative and well edited Size Does Matter!  Making The Giant Spider Invasion (15:20).  In this Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featurette, Director/Producer Bill Rebane sits down to trace his early beginnings in the industry before climbing into the director’s chair.  Also included, a re-edited Super-8 HD Version (30:17), a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (14:32) and the Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (8:14).  Found on the release’s DVD, Archival Interviews with Director Bill Rebane, Members of the Cast & Crew and TV News Reports (2:13:09!), Archival Interviews with Actor Robert Easton (17:00), Kevin Murphy & Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Introduce Bill Rebane (7:06), a worn but nostalgic Super-8 Version of the film (28:25) and an Archival Newsreel - Bill Rebane on the Set of Rana (7:36).  Finally, a bonus CD containing 14 tracks from the forth-coming stage play of The Giant Spider Invasion - The Musical, a Mini The Great Spider Invasion Collectible Comic and Liner Notes by Tom Stockman of WeAreMovieGeeks.com round out the nearly endless bonus features.

    Hailed as a film “so bad, it’s good”, The Giant Spider Invasion is a well-intentioned crash course in campiness.  Achieved on a shoestring budget and starring a web of notable character actors, Director Bill Rebane’s giant-monster opus is a hilarious love letter to the 50s that will leave viewers doused in cheese.  VCI Entertainment celebrates this schlockterpiece’s 40th anniversary with its finest home video release to date and a glut of bonus features that will leave fans caught in its web for an extended time period.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from VCI Entertainment, The Giant Spider Invasion can be purchased exclusively through VCIEntertainment.com.

  • The Land That Time Forgot (1975) Blu-ray Review

    The Land that Time Forgot (1975)

    Director: Kevin Connor

    Starring: Doug McClure, John McEnery & Susan Penhaligon

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Based on the story written by fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land that Time Forgot is the first of four movies that were produced by John Dark, directed by Kevin Connor and starred Doug McClure.  Each film’s main theme was traveling to lost continents with others to discover new races of people, dinosaurs and other giant monsters.  The other three movies are At the Earth’s Core, The People That Time Forgot and Warlords of Atlantis.  Each of the other films, save for Warlords of Atlantis, were offerings from Amicus Productions who had been known for horror anthologies such as Tales from the Crypt, From Beyond the Grave and Dr. Terrors House of Horrors.  Beginning with the Amicus/AIP co-production, The Land That Time Forgot, Amicus’ main focus was to have films that included giant prehistoric monsters. 

    The setting for The Land That Time Forgot takes place during World War I, where a German U boat, commanded by Captain Von Schoenvorts, played by John McEnery torpedoes and sinks a ship.  Among the survivors are Doug McClure as Bowen Tyler, scientist Lisa Clayton (played by Susan Penhaligon) and a few British officers.  The German U boat goes off course and continues to drift onward for at least several weeks until they land on a lost continent called Caprona.  When the submarine emerges from underwater, they are welcomed by a Plesiosaur and other aquatic dinosaurs.  Once on land, the cast struggles to survive, trying to avoid being a tasty treat for the dinosaurs including an Allosaurus, Styracosaurus and Pteroldactyl.  In what was probably a nod to an earlier dinosaur thriller, One Million Years BC, we get a fierce fight between a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  As with all films with dinosaurs, there are some cavemen which also cause trouble for the crew until the climax when a volcano erupts, threatening all life on Caprona. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is co-presented by Kino Lorber Studio Classics and Scorpion Releasing (who produced the extras) and the results are excellent.  The film has never looked better on home video.  In its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this is a beautiful 1080p AVC coded release.  Colors are vivid with excellent contrast and great details during the daylight scenes.  In addition, black levels are spot on while the grain structure is also really strong.  The resolution is so good that it actually spoils some of the special effects work!  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the audio quality is excellent with all the dinosaur roars loud and clear.  While there is not a ton of extras on the disc, what we do get is really outstanding.  This is where quality of the bonus material outshines the quantity.  We are treated to an Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Connor, a making of featurette that is over 10 minutes long, plus the original trailer. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is a great, entertaining fantasy adventure-filled movie that eventually led to a sequel, The People That Time Forgot, also starring the late Doug McClure.  A well-known actor who went on to star in a few horror movies, such as Humanoids from the Deep and later on several television shows and sitcoms, McClure would ultimately pass away in 1995 at the age of 59 due to lung cancer.

    The dinosaur effects in The Land That Time Forgot consisting of puppets and mockup models are hit or miss with the more realistic creatures being the Triceratops and Styracosaurus.  Others such as the Plesiosaur (well the neck of it anyway), the odd shaped wobbly Allosaurs and Pterodactyls on visible wires are less than convincing, but that’s what gives these films their charm.

    In The Land That Time Forgot, we get another fun fantasy film from the seventies. While the effects work for the film is just average, it is a commendable effort considering there was no CGI effects during that time.  It took a lot of work and craftsmanship to bring forth movies such as this.  The Blu-ray is just a fantastic release with few but impressive extras and great audio and video quality to boot, this movie was an instant day one purchase that comes highly recommended!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available June 16th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Land That Time Forgot can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Blu-ray Review

    X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt & Don Rickles

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Director Roger Corman (Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace) sets his shocking sights on X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, starring Academy Award winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) as Dr. Xavier.  In an attempt to improve human eyesight, the daring doctor concocts a formula for X-ray vision.  Impressed with his achievement but ignored by his peers, Xavier successfully tests the experimental drug on himself before aftereffects of terror emerge.  Diana Van der Vlis (The Swimmer), Harold J. Stone (The Wrong Man), John Hoyt (Gimme a Break!) and Don Rickles (Toy Story) co-star.

    In arguably one of Corman’s most profound efforts of the 1960s, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was unsurprisingly produced quickly and cheaply while supporting impressive, if not dated, visual effects.  Following their collaboration on 1962‘s The Premature Burial, Ray Milland headlines as the curious Dr. Xavier, determined to see beyond normal human standards.  Discovering a formula for X-ray vision and finding little support from his fellow professionals, Xavier chooses to experiment on himself.  After witnessing humorous situations of party guests booging in their birthday suits, Xavier’s abilities begin to waver forcing the doctor to unwisely increase his dosage.  After a moment of pressure costs a colleagues life, Xavier evades law enforcement by joining the ranks as a sideshow performer.  Comedy legend Don Rickles co-stars as a seedy carnival barker who realizes Xavier’s true powers and greedily uses them to his advantage.  In addition, Corman camp regular Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) makes a brief appearance as an obnoxious audience member convinced Xavier’s powers are a ruse until proven wrong.  With his vision and sanity on the brink, Xavier’s loyal and beautiful assistant, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis), attempts to ease his situation to no avail.  Offering little hope, Xavier sees into a future of dark despair before leading to a startlingly grim finale with staying power.

    Scripted by Robert Dillion (The Old Dark House) and Ray Russell (Zotz!) respectively, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was originally released as a supporting feature with American International Pictures’ Dementia 13.  Ray Milland commands the picture with his performance of a rebellious doctor overtaken by his own experiment.  In addition, Don Rickles shines in one of his better roles as the villainous carnival barker while, Diana Van der Vlis is competent, if not forgettable, as Xavier’s assistant and suggested love interest.  Delivering a noted sci-fi shocker for its time, Director Roger Corman’s tightly paced story and visual guidance allows X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to stand the test of time with a terrifying ending of despair.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting healthy, natural grain levels, mild instances of flakes and speckles are on display while skin tones are nicely detailed and colors, most noticeably in wardrobe and Xavier’s POV sequences, pop accordingly.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfactory with no intruding signs of distortion and Composer Les Baxter’s score relayed effectively.  Special features are a plenty with an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman, Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Terror Vision!: Joe Dante on X (6:07) finds Corman protégé Dante offering his first encounter with the X-ray thriller and his encyclopedic film knowledge on the film’s lasting impact.  In addition, a Rare Prologue (4:59), Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris (2:34) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) round out the disc’s impressive supplemental package.

    Suspenseful and still shocking, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes offers a glimpse into a doctor consumed by his own nightmarish creation.  Ray Milland steers the picture wonderfully with a strong supporting cast, highlighted by Rickles‘ delightfully unsavory performance.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman gem like gold with a vastly improved video transfer and appreciable special features that shine a well-deserved light on this quality sci-fi effort.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 12th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • First Men in the Moon (1964) Blu-ray Review

    First Men in the Moon (1964)

    Directed by: Nathan Juran

    Starring: Edward Judd, Martha Hyer & Lionel Jeffries

    Released by: Twilight Time

     

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    One of many classic science fiction and fantasy films from creative special effects genius Ray Harryhausen, First Men in the Moon is a wonderful tale set amongst the stars!  Told through flashbacks, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) tells the story of how he along with girlfriend Kate Callender (Martha Hyer) and inventor Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) were actually the first visitors to the moon as opposed to a crew of multi-national astronauts that have just landed. Juxtaposing to 1899, giving the film a Victorian Era atmosphere, Joseph Cavor has developed a paste like substance called cavorite, which he claims counters gravity.  Covering their spherical vessel in the substance, the three then travel to the moon.  While there they discover that they are not alone.  A race of ant-like looking creatures named the Selenites led by the Grand Lunar and Mooncalves, large catepillar-like monsters, reside on the surface as the former intends to keep the group trapped unless Bedford can devise an escape.

    First Men in the Moon was made during a wave of other science fiction hitting the box-office at the time.  No matter how large or small the budget was, these were the kinds of films that were dominating theaters and provided wonderful escapism from everyday reality. This movie is another prime example of what a limited budget and great imagination can bring to the screen. For example, The Mooncalf is another brilliant creation by stop motion effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen created many outstanding creatures in his over 30-year career including, but not limited to, his contributions to 20 Million Miles to Earth and Clash of the Titans. In addition, this film is filled with an enormous amount of atmosphere due to both the settings on the moon and the Victorian Era.  Nigel Kneale, no stranger to writing classic science fiction films and television shows, was the scriptwriter for the film, based on the 1901 novel, “First Men in the Moon” written by H.G. Wells.  Meanwhile, Director Nathan Juran, responsible for such fantasy fare as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, may have arguably turned in his most thoughtful work with First Men in the Moon.  Wonderfully directed, terrifically cast and demonstrating brilliant effects, you will be hard pressed to find a better outer space saga from the era.

     

    Twilight Time has presented First Men in the Moon in such a way that I would call it the holy grail of releases.  Using a dual layered disc, and encode of MPEG4 – AVC, the picture quality of First Men in the Moon is just phenomenal.  The 1080p anamorphic widescreen, letterboxed transfer is simply beautiful, easily surpassing the DVD in every aspect of image quality.  Daylight scenes are just gorgeous and rich in color while, the black levels are strong.  Sequences on the moon and the Harryhausen special effects are all brighter and richer in color giving us the best looking presentation the film has ever had. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also excellent, especially during special effects sequences. Twilight Time has also added a great deal of wonderful extras for this release including, an Audio Commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Special Effects Artist Randall William Cook, an Isolated Music and Effects Track, an Introduction by Randall William Cook, a featurette entitled Tomorrow the Moon, the Original Theatrical Trailer, a Teaser Spot and a 6-page booklet with linear notes by Julie Kirgo.

     

    Being a fan of this movie for well over 20 years, viewing this high quality Blu-ray disc has made watching First Men in the Moon feel brand new and even more exciting. There is nothing more appealing than watching a great film that has been given an outstanding release, thanks to Twilight Time.  Fantasy film fans that are familiar with this movie will be receiving a huge treat with this Blu-ray re-release. A truly superior film and even greater home video release, First Men in the Moon is one title not to miss – highly recommended!

     

    RATING: 5/5

     

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, First Men in the Moon can be purchased via Screen Archives.

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

    Director: Henry Levin

    Starring: James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson & Thayer David

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Journey to the Center of the Earth is another grand science fiction film entrée from the 1950s, a great blending of classic actors with a movie that has many fantastical elements and monsters.  The great James Mason (North by Northwest, Odd Man Out) leads an expedition to the center of the Earth along with Pat Boone (All Hands on Deck), Arlene Dahl (Slightly Scarlet) and Peter Ronson (his only film).  On their journey they encounter both wonderful and treacherous findings along the way.

    Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (Mason), an Edinburgh science professor has stumbled upon centuries old evidence from another scientist, Arne Saknussemm, detailing a pathway located in Icelandic volcanoes leading to the center of the Earth.  Lindenbrook assembles his team, student Alec McKuen (Boone), farmhand Hans (Ronson), his duck Gertrude and Carla Goetaburg (Arlene Dahl).  Previously, Carla’s late husband Peter Goetaburg, was prepping his own expedition to the bowels of the Earth but was killed by Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) to claim the glory of his ancestor.  Continuing his tradition, the Count intends to follow the Lindenbrook expedition to the center and eventually kill them.  Once the team is assembled, they head inside the volcano to find many different exotic and dangerous areas.  Unknowingly, the group is followed by Count Saknussemm but, join alliances as they continue their treacherous journey.  Once at the bottom, the five of them nearly get eaten by a group of Dimetrodon but manage to escape to the water which then gets sucked into a whirlpool.  Landing in the lost city of Atlantis, the team discover the century-old remains of Arne Saknussemm pointing a way to get back to the top of the volcano.  With escape in sight, a giant chameleon stands in the way of the crew getting back from within the Earth. 

    Once inside the volcano, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a highly entertaining film as we follow the cast into parts unknown.  The first half of the film could be considered a drama with heavy dialogue with the inclusion of a musical number.  A very well-known singer, songwriter and entertainer, Pat Boone does such that in one scene during the film.  The last half of the film becomes pure science fiction when the cast heads down the paths inside the volcano.  While the film may be considered slow to some expecting full-blown action, the ample running time allows the film to build as the characters congregate to form their expedition.  Upon entering the volcano, we are treated to some wonderful visuals and gorgeous cinematography including lakes, a land of large mushrooms and some convincing, practically achieved prehistoric monsters.  James Mason is especially great as Lindenbrook, showing both a serious side as a Professor and his adventurous side as the explorer of a new world.  He also has some snappy dialogue with Arlene Dahl playing the widow of a man who planned his own expedition.  Reportedly, the two of did not get along very well during the making of this film and it shows in their scenes together. 

    Twilight Time has reissued Journey to the Center of the Earth using 4K technology and it’s a big winner.  The 4K restoration here is phenomenal, much improved over the first release. This is a very visually stunning encoded 1080p, 2:35:1 transfer.  The colors are even more vivid with a crisp, polished look to it and excellent contrast to boot.  In addition, the optional DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are top notch as well.  To add more icing on the cake, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Actress Diane Baker and Film Historians Steven C. Smith & Nick Redman, an Isolated Score Track, the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8-page Booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

    With a satisfying runtime, great cast and some really wonderful effects, Journey to the Center of the Earth stands out as not being just another low-budget B movie.  Rich in plot, with terrific acting, excellent cinematography, and of course, the great Dimetrodon scene for monster lovers, Journey to the Center of the Earth remains one of the better classic fantasy films of the 1950s. 

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, Journey to the Center of the Earth can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Invaders from Mars (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Invaders from Mars (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Louise Fletcher & James Karen

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Funhouse) Invaders from Mars centers on space obsessed David Gardener (Hunter Carson, Paris, Texas) who witnesses the landing of alien beings in his backyard.  As the invaders begin taking control of his parents and schoolmates, David must find a way to convince those unaffected of the truth before the entire human race is doomed.  Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses), Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), Laraine Newman (Problem Child 2), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) co-star.

    Sandwiched between his two other Cannon Films collaborations, Lifeforce and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, Director Tobe Hooper’s contemporary remake of the 1953 sci-fi favorite takes full advantage of modern movie magic while, sticking closely to its predecessors blueprints.  Once again told from a child’s point of a view, David Gardener (Carson) is startled to discover the arrival of martians over the hill from his house.  Overwhelmed with fear, David can hardly make sense of what he’s witnessed until his parents fall under the control of the invaders.  Recognizing a scar on the neck’s of those infected, David finds little help at school where his strict teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Fletcher) and fellow classmates have also fallen prey.  By chance, David finds solace in the school nurse, Linda Magnusson (played by Carson’s real-life mother, Karen Black), who finds David’s story horrifyingly true, leading the unlikely duo to seek help.  Relying on the U.S. Marines, headed by General Climet Wilson (James Karen), David and Linda find themselves in the threshold of an underground nightmare where the martians reside.  With time wearing thin and various creatures in their way, the military must use all their might to withstand a worldwide takeover.

    Relying too strongly on the original’s plot and set pieces, Invaders from Mars suffers from never reveling in its 1980s environment therefore, losing a strong sense of personal identity.  In addition, although littered with Academy Award-winning talent and cult icons,  the performances fail to leave a lasting impression on the viewer.  Produced in the heyday of special effects wizardry, Invaders from Mars excels with effective visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars) and exceptional creature designs by the late Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day).  A box-office disappointment better appreciated decades later, Invaders from Mars redresses a mediocre film while, not faring much better due to its lack of risks.  With standout special effects and inherent campiness, Invaders from Mars has its moments but, never manages to fully brainwash earthlings as one would hope.

    Scream Factory presents Invaders from Mars with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying generally warm, if not slightly soft, skin tones, Director Tobe Hooper’s sci-fi remake satisfies with bold colors in wardrobe choices and gooey detail captured in the various creature designs.  Instances of flakes and speckles occur during more dimly lit sequences including, but not limited to, David and Linda evading the martians in the school boiler room.  Generally strong looking, Invaders from Mars makes a satisfying leap to high-definition.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Invaders from Mars relays audible dialogue levels but, registers lower than anticipated prompting several increases in volume.  More climatic sequences of explosions and gunfire fare better but, never overly impress.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Accompanied with a generous supply of supplements, Scream Factory presents a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper while, Red Shirt Pictures delivers The Martians Are Coming!: The Making of Invaders of Mars (36:33) with in-depth interviews from Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Effects Artists Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale and Composer Christopher Young with Gillis and Crognale’s onset memories heavily focused on.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (1:28), TV Spot (0:32), Original Production Illustration Gallery with Commentary from Artist William Stout (14:03), Original Storyboards (4:16), Still Gallery (24 in total) and reversible cover art round out the special features.

    Intended for children but failing to capture a box-office audience, Invaders from Mars would be heavily digested on subsequent television airings and home entertainment to carve out its cult appeal.  Laced with a conscience campiness and some marvelous effects work, Director Tobe Hooper’s homage to a childhood favorite feels far too familiar to be overly praised.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stats easily trump previous releases with its assortment of special features being the disc highlight.  While it may be Hooper’s weakest entry in his unofficial Cannon Films trilogy, Invaders from Mars will most assuredly charm viewers who grew up with this B-movie effort from another planet.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 7th from Scream Factory, Invaders from Mars can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)

    Director: Giuliano Carnimeo

    Starring: Robert Iannucci, Alicia Moro, Fernando Bilbao & Luca Venantini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a post-apocalyptic future where water is the most precious substance, Exterminators of the Year 3000 focuses on a rebellious drifter who wages war against a gang of road-dwelling psychos for control of their deserted environment and its water source.  Joined by a former flame and a young child, the leather-bound warrior undergoes countless car chases and numerous shootouts to make a difference for the few survivors of nuclear fallout. Robert Iannucci (Young Doctors in Love), Alicia Moro (Edge of the Axe), Fernando Bilbao (Roots of Evil), Luciano Pigozzi (Blood and Black Lace) and Luca Venantini (City of the Living Dead) star.

    In true Italian exploitation fashion, Exterminators of the Year 3000 hardly shies from its blatant attempts to mimic George Miller’s Mad Max films.  Substituting gasoline for water, a band of underground survivors strive to locate more of the element in order to keep their peaceful community alive.  After a recovery team is murdered by a gang of road warriors led by Crazy Bull (Bilbao), a child, Tommy (Venantini), is the only survivor left with knowledge of the water source.  Scared and alone, Tommy encounters Animal (Iannucci), a fellow scavenger, who temporarily puts his selfishness aside to journey with Tommy to the mysterious location.  Dodging Crazy Bull and his ruthless gang proves difficult as violent showdowns involving, exploding car chases and Tommy’s robotic arm being ripped from his body, sidelining Animal and his young partner’s mission.  Meanwhile, Animal encounters Trash (Moro), a former flame still angered by his disappearing act on her and determined to join their hunt for water.  With dangerous threats mounting and horribly mutated creatures protecting the valued source, humanity’s last hope for survival is in question.  

    From Director Giuliano Carnimeo (The Case of the Bloody Iris) under the pseudonym Jules Harrison, Exterminators of the Year 3000 is one of many post-apocalyptic cash in attempts that closely mirrors its inspirations with little individuality.  A co-production between Italy and Spain, shot predominately in the latter, Exterminators of the Year 3000 makes the most of its desolate locations and limited budget with an, at times, laughable dub track offering plenty of unintentional hilarity.  In addition, a product of its time, the futuristic film delivers a pleasing synthesizer score with decent action set pieces that should satisfy likeminded viewers.  While, it hardly towers George Miller’s road ravaging classics nor qualifying as a total blunder, Exterminators of the Year 3000 ultimately, falls into the grey area of mediocrity as a B-movie effort with mildly fun moments that never quite reaches the status of cult iconography.

    Scream Factory debuts Exterminators of the Year 3000 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying its drab desert landscape and lacking vibrant colors, the film appears relatively soft with minimal detail in closeups.  Luckily, dirt and debris is virtually nonexistent in this otherwise clean transfer that retains its natural film grain.  Previously released on DVD in full frame, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray treatment while, although mild, is still a decent upgrade in quality that honors the film’s OAR for the first time.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Exterminators of the Year 3000 sounds relatively tame with audible dialogue levels and a rather lackluster boost during more action-orientated sequences.  Ported over from Code Red DVD’s previous release, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Actor Robert Iannucci, moderated by Code Red’s Bill Olsen, Boogie Down with the Alien: Interview with Robert Iannucci (17:43), a Trailer (3:51) and TV Spots (0:43).  

    Following in the tradition of other nuclear aftermath pictures, Exterminators of the Year 3000 does little to differentiate itself from the pack.  Complimented only by its humorous dub track and moderately engaging action sequences, Exterminators of the Year 3000 is best appreciated for laughs than its “wildly unique” concept.  With expectations kept at bay, fans of B-grade, post-apocalyptic fare will find enough in this Italian/Spanish co-production to be entertained by its satisfyingly synth score and copycat characters.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray treatment is a suitable upgrade from its past DVD release that improves by retaining the film’s original aspect ratio and porting over all previously available special features.  Cheesy yet, stunted in mediocrity, Exterminators of the Year 3000 falls somewhere in the middle of other futuristic survival films from a decade booming with them.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Available March 3rd from Scream Factory, Exterminators of the Year 3000 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com 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, Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Leviathan (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Leviathan (1989)

    Director: George P. Cosmatos

    Starring: Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Richard Creena, Daniel Stern & Ernie Hudson 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Tombstone comes an underwater exploration in terror starring a cast from all avenues of cult cinema.  Featuring special effects wizardry from master showman Stan Winston (Aliens, Predator), Leviathan submerges you deep below the ocean floor where something has gone horribly wrong.  Scream Factory, the horror off-shoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents this oceanic horror film for the first time ever on Blu-ray!

    Leviathan centers on a deep-sea crew led by Steven Beck (Peter Weller, Robocop) in search of silver and other minerals.  Upon discovering a sunken vessel, the team unknowingly welcome a genetic experiment gone wrong on their sea station.  With futile hope of being rescued, the crew must fight for their survival against an aquatic monster.  Richard Crenna (First Blood), Amanda Pays (The Kindred), Daniel Stern (Home Alone), Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Michael Carmine (*batteries not included), Lisa Eilbacher (Beverly Hills Cop), Hector Elizondo (Last Man Standing) and Meg Foster (They Live) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    1989 was plagued to be the year of the underwater thriller.  Most famously, Director James Cameron’s The Abyss debuted with several lower-budgeted films such as DeepStar Six, The Evil Below and Lords of the Deep following.  Co-produced by Aurelio De Laurentiis (nephew of Dino De Laurentiis), Leviathan centers on a similar undersea setting with a sizable budget and a remarkably talented cast ranging from ghostbusters to robotic police officers.  Mere days away from wrapping their expedition up, Steven Beck (Weller) and his team unexpectedly come across a sunken Russian vessel.  Shortly after returning to their station, a horrific genetic experiment follows the team, infecting victims before becoming a hideous sea-monster with a hunger for blood.  Leviathan takes its time to establish the claustrophobic environment our characters reside in while, developing their unique personalities.  Admittedly, some may find the first half of this submerged thriller a bore as nothing monster orientated occurs, but the steady build enhances the viewers attachment to the entertaining cast.  As the infecting virus takes the lives of several crew members, a slimy, otherworldly creature is born from the remains of the victims.  Tension builds as the second act heavily borrows the special effects tactics, effectively utilized in John Carpenter’s The Thing combined with the suspenseful tone of Aliens to give a good show.  With survivors scant, Beck along with Willie (Pays) and Jones (Hudson), stock up on flame throwers and other oceanic power tools to combat the savage beast.  Meg Foster (Masters of the Universe) makes a brief appearance via satellite video as the expedition companies CEO that coldly delays the team’s rescue in order to keep matters quiet.  Beck and his remaining crew choose to take down the monster in order to return to the ocean surface alive.  

    Quick cuts and dim lighting keep Stan Winston’s underrated creature designs hidden but ultimately, increasing the film’s fear level.  Although, Leviathan tends to borrow elements from other sci-fi fare, the film is still one of the more effective undersea fright fests in the wake of Cameron’s big-budget, box-office smash.  Headlined by one of the more eclectic cult casts of the decade, Leviathan is a fun, spine-tingling time at sea involving a steroid-induced version of the Gill Man and Peter Weller cold-cocking Meg Foster.  Priceless!

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Scream Factory presents Leviathan in a 1080p widescreen transfer bearing a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Surprisingly, the film is nearly free of any anomalies such as flakes and speckles with a healthy level of grain firmly intact.  Skin tones are relayed naturally with detail relatively crisp although, some close-ups appear not as sharp.  Far from a wildly colorful film, the sea station’s stainless steel and monotone colors come across precise.  In addition, submerged 16,000 feet below the surface, black levels are handled exceptionally well in this oceanic shocker with no crushing to speak of and all activity very visible.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Leviathan is very dialogue driven especially in the film’s first half which is perfectly crisp and audible.  Nice-sounding but generally contained, the mix is allowed to expand with Jerry Goldsmith’s (Chinatown, Poltergeist) soothing score that can be as calm as the sea or as ominously droning when danger is near.  Moments of more intense action give the film a more rewarding boost, enhancing the listening experience.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Leviathan - Monster Melting Pot (40:26): Creature Effects Artists Tom Woodruff Jr. (who also performed, albeit uncredited, the lead creature in the film as well as the Gillman in 1987’s The Monster Squad and as the titular monster in Pumpkinhead), Shannon Shea and Alec Gillis discuss the bombardment of underwater thrillers in 1989.  In addition, the trio speak of their working relationship with Stan Winston and the difficult design challenges of the dive suit costumes and much more.  This lengthy featurette is highly informative and shines a well deserved spotlight on the masters behind the scares.

    • Dissecting Cobb with Hector Elizondo (12:35): Elizondo discusses the humor and “every man” mentality he brought to his role of Cobb while, discussing the less than desirable conditions filming within the dive costumes.  The seasoned thespian also looks back with fond memories and gratitude towards his former cast members and special effects master Stan Winston.

    • Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson (15:01): The Congo star recounts filming on location in Rome and his swimming inexperience which led the production to offer him lessons for his role.  Hudson’s dislike for pointlessly dying in a film resulted in his honorable fate in Leviathan.  Earnest and appreciative, Hudson is still moved when fans express their love for his work.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:51)

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Without Warning, Lake Placid, Saturn 3 and Swamp Thing.

    • Reversible cover art

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Released in a year overloaded with deep sea expeditions uncovering something sinister, Leviathan is a noble, lower-budgeted effort compared to James Cameron’s mega expensive spectacle.  Featuring a wonderfully diverse cast of familiar faces and effective creature designs from Stan Winston and company, Leviathan kicks off slow but eventually builds to a suspense-driven climax akin to Aliens.  While, not the most original concept, Leviathan is still a fun execution in underwater terror that holds up nicely 25 years later.  Scream Factory’s Blu-ray treatment comes with a near perfect video and audio treatment joined by another informative and entertaining assortment of special features provided by the talented Aine Leicht (Deadly Eyes, Ginger Snaps).  How long can you hold your breath without adding this superior entry into your Scream Factory collection?

    RATING: 4/5  

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16: Flatliners, Nymphomaniac, Stage Fright, The Legend of Billie Jean & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16 includes:

    - Flatliners (1990) (0:37)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) (6:56)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - Stage Fright (2014) (14:05)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnet Releasing: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

    - Nymphomaniac Volume I & II (2013) (21:59)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures: http://www.magpictures.com

    - Tourist Trap (1979) (34:55)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Full Moon Features: http://www.fullmoondirect.com

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (43:19)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15: Under the Skin, Last Man Standing, NYPD Blue & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15 includes:

    - Last Man Standing Season 1 & 2 (0:36)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    20th Century Fox: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Man-Standing-Season-1/dp/B00K8HAKSW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404850275&sr=8-3&keywords=last+man+standing

    - NYPD Blue Season 6 (7:30)
    Street Date: June 24, 2014
    Shout! Factory: https://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Scavenger Killers (2013) (11:13)
    Street Date: July 1, 2014
    Midnight Releasing: http://midnightreleasing.com/

    - Under the Skin (2013) (17:39)
    Street Date: July 15, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - Invasion of the Scream Queens (1992) (25:19)
    Street Date: June 17, 2014
    Wild Eye Releasing: http://wildeyereleasing.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:25)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #14: Video Nasties, Ravenous, Rollerball, Devil's Knot & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #14 includes:

    - Ravenous (1999) (0:36)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - In the Blood (2014) (10:41)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Devil's Knot (2013) (17:41)
    Street Date: June 10, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977) (25:46)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Cult Epics: http://cultepics.com/new_releases.html

    - Rollerball (1975) (33:38)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    Twilight Time: http://www.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

    - Video Nasties (2010) (42:54)
    Street Date: June 3, 2014
    Severin Films: https://www.severin-films.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (49:24)

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #5: Gravity, Memory of the Dead, L.A. Law, Oldboy & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #5 includes:

    - Gravity (2013) (0:32)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Warner Bros: http://www.warnerbros.com/

    - L.A. Law Season 1 (6:27)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Memory of the Dead (2011) (11:14)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Artsploitation Films: http://www.artsploitationfilms.com/

    - Gotham City Serials (16:23)
    Street Date: February 4, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Oldboy (2013) (19:32)
    Street Date: March 4, 2014
    Sony Pictures: http://www.sonypictures.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (25:11)

  • Robot Wars (1993) DVD Review (UK)

    Robot Wars (1993)
    Director: Albert Band
    Starring: Don Michael Paul, Barbara Crampton, James Staley, Lisa Rinna & Danny Kamekona
    Released by: 88 Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Forming in 1989, Full Moon Features have unloaded a healthy dose of genre films on the public that continues to thrive today.  1993 became a landmark year for the independent company when they founded two more labels, Torchlight Entertainment and Moonbeam Entertainment.  In addition, Full Moon Entertainment CEO Charlie Band, would task his father, Albert Band, to helm a picture involving giant clashing robots.  Starring an impressive line-up of cult stars, Robot Wars would utilize a brisk runtime and impressive stop-motion effects to bring this crushing battle of juggernauts to fruition.  UK based, 88 Films proudly brings this apocalyptic western to DVD with special features and reversible artwork.  Get ready to reestablish world peace as Robot Wars are waged...

    Robot Wars focuses on a foreign dignitary that hijacks the MRAS-2, the last mega-robot of Earth, and threatens to dominate the world.  It’s up to a brave trio consisting of a renegade pilot, his engineer and an archaeologist to retrieve another mega robot hidden under the city to destroy the MRAS-2 in order to restore peace to the Easten Alliance.  Starring Don Michael Paul (Winner Takes All), Barbara Crampton (You’re Next), James Staley (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Lisa Rinna (Melrose Place) and Danny Kamekona (Robot Jox).

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, never being a fan of Full Moon Features’ tiniest of terrors, there’s no denying the appeal of stop-motion robots and a stellar B-movie cast.  Robot Wars casts an inviting spell for being an early 90s offering yet feeling every bit its previous decade.  The tongue in cheek story is far more well acted than it deserves to be with charming chemistry and successful comic relief playing out nicely.  Don Michael Paul stars as Drake, a crafty pilot with an attitude.  Paul invokes a coolness within his character along with a cocky sensibility around women.  B-Movie icon, Barbara Crampton (From Beyond) continues to turn heads with her blonde beauty and an enjoyable performance as an intelligent, self-sufficient archaeologist.  While, the film is less a love story than it is a robot beat’em up flick, Paul and Crampton’s exchanges are a treat to see unfold.  The antagonists’ of the film, Wa-Lee and Chou-Sing, are wonderfully played with a steady dose of cheese by Danny Kamekona and Yuji Okumoto, reuniting after previously playing uncle and nephew in the successful sequel, The Karate Kid, Part IIRobot Wars is pleasantly entertaining thanks to the masterful stop-motion effects for the robot battles, brought to life by the late David Allen (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dolls).  In retrospect, Allen’s stop-motion achievements feel criminally underrated based on the countless genre films he contributed to.

    Clocking in at less than 75 minutes, Robot Wars has a very firm grasp on the film they were trying to be.  Lucking out with a talented and earnest cast, fun stop-motion effects and a tone reminiscent of earlier sci-fi flicks, Robot Wars packs a solid punch of popcorn entertainment.  From the low-budget’s of Full Moon Features, Robot Wars achieved a considerable amount of eye candy with optical effects and laser gun shootouts that make you cherish a more innocent time in moviemaking.  Exceeding expectations, Robot Wars is a delightful slice of early 90s sci-fi cheese that wets the cult appetite just right.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    88 Films presents Robot Wars in a PAL 1.33:1 aspect ratio that is riddled with issues.  Opening titles are plagued with speckles and very pixelated black levels.  Fortunately, the film stabilizes slightly but is still inherently soft, wavering on murky tape quality.  Flakes and speckles pop up occasionally with colors appearing decently but, far from perfect.  Unfortunately, previous releases of Robot Wars appear to be plagued with similar issues making the source material the main culprit.  Perhaps, Robot Wars will see better days on home video but until then, this will have to suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Robot Wars is decently effective with dialogue coming across clearly with only minor dips sporadically.  Robot battles, laser blasts and David Arkenstone’s score ring loudly and work their magic as best they can.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Videozone Behind the Scenes - Robot Wars: A vintage promotional peak at the making of the film with informative interviews from Director Albert Band, the core cast and special FX and stop-motion artists.  For a 10 minute featurette, this covers a fair amount of ground and contains some nice fly on the wall shots on set.

    - Trailer

    - 88 Films Trailer Park: Includes The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, Hideous!, Girl in Gold Boots, Doctor Mordrid, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak & Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever.

    - Reversible cover: Utilizing the original artwork.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Robot Wars is a fun execution in cheap early 90s science fiction matched with an entertaining cast of talent with credits ranging from Re-Animator to The Karate Kid, Part II.  The major selling point of the film is the promise of robot battles that deliver in spades thanks to the phenomenal stop-motion magic of David Allen.  88 Films‘ video presentation fares no better than past releases but, luckily makes up with a decent audio mix and a brief but welcoming assortment of special features.  The strength and entertainment factor of Robot Wars alone warrants this release a firm recommendation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #4: The Jungle Book, Arrow Video, Darkman, The Shadow & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #4 includes:

    - The Jungle Book (1967) Diamond Edition (0:34)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    Disney: http://disney.com/

    - Rocky: The Heavyweight Collection (6:37)
    Street Date: February 11, 2014
    MGM: http://www.mgm.com/

    - Hellgate (1990) (13:27)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - Darkman (1990) Collector's Edition (20:48)
    Street Date: February 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Hell Comes to Frogtown (1987) (28:09)
    Street Date: January 27, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - The Shadow (1994) Collector's Edition (35:33)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

  • Unidentified (2013) DVD Review

    Unidentified (2013)
    Director: Jason Richard Miller
    Starring: Parry Shen, Colton Dunn, Eddie Mui & Eric Artell
    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A fun-filled road trip to the temptation capital of Las Vegas takes an unexpected turn for four friends when bad luck and a loan shark become the least of their worries.  Jason Richard Miller (co-producer of Hatchet II and Frozen) makes his directorial debut with this micro-budget effort hailed as a cross between The Hangover and Cloverfield.  Focusing their attention on contemporary fare, Dark Sky Films presents Unidentified, blending the worlds of comedy and extraterrestrials for a unique viewing experience.  Arriving on DVD and Digital Download, let’s take a trip to Sin City to see what truly resides in the vast Nevada desert...

    Unidentified centers on four friends set on a yearly road trip to Las Vegas for a weekend of gambling and wild fun.  Unfortunately, trouble with a loan shark and an unpaid debt causes the group to make a swift exit from Sin City.  After becoming stranded in the desert, one of the friends goes missing, only to be found infected and off-kilter.  With their digital camera capturing the unfolding events, their friends‘ condition worsens as the group suspect something alien at large. 

    MOVIE:
    With no opening credits, Unidentified kicks itself off with our lead character, Jodie (Eric Artell), conducting a nerdy YouTube video under the moniker of Jodieman.  Detailing his love for comics and creating his own characters, Jodie, who bares a striking resemblance to a That ‘70s Show-era Topher Grace, uninvitedly joins his brother-in-law and two friends on their annual Vegas road trip.  Capturing the entire weekend with his digital camera, Unidentified makes the limited budget of the film clear.  Joined by a supporting cast of Parry Shen (Hatchet), Colton Dunn (Burning Love) and Eddie Mui (Gone in 60 Seconds), the group struggle with comical improv that bears any semblance to how four friends would converse.  The acting is just beyond painful and caused one too many eye rolls upon viewing.  The central character of Jodie tries far too hard to be the pop culture knowing geek with his silly excitement at seeing a DeLorean and snapping at a character for not quoting Star Trek properly.  Making a pit stop at a diner, Jodie encounters a local drunk who indulges the group about an abandoned compound where alien species have roamed.  After annoying deliberation, Jodie convinces the group to trek there only to be scared off by a thunderous force behind a door.  Filming himself while escaping, Jodie unknowingly captures a background shot of a mysterious red-tinted sky that swoops a bystander away.  This lame attempt at extraterrestrial activity is the only footage we see until the final moments of the film.  Mui’s gambling problem is what sets the story in motion as issues with a loan shark get out of hand after losing a high-stakes poker game for Down’s Syndrome players.  This attempt at lowbrow humor comes 45 minutes after humorless nonsense that makes this sequence just look pathetic.  After dodging their payment, the group’s car mysteriously breaks down in the Nevada desert.  In the middle of the night, Jodie exits the car to relieve himself only to come in contact with an otherworldly object that severely infects him.  The following morning, Jodie’s friends frantically search for him, only to find him appearing sickly and not quite himself.  An encounter with another drunken local warns the group of unknown dangers that exist in the desert as they navigate back to civilization.  Unidentified culminates in an odd and unclear finale where other civilians, presumably under the control of an alien being, wander the desert as the foursome desperately search for help.  The characters make the obnoxious point to continue asking one another “are you really filming this?” to cement their lack at decent improv.  A quick tease at an alien is thrown across screen as government agents of some kind shoot 3/4’s of the group in a panic.  An absurd conclusion to a rather unpleasant flick.

    Unidentified was a horrendous execution in the road comedy genre interwoven with sci-fi elements.  The small cast share zero chemistry with one another and their attempts at improvisational skills scream amateur hour.  A microscopic budget plagued this film by utilizing the handheld digital camera angle that becomes tiresome almost immediately.  Unidentified lacked any sense of suspense or thrills and disappoints by barely showing the alien responsible for Jodie’s condition.  Understandably, the budget would have prevented anything remarkable but, the sheer lack of substantial footage causes the viewer to forget the film ever had a science fiction twist.  Suffice to say, Unidentified is not only a tremendous bore, but one of the laziest independent efforts seen in sometime.  If the house always win, Unidentified certainly left me bankrupt.
    RATING: 0.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Dark Sky Films presents Unidentified in an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer.  Shot entirely on a handheld digital camera, the film is certainly true to its source with shakiness and pixels popping up from time to time.  Colors appear decently with flesh tones relayed as well as any digital camera can these days.  With the guerrilla filmmaking style, black levels leave a little more to be desired due to a lack of proper lighting.  Considering the budget, Unidentified is presented as decently as can be.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, audio levels are represented clearly.  With not much in the way of music or background effects, this mix does its duty with relaying the groan inducing dialogue best it can.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Jason Richard Miller: Miller discusses how this found footage project was presented to him well before the current wave of said projects.  In addition, Miller touches upon the casting and how he felt each actor was perfect for their roles as well as his overall laziness with writing.  I would have never noticed.

    - Jodieman YouTube Videos: A selection of phony YouTube videos for Jodie’s character that span roughly 13 minutes.

    - Unidentified Space Cam: A 20 minute behind the scenes look of the cast and crew following a weather ballon of some kind that was used in the making of the final sequence.  An overlong and dull featurette.

    - Trailer

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Unidentified was one of the more painful viewing experiences to be seen in sometime.  The tiny budget and lack of talent from the cast made the film a snooze-inducing borefest.  The discombobulating handheld technique inherently feels cheap and tired.  Unidentified attempted the unique spin of a road movie with aliens but ultimately, failed by presenting a brief and pathetic alien reveal.  Dark Sky Films‘ presentation is nothing more than decent that remains true to its guerrilla style aesthetic.  Unsurprisingly, the selection of supplements included do little to entertain or enlighten.  Sadly, Unidentified failed in every department and is a showcase of just plain lazy filmmaking.
    RATING: 1.5/5 

  • Saturn 3 (1980) Blu-ray Review


    Saturn 3 (1980)
    Director: Stanley Donen
    Starring: Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas & Harvey Keitel
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Deep in the trenches of Saturn’s third moon, a sexy TV actress, Ned Land and a pony-tail sporting New Yorker that oddly sounds English are hard at work developing new food for a suffering Earth.  Director Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Lucky Lady) orchestrates this lower-budgeted, character driven sci-fi tale about what happens to humanity when a robot threatens your existence.  In the wake of Star Wars' success, endless attempts were made to cash in on the new allure of science fiction cinema.  From Flash Gordon to Galaxy of Terror, every studio couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a stab at a world amongst the stars.  Saturn 3 is one of 1980s answers to the demand for more sci-fi goodness.  After nearly 25 years since its original release, something is watching, waiting and wanting on Saturn 3, and we’re about to find out if it’s any good...

    Saturn 3 centers on Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett), two scientists stationed beneath the surface of Saturn’s third moon, Titan.  The couple are tasked with the duty of seeking new forms of food for an exhausted planet Earth.  When progress decreases, Benson (Harvey Keitel), along with his robot Hector, arrive to assist as an eclipse on Saturn cuts off communication with the rest of the solar system.  Unfortunately, Benson slowly turns sinister as Hector morphs into an uncontrollable killing machine with death in mind for “Adam” and Alex.

    MOVIE:
    Saturn 3 plays as a slow-burn of sorts that chooses to focus on the interactions between the small cast as opposed to a violent robot.  A bold move that can quickly turn viewers away that were expecting The Terminator in space.  Personally, the relationship between Douglas and Fawcett as well as their “purple elephant” age difference made Saturn 3 quite a unique watch.  At the ripe age of 64, Douglas hit the jackpot with this role that earned him nude scenes with the painfully gorgeous Fawcett who was still starring in the popular Charlie’s Angels television series.  The love between the two is sincere as they reside in their own private sector until Keitel’s Benson crashes the party.  The couple’s less than stellar results to replenish Earth’s food supply has Benson coming to improve progress.  Keitel, who was dubbed by Roy Dotrice (Amadeus), plays the role of a pill-popping Major as robotic and creepy.  One can only assume that Director Stanley Donen didn’t appreciate a good Brooklyn accent, but interestingly enough Dotrice’s voiceover is precise and effective.  Keitel’s descent into madness and attraction towards Fawcett is what rattles the cages of this film.  Questioning the enjoyment of an old body like Douglas‘ against Fawcett’s causes a fully nude Douglas to awkwardly mount Keitel in order to choke him.  Tensions reach an all-time high when Benson’s robot Hector goes haywire and decides to clean house of the humans.  The slow-pace of the film picks up slightly as Hector lops off Keitel’s hand and starts a cat and mouse session with the two lovebirds.  The suspense in the final act never reaches full potential but Hector’s demise is nicely captured in a sequence that took 3 days to shoot.  New to science-fiction, Director Stanley Donen choreographs the film competently and succeeds in developing the core cast and their interactions with one another.  The design of the space ships and sets look remarkable along with excellent usage of miniatures that tragically never seem to be as utilized in the CGI world we live in today.  Saturn 3 is no masterpiece but is certainly a sci-fi film at the height of the genre’s popularity that dared to be a little different.  At a time where there was good, bad and really bad, sci-fi flicks, Saturn 3 rests nicely somewhere in the middle as a fun way to kill 88 minutes.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Saturn 3 in a new high-definition 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks rich and sharp for a film of its time with black levels looking strong and colors, specifically in Adam and Alex’s control rooms, popping off the screen like the brightest Lite-Brite displays you will ever see.  A healthy presence of grain is intact which adds a wonderful filmic charm to this practically immaculate transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Saturn 3 comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that works its magic nicely.  Dialogue comes across with no distortion whatsoever while sound effects and the score provided by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters, The Black Cauldron) rings loud and clear especially during scenes of heightened suspense.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also provided on the disc.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Interview with Voice Artist Roy Dotrice: Dotrice discusses his involvement in the project as well as working with Director Stanley Donen.  Dotrice is still unsure of why Keitel had to be dubbed as he found his performance adequate.

    - Interview with Special Effects Director Colin Chilvers: Chilvers sits down for a 15 minute interview and recalls with great detail the many practical effects he was tasked with creating for the film.  A very thorough and in depth look behind the movie magic.

    - Audio Commentary with Film Expert Greg Moss moderated by Dave Bradley: Moss, host of the Something is Wrong on Saturn 3 website, is the authority on the history of the film and along with moderator Bradley, the two make for an impressively detailed commentary.  No rock is left unturned and while there are certain dry spells, they are warranted considering how many interesting facts and anecdotes are expressed in just a few breaths.  If principal talent cannot be secured for a film commentary, this is exactly the kind of expert commentary one wants to hear.  You will walk away enlightened and with a deeper appreciation for Saturn 3.

    - Additional Scenes from the Network TV Version

    - Deleted Ecstasy Scene: This popular deleted scene is included that showcases Fawcett in a ridiculously sexy outfit.  Audio drops off midway through but that won’t disrupt your viewing pleasure.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Still Gallery

    - DVD copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Saturn 3 was a decent sci-fi romp that highlighted a small cast that each came from very different avenues of Tinseltown.  The set design and practical effects capture a wonderful charm that you can only access by seeing films of this ilk.  Scream Factory has given another niche title like Saturn 3 a splendid video and audio transfer along with an assortment of special features that educate and entertain fans that truly appreciate films like this.  Whether you love Saturn 3 or simply find it mediocre, Scream Factory’s edition is the definitive release for a film I imagine will grown in appreciation with each subsequent viewing.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Tank Girl (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Tank Girl (1995)
    Director: Rachel Talalay
    Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts & Malcolm McDowell
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cult classics are found in many shapes and sizes and this 1995 futuristic flick is no exception.  Based on the popular British comic-strip from creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, this zany exercise in post-apocalyptic storytelling mixed with an action-packed extravaganza dished out by a ruthless sex-bomb makes this a film to be experienced firsthand.  With a unique cast and an eccentric production design, does Tank Girl have the chops to truly be hailed as the cult classic many seem to claim it is?  Load up your ammunition and let’s explore, shall we...

    Tank Girl takes place in the year 2033 where after a meteor has struck the planet, humanity just isn’t quite the same.  Water has become the most sought after item and Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell), the leader of Water & Power, controls all the water in the world... or so he thinks.  An army of half-men/half-kangaroos known as The Rippers and a kick ass girl (Lori Petty) with a tank in tow are this villains roadblock in complete domination of the planet.  Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) co-star in this wildly action-packed flick.

    MOVIE:
    Films that are hailed as “cult classics” tread a very thin line between an unsuspecting viewer loving or hating the material.  In positive experiences, the timing and a heavy dose of nostalgia play into fans falling in love with a particular film that most mainstream audiences just “didn’t get”.  In the case of Tank Girl, I approached the material for the first time having only an appreciation for the cast and crew and a brief knowledge of the films background.  Director Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine) explains in the discs supplemental features that Tank Girl is a film that should rate between a one or a 10 for viewers, but hopefully not somewhere in the middle.  For better or worse, that’s exactly where Tank Girl fell for me as the end credits graced my screen.  The chaotic spirit and lack of a strong narrative, which apparently was keeping true to its comic book source, had its moments of charm but would also tread on the lines of annoyance.  Lori Petty’s performance is what makes the film what it is, but there lied the problems.  While at one moment I’d be rooting for Tank Girl, scenes later I’d feel utterly irritated by Petty’s corkiness.  It’s an odd complaint which ultimately made this film fall somewhere in the middle of the road for me.  The supporting cast of Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Cat People), Naomi Watts (The Ring) and Ice-T (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) add great sparks to the film with McDowell hamming it up as a mix between a wacky James Bond villain and a culprit Mystery Inc. would nab.  A shy Watts, quiet and reserved, injects a nice air of gravity to Petty’s time-bomb performance while Ice-T, covered in a phenomenal make-up design by the late Stan Winston (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) does a great job being himself frankly.  One of the film’s strongest points is the spectacular production design contributed by Catherine Hardwicke who would go onto a successful directing career with hits like Thirteen and Twilight.  The film manages to accomplish quite a lot with the modest budget they were on and attempted to break the mold of action-orientated movies by having a female pulling all the stops both in front and behind the camera.  Talalay brought so much passion to the material that is evident in every frame and it’s a shame to see she hasn’t directed a feature film since as she has a wonderful eye.  Tank Girl is a film that I didn’t love nor hate with a passion, I appreciated many attributes to it while also wrestling with moments of annoyance.  The film packs wonderful doses of action, shootouts and explosions galore with a radical soundtrack to boot.  It’s easy to see why this film wears the medal of a “cult classic”, a lot of audiences just “got it” and continue to discover it while others didn’t and probably never will.  Fortunately, my first experience with the film was far from a disaster and one I look forward to revisiting in the future to see how kind time will be to it.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Shout! Factory presents Tank Girl in 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For my money, the film looks wonderful.  Colors and detail are robust while skin tones are remarkably accurate and black levels appear clear as can be.  McDowell’s icy blue eyes never looked creepier and subtleties like facial makeup look superb.  Sure, there’s a few minor notices of dust and specks but the healthy layer of grain adds a juicy filmic essence to its presentation.  I’m not entirely sure I could have asked for more.  Well done!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tank Girl comes accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that sounds just as terrific as its video presentation looks.  From the opening title sequence where Devo’s "Girl U Want" plays, you know you’re in for a nice, loud treat.  Dialogue comes across with no hitches and sound effects, particularly during larger action scenes, the mix really rattles your speakers for an enjoyable listen.  A terrific companion to a terrific video presentation!  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is included.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Dubbed a Collector’s Edition, Shout! Factory does justice to this cult classic with a juicy assortment of vintage and newly made supplements.

    - Audio Commentary with Actress Lori Petty and Director Rachel Talalay

    - Baseball, Tank and Bad Tattoos: An Interview with Lori Petty: A nice interview with leading lady Lori Petty that runs over 20 minutes.  Petty not only discusses her involvement with and impact of Tank Girl but also touches upon other noteworthy titles in her filmography such as Point Break, A League of Their Own as well as Freddy’s Nightmares.

    - Too Hip for Spielberg: An Interview with Rachel Talalay: Another over 20 minute interview, this time with Director Rachel Talalay where she touches on her first encounter with the source material, props that she retained from the making of the film and the uphill battle to get Tank Girl made.  Talalay’s enthusiasm and interesting tidbits on the production easily made this my favorite featurette.

    - Creative Chaos: Designing the World of Tank Girl with Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke: Hardwicke sits down for over 18 minutes discussing her lucky break with Tank Girl and exciting stories during the making of the film.  Hardwicke injects a humorous tale about Courtney Love taking up a brief residency in her home at the time of the film’s making.

    - Vintage Making of Tank Girl Featurette

    - Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tank Girl is a unique, frantic and wildly ambitious film that will leave most audiences loving or hating it by its finale.  Personally, the film fell somewhere in between with an appreciation for the cast and crew and the strong production design being the major highlights.  It’s too early to tell if Tank Girl will age like a fine wine or spoil like outdated milk but in the meantime, I’m content knowing the film didn’t fall entirely flat for me.  Director Rachel Talalay has found a successful career directing mainly television but a return to feature films is long overdue as the woman has a great eye for popcorn cinema.  Shout! Factory did an exquisite job making this Collector’s Edition shine with involvement from not only its leading star but also its Director and Production Designer who has gone onto much higher levels of success since 1995.  The video and audio presentation are as strong as I could have anticipated and the inclusion of a reversible cover was a nice bow on an already well handled package.  While, Tank Girl left me slightly stranded in the middle, Shout! Factory’s care into this release earns flying colors and a strong recommendation for any lover of cult cinema.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Eve of Destruction (1991) Blu-ray Review



    Eve of Destruction (1991)
    Director: Duncan Gibbins
    Starring: Gregory Hines, Renée Soutendijk, Michael Greene & Kurt Fuller
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, is back with some android thrills from the 1990s!  Debuting the same year as Terminator 2: Judgement Day (although beating it to the punch by six months), Eve of Destruction appears to tread on similar waters as James Cameron’s sci-fi epic.  That said, things can only take a fun turn when you make the deadly android a sexy female and have a hot-headed terrorism expert on her trail.  If Cameron’s The Terminator and its equally superior sequel are the A-list answer to human-like robots run amok than Eve of Destruction is the B-Movie response.  Does this scandalous killer android have what it takes to keep you entertained or will this flick be means for self-destruction?  Let’s find out…

    Eve of Destruction centers on Eve VIII (Renée Soutendijk), a human-like android modeled after her inventor, who after an unexpected hiccup during testing sends her on a deadly rampage against anything perceived as a threat.  Terrorism expert Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines) is the only hope in finding and deactivating her before nuclear annihilation!

    MOVIE:
    When originally announced at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con, many fans were split on the upcoming titles that were slated for Scream Factory’s 2014 roster.  Eve of Destruction was one of those flicks few were impressed by and some even scratched their head at the thought of its inclusion in the line.  It is for reasons like this that Scream Factory should be praised for taking a chance and giving a nearly forgotten 90s sci-fi flick its time in HD glory because frankly, who else would?  Eve of Destruction is a surprisingly fun flick that manages to take a concept we’ve seen before but present it with some tweeks that are equally entertaining.  Renée Soutendijk’s duel role of the inventor and Eve VIII is a blast to watch as Eve VIII certainly would give Arnold Schwarzenegger a run for his money.  The android’s flirty and sexy nature allows her to act out feelings that her creator always kept bottled up leading to some terrific scenes.  After scoping out the local bar, Eve VIII invites a bar patron back to a hotel room where he learns just how sensitive Eve really is.  The result is an “orally” entertaining time that needs to be experienced firsthand.  The late Gregory Hines offers a great performance with plenty of hilarious one liners as the terrorist expert tasked to take down Eve VIII.

    I’ll admit I have a weakness for films that showcase futuristic technology that is painfully dated by todays standards, I can’t get enough it.  You can count on seeing plenty of over the top screens and computer monitors that are used to monitor Eve VIII’s maintenance but could probably all be operated by an iPad Mini today.  Nothing screams nostalgia more than dated movie technology, period!

    Eve of Destruction succeeds in all the action departments needed to make this one entertaining 100 minute romp.  Plenty of machine gun shootouts and a cross country chase from California to New York that results in an intense final showdown in the subways.  It’s no secret that this film isn’t a masterpiece but to take a familiar concept audiences have seen and create an entertaining piece of cinema is all that matters.  Eve of Destruction is a delightful effort in the killer android sub-genre that probably would have been completely forgotten if not for Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release.  Dated technology, a sexy killer android and Gregory Hines demanding “why the fuck there ain’t no off switch on this thing?” is reason enough to saddle up with this flick and a bowl of popcorn.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Eve of Destruction on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1:78:1.  Instances of dirt and specks are apparent throughout the film but not noticeably distracting while skin tones seem a little too warm.  Colors pop nicely and saturation is nice especially on Eve VIII’s red leather jacket.  Grain level is natural while blacks are decent enough.  Not amazing but certainly a serviceable transfer.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Eve of Destruction is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track which is clear and quite loud.  Dialogue scenes come across with no issue while moments of action, especially shootouts, are loud and shattering.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Trailer

    While special features are limited on this release, it more than likely has to do with the passing of Gregory Hines and Director Duncan Gibbins who died in 1993.  That said, Scream Factory does include a reversible cover that utilizes the original 1-sheet artwork.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Eve of Destruction is no Terminator 2: Judgement Day but it will keep you throughly entertained with all the android mayhem you could ask for.  Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is a serviceable one with decent video and a terrific audio track.  Unfortunately, special features are minimal but then again not every release can be chocked full of extra content.  The inclusion of the reversible cover art was an unexpected and appreciated treat.  The entertainment value of the film alone is worth a look and a spot on any die-hard Scream Factory fans shelf.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • The Fly (San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Exclusive) (1958) Blu-ray Review


    The Fly (1958)

    Director: Kurt Neuman
    Stars: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price & Herbert Marshall
    Released by: 20th Century Fox

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In a year that is quickly shaping up to be “The Year of Price”, Blu-ray enthusiasts will be able to add Scorpion Releasing’s The Monster Club, Scream Factory’s Vincent Price Collection and Warner Bros’. highly anticipated House of Wax 3D to their collection but 20th Century Fox is getting the jump on everyone first with one of Price’s best efforts.  Released exclusively at this year’s San Diego-Comic Con and FoxConnect.com with a wide release scheduled for September 10th, this particular edition of The Fly comes adorned with a slipcover that utilizes a very simplistic “Mondo” style poster design and a unique black Blu-ray case.  Snazzy packaging and nifty cover art aside, how does this 55 year-old flick stand today and has its Blu-ray debut been handled with care?  Grab your lab coat, bust out some sugar and let’s take a peek…

    When scientist Andre Delambre (David Hedison) attempts to successfully transfer matter through space, the good professor quickly becomes too ambitious for his own good and decides to transmit himself when things go terribly wrong.  Horrific man-fly hybrids are created and Andre isn’t looking quite like the man he once was.  With time running out and desperation high, his wife (Patricia Owens) and his brother (the great Vincent Price) are the only ones he can turn to before it’s too late.

    MOVIE:
    Coming strictly from the school of Cronenberg when it comes to these pesky little insects, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I had never seen the original classic before embarking on this review.  I know, it’s a crime that I should be punished for but then again we all harbor those films that you never want to admit you haven’t seen to others.  That said, in a way, I’m glad I waited so long to see a gem of this caliber because that’s exactly what this film is: a true gem.  The performances from the principal talent are all charming especially Price who clearly steals the show even if he isn’t the guy turning into a fly.  Patricia Owens is nothing short of stunning and this film marked her greatest success and most fondly remembered role and of course the lead David Hedison handles the role of brilliant scientist/family man turned man-fly beautifully.  The aspect that I loved most about this film is that it is a slow-burn, it doesn’t try to blow its load within the first act instead opting to firmly establish its characters and the scientific backdrop that the story is placed in.  For a film that some may pass off as a cheesy bit of 1950s sci-fi, it never talks down to the audience instead it allows us to learn and understand the science that Andre is developing.  It’s a film like this that chooses to take its time in order to send the audience on a journey they won’t soon be forgetting and that’s exactly what The Fly did for me.  I was as giddy as a school boy by the famous final scene where a certain spider is zoning in on some chow.  The Fly takes the viewer back to a time of innocence and genuine fun that seems to be almost extinct in this Facebook era we live in.  This classic film is tonally different from the Cronenberg redo from ’86 but both manage to deliver terrific entertainment that have earned them their due spots in history.  Now, not too be ungrateful but here’s hoping 20th Century Fox are preparing the sequels on the Blu-ray format because this newfound “Fly” lover can hardly wait!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Fly is presented in 1080p 2.35:1 encoded in MPEG-4 AVC (38 MBPS).  The film looks nothing short of breathtaking, no scratches or dirt to be found on this transfer but a nice layer of natural grain is present which really makes this older flick shine.  I honestly couldn’t believe how great this looked on the format, this truly is an older catalog title handled with nothing but respect.  Next time you think about commenting on how great older films like The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca look on Blu-ray, you might just want to add The Fly to that list.  Bravo, 20th Century Fox!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    The film is encoded in a 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio format which sounds as clear as a whistle and really impresses especially when the terrific score goes from classy to foreboding at the drop of hat.  The soundtrack also is presented in Dolby Digital Mono in Spanish and French.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    The Fly comes with a nice assortment of special features which are presented in SD:

    - Commentary with Actor David Hedison and Film Historian David Del Valle

    - Biography: Vincent Price

    - Fly Trap: Catching a Classic

    - Fox Movietone News

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    The Fly is a classic film that evaded me for many years but thanks to 20th Century Fox’s terrific Blu-ray release, it was worth the wait.  The film looks incredibly rich for one of its age and the sound packs a nice boost as well.  If the exclusive packaging isn’t your cup of tea, don’t forget that the wide release of the film is slated for September 10th, whatever you do, just don’t miss out on adding a classic Price flick like this to your HD library.
    RATING: 4.5/5