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  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988)

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

    Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson & Geraldine Fitzgerald / Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke & Zelda Rubinstein

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Haunting high-definition once more in new Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory, the horror/cult subsidiary of Shout! Factory, welcomes the continued terrorization of the Freeling family to their catalog of frights!  Following the traumatic events of the original film, Poltergeist II: The Other Side finds the Freeling’s attempting to revert back to a normal existence until the forces of darkness, led by the chilling Henry Kane, pursue their clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne with ungodly vengeance.  Next up, from the suburbs to the big city of Chicago, Poltergeist III sees the young Carol Anne living with her aunt and uncle when the restless Reverend Kane weaves his devilish powers upon their daunting high-rise.  

    They’re back as suburban scares persist in the supernatural followup to Steven Spielberg’s original ghostly production of 1982.  Struggling financially in the wake of their house’s frightening decimation, Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Coach and JoBeth Williams, Kramer vs. Kramer respectively), along with their children Robbie (Oliver Robbins, Airplane II: The Sequel) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Happy Days) (sans older sister Dana (played originally by Dominique Dunne who was tragically killed following production on the original film)), attempt to start anew in the house of Diane’s elderly mother.  Retaining her clairvoyant touch, it doesn’t take long before the spirits thought left behind in Cuesta Verde emerge once more to claim Carol Anne for themselves.  Discovering an underground tomb located deeper beneath the Freeling’s former home, trusted psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Sixteen Candles) and Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) sense the greater danger that now targets the evading family.  Stalked by the chilling and skeletal-looking Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club), Taylor rushes to the Freelings’ aide in order to prepare them for the dark battle that awaits.  Demonstrating impressively refined special effects that can’t be understated with Native American mysticism and a disturbingly memorable villain, Poltergeist II: The Other Side admirably balances what made the original a suspenseful success while, instilling its own chilling parameters that stand on their own.  Topped with Jerry Goldsmith’s score that blends innocence and dread effortlessly, climactic seat-jumpers featuring nightmarish braces gone wild, floating chainsaws (originally intended for 3-D effectiveness), an unforgettable regurgitated monster worm and a final showdown into the ghostly netherworld all make this sequel a respectably fun and grossly underrated followup to its pitch perfect predecessor.

    Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s own fantastical continuation Through the-Looking Glass, Poltergeist III ditches small-town frights and much of its original cast for a towering continuation of lofty ideas that struggle to land their mark.  Relocating to Chicago for placement in a school for gifted children, Carol Anne, cared for by her Aunt Trisch (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and teenage cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne’s World), finds herself frightened by reoccurring images of Reverend Kane (played by Flowers in the Attic’s Nathan Davis following the passing of original actor Julian Beck after wrapping production on its sequel) from beyond the grave.  Sensing Kane’s return and his pursuit of Carol Anne, faithful psychic Tangina (Rubinstein returning once more) seeks to stop the evildoer once and for all.  Jeopardized by budgetary limitations and a personal black cloud of despair following O’Rourke’s untimely passing during the film’s post-production phase, Poltergeist III’s skyscraper setting lends an intriguing visual change of pace for the series that ultimately falls second best to the familiarity of safe suburbia.  In addition, although Skerritt and Allen’s chemistry feels genuine together, Aunt Trisch’s random spouts of disdain for her troubled niece feels uncomfortably out of touch for a character that audiences should see as more maternally understanding.  Furthermore, while the return of Tangina is most welcome, Zelda Rubinstein appears particularly fatigued in the role, further underlining the fumes the franchise is running on.  Passionately directed by genre helmer Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Poltergeist III conveys several worthy concepts through terrifying reflections, demonic doppelgängers, possessed teenagers and Kane’s hellish wrath literally freezing over the high-rise building.  Unavoidably imperfect given its tragic history, Poltergeist III, although busting at the box-office and ranking lowest on the franchise totem pole, delivers just enough light from the other side to draw the curious into its vortex for a brief time.        

    Boasting new 2K scans from their interpositives, Scream Factory presents both sequels with 1080p transfers, preserving their respective 2.35:1 (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) and 1.85:1 (Poltergeist III) aspect ratios.  While both films received above average debuts on the format in years past, their latest outings are that much cleaner, washing away the slight hints of softness found previously with strong skin tones, vibrant color grades, deep black levels and otherwise graciously filmic appearances on hand, leaving both films in their best conditions to date.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that captures crisp dialogue levels and energetic stabs during supernatural attacks, the film’s scores are excellently handled adding necessary emphasis to their quieter moments and rise to their thrilling tempos.  In addition, both films are accompanied with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes for your listening pleasure.

    Supplements pertaining to Poltergeist II: The Other Side include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, both of which are newly recorded for this release.  Additionally, Robbie’s Return with Oliver Robins (14:25) catches up with the middle Freeling child today as he commends Director Brian Gibson’s vision for the film, the fun atmosphere making a feature as a child and the sequel’s special effects sequences.  Meanwhile, The Spirit World (22:09) is a first-rate featurette catching up with Special Creature Effects Artists Steve Johnson & Screaming Mad George as well as Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund to discuss the many memorable monsters and apparitions that separated the film from the original.  Furthermore, Ghosts of Giger (21:02) takes a look back at the iconic H.R. Giger’s contributions to the film through slideshows and interviews with Steve Johnson and Giger’s agent Les Barany.  Lastly, vintage offerings consisting of They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II (6:15), Monster Shop (2:45), Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II (6:28), the Theatrical Trailer (1:22) and TV Spots (2:04) are on hand while, a Still Gallery (73 in total), the Poltergeist II Script and Reversible Cover Art retaining the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the bonus features.

    Bonus features found on Poltergeist III include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Director Gary Sherman and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney, both newly recorded.  In addition, High Spirits with Co-Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16:02) finds the writer sharing warm memories of his collaborative relationship with Sherman, the film’s budget cuts, O’Rourke’s passing and his friendship with the wise and occasionally feisty Rubinstein.  Reflections with Actress Nancy Allen (12:15) sits down with the star who commends Sherman’s approach to the project, O’Rourke’s old soul personality and her unforgettably sad funeral plus, her working relationship with Skerritt who notes is the only actor she had an argument with in her career.  Furthermore, Mirror Images with Special Make-Up Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (12:47), an Alternate Ending (2:50) that lacks audio with dialogue from the original script added in as subtitles, the Theatrical Trailer (1:04), TV Spots (2:06), a Still Gallery (77 in total) and the Poltergeist III Script are also on hand.  Lastly, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet imagery completes the release’s supplements.

    Topping the television fuzz and tree attacking terror of the original classic may be no easy feat but, the combined efforts of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III make strong cases for followups of underrated merit.  While, Reverend Kane’s initial attack on the Freeling family is by far the superior sequel, Poltergeist III, although ranking in last place, still maintains a mild charm that continues to persevere through its many setbacks.  Honoring both features with wonderful new scans, a plentiful sum of bonus features exploring the film’s makings and frighteningly fantastic new artwork by Justin Osbourn, Scream Factory welcomes fans back to the ghostly netherworld where your house will be all the cleaner with both Collector’s Edition sequels in them.

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Scream Factory, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #7: Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight Collector's Edition (1995), Pay the Ghost (2015) & Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood Collector's Edition (1996) Blu-ray Reviews

     

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #7

    Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

    Director: Ernest Dickerson

    Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church & Dick Miller

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From small screen frights to Hollywood haunts, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight finds mysterious drifter Brayker (William Sadler, The Green Mile) protecting the last of seven biblical keys containing the power to abolish all evil.  Intent on reclaiming the sacred relic, the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic), along with his vile minions, track Brayker to an unsightly motel where the key’s protector and a motley crew of misfits must defend themselves against the forces of darkness.  Starring an eclectic mix of up and comers (Jada Pinkett, Madagascar), future Academy Award nominees (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) and B-movie legends (Dick Miller, Gremlins), Demon Knight maintains the entertainingly dark humor and suspenseful scares best known to its popular HBO series.  Introduced by its ghoulish host The Crypt Keeper (infamously voiced by John Kassir) on set of his own directorial effort, Demon Knight provides ample fun as its cast of unlikely heroes do battle against several ghoulish creatures during an endless night of terror and fully stocked ammunition.  Complimented by impressive visual effects and an effectively 90s soundtrack including hits from Filter, Pantera and Megadeth, Demon Knight douses viewers in neon green gore and countless possessions while, crafting a big-screen romp that proudly carries on the shocks established by EC Comics’ forefathers.

    Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Demon Knight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Following a rather grainy introduction well known to its television audience, colors, although sparse, pop nicely while skin tones are rich and natural under the film’s dim lighting.  Meanwhile, detail is quite sharp in facial features with black levels greatly impressing with no discernible instances of crushing.  In addition to maintaining a pleasing filmic appearance, the use of neon green in the demons blood and their electric responses to harm offer an effective contrast to the film’s dark ambience.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Demon Knight makes a most satisfyingly spooky splash in high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, dialogue is robust with intense moments of demonic anarchy and explosive carnage giving the mix a thrilling rumble.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Joining the ranks of Scream Factory’s respected Collector’s Editions, special features for Demon Knight include, an Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson and an Audio Commentary with Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vilet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo and Demon Performer Walter Phelan.  In addition, an Egyptian Theater Q&A Session (9:46), Under Siege: The Making of Demon Knight (39:12) marking another first-class retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures featuring new interviews with many of the cast and crew, a Still Gallery (66 in total), Theatrical Trailer (2:01) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s scary supplements.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Pay the Ghost (2015)

    Director: Uli Edel

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lyriq Bent & Jack Fulton

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men) headlines Pay the Ghost as college professor Mike Lawford who finds himself childless following the disappearance of his son on Halloween night.  One tragic year later and estranged from his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), Mike is haunted by unexplainable events that lead him to a startling link between the city’s missing children and the occult.  Based on the novella by Tim Lebbon and realized by Director Uli Edel (Christiane F.), Pay the Ghost weaves a unique yarn of supernatural occurrences and a parent’s worst fears for an intriguing mystery thriller.  After his young son vanishes at a Halloween carnival, Mike Lawford (Cage) desperately searches for answers when an ancient Celtic myth and a ghostly being are found responsible for the abduction.  As Mike’s investigation deepens, haunting imagery of his son and the possession of his wife occur, further proving the supernatural abilities of the entity.  While Cage musters up a halfway decent performance as a grieving father hellbent on retrieving his only child, the film’s lackluster visual effects and attempts at suspense largely fall flat.  Boasting a refreshingly original premise, Pay the Ghost never quite reaches above mediocrity even with its full-blown descent into the supernatural realm during its final act.  With a tightened script and an increased budget, Nicolas Cage’s latest indie effort may have achieved greater results but as is, Pay the Ghost is not an entirely wasted investment.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Pay the Ghost with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking a broad color scheme, city streets and interior locations appear rather drab while, skin tones read decently given the soft lighting choices of the film.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences, most appreciatively during the Halloween carnival, offer admirable black levels although the blemish free transfer tends to highlight the film’s rather unimpressive CG effects.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue projects on the lower end requiring an ample increase in volume.  With minimal music and few instances of potent sound effects, the mix does little to overly impress.  In addition, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available November 10th from RLJ Entertainment, Pay the Ghost can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

    Director: Gilbert Adler

    Starring: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon & Corey Feldman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from a story by Back to the Future’s Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood centers on sarcastic private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt) after being hired by the attractive Catherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, Baywatch) to locate her missing delinquent brother.  As the investigation leads to a seductive brothel headed by Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart, Jade), Rafe uncovers their vampiric alter egos and must do battle with the seductive bloodsuckers.  Debuting shortly after the cancellation of the HBO series, Bordello of Blood lacks the overall excitement of its predecessor but, substitutes its shortcomings with eye-popping gore effects and healthy doses of female flesh.  With Miller’s hilariously dry humor coursing through the film, Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) makes a welcome appearance as an over the top, electric guitar wielding preacher while, 80s icon Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) gives fans his last prominent role for several years as nose-pierced horndog Caleb Verdoux.  With a familiar relic making an appearance, Bordello of Blood hits its stride when Guttman and Reverend Current invade the bloodthirsty brothel equipped with holy water contained Super Soakers, laying to rest the scantily clad vampiresses.  Although critically dismissed, Bordello of Blood has earned itself a cult reputation by fans who revel in its blatant outrageousness.  Lacking the bite of its first cinematic outing, Bordello of Blood is still worthy of a one night fling that luckily never takes itself seriously.

    Scream Factory presents Bordello of Blood with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With occasional softness and mild speckling on display, skin tones are consistent and well-detailed while, the colors of supermodel Angie Everhart’s red hair and even bolder gore sequences pop nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally pleasing with no alarming imperfections on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible and prioritized while, the film’s rocking soundtrack including hits like Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” give effective boosts when applied.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Also joining the Collector’s Edition ranks, special features for Bordello of Blood include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood (36:08) has Red Shirt Pictures once again delivering another worthy retrospective as the majority of the cast and crew hail the film as an embarrassment.  Furthermore, a Video Promo (3:12), Still Gallery (65 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:42) and Reversible Cover Art wrap up the disc’s bonus content.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002) Blu-ray Reviews

    Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002)

    Director(s): Hayao Miyazaki / Hiroyuki Morita

    Starring: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Susan Egan & David Ogden Stiers / Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliot Gould, Kristen Bell & Tim Curry

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their proud partnership, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes two more of Studio Ghibli’s animated spectacles.  First up, Director Hayao Miyazaki’s (Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo) Spirited Away focuses on a young girl named Chihiro as she journeys to her new home with her parents.  One wrong turn finds Chihiro trapped in a surreal world of spirits while her parents are mysteriously transformed into pigs.  Scared and longing to return to her own world, Chihiro discovers a profound courage as she navigates her way through countless adventures.  Daveigh Chase (Lilo & Stitch), Jason Marsden (Transformers: Rescue Bots), Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds), Susan Egan (Hercules) and David Ogden Stiers (Beauty and the Beast) comprise the film’s English vocal talent.  Next up, The Cat Returns centers on clumsy schoolgirl Haru whose ordinary routine is turned upside when she saves the life of a cat.  and Whisked away to an unusual world of speaking felines, Haru must learn to believe in herself in order to evade an unwanted fate.  Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), Elliot Gould (MASH), Kristen Bell (Frozen) and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) provide the film’s English vocal talent.   

    Long considered to be Director Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away finds spoiled ten-year-old Chihiro (Chase) uncomfortable about her family’s move to their new house.  After taking a slight detour to what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, Chihiro’s parents are quickly overtaken by the sight of endless food that transforms them into sloppy pigs.  Meanwhile, the frightened Chihiro is whisked away to a supernatural realm, home to a lavish bathhouse for spirits to replenish themselves.  Befriended by Haku (Marsden), a young male spirit, Chihiro is advised to find work within her new surroundings in order to devise a way to free her family.  After conforming to the world’s rules set forth by the wicked Yubaba (Pleshette), Chihiro nearly forgets her name, narrowly escaping a permanent stay in the fantastical environment.  As her work ethic grows and her independence develops, encounters with a notably stinky spirit and the mysterious No-Face take place.  When Haku, in dragon form, is severely injured following the theft of a magical seal, Chihiro embarks on a dangerous journey to return the stolen item in order save her friend’s life.  For all its magical mainstays, Spirited Away beautifully captures a child’s discovery of independence and transition into maturity.  Littered with wildly original creatures and a genuine sense of wonder, Chihiro’s transformation from frightened child to courageous young woman is an epic fantasy adventure with social commentaries on youth and society.  While its many characters may overwhelm viewers at times and their otherworldly abilities will undoubtedly fly over the heads of youngsters, Spirited Away remains a dazzling feast of animated majesty and compelling drama.  Becoming the most successful film in Japanese history and deservedly winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s most renowned pictures that effortlessly transports viewers to a dreamlike world like no other.

    A spin-off of 1995’s Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns centers on the ordinary life of quiet schoolgirl Haru (Hathaway).  When Haru saves an innocent cat from a deadly fate, the ditzy teenager learns the feline is anything but ordinary when he begins to speak.  Introduced as Lune, the Prince of the Cat Kingdom, Haru is overwhelmed when his kingdom praises her with gifts and the opportunity to marry the future King.  Cautiously contemplating the offer, Haru is advised from a whisper in the wind to seek support from the Cat Bureau.  Welcomed by the sophisticated Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (Elwes), the hefty Muta (Boyle) and the kind raven Toto (Gould), Haru is assured safety until she and Muta are abducted to the Cat Kingdom for a royal ball.  As the Baron and Toto rush to save their human friend, Haru begins to transform into a cat, further sealing her future as Princess.  Shamefully toting his superiority, The Cat King (Curry) is convinced his bridal selection for his son is a wise one until the Baron crashes the party leading to an adventurous final act.  Understanding the need to discover her true self to revert back to her human appearance, Haru and her friends navigate an intricate castle maze to return to the human world once and for all.  Considerably shorter than most Studio Ghibli efforts, The Cat Returns maintains the studio’s high animation standards while, its characters, although charming and humorous, lack a noticeable depth.  In addition, the film’s theme of believing in oneself is adequately conveyed but, never scratches beyond its surface for deeper subtext commonly seen in previous Ghibli efforts.  Set in yet another otherworldly realm inhabited this time by talking cats, The Cat Returns manages to deliver several moments of thrills complimented by worthwhile laughs courtesy of Muta and Toto’s constant bickering.  Although lacking a deeper emotional palette, The Cat Returns delivers top-notch visuals in its limited runtime that will resonate with dedicated Ghibli enthusiasts.                      

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment ushers both Spirited Away and The Cat Returns with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bursting with bright colors, both films arrive with blemish free transfers that allow viewers to fully appreciate the grand environments and uniquely crafted characters.  Black levels appear inky and absent of any crushing levels while, saturation is remarkably pleasing and depth, most noticeably in Spirited Away’s flying sequences, are nicely handled.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue is always audible and crisp while, sound effects and each film’s respective scores are relayed with excellent clarity.  In addition to each film’s English version, the original Japanese mixes with English subtitles are also included.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, Spirited Away’s special features include, an Introduction by John Lasseter (1:09), The Art of Spirited Away (15:12), Behind the Microphone (5:42) where the English cast and crew share their experiences working on the acclaimed film.  Plus, Original Japanese Storyboards (2:04:31), a Nippon Television Special (41:53), Original Japanese Trailers (18:26), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:57) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants are also included.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release round out the film’s supplements.  Also porting over its previously available supplements, The Cat Returns’ special features include, Original Japanese Storyboards (1:14:58), Behind the Microphone (8:59), The Making of The Cat Returns (34:11), Original Japanese Trailers (6:36), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:33) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants.  In addition, a DVD edition of the release is also included.  

    Rewarding viewers with more of Studio Ghibili’s rich history, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes Hayao Miyazaki’s long revered masterpiece to American shores.  Surreal and epically realized, Spirited Away’s examination of a young girl roaming a world of spirits is one of the master storyteller’s most impressive outings that stands as an animation milestone.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s shortest feature to date, The Cat Returns, introduces viewers to an equally peculiar world of talking felines and a young girl struggling to alter her fate.  Containing a heartfelt theme and impressive artistry, The Cat Returns lacks an emotional depth, trapping it in a state of unfortunate mediocrity.  Marking their domestic Blu-ray debuts, both films stun on high-definition with all their previously available special features ported over.  Eager to journey to magical worlds of wonder, Studio Ghibli’s efforts have left a profound impact on viewers that can now be gloriously recaptured on home video.

    Spirited Away RATING: 4.5/5

    The Cat Returns RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Spirited Away and The Cat Returns can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Power (1984) DVD Review



    The Power (1984)
    Director(s): Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
    Starring: Susan Stokey, Warren Lincoln, Lisa Erickson & J. Dinan Myrtetus
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor, Scorpion Releasing, is ready to send you for a roller coaster ride filled with possession and horrors thanks to The Power!  This unique blending of genres showcases what happens when an ancient talisman ends up in the wrong hands  and all hell breaks loose.  From the directing duo who brought you The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Kindred, The Power has been resurrected in a brand new HD master prepared to make you think twice before communicating with the spirit world.  After a lengthy delay, let’s investigate just how powerful this flick is...

    The Power centers on an Aztec idol that is stolen before ending up in the curious hands of three high school students determined to make contact with the spirit world.  Unfortunately, the idols powers are proven very real when another young man steals it for his own purposes and is consumed by its horrific energy.  Can The Power be contained or are the teens doomed to feel the idols wraith?

    MOVIE:
    The alluring rainbow filled poster art for The Power is hypnotic, to say the least.  A cautionary and doom-like tagline ices the cake for what is hoped to be an enjoyable viewing experience.  As the film begins, a college professor is lecturing a class before a snarky student makes offhanded comments.  The professor makes eye contact with an ancient idol sitting in his briefcase before setting his stern gaze on the student causing a bloody nose for the smart aleck.  As the lecture concludes, the professor is greeted by a colleague who is firmly aware that the relic is consuming his friend.  Before long, the professor is left alone with his prized possession until its power is revealed causing the educator to be elevated and impaled on a flagpole.  Suffice to say, a terrific opening.  Without missing a beat, we are whisked away to a desert land where the recently deceased professor’s friend is on the hunt for the relic.  The energy of this ancient talisman continues to grow as the man learns it is now possessed by an elderly gentleman and young boy unwilling to part with it.  The man does the noble thing and shoots them dead before making his claim on it.  This is where The Power begins to test its audiences‘ patience.  The film seems to start over yet again, opening with three high school students planning to conduct a seance later that evening.  Nearly 20 minutes into the film, The Power fails to deliver a stable set of characters for the viewer to latch onto.  Finally, the high schoolers meet at the local cemetery with personal items in tow they feel will protect them should anything go wrong.  Of course, one student has the talisman that seems to be hot on everyone’s Christmas list.  How did his parents come into possession of it before passing it on as a gift?  An explanation is apparently not necessary.  The seance commences with the teens awakening a power that is far beyond their expectations resulting in the death of a cemetery worker.  Just when you thought you had a set of characters you could zone in on, alas more are on the way!  The teens seek the guidance of a local tabloid writer who they believe can help them in their unique situation.  Of course, the writer doesn’t put much faith in their story but her ex-boyfriend isn’t so sure.  He decides to do some investigating on his own before getting consumed by the relic and stealing it for his own purposes.  

    The Power certainly has its share of issues finding its footing but it eventually gets there an hour into the film.  As the idol appears in the writer and her former beau’s life, odd occurrences start.  In an effective nightmare sequence, multiple hands emerge from the woman’s mattress and attempt to stab her before she awakes.  The longer her ex keeps the idol in his possession, the worse his obsession becomes.  He begins to morph into a demon-like creature and is determined to kill his former lover and the teens.  The final act is a fun recovery for an otherwise sloppy first half.  The man’s horrific transformation is a highlight with wonderful make-up effects taking center stage and a demise for the creature that is just as satisfying.  The film concludes jumping ahead three years finding the female teenager in college.  She is greeted by an earlier character that simply appears as a bookend for the film.  He wishes to ask her about her experiences with the relic that have been recorded in a novel written by the tabloid writer that also survived.  The film ends not making a tremendous amount of sense but leaves the viewer with an enjoyable jump scare before the end credits.  The Power had a very bumpy start getting the viewer invested in a core group of characters.  But, the film found its way by finally zeroing in on the three high schoolers and the tabloid writer.  The film would have benefitted immensely had the makers spent less time setting up the relic’s drawn out history and more on those who would possess it for the duration of the film.  Luckily, The Power has some great make-up effects and nifty nightmarish imagery that makes the viewing experience worth it.  The Power may not be the greatest film, but it certainly has some choices moments, warts and all.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Power is presented in a brand new HD anamorphic widescreen master (1.78:1).  After being delayed due to a better print being located, The Power makes a decent splash on this release.  The film certainly has its fair share of speckles and pops in the transfer, but detail looks nice with colors represented nicely.  Black levels, while quite murky at times, are still presented as good as can be.  Utilizing this better print, one can only imagine how much worse the film could have looked.  Thankfully, Scorpion Releasing did the right thing and presents this film in arguably the best shape it will see.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Power comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that has its fair share of hiccups as well.  Instances of hiss and static are present throughout the mix but surprisingly never intrude on dialogue.  Pops are heard, mostly during reel changes, but again nothing that deters the viewer from catching any moments of dialogue.  A serviceable treatment that could easily have been far worse.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Katarina’s Nightmare Theater: Katarina Leigh Waters hosts this optional featurette providing an intro and outro to the film scattered with informative facts and humorous hijinks.  

    - Original Trailer

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Grizzly, Day of the Animals, Dogs, Lurkers and Sorceress.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    The Power tripped over its feet for spending far too much time establishing the relic’s past with former owners and less on those that would steer the majority of the film.  Thankfully, the film does well bouncing back with likable characters and effective make-up designs that save the film from being a total disappointment.  Scorpion Releasing has again saved another cult favorite from obscurity and preserving it with the best care it is likely to receive.  Special features are minimal but those jonesing for an early 80s effort in evil clay relics, The Power might be worth putting in your hands.  
    RATING: 3/5