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  • The Park Is Mine (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Park Is Mine (1985)

    Director: Steven Hilliard Stern

    Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Helen Shaver & Yaphet Kotto

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the suicide of his fellow solider, The Park Is Mine centers on a disgruntled Vietnam war veteran (Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men) whose disappointment in his country’s respect for vets turns dangerous.  Staging an elaborate take over of New York’s Central Park, the ex-solider’s attempt to bring attention to the bigger issues are met with resistance by the city’s police force and equally skilled commandos.  Helen Shaver (The Believers) and Yaphet Kotto (Alien) costar.

    A surprising made-for-TV effort that exudes cinematic flair, The Park Is Mine, a byproduct of the era’s lucrative Canadian tax-shelter program and a home video mainstay guaranteed to be seen in local shops’ action sections, manages to pack a suspense-filled feature of firepower.  Based on the book by Stephen Peters while deviating from its source’s much darker tones and casting a far more humble light upon its protagonist, The Park Is Mine finds jobless and directionless war veteran Mitch (Jones) grieving over the loss of his former brother-in-arms and uncovering his friend’s unfulfilled attempt to make the masses reappraise their view of sacrificing soldiers.  Examining his fallen comrade’s detailed plans and already implemented tactics to successfully take over the city’s expansive Central Park, Mitch, equally dissatisfied with his own life’s hand, takes command of the operation.  Decorated in war paint, a Yankees hat and heavily loaded with artillery and explosives, Mitch’s terroristic takeover is met with unsuccessful thwarts by New York’s finest before the city’s under appreciated citizens see the system-shaker as a hometown hero.  While the film is complimented with supporting turns by Yaphet Kotto, a pillar of police procedurals and gangster pictures as a cautious officer, Helen Shaver as a daring news camerawoman who gets personally embroiled in Mitch’s one-man war and Gale Garnett (Mad Monster Party) as Mitch’s estranged wife who supplies unintentionally welcome comic relief as she hassles her husband with phone calls during his coup, Tommy Lee Jones’ performance single-handedly dominates the film with the precise blending of a calculated war expert and the shakiness of a distressed man winging his uncertain actions.  Climaxing with a fatal showdown against deadly mercenaries, The Park Is Mine may keep its bodycount low but maintains a tight pace and explosively well-handled action set pieces.  Further cementing its big-screen aura, Tangerine Dream’s (Thief, Risky Business) electronically-charged score adds a cherry-topping flavor to this effectively dramatic showcase of urban warfare and anti-heroes defending their turf and wrongly overlooked commitments to their country.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents The Park Is Mine with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Excusing minor instances of speckling, natural grain is apparent and most pleasing while, skin tones are nicely preserved with Mitch’s fading warpaint and perspiration also well-detailed.  In addition, colors found in Central Park’s robust greenery and the police officer’s bullet-proof vests pop strongly with nighttime sequences demonstrating easy-to-see black levels throughout.  Although several quick drops in volume occur during a diner sequence between Shaver and her colleague, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 handles the duration of all other dialogue with crispness and clarity while, the film’s machine gun blasts and other explosions make respectable racket on the track.  Meanwhile, Tangerine Dream’s underrated synth-score is nothing short of a listening pleasure whenever its head is reared.  Special features include, a highly informative Audio Commentary with Film Historian Nathaniel Thompson that covers the intriguing background of the film’s Canadian production backers, the tonal and character development changes made between the book and its adaptation plus, the onscreen acting talent and plenty of other worthy film recommendations that come up in discussion.  Furthermore, Trailers for The Park Is Mine (2:08), Blown Away (1:35), The Package (2:18), Report to the Commissioner (2:21) & Busting (2:45) round out the on-disc supplements with a Reversible Cover Art also on hand.

    Impressing with its big-screen bravado, superior acting talent and choice score compliments of electronic mavericks Tangerine Dream, The Park Is Mine appears more brutal than what is presented while orchestrating well-conceived suspense and a vastly underrated turn from Jones.  Airing on HBO and routinely stocked on video store shelves before their decline, The Park Is Mine remains a worthy thriller to take to the front lines.  A most welcome addition to their wildly diverse catalog, KL Studio Classics salutes this Vietnam vet feature with a top-notch HD debut and a valued commentary track, as informative as its film is entertaining.  

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • The Ratings Game (1984) Blu-ray Review

    The Ratings Game (1984)

    Director: Danny DeVito

    Starring: Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Gerrit Graham, Kevin McCarthy, Louis Giambalvo, Frank Sivero & Vincent Schiavelli

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking his directorial debut, Danny DeVito also stars in The Ratings Game as successful Jersey trucking tycoon Vic De Salvo whose aspirations of fame lead him to Hollywood.  Teaming up with his girlfriend (Rhea Perlman, Matilda) who works for the TV ratings service, the tenacious new show runner hatches a scheme to rig the sacred system in his favor.  Gerrit Graham (Used Cars), Kevin McCarthy (Innerspace), Louis Giambalvo (Weekend at Bernie’s), Frank Sivero (Goodfellas) and Vincent Schiavelli (Ghost) co-star.

    Shortly after the cancelation of his successful sitcom Taxi, Asbury Park native Danny DeVito would find himself carrying the torch both behind and in front of the camera for the Showtime network’s debut into original TV movie programming.  Impressing top brass with his comedic creative chops on HBO’s politically funny anthology series Likely Stories, DeVito’s Jersey roots and boisterously Italian heritage rides shotgun in this satirical sendup of showbiz and scandal.  Relocating with his family to Tinseltown and living lavishly off of his trucking business, Vic De Salvo yearns to become a respected TV producer much to the overwhelming disapproval of established players.  After a spiteful decision earns De Salvo a green-lit pilot at the struggling MBC network, the short statured wannabe professional must overcome a suicidal time slot setup by his hilariously unsupportive studio head (Graham).  Teaming up with his girlfriend and fellow Jerseyite Francine (Perlman) who works for the trusted television ratings service, De Salvo’s mafioso-esque plan to rig the system to ensure his show’s popularity shoots his credibility up the charts before a hysterical downward spiral culminates at the annual TV Digest Awards ceremony.  

    Hosting a multitude of appearances from ascending stars including, Michael Richards (Problem Child), George Wendt (Cheers), Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Jerry Seinfeld (Seinfeld) as a dismissive network exec, The Ratings Game is a bonafide only in the 80s knee slapper that makes light of TV programs of the era while, DeVito and Perlman’s lovely onscreen chemistry assures viewers what they see is not just movie magic but, the foundation of a personal and professional relationship that has endured four decades.  Well praised during its original release and sending DeVito off on a successful run of theatrical hits, The Ratings Game would ultimately fall into unwarranted near extinction.  Delectably silly and containing an impressively funny ensemble cast, The Ratings Game has aged considerably well, highly earning itself a rerun.

    Olive Films presents The Ratings Games with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the marks of its TV movie roots with black bars displayed vertically on either sides of frame, bolder colors found in costume choices are eye-catching while, an inherent softness and occasional speckling is unsurprisingly displayed given the film’s original viewing intent.  A vast improvement over its bygone VHS release, The Ratings Game has never looked better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is sufficient, if not underwhelming, with no troubling levels of distortion or hiss detected.  In a welcome change of pace, Olive Films welcomes the release with a generous helping of supplements including, The Short Films of Danny DeVito: The Selling of Vince D’Angelo (20:37), A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening (13:48), Minestrone (11:51) and The Sound Sleeper (11:52).  In addition, Deleted Scenes (6:03), a Behind the Scenes Featurette (6:50), Promo Spot (1:41) and a 26-page booklet featuring stills, screenplay excerpts and writings on The Ratings Game and Likely Stories are also included.

    Incorporating his own Garden State upbringing with stereotypical cracks at his Italian ethnicity, Star/Director Danny DeVito’s The Ratings Game makes a splash keeping viewers entertained by its many funny performances and charmed by his and real life wife Perlman’s lovable onscreen romance.  Appreciatively saving and reintroducing audiences to Showtime’s first-ever television movie, Olive Films deserves praise for the feature’s remastered high-def presentation and its welcome inclusion of bonus features that will hopefully continue with future releases.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Ratings Game can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Adventures in Babysitting (2016) DVD Review

    Adventures in Babysitting (2016)

    Director: John Schultz

    Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Sofia Carson, Nikki Hahn, Jet Jurgensmeyer, Mallory James Mahoney, Madison Horcher & Max Gecowets

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Competing for the same internship, Adventures in Babysitting centers on edgy Lola’s (Sabrina Carpenter, Descendants) rookie attempt caring for several children gone disastrous, forcing her to reach out to brainy competitor and fellow babysitter Jenny (Sabrina Carpenter, Girl Meets World) for a helping hand.  Anything that can go wrong does as the two teenage sitters and their pack of kids trek into the big city for a night of endless adventure and hijinks.

    Inspired by Chris Columbus’ (Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) 1987 directorial debut, Adventures in Babysitting follows the basic outline of its originator, modernized for today’s audience down to its G-rated revisions of classic dialogue spouted off by former star Elisabeth Shue.  Adding two sitters to the mix this time around, the 100th Disney Channel Original Movie redo pits contrasting personalities Lola and Jenny against one another for a competitive photography internship before a cell phone mixup and deceitful maneuvers land both girls separate babysitting gigs.  Laid back Lola’s lack of focus results in Trey (Max Gecowets, After the Reality) sneaking off to the city for a concert, prompting the unprepared sitter to begrudgingly ask Jenny for assistance.  Rounding up their troops of kids and commandeering one mother’s newly detailed vehicle, the two parties head into the cityscape for a night that finds them avoiding clumsy criminals in possession of an exotic stolen ferret, dodging prison and hastily trying to reclaim their towed car.  In addition to building the self-confidence of their younger companions, Jenny conjures the courage to tell her crush how she feels all before returning home ahead of the parental units, making the night a wild one that brings both sitters together as friends.

    While the young cast, namely Carpenter and Carson, do fine within the confines of the story and gel nicely with one another, Adventures in Babysitting is understandably catered to a younger generation, far removed from the slightly more adult but, nonetheless hilarious original film.  Unfortunately, attempts to recreate memorable moments from its predecessor fall flat with an eye-rolling sequence previously occurring in a smoke-filled blues bar where the cast must partake in a singing number, replaced here with a groan-inducing freestyle rap battle.  Perhaps too safe and occasionally too cornball to be enjoyed by audiences who fondly remember the much preferred original, Adventures in Babysitting will appeal to Disney’s current tween audience to whom this rendition is built for.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Adventures in Babysitting in widescreen, bearing a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Fashioned for television, skin tones, prominent colors in costumes and black levels evident in the nighttime skies in the bustling city are efficiently reproduced yet, lacking an obvious sharpness that could have been remedied under a Blu-ray release.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is appropriately handled with no missteps while, the film’s catchy theme song “Wild Side” (performed by both Carpenter and Carson) provides a lofty oomph to the mix.  In addition to a magnetic picture frame included inside its packaging, special features include, Adventures in Outtakes (1:40) and Sneak Peeks (3:23) at Disney Movie Rewards, Descendants: The Official Mobile Game, Girl Meets World and Finding Dory.

    Refashioning the 80s favorite feature for Disney’s tween TV audience, Adventures in Babysitting is harmless fun for its intended demographic but, fails to hold a candle to the original.  As two of the Disney Channel’s more prominent entertainers, Sabrina Carpenter and Sofia Carson are clearly having a ball as dueling babysitters turned besties and their contagious onscreen enjoyment makes the feature a bearable watch.  Disney Channel addicts should take to the big city, babysitting misadventures nicely while, parents will take greater comfort introducing their own rugrats to the Chris Columbus/Elisabeth Shue effort.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available June 28th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Adventures in Babysitting can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Descendants (2015) DVD Review

    Descendants (2015)

    Director: Kenny Ortega

    Starring: Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart & Sofia Carson

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Imprisoned on the Isle of the Lost along with their villainous parents, Descendants focuses on the teenage offspring of Maleficent’s daughter Mal (Dove Cameron, Liv and Maddie), Cruella de Vil’s son Carlos (Cameron Boyce, Jessie), Jafar’s son Jay (Booboo Stewart, X-Men: Days of Future Past) and the Evil Queen’s daughter Evie (Sofia Carson, Faking It) as they are invited to the serene prep school of Auradon for a new beginning.  Joined by the children of Disney heroes and princesses, the troublesome four are determined to help their parents regain domination but, become conflicted when they begin embracing the lighter side of their personalities.  Kenny Ortega (Newsies, High School Musical) directs and choreographs this Disney Channel Original Movie event.

    Continuing their successful streak of bringing their memorable animated characters into live-action, Descendants spotlights the teenage exploits of Disney’s next generation of antagonists.  As Prince Ben (Mitchell Hope), son of Beast and Belle, nears his rightful place on the throne, the young teen offers a second chance to a select few from the Isle of the Lost to attend Auradon’s prestigious prep school.  With strict orders to steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand by their parents, the four descendants of infamous Disney villains agree to attend Auardon Prep.  Uncomfortable in their new surroundings and continuously unsuccessful in obtaining the wand, the rebellious teens slowly develop a change of heart towards Auardon.  As Ben and Mal form an unlikely attraction towards one another, Jay thrives in the school’s competitive athletic program while, Carlos learns to love a pet dog and Evie proves she’s more than just a pretty face.  The more comfortable Mal and her friends become at their new school, aiding their evil parents’ wicked plans grows increasingly difficult.  Although not all of Auardon’s citizens are pleased with the offspring of their most dreaded villains, Mal and the gang must overcome oppression and ultimately look inside their hearts to make a new future for themselves.

    Bursting with musical energy and well-executed dance sequences, Descendants arrives with several mildly entertaining tunes with the exception of a dreadful, hip-hop influenced redux of “Be Our Guest”.  In addition, although the villainous parents are secondary to the tale, Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) as Maleficent and Kathy Najimy (Hocus Pocus) as the Evil Queen make entertaining appearances while, the talented Keegan Connor Tracy’s (Bates Motel) Belle fails to leave a lasting impression in her brief screen time.  Formulaic but fun, Descendants utilizes some of the network’s brightest young stars for an original concept soaked in the folklore of Disney’s most beloved fantasies.  Entertaining enough, Descendants is built for Disney’s tween audience and younger who will get the most mileage out of this musical television movie.

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Descendants in widescreen with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Colors are mostly bold and effective with skin tones relayed clearly and lifelike.  Although lacking a richer sharpness, Descendants appears satisfactory.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is always clear and free of any distortion while, the film’s musical numbers offer an added boost in authority that is evident and pleasing.  Special features include, #Mal (4:30) showcasing the lead character’s journey via social media, Backstage Dance Rehearsals (7:31), Bloopers (2:16), Sneak Peek: Descendants Wicked World (0:19) providing a quick snippet at the new animated series coming this Fall.  In addition, Sneak Peeks (4:39) for Disney Movie Rewards, K.C. Undercover, Girl Meets World, Disney Movies Anywhere, Disneynature’s Born in China and Aladdin Diamond Edition are included along with a free “Isle of the Lost” bracelet.

    Catered for Disney Channel’s young audience, Descendants is a magical blend of fantasy and music through the eyes of angsty teenage characters.  With an emphasis on understanding and young love, Disney’s spirited TV movie has fun playing with its treasured characters while introducing a team of fresh-faced newbies for modern audiences.  Meanwhile, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents the film with sufficient technical merits but, scant special features that should still appease young viewers.  Although some of its characters are rotten to the core, Descendants will taste sweet to Disney Channel’s most dedicated watchers.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Descendants can be purchased via 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.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13: The Bob Newhart Show, Dan Curtis' Dracula, Gang War in Milan & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13 includes:

    - Dan Curtis' Dracula (1973) (0:36)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - House in the Alley (2012) (6:28)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series (12:04)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Gang War in Milan (1973) (20:26)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Chances Are (1989) (27:10)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Death Spa (1989) (31:40)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (37:55)