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Currently showing posts tagged Universal Studios

  • Car Wash (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Car Wash (1976)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in sunny Los Angeles, Car Wash hosts a day in the life of a ragtag group of car washers and and the hilarious hijinks that ensue on the job, all to a fast-moving, body-shaking soundtrack of hits.  Scripted by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) and starring a diverse roster of character actors, musicians and comedy’s finest, Michael Schultz (Cooley High, The Last Dragon) directs this hot wax of hilarity.

    Uncontrollably fun and capturing the laughs of the blue-collar grind, Car Wash, originally intended as a Broadway musical, uses its nonlinear construction to great effect, making viewers apart of the onscreen ball-busting camaraderie and radio wave boogieing.  Best known for their “hand job” touch, the stocked staff of a busy car wash including, Justin (Leon Pinkney, Deadly Hero), an African-American constantly hassled by his girlfriend to ditch his position and return to college, T.C. (Franklin Ajaye, Convoy), an afro-rockin’ employee determined to win a local radio contest and woo the local diner’s waitress, Abduallah (Bill Duke, Predator), a Black Muslim revolutionary formerly known as Duane, Lindy (Antonio Fargas, Starsky & Hutch), a flamboyantly gay employee who dishes attitude better than anyone else and the musical, dancing duo of Floyd (Darrow Igus, Fridays) and Lloyd (Otis Day, D.C. Cab), among others all bust a move while making Cali cars sparkle and shine.  From erroneously tackling a customer thought to be a criminal bomber, fellow employee Hippo (Jamie Spinks, The Big Score) knocking the boots with a local prostitute who is hilariously pursued by an all too trusting cabbie (George Carlin, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) for skipping out on a fare and graced by the money-hungry presence of a pimp-like preacher known as Daddy Rich (Richard Pryor, The Toy), Car Wash is never in short supply of comic situations and absurdness.  Rightfully earning a Grammy for Best Album written for a film, Car Wash is never overly crude or falters due to its unconventional plot that is more inclined to let audiences hang with the gang than anything else.  Instead, the cult hit keeps the fun times rolling and holds the jive allowing for an effort doused in outrageous laughs.

    Shout Select presents Car Wash with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With only the faintest of speckling popping up every now and again, colors pop remarkably well with the employee’s orange jumpsuits, bright yellow taxi cabs and the establishment’s big-lettered signage all making top-notch bursts on screen.  Furthermore, skin tones are exceptional with detail evident in close-ups and white levels, most noticeably seen in Daddy Rich’s gaudy suit, looking solidly.  A most filmic representation of the musically-driven comedy, Car Wash truly shimmers in high-definition.  Matched with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is overwhelmingly audible with only occasional moments where outdoor ambiance can drown out character exchanges.  That said, the film’s constant undercurrent of music is balanced appreciatively with talky moments while, specific music-driven cues including the opening and closing titles will leave viewers singing along for days and impressed by the song’s depths.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Workin’ at the Car Wash with Otis Day (12:13) where the actor recalls a 2 week rehearsal period on the Universal soundstages that greatly developed the cast’s chemistry before filming commenced.  Understandably, Day mentions growing incredibly sick of hearing the title song on a daily basis while also praising Schultz’s direction and hailing him as someone who truly cared about the project.  Car Wash from Start to Finish with Gary Stomberg (34:22) finds the film’s producer sharing his early starts in public relations repping the likes of Ray Charles before forming his own company that would ultimately represent Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf and The Doors.  Stromberg also remembers coming up with the idea of Car Wash during a particularly loaded evening citing Robert Altman’s Nashville as an inspiration.  Understanding the music world while Universal were left scratching their heads about the film’s potential, Stromberg’s theory to spread head the project with an album produced by Norman Whitfield that would ultimately pay for the film’s making proved true and one the studio immediately responded to.  Lastly, Radio Spots (2:59), the film’s Trailer (2:21) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the release’s extras.

    Although not an original commercial success before graduating to cult accolades, Car Wash is a hilarious hangout session with the working man where pranks, kooky customers and a rhythm-splitting soundtrack take shotgun.  A groovy time capsule with funny performances from its many principal players, this lighthearted blaxploitation romp is prime picking for all 9-5ers.  Meanwhile, Shout Select’s high-definition upgrade is a filmic stunner with a smaller but, nonetheless engaging offering of extras and dynamite new cover art provided by Paul Shipper that shines the flick up nice.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Car Wash can be purchased ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

    Director: Art Linson

    Starring: Peter Boyle & Bill Murray

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Tales from the Hood (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Tales from the Hood (1995)

    Director: Rusty Cundieff

    Starring: Corbin Bersen, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Tales from the Hood unspools an anthology of urban frights set against the backdrop of inner city social issues as frightening as the monsters depicted in them.  Nightmares and reality are forever blurred when a trio of hoodlums retrieving a stash of missing drugs from an eerie mortician find themselves subjected to several tales from beyond the grave.

    Released in a dire genre year just ahead of Wes Craven’s postmodern slasher masterpiece rejuvenating audiences thirst, Tales from the Hood stands as one of the few crowning achievements from the lumpish decade that offers genuine frights with effectively delivered messages entwined in their narratives.  Seldom seen during the scatterbrained era but nonetheless serving as one of the best anthology efforts of its day, Tales from the Hood’s urban slant provides a chillingly fresh perspective on a proven formula with its commentary on issues such as, police brutality, domestic abuse and gang violence unfortunately still potent today.  Guiding his trigger-happy guests around his funeral home, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, Mod Squad) weaves a web of ghoulish stories in accordance with their own ethnic environment.  When an African-American rookie cop watches on as a civil rights leader is attacked by corrupt officers, Rogue Cop Revelation finds his lack of action comes at a haunting price while, Boys Do Get Bruised finds a child’s fear of the monster in his closet foreshadowing the real-life domestic abuse he suffers and the power of his own imagination that puts an end to it in this Twilight Zone-esque episode.  Furthermore, KKK Comeuppance centers on former Klansman and running politician Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law) learning his former plantation homestead is overrun by vengeful slave dolls brought to life by stop-motion wizardry.  Lastly, gang violence, hate and a failed attempt to rehabilitate a murderous convict in Hard Core Convert strikes genuine fear into the hearts of viewers with its grizzly imagery of real-life lynchings.  While most films of its kind leave audiences cherry-picking their favorite segments, Tales from the Hood continuously tops itself throughout its duration with its seamless blending of terror and gritty, urban realism making it one of the most smartly conceived efforts of the 90s.

    Reportedly thought to have no workable prints to remaster from, Scream Factory comes through to deliver Tales from the Hood with a strong 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Leaps and bounds better than its nearly decade-old discontinued DVD release, colors are striking while, skin tones are naturally pleasing with black levels, evident during the film’s overwhelming nighttime sequences, looking deeply inky with no intrusions of digital crush.  Scant speckling traces aside, the transfer is a remarkable sight that will leave fans yearning for a trip back to the hood more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue sharply and emphasizes its rap soundtrack authoritatively, an Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 culled from the film’s LaserDisc release is also included for your listening pleasure.  Joining its place alongside other worthy Collector’s Edition releases, supplemental offerings include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff also recycled from its LaserDisc release, the newly-produced and exceptionally well made Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood (56:13) featuring interviews from Cundieff, Co-Writer/Producer Darin Scott and several cast members, a Vintage Featurette (6:04), the Theatrical Trailer (1:41), TV Spots (3:26), a Photo Gallery (9:46) and Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet.

    Retrieved from Universal’s vaults after rampant requests from fans, Tales from the Hood is an underrated gem from a decade largely considered in peril with few redeeming genre efforts.  A horrific journey of eerie episodes with much more on its mind than simply scaring its audiences, this socially conscious and wickedly fun frightfest is urban horror at its finest.  Bestowed with new luridly crafted artwork by Joel Robinson (The Vincent Price Collections), Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release brings the hood back to life with a sightly high-definition makeover and a quality serving of mostly vintage supplements while, its brand-new, nearly hour-long retrospective doc is the disc’s towering extra.  Gather round the casket and don’t be left out on the streets without this recommended anthology of nightmares!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 18th from Scream Factory, Tales from the Hood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Firestarter (1984) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Firestarter (1984)

    Director: Mark L. Lester

    Starring: David Keith, Drew Barrymore, Freddie Jones, Heather Locklear, Martin Sheen, George C. Scott, Art Carney & Louise Fletcher

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Sandwiched between several other Stephen King adaptations from Producer Dino De Laurentiis (Cat’s Eye, Silver Bullet), Firestarter may have failed to ignite explosive box-office returns, yet stands as an above average retelling of the best-selling novel with a top-tier cast and spellbinding score lighting the way.  Shortly after partaking in a paid medical study, Andy McGee (David Keith, White of the Eye) and his future wife Vicky (Heather Locklear, T.J. Hooker) develop the unique abilities to read and overtake others’ minds.  Raising their young daughter Charlie (Drew Barrymore, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) who has developed her own abilities to ignite fires and foresee future events, a secret government agency, known as The Shop, intent on capturing the child for their own weaponizing needs, murders Vicky, forcing the widowed Andy and Charlie to permanently outrun their seekers.  Relentless in their search, the head of The Shop, Captain Hollister (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now), hires the methodically unhinged Agent John Rainbird (George C. Scott, Patton) to retrieve the little girl with her destruction being his sole consolation.  Fighting tooth and nail to remain with her father at all odds, Charlie is eventually pushed to her boiling point and must rely on her repressed powers to fight back.  

    Featuring brief appearances from Art Carney (The Honeymooners) and Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) as trustworthy old-timers, Firestarter is an affectionately faithful adaptation that rises above the genre-laden capabilities of its leads with their onscreen chemistry as father and daughter reflected best.  The film’s all-star cast from the fresh faced Barrymore to the Oscar winning Scott, in a deliciously underrated role, all bring their A-game while, Director Mark L. Lester’s (Class of 1984, Commando) graduation to studio pictures is a solid progression from his much loved drive-in fare.  Concluding with an inferno of effects-work akin to the finale of King’s debut novel, Firestarter is hardly the pinnacle of the Master of Horror’s cinematic responses, yet deserves more credit for its survivalist tale of struggle and Tangerine Dream’s (Thief, Legend) synth-inducing score that ranks amongst their best.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Firestarter with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Eviscerating Universal Studios’ previous and heavily DNRed transfer from 2014, the King adaptation maintains a gorgeously filmic appearance with vibrant greenery on display during exterior sequences while, the skin tones of all actors are natural and exceptionally detailed, making way for the crispest of clarity in observing Barrymore’s rolling tears and Keith’s delicate nosebleed streams.  Although insignificant speckles are occasionally spotted, Firestarter’s latest hi-def outing is nothing short of definitive.  Equipped with a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue efficiently, the surprisingly light on sound effects track offers little to bite into while, the fiery blasts and thuds of the unfortunate souls in Charlie’s path offer their best punch.  Without question, Tangerine Dream’s hypnotic score is the best dish on the menu.

    A solid entry into the boutique label’s Collector’s Edition banner, newly conceived special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Mark L. Lester, Playing with Fire: The Making of Firestarter (52:40) that hosts Lester recalling John Carpenter’s original role in the production before earning himself directorial duties, praise for De Laurentiis’ sound advice and other intriguing anecdotes such as Drew Barrymore beating Poltergeist’s Heather O’Rourke for the lead role.  Actors Drew Snyder, Freddie Jones, Dick Warlock and Tangerine Dream’s Johannes Schmoelling also offer their own unique insights to working on the show in this first-rate featurette.  In addition, Tangerine Dream: Movie Music Memories with Johannes Schmoelling (17:07) catches up with the keyboardist as he recounts the band’s peak decade in the 80s and their work on such films as Michael Mann’s Thief.  Meanwhile, the awesome and self-explanatory Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream Plays “Charlie’s Theme” (3:43) is the surprise nugget of the release while, Theatrical Trailers (3:43), Radio Spots (4:34), a Still Gallery (69 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster design round out the bonus feature selections.  A worthy King adaptation that unfairly gets lost in the shuffle too often,  Firestarter returns to Blu-ray with a definitive 2K scan upgrade and another juicy offering of featurettes, aptly produced by the tireless Cavetown Pictures, that serve Scream Factory’s Collector Edition moniker proud.  

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Snowden (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Snowden (2016)

    Director: Oliver Stone

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

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    The Purge: Election Year (2016)

    Director: James DeMonaco

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

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Midnight Run (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Midnight Run (1988)

    Director: Martin Brest

    Starring: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton, Dennis Farina & Joe Pantoliano

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After embezzling millions from the mob to donate to charity, sensitive accountant Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin, Beethoven) skips bail and becomes a moving target for his former employers.  When the financial opportunity of a lifetime arises, Midnight Run finds ex-cop turned bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro, Goodfellas) jumping to haul The Duke cross-country back to Los Angeles for a $100,000 payday.  Pursued by both the FBI and the mob, Jack and Jonathan find themselves working together throughout their hilarious adventure to stay alive.  Yaphet Kotto (The Running Man), John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop), Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento) co-star.

    A hilarious road trip that takes thrilling turns and action-packed shifts, Midnight Run boasts one of the decade’s most unexpectedly funny and brilliantly matched casting combinations with Hollywood legend Robert De Niro blending laughs with his valued tough-guy persona and the wildly underrated Charles Grodin’s subtle gentleness and dry demeanor both collectively earning the comedy its true payoff.  Earning a living as a skilled bounty hunter, former Chicago cop Jack Walsh hopes to leave the business behind for good after securing and safely delivering white-collar criminal Jonathan “The Duke” Mardukas for a handsome six-figures.  Uncomfortable with his standing as an unbeknownst employee of the mafia, Jonathan embezzles $15 million from mob kingpin Jimmy Serrano (Farina) and nobly donates the funds to charity.  Rightly fearing for his life while the FBI is determined to have The Duke testify against Serrano, Jack hightails it to New York to bring his bounty back west which proves easier said than done.  Comically clashing from their introduction, Jack grows disgruntled with Jonathan by the second after the latter’s fear of flying derails their quick getaway to Los Angeles.  Through trains, automobiles, grand theft auto and dwindling cash, the two polar opposites can’t catch a break as Serrano’s men, the feds and an opposing bounty hunter (Ashton) who continuously falls for Jack’s false kindness close in on them.  From one misadventure to the next, Jonathan’s attempts to get to know his cold companion are typically met with knee-snappingly profane responses before an expected friendly bromance that will save their necks kicks in.

    Boldly casting the lesser known Grodin over prominent funnyman Robin Williams, Producer/Director Martin Brest’s (Scent of a Woman) instincts wisely paid off as the improvisational spirit and inherent chemistry with co-star De Niro is what makes the film a comedy standout.  Excellently juxtaposed with high-speed chases, intense shootouts and perfectly cast supporting turns from veteran character actors, Midnight Run continues Brest’s flawless handling of action and humor following the wild success of the original Beverly Hills Cop.  A modest hit that would continue the further exploits of Jack Walsh with three TV movie sequels starring Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore) in the De Niro role, Midnight Run is a flawless romp bursting with hysterical energy and excellently crafted characters that annoy, enlighten and rescue one another, much to the endless enjoyment of backseat viewers along for one of the era’s most undervalued rides.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the interpositive, Shout Select presents Midnight Run with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing strongly organic with natural grain firmly intact, skin tones are quite pleasing with admirable detail while, the textures of Jack’s leather jacket are well presented.  Sunny rural exteriors are lush with black levels containing evidence of speckling that seeps its way into other various sequences.  Commonly spotted in striped clothing or dimly lit moments, the aforementioned speckling may not be deal breaking yet, makes its presence known with varying degrees of intrusion.  Thankfully free of any scratches or scuffs, Midnight Run makes a solidly definitive leap to domestic high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, effects work and Composer Danny Elfman’s (Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman) excellent score arrive with sharp clarity and robust range.  An equally pleasing optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Granted Collector’s Edition treatment, special features are headlined with a newly recorded Interview with Robert De Niro (8:51).  Although brief and overly reliant on voiceover narration, De Niro speaks highly of working with Brest who he wishes would produce more features and praises Grodin’s comedic abilities with warm memories all around for the film.  Meanwhile, We Got the Duke: An Interview with Actor Charles Gordin (12:24), Moscone Bail Bonds: An Interview with Actor Joe Pantoliano (14:19), Hey Marvin!: An Interview with Actor John Aston (17:23) and I’m Mosely!: An Audio Interview with Actor Yaphet Kotto (7:36) have all been ported over from Second Sight’s international release.  Lastly, Midnight Writer: An Interview with Screenwriter George Gallo (24:43), a Vintage Making-Of Featurette (7:26), the Theatrical Trailer (1:12) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s impressive supplemental offerings.

    Ballooning into a bonafide cult favorite, Midnight Run is the vehicle that fully embraced De Niro’s  comedic diversity while his superb chemistry with the understatedly hilarious Grodin makes the film a cross-country adventure classic.  Making significant improvements over foreign releases, Shout Select’s 2K scan is top-tier with previously available but, nonetheless excellent bonus features ported over on top of a very special new De Niro interview capping this Collector’s Edition on a strong note.  With a tough bounty hunter and a sensitive criminal as your co-passengers on this odyssey of thrills and laughter, Midnight Run is simply the best ride to catch!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Midnight Run 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.

  • Two-Minute Warning (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Two-Minute Warning (1976)

    Director: Larry Peerce

    Starring: Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Martin Baslam, Beau Bridges, Marilyn Hassett, David Janssen, Jack Klugman, Walter Pidgeon & Gena Rowlands

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set during the biggest professional football game of the season, Two-Minute Warning finds a crazed gunman perched atop the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as he plots a murder spree across the sold out arena.  Determined to end the reign of terror before it begins, Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes) leads a tense mission with the responding SWAT team to protect the 91,000 potential victims.  

    Based on the novel by George LaFountaine, Two-Minute Warning joins the ranks of other disaster based epics from the decade where quiet, lone assailants struck fear into the hearts of its ensemble cast.  Juxtaposing between the unsettling viewpoint of the mysterious sniper and the journey to his next elaborate target, Two-Minute Warning bounces around several different groups of personalities ranging from Police Captain Peter Holly, a quarreling middle-aged couple (David Janssen, The Fugitive and Gena Rowlands, The Skeleton Key), a nervous gambler (Jack Klugman, The Odd Couple) and a clergyman (Mitchell Ryan, Dharma & Greg), a family of four headed by Mike (Beau Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) and Peggy (Pamela Bellwood, Dynasty) Ramsay, a pair of pickpockets (Walter Pidegon, Mrs. Miniver and Julie Bridges, Bitter Heritage) among others, all of whom are connected by the championship football match between Los Angeles and Baltimore.  Patiently biting his time in an arena packed with thousands of innocent lives including, several politicians, the gunman is spotted by television cameras before Captain Holly is called into action alongside the trigger-itchy SWAT team, led by Sergeant Chris Brown (John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby).  Attempting to thwart the sniper’s actions, difficulties arise when the motiveless madman realize he’s been had, igniting a deadly showdown during the game’s fleeting moments.

    Boasting an undeniably awesome cast of thespians that defined pictures of this caliber, Two-Minute Warning kicks off intensely enough as our antagonist target practices on an unsuspecting biker before a long, although quite enjoyable, introduction to the film’s many supporting players ensues.  Stadium filled with star power, Two-Minute Warning unfortunately comes up short developing the characters as strongly as desired while, suspense can run dry as the uniformed, Ray-Ban wearing heroes prepare for the worst which doesn’t come until, you guessed it, the game’s final moments.  Thankfully, the SWAT team’s cover being blown results in a pandemonium-filled spree of gunfire causing the hysterical crowd to charge the field and elbow anyone within reach.  As bleak as realities own headlines, Two-Minute Warning refuses to supply any answers for the killer’s motives leaving the wounded warriors triumphant if not, bewildered by the insanity.  A decently-sliced serving of terroristic thrills with Merv Griffin showing up to sing the National Anthem, Two-Minute Warning entertains in waves with star and future NRA President Charlton Heston’s appearance as a skeptical gun-use police captain being oh so charmingly ironic.

    Shout! Factory presents Two-Minute Warning with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing lusciously filmic, skin tones are consistently natural with strong detail admired in closeups while, bolder colors found in the film’s surprising levels of bloodshed and the football players uniforms popping sharply with only very fleeting instances of dust and debris noticed throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is relayed with ease as the roar of the Los Angeles crowd and the powerful blasts from the sniper’s firearm provide admirable boosts in reach.  Special features include, the Television Broadcast Version (2:21:28).  Although sworn off by its director, this alternate version, presented in standard definition, is noticeably lengthier and devises an alternate subplot revolving around an art theft.  In addition, an extensive, newly recorded Interview with Director Larry Peerce (25:35), Radio Spots (2:53), the Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and a Photo Gallery (4:52) round out the disc’s supplements.  Furthermore, while advertised with a new Audio Commentary with Director Larry Peerce, the release does not in fact include one.  

    A fine inclusion into the popular disaster epics predominately produced by Universal Studios during the 70s, Two-Minute Warning is a tense, slightly underdeveloped thrill ride that props itself up with a memorable cast whose appearances more than make up for its slow build.  Rescued from the vaults, Shout! Factory awards fans with a sharp transfer and a commendable selection of bonus features including, the never before available television broadcast version of the film for completists.  With so little time to think, Two-Minute Warning might be the only warning you’ll have to experience disastertainment, vintage style!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 28th from Shout! Factory, Two-Minute Warning can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Boy (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Boy (2016)

    Director: William Brent Bell

    Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, James Russell & Ben Robson

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a secluded English village, The Boy finds young American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead) relocating to assume the position of nanny to a young boy.  Shortly after learning she will be caring for a life-sized doll modeled after the child in the wake of his death, Greta begins experiencing a series of unexplainable events leading her to believe the doll is alive.

    Escaping an abusive relationship, Greta Evans (Cohan) treks abroad to care for Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire’s (Jim Norton, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Diana Hardcastle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) 8-year-old son on their sprawling English property.  Laughing off what she assumes is a practical joke, Greta quickly realizes her responsibilities are to care for a porcelain doll bearing the likeness of their late son Brahms.  Serving as a coping device for the grieving parents, Greta is ordered to adhere to a series of strict caring rules, treating the inanimate object as if it were alive while the Heelshire’s take a long overdue holiday.  Striking up a relationship with local grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans, Hellboy), the American woman slowly learns more about the real Brahms and his peculiar personality before his untimely death in a house fire.  Alone and with little outside interaction, Greta’s deviation from the doll’s care triggers an eerie chain events that finds Greta’s personal belongings disappearing, records being played on their own and the doll noticeably moving from one place to another.  Frightened and questioning her own sanity, Greta’s fears are validated when Malcolm is witness to the boy’s unbelievable movement.  Uncertain whether evil forces are at play or not, Greta’s nightmare ex-boyfriend unexpectedly arrives hoping to forcefully resolve their differences only to experience Brahms’ true intentions firsthand.

    Shot on location in Victoria, British Columbia and originally titled The Inhabitant, The Boy is cinema’s latest attempt at haunted doll scares with a thinly veiled plot audiences will spot a million miles away.  Admittedly, while its setup is painfully generic with the greater majority of its thrills spoiled in its marketing campaign, The Boy takes a third act detour mildly unique to what’s expected.  Unfortunately, although its watcher in the walls angle matched with a fast-paced chase of its heroine jolts the film with much needed energy, attempts to raise the film above its mediocrity are too little, too late.  Inexpensively produced and released during the dead of winter, The Boy would perform strongly at the box-office for its intended teen audience yet, plays itself too safe, ultimately lacking any solid suspense and indulging in below average cheap scares.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Boy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Excellently handled, skin tones are exacting and true, details found in knickknacks around the Heelshire’s lavish household are crisp while, the grassy exteriors are lavish and bold.  Black levels are predominately inky and pleasing with only fleeting mentions of crush bearing little to no consequence to the film’s remarkable transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, including moments of hushed tones, are perfectly captured while, moody ambiance around the house is exquisitely balanced against the wall smashing and high-pitched shrieks of its final act.  With the exception of a Digital HD Code, no bonus features have been included.

    Publicized as more of the same while its final product strives to be different, The Boy is an uneventful opus that builds itself on lackluster frights suited for teens who don’t know any better.  Hardly the worst of its kind, The Boy does little to stand out in a crowd marking it for a forgettable future.  Luckily, Universal Studios Home Entertainment pampers the feature with exceptional technical merits but, severely slacks in the special features department.  In a toy box filled of better supernatural efforts centered on dolls, The Boy shouldn’t be counted on to haunt viewers’ dreams.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available May 10th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Boy can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Death Becomes Her (1992) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Death Becomes Her (1992)

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Starring: Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis & Meryl Streep

    Release by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When two bitter rivals obsessed with their appearances discover a potion to keep them forever young, Death Becomes Her finds the cutthroat divas’ rivalry hilariously intensifying to heights beyond human law.  Academy Award winners Meryl Streep (Doubt), Goldie Hawn (Shampoo) and Golden Globe winner Bruce Willis (Unbreakable) star.

    Hanging up his saddle from the wild west of Hill Valley in exchange for a mad scientist’s lab coat, Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) concocts a darkly comical creation centered on fading good looks and madcap hijinks.  After selfishly marrying her bookish best friend’s fiancé, Hollywood star Madeline Ashton (Streep) takes great pleasure in her lavish lifestyle and fawned over looks until the years reveal themselves in her appearance.  Incensed by the sight of her old pal Helen Sharp’s (Hawn) youthful beauty, Madeline discovers a mysterious potion promising the return of her former self.  Further angered by Helen’s advances on her bumbling husband Dr. Ernest Menville (Willis), Madeline ingests the pink substance, returning the fading actresses beauty and increasing her desire to get even with her best friend and worst enemy.  Bowled over by Helen’s newfound interest in him, Dr. Menville and his former flame devise a way to knock off Madeline only to discover that both ladies have been sipping from the same vial, leading to a series of wickedly funny confrontations that demonstrate the immortal effects of their curious youth juice.

    Dazzling viewers with their hypnotic beauty, Streep and Hawn, in one of her last headlining roles, craft hilarious chemistry with one another while, Willis playing against type, surprises in his role as the nerdy, alcoholic surgeon who barely keeps his cool as the loves of his life roam his mansion with their necks twisted and chests blasted by a shotgun.  True to Zemeckis’ desire to experiment with technical advancements, Death Becomes Her memorably shines due to the film’s impressive computer generated effects that bring life to its many head turning and limb twisting touches to its lead actresses.  Although a commercial success, Death Becomes Her slightly dawdles in its final act, nearly exhausting the film’s snappily crafted schtick of Beverly Hills beauties battling for immortal sexiness.  Handsomely winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Death Becomes Her may be flawed and often overlooked yet, stands as one Zemeckis’ more underrated efforts and certainly his quirkiest.

    Scream Factory presents Death Becomes Her with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Sporting healthy skin tones with occasional softness, prominent colors found in Helen’s red ensembles and the potion’s pink glow impress.  Background detail in Madeline and Dr. Menville’s mansion are pleasing while, natural grain is present throughout.  Culled from what appears to be a dated master, Death Becomes Her is not always strikingly sharp but unquestionably is a vast improvement from its standard definition presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is consistently clear while, Composer Alan Silvestri’s (The Walk) score accentuates the film’s over the top tone.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Although not as vast as other Collector’s Edition releases, special features include, The Making of Death Becomes Her (25:03) featuring new interviews with Director Robert Zemeckis, Production Designer Rick Carter, Co-Screenwriter David Koepp, Producer Steve Starkey, Cinematographer Dean Cundey and others.  In addition, a Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (8:58), a Photo Gallery (46 in total), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:05) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster design wraps up the satisfying lineup of supplements.

    An unsung oddity in the vast array of Zemeckis classics, Death Becomes Her showcases the kookier sides of its three leads engaged in a premise doused in black comedy and masterful visual effects.  Co-scripted by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, The Shadow), this often neglected slice of outrageousness outweighs its flaws with its many creative charms.  Accompanied with a respectable high-definition upgrade, supplements may not be as vast as other Collector’s Editions yet makes up for it in quality.  Injecting more laughs into their series of nightmares, Scream Factory’s addition of the underrated Death Becomes Her is essential for Zemeckis devotees.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Krampus (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Krampus (2015)

    Director: Michael Dougherty

    Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen & Krista Stadler

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) turns his back on the Christmas spirit.  Unfortunately, in doing so, an ancient evil is awakened as the demonic Krampus casts his powerful forces upon the non-believers.  In order to survive the night, the shattered family must band together to overthrow the shadow of Saint Nicholas.  Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Conchata Ferrel (Edward Scissorhands), Stefania LaVie Owen (The Lovely Bones) and Krista Stadler (Lena Rais) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Following his frightful statement on the Halloween season with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, Director Michael Dougherty submerges viewers in a snowstorm of scares with his darkly comical tale based on the Christmas folklore.  After penning a desperate letter to Santa Claus to restore his families yuletide spirit, Max’s (Anthony) holiday is all but wrecked following the arrival of his trailer park relatives who further discourage his hopes.  Overwhelmed with anger and sadness, Max tears up his letter, prompting a deadly snowstorm to take hold of his small-town as the goat-like Krampus descends on the home of the non-believers.  Transforming the jolliest time of the year into a wintertime hell, Krampus, aided by his monstrous minions and evil gingerbread creatures, ravages the idyllic location ensuring that all who cross his path are on his naughty list.  Sharing a special bond with his Austrian grandmother Omi (Stadler) who recalls the monster from her own childhood, Max and his family learn more about the evil overtaking their household with their fight for survival bringing them closer than ever before.  With children and adults fair game to the film’s horrific antagonist, a white Christmas may not be what awaits under the tree this year.

    Headlined by a sidesplittingly stellar cast of youngsters and dependable funnymen including, Adam Scott and David Koechner, Krampus seamlessly balances the rare Christmas chiller that packs ample jumps with stark black comedy achieved in spades.  In addition, Director Michael Dougherty’s sophomore effort harmoniously joins the two worlds of modern day effects and practical wizardry, granting the film an authenticity that rarely betrays viewers eyes and their sense of movie magic.  Channeling the genre-blending excitement common in its 80s influences, Krampus is a relentlessly fun, seat-jumping alternative to the warm, family-oriented fare routinely programmed during the holiday season.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Krampus with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy, natural skin tones with festive holiday decorations and colorful clothing attire popping nicely, black levels are generally strong-looking with only occasional hints of murkiness due to the film’s intended lack of natural light.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely delivered while shotgun blasts and the chaotic energy of the film’s attacking monsters serve the track strongly.  Meanwhile, snowy ambiance and the crackling of firewood further compliment the prominent screams of terror which permeate the mix with authority.  Packed with plenty of supplemental presents, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Michael Dougherty and Co-Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields, an Alternate Ending (1:24), Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:41) and a Gag Reel (5:15).  In addition, Blu-ray exclusives feature Krampus Comes Alive! (29:36), an in-depth, five part featurette covering the film’s origin, casting, special effects and production design while, Behind the Scenes at WETA Workshop: Krampus (9:54) delves into the fascinating development of the film’s monster effects.  Finally, several Galleries (478 in total) featuring poster art, creature art, storyboards and more are accompanied by a DVD counterpart and a Digital HD Code.  

    Joining the ranks of niche Christmastime frightfests, Krampus successfully treads the line of comedy and terror reminiscent of the free-spirited hijinks of Amblin Entertainment’s enduring 80s efforts.  Complimented by exceptional high-definition merits and a thorough spread of bonus features, Krampus may be best devoured around the holidays yet, remains a devilishly fun gift that entertains year round.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Krampus 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.

  • Cherry Falls (2000) Blu-ray Review

    Cherry Falls (2000)

    Director: Geoffrey Wright

    Starring: Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Gabriel Mann & Jay Mohr

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a peaceful Virginia suburb, Cherry Falls finds its community turned upside down when its virginal high school population is targeted by a crazed serial killer.  Plotting a wild sexual night of partying to better protect themselves, Jodi (Brittany Murphy, Clueless), the town sheriff’s only daughter, takes matters into her own hands to track the mysterious murderer.  Michael Biehn (The Terminator), Gabriel Mann (Revenge) and Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) co-star.

    Injecting a simple yet, unique twist in the revived teen slasher genre, Cherry Falls looks not to punish the promiscuous sluts of high school royalty but, instead target the pure and innocent virgins of its sleepy town.  When local teenagers turn up savagely murdered and displayed in a disturbing fashion, local authorities conclude their culprit is targeting virgins after discovering the word carved into each victims skin.  Combatting her own relationship dilemmas and pressure to sleep with her longtime boyfriend, Jody Marken (Murphy) finds herself lucky to be alive after evading certain death from the long-haired, knife-wielding killer.  While Sheriff Marken (Biehn), Jody’s father, harbors a deep-rooted secret regarding the suspected killer, hypocrisy amongst her parents forces Jody to failingly seduce her boyfriend before seeking comfort from her English teacher Mr. Marliston (Mohr).  As more victims are claimed and fear amongst the town increased, the student body hilariously plans a “Pop Your Cherry Ball” for a night of fornication to better their chances at survival.  As authorities are preoccupied with the biggest rager of the year, Jody and her father find themselves captured by the unhinged killer in a tense, bloody showdown that takes them from the madman’s basement dwelling to the massive teenage orgy happening nearby.

    Falling almost immediately behind schedule during its making, Cherry Falls continued to fight uphill battles when censorship issues halted theatrical distribution resulting in a less than ideal television premiere on the USA Network.  Garnering a small yet, loyal following, the Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) helmed production amply delivers in its bloodier moments regardless of its TV movie constraints while, unsurprisingly lacking levels of skin for a feature peddling a prominent teen orgy.  Headlined by a cast delivering rather air headed performances, Cherry Falls excels in its satirical agenda as its killer with a Psycho complex offers undeniable hilarity that can hardly be taken seriously.  Admittedly imperfect, Cherry Falls may not possess the cleverness of Scream but, offers decent levels of suspense and humor where one would least expect.

    Scream Factory presents Cherry Falls with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Presented in its original telecast version due to obstacles obtaining its uncut edition, skin tones read naturally while, colors and background detail are nicely displayed with no anomalies spotted.  In addition, black levels found in the film’s many nighttime sequences are approvingly inky with a filmic layer of grain present throughout its runtime.  Following the film’s longtime unavailability, its anticipated high-definition upgrade looks excellent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is clearly represented while, Composer Walter Werzowa's (Mortal Kombat) score, eerily reminiscent to Scream’s haunting choral arrangements, are effectively delivered.  Decent, if not slightly underwhelming, the film’s mix is quite sufficient.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Geoffrey Wright, Lose It or Die: The Untold Story of Cherry Falls (24:30) featuring interviews with Writer/Co-Executive Producer Ken Selden and Producer Marshall Persinger.  Sharing their unique experiences from crafting the script, the film’s tense shooting schedule and more, Selden and Persinger offer valued insight into the production although, appear a bit scatterbrained at times.  Also included, Cherry Falls Deputy: Amanda Anka (7:40) captures a new interview with the actress who played the heroic Deputy Mina plus, Vintage Interviews with Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr and Director Geoffrey Wright (6:26), Behind the Scenes Footage (4:32), the Original Script (BD-ROM) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:47) round out the assorted supplements.

    Arriving at the tail end of the 90s slasher cycle, Cherry Falls strives to alter the formula with mostly successful results.  Headlined by the late Brittany Murphy, this attack on virgins feature enjoys its fair share of bloodshed and even more laughably entertaining moments courtesy of its high-heeled antagonist.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory welcomes this millennial offering into their growing library with pleasing A/V grades, revealing supplements and a newly commissioned cover art by the talented Joel Robinson.  In search of waterfalls that run blood red?  Then, Cherry Falls just might be what you’re looking for.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Sisters (2015) Unrated Blu-ray Review

    Sisters (2015)

    Director: Jason Moore

    Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo & John Cena

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite in the sibling comedy Sisters.  After their parents choose to sell their home, sisters Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis return to clean out their childhood bedrooms but, plan to go out with a bang.  Inviting former classmates to recapture some old fashioned debauchery, the Ellis sisters engage in an unforgettable night of partying while, working out their own adult issues.  Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors), John Leguizamo (Chef) and John Cena (Trainwreck) co-star.

    Reteaming for their third cinematic outing, Sisters combines the comedic talent of Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) for their most hilarious effort yet.  After recently divorced nurse Maura (Poehler) is given the unfortunate task of informing her older and constantly unemployed sister Kate (Fey) of the sale of their childhood home, the Ellis sisters must travel to Orlando to empty their bedrooms.  While Maura struggles with meeting someone new, Kate’s irresponsible lifestyle has created a rift between her and her daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), prompting the sisters to salvage the glory of their younger days.  Before their house is officially taken over by its new owners, Maura and Kate splurge to throw one last party with their fellow classmates who are equally in dire need of letting loose.  Flirtatiously inviting local handyman James (Barinholtz) to the gathering, Maura’s opportunity to party wildly while the normally rambunctious Kate wears the hat of responsibility leads to cataclysmic hilarity.  With a wide variety of drugs provided by Dave (Leguizamo) and his buff dealer Pazuzu (Cena), the Ellis sisters take great delight aggressively making fun of high school foe Brinda (Rudolph).  Dance offs, drunken chimney climbing and 80s references funneled through the fast-paced improvisational cracks of Fey and Poehler make Sisters the funniest high school reunion you ever snuck into.

    Boldly facing off against a seismic blockbuster from a galaxy far, far away, Sisters held steady in bringing audiences to the vulgar festivities hosted by the undeniable chemistry of Fey and Poehler.  Buffered with knee-slapping supporting turns from James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can), Dianne Wiest (Parenthood), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) and Samantha Bee (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Sisters turns back the clock for a hard-partying rager that offers nonstop laughs and expected life lessons along the way.  

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Sisters with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting pristine clarity, skin tones are exceptionally lifelike and well detailed while, clothing choices pop nicely against the illuminated interior of the Ellis sisters’ home.  With solid black levels and lush greenery permeating the Florida setting, Sisters makes a rockin’ statement on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly supported with no hitches while, the track offers sizable pushes to its bass during party sequences where loud music and record spinning rule.  In addition to both its Unrated (2:02:24) and Theatrical (1:57:46) version, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jason Moore, Writer Paula Pell, Star/Producer Tina Fey and Star/Executive Producer Amy Poehler, Deleted Scenes (18:03), Extended Scenes (16:54), Gag Reel (3:17) and The Improvorama (3:17).  Furthermore exclusive Blu-ray content includes, How to Throw a Party (1:36), Grown-Up Parties Suck (5:18), The Alex Chronicles (2:51), The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles (2:05), A Teen Movie… For Adults (10:26), The Original Sister (6:40) where the cast take turns reading from Screenwriter Paula Pell’s actual teenage diary entries and a showcase of the film’s Pool Collapse VFX (0:50).  Finally, a DVD edition and a Digital HD Code round the supplemental offerings.

    From keg stands and adult irresponsibility to sibling rivalry and beyond, Sisters brings the teenage spirit of John Hughes outside to smoke a joint with the crudeness of Seth Rogen.  With all-around funny performances from its players and the infectious chemistry of Fey and Poehler, the latest comedy reunion from the gals of Saturday Night Live makes it way to the top of the class.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers an immaculate high-definition experience and a plethora of bonus features including, alternate cuts of the film, a worthwhile commentary, hilarious making-of featurettes and gag reels.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 15th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sisters can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

    Director: Wes Craven

    Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Moake, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Michael Gough & Dey Young

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow centers on anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman, Spaceballs) as he journeys to Haiti to retrieve a mystic powder said to bring life to the dead.  Navigating the dangerous locale, Dennis finds himself involved in the deadly world of voodoo where the undead, possessions and ancient curses reign.  Cathy Tyson (Mona Lisa), Zakes Moake (Waterworld), Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Brent Jennings (Witness), Michael Gough (Batman) and Dey Young (Strange Behavior) co-star.

    Inspired by real life experiences documented in Wade Davis’ book, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a daring exploration of voodoo and the black arts.  Shot partly in the reportedly unsafe Haiti, Director Wes Craven’s nightmare-fueled opus is a noticeable departure from his previous shockers with an emphasis on the island’s factual political turmoil.  After barely surviving an Amazonia search for rare herbs and experiencing a psychedelic episode, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Pullman) is summoned by a domestic drug corporation to investigate a mysterious powder used during voodoo practices in Haiti that supposedly raises the dead.  Aided by doctor Marielle Duchamp (Tyson), Dennis’ encounter with a local zombie who roams cemeteries fuels his desire to locate the substance only to find himself ruffling the feathers of the barbaric authorities, led by Captain Dargent Peytraud (Moake).  Warned but not harmed, Dennis’ search leads him to swindling witch doctor Mozart (Jennings) who makes a deal to show the American how to develop the drug.  Pursued once again by the authorities, Dennis finds himself in dire straits when he is ruthlessly tortured and has his scrotum nailed to a chair, demanding his immediate departure from Haiti.  Riddled with frightening nightmares of rotting corpses and sinister snakes, Dennis’ short-lived return to America where friends are possessed and his concern for Marielle increased, leads him back to the black magic plagued isle.  Upon arrival, Peytraud’s power and influence knows no bounds as people are slaughtered with the resilient doctor learning firsthand the grave danger he is in.

    Although hesitantly considered a horror film, Craven’s cult classic supplies plenty of unsettling nightmare imagery where a serpent emerges from a decomposing body to attack Dennis while, dark forces cause a scorpion to crawl from the mouth of a living man.  In addition, the savage brutality of the Tonton Macoute beheading innocent lives is equally grizzly and not far removed from reality.  Akin to a fever dream of terror that never wanes, The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of Craven’s most progressively daring features that affects viewers on a purely visceral level of fear.  Earning respectable returns at the box-office, The Serpent and the Rainbow is the rare voodoo related feature that lives up to its intent as a supernatural spectacle.

    Scream Factory presents The Serpent and the Rainbow with a newly struck 1080p transfer from the inter-positive film element, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Although appearing occasionally soft in the dilapidated dwellings of the Haitian villages, greenery is noticeably lush and striking throughout.  Skin tones read moderately well and natural with several instances falling on the redder side.  Meanwhile, detail is strong with perspiration glistening on faces and the intricacies of rotting flesh found on the undead looking quiet noticeable.  Psychedelic colors and blood pop nicely while, black levels are inky and clear.  Filmic and hosting very scant scratches, The Serpent and the Rainbow makes a respectable high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible and effective while, the bustling sounds of the Haitian streets are lively and appropriately balanced.  Meanwhile, Brad Fiedel’s (Fright Night, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) score makes impressive statements against the shrieking screams of terror.  Welcomed into Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition series, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Actor Bill Pullman, moderated by Rob Galluzzo.  Although Pullman is only present for less than an hour due to filming commitments, Galluzzo does a remarkable job keeping the conversation interesting with Pullman injecting plenty of anecdotes about the filming experience.  In addition, The Making of The Serpent and the Rainbow (23:57) features new (audio) interviews from Pullman while, Author Wade Davis, Director of Photography John Lindley and Special Makeup Effects Artists Lance Anderson and David Anderson appear on-camera.  Yet another typically informative retrospective that fans will appreciate although, the scholarly insight from the late Craven is sadly lacking.  Furthermore, the Theatrical Trailer (1:23), TV Spot (0:31), a Photo Gallery (60 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet artwork conclude the supplemental package.

    In what appears to be their last Craven related release and classily dedicated to his memory, Scream Factory welcomes The Serpent and the Rainbow’s unsettling levels of voodoo terror and nightmarish imagery into their respected line of Collector’s Editions.  Casting a superior looking curse with its Blu-ray debut, special features, although understandably lighter than past Craven efforts, deliver worthwhile information that fans of this cult classic will surely appreciate.  Hosting another stellar art design by Joel Robinson (Nightbreed, The Vincent Price Collections), The Serpent and the Rainbow will possess you with its frightening twists and turns.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Serpent and the Rainbow can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Crimson Peak (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Crimson Peak (2015)

    Director: Guillermo del Toro

    Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Charlie Hunnam

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the acclaimed director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) who after suffering a personal tragedy, falls head over heels for the seductive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Whisked away to his dilapidated mansion, Edith encounters mysteries and spirits within her new home revolving around her newfound love and the darkest of truths.  Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) co-star.

    Honoring such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents, Director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Gothic Romances and chilling ghost tales is as visually ravishing as it is tragically compelling.  Co-written by Brian Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark),  Crimson Peak, taking place in the late 19th century, follows independent spirit Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) as she attempts to get her novel published despite her gender.  Juggling responsibilities at her father’s respected business, Edith encounters the dashingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) as he attempts to gain investments from Mr. Cushing on his unproven clay-mining invention.  Unimpressed by the privileged baronet and his suspicious sister Lucille (Chastain), Mr. Cushing discovers unsavory details about the siblings, demanding them to return to their homeland despite Thomas’ expressed love for his daughter.  Suffering a heartbreaking tragedy and with no other family remaining, Edith and Thomas are joined together in Holy matrimony before relocating back to the Sharpe’s English mansion.  Haunted by ghostly apparitions and progressively growing more ill, Edith uncovers the house’s darkest secrets while fearing for her life from those now considered loved ones.  Equally concerned for her well-being, longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) travels to the imposing Allerdale Hall for a terrifying discovery, one that he and Edith may not survive.

    Dripping with potent atmosphere and unafraid to shock audiences with grizzly imagery despite its classy appearance, Crimson Peak is an exceptional tour de force of gothic cinema.  Empowered by del Toro’s flawless visual touches, the auteur’s haunting romance makes dazzling statements through its rich production design and spot-on wardrobe choices, both of which were astoundingly ignored by the Academy.  Excellently casted, the innocence of Wasikowska, Chastain’s unhinged demeanor and the conflicted emotional state of Hiddleston greatly impress while, the Sharpe’s questionable correlation and eventual reveal sends the film down even darker hallways than anticipated.  Combining onset performers with effective uses of CGI, the film’s predominately blood red ghosts are genuinely frightening with a particular specter paying homage to del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone.  Although making modest strides at the box-office and graciously appreciated by critics, Crimson Peak is a beautifully haunting masterpiece that impressively ranks as del Toro’s finest effort to date.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Crimson Peak with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying skin tones with natural ease and well-defined detail, the dreary location of Allerdale Hall and its various lighting choices ranging from reds to blues, are effectively highlighted.  Costume choices, realized by newcomer Kate Hawely (Edge of Tomorrow), read beautifully with various stitching methods and textures easily seen and better appreciated.  Doused in considerable darkness, black levels are quite exquisite in the shadowy halls of the haunted house and Thomas’ jet black attire with no evidence of crushing on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, quieter ghostly ambiance, rainy wailing winds and Fernando Velázquez’s (The Orphanage, Mama) frightful music queues never disappointing.  Special feature include, an enthralling Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro, Deleted Scenes (4:26), I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray exclusive), a four part featurette consisting of The Gothic Corridor (4:06), The Scullery (4:24), The Red Clay Mines (5:18) and The Limbo Fog Set (5:42) all of which host interviews with del Toro and his remarkable cast.  In addition, A Primer on Gothic Romance (Blu-ray exclusive) (5:36) traces the roots of the genre with the interviewees using their own feature as a springboard, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53) spotlights the film’s impressive production design, Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray exclusive) details Costume Designer Kate Hawley’s gorgeous contributions, A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the artistic efforts designing the haunted Allerdale Hall, Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51) finds Thomas Hiddleston acting as tour guide on a walkthrough of the house and Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray exclusive) takes a look at the film’s unique approaches to its many specters.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A personal favorite of last year’s theatrical releases and arguably del Toro’s finest achievement yet, Crimson Peak presents an unforgettably haunting experience, respecting the Gothic romances that came before while, delivering a distinct visual feast firmly rooted in the imagination of its maker.  As gorgeously realized as its feature, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers an outstanding high-def presentation with a stimulating selection of special features for those who dare to take an extended stay at Allerdale Hall.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Crimson Peak can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave (2016) DVD Review

    The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave (2016)

    Director: David Doi

    Starring: Felix Avitia, Anndi McAfee, Aria Noelle Curzon, Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulsen, Barry Bostwick, Reb McEntire & Damon Wayans Jr.

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the latest prehistoric adventure of the long-running series, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave centers on young Apatosaurus Littlefoot (Felix Avitia, Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything), who after learning of his father’s disappearance, sets out to rescue him.  Joined by his faithful pals, Littlefoot travels across strange landscapes and encounters new friends, Etta (Reba McEntire, Charlotte’s Web) and Wild Arms (Damon Wayans Jr., Big Hero 6) on a courageous adventure that enriches their friendship.

    Following a near decade of extinction, the whopping fourteenth installment of The Land Before Time franchise invites a new generation of dinosaur lovers back to the Great Valley.  Centering once again on series mainstay Littlefoot (Avitia), the tiny, long-necked dino anxiously awaits the return of his father Bron (Scott Whyte, City Guys) and the rest of the herd on their annual visit.  Excitement quickly turns to panic when the comically coward Wild Arms (Wayans) alerts the village of a volcanic explosion that resulted in Bron sacrificing his safety for the others.  Too dangerous to trek back, Littlefoot, along with Cera, Ducky, Petrie and Spike, secretly journey to rescue Bron from impending danger.  Confronted with countless geographical obstacles and overwhelming risks at the hands of hungry Tyrannosaurs Rex, the gang encounter friendly Pterodactyl Etta (McEntire) to help aid in their search for Bron.  Singing their way to save Littlefoot’s father, the young dinosaurs develop a deeper appreciation for each other that will last a lifetime.

    Highlighting a newly recored tune by Reba McEntire, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave fits seamlessly into the franchise’s previous efforts that demonstrate the value of friendship and working together for more impressionable audiences.  With the advent of computer animation, the latest sequel stylistically adheres to the traditional, hand-drawn quality of its predecessors while, its vocal talent comprised of newcomers and guest celebrities entertain accordingly.  Although its plot is fairly paint-by-numbers in the context of the series, this harmless direct to video offering will easily appeal to younger viewers who will take delight in its colorful characters and cheery musical numbers.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave in anamorphic widescreen, boasting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking the sharpness of hi-def releases, the animated effort delivers nicely balanced colors of its many characters and backgrounds, making the viewing experience a perfectly suitable one.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, dialogue is audible and efficient while, the film’s several musical moments have a slightly wider reach to get heads bopping along.  Appropriately catered to little ones, special features include, Sing-A-Long Songs for “Look For The Light” (2:01), “Today’s the Day” (2:56), “Hot and Stinky” (2:48) and “Better off Alone” (2:02).

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Land Before Time: Journey of the Brave can be purchased exclusively through Walmart.com and their respective retail outlets. 

  • The Guardian (1990) Blu-ray Review

    The Guardian (1990)

    Director: William Friedkin

    Starring: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown & Carey Lowell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Dan Greenburg, The Guardian centers on young parents Phil (Dwier Brown, Field of Dreams) and Kate (Carey Lowell, License to Kill) welcoming the arrival of their newborn baby.  Shortly after hiring the ideal live-in babysitter, Phil and Kate’s worst nightmare comes true when Camilla’s (Jenny Seagrove, Local Hero) supernatural intentions for their child are revealed.  Brad Hall (Saturday Night Live), Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop), Natalija Nogulich (Hoffa) and Gary Swanson (Vice Squad) co-star.

    Marketed as Academy Award winning director William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, The Exorcist) return to the horror genre, The Guardian modernizes the dark origins of fairy tales with the deep-rooted fears of all parents for a uniquely-suited picture.  Adhering to the ancient druid worship of trees, an evil yet, convincingly caring nanny (Seagrove) connives her way into the lives of unsuspecting parents in order to sacrifice their newborn babies.  Disappearing only to resurface under a new identity as Camilla, Phil (Brown) and Kate (Lowell) hire the charmingly attractive woman to care for their newborn only to find themselves rattled by unsettling nightmares and the declining health of their baby.  While local friends fall victim to Camilla’s wicked ways courtesy of flesh-eating wolves, the couple’s suspicions are validated after a grieving former victim comes forward to warn the couple of the monster living under their roof.  Unsuccessfully convincing the authorities of the supernatural powers at play, Phil and Kate must trek to the source of the evil in order to protect their baby’s soul.

    Previously developed for Director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) before jumping ship to helm Darkman, the project would suffer through several grueling rewrites once Friedkin joined the production.  With the foundation of a solid premise, The Guardian falters due to its noticeably shaky screenplay and Friedkin’s quick-cutting that capsizes any effect the film’s scarier moments intend.  Although sequences of homicidal trees dismembering three deserving thugs make for solid eye-candy, The Guardian’s dark fairy tale tone finds itself largely lost in the woods.  Failing to attract audiences or sizable box-office returns with Friedkin also distancing himself from the project, The Guardian has marginally grown in appreciation amongst cult cinema circles.  Hardly reaching the quality of Friedkin’s devil-possessing 1973 classic, The Guardian, with its occasionally striking moments of grim imagery, is neither entirely forgettable nor remarkably memorable.  

    Scream Factory presents The Guardian with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Amidst several instances of flakes and specks, skin tones appear well saturated and boasting natural appearances.  Meanwhile, colors are strongly enforced with greenery and moments of gore popping most nicely.  With countless sequences shrouded in darkness and shadow, black levels appear inky and well detailed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently handled with audibility never an issue.  Furthermore, moments of suspenseful intensity including Ned’s savage assault from wolves and Phil’s chainsaw-wielding battle in the film’s final act are sharp and effective.  Packed with a varied assortment of new and vintage supplements, special features include, A Happy Coincidence with Dwier Brown (21:56), From Strasberg to The Guardian with Gary Swanson (10:10), A Mother’s Journey with Natalija Nogulich (11:33), Scoring the Guardian with Jack Hues (6:40) and Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian with Matthew Mungle (13:07) all produced by Aine Leicht’s dependable Cavetown Pictures.  Also included, Return to the Genre: An Interview with William Friedkin (17:25), The Nanny: An Interview with Jenny Seagrave (13:19) and Don’t Go in the Woods: An Interview with Stephen Volk (21:00).  Finally, a Still Gallery (1:19) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:34) round out the disc’s bonus content.

    Unfairly compared to one of the genre’s most enduring efforts, The Guardian is all but destined for failure.  That said, judged on its own merits, Friedkin’s grim fairy tale never quite lives up to its full potential with a problematic screenplay and stabs at suspense crumbling.  Although its narrative may appeal to some more than others, Scream Factory’s high-definition upgrade unanimously impresses with its technical grades checking out and its supplemental package being worth the price of admission alone.  Long out of print, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is prime for Friedkinphiles and others unfamiliar with the Academy Award winner’s horror followup.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available January 19th from Scream Factory, The Guardian can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ted 2 (2015) Unrated Blu-ray Review

    Ted 2 (2015)

    Director: Seth MacFarlane

    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Jessica Barth & Morgan Freeman

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declares the foul-mouthed bear property, Ted 2 centers on Thunder Buddies Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy) and best friend John (Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter) as they fight for Ted’s civil rights.  Teaming up with a beautiful eager attorney (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!), the pot-loving pals find themselves in even more hilarious misadventures.  Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar), Jessica Barth (The Waterhole) and Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption) co-star.

    After its predecessor became Universal Studios’ highest-grossing film of 2012, an inevitable sequel involving more man and teddy bear hijinks was immediately fast-tracked.  With an increased budget and previous co-star Mila Kunis (Black Swan) bowing out, Ted 2 finds the pint-sized partier Ted (MacFarlane) taking the plunge into marriage with his Boston bombshell Tami-Lynn (Barth).  Wallowing in his own self-despair following his own failed marriage, John (Wahlberg) looks to help Ted and his new bride as they attempt to have children through alternate means.  Following hilariously sticky situations at quarterback Tom Brady’s house and a fertility clinic, adoption is denied after the powers that be declare Ted property as opposed to a person.  Determined to prove the courts otherwise, Ted and John seek legal assistance from lawyer and fellow pot smoker Samantha Jackson (Seyfried) to fight for Ted’s rights.  In addition to regaining legal control of his life, disturbed stalker Donny (Ribisi) is once again trying to abduct Ted for his own bizarre reasons leading to a fittingly nerdy showdown at New York Comic-Con.

    Accompanied by several notable cameos from Morgan Freeman as a civil rights attorney with an unsurprisingly commanding voice, Liam Neeson (Taken) and David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider), Ted 2 suffers the fate of most comedy sequels with fewer laughs and a weaker story.  Although several sequences deliver including, Ted’s heated confrontation with KITT at Comic-Con and John’s death faking gag in the hospital, Ted 2 ultimately sacrifices its simplicity for a narrative that takes its courtroom proceedings a bit too seriously at times.  In addition, several of Ted and John’s bantering conversations from the first film are recycled to a lesser degree in its followup.  Highly anticipated and hoping for duplicate success, Ted 2 would ultimately underperform at the box-office earning only half of its originator.  Overlong and mediocre at best, Ted 2 lacks the spark of the first film with its plodding narrative being its own worst enemy.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Ted 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Crystal clear and relaying vivid color, detail is exquisitely rich while, skin tones are excellently presented.  In addition, the fuzzy fabric and texture of Ted stands out allowing viewers to fully appreciate the lifelike appearance of the motion-capture created character.  Finally, black levels are deep and free of noise with no other digital shortcomings spotted in this exceptional-looking transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly tuned with the film’s effective musical opening title sequence making a dashing impression.  Furthermore, crowd sequences, car explosions and the quieter ambiance of other scenes are expertly handled.  Joined by the film’s theatrical (1:55:34) and unrated (2:05:50) presentations, special features include, an entertaining Audio Commentary with Producer/Director/Co-Writer Seth MacFarlane, Executive Producers/Co-Writers Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild and Star Jessica Barth.  Deleted Scenes (4:24), a Gag Reel (2:39), a Thunder Buddies 4 Lyfe (7:28) featurette focusing on the chemistry between the film’s headlining duo plus, a four-part Creating Comic-Con featurette highlighting The Exhibitors (2:56), The Costumes (3:21), The Stunts (4:15) and The Showdown (4:12) is also available.  In addition, Cameo Buddies focuses on the appearances of Morgan Freeman (1:22), Tom Brady (1:12), Liam Neeson (1:07) and David Hasselhoff (3:26) while, A Giant Opening Dance Number (8:48), Roadtripping (8:51), a DVD edition and Digital HD Code round out the supplemental offerings.

    Falling short of Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut, Ted 2 still offers a handful of good laughs although, its plot of civil rights battles and child-bearing tends to forget what made the original so charmingly simple.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers a release with five-star technical merits and an entertaining smorgasbord of supplements that fans will enjoy.  While pot and potty-mouth anarchy run wild in this latest teddy bear talking sequel, Ted 2 falls below the standards of its first knee-slapping outing.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available December 15th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Ted 2 can be purchased via 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.

  • Shocker (1989) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Shocker (1989)

    Director: Wes Craven

    Starring: Peter Berg, Michael Murphy, Cami Cooper & Mitch Pileggi

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Shocker centers on demented mass murderer Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi, The X-Files) who after being sentenced to the death, harnesses electricity to return from the grave to continue his reign of terror.  Connected to Pinker through a series of surreal dreams, college football star Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg, Collateral) is the only one that can turn Pinker’s abilities against him.  Michael Murphy (Count Yorga, Vampire), Cami Cooper (Meet the Applegates), Sam Scarber (Over the Top), Richard Brooks (The Crow: City of Angels) and Ted Raimi (Darkman) co-star.

    Long considered a lesser effort in Director Wes Craven’s filmography and made unashamedly by its creator to recapture the success of his popular 1984 dream slasher, Shocker injects electrifying volts of hokey carnage.  Starring future director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor) as fostered football star Jonathan Parker who loses his family and girlfriend to a murderous crimewave, Jonathan experiences a wave of preemptive dreams alerting him of the killer’s identity and where he will strike next.  With his surviving adoptive father Lt. Don Parker (Murphy) heading the investigation, TV repairman and black magic worshipper Horace Pinker (Pileggi) is captured and sentenced to death by electricity for his brutal crimes.  Harnessing the powerful volts, Pinker takes his revenge by body jumping into several different victims to continue his murder spree and wipe out Jonathan once and for all.  Blending memorable special effects with somewhat antiquated yet nostalgic video technology, Shocker visually pleases while delivering gory set pieces of mouth to mouth resuscitation gone terribly wrong and several slit throats.

    Although plot holes run aplenty along with a slightly overambitious runtime, Shocker has aged well emerging as a bonafide campfest best enjoyed for its over the top antagonist and hard rocking soundtrack comprised of Megadeth, The Dude of Wrath and Bonfire.  Intended to launch a new horror franchise, dismal box-office performance and lackluster interest from audiences halted any such plans.  While Craven enthusiasts remain split, Shocker is more fun than credited and ripe for a jolting rediscovery.

    Scream Factory presents Shocker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any discernible aging artifacts, colors found in costume choices and blood-splattered murder sequences burst off the screen.  Meanwhile, skin tones appear natural and nicely detailed while black levels are excellently inky and absent of any crushing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is robust and clear with electrical explosions and the film’s impressive rock soundtrack making a thunderous impact.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included for your listening pleasure.  Worthy of its collector’s edition banner, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Wes Craven, Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Producer Robert Engelman and Composer William Goldstein.  In addition, Cable Guy with Mitch Pileggi (17:36), Alison’s Adventures with Camille Cooper (17:12), It’s Alive! with Shep Gordon (11:57) and No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Music of Shocker (26:13) with insight from Music Supervisor Desmond Child, Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys), David Ellefson (Megadeth) and Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper) is also included.  Finally, Trailer & TV Spots (2:32), Radio Spots (1:09), Vintage Making Of (8:48), Storyboard Gallery (8:55), Still Gallery (77 in total) and Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original one-sheet artwork round out the disc’s hefty supplements.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 8th from Scream Factory, Shocker can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Breakfast Club (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Breakfast Club (1985)

    Director: John Hughes

    Starring: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall & Ally Sheedy

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the defining films of the 1980s, The Breakfast Club follows five uniquely different teenagers as they are subjected to a Saturday detention together.  Having little to nothing in common on the surface, the group bear their souls to one another, stripping the layers of their stereotypes away.  Judd Nelson (St. Elmo’s Fire), Molly Ringwald (Sixteen Candles), Emilio Estevez (Repo Man), Anthony Michael Hall (Weird Science) and Ally Sheedy (Short Circuit) comprise the teenage cast.

    Following up on his 1984 directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, Writer/Director John Hughes would re-team with Hall and Ringwald to tell his coming of age masterpiece that continues to speak to new generations of teenagers.  Fitting in and struggling to be understood as a teen has changed little since 1985 but, where The Breakfast Club maintains its universal appeal is within its ability to tap into the youthful emotions of those trapped within the often unpleasant realm of high school.  Shot in sequence, the talented quintet of Nelson, Ringwald, Estevez, Hall and Sheedy deliver phenomenal performances that capture the stereotypes of several high school cliques.  While, each performance is emotionally challenging and throughly engaging, Nelson, who reportedly stayed in character offset, delivers an angst-filled turn as class criminal John Bender.  Insistent on insults and highly perceptive to those around him, Bender carries baggage of a broken home, leaving him to take his aggression out on the world.  In addition, Ringwald as the fiery-haired richy Claire Standish and Estevez as star athlete Andrew Clark both reveal their inner demons that allow those closest to them to dictate their lives.  Meanwhile, Hall, the youngest cast member of the group, emulates the suffocating pressure of a teen pushed to his limit to excel at his classes while, the soft-spoken Sheedy as burnout Allison Reynolds is left to wander a world where her parents ignore her very existence.  The naturalistic quality of the performances matched with Hughes’ perfect screenplay brings to life a timeless story of youth that all ages can relate to.  

    Although, dramatically heavy as the teens open up to discover kindred spirits in one another, The Breakfast Club never forgets to have fun, mostly at the expense of their egotistical principal Mr. Vernon (the late Paul Gleason, Die Hard) and a memorable drug sequence that lightens the tone and increases the laughs.  Breaking down the barriers of stereotypes and high school pressures, The Breakfast Club captured lightning in a bottle with a cast that would soon be dubbed “The Brat Pack” and catapulted to immeasurable success during the decade of Reganomics.  Continually appreciated with each passing year, considering The Breakfast Club a classic may seem passé to some but, its impact continues to be felt by those walking locker-filled halls and others who refused to let their heart die, well after they grew up.

    Digitally remastered and restored from original film elements, The Breakfast Club arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on its already pleasing 25th anniversary transfer, Writer/Director John Hughes’ sophomore effort maintains a remarkably clean appearance with no aging artifacts spotted.  In addition, skin tones are relayed warmly and natural while, detail is most pleasing in wardrobe ranging from Bender’s countless layers to the fibers of Brian’s green fleece sweater.  Taking place in virtually one location, The Breakfast Club manages to impress with popping colors in Andrew’s blue sports attire and Claire’s red hair with the library background appearing sharply.  Meanwhile, film grain is always naturally pleasing with no detection of digital manipulation whatsoever.  Dialogue heavy, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix provides perfectly audible levels with soundtrack selections injecting a solid oomph, most noticeably during the group’s dance off in the library.  Along with a newly added Accepting the Facts: The Breakfast Club Trivia Track, all special features from the previous anniversary release have been ported over including, an Audio Commentary with Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson, the lengthy 12-part Sincerely Yours (51:25) documentary, The Most Convenient Definitions: The Origins of the Brat Pack (5:30), Theatrical Trailer (1:25) and a Digital HD Code.

    Celebrating its 30th anniversary, The Breakfast Club still strikes a nerve with the youth who combat the never-ending struggles of high school pressures.  Kicking off a movement of teen orientated films that took young adults’ fears and desires seriously, The Breakfast Club remains a defining effort of not only the 1980s but, the late John Hughes’ remarkable ability to relate to teenagers like few have, before or since.  A modest although, appreciable improvement over its previous release, Universal Studios’ 30th anniversary edition is the definitive word on this teen classic for those lacking in their collection.  In the simplest terms and most convenient definitions, all brains, athletes, basket cases, princesses and criminals who ever had a teenage heart will always value the unforgettable effect of The Breakfast Club.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Breakfast Club can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Nightcrawler (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Nightcrawler (2014)

    Director: Dan Gilroy

    Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed & Bill Paxton

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the sleepless city of Los Angeles, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch) as Lou Bloom, a driven man determined to make a name for himself in the cutthroat business of breaking news coverage.  Dangerously chasing the next murder or car crash, Bloom becomes consumed with his calling and distorts the line between documenting and participating in the unpredictable world of local news.  Rene Russo (Thor), Riz Ahmed (Centurion) and Bill Paxton (Edge of Tomorrow) co-star.

    Marking the directorial debut of Screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Two for the Money, The Bourne Legacy), Nightcrawler takes viewers on a thrilling journey where police sirens equal dollar bills for sleep-ridden film crews willing to risk it all for the cameras.  Academy Award nominated Actor Jake Gyllenhaal delivers arguably, his fiercest role to date as Lou Bloom.  Unemployed and independently educated, Bloom finds his calling after witnessing local mayhem captured for profit by freelance camera crews.  Willing to lie, cheat and steal to muscle his way into the pack of seasoned nightcrawler’s, Bloom quickly shows promise selling footage to local TV news director Nina Romina (Russo).  As jobs pile up and his craft perfected, Bloom hires fellow inexperienced assistant, Rick (Ahmed), to further his blooming career.  Losing a staggering 20 pounds for the role, Gyllenhall embodies a starving wild animal, prepared to devour the latest gory story devoid of any professional principles.  Well-spoken and precise in his desires, Gyllenhaal’s Bloom feels hauntingly akin to Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle as an introverted character disconnected from society yet, consumed by a city engulfed in crime and havoc.  Rarely blinking, Gyllenhaal conveys an emotional gamut of assertive control and  unpredictable rage like a time bomb waiting to explode.  Obsessed with capturing the hottest footage ahead of his competitors, Bloom finds himself witnessing murders and filming the scene instead of reporting the video recorded culprits.  Driven by capitalistic insanity, Bloom will stop at nothing to stage a series of events, pitting countless people in danger, including himself, to paint his personal picture of sensational news coverage.  

    Unpredictable and tense, Nightcrawler is a potent thrill ride for today’s unashamed TMZ-style coverage of current events.  Aided by compelling supporting performances from Rene Russo and Bill Paxton as a veteran nocturnal stringer, Nightcrawler is a remarkable directorial debut from Dan Gilroy with apt style and a trance-like score from Composer James Newton Howard (Collateral, Maleficent).  Tragically shunned by the Academy Awards, Gyllenhaal’s eerily conniving performance ranks as not only one of the year’s finest but, also Gyllenhall’s most absorbing.  

    Universal Studios presents Nightcrawler with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Predominately shot in the evening, Nightcrawler marvels with exceptional inky black levels and well defined detail.  Colors are vivid and pop most appropriately in Lou’s bright red Dodge Challenger while, skin tones read gorgeously even under their dimly lit circumstances.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Nightcrawler soars with perfectly audible dialogue levels, to the more menacing sounds of roaring car engines and striking gunshots, all relayed with the utmost clarity.  Special features include an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dan Gilroy, Producer Tony Gilroy and Editor John Gilroy as well as If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler (5:15), a far too short overview of the production with brief interviews from the cast and Director Dan Gilroy.  Finally, a DVD edition and UltraViolet Digital HD Code of the film round out the supplemental offerings.

    Adrenaline-pounding and sinister, Nightcrawler sends the viewer on a journey through Los Angeles‘ dangerous labyrinth of stringer sensationalism.  Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as the intelligent but, unhinged Lou Bloom is a crowd-pleasing performance resting proudly at the top of his already impressive credentials.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios‘ Blu-ray release supplies perfect technical merits but, lacks a more comprehensive supplemental package.  Familiar of past societal reject tales and simultaneously a statement on press coverage, Nightcrawler is unquestionably one of the best of its kind.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 10th from Universal Studios, Nightcrawler can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Ouija (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Ouija (2014)

    Director: Stiles White

    Starring: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos & Daren Kagasoff

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the tragic death of her best friend (Shelley Hennig, Teen Wolf), Ouija centers on Laine (Olivia Cooke, Bate Motel) as she attempts to contact her using an antiquated Ouija board.  After tinkering with the superstitious relic, Laine, along with her friends, awaken a resident spirit leading to a series of horrifying events.  Douglas Smith (Big Love), Bianca A. Santos (Happyland), Ana Coto (DisCONNECTED), Daren Kagasoff (The Secret Life of the American Teenager), Robin Lively (Teen Witch) and Lin Shaye (Insidious) co-star.

    In the tradition of board game adaptations such as Clue and Battleship, Platinum Dunes and Blumhouse Productions, in association with Hasbro Studios, unveil their long in-development take on Ouija.  Previously intended as a big-budget spectacle with several directors including McG (Terminator Salvation) and Breck Eisner (The Crazies) attached, Ouija would ultimately settle on a tighter $5 million budget with first time director Stiles White at the helm.  With the game soaked in supernatural intrigue for generations, its modern day cinematic treatment is anything but memorable.  After Debbie (Hennig) unexpectedly commits suicide, Laine (Cooke), with the assistance of her friends, try to summon her through the means of a Ouija board.  After several contacts prove they are not communicating with their dearly departed friend, an evil spirit has instead been summoned, vowing to extract terror upon the teens.  Littered with painfully dull characters and cheap jump scares, Ouija, ripe with potential, fails to make a chilling impact.  As its cast slowly drops like flies, Laine investigates the history behind her deceased friend’s house where the board was found, leading her to its former inhabitant, Paulina Zander (Shaye), and her tragic history.  While, Blumhouse Productions‘ good luck charm, Shaye, delivers one of the more solid performances as a mentally disturbed woman with a questionable past, her screen time is quite limited.  In addition, talented lead actress Olivia Cooke, hot off her success on A&E’s Bates Motel, is vastly underwhelming due entirely to the film’s uneventful screenplay.  Amongst a forgettable supporting cast of newcomers, retro enthusiasts will appreciate the lovely Robyn Lively (The Karate Kid, Part III, Teen Witch) in a brief role as Debbie’s grieving mother.  

    Considered a massive financial success earning over $95 million at the box-office, Ouija is predictable as they come, lacking suspense and a worthwhile narrative with such a novel icon at its core.  As Platinum Dunes (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th) and Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, The Purge) add another bankable effort under their belts, Ouija is sadly one, if not their biggest, blunder to date.

    Universal Studios debuts Ouija with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Where the film miscalculates narratively, its high-definition presentation makes up for.  Sparkling with natural skin tones, deep, inky black levels and fine detail, Ouija looks hauntingly superior.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Ouija pleases with crystal clear dialogue levels and aggressive jump scares prioritized nicely in their delivery.  No distortion or any other such anomalies interfere in this otherwise tip top track.  Supplemental features include two Blu-ray exclusives, The Spirit Board: An Evolution, tracing the Ouija boards history through the years with various interview subjects including Director Stiles White and Co-Writer Juliet Snowden (4:07) plus, Icons of the Unknown takes a brief scientific look into how the game works (4:00).  In addition, Adapting the Fear interviews the cast and crew about turning the eerie board game into a feature film (3:45).  Finally, a DVD edition of the film and a Digital HD UltraViolet code round out the packages bonus content.

    With other board game adaptations including Monopoly and Candy Land in active development, Ouija most assuredly won’t be applauded for its memorability.  Uninspired and relying on shallow scares, Ouija remains a spirit not worth communicating with.  Universal Studios ushers the film onto Blu-ray with top-notch A/V standards and a small, rather uneventful spread of special features.  Worthy of a stronger narrative considering its rich, supernatural background, Ouija is as lifeless as the spirits conjured within it. 

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now, Ouija can be purchased through Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #1: Neighbors (2014), Stagefright (1987) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    Neighbors (2014)

    Director: Nicholas Stoller

    Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Parents to a baby girl and new homeowners, Mac (Seth Rogen, This is the End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids), are adjusting to their new suburban existence when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door.  Led by their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment), the frat’s parties continue to grow in size as the Radner’s patience wears thin, prompting a hilarious war between the two neighbors.  Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Carla Gallo (We Bought a Zoo) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-star.  

    Funnyman Seth Rogen teams with Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) in this modern day Animal House tale of debauchery disrupting the lives of two thirtysomethings.  The unlikely combination of Rogen and High School Musical hunk, Zac Efron, hardly screams comedic gold but, Efron makes a surprising turn as the fraternity president who knows no bounds.  The personality clashes and age differences make for hilarious on-screen chemistry and a drunken debate of whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale is the definitive Batman will surely ignite laughter and off-screen arguments amongst viewers.  As a house war erupts between the two parties, sabotage antics reach wild heights in this comedy hit.  Co-stars Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz are the standout performances with hysterical dialogue that further cements their comedic status.  While, the final act may drag itself out a few minutes too long, Neighbors is still an entertaining romp of college humor hijinks that allows fresh blood like Efron to capably play in the Rogen sandbox of modern comedy.

    Universal Studios presents Neighbors with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Crisp and sharp, skin tones appear natural while, colors are always bold and refreshing.  Black levels are also handled very nicely, most noticeably in the neon-lit rave sequence, leaving room for no issues to be seen.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Neighbors sounds just as good as it looks with dialogue always coming across clearly and the modern hits soundtrack offering an added boost for your listening pleasure.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Neighbors arrives with a generous offering of special features including, Blu-ray exclusive content such as an alternate opening (6:40), deleted/alternate scenes (12:55) and On Set with... (3:41), a brief featurette with Dave Franco as your tour guide showcasing a fundraiser Delta Psi Beta hosts in the film.  In addition, a gag reel (5:57) and Line-O-Rama (2:52) join more informative, albeit brief, featurettes covering various areas of the production such as An Unlikely Pair (5:34) focusing on the pairing of Rogen and Efron, Partying with Neighbors (7:17), highlighting the central elements that created the on-screen hilarity and The Frat (5:44) where the cast of Delta Psi Beta discuss fraternity legends.  Finally, a DVD edition and Ultraviolet code round out the supplemental package.

    With little competition combatting it, Neighbors has been crowned by many to be the funniest comedy of the year.  Hardly breaking new ground, Neighbors is still a barrel of laughs allowing Rogen to do what he does best while, inviting welcome newcomers such as Efron, Byrne and Barinholtz to his comedic circle.  Universal Studios’ audio and visual presentation is pitch perfect with a decent array of special features that offer more added humor than informative production accounts. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Neighbors can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Stagefright (1987)

    Director: Michele Soavi

    Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mary Sellers & Piero Vida

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Church and Cemetery Man, Stagefright centers on a group of young actors rehearsing a new musical based on a murderer.  When a madman escapes from the local institution, the show’s director locks his cast inside the theater overnight accidentally with the killer.  With no escape, the stage is set for a night of suspense and blood.  Also available on DVD, Blue Underground proudly presents this Italian shocker, newly transferred in high-definition from the uncut negative, and loaded with newly produced special features.

    A protege of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), Michele Soavi would mark his directorial debut with this low-budget, atmospheric tale of terror.  Set in a dingy theater house where a group of starving artists perfect their experimental musical production, a former actor gone mad escapes the confines of his imprisonment to paint the stage red.  While, the film starts off rather slow with the cast aggressively rehearsing their offbeat production, Stagefright truly shines after the killer takes possession of an equally odd owl mask to fall into character.  Once the show’s director locks his team indoors to rehearse through the night, the escaped maniac utilizes a variety of power tools to make his own personal casting cuts.  Brutal and shocking, Stagefright retains its momentum thanks to Composer Simon Boswell’s (Hardware, Lord of Illusions) blending of operatic, synth-heavy tunes.  Nicely photographed by Renato Tafuri (The Church), Stagefright doesn’t always possess the effortless style of Argento’s earliest works but, obviously demonstrates the chops of a young director from the same school of filmmaking.  A third act confrontation on the theater’s catwalk between the sole injured victim and the masked killer is both thrilling and terrifying, sending Stagefright off on a satisfying final note.  Unique and dreamlike, Stagefright remains one of Soavi’s finest efforts due to its claustrophobic setting, startling gore effects and frantic score courtesy of Simon Boswell.

    Unsurprisingly, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a marvel.  Presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Stagefright improves astonishingly over previous DVD releases.  Detail is most impressive in facial close-ups while, colors pop nicely in this generally low-lit film.  Skin tones always appear natural with healthy film grain left intact.  Handled with the utmost care, black levels are consistently visible and show no signs of crushing or pixelation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion to speak of.  That said, several moments of characters speaking in hushed tones may require the occasional increase in volume.  Boswell’s exhilarating synth-heavy score sounds sensational, making itself a  personal highlight of the mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Blue Underground compliments their rich audio and visual presentation with a plethora of newly produced bonus features including, Theatre of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19:01) where Soavi recounts the difficult shooting schedule and  credits his experiences with Dario Argento in learning how to create tension and atmosphere.  In addition, House of the Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (11:40), Blood on the Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14:00), The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11:21) and The Sounds of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18:02) round out the impressive array of informative interviews found on the disc.  In addition, a theatrical trailer (2:18) and poster & still gallery (74 in total) have also been included.

    Akin to a frightening fever dream, Stagefright uses its limited budget to its advantage.  Predominately centered in a darkened theater, the owl-masked murderer stalks his prey with patience leaving his victims shy of limbs.  Nicely detailed, possessing sound black levels and free of any aging artifacts, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a sight to be seen with an equally impressive sound mix to satisfy viewers.  In addition, the newly-included assortment of special features are a treat to sit through and should appease dedicated fans.  A delightful directorial debut, Michele Soavi’s Stagefright remains a fan-favorite of late 80s Italian horror that is ripe for revisiting.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Stagefright can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McCinn, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Eaten Alive, five youths head out on a weekend getaway in rural Texas only to fall prey to a family of ruthless cannibals.  Shocking and controversial, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has unleashed a world of horror on viewers for over 40 years becoming a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.  Dark Sky Films proudly presents the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an all-new 4K transfer with a newly crafted 7.1 surround sound mix supervised by Director Tobe Hooper.

    Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973 in Austin, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has achieved iconic status for changing the face of cinema with its brutal depiction of macabre realism.  Equally loved and hated, Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper’s enduring opus has unanimously remained in the public conscience as a groundbreaking effort of independent cinema.  Inspired by the heinous exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grows more grizzly with age as its vintage quality and boiling backroads setting leaves viewers with a hellish representation of a living nightmare.  The equally believable cast headlined by Marilyn Burns as Sally, are our guides as their afternoon of fun morphs into an odyssey of madness.  The horror that unfolds at the Sawyer residence, home of Leatherface and his disturbed family, are the film’s most disturbing moments that have lifted it to iconic heights.  Imagery of human bone constructed furniture and a victim hung on a meathook is just the beginning of this grueling experiment in shock value.  Barely maintaining her sanity and survival, Sally is subjected to a terrifying dinner with her captors before attempting her escape.  Drenched in bright red blood on a highway, Sally is confronted and evades the maniacal Leatherface, angrily waving his deadly power tool in an unforgettable final image.

    Chilling and unsettling, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has remained a cinematic landmark since rattling the public’s senses during the tumultuous 1970s.  Simple in its execution, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s grimy production value matched with its uncomfortable tone sends viewers through a relentless viewing experience that feels authentic.

    Scanned in 4K, Dark Sky Films presents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a 1080 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on their already impressive 2008 release, Dark Sky Films’ latest transfer is the best yet!  Shot guerilla-style, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre retains its warm, Texas appearance with skin tones reading reasonably sharp and accurate.  Lines and debris that have plagued so many previous releases are extinct in this transfer while, always maintaing a layer of natural grain.  Consistently underlit, black levels are nicely handled, especially during Leatherface’s pursuit of Sally in the fields.  Action is satisfyingly visible with no crushing to speak of.  Supervised by Writer/Director Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes equipped with a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround mix that picks up dialogue clearly with no intrusions and chaotic moments of chain saw mayhem roars across this impressive mix.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo 2.0 and Original 2.0 Mono mixes have also been included.  

    Bursting with bonus content, the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition arrives with four commentary tracks including: 1) Writer/Producer/Director, Actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 2) Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger & Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns.  Plus, two newly recorded tracks from: 3) Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper and 4) Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J. Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolauo.  A separate Blu-ray disc of additional bonus features include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49), Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (1:11:42), A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03), a vintage walk through tour from 1993.  In addition, Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02), The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27), a new, albeit silent due to the audio being lost, selection of deleted scenes & outtakes (15:07), Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48), Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47), vintage deleted scenes & outtakes (25:23), a blooper reel (2:22), Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (7:40), Horror‘s Hallowed Grounds: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (20:19), where Host Sean Clark visits the original shooting locations, Dr. W.E. Barnes presents Making Grandpa (2:45), a still gallery (2:27) and several trailers, TV & radio spots round out this impressive assortment of special features.  An accompanying DVD edition of the film and special features disc is also included for standard definition needs.

    As effective as it was 40 years ago, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to shock and mesmerize viewers with its unsettling presentation of cannibalistic killers in the barren backroads of Texas.  In a time of endless catalog re-releases of subpar standard, Dark Sky Films have delivered fans the definitive release of this low-budget spectacle.  Beautifully scanned in 4K with an impressive 7.1 surround mix, Dark Sky Films has left no stone unturned with over four hours of bonus content to delve into.  Endlessly disturbing and terrifying, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never fades in quality and Dark Sky Films‘ 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition firmly proves that the saw is still family!

    RATING: 5/5

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available right now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dallas Buyers Club (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
    Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
    Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Denis O’Hare & Steve Zahn
    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In what is being hailed as the role of his career, Matthew McConaughey (Mud, Magic Mike) brings the true story of a man’s fight against AIDS, to life.  Diagnosed during the peak of HIV/AIDS prejudice, the determination to survive caused one man to scour the world to prolong his life while simultaneously helping many others infected.  Earning accolades from critics and award ceremonies, let’s investigate the tale of Ron Woodroof.  The Dallas Buyers Club is now open for sale...

    Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof, a blue-collar Texas electrician, who lives a free-wheeling life until he’s diagnosed HIV-positive.  Given 30 days to live, Woodroof is determined to survive the deadly disease by any means necessary.  Tracking down alternative treatments from all over the globe, often by illegal means, Woodroof heads into business.  Teaming up with a transexual named Rayon (Jared Leto), the two open up a buyer’s club to distribute pharmaceuticals to others infected.  Jennifer Garner (The Odd Life of Timothy Green), Denis O’Hare (J. Edgar) and Steve Zahn (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Following the production of the film since the late 1990s, a revolving door of talent from Director Marc Forster (World War Z) with Brad Pitt and Director Craig Gillespie (Blue Valentine) with Ryan Gosling all were once attached to bring Woodroof’s tale to the silver screen.  Fate played an important role when the project finally settled on Director Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria) and Matthew McConaughey in the lead role.  McConaughey, who was quickly falling into the murk of “rom-com” mediocrity in the mid 2000s, reinvented himself with 2011’s The Lincoln Lawyer.  With a successful string of memorable performances in Mud, Killer Joe and Magic Mike, McConaughey firmly established himself as an actor with more than meets the eye.  Dallas Buyers Club shines an uncomfortable light on the mid 1980s when misunderstanding and fear fueled the publics perception of AIDS.  HIV/AIDS-positive individuals were abandoned by those closest to them and viewed as a black plague of death that could infect anyone with the slightest touch.  Ron Woodroof was a common Texas cowboy who supported himself as an electrician.  Woodroof enjoyed the rodeo and loved his women just as much as his partying.  McConaughey brings the country boy swagger and flirtatious charm to his character effortlessly.  Once diagnosed HIV-positive, Woodroof’s friends and co-workers abandon him, allowing their homophobic personalities to blind them while fueling their disgust.  Early in the film, Woodroof and friends play cards as they stumble upon a newspaper clipping of Rock Hudson’s AIDS related death.  The group make light of the story and come to the conclusion that AIDS is some sort of “gay disease”.  It is this ignorance that even blinds Woodroof when his diagnosis is announced.  McConaughey morphs his appearance from strong rodeo-rider to a gaunt, sickly man with haunting results.  McConaughey’s dedication to the role shines as he convincingly projects a man with an incurable disease.  As Woodroof is shut out by friends, the only welcoming outlet comes from those with a homosexual background who share in his disease.  Woodroof’s reservations are tested when he befriends Rayon, an AIDS-positive transexual.  Jared Leto (Requiem for a Dream) delivers, arguably, his finest role to date as a man adorned in full woman’s attire with a spunky attitude.  Leto also makes a heartbreaking physical transformation as his character’s condition worsens.  As Woodroof embarks on securing unapproved FDA pharmaceuticals from foreign countries, Woodroof and Rayon form an unlikely business relationship as a buyer’s club.  Supplying others infected with alternative medications, Woodroof’s selfish nature of prolonging his own life is broken as he comes to the aid of countless others.  McConaughey and Leto’s chemistry is a sight to be seen as prejudices are diminished and a beautiful friendship is formed.  In an emotional moment, Woodroof engages Rayon in a warm hug as the worst seems to be near for Rayon, highlighting the long journey Woodroof has traveled.  Jennifer Garner appears as a trusting doctor who Woodroof and Rayon confide in.  Garner brings a gravity to the role that allows Woodroof to unwind and comfortably feel like his former self.

    Dallas Buyers Club works as an inspiring true-life story about a man dealt an unimaginable weight with no real hope in sight.  Woodroof took the cards he was dealt and embarked on a rigorous journey to not only prolong his life, but many suffering others.  McConaughey’s powerful performance matched with Leto’s equally impressive turn as Rayon made Dallas Buyers Club a film worthy of its praise.  While, a deeper look into Woodroof’s psychological state as his friends abandon him, would have been appreciated, the film makes no apologies for Woodroof taking the situation and quickly, turning it into something beneficial.  

    In an ever-changing world where the threat of terrorism and the less than perfect economy keep us on edge, it’s easy to pay less attention to the AIDS epidemic.  Advancements in medicine have proven to prolong the life spans of those infected, but the troubling reality is that a cure is still unfound.  Dallas Buyers Club is a film that harks back to a time when the majority were terrified by the epidemic and quarantined those infected.  The film is a testament to the enduring spirit of Ron Woodroof and the opportunities he made possible for others.  Battling against countless obstacles other than the disease, Woodroof never stopped waging the good fight.  Matthew McConaughey brings life to Ron Woodroof with incredible range and charisma.  Jared Leto has entered a new level of flawlessness with his portrayal of the transexual outcast, Rayon.  The supporting cast of Jennifer Garner and Steve Zahn shine in their limited screen time and bolster the film to marvelous heights.  Dallas Buyers Club is a moving, brilliantly acted film based on an even more remarkable man and his passion for life.  Dallas Buyers Club is the perfect showcase for McConaughey and Leto’s awe-inspiring performances that are destined to tug at your heart.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Universal Studios presents Dallas Buyers Club in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer.  The film looks nothing short of gorgeous, colors are nicely prevalent with skin tones looking accurate as can be.  Black levels are wonderfully handled, most noticeably in Woodroof’s trashy trailer-park residence.  The film seems to have a sense of softness which appears intentional and fitting for its 1980s time period.  Detail is splendid as McConaughey’s thinning hair and frail bone structure come across clear as crystal.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Dallas Buyers Club comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is wonderful.  Dialogue never goes missing and background noises in noisier scenes that take place in bars, pick up everything nicely.  Early moments at the rodeo give the mix a nice shake as the intense nature of the sport invades your speakers.  A clear and robust sound makes this mix a winner!
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Deleted Scenes: Less than five minutes make up for a few scenes left on the cutting room floor.

    - A Look Inside Dallas Buyers Club: McConaughey, Garner and Leto appear in this far too short behind the scenes look at the film.

    - Previews: Includes Closed Circuit, The World’s End, Admission, The Place Beyond the Pines, Hyde Park on Hudson, Promised Land and Moonrise Kingdom.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Dallas Buyers Club is a near perfect film with incredible performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  The true-life tale highlights a less than thrilling time of the AIDS epidemic and the individuals battling it.  Director Jean-Marc Vallée conducted a beautiful film with a keen eye that has taken over 20 years to come to fruition.  Universal Studios‘ treatment is remarkable with a clean and nicely presented picture and a terrific audio mix.  Although, the release could have benefitted from more informative special features considering the film’s origins.  Regardless, Dallas Buyers Club is a wonderful, heart-wrenching film that needs to be seen based solely on McConaughey and Leto’s award nominated performances.
    RATING: 4.5/5