Wednesday, September 30, 2020

12 Hour Shift (2020) New Film Review!

 12 Hour Shift Magnolia Pictures In Theaters and On Demand Oct 2nd 2020

Directed By: Brea Grant 

Starring: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Cloe Farnsworth, Mick Foley

It's 1998 and over the course of one night at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals get caught up in a heist gone wrong. 

    12 Hour Shift is only the second feature film from Brea Grant and even at such an early stage her in career she shows a a lot of maturity film wise. Wisely Grant fore-go's any back story but rather positions us the audience at the start of our Mandy's chaotic shift. It's smart from an economic stand point not only in terms of budget also also economical storytelling. We really get all the information we need and the rest we can fill in from context. Visually the film is great with nice use of tracking shots but also hand-cams that capture all the crazy going on's.  

    Now, I have not seen Brea Grant's previous feature film nor her shorts but I wager that she enjoys relishing in the absurd. And, boy oh boy this film is a crazy boarding on surreal trip. This insanity, for the most part bleeds nicely into Grants  pitch black, sardonic screenplay. If I had to make a complaint the script could use a tighter focus. Grant sadly gets carried away with scenes that dont further the plot but bogs its already lean 86 minute runtime.  Chloe's character having a slow-mo Cheeto fight with her boyfriend might be visually interesting to watch but it doesn't service the narrative. Angela Bettis known for indie hits like May (2002) and Girl Interrupted (1999) truly shines in the lead. Bettis is such an exciting actor and she easily does the heavy lifting in the cast. Otherwise the acting is a bit on the inconsistent side with some performances that range from great to wooden. Highlights including Mick Foley who is actually really entertaining in his small but memorable role and David Arquette who seems to be off in his very own movie. 

12 Hour Shift is a movie that is good but you can certainly see the cracks in a screenplay that is way more self indulgent for its own good. This is a shame because I think the core concept is one with enough meat on it to really sink your teeth into. It's very nearly there it just needs an overhaul in the screenplay department. Flawed yes, but I was still entertained because the film manages to maintain its insane premise and the momentum it builds throughout. And, whatever you may think of the film you have to give Brea credit for swinging big and trying for something wholly different and fresh. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Pale Door (2020) RLJ Entertainment Blu Ray Review


The Pale Door (2020) RLJ Entertainment 10/6/2020

Directed By: Aaron B. Koontz  

Starring: Melora Walters, Zachary Knighton, Noah Segan, Stan Shaw, Bill Sage, Pat Healy 

     The horror western is not a new hybrid but like any attempt at melding together two genre's that are so different its often a tricky 'undertaking'. A gang of outlaws are on the run after a robbery goes sideways. Now, stuck in a strange town, the group of men must fight to survive a coven of witches. So, frankly speaking I've only seen one other film directed by Aaron B. Koontz , which was two of the segments he directed in Scare Package (2019). And, if you recall my review, I was not a fan. But, I went in with an open mind hoping that this would be a interesting mixture of horror, western and folk horror, which, as of late has been making a huge comeback. So...yeah its not very good. 

   So, normally I dont knock a movie on a budget that looks cheap, however, clearly Koontz and company did not have the budget to do a period horror. It's a bold choice and I think that it's one of the things that takes you out of the film. From the outset the setup is an interesting one and, I think melding witches in a western is inspired. The issue is the screenplay feels underwhelming and never explores these ideas in an exciting or provocative way. As I said melding two genres together is difficult but movies like Bone Tomahawk (2015) and Ravenous (1999) proved it can work well. This however feels very by-the-numbers and, plays up the family drama instead of just sliding into the tongue-in-cheek qualities. Because, if you know you dont have the budget or talent to pull off a masterpiece, at least make it fun. But instead we wade through long periods of talking, non action that frankly isnt that compelling or interesting. The movie wants me to be invested in these stock characters but I was not. They nearly did something interesting implying the one character was gay but, again, never does anything with that thread. Maybe worst of all though, the film even manages to under cut its own horror. Allow me to explain. The women running the brothel are actually Salem witches that we're burnt at the stake. Okay, not that original but I'll go with it. When the women finally shed their bodies and take the form of witches they are crispy and gross. That's awesome, until... you see they have big long witch noses-I KID YOU NOT. Seriously, I laughed out loud when I seen this. I went back and checked and this isn't a spoiler, as this was boldly revealed in the trailer. The thing is, this would be fine had the film played more as a campy-b horror western but its not, so this further wrecks any kind of tone they try to set. Also, they establish this interesting mystery about a girl that was locked in a trunk and this could have been really engaging had it drawn that out more and paid off better. 

     Movies like The Pale Door are frustrating. Frustrating because you can see that Koontz is a hardcore horror fan and does have skills behind the lens from a technical stand point. Sadly though the film saddles itself with a meh-story, wildly inconsistent acting and witch makeup's that look more like Witchiepoo from H.R PufnStuf  then anything remotely scary or effective. I like when people do high concept horror but it takes a level of talent to successfully pull it off. I think Door could have worked if it streamlined its plot and found a consistent tone and maybe played up it's cheese more. As it stands this movie isn't anything you`ve already seen before and even the cool ideas is under-cut but its rough edges. This witch had promise but it sinks like a stone and dies a quick death.  

Picture: Pale Door looks great in 1080p and the transfer from digital gives the film a nice grainy filmmaker quality that was pretty impressive. Skin tones look natural and colors are overall balanced nicely. 

Sound: Pale Door sports a nice DTS 5.1 Soundtrack. The music, sound design and dialogue come through nicely with a robust sound. 

Extras: The extras include: The Making Of The Pale Door, Filmmaker Commentary and a featurette on the editing. 

Lucio Fulci in UHD! Blue Underground's House by the Cemetery (1981) HD/UHD Review!

 House by the Cemetery (1981)  HD/UHD Blue Underground 8/25/2020

Directed By: Lucio Fulci 

Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Giovanni De Nava

    The third and final film in Lucio Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy, House by the Cemetery seems to be the one people least talk about. Sure, it's not as good as The Beyond or City of the Living Dead but it's still a film very much in keeping with Fulci’s other ultra-gore-soaked fever dreams. A couple and their young son move into a charming New England home, and all seems perfect for the young family. Things soon spiral into a waking nightmare however, as the new occupants are plagued by horrific happenings that stem from the home’s gruesome past. 

     From minute one, Fulci masterfully turns the screws for the audience, giving us a nice moment of suspense paid off by his signature pension for splatter. As I said House isnt my favorite out of the three films but where the film may lack in polish it more than makes up for in its interesting concept. The mythos around Doctor Freudstein is nicely handled with a great pay off. As a boogeyman, Freudstein is tops in my book. In standard Fulci fashion the film have a nice surreal quality  that gives the entire film an off-balanced, other worldly vibe. I respect the fact that Fulci turns the haunted house genre on its ear with his own flavor and creepy vibes. Speaking of this, the film has a nice visual style. I know Argento is the more stylish out of the two but I think Fulci never gets enough credit in this field. In this film he uses colors well and makes the most of his palate without going over-board. The next result is a twisted beautiful nightmare only a mad brain like Fulci could conjure. The film is not without its silly moments - the bat attack scene for example hasn’t aged very well but honestly, it's not nearly as cringey as the spider scene in The Beyond. For gorehounds it's not as gory as Fulci’s other films like ZombieNew York Ripper etc. There are also some lulls in the story, which is not great for a film that’s under 90 minutes long.

Picture: Much like New York Ripper, Blue Underground has done a fantastic job with this new UHD transfer. Right away I noticed that the color is more vibrate, with darkly lit scenes truly benefiting from this new upgraded print. Overall, details are sharper with skin tones looking natural and well balanced. Grain is smooth and consistent throughout. I thought that the regular HD looked amazing but, BU has once again outdone themselves with this release. 

Sound: House by the Cemetery is presented in both it's Mono mix, DTS-HD 5.1 and most exciting a ATMOS track. Those of you out there with a nice sound system will really get a more complex, layered and 3D sound out of this new ATMOS track. It's really stunning and takes advantages of the films score and sound design. 

  • Ultra HD Blu-ray (2160p) Widescreen 2.40:1 Feature Presentation and Bonus Extras Blu-ray
  • Audio: English: Dolby Atmos; English: 5.1 DTS-HD; English: 1.0 DTS-HD; Italian: 1.0 DTS-HD
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English for Italian Audio
  • Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
  • Deleted Scene
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spot
  • Poster & Still Galleries
  • Meet the Boyles Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
  • Children of the Night Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
  • Tales of Laura Gittleson Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander
  • My Time With Terror Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo
  • A Haunted House Story Interviews with Co-Writers DardanoSacchetti and Elisa Briganti
  • To Build a Better Death Trap Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava
  • House Quake Interview with Co-Writer Giorgio Mariuzzo
  • Catriona MacColl Q&A
  • Calling Dr. Freudstein Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
  • BONUS! Embossed Slipcover (First Pressing Only)

Overall/Final Thought: You might be wondering if you should upgrade if you already own the previous 3-Disc Edition. I would say if you have the means to play 4K UHD films it's so worth the upgrade. I can say without a doubt that you are getting a better picture, better sound and with all the previous extras ported over. Sure, you dont get the CD soundtrack, hence why I think hardcore fans should double dip with this one. If you don't own this already somehow, now is the perfect time to upgrade.

Blue Underground's House by the Cemetery (1981) UHD release celebrates Fulci in all his gory glory. A Must Own! 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

 Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) Warner Archive 10/6/2020

Directed By: Michael Patrick Jann

Starring: Kristen Dunst, Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin, Kristie Alley, Denise Richards, Amy Adams,

    Michael Patrick Jann isn't a household name but he has been working steadily (primarily in television) from the early '90's  to today with familiar credits including Reno 911, The State, The Goldberg's, just to name a few. 1999's Drop Dead Gorgeous is, to date, his only theatrical feature film credit and a cult classic. To the best of my knowledge the DVD version was out of print but rejoice, it's coming to HD this October from Warner Archives.  Set in 1995 a documentary crew captures the quirky going's on of a Minnesota beauty pageant in all its messed up glory. Michael Patrick Jann made this film early in his career and it was clear that he wanted to make a big bold statement. The result is a movie that is very nearly brilliant but sadly, it just misses the mark. When you boil it down, Jann essentially makes a Christopher Guest style movie which is brimming full of quirky underdog characters in the Midwest and done in a documentary style. Think, Waiting for Guffman (1996), minus the genius of Guest and company. There is no doubt that this film is a dark comedy with some very touchy subjects being gleefully made fun of, such as eating disorders and teen pregnancies, whilst also taking a sardonic view of gun-nut culture and religious zealots. There are parts of this film that are truly gut busting in terms of laughter but, where some of the jokes land, others fall flat. The issue is a lot of the jokes feel like they are punching down and the result is some very lazy and  cringe-worthy humor. For example, there is weirdly out of place bit about an Asian American couple that is clearly the butt of the joke and speak in a uncomfortable broken English accent. Apparently even at the time some of the crew found the material too offensive.  Denise Richards recently revealed in a June 2020 interview with PeopleTV's Couch Surfing that crew members walked off during her number 'Cant Take My Eye's Off of You' whilst dancing and singing to a prop of Jesus. You also have MadTV's Will Sasso playing a cognitively impaired person who gets called a name that starts with r, countless times. 

    This is why, by in large Guest movies age incredible well. This is because Guest's humor is more about the razor sharp wit and uncanny ability to create memorable characters, but Jann's film doesn't age very well because he takes lazy stereotypes and crafts the humor our that. It's a shame because I think it sinks any of the actually really clever humor Jann injects into this film. On a bright note the film is PACKED with exciting rising stars such as Amy Adams (in her film debt), Kristen Dunst, Denise Richards, Brittney Murphy and established stars like Kristy Alley, Allison Janney, , Ellen Barkin and character actors like Mindy Sterling, Sam McMurray, Matt Malloy, Michael McShane and even Adam West as himself. While the film is handled well by the bulk of its legendary cast, some of the younger actors struggle with their Midwest accents and Richards doesn't have one at all for some reason. 

   Drop Dead Gorgeous has a little something to offend everybody, but  I dont think it nearly works well enough to be true biting satire, with some  jokes coming off uninspired, crass and uncomfortable. To the directors credit there is some true nuggets of pitch black comedy gold and, I found myself laughing out loud at times. Sadly though, you have to wade through some inconsistent b-material that feels like it could have used a tighter narrative, and as I said the film isn't nearly as funny as Jann thinks it is at times. As I say it wants so badly to be Guest movie but doesn't quite have the strong screenplay to pull it altogether. I know this movie has its loyal fans and it's not that I dont see the merit in it, just that it could have been better.  

Picture: Drop Dead Gorgeous has a noticeable upgrade from its previous DVD release with an incredible vibrate color palate. You can tell this was taken from 35mm print as the film has some graininess which is thankfully consistent throughout. There is a few blurring moments but nothing that would probably be noticeable unless you we're looking for it. Overall this is a nice looking film that turned 21 this summer.  

Sound: DDG sports a nice DTS 5.1 track which has a robust sound quality. Dialogue and sound design comes through well and those with a sound system carries most of its sound in the front speakers. 

Extras: None

Full Denise Richards Interview HERE 

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985) Severin Film Review

 Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985) Severin Film 9/26/2020

Directed By: Michele Massimo Tarantini 

Starring: Michael Sopkiw, Marta Anderson, Suzane Carvalho 

   Severin Films it seems is always looking out for my cannibal collection and this month we get two new HD releases in the genre, Primitives (1980) and, the film I`ll be talking about today Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985). When their plane crashes deep in the Amazon jungles, a rug-tug group must survive blood thirsty cannibals, dangerous wildlife and slave traders. Who says there isn't truth in advertising, as the art for Massacre in Dinosaur Valley truly sums up what kind of outing your in for. Massacre, like most Italian horror/exploitations fare, you certainly know what your in for but, I'm always still taken aback by the levels of un abashed sleaze. This movie is overflowing with nudity and sex and in true Grindhouse spirit, it doesn't even try to justify its wonderful perversion. And, what would a movie like this be without a healthy dose of over-the-top acting whilst spouting some amazingly hilarious/bad dialogue. It's hard to name on example but, the Professors cheesy death and the exchange followed immediately afterwards is priceless. As far as the "plot" goes, it's actually fairly above avenge with a enough action and violence to keep me engaged. Speaking of, the splatter is really well done with some great practical gore gags. 

    I also think that, for those looking to dip their toes into the cannibal genre would find this a good starter movie. It's got all the elements of a typical gut-munching Italian romp, but has a more traditional narrative and isn't as intense or your in face as say, Cannibal Holocaust (1980) or Cannibal Ferox (1981). Thankfully it also doesn't have any real-life animal killing which sadly plagues a lot of films of this ilk. And, while this film is graphic, its not as hardcore as the films mentioned above. Overall, the film may not be the most intense, or insane film in the pantheon of cannibal movies but I actually think the plot is good,  and is never dull as there is always something going on, whether it be unintentionally  funny or, just plain weird, horny a combo of both.  Cult fans will no doubt recognize star Michael Sopkiw as the beer guzzling Peter in Devil Fish (1984) or Jake 'Tiger' Sharp in Blastfighter (1984). With his bare chest out for 95% of the film Michael Sopkiw despite his grizzled demeanor and zero personality manages to pulls off the mantle of action hero with all the bravado and swagger you can stomach. Sopkiw is in my opinion helps make this movie work and oozes the kind of roughish charm that could match Harrison Ford's Han Solo or Indie. The film throws a lot at its audience and though it makes for a muddled narrative, it insures that you`ll be anything but bored. This movie is way more fun than it has any right to. 

Massacre in Dinosaur Valley is like Indiana Jones, if Indiana Jones was made by glue huffing perverts. A must see! 

Picture: Severin clearly was working from was really well taken care of elements as Massacre in Dinosaur Valley looks great.  The film turns 35 years old this year and you wouldn't be able to tell, as the new uncut 4k transfer is clear with lush vivid colors. Grain levels look nice and, are consistent throughout. Image looks smooth without any blurring that I could notice. I really am amazed with the level of detail and clarity Severin gets with this release.  

Sound: Dinosaur Valley sports a healthy 2.0 Mono track. Dialogue and sound comes through extremely well. 

Extras:  As always Severin doesn't half ass their releases and provides fans with a nice array of extras. 

Valley Boy: A New Interview with Actor Michael Sopkiw (23mins): This is a highly entertaining interview with Sopkiw, the interesting way he started his career and how he got into working as a model and after that as an actor. Later on we get some great insights into the making of Massacre in Dinosaur Valley. 

Lost in Brazil Interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti (14 mins) The very charming  Dardano Sacchetti is, like Michael a lot of fun to listen to, and you hang on his every word. This interview is chocked full of great information and colorful stories you`ll really enjoy hearing. 

Deleted and Extended Scenes Reel (9mins) Both in English and Italian. 

Trailer and Italian Credits (3mins)

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997) Mill Creek Entertainment

Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997) Mill Creek Entertainment 10/6/2020

Directed By: Michael Cohn 

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Sam Neil, David Conrad, Monica Keener, Gill Bellows

   The 1990's brought with it this interesting trend of taking IP's based on classic literature and giving them a big lavish film production. This started and perhaps was made popular by Francis Ford Coppla's 1992 smash hit Bram Stoker's Dracula. Universal would follow this up with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) and Wolf (1994). There was also a trend taking popular folklore and Brothers Grimm fairy tales and giving them a edgy but still period update. After the death of his wife Noblemen Frederick Hoffman (Sam Neil) starts courting and later marries Claudia (Sigourney Weaver). Lilli (Monica Keener) Fredericks daughter now all grown up most face the wrath of her wicked Stepmother in this dark re-telling. 

     Snow White A Tale of Evil is pretty exciting release for me personally, as it was a video cover I has often seen at my local rental shop but never watched. This seemed like a good excuse to finally check it out. The end result is...somewhat of a mixed bag. The film seemed to have been savaged by critics upon it's release yet I think it is good, but not great. So, first off I love when filmmakers can take familiar iconography such as from fairy tales or legends, lull us in a false sense of security, only to have those expectations delightfully subverted.  Michael Cohn does a good job at taking base elements of the Grimms tale (which were incredible dark) and elevating and working them into twisted things. Cohn clearly takes devilish glee in giving us a very adult fairy tell that is more in line with the original text. Visually the film has a very heighted surreal feel which feels perfectly at home with the fairy tale origins.  Sigourney Weaver, what is there to say other than she OWNS this role. Weaver gives us a Wicked Stepmother but, she plays it with an interesting complexity that is worth the price of admission. Make no mistake, she's ruthless but the cool thing is she isnt always foaming out the mouth evil and has some very 'motherly' moments with our heroine. The film also features some top notch practical makeup and effects. So...for the not so good aspects. 

     You cannot say Snow White A Tale of Evil  doesn't try hard, and has a very solid first act the rest of the film kind of falls apart. The second and third act feels disjointed and, again is ambitious but not as focused or polished as it could be. The film was made on a pretty big budget (26-30 million) but somehow the film still manages to have a cheap look at times. This is especially odd because the production design also seems very capable. I think the other biggest issue I had with the film is, while it does inject some taboo subjects like cannibalism, I think that the themes could have been pushed further. As it stands now the film is only half-in on on its concept and I would have loved it if they had pushed its boundaries. Bottom line: they played it safe but still sold it as an edgy adult fairy tale that's 'not your fathers Snow White'. It's also worth noting that while Weaver shines in the role despite some hamming it up, Sam Neil's performance is, shall we say not his finest. 

    Snow White: A Tale of Terror is a deeply flawed film but, despite itself I still found it engaging, with some solid performances, nice set-pieces and, as I said Weaver is sublime in a role that she takes just barely over into the campy realm but, always, has the zero hero pulls it back again. Director Michael Cohn tried for something similar to what Tim Burton would do two years later much better in Sleepy Hollow (1999), and its a shame that a script doctor wasn't brought in to help pull some sloppy narrative threads together. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Eli Roth's History of Horror Season One Blu Ray Review

Eli Roth's History of Horror Season One RLJ Entertainment 10/6/2020

Series Directed By: Kurt Sayenga 

Starring: Eli Roth, Stephen King, Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Englund, Linda Blair, Slash, Joe Hill

     AMC's Eli Roth's History of Horror comes just in time for the Halloween season. Horror films have a rich history that draws from folklore, social, political issues, religious ideology etc.  Despite what some snobby film scholars/critics might have you believe the genre is a fantastic template to highlight societal fears and anxieties. The set up is very simple: Eli Roth hosts this 7 part series with each episode explores a different genre such as Zombies, Slashers and Demons etc. Episodes are around 40 minutes long and I was impressed with the great cross section of interview subjects. From authors, film scholars, filmmakers, special effects artists, actors, it really gives you such a complete picture. You even have thee Stephen King giving a rare interview and its insanely interesting to hear his thoughts on horror movies. Other highlights include: Joe Hill, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, Rob Zombie, Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Lee Curtis etc. Also featuring vintage interviews with George A. Romero, Alfred Hitchcock and others. 

    I think the biggest question is, will all fans enjoy this? Hardcore horror scholars and fan's may not gleam any new information from this series yet, speaking as someone who is a historian and an uber fan, I still really enjoyed this series. Of course, I think that this series is perfect for those budding horror fan's just coming into the genre. It's basically like taking a film course on horror film 101 in one cool set. Again, I think what I loved most about this series is the wide range of thought provoking points of view and, AMC's ability to get some huge names in the horror business. Thankfully a season 2 will premier October 10th of this year on AMC and Shudder. 

Disc 1 Episodes 1-4 

Disc 2 Episodes 5-7

Disc 3 Bonus Disc: The bonus disc features a lot of great extended interviews (running over 2hrs!), it also includes segments cut including: How "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" Influenced Tarantino, How Video Games Resurrected Zombie Movies, Is Horror Sexist or Feminist?  Making a Monster, Scared for Life. 

Currently streaming on Shudder and coming to Home Video October 6th, now's the perfect time to check out this series. Even as a hardcore horror fan I enjoyed 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Blumhouse of Horrors 10-Movie Collection, Just in Time for Halloween!

 Blumhouse of Horrors 10-Movie Collection (2013-2019) Blu Ray Review! Releases 9/29/2020 

Just in time for Halloween Blumhouse/Universal is re-releasing a massive 10 Film Blu Ray collection. I will be briefly reviewing all ten films and breaking down how they look, sound as well as explore what is one disc in terms of any extras. 

The Purge (2013)

Directed By: James DeMonaco 

Starring: Ethan Hawk, Lena Headey, Max Burkholder, Edwin Hodge

Set in a distant future where all crime including murder is legal for one night a year. It's called, you guessed it, Purge Night and it's supposedly designed to get peoples blood lust out of their systems. A wealthy family tries typically have no issue with surviving the night, only this year a stranger comes and with it blood and chaos. 

The Purge is one of those movies that has a high enough concept which helps carry it along despite it being a somewhat lackluster outing. The filmmakers we're clearing aiming for some lofty,  but in the end what we get is a standard gory home invasion movie that is held up by a grander message. Its' frustrating because I feel like this is such a cool premise that could have been explored in a better way.  Thankfully though, unlike the latter films the movie doesn't feel as preachy and lets the message act as background to the horror and mayhem. Interesting plot and I applaud it going for something original but could have pushed its core themes and ideas a lot further. Still, its a lean nasty little film and taken on its own terms is a entertaining outing, just not an overly  smart one. 

Picture: The film looks great on 1080p. Skin tones look natural with warm and lush colors that really stand out in the daylight shots. Grain levels are low and fairly smooth. This being a newly shot movie there is no artifacts to be found. Blacks are deep and for the most part well handled. Overall great looking movie. 

Sound: Purge includes both a Mono 2.0 track as well as a DTS-HD Master 5.1 track. The film is heavy on sound design and music cues so this 5.1 track comes through very well. Not as great as an ATMOS track but it had a fairly complex layered effect on my home theater system. 

Extras: Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge (8min) this featurette includes interviews with the cast and crew of Purge, from the origin of the plot to the making of. 

Ouija (2014)

Directed By: Stiles White 

Starring: Olivia Cooke, Anta Coto, Daren Kagasoff, Douglas Smith, Bianca A. Santos, Lin Shaye 

After the death a girl named Debbie (Shelley Hennig), a group of her friends discover that a spirit board may have unleashed an evil which spells out doom for anyone who messes with it. 

     One of my favorite '80's horror outing is Witchboard (1986), which is entertaining partly because it swings big also, does interesting things to subvert horror troupes. I mention this because I think that 2014's Ouija could have a lesson from that movie. While Witchboard is far from a perfect film it makes up for its narrative and production short comings because it takes the root of the idea in this case an evil spirit board yet it strives for more. Ouija on the other hand is well made from a technical standpoint,  yet it's bland and clearly aimed at a younger audience. It's baffling that Stiles White was chosen to helm this film as he has no other director credits before or since and really was only known as a screenwriter with such turkeys as Knowing and The Possession to name a few. As I said the film isn't poorly constructed but White also wrote the screenplay so, we are saddled with a very basic by-the-number screenplay with stock characters and zero actual scares. On the flip side you have the sequel Ouija: Origins of Evil which swaps White for Mike Flannagan who also co-wrote the screenplay. The end result is a much better, fully realized movie. It proves that this concept can work but obviously you need the talent to back it up. Olivia Cooke heads up the film and while I think she is a very good actor she seems like to sleep walk through this film. But, honestly who could blame her? 

Picture: Ouija looks like it was filmed on digital and in 1080p it has a really nice look. The opening scene is darkly lit but, retains a nice warmth to it and I think this shows off how sharp and rich it looks. I`d even go as far as to say it has a film-like look to it. Skin tones look natural and overall the colors are well balanced.  The one nice thing I will say about the film is it has a nice look to it, which is at times very moody and this transfer at least captures that element. 

Sound: Ouija sports a nice DTS-HD Master 5.1 track. Per the course with 5.1 tracks it's not as amazing as 7.1 or especially at ATOMS track but it does the trick. The sound is healthy and the dialogue and sound design comes through with gusto. 

Extras: Ouija includes the following extras: The Spirit Board: An Evolution (4mins) A short featurette with the cast and crew about the history of spirit boards.  Adapting the Fear (3mins) A featurette with the cast and crew about personal experiences with Ouija boards.  Icons of the Unknown (4mins) a final featurette about the spirit boards and the psychology behind it.  

Unfriended (2014)

Directed By: Levan Gabriadze 

Starring: Heather Sossaman, Mathew Bohrer , Moss Storm, Courtney Halverson

A group find that an unknown person has invaded their chat group. Could it be the vengeful spirit of  a former friend come to pay them a visit?

    I was set to hate on Unfriended (2014) which seemed like a easy way to target the youth culture with a trendy gimmick in a highly profitable genre such as horror. Lets be clear the movie is far from perfect but damned if I didn't actually enjoy it. The set up in fairly interesting and it uses it's minimalistic style in ways that feel clever and meets the challenge of doing a film 99.9%  from the POV of the main character's computer screen. The great Alfred Hitchcock was known for liking a challenge in terms of limited spaces in his masterpieces like Rear Window (1954) and Lifeboat (1944) and, as crazy as it may sound, had the master of suspense been alive in this era, he may have found this POV limited technic very interesting. It also has a claustrophobic/voyeurisms quality that would have appealed to him as well. Unfriended also harkens back to the techno-phobia trend which was hot in J-Horror in the early-mid '00's and the creepy glitches puts me in mind of  Ju-On: The Grudge (2002). Unfriended does take a little while to really get going and I think the concept isn't as fully realized as it could be. I actually think Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) takes this core premise and wisely grounds it in more reality rather than supernatural in this outing. Yes, its hooky, but I think its entertaining and interesting even though its rough around the edges and a brisk 82 minutes never outstays its welcome. Some hardened horror fans will look their noses up at this movie but, also might give certain 80's shlock films a pass by virtual of its nostalgia. This is a fun time capsule of a horror film that is well acted, runs with a fairy cool premise that tackles issues of cyber-bullying, self esteem issues and social stigma's in an effective way. It also no doubt inspired the indie horror hit  Host (2020).  Keep an open mind, give it a shot, if you do I think you might have fun with it. 

Picture: Unfriended (2014) was shot on digital and because of that looks great on 1080p. The movie is largely on screen graphics and glitches and is very sharp looking, as is the text and on screen messages. Any kind of imperfection brilliantly works with the film and its tone and not against it. Overall a nice clean clear picture. 

Sound: Unfriended sports a DTS-HD 5.1. Much like the picture, the sound is great and dialogue and sound design are healthy and clear sounding.  

Extras: None

The Boy Next Door (2015)

Directed By: Rob Cohen 

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman, Ian Nelson, John Corbett, Kristin Chenoweth, Lexi Atkins

A newly single woman named Claire (Jennifer Lopez) falls in lust with a younger man. What starts off as a steamy affair quickly turns deadly in this thriller. 

   For me its hard to believe that The Boy Next Door is a movie made in 2015, because it feels like something that easily could have been made in the late 80's,90's or early 00's. I say this because a wave of lover/stalker films flooded the market in the wake of Fatal Attraction (1987).  Rob Cohen provides a painfully by-the-number thriller that seems like it was ripped right out of a Lifetime Movie. The only sort of cool thing the film does is role-reserve the obsessed person typically being a woman, but this time around is a young man (18-19 in the film but more like almost 30 in real life). Also buying Jay Lo as a English Lit teacher. Speaking of which Jennifer Lopez is...well just passable as an actor with being hilarious bad at times. If you have a soft spot for goofy, overwrought drama laced, tepid thrillers you may actually find The Boy Next Door a guilty pleasure with some unintentionally funny moments. 

Picture: Boy Next Door was shot on digital and scanned onto 1080p. This transfer looks amazing and even has a film like look which was impressive. Grain is smooth and consistent with colors looking vivid and lifelike. Skin tones are well handled as well. 

Sound: The film sports a nice 5.1 track. It's not mind blowing but its highly effective. Dialogue and sound design is well handled and comes through clear. 

Extras: Boy Next Door has a nice collection of extras. This includes The Making of The Boy Next Door (9mins), 5 deleted scenes, and probably most interesting of all a feature length commentary by director Rob Cohen. 

The Visit (2015)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan 

Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ex Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn 

Two children visit their grandparents in rural PA. The trip is far from idyllic however as something sinister is going on at night. 

   Sometimes I get it wrong and frankly put I was dead set against even seeing this movie. Yes, I huffed and puffed and vowed that M. Night wouldn't trick me out of anymore of my time or money. After talking to some other friends/critics who loved it I finally watched it and oh, shit. I had to swallow my pride and happily admit that this movie was awesome and I was foolish for being so against it on principal . Likely, there are even some of you reading this that might feel the same way about Night's films but, honestly give this one a shot. It's a return to form to the directors roots of a stripped down creepy modern take on a Old Dark House style feature. The mystery is a solid one and Night throws in a enough curve balls and MacGuffins to keep the reveal impactful. The bleak PA winter landscape is something I am very familiar with and, for me, it gave the film a eeriness I could relate to. I also applaud the emotional weight the film carries so effortlessly. I won't let when I said this movie made me cry and, unless your totally dead inside you probably will as well.  While the entire cast is great its really Olivia DeJonge and  Ex Oxenbould that rightfully steal the show. If you have been burnt by M.Night in the past I urge you to give this film a try anyways. In my opinion it's his best film, right up their with Sixth Sense (1999) and Split (2016). Give it a chance, its all I ask. 

Picture: Visit was shot on digital and therefore has a very nice 1080p transfer. This movie has this warmth to its colors that is very inviting but, also in the more eerie wintery scenes provokes this kind of dread. Darkly lit and night scenes are also extremely well handled with this version as well. Skin tones have a natural look and no real blurring issues that I could notice. 

Sound: Visit has a DTS-Master 5.1 Track. Again, if you know anything about 5.1 tracks you know they get the job done with providing a nice robust sound level. Its not going to sound as amazing as say at ATMOS track but its still great and dialogue and sound design are clear.

Extras: Visit includes an Alternate Ending (2mins), There is also a series of deleted scenes. The total runtime is 8mins. This disc also includes :The Making of The Visit (9mins) this featurette is pretty interesting because Night talks a lot of going back to his low budget indie roots. It of course features other interviews with cast/crew and of behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras is  Becca's Photo's a nice gallery montage of candid pictures which runs over 1mins. A really nice array of extras. I would have loved a commentary but maybe someday. 

Split (2016)

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan 

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson

Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and her "friends" are kidnapped in broad daylight but a clearly disturbed man. Yet, this man has 23 different personalities with a beastly 24th boiling to the surface in this M.Night thriller. 

    After Night proved he was back in the game with 2015's The Visit, an indie film with heart and creep to spare, I felt excited to check out his follow up, Split (2016). If Visit was a spiritual companion to the dread filled soulful Sixth Sense (1999), Split would nicely fit in with his Signs/Unbreakable phase, which is experimental and also something of a mixed bag. The plot is a bit muddled and maybe a bit cringe-worthy in its stigma of people with dissociative personality disorder. It's clear that there are some very interesting themes and core messages at play though, and it had some emotional levels that hit some incredibly heights. But of course I think this movie wouldnt be nearly as good without this specific cast.  It's clear though that James McAvoy carries this film and his mind blowing attention to detail in portraying different personas is truly something to behold.  Anya Taylor-Joy is also fantastic and she handles herself extremely well with McAvoy. I like this film but I dont love it and hence why I feel like its good but far from M. Night's best. 

Picture: Split was shot on digital and therefore looks great on 1080p. There is a warmth and depth to the colors. Images have a nice clean smooth look to them with skin tones looking natural. 

Sound: Split has a nice DTS 5.1 track. This film is heavy on sound design and this soundtrack really utilizes that to its upmost. You really get a nice range in terms of complex sound. 

Extras: Split includes a nice selection of bonus features including: Alternate Ending (32 seconds) which includes optional commentary by M.Night Shyamalan, Deleted Scenes total runtime of 14 minutes. This also has optional commentary by M.Night Shyamalan. The Making of Split (9mins) a featurette with behind the scenes footage and cast/crew interviews. The Many Faces of James McAvoy (5min) a fun interview with McAvoy exploring the different characters he plays. The Filmmakers Eye: M.Night Shyamalan (3mins) a short featurette on Night's process. 

Get Out (2017)

Directed By: Jordan Peele 

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lil Rel Howery 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) an African American man is dating Rose (Allison Williams) who happens to be white. The couple plan for Chris to meet his parents at their estate for the weekend. Things go from awkward and uncomfortable to deadly in this razor sharp satire horror film. 

   When it was announced that comedian Jordan Peele would tackle the horror genre I think there was a lot of people were skeptical. But...Holy crap, when Get Out was unleashed into theaters in February of 2017 fans and critics were stunned. Peele crafts a horror film that is uncomfortable, high concept and is a message film without preaching to its audience. It's the kind of movie that rewards multiple views as Peele layers the film with clever foreshadowing and symbolic clues. Every single thing is on point to the razor sharp screenplay, the amazing cast and hypnotic score. Jordan Peele seems to have a lot of glee in taking well worn troupes and subverting them at every turn.  It's one of those movies that I knew would go down as a modern classic as it was unfolding in the theater and if you have never seen it, what are you waiting for? 

Picture: Get Out is shot on digital and has an impressive depth in color and vibrancy. It doesn't quite look like film like some of the other digital video presentations in this set but it still is clearly an extremely well shot, stylish and clean looking picture. Outdoor scenes are lush and vivid with night scenes really benefiting from the 1080p uptick. 

Sound: Get Out has a DTS-51 Track. As I said with the other reviews, a 5.1 is a very reliable and healthy track. For those with sound systems, you might notice that the sound is mostly front facing but dialogue and sound design comes through crystal clear. 

Extras: Peele and Universal has provided some great extras. We get a Alternative Ending (3mins) which has a nice optional commentary feature. We also some deleted/extended scenes with a total runtime of 23mins. Again Peele has provided an optional commentary which is great. Unveiling the Horror of Get Out (8mins) a nice featurette with the cast/crew to talk about the film with some great behind the scenes footage. A special Q&A after a screening of Get Out, hosted by Chance the Rapper (5mins)  and, one of my favorite extras a feature length commentary with Jordan Peele.

Happy Death Day (2017)

Directed By: Christopher Landon 

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Charles Aitken 

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is the mean girl on Campus but, when she is murdered by a mysterious person in a baby mask (the schools mascot) she finds herself living the dead she died over and over again. 

    Groundhog Day (1993) meets Halloween (1978) is an very clever idea to hang your movie on but the film delivers outside of its gimmick. The film works both as a fresh and clever subversion on the slasher genre (which I didn't think was possible in a post Scream/Cabin in the Woods landscape) and damned if it doesn't have heart along with its brains. When so-called horror fan's cry about PG-13 horror ruining the genre,  the two movies I point out are The Conjuring (2013) and now, Happy Death Day as examples of how a horror movie can work in the construct of PG-13.  With excellent direction by Christopher Landon and a whip smart screenplay by Scott Lobdell and so truly great acting from its cast Death Day is the total package. Rumor of a third film still abound. Lets hope that happens someday. 

Picture: Happy Death Day was shot on digital and is incredible sharp in its 1080p form. Small details and textures really do come to life in this death filled flick. Skin tones look natural and color tones in general look great. No issues with blurring or distortion to be found as far as I could tell. 

Sound: Death Day comes out screaming with a nice DTS-5.1 track. Again, nothing new to report here just that the sound is well maintained with dialogue and sound design coming through clear. 

Extras: Happy Death Day includes: An Alternate Ending (2mins), Deleted scenes with a total runtime of 9 minutes. Worst Birthday Ever (3min) A fun short featurette with cast/crew interviews. The Many Deaths of Tree (1min) a really short featurette exploring, well, the many deaths of Tree our main heroine. 

Truth or Dare (2018)

Directed By: Jeff Wadlow 

Starring: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violet Beane, Hayden Szeto 

Summary: During a care free getaway in Mexico a stranger invites a group of friends to play a seemingly innocent game of truth or dare that turns out to be a curse that follows them home. If they dont obey the rules terrible things happen. 

This movie includes a rated and unrated version. I will be reviewing the unrated edition. 

     Despite a fairly negative response from critics I kept an open mind when popping in my Blu Ray for this review. the films credit the premise is actually kind of interesting and I liked how Jeff Wadlow folded the game most people are familiar with into a series of deadly misadventures. But...sadly if you were hoping for a fun stripped down Saw/Final Destination type film it is not. First as for that premise, while its promising idea its never explored to its fullest leaving me frustrated that this was the best thing four screenwriters could have come up with. Maybe this could have been forgiven had the tone been consistent throughout. The film doesn't quite ever find that balance of horror with the more camp elements. I would say the film takes itself far too serious for its own good. I dont think injecting some emotional weight to the affair is a bad thing, in fact I think that you should have that but the filmmakers dont understand how to have fun with the genre and its own admittedly silly story. Add in a heaping helping of eye rolling clich├ęs, bad dialogue, not great acting and a wasted cool concept and you have what's left is kind of a meh outing.  To Jeff Wadlow's credit the film is well directed and writing wise there are some set ups that are actually paid off in an interesting way, hell I was happy with any kind of set up/pay off's in what was deemed as "among the worst horror movies of 2018." It's hard to ague against that but it does have some interesting things going for it. Had the screenplay  been given a massive overhaul which maybe allowed for some more humor, I could see this being an actually well made original film. Sadly though, the film means well enough but it's concept dies a death by a thousand paper cuts do to its muddled and under developed script. And, again it has other issues but I think the script hurts this thing the most.  

Picture: Truth or Dare was shot on digital and looks great on 1080p. Colors are great and vivid with a nice smoothness. Skin tones look natural and no noticeable blurring occurs. 

Sound: Truth or Dare has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue and sound design come through clear. 

Extras: Truth or Dare extras include Game On: The Making of Truth or Dare (6mins) a featurette with cast/crew interviews and behind the scenes footage. Directing the Deaths (4mins) featurette with cast/crew talking about the death scenes. Also includes a commentary with director Jeff Wadlow and actor Lucy Hale. 

Ma (2019)

Directed By: Tate Taylor 

Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Gianni Paolo 

A lonely and a little odd woman named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) befriend a group of teenagers. She soon lets' them crash at her "party basement" where she provides them with booze a-plenty. Of course, since this is a horror movies things aren't quite right with this grown adult partying with teens in this thriller. 

    Ma (2019) is a movie that on paper doesn't seem like it would work yet, despite itself it actually does. Unlike Truth or Dare (2018) I think where Ma shines is that it knows exactly what kind of film it is, its a silly revenge movie that is part Carrie (1976), part Misery (1990) with an updated flavor. Yes, Ma suffers from leaning in on troupes instead of trying harder to subvert them, yet Tate injects enough style and substance that I didn't even seem to mind. But, I think the true root of why I enjoyed this movie more than I probably should have is one simple thing: Octavia Spencer. Spencer is a national treasure and she knows exactly how to make us both fear and feel sorry for Sue Ann. She makes it seem seamless but I assure you juggling a character like this without going full ham is not easy. The film also features Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis and great supporting actors like Luke Evans, Dominic Burgess and Alison Janney in a small but memorable role. This movie is a fun one, it doesn't have the most original screenplay but its enjoyable enough with a stellar cast to put it over the top.  

Picture: Ma was shot on digital and looks great on 1080p. Outdoor scenes have a nice lush vibrant look to them. Color tones look good and skin tones are natural. There's no blurring and everything has a nice smooth consistent look. 

Sound: Ma has a DTS-5.1 sound track. Like I said before DTS 5.1 offers a healthy big sound with nice and clear dialogue and sound design. 

Extras: Ma's extras include an Alternate Ending (2mins), Deleted scenes which total runtime is 11 minutes. Creating Sue Ann (2mins) a fun interview with Octavia Spencer with other interviews and some behind the scenes footage. Party at Ma's (3mins) a fun very candid featurette on the making of the film. Rounding out the features is a trailer. 

Overall/Final Thoughts:  When I posted the picture of this 10 Movie Set, comments were...shall we say polarizing. Some we're excited, while other genre "fans" outright dismissed it altogether or wished me luck on what they deemed a "mixed bag".  It's true not all of these movies are outright classics and some I didn't really like if I'm being honest. But you know, I did enjoy going through and re-watching these movies because which helped me get into the Halloween season spirit. I actually only owned a few of these films prior so it was great to have an instant Blumhouse collection to explore. As I mentioned in my break-down all of these films are newer, hence they look great transferred from digital to 1080p. Sound wise they all have a nice 5.1 track and I believe only one film was barebones and most films had something be it a commentary, deleted scenes, fun featurette's etc. If you dont already own these films and wanted to see what the fuss is with Blumhouse which is either great or the worst thing to happen to horror depending on who you ask, this is a fantastic set. I for one really had a good time re-visiting some classics, some not so classics and some that fit nicely in the middle. The entire set retails for 69.99 as of my writing this and comes out to less than 10 bucks a movie. It also includes a digital copy which is a very nice touch. For me it's a good value depending on your tastes are. I very much hope they do a second 10 Movie Set in the future with some other Blumhouse horror titles. 

Thrills and Chills at a good deal, check out the Blumhouse of Horror's 10 Movie Collection. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Primitives AKA Savage Terror (1980) Severin Films Blu Ray Review

Primitives AKA Savage Terror (1980) Severin Films 9/26/2020

Directed By: Sisworo Gautama Putra 

Starring: Barry Prima, Enny Haryono, Rukman Herman, Johann Mardjono 

    I'm a big fan of Indonesian genre films so whenever something obscure is unearthed I always get incredible excited. And this one stars  cult superstar Barry Prima probably best remembered for The Warrior (1981). Primitives is actually the second film Severin has unleased by it's director, Sisworo Gautama Putra. They previously brought to market the cult film Satan's Slaves (1982) which is still available to purchase on their website HERE. After their raft suffers a horrible accident three students and their guide are captured by a tribe of blood thirsty people with a taste for flesh.  

    Primitives is a cannibal film I had heard of but haven't seen until now. My impression of the film is its not nearly as bonkers as other Indo genre fare but still has plenty gross-out, weird moments. Pacing wise the film is a little on the slow side but never boring as some form of sleaze and grotesques moment is thrown at the audience. Genital mutilations,  torture and golden showers are just a few of the what the fuck moments presented within. And, it being a cannibal movie we get some stock footage of animals attacking other animals. 

    Speaking of which sadly real animals seem to be killed for the sake of this movie and its a troupe in these films I honestly could do without. I only hope that these animals were at least used for food and not wasted. This might be a deal breaker for some viewers and I dont blame you, but when you watch a cannibal movie from the 70's-80's its sort of par for the course. In terms of story there really isn't much of one but its rather some shock value set pieces taped together with a standard students survival arc. Bare chested Barry Prima is, as always a nice addition to the film and is a solid leading man. The production value is also pretty decent all things considered and the "lair" where the cannibal tribe calls home is actually very cool looking. On location shooting also gives the film a bigger look on a dime budget. 

   Not the weirdest movie of its ilk and not even my favorite cannibal movie, however it has enough strange moments and decent pacing that keep it from getting dull and in the end thats all that really matters. And honestly, I still had fun with this one because minus the animal stuff, the movie is hooky and shlock goodness. 

Picture: The film opens with a title card that reads: PRIMITIVES has been remastered from its original negative in Jakarta. However, the opening and closing title sequences were missing from the negative and are considered lost. The Titles herein were scanned from a 35mm German release print. 

Severin provided a really nice looking movie in 1080p. This is without a doubt the best this film will probably ever look. This is a movie that takes place outdoors and we get such a lush and vibrant greens, blues and blood reds. Blacks are deep and the film is not washed out with a lot of warm vivid colors that is all the more impressive when you consider the amount of work that went into cleaning this film up. Darkly lit scenes benefit the most from this upgrade. I gotta give the label huge props for the efforts in restoring a film many might not consider worthy of such an undertaking. 

Sound: Primitives includes a nice 2.0 Mono track. dialogue is clear as well as the sound design and score. It's pretty much what you come to expect from a 2.0 track, its not amazing on a sound system but damn if it doesn't do the trick nonetheless. 

Extras: As always Severin offers some extra goodies for sickos. This includes Producing Primitives: An Interview with Producer Gope T. Samtaini (7mins) This lively interview explores the making of the film and the chaos of filming on location in an actual jungle among other things. A great rare insight into the films production. 

Way Down in the Jungle: An Interview with Screenwriter Imam Tantowi (10mins) A ten minute interview with the screenwriter.  Again, Mr. Tantowi offers up some real nuggets of interesting trivia on the production and origins of Primitives. 

Rounding out the features is a great Grindhouse era trailer, Alternate UK Opening and Closing Titles (5mins). 

As always Severin provides some very informative extras and the rare interviews offer a rare glimpse into the production which might have been lost to time otherwise. 

Overall: Severin and Mondo Macabro are the two best sources for crazy, whacked out international fare and those looking to expand their cannibal film collection are in luck. Primitives really impressed me by how good it looked and as always, Severin likes to include some great exclusive extras to make it tasty. Severin as also released this month another cannibal title Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985) from Italy which I will be reviewing soon.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Warner Brother's UHD/HD of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987) Review

 Warner Brother's UHD/HD of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987) Review

   The great Stanley Kubrick made six feature films for Warner Brothers and, amazingly the studio has painstakingly restored and released three of those features: The Shining (1980), 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) and now, Full Metal Jacket (1987). 

Full Metal Jacket (1987) Warner Brothers 9/22/2020

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick 

Starring: Matthew Modine, Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey, Dorian Harewood

Summary: Stanley Kubrick's return to a war drama features glimpse into the Vietnam war, the way it dehumanizes and destroys. This raw and hard hitting film is on par with Apocalypse Now (1979). 

    Even those film fans who don't like war movies (and I include in that statement) have to give certain films like Full Metal Jacket (1987) a lot of credit. Stanley Kubrick's film takes a complex subject and boil it down its rawest elements and, in the process, feels like it captures the stress and intensity. Kubrick is no stranger to war films or films that savagely lampoon war. Paths of Glory from 1957 is set in World War I but was released during the Vietnam crisis and is hands down an  Anti-War film. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is Kubrick at his satirical best and providing Peter Sellers his most iconic role outside of Inspector Clouseau. I know this is a long way to get to '87's FMJ but I think its important for context to see where Kubrick was in terms of his views on war. 

    Jacket starts with a grueling series of training scenes that show how tough, unrelenting and even brutal it can be. Kubrick makes it just as intense as if you were really going through the training yourself. Former actual drill sergeant R.Lee Eremy shines in what is easily his most iconic characters of the 20th century. The film does a violent shift in its latter half showing the trainee's now full fledged Marines in actual combat situations. The film unfolds with the kind of pin-point precision and awe-inspiring craftsmanship that Kubrick was world famous for. He was nearly sixty when he made this film but he raw energy of a people half his age. Hellish and visually stunning, Full Metal Jacket is an Anti-War film that is cleverly wrapped in a ultra-Partonic, blood drenched flag.  

Picture:    Warner Brother's once again hits it at of the park with this UHD transfer. It's no shocker as 2001 and Shining are incredible examples of the kind of love and care they pour into these releases. Without a doubt I can say I don't think Full Metal Jacket has ever looked better. The up-tick in color gives everything a nice boost with skin tones looking natural. Grain is there (yes, because its shot on film) and is nicely consistent. People tend to knock UHD's for grain issues but it's par for the course when you have a film up-converted from a 35mm print. In fact, I think its a great sign that Warner was working from some great original elements. Clearly these elements were well taken care of because, as I said the picture transfer is stunning. The first part of the movie is a bit more muted in it's color scheme so its really not until the latter half  that it really gets to show off the more vibrate colors. Colors are balanced really well with a lot of striking images once the film gets into the action set pieces. Overall, I think fans of this film will be very pleased with how amazing this looks. The level of detail and depth the picture has really says to me that Warner's takes their time and the end result is a great looking film worth of it's brilliance. 

Sound: Full Metal Jacket has both a DTS HD 5.1 but interestingly enough ported over the Mono track from the DVD version, which was missing from the previous Blu Ray release. I will be reviewing the 5.1 but it was a curious addition that I thought was worth mentioning. I know we all would have probably loved at ATMOS track but the 5.1 in my opinion perfectly does the job. For those of you with a sound system the 5.1 is fairy heavy in the front speakers and isnt maybe as complex as it could have been in terms of sound design i.e action coming through other speakers. Again, I think it still sounds great and dialogue, music and sound design all sound very healthy and robust. 

Extras: This edition of course ports of the features that I believe were from an earlier release. This includes: A full length commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D'Onofrio, R. Lee Eremy and Critic/Screenwriter Jay Cocks, A featurette entitled Full Metal Jacket: Between Good and Evil and a trailer. It's a very nice array of content and honestly I'm fine with Warner sinking their money into the visuals and audio. Yes, I love new content but at the end of the day its about celebrating the film in terms of its picture quality and sound. 

Overall/Value: For those of you who already own The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey on UHD you know the kind of amazing work that they do to truly bring these masterpieces to life. If you are new to Warner's line of UHD titles, well you my friends are in for a treat as its a clear upgrade to the HD editions which were already pretty good in my opinion. Value wise this is a steal at 24.99 and the price typically goes down on Amazon. But, for me its every bit worth that and more. You also get the HD version as well as a digital copy so thats a nice array of formats in one set. I am beyond excited for the other Kubrick titles, so if you are new WB also has a thin film UHD set for sale as well. Extremely worth it. War is hell but Warner Bros Full Metal Jacket is Heaven for film buffs. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cruel Jaws (1995) AKA Jaws 5 Makes its US Debut from Severin! Blu Ray Review

 Cruel Jaws (1995) Severin Films 9/29/2020

Directed By: Bruno Mattei 

Starring: David Luther, George Barnes Jr., Kristen Urso, Richard Dew, Gregg Hood, Larry Zience 

     Cruel Jaws...The shark film that infamously was sued by Universal for using stock footage from both Jaws (1975) and Jaws 2 (1978). It's a film that has had a pretty checked past in terms of a US home video release with many settling for bad bootleg copies in order to actually see the film. In 2015 Scream Factory had planned to do Cruel Jaws as a double feature alongside Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) but sadly, due to the studio footage used contained in the film they had to pull its release. Now, five years later in 2020 Severin will be officially unleashing the film on 1080p.   This seems rather fitting as Severin has released a ton of other Bruno Mattei films such as The Other Hell (1981), Shocking Dark (1989), Robo Wars (1988), Zombi 3 (1988), Night Killer (1990), Violence in a Women's Prison (1982). The films about a  great white shark is stalking and killing a small island community with a mayor that isn't about to close for the summer. As the bodies pile up only a motely crew including an officer and a shark expert believe them.  Hmm...Sounds familiar. 

    In terms of rip-off Nature-Run-Amok/Killer Shark movies that came in the wake of Jaws, Cruel Jaws is possibly the most blatant in copying the famous '75 Stephen Spielberg blockbuster. (Again it even stole footage from it) And damn if it isn't a lot of fun. When you pop in a Bruno Mattei movie you pretty much know what your gonna get. Bad over-acting, check! Guns and mayhem check, Done on a dime production value, double check, lots of t&a triple check. I love Cruel Jaws, because like a lot Mattie it's high energy shlock that is of course so earnest in its silly plot that it enters that sweet spot of so-bad-its-enjoyable. Characters belt out hilarious lines like "Were gonna need a bigger Helicopter" or, "The tiger shark we're looking for is a homicidal maniac"  like they were in some Howard Hawk epic. To Bruno Mattei's credit the film clips at a fairly good pace and has enough gore, and beach bods and on display to gloss over the fact that virtually every aspect of the film. From its acting, production, very funny heavy handed message the film shoe horns in not to mention the crazy sub-plots (which I won't spoil for those new to this film) it's a mess that at least swings big. Of course it's these crazy touches that make this endlessly watchable. And listen for that not so subtle riff on John Williams famous Jaws score (changed just-enough), as well as the Star Wars Fan fare score (again changed just enough). Cruel Jaws is a movie that every harden Grindhouse fan needs to see like a rite of passage. 

Picture: Severin comes out swinging in this HD presentation. I think for what Severin had to work with the transfer is very well done. It's not perfect but it's way better than what I think anybody is expecting. The colors are vivid, skin tones look natural and grain is consistent and well handled. Night scenes and unwater scenes are noticeably clearer. It's a small miracle this film is getting any release let alone a nice HD one at that so, I am extremely happy with how this looks. 

Sound: Cruel Jaws is presented in a 2.0 Mono track. Thankfully there is no hiss or background distortion with dialogue such as it is, and sound design coming through beautifully. It's in my opinion a very strong soundtrack that shows off the film well. 

Cuts/Extras: Severin goes ALL OUT for their releases and Cruel Jaws is no expectation. The film includes two cuts of the film: The Mattei Cut (Home Video Version) and the Snyder Cut (a very funny nod to Zach Snyder's infamous fan demanded cut of Justice League for those living under a rock). The Mattei Cut runs at 94 mins and the Snyder Cut at 96mins. I dont want to spoil the difference in the cuts so I'll let you discover that for yourselves. 

The Great White Way A Study in Sharksploitation with Rebeca McKendry. (20mins) Rebecca is a LEGEND in the field of historians that deal in genre fare and is also a filmmaker in her own right. I loved this feature and it's such a gem in this set. Clearly she knows what she's talking about and it's an engrossing overview of this sub-genre that I find very fascinating.  Also finally someone talks about Frankenfish (2004), a film I proudly own. #JusticeforFrankenfish. Really fantastic work! 

These Things Got Made! An interview with Actor Jay Colligan. (12min) A lively interview with Jay Colligan who played Tommy in the film. I love these super rare interviews and,  as silly as it sounds I think it makes for an important artifact to have on the record for future film scholars and fans alike. 

Overall: Severin Films is such an exciting label because they arent afraid to release masterpieces like Blood on Satan's Claw (1971) along side rare shlock fests like Cruel Jaws. And both get equal treatment which is a very cool thing indeed. 

 Cruel Jaws is the Mt. Rushmore of rip-off films and a must see. Thankfully you wont need a bigger wallet as its nicely priced! Check it out!


Monday, September 21, 2020

Most Wanted (2020) Blu Ray Review

 Most Wanted (2020) Paramount Pictures 9/22/2020

Directed By: Daniel Roby

Starring: Antoine Oliver Pilon, Josh Hartnett, Don McKellar, Jim Gaffigan, Stephen McHattie 

Inspired by the gripping true story, an investigative journalist (Josh Hartnett) unravels a twisted case of entrapment in which Daniel (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a guy from the wrong side of the tracks, is forced into a dangerous drug deal against his will and is sentenced to 100 years in a Thai prison.  As Daniel endures torture and abuse, the journalist must track down the shady undercover cops benefiting off the conspiracy, while also fighting for Daniel’s freedom. 

     I had never actual heard of the story in which this film is based. Therefore I think my wanting to see this movie was almost solely out of natural curiosity. Director Daniel Roby tells a compelling story that is perfectly serviceable whilst also injecting some of his own style into the mix. I think what my biggest issue with the film is not with its direction so much as it's kind of nothing you haven't already seen before. The film is a very by-the-numbers thriller,  conspiracy movie, and I think for the most part it doesn't stray too far away from other movies of its ilk. But, in a weird way the film kind of feels like it isn't completely sold on if its trying to be a straight up thriller though, and some key moments that feel like they would be played up for more suspense is sort of soft-balled into the plot. For example, Victors house is vandalized in order to silence him is treated by both the character and the film as just not a big deal. Again, it feels like the film wants to present the film like a conspiracy thriller but isn't one-hundred percent committed to it. The film is far from bad though and as I said the film has a compelling story to hang its hat on. It's just not the most innovative story. 

   Where the film really shines, and honestly, what is maybe its saving grace even, is its stars. 23 year old Antoine Oliver Pilon is fantastic in the kind of showy role that may just land him into bigger better projects. He seriously is such a great actor for his age and I think with the right breaks could end up being an A-lister in no time. 90's mainstay Josh Hartnett also does an amazing job and you can really tell he doesn't half ass his role. Every movement, every gesture feels perfectly orchestrated but somehow also feels very natural. In other words he is so good he makes it look easy.  Stephen McHattie is probably one of the more underrated character actors of our time and simply devours the part but brilliantly walks this tight rope of going over-board or hammy. It's really a master class in subtle less is more acting. Jim Gaffigan! I will admit I had my doubts about Gaffigan in a serious role but holy crap, I happily take back any reservations. Gaffigan's Picker is stellar and honestly gives what I consider an Oscar worthy performance. I know I didn't mention everybody but, every single person crushes it in this film and should be very proud of their work.

     This is certainly what I call a three-star-movie, its fine, it's an entertaining flick but it doesn't have anything new to elevate itself, and in a climate of instant access dominating the film landscape its hard to truly stand out. The story is compelling, yes, but it's only so engaging. It kept my attention and  I was engrossed because as I said I knew nothing about the real life events, but...honestly I dont know if I would re-watch it any time soon. The Canadian director is fairly new to the film scene in terms of directing and while yes the film is well constructed, I think that Roby is still trying to find his voice in terms of cinema, though, as I said the film does have a level of style in how the film looks and feels. The acting really saves this movie from being totally forgettable and is worth watching just for that. Gaffigan owns this movie and while his screen time is short he makes the absolute most out of it.   I very seriously hope he does more dramatic work in the future. 

Picture: Most Wanted looks good on 1080p. Being a newer film transferred it looks crisp and clear. This being most likely shot on digital you get a smooth, grain free presentation. Skin tones look natural and the film retains a nice balance of color throughout.  

Sound: I gotta say I was really impressed with Most Wanted's DTS-HD Master audio track. The film is very lively with sound effects and sound design and these came through very well. Dialogue comes through healthy as well. 

Extras: None/ Includes Digital Copy 

Friday, September 18, 2020

New Movie Review: Alone (2020) VOD Sept 18th

 Alone (2020)  Magnet Releasing: In theaters and on demand September 18th, 2020.

Directed By: John Hyams 

Starring: Jules Wilcox, Marc Menchaca, Anthony Heald

Jules Willcox (Netflix’s Bloodline) stars in ALOE as Jessica, a grief-stricken widow who flees the city in an attempt to cope with the loss of her husband. When Jessica is kidnapped by a mysterious man and locked in a cabin in the Pacific Northwest, she escapes into the wilderness and is pursued by her captor. The key cast includes Marc Menchaca (Ozark, The Outsider) and Anthony Heald (The Silence Of The Lambs).

 Minor Spoiler Warning for a certain plot element. 

Trigger Warning: This movie deals with depression and suicide. If this is something that triggers you, you might want to stop reading and avoid this movie. 

    Okay so Alone (2020) is I call a  three-star movie. If you don’t know the term it basically refers to the star rating on Letterboxd which has a max. of five stars. So, a three-star movie is just good enough, it’s not amazing but it’s a perfectly enjoyable even re-watchable outing. Now that may sound like a backhanded compliment but it’s not. The film is respectable for taking a pretty by-the-numbers survivalist horror outing and elevates it in a few ways. The first is how the screenwriter took the time to flesh out both the victim played amazingly by Jules Wilcox and, in such a limited amount of time we get a pretty good sense of who she is and the kind of pain she has recently been through. Same goes with Marc Menchaca, and though we never actually know his name (a stroke of genius in my opinion), we get a glimpse into his home life, an added depth rarely afforded to the psycho-killer. 

     Writer Mattias Olsson really knows how to take core emotional themes to it’s logical and satisfying conclusion. Jessica fighting to live and linking that to her husband killing himself isn't exactly a subtle one but I think it makes for an interesting parallel.  We've seen other films where the core themes are survival, overcoming depression and battling your demons, so yes Alone isn't exactly fresh with its takes but it’s well written enough that I think its easy to gloss over some of it’s shortcomings. The film doesn’t swing for the fences but doesn’t really need to. The filmmakers manage to create a nice amount of tension that starts to feel like a rip-cord by the pulse pounding finale. And, I wish I could talk about the ending because it’s pretty great in my opinion. My biggest complaint would be the film, while solid feels like it lacks the kind of twists or subversions to the genre that would have made this truly stand out. However, thanks for great direction, nice set pieces and great actors like Jules Wilcox(Bloodline), Marc Menchaca (Ozark) and Anthony Heald (The Silence of the Lambs)and Alone just narrowly escapes its own pretty routine premise. Good not great but in my opinion a movie that has more depth and heart than most. Check it out and cheers to the three star movies! 

I got a chance to interview director John Hyman and actor Jules Wilcox Click Here for that. 

Magnet Releasing will release ALONE in theaters and on demand September 18th, 2020.

Pre Code Hollywood Musical Love Me Tonight (1932) Kino Studio Classics Review

 Love Me Tonight (1932) Kino Studio Classics 9/29/2020

Directed By: Rouben Mamoulians 

Starring: Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald, Myrna Loy, Charles Ruggles 

   Kino Studio Classics has provided classic film buff's with yet another gem from the Pre-Code era. Maurice (Maurice Chevalier) is a tailor struggling to make a name for himself in his new business. His only client, a wealthy man named Viscount de'Vareze (Charles Ruggles) ranks up a huge tailor bill but sadly never pays him. Now, Maurice must pose as a Baron in order to get his money. And, in breezy madcap fashion falls for the Princess (Jeanette MacDonald). 

    The film starts out with this really cool rhythmic even music-like sound of people working in a small village, and right away you can tell the movie is going to have gusto and flare. Nearly ninety minutes later I can see why this is considered a classic among classic Hollywood musicals. Director Rouben Mamoulians was in his early thirties when he made Love Me Tonight and you can tell this was made by a youthful energetic person with moxie by the truckload. The plot is breathless in its pace but knows exactly when to linger on a moment. I must say I'm the first to admit I am not a huge musical fan but Love Me Tonight has catchy songs but also cleverly injects lyrical dialogue and sound design that beautiful complements the entire affair.  From a technical standpoint the film is also wonderfully stylist and inventive, having been the first film to use zoom lens. Oscar winning cinematographer Victor Milner shoots this film masterfully and his work in this film gives everything a grand feel but also crafts a moody that further elevates an already great film. For example, to highlight a spooky scene with a three weird sisters like trio doing their stuff, Milner uses effective long shadows in the vein of German expressionism. A lot of this kind of style can also be seen in Mamoulians version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931).

    The cast is also great with Maurice Chevalier in his prime. Suave, handsome and of course could croon the house down, Chevalier is pure leading man. His parring with  Jeanette MacDonald is dazzling. It's also fun to see one of my favorite comic actors Charles Ruggles as well as young pre- Thin Man (1934) Myrna Loy. As good as MacDonald is, Loy absolutely steals the show. This movie is so chocked full of colorful and amazing character actors that you no doubt have seen in other movies, if you, like me are a TCM junkie. I am kind of shocked that it took me this long to see this movie but I am very glad that I gave it a watch. 

    Not only is it awesome that Kino Studio Classics has made this movie available to the public but the label truly celebrates it like it should be. The film boosts a Brand New 4K master and wow is all the first word that comes to mind. I've never seen this film but I cant imagine its ever looked this good. The image is scrubbed of any scratches or artifacts. What we get is smooth, clear film that looks sharp and showcases the gorgeous photography of Victor Milner. The blacks have a lot of depth to them and though there is grain, it is consistent and not distracting in the least. The sound is also great with the musical numbers, dialogue and sound design coming through nicely. The disc also is packed with some really fun extras. The film has a running commentary by historian Miles Kreuger (President and Founder of the Institute for American Musicals). Miles does a great job at giving us a lot of background on the music, actors and director which is very engaging and insightful. We also get two extra musical numbers: Maurice Chevalier sings "Louise and Jeanette MacDonald Sings "Love Me Tonight (From the Paramount Newsreel Series Hollywood on Parade.) 

Screenplay Excerpts of Deleted Scenes, which is pretty self explanatory and, Production Documents and Censorship Records, which is a interesting look at the kind of censorship problems the film faced. Rounding out the features is a Theatrical Trailer. 

This film looks amazing, sounds amazing and has a lot of great historial context via its bonus material. For me its a total package and if you are a musical buff and or a fan of Hollywood films from the '30's, you should not be without this film in your collection. 

If you are interested in seeing more of director Rouben Mamoulians work Kino also has the following titles available:  Song of Songs (1933), Becky Sharp (1935) and The Mark of Zorro (1940).  Click Here.