Monday, November 22, 2021

Candyman (2021) Universal UHD Review

Candyman (2021) Universal Studios 11/16/2021

Directed By: Nia DaCosta 

Starring: Teyonah Parris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Nathan Stewart-Jarett, Colman Domingo and Vanessa Williams

Disclaimer: Universal Studios  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

Plot Summary: A "spiritual sequel" to the horror film Candyman (1992) that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began.

     Nia DaCosta’s 2021 “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 Candyman is, outside of Halloween Kills (2021) probably the most anticipated genre movie for a lot of people, myself included. So, when I was invited to a press screening, I jumped at the chance to see it Tuesday evening. It was also the first time back to the movie theaters in almost two years. 1992’s Candyman had a pretty big impact on me in terms of early horror cinema (I was seven at the time of its release). Just like in the movie, the myth of saying Candyman’s name in the mirror became fodder for maybe childhood dares. I only mention this because this is because the original is a movie that I firmly grew up with and had it planted in my grey matter. Hell, I even met Tony Todd a few times. But, as always, I am not one for hyperbole and I will give you my totally honest and un-bought reflections.

     Visually, this movie is creative and at times, downright stunning. Production designer Cara Brower (who is currently working on The Marvels with Nia DaCosta) really does a jaw-dropping job. Brower and DaCosta clearly put a lot of love and careful consideration with the entire films look and feel. Little details are sprinkled throughout making repeat views a must. Keen eyed viewers will notice the colors yellow and various browns are expertly and meticulously incorporated. Even the shadow puppet silhouettes are cleverly echoed in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ways. As someone who has seen a lot of film, I certainly can tell when a lot of thought, care and love go into a project. Candyman is an oppressive feeling and stylish tour-de-force. Cinematographer John Guleserian (who is working on the infamous “Cocaine Bear” film) does some pretty bombastic camera work that feels like it vibes with this off-kilter world that DaCosta has crafted. Furthermore, the score, sound design and cast are all excellent.

         The movies biggest weakness sadly lies within its screenplay. The movie has three screenwriters and frankly at times it shows. It has a lot of interesting, even brilliant ideas. Some of them feel organic and others feel awkward and ham-fisted in. This is tricky to keep spoiler-free, so going forward I will be as vague as possible in certain areas. The movie telegraphs right from the first few seconds that this movie has a lot to say about racism in America and the incredibly vile way cops treat people-of-color. This is very much a worthwhile stand to take, especially in the context of Candyman, which was always about race, intolerance and victimization. (Though, side note: re-watching the ‘92 version does feel tone-deaf when it comes to these deeper social issues.) Instead of this being the narrow focus, the movie instead also appears to take a biting, satirical look at the world of elitist artists. This is woven into the narrative pretty significant but is seemingly dropped midway through. Also, a presumed throw away character (even set up as a possible victim) actually turns out, out of nowhere mind you, to be hugely important to the third act. This is not prompted by set up in the plot and, it felt jarring like key scenes were missing. It also really leans into the nostalgia factor, hard! Like, it is a movie that wants to have its cake and eat it too. It finds a way to bring elements from the ‘92 film into this Universe but also tries to be its own thing. This kind of works, but it also feels like the worst kind of fan service that isn’t truly earned. It takes away from this being a truly unique offering. Sure, there were things that were fun to see but it never gives itself room to just be a new entity. I will give screenwriters credit for finding some fun ways to subvert tropes.

     Candyman (2021) is no doubt a staggeringly beautifully crafted movie that sadly feels weighed down by its pacing and screenplay. You will no doubt read reviews that this is the greatest movie ever. Candyman will please a certain sub set of fans, namely people of a certain age that enjoyed the original film. However, the movie is narratively messy. What we’re left with is a movie feels very much like film with creative ideas saddled with studio mandated trappings. Also, seeing it with a crowd, not a single person screamed or even startled which isn’t a good sign for a what at the end of the day is a horror film. Candyman is still a powerful movie but sadly, at the end of the day, this is an interesting yet very messy confection.

Picture: Candyman is a damn impressive looking film on UHD. The HDR grading provides a image with deep blacks and vivid colors. Details like costumes, costume textures, locales and sets are really sharp and you cannot help but be in awe. What I love about this film is, its a really visually haunting and I think that this razor fine looking transfer shows you all of that in extreme depth. Noise and grain levels are also rendered fine to nearly non-existent. What fans are left with is a clean life-like picture. 

Sound: Candyman's Dolby Atmos may be a contender for among the best Atmos track of the year. Like the visuals, this movie has a staggeringly amazing sound design and score. This track has a amount of depth and total immersion really helps capture that magical theater-like experience. Huge and robust this track helps heighten and utilizes jump scares. 

Extras: Candyman has a lot of great bonus features including: Alternate Ending (2mins), Deleted/Extended Scenes (Play All option -runtime: 5mins),  Say My Name (6mins), Body Horror (6mins),  The Filmmaking Eye: Nia DaCosta (4mins), Painting Chaos (7mins), The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (4mins), Terror in Shadows (4mins), Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror (20min)

Saturday, November 20, 2021

In Balanchines Classroom (2021) Kino Lorber DVD Review

In Balanchine's Classroom (2021) Kino Lorber 11/16/2021

Directed By: Connie Hochman 

Starring: George Balanchine 

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Other Kino Reviews:

The Real Bedford Falls HERE
Songs My Brother Taught Me HERE
Village Detective: A Cycle Song HERE

        I have to say that I no very little about ballet but, as always I am trying to push myself to broaden my horizons.  Plus, I think the mark of any good documentary is, regardless of if you are a fan of the subject or a total novice, it should be totally absorbing.  As the title suggests, this film tells the story of George Balanchine who is credited as formalizing US ballet. Told through archival interviews with the man himself as well as former pupils. For me, In Balanchine's Classroom is a mixed bag. What I think was the most interesting was learning about the life of Balanchine yet, the filmmakers skim over this fairly quickly. It also contains a lot of interesting facts and incredible first hand insights. I think that the pacing is the main problem here. This feels like a 60 minute lean and effective doc. Things tend to get a bit tedious and repetitive. I kind of wish that things like the founding of the New York Ballet would have been explored in more depth. For hardcore ballet fans I think this might be interesting but it probably doesn't present them with anything they didn't already know before. 

Interesting but it left me wanting more and at times less. 

Picture/Sound: Classroom has a overall nice crisp look though the image is grainy and this is clearly because of the transfer from HD to 720p. Obviously, this is a doc so it doesn't need to look UHD levels of detail. The sound is from a DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue seems kind of on the low side but, overall very clear. 

Extras: Additional scenes, trailers 

Friday, November 19, 2021

Paramount Presents #28 Ragtime (1981) Paramount Pictures Blu Ray Review

Ragtime (1981) Paramount Pictures 11/16/2021

Directed By: Milos Forman 

Starring: James Cagney, Elizabeth McGovern, Brad Dourif, Howard E. Rollins Jr, Robert Joy 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

Other Paramount Presents Reviews:

Vanilla Sky HERE

Nashville HERE

Mommie Dearest HERE
48 Hrs.  HERE
Another 48 Hrs. HERE
Last Train from Gun Hill HERE

       I have to say that I was really was excited when Paramount announced that they were re-releasing Milos Forman's 1981 film Ragtime. Back in 2018 I reached out to Forman's PR people but sadly, the legendary director was too ill for interviews-he would pass away that same year. I did however interview Robert Joy that year and he talked about working with him on this film. A young African American jazz singer gets caught up with a upper class family which intersects with historical goings in in early 1900's New York. 

        With an big scope and a keen eye for detail, Milos's Ragtime is a film that, strangely doesn't have a big following. At two-and-a-half hours long the movie really allows itself to take its time telling an epic story. The time time Oscar winning Milos who made such classics as Amadeus (1984) and One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest (1975) really weaves a rich tapestry of early 20th century America in a way that is engaging and also sets the stage of Milos's other period pieces. The story and how it touches on different aspects of two very different families -and how their story intersects is both interesting and highly compelling. There is an under current of the white savior trope that is a bit cringe-worthy which I think it worth a mention. 

    The cast is of course great with Elizabeth McGovern, Brad Dourif, Howard E. Rollins Jr, Robert Joy all giving the film their very all. Ragtime is the last theatrical film from the legendary James Cagney. It also features an early small role for Samuel L. Jackson

Ragtime is a fantastic sweeping epic with a fantastic cast and amazing cinematography by Miroslav Ondricek. Well worth seeking out. 

Picture: Paramount Presents further impresses with their restorations. Here we are treated to a brand-new 4k scan from the original film elements. What fan films are treated to here is a pristine looking print free of noise and artifacts. Color contrast is well balanced with an overall sharpness. Grain is also very consistent and thankfully not heavy. Really not much if anything I can find lacking here, clearly this is great looking transfer of a forty-year old film. 

Sound: Ragtime has a impressive DTS 5.1 track. Dialogue and music comes through nicely and the film has a lot of depth of field sound wise. Dialogued mostly front channel heavy. 

Extras: Ragtime has some great extras both imported from the previous edition as well as new!

Ported over is: Commentary by Milos Foreman and Ex. Producer Michael Hausman, Remembering Ragtime. 

New Features: Deleted and Extended Scenes, Ragtime Revisited: Conversation with Larry Karaszewski and screenwriter Michael Weller. 

Disc 2: Never Before released Directors Cut Workprint. 

Infamous Video Nasty The Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) 88Film Blu Ray Review

The Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) 88Film 10/19/2021

Directed By: Cesare Canevari 

Starring: Adriano Micantoni, Daniela Poggi, Maristella Greco 

Disclaimer: 88 Films  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Other Reviews: 
The Chinese Boxer HERE
The Hills Have Eyes UHD HERE

        88Films has re-released another film on the infamous Video Nasty list. Told in flashback, the survivor of a Nazi camp recounts the horrors. Though the movie is probably not as outrageous as the title suggests, The Gestapo's Last Orgy is still some heavy stuff.  For those non-familiar, Last Orgy is pretty much standard Nazi-exploitation fare. It checks off all the hallmarks like ultra-gore, torture and an overflowing eroticism.  There is a plot but I think thats generous -this movie is more of a carnival of gore and sick-fetishism. I would say casual fans outside of Grindhouse lovers will probably find this both tasteless and repetitive. Though, fans of nasty will no doubt find enough gross-out and bare flesh to find this engaging. However, the latter camp may find this a bit too tame. Furthermore, the filmmakers try to slap a "message" to gloss over its exploitation trappings. 

I will say that despite this I think the movie is grimy enough to merit a watch if this kinda stuff is your bag. 

Picture: Much like The Chinese Boxer, The Gestapo's Last Orgy has a really nice looking 1080p transfer. There is a staggering amount of brightness and refreshed clarity. Colors really pop here and you really see 88Films impressive sharpness that they bring. There are times when you can even see the texture in costumes. There is also very little to no artifacts or scratches to be found as well. Really a stunning looking. 

Sound: Last Orgy has a DTS 2.0 English Mono and Italian Mono with English subs. Dialogue comes through nicely, as does the score and sound design. No unwanted background noise.

Extras: This film is packed with some great extras. Included is: Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, a second track with Samm Deighan. Also included is:

Alternate Italian Ending, Remembering Alberto Baldan Bembo-An Interview with Pierpaolo De Sanctis, One Thing On His Mind: An Interview Luigi Cozzi, English Trailer 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Village Detective A Song Cycle (2021) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

The Village Detective A Song Cycle (2021) Kino Lorber 11/23/2021

Directed By: Bill Morrison 

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     Lost films is probably the most heartbreaking aspects of being both a film fan and historian. Indeed, a large number of silent films are considered lost if not completely destroyed. This is due in part to several vault fires and just a general lack of care for film preservation. Thankfully though, films are being found all the time, in the strangest of places. Such is the case in The Village Detective A Song Cycle which sees film canisters that were caught in a fisherman's net. The following is a story of the actor who is featured in the recovered films.  

      I have to say that recently I started pushing myself to watch and review documentaries that were totally outside my wheelhouse. However, lost films and film restoration is certainly something I am very familiar with (but by no means an expect). Therefore I was actually really looking forward to this film. But...I dont think this is a very good documentary if I am being brutally honest. Morrison in my opinion doesn't do a good job at laying out a blue print for the main subject, Russian actor Mikhail Zharov. It starts out decent enough, giving some background on the actor but the film then just slogs with long acting reels without any interesting context weaved throughout. It feels like padding and the lack of historian commentary guiding the audience makes for a frustrating choir. The film which was recovered was not even lost -it had been archived and even shown on television. Even explaining the reels doesn't come until the films over. I think there is some interesting and engaging stuff but this is so over-stuffed with padding that you lose anything that might be impactful. 

On the bright side the doc has a nice visual flare that I did quite like. It seems that Bill Morrison's previous films are short features and, I think that this feels like a short stretched to 80 minutes. 

Picture/Sound: The Village Detective has a nice clean looking 1080p transfer. The interviews shot for this doc have a good clarity and field of depth. No grain that I could detect. Includes both a 2.0 and 5.1 track with dialogue coming through nicely. 

Extras: Includes other shorts from Bill Morrison: Buried News (12mins), let me come in (11mins), Sunken Films (11mins) Also includes trailer. 

Vanilla Sky (2001) Paramount Presents #27 Blu Ray Review

Vanilla Sky (2001) Paramount Pictures 11/16/2021

Directed By: Cameron Crow 

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Nashville HERE
Mommie Dearest HERE
48 Hrs.  HERE
Another 48 Hrs. HERE
Last Train from Gun Hill HERE

    Vanilla Sky (2001) turns twenty years old an to celebrate Paramount Presents is re-releasing this on Blu Ray. I recall not joining the bandwagon of critics that panned the film. However, I wanted to give it a fresh watch and see if I still disliked it or if, seeing how my taste has changed and matured, helped me to appreciate it. Sky tells of a rich playboy named David (Tom Cruise) who literally floats through life, using women and not taking anything very seriously. After a serious accident leaves him disfigured things in his life sways from surreal to nightmarish. 

    I have to say after re-watching this film and letting some of the harsh criticism die down -I think this is a pretty brilliant and wholly unexpected film. Cameron Crowe all but helped cement rom-com tropes that in a way looking back is a bit cringe. Vanilla Sky seems to be an almost meta-self commentary on his previous work. Its this context that I totally lacked when this first came out but to give myself some credit I was only 16 when this first came out. After seeing it as a "mature" film lover its mind blowing that Crowe dips his toe into Lynch-ian nightmare logic. Crowe also liters the movie with layers and self contained easter eggs and foreshadow that makes repeat watches a real treat. 

Vanilla Sky is a good movie once you fully remove it from how polarizing it was to critics at the time. In fact, I recall it being a punching bag for sitcoms like Family Guy. But, I think if you haven't seen it and were turned off by the latter-give it a chance. Its actually a really engaging and interesting film. 

Picture: Once again, Paramount Pictures provides a stellar looking brand-new 4k transfer. Vanilla Sky utilizes at times some very bright at times high contrast lighting. This new transfer does a great job at handling this really vivid and at times harsh visual style. Colors are bold when they need to be and muted when called for. Clearly, this is a really thoughtful restoration and follows Crowe's vision. Skin tones have a fresh natural look to them and grain is smooth yet it retains that nice film quality look. Comparing this to screen shots of the previous release you can tell that this is brighter and indeed sharper in terms of overall clarity. 

Sound: Vanilla Sky has a big bombastic DTS 5.1 track. This movie uses a lot of music both score and licensed and the boost in sound I think really utilizes this in a nice way. Range wise I noticed a nice amount of depth sound wise and dialogue and sound design coming through crystal clear. 

Extras: For Cameron Crowe fans this disc is PACKED with features both new and ported over from the previous edition.  Included is:

NEW Filmmaker Focus: Cameron Crowe on Vanilla Sky (HD)
Audio Commentary by Cameron Crowe & Nancy Wilson
Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary by Cameron Crowe (HD)
Prelude to a Dream (SD)
Hitting It Hard (SD)
An Interview with Paul McCartney (SD)
Gag Reel (SD)
Music Video "Afrika Shox" by leftfield/afrika bambaataa (SD)
Photo Gallery with Audio Introduction by photographer Neal Preston (HD)
Mask Test with Optional Commentary by Cameron Crowe (HD)
Kurt Russell single take with Optional Commentary by Cameron Crowe (HD)
Trailers (SD)
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Cameron Crowe (HD)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Addams Family (1991) Paramount Pictures UHD Review!

The Addams Family (1991) Paramount Pictures 11/23/2021

Directed By: Barry Sonnenfield 

Starring: Angelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christiana Ricci, Christopher Lloyd 

Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

Includes both original theatrical and Extended edition (2mins longer party scene)

      In the '80s and '90's there was a slew of movies based on old television shows. The thought of course was these IP's had built in fan bases that would result in ticket sales. Some like 1987's Dragnet did poorly whilst others like The Brady Bunch (1995) and The Addams Family (1991) did extremely well. The latter is getting a brand-spanking new UHD edition. The long lost Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is reunited with the Addams family but things arent as they seem in this spooky, kooky and hilarious outing. 

     I have to say that, The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel, Addams Family Values (1993) are nearly perfect adaptations. From the laser-focus and wonderfully wry and sardonic  worldview of Barry Sonnenfield to the pitch perfect cast, Addams Family thrives where other small screen movie's fall short. I thing is, clearly the filmmakers went back to the original source i.e the Charles Addams cartoons but also blends a bit of the iconic '60s television version. It also helps that you have some much incredible talent both in front of and behind the camera. If I had to complain, this movie feels like a bit of an origin story for Fester-which is why I think the sequel doesn't have to work as hard. 

Still, the overall film is highly detailed, incredible well photo and directed. And, of course is hilarious. If you've never seen this film-now is the perfect time. 

Picture: I have to say that the previous Blu Ray of Addams Family was very solid but had room for improvement. So...the question is, does the UHD fix those issues? I have to say without a doubt, yes! It wouldn't surprise me if Sonnenfield had signed off on this transfer as it seems to perfectly fit the visual tone. Meaning, the movie is refreshed and clear with an incredible field of depth-details in the production design really stand out like never before. But: its not overly bright and retains that moody, spooky Charles Addams quality. Frankly: Its a stunning looking UHD transfer and its clear that a lot of time, thought and resources went into this. I am glad that this isn't overly bright and again, stays faithful to the visual palate. 

Sound: Addams Family has  DTS 5.1 track. Again, like the visuals this sound track has a HUGE sound that is noticeable from the very first moments of the movie. This seems like the same track ported over from the 2019 re-release and is a very nice sounding robust presentation. 

Extras: A HUGE Brand-new feature is Filmmaker Focus: Barry Sonnenfield talks about the Making of Addams Family. This Zoom interview is lively and candid with some nice behind the scenes photos and footage. I really enjoyed this interview and this makes a really great addition to this edition. 

Also imports the previous archival featurette (7mins) 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Chinese Boxer (1970) 88 Films Blu Ray Review

The Chinese Boxer (1970) 88 Films 11/9/2021

Directed By: Jimmy Wang Yu

Starring: Jimmy Wang Yu, Lieh Lo, Ping Wang

Disclaimer: 88 Films  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      The first film  written, directed and starring the legendary kung-fu Jimmy Wang Yu, The Chinese Boxer AKA The Hammer of God (1970) tells of students of material arts who seek revenge after they are attacked by a rival gang. The Chinese Boxer is, like any good kung-fu film a pretty simple yet effective story of good vs evil. This simplistic plot is effective as it makes for a nice springboard for a lot of high flying mayhem and blood splatter thrown in for good measure. 

   I have this admit this is my first Jimmy Wang Yu film and I was really impressed. The pacing is lean and mean but has plenty of nice character moments. And, of course there is plenty of amazing action set pieces that are top-notch. Not to mention some truly stunning sword work. This movie is also  excellent on a visual standpoint with Shan Hua (Infra-Man) as DP. For example, the blood soaked snow battle as striking as it is atmospheric. 

Fantastic film with breathtaking kung-fu action! 

Picture: Right away 88Films impresses with a damn impressive looking 1080p transfer. This is my first 88Film product and I am very pleased. The clarity and depth are razor sharp with outdoor scenes looking especially vivid. Indoor scenes have a nice bold and warm look to it. Grain levels are smoothed out and not chunky or distracting. It's also amazing how there really is no artifacts, noise or scratches in this print. There is a few moments when there is some blurring but there was only in maybe one or two scenes that I could notice.  Overall, I was quite happy with this transfer. 

Sound: 88Films provides both a 2.0 Mandarin Dual Mono Track w/English Subs. Also an 2.0 English track. Dialogue comes through clearly and the movie has no unwanted crackle or background noise. The range on this sound track is impressive for just a 2.0 track, though its a front heavy presentation. 

Extras: Extras include: Commentary track by historian Samm Deighan, Open Hand Combat: Interview with Journalist David West, Wong Ching at Shaw-interview with Wong Ching by Frederic Ambroisine, Hammer of God TV Spot, US Hammer of God Trailer, Hong Kong Trailer, Reversible Art and Hong Kong mini poster repo. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2020) RLJE Blu Ray Review

Prisoners of the Ghostland (2020) RLJE 11/16/2021

Directed By: Sion Sono 

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Bill Moseley

Disclaimer: RLJ Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

Other Reviews:
Batman Year One UHD HERE
Maniac Cop 2/3 UHD HERE

Plot Summary: PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.

      From outset, the movies of Sion Sono are, shall we say, a mixed bag for me personally. One thing I will say is, however I might feel about any given Sono project, he never plays it safe. Therefore, there is a certain kind of danger in his work that makes for excitement. Prisoners of the Ghostland is a film that very nearly is a masterpiece of gonzo madness but sadly falls short. There is a fine line between homage and a work that feels derivate. Prisoners of the Ghostland straddles that line hard. The entire setup is so close to John Carpenter’s Escape from New York that I am amazed that a lawsuit wasn’t filed. This in fact happened when Carpenter won a plagiarism case in Luc Besson’s Lockout from 2012.  Not to mention that this is very much an un-official remake of Mad Max. Clearly, Sono wears his influences on his gore-coated sleeves. Though, I will give the filmmaker a lot of credit for crafting a world that feels like a violent manga come vividly to life. Visually we the audience get treated to some incredible set pieces that feel haunting, harrowing and at times stunning.

     I could forgive how this movie is basically different action and samurai films stitched together from the nightmares of children. However, the movie strangely takes itself far too seriously for the tone and the general over-the-top nature. It seems Sono is clearly wanting to have his earnest drama and eat the LSD-dosed cake too. I don’t think that this is impossible to pull off, but sadly, this movie doesn’t find the sweet spot between the two. Cage even quotes Hamlet at one point for good measure. Frankly, the movie is, for all its spectacle at times boring. It doesn’t stray far from the typical heroes’ journey but never flips the script in a way that feels new and exciting.

     If Nicolas Cage was too subtle and nuanced for you in Pig (2021), fans of his wild performances will no doubt enjoy him in Ghostland. Though not the peak crazy that I’ve seen Cage, he certainly gnaws every bit of scenery he can. Though it’s Bill Moseley who somehow manages to out overact Cage in a performance that is so close to Chop Top in Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 without wearing a plate on his head. Obviously, in any other movie this kind of over acting would be an issue. However, Sono crafts a cartoon world that fits Cage and Moseley’s wackiness.

On a base level Prisoners of the Ghostland is an enjoyable mashup film that will no doubt find a loyal cult following. Though, anyone outside of die-hard Cage fans may find this to be aimless and at times not a fresh enough take. 

My Original Review Posted at Geek Vibes Nation HERE

Picture:  Please note: this also comes in a UHD edition as well. I am reviewing the 1080p/Blu Ray edition. So, whatever I may think about Ghostland, I have to say the visuals are top notch. Its not a surprise that the transfer here looks really nice. The color saturations are handled extremely well here with outdoor scenes looking just breathtaking. This is no doubt due to some really nice HD cameras that seem to be more accessible to filmmakers. Sono really paints a vivid looking moody film and this is a really slick and clean looking visual presentation. Skin tones have a nice nature look. There is even an nice grainy film-like quality. 

Sound: Ghostland has a really hearty DTS 5.1 track. This is an action heavy movie and its nice to have a track with some range and depth. Dialogue, score and sound design comes through nicely. 

Extras: Extras include: Making of, Movie Still Gallery, Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery 

The Deceivers (1988) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

The Deceivers (1988) Kino Lorber 11/16/2021

Directed By: Nicholas Meyers 

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Saeed Jaffrey, Shashi Kapoor 

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

      Outside of 2017's Call Me By Your Name, I haven't seen any Merchant Ivory films. And, I do like a good period drama which further sealed the deal on reviewing The Deceivers (1988).  Set in India in 1825, an officer named William Savage (Pierce Brosnan) goes undercover to unearth a strange cult that strangles men to death. Nicholas Meyers who had a short but impactful cinematic legacy with films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Time After Time (1979), and The Day After (1983) does a fine job here. Right away the movie starts out almost like a horror outing with a tense nighttime scene that establishes the danger and brutality at stake. 

      Meyers directs what is a really interesting film. The story unfolds at a nice pace and there is very little filler material. Like any good plot the stakes keep getting raised and is fulfilling enough to keep the audience engaged. So...yeah. I guess I need to address the elephant in the room. The main thrust of the plot centers around Brosnan's William to don face paint to pretend to be Indian. Cringe-worthy yes, and not to excuse this -only to say that the movie doesn't actually try to pass Pierce as a person of Indian heritage.  

Even if you don't like period films I think this movie has enough interesting plotting and beautiful costumes and locales to make it feel like a tense yet breezy watch. 

Picture: The Deceivers boosts a brand-new restoration from original film elements. I have to say that I was impressed by how colors in this thirty-plus year old truly pop. Lavish costumes really are showcased to their utmost beauty, as is the locales and production design. You can tell that darkly lit scenes have been brightened up considerably here as well. So, if you've only ever seen this on television or a VHS copy. I will say though, the grain level is pretty heavy at times. I noticed only a little bit of noise and artifacts but, overall this print looks pristine. 

Sound: The Deceivers has a DTS 2.0 track. Kind of surprised this didn't have a 5.1 but, the dialogue, score and sound design comes through extremely well. Front heavy but is a nice clean audio transfer with no issues that I could detect. 

Extras: Trailer 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

It Came from the '80s: The Hidden (1987) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

 The Hidden (1987) Warner Archive: Now Available 

Directed By: Jack Sholder 

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian 

Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

Other Reviews: 
Night School HERE
Maniac Cop 2/3 UHD Here
Deep Red UHD Here
Phantom of the Mall HERE

       The Hidden was a late '80s sci-fi horror film that seems to be underrated and despite a loyal fanbase. It also stars cult icon Kyle MacLachlan. Its one I had often heard about but only really from hardcore film buffs like myself that enjoyed body horror. New Line, the house that Freddy built went out on a limb with this wild hybrid of body-horror and sci-fi. The Hidden as I said has, over the years, gained loyal cult following and after watching I can understand why. Jack Sholder (Elm St 2) takes a lot of cues from the body horror of Cronenberg mixed with an '80s police procedural all wrapped up in a big wonderful sci-fi bow. 

      Often high concept projects that fuses different genres frankly don't work. It takes a level of writing skill to balance and successfully marry these different genres into something that feels cohesive plot. And, you know what? I think that it works really well. Screenwriter Jim Kouf who would go on to write hits like Rush Hour (1998) and more recently Grimm series crafts an exciting, rich but not overly complex story. The film is extremely well shot. Jacques Haitkin the DP on Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Wishmaster (1997) and he gives the entire thing a nice mood and tone. 

Much like the name, I think The Hidden is still a movie that more genre fans need to check out. I love movies that are able to successfully stitch wildly different genres. Certainly, this is an 80s horror/sci-fi movie that deserves more love. 

Picture: Re-released in 2017, The Hidden is certainly an incredibly refreshed looking 1080p scan. The image has an overall brighter and sharper look. However, whilst a lot is cleaned up the movie still retains this kind of grimy, Grindhouse feel with some artifacts and noise present. I am honestly not mad that this movie isn't 100% ultra clean looking. I think its the best of both worlds where its a step up from its VHS and DVD counterparts but also stays true to what is no doubt Haitkins and Sholder's vision. 

Sound: The Hidden has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as the sound design and score. No audio drop out issues and has a hearty quality for a 2.0 track. 

Extras: Extras include a commentary with director Jack Sholder and Tim Hunter, Special Effects Production Footage narrated by Jack Sholder, Trailer 

It Came from the 80s: Night School (1981) Warner Archive Blu Ray Review!

Night School (1981) Warner Archive: Now Available 

Directed By: Ken Hughes 

Starring: Leonard Mann, Rachel Ward, Drew Snyder 

Disclaimer: Warner Archive has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections.

      Fun Fact: Night School (1981) director Ken Hughes not only won a Primetime Emmy but was also nominated for a BAFTA and wrote the classic family film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and directed the cult classic Casino Royale (1967) the latter not to be confused with the semi-recent Bond film (though the former is a Bond proof ironically). Needless to say, Hughes has had quite an interesting career with a wide range of genre fare. Night School is also notable for being one of the few slashers written by a woman, Ruth Avergon (in her one and only screen credit). 

       As the title suggests there is a killer attacking women at a local night school. All the women are beheaded in a grisly manner. Night School in its very first few minutes really establishes this relentlessly nihilism, featuring a gruesome death made all the more unnerving that it takes place in a children's play area.  Indeed, the murders in this film are vicious and nasty this side of a Fulci film. Frankly though, the movie tends to drag outside of a few morbid flourishes. This is pretty standard body-count fare that is well made but could have used more creativity. The dialogue ranges from silly to cringe worthy and just plain baffling. Seeing how Hughes was considered in his own right a respected writer so, I can't imagine why he wouldn't have helped shape the overall narrative. More than likely this was just a paycheck job for the at the time 60year old director. The at times jokey tonal shifts also don't help. I will say that there are some interesting concepts in the film including the killings have a ritualistic aspects. Also, I have to give the film a lot of credit for a pretty awesome killer reveal and finale is pretty satisfying. 

Night School is probably something that only us hardcore 80s completists would want. However, despite its flaws I did some it enjoyable in a cheesy kind of way. 

Picture: Night School was re-released in 2017 and for being an older release it looks really good. The overall brightness and color contrast is handled incredibly well. There is some maybe at times heavy grain but nothing that distracts. I have to say for a movie that is forty years old, this looks nice, especially with a slightly older restore. 

Sound: Night School has a DTS 2.0 track. Like the transfer the sound is really robust. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the score and sound design. 

Extras: Trailer 

Friday, November 12, 2021

Batman: Year One Commemorative Edition (2011) Warner Bros. UHD Review

Batman: Year Old (2011) Warner Bros. Entertainment 11/9/2021

Directed By: Sam Liu, Lauren Montgomery 

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Jon Polito, Eliza Dushku 

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Entertainment has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     To say that Frank Miller's Batman: Year One published in 1987 was groundbreaking is a bit of an understatement. It remains as one of the best loved stories in the Batman cannon. Ten years ago Warner Animation brought the famous graphic novel to incredible life. I have to admit even being a huge Batman fan I never actually seen the DCAU adaptation. This seems like a fitting time especially with this making its US UHD premier. 

     As the title suggests, Batman Year One tells the story of the origins of Batman, Jim Gordon etc. Much like the recent amazing The Long Halloween part 1,2, Year One stays really faithful to Miller's tome whilst also streamlining some elements to make it better fit the medium. And, seeing how this is a lean 64 minutes long the pacing is fantastic. The animation is as always really nicely done and, again, like Long Halloween it stays within the WB house style whilst still retaining the gritty style of the graphic novel.  This also has a excellent voice cast including Bryan Cranston, Ben McKenzie, Jon Polito and Eliza Dushku. 

I am really glad I finally got to see this really top notch DC animated movie. 

Picture: Once again, Warner Bros provides a nice clean looking transfer. The movie is only ten years old but comparing screen shots from the previous HD edition, its plain to see that this is a brighter and more sharply defined. Again, it really showcases the skilled and highly detailed animation style of these DC movies. Darkly lit scenes really impress here. 

Sound:  Batman: Year One has a DTS 5.1 track. I have to say that the 5.1 track really does pack a big punch. Dialogue is mostly front channel heavy but the action scenes have a good bit of depth of field and range. 

Extras: Ported over including: Reinventing Gordon, commentary by Alan Burnett, Heart of Vengence, DC Showcase Short: Catwoman 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Chloe Zhao's Songs My Brother Taught Me (2015) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

Songs My Brother Taught Me (2015) Kino Lorber 10/5/2021

Directed By: Chloe Zhao

Starring: John Reddy, Irene Bedard

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

        Chloe Zhao made Hollywood history becoming the first Asian woman to be nominated for and win the Oscar for Best Director, as well as first person of color to win in that category for Nomadland (2020). Songs My Brother Taught Me (2015) marks the feature film debut of Zhao. Johnny (John Reddy) and his sister Lisa (Irene Bedard) must face a tough living situation on the Pine Ridge Reservation with a brother in jail and a father who recently passed away. Its rare when you see such a startlingly, refreshing and nearly perfect feature film debut. Zhao directs this movie with the skill and professionalism of a seasoned veteran. Clearly, this is someone who was destined for greatness and, indeed, she ended up winning two-Oscars on only her third feature. 

     Chloe tells a somber and heartbreaking story in a way that feels incredibly real and grounded. It taps into a culture and way of life that is so rarely seen with this kind of polish and raw honesty.  The performances also feel very real and I wonder if a lot of the lines were ad-libbed. Helping to further bring this to life is DP Joshua James Richards. Richards and Zhao really use the camera in what feels very much like a documentary style with intimate subjective shots and use of natural lighting. Indeed, this use of the natural very much fits into the overarching theme of the movie, which is living and trying to tame a seemingly untamable world. The landscapes and shot compositions are breathtaking and at times staggering. 

Songs My Brother Taught Me is a very bold, moving film that truly ushered in a creative voice. 

Picture: I mentioned how visually stunning this movie is, with its use of incredible landscapes and gritty documentary style subjective-camera work. I am happy to report that the film looks fantastic on 1080p. Shot on digital the movie has a sharp and refined look and again, it supports this docu-style that they filmmakers were going for.  Colors are vivid and the color contrast feels warm and alive. 

Sound: Songs has a DTS 5.1 track. The dialogue, score and sound design comes through nice and clear. This isn't a action heavy movie though when they do have some intense moments like an explosion the extra boost in sound is well utilized with depth. 

Extras: Extras for Songs includes: Bloopers, Deleted Scenes, Interview with Director Chloe Zhao and trailer. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge (1989) Arrow Video Blu Ray Review

Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge (1989) Arrow Video 11/23/2021

Directed By: Richard Friedman 

Starring: Derek Rydall, Rob Estes, Pauly Shore, Morgan Fairchild 

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      In 1909 French author Gaston Leroux published Le Fantôme de l'Opéra or, The Phantom of the Opera. Since, there has been many adaptations on radio, television and, of course, on the silver screen. The premise has proved riff for many different interpretations. In the '80s slasher films were all the rage and there was several Phantom films. The same year as Phantom of the Mall also saw The Phantom of the Opera (1989) starring Robert Englund. Eric (Derek Rydall) has his home set ablaze in order to make way for a new mall. The higher up's cover everything up but it turns out that Eric isnt dead. Now, he sets out for revenge but also, has time to re-connect with his girlfriend Melody (Kari Whitman). 

    On paper, a re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera set in a mall sounds like a pretty fun and interesting spring board. And, I will admit that the movie does have some clever nods to the source (Melody is a cheeky reference to the musical aspect of Phantom). Sadly though, the movie suffers from an underdeveloped screenplay, a tonal issue (something not uncommon for Friedman) and, I think it could have played up the camp aspects a bit more. Having said that, the movie is for the most part nicely paced and has enough kills to keep things interesting. Phantom is also just cheesy enough to make the short comings forgivable. 

A lackluster but ultimately enjoyable late '80s horror flick. 

Picture: Phantom of the Mall has been long OOP having a brief DVD release in 2006 and now is getting a 21st century upgrade on 1080p. Arrow doesn't disappoint when it comes to a nice picture transfer. The brightness of the picture has been dialed up which is helpful with some of the darkly light/night time scenes. The scenes in Eric's lair really seems to take advantage of this new restoration. Skins tones have a nice natural look and I was happy that there is a general refreshed look to the films color palate. Blacks have a nice depth as well. Grain is a bit on the heavy side and there is some minor blurring and and loss of definition. Nothing that I thought was distracting to the overall product. 

Sound: All three cuts of Phantom of the Mall includes a uncompressed mono 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through quite well as does sound design and score. It seems like they had some good audio material to work with has the overall has a nice range and quality. 


Interesting note: Pauly Shore isnt included on this disc. I have no doubt Arrow had reached out to him. 

Fans of Phantom of the Mall is be really happy that there are a slew of new extras: Included is: Two Audio Commentary tracks: Richard Friedman (Director solo track), Ewan Gant and Amanda Reyes. Audio interviews with Composer Stacey Widelitz and Assoicate Producer Robert J Koster 

Shop Til' You Drop: The Making of Phantom of the Mall (42mins)

The Vandals Go to the Mall  (12mins) Interview with the punk band The Vandals who did the theme song. 

Deleted/Alternate Scenes 

Trailers: Domestic/International, Image Gallery 

Disc Two (LE Bonus Disc)

The bonus disc includes the TV Cut of the film. It also includes a "Fan Cut" which features footage from TV cut and theatrical. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Wife of a Spy Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

Wife of a Spy (2021) Kino Lorber 11/23/2021

Directed By: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Starring: Yu Aoi, Issey Takahashi, Masahiro Higashide


Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      Wife of a Spy (2021) is the latest feature film from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure). I will say that this movie is probably not going to do it for casual film watchers. Indeed, the movie is slow paced and requires the viewer’s utmost attention. Kurosawa does throw a lot of information and characters at you, and it does feel like a chore in keeping up with the narrative. Having said that, there is a lot to admire about Wife of a Spy. The story, whilst needlessly complex, it does capture a WWII landscape rife with paranoia, betrayal and on a larger scale duty to the ones you love vs. to one’s own country. Taking this a step further, the overall theme of the movie is what you’re willing to do for the supposed greater good and what the cost of that is. Though maybe heavy handed, I think it’s an interesting and wholly necessary through line given the material. It does feature some nice Hitchcock-like flourishes and some tense moments.

       On a technical level, Kurosawa as always provides a laser-focused attention to detail that is at times staggering. First time DP Tatsunosuke Sasaki gives the movie a really big scope and feel that captures a certain kind of melancholia. The use of natural lighting is quite striking and further helps give Wife of a Spy its beautiful and at times ethereal look. Production designer Norifumi Ataka (Cure, Shutter) and costume designer Haruki Koketsu (Alice in Borderland) further helps give this period film a great deal of life and authenticity.

Wife of a Spy
is a convoluted melodrama that maybe could have leaned more on the thriller aspect. Still, it’s a harrowing, well-crafted and interesting movie from a master filmmaker.

My Review for Wife of a Spy Originally Posted at Geek Vibes Nation HERE

Picture: Wife of a Spy is a visually interesting film and I am happy to report that the 1080p looks incredibly nice. The film has a nice crisp look and though the films palate is on the muted side colors do pop. There is a really excellent warmth to this transfer that feels in line with the films haunting tone. There is even a slightly grainy film like quality which was a nice surprise. 

Sound: Wife of a Spy has a DTS 2.0 and 5.1 track. The latter showcases a nice big bold sound which helps give the more intense moments impact and depth. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the score and sound design. 

Extras: Extras include: The Making of Wife of a Spy (53mins)


Monday, November 8, 2021

Human Animals (1983) Mondo Macabro Blu Ray Review

Human Animals (1983) Mondo Macabro 11/9/2021

Directed By: Eligio Herrero 

Starring: Carole Kirkham, Geir Idvard, Jose Yepes 

Disclaimer: Mondo Macabro has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

       The '80s was a time when fear of nuclear fallout. This is of course reflected in the cinema of feels the US and aboard. Such is the case with  1983's Spanish film Human Animals. The plot is pretty simple: two men and a woman are seemingly the last people on earth after the bomb goes off.  I have to say that, Human Animals is a movie that I never even heard of until Mondo announced it for home video. This is basically a Adam Adam and Eve atomic style. The movie which features no conventional dialogue and the plot is pretty basic, two men, a dog and a woman try to survive in the natural world after its population has been wiped out. On the one hand Eligio Herrero's film feels like a slightly pretentious message on nuclear war but, thankfully, it never gets preachy. Instead its just a backdrop for lots of sex and taboo subjects. Fair warning, this movie has some sexual violence and heavily implied inter species relations. They also skin a rabbit so if that bothers you-just be warned it does happen. 

    I have to say that even with a really simple narrative I couldn't help but be totally engaged for the most part.  Things do start to sag a bit after the hour mark and then thankfully picks up. You also cannot help but love the absurdity of everything. Like how the world is wiped out yet is still beautiful looking -hell, even the characters who live through an atomic blast still have pristine looking clothes. 

Human Animals is certainly not your run-of-the-mill end of days atomic film but rather feels like a ultra pervy caveman movie. The issue is this movie can be super repetitive at times but, damned if I was engaged nonetheless. 

Picture: Mondo once again impresses with its 1080p transfer. Colors are lush and vivid, especially showcasing the beautiful outdoor locales (which this movie is shot entirely). Skin tones have a nice nature look to them. I was really floored by how the grain levels as well as the color tempt is well maintained throughout. Clearly, the original film elements must have been well taken care of as there is really no artifacts or noise even. If you have seen this film previously in imports or bootlegs I think you will be really blown away by the incredibly looking transfer here. Really top notch work. 

Sound: Human Animals has a DTS 2.0 track. Though no dialogue as such, the score, sound design and grunts, groans and moans come through with a nice level of clarity and heartiness. Front channel heavy but more than does the trick. 

Extras: Human Animals includes a beefy 50min interview with writer, director Eligio Herrero. Also the Mondo trailer. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Yule Be Sorry: Santa's Slay (2005) First time Viewing!

Yule Be Sorry: My First time Watching Santa's Slay starring Bill Goldberg 

    So, I had often heard about this 2005 black horror comedy, Santa's Slay. To date this this the one and only film helmed by David Steiman. I wasn't planning on reviewing this but, I decided it might be fun seeing how I just bought the DVD. Therefore, this review is going to be a little shorter and more informal. 

      Probably what I knew about this movie going in, before actually seeing this is, of course the casting of WWE wrestler Bill Goldberg as a hulking evil Santa. Not to mention the cold opening-which I will get into more later. My first impressions is, Santa's Slay is the kind of horror holiday outing that you will enjoy if you also like Jack Frost (1997). Both movies are a nice balance of high camp and of course don't take the premise at all seriously. Having said that, I have to admit that the set up it far more interesting than just a killer Santa on the loose. As I said this movie is a pitch black comedy and again, this is where this movie really you can really compare this to Jack Frost. As you might expect from a movie from 2005 there is a lot cringe-worthy jokes that have aged horribly. And the humor ranges from legit funny to eye rolling. Overall though, the movie has its share of issues but I think the saving grace is a highly engaging narrative and its so absurd and cartoonish that its hard not to enjoy it. Not to mention this might have one of thee best cold openings I've seen in awhile. 

Bad, but really fun and I think well worth a watch. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Night Has A Thousand Eyes (1948) Kino Studio Classics 11/16/2021

Directed By: John Farrow 

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Gail Russell, John Lund 

Disclaimer: Kino  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      Billed as a supernatural film-noir, Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) tells the story about a dime-store phony mentalist who, finds he actually can predict the future. John Farrow who directed classics like The Big Clock (1948), Around the World in 80 Days (1956) helms this pretty weird little thriller. I have to say that I am a big fan of moody films especially when they intersect with the noir movement. At a scant 80 minutes the movie for the most part clips along at a nice pace with a fairly engaging mystery. Yet, the movie has this kind of underlying bleakness, depression and dread. This almost feels like it would have fit snuggly with what producer Val Lewton doing around this time. The movie is given a really nice feel/scope thanks to famed seven-time Oscar nominated DP John F. Seitz (Sunset Blvd, Double Indemnity). There is a reason why Billy Wilder often used Seitz to craft mood and atmosphere. I will say that that movie is awkward in places. For example, instead of ramping up the movie kind of sags around the 60 minute mark. Edward G. Robinson gives a pretty thoughtful late-career performance. He sheds his usual persona to play a tired washed out man. Gail Russell and John Lund give fine supporting performances. 

      Night has a Thousand Eyes is a pretty weird and interesting film. It feels like a overly long Twilight Zone episode which I adore. Though I will say I think the pacing is at times awkward and feels like the movie could have used a 10 or so minute trim. Still, I think it stands out in terms of highly stylish, moody and fascinating little known films from the '40s. 

Picture: Night comes by way of a 2k scan. The movie certainly looks like the image is brighter therefore details in costumes, sets and locales stick out. The black-and-white contrast is overall balanced but the image tends to sway from darker to light in any given scene. Even with a 2k scan you can still notice some noise and very so slight tempt flux. Grain tends to be on the heavy side as well. Good news is: I never found these flaws that distracting and is does overall look quite nice.  Kino's 2k's always look great so I have to wonder if the original film elements were in rough shape. Night Has A Thousand Eyes has had a few bargain basement DVD releases so the fact that Kino has provided us fans with a 2k scan is, I think really awesome and I have no doubt this is the best its ever looked on home video. 

Sound: Night has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the score. Like the image the sound has some issues which no doubt stems from rough original elements. There is a fairly steady stream of unwanted background hiss and at one point some flickering. But, also like the image I didnt overall find it very distracting. 

Extras: Night has a commentary track by Historian Imogen Sara Smith and Trailers for this film and others. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

It Came from the '80s: The House on Sorority Row (1982) MVD Classic Rewind Blu Ray Review

House on Sorority Row (1982) MVD Classic Rewind 7/6/2021

Directed By: Mark Rosman 

Starring: Kate McNeil, Ellen Davidson, Lois Kelso Hunt

Disclaimer: MVD has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      I am about to make a bold claim but: I think that The House on Sorority Row (1982) is among only a handful of '80s slashers that can truly claim to have some creepy to downright scary set pieces. A prank with a house mother goes horrible wrong, a group of young sorority women are stalked and killed one-by-one. Horrible buried secrets will be unearthed in this early '80s slasher. Clearly, Sorority Row is cashing in on recent hits like Friday the 13th (1980) but Mark Rosman crafts a movie with a interesting story, some decent twists and effective scares and gory kills. Some of this feels like it harkens back to the old dark house horror sub-genre and indeed, the movie features an almost Neo-Gothic vibe. It's a shame that, though the director has worked steadily since he feature debut  he never made another noteworthy movie in the horror genre. 

Picture: From MVD version of The House on Sorority Row is brighter and with less of a yellowish tone (Source Review HERE).  Row has a nice and refreshed look, especially when you compare it with previous home video releases. Colors really pop and the above mentioned brightness really helps with noticing details in costumes, sets and locales. Night scenes are really impressive with the clarity and overall brightness. It might have to do with how the film was shot and original elements but the film has a softness to it. Noise and some scratches are present as well. The latter helps enhance the Grindhouse film quality which I adore. A really damn nice looking presentation. 

Sound: Row has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely. No audio drop out issues or unwanted background noise that I could detect. 

Extras: Extras are ported over from the Scorpion release and include: Audio Commentary with director Mark Rosman, Audio commentary with director Mark Rosman and stars Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil, Interviews with cast and crew including: Director Mark Rosman, stars Harley Jane Kozak, Eileen Davidson and Kathryn McNeil, Composer Richard Band and Producer Igo Kantor, Original Pre-Credit Sequence, Alternate ending storyboards. TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer, Reversible Artwork with Alternative Cover and Collectible Mini-Poster

The Real Bedford Falls: It's a Wonderful Life (2020) Kino Lorber DVD Review

The Real Bedford Falls: It's a Wonderful Life (2020) Kino Lorber 11/9/2021

Directed By: Stu Lisson, Francois DiClemente 

Starring: Frances Barbiere, Jeanine Basinger, Fran Carracilo, Leonard Maltin 

     It may shock you to learn that, upon its original release, It's A Wonderful Life (1946) didn't even make back its budget of 3.18 million. Its hard to believe but, this classic was considered a flop for RKO Pictures. In fact, it wasn't until the movie started being re-shown on television that audiences re-discovered the film and it became popular. It is now considered a seasonal favorite and cemented itself among the best loved and remembered films from Hollywood's Golden Age. One of the things that has helped the movie stay so fondly remembered is the setting of the little fictional town of Bedford Falls. As pointed out in the documentary, the town itself is not only a character in the film but also a blank canvas of innocence and a yearning for a simpler time. But what if you could actually visit Bedford Falls? 

      While Frank Capra never publicly stated that Bedford Falls was based on any one real location, it is, heavily implied that this movie takes place in upstate New York.  One sleepy town makes the bold claim that may very well be the closet thing to the real Bedford Falls. That town is Seneca Falls. Told through the residents, its citizens and even actors from the film, Jimmy Hawkins and Karolyn Grimes (the Bailey children, the latter has the most iconic line from the film) this short documentary about the history and connect with an iconic and treasured classic of cinema. 

    As a film buff and a big fan of Its a Wonderful Life I thought this was a really interesting film that, at only thirty minutes long is a lean and to the point exploration of not only the little town of Seneca but also how there is some credibility to its claim to have at least been partly the inspiration for the legendary fictional town.  It's a breezy and very engaging film that should be considered a nice companion piece to the '46 classic. 

Picture/Sound:  The Real Bedford Falls comes to Kino on 780p DVD. Typically with newer cameras even projects filmed in a lower-def and transferred over to 780p looks pretty good. Bedford Falls looks good but is a bit on the overly grainy side. Overall though, the image is clear and incredibly serviceable. The same goes with the sound by way of a DTS 2.0 track. 

Extras: Trailer 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Who You Think I Am (2019) Kino Lorber/Cohen Media Blu Ray Review

Who You Think I Am (2019) Kino Lorber/Cohen 11/2/2021

Directed By: Safy Nebbou 

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Nicole Garcia, Francois Civil 

Disclaimer: Kino Lorber  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      Framed and told entirely in flashback, a single older woman with kids named Claire (Juliette Binoche) catfishes a younger man in this French thriller. Director Safy Nebbou constructs a interesting film that maybe is not as groundbreaking as it would have been ten years old-it still does manage to have bite. I think that, though catfishing is a horrible and psychologically scarring thing-even criminal, Nebbou attempts to humanize the face behind the fake name/picture. The fact that she is a seemingly very well adjusted academic teacher who aches for company and not a one-dimension vile person is, I think is a nice routine to take. Very often women, especially older women are not very well written in thrillers so to see someone complex is refreshing. 

      Having said that the movie has some issues. The main issue for me was the at times painfully awkward pacing. The story is sidelined with tedious dialogue scenes with the therapist that really only serves to de-rail the films momentum. Also, this movie is marketed as a taunt, sexual thriller but the movie is more of a drama with all the thriller and suspense nowhere to be found. This is perfectly fine but when the pull-quote compares this to Fatal Attraction, it is more than just a little misleading.  

  I think this is a well directed movie but the pacing is awkward and I was disappointed because I went into this thinking it was a thriller which it wasn't. I did find Claire to be incredibly compelling which is why I think that even with some meddling plotting it was still interesting. Again, had I went into this without the suspense thriller banner I certainly would have had my expectations set differently. 

Picture: Who You Think I Am has a really nice crisp clean look on 1080p. The movie has a somber, yet rich and warm color palate and this HD presentation really highlights this. There is even in a grainy film-like quality that was a really nice surprise. Overall, a really vivid transfer that feels like it hits home the slightly off, melancholic narrative.  

Sound: Who You Think I Am has a 2.0 and 5.1 French track with English subtitles. Dialogue and music comes through nicely and the 5.1 gives some more sound design heavy moments a nice impact. 

Extras: Extras include: The Making of Who You Think I Am (36smin) and Trailer 

SCREAM - 'Ghostface Is Back' In First Featurette Available Now


From Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group



Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group Present
A Project X Entertainment Production
A Radio Silence Film
Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past. Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) return to their iconic roles in Scream alongside Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Sonia Ammar.

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Kevin Williamson, Chad Villella, Gary Barber, Peter Oillataguerre, Ron Lynch, Cathy Konrad, Marianne Maddalena
William Sherak, p.g.a. James Vanderbilt, p.g.a. Paul Neinstein, p.g.a.
Kevin Williamson
James Vanderbilt & Guy Busick
Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sonia Ammar, with Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell