Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Mortal Kombat: Battle of the Realms (2021) Warner Bros. UHD Review

Mortal Kombat: Battle of the Realms (2021) Warner Bros. 8/31/2021

Directed By: Ethan Spaulding 

Starring: Ike Amadi, Artt Butler, Jennifer Carpenter, Joel McHale 

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. 

Plot Summary: Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms picks up shortly after the explosive finale of Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, the 2020 blockbuster hit that initiated these animated films – which are based on one of the most popular videogame franchises in history. In Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, our team of heroes are besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn – forcing Raiden and his group of warriors into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms. Now our heroes must travel to Outworld in order to defend Earthrealm and, simultaneously, Scorpion must find the ancient Kamidogu before it's used to resurrect the One Being – which would mean certain destruction of all things in the universe. Time is short and the stakes are high in this action-packed continuation of the Mortal Kombat journey.

         It's been quite the year for Mortal Kombat fans. Not only did we get a new live-action film but also from Warner Bros. a straight-to-video animated feature MK: Battle of the Realms (2021). The movie picks up after the last film and I think overall, does a great job at continuing the mythos. Both Ethan Spaulding and Jeremy Adams return, which helps keep things feeling like a next chapter. As always the animation and action are, in my opinion, handled really well and the movie is able to be gritty but also still stay within the Warner Bros. animation house style. Most of you probably already know this but, this movie is R-rated and as such the violence is pretty heavy. I love how WB can embrace adult-animation in this way which is something you don't often get. 

      Narrative wise can be times shaggy but overall, I think Adams has a nice flare for writing great characters, I also love his at times sardonic sense of humor. Johnny Cage has some of the best dialogue. The cast is great with Jennifer Carpenter, Joel McHale, Ike Armadi and Artt Butler doing incredible work. Also, I think a lot of credit should go to the voice-director Wes Gleason. Gleason who has worked on many other animated features is in my opinion a major reason why the voice acting is so seamlessly executed. 

Overall, a really enjoyable feature film that adds a bookend to the previous offering, Scorpion's Revenge (2020). 

Picture: Warner Bros. has frankly been crushing it with there Blu Ray and UHD releases. They keep raising the bar in my opinion and are among the best studios with old and new catalogue titles. I have had the pleasure of getting to review their animation and its top notch. As mentioned in my review, MK has a very nice visual style and this upgraded release truly showcases that. The sleek animation style has a nice sharp definition with edges that are crisp and clean looking. Speaking of, colors having a nice amount of depth and life to them. Small details really stand out and the overall image has a nice hue contrast.  

Sound: MK: Battle of the Realms offers up a skull-crushing DTS. 5.1 track. Like the visuals I feel like the sound really does a fine job. This is of course a very action driven film and, in my opinion, a very complex and 3D audio presentation. 

Extras: Included on the Blu Ray is: 

The God and the Dragon: Battling for Earthrealm (Featurette) – Go behind the scenes and inside the creative process of bringing Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms to action-packed life on screen.
Voices of Kombat (Featurette) – Join Joel McHale, Jennifer Carpenter, and the cast as they detail the process of creating unique and compelling voices for the larger than life characters in the film.
Kombat Gags: Gag Reel (Featurette) – Step inside the VO booth with the cast of the film for all of the flubbed lines and outrageously improvised lines from the cutting room floor.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms Audio Commentary (Audio Only) – Producer Rick Morales and Screenwriter Jeremy Adams take the audience inside the art of writing and animating the film in this feature length audio commentary.
Optional English SDH, Dutch, French, Latin-Spanish, and German SDH subtitles for the main feature

Monday, August 30, 2021

David Lynch's Dune (1984) Arrow Video UHD Review

Dune (1984) Arrow Video 8/31/2021

Directed By: David Lynch 

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francessa Annis, Brad Dourif  

Disclaimer: Arrow Video 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. 

    Famously, David Lynch was asked by George Lucas to direct the third, as yet titled Star Wars film. Strangely Lynch said in an interview that he quote "next door to zero interest" in the project. The film would be, of course called Return of the Jedi and released in 1983. The final product is...very much lacking and considered among fans as the weakest in the series. It's strange that Lynch said he had no interest in Star Wars when, just a year after Return of the Jedi he made, what can be seen as a heavily inspired by Lucas's space opera. Now, its not to suggest that Lynch openly ripped off Star Wars but you cannot help but see the inspiration he drew from Star Wars, specifically A New Hope's broken down, lived in world. I confess that I watched Dune for the first time for this review (and later multiple views w/commentaries) as well as pouring over the special features. 

     Dune was not a hit with critics and sadly tanked at the box-office barely bringing back its for the time hefty 40 million dollar budget. The movie has attained a huge cult following over the decades and is considered a ambitious and interesting sci-fi film. Having seen this now more than a few times I will say that Dune is a narrative mess but it's so creative and detailed in its worldbuilding that you cannot but be utterly transfixed and spellbound by it. Hell, Antony Masters who shaped the look on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) worked on the film and the legendary Freddie Francis (who worked with Lynch previous on The Elephant Man) served as DP. Not to mention art director by Benjamín Fernández and Pier Luigi Basile who between them worked on films like Black Hawk Down (2001), The Others (2001), Lucio Fulci's Dont Torture a Duckling (1972), Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Conan The Barbarian (1982) etc. Its hard to overstate just how incredible this movie looks and you get engrossed in its world from the very first few minutes. Not to mention this has a pretty epic cast that includes  Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Sting, Brad Dourif and Max von Sydow, Dean Stockwell and Sean Young to name a few. 

       David Lynch brings his surrealist nightmare level style to this very famous Frank Herbert novel. Sure, the plot is pretty all over the place, I fell madly in love with its ambitious scope and highly detailed world building. Later this year we will be getting a new vision of Dune (2021) so, I think this is the perfect time to watch or re-discover this film. 

Picture: I think its safe to say that Dune has probably never looked this good on home video. There is a noticeable brightness that you can see especially in darkly lit scenes. Grain is sort of on the heavy side but this is not an issue, especially when your dealing with a movie thats nearly forty-years old. I also was pleased to see a nice sharp clarity to the overall film and it really helps to highlight the amazing production design and cinematography. You can really see every grimy coated surface in the clearest possible. There is a few issues. Notable is some flicker in the image but its faint and honestly, you`ll probably won't even notice unless you are looking for it. There are no artifacts or noise and color contrasts are handled incredibly well in my opinion. The movie isn't exactly colorful but there are big pops of hues that really leap off the screen here. 

Sound: Dune has a 5.1 and 2.0 track. I know fans probably wanted an Atmos track but I think the 5.1 track here really does a great job. Sounds have a nice complex 3D sound which is really something you want with a big sound effects driven movie like this. 

Extras: Dune has a nice array of extras which include: two commentaries one by author Paul M. Sammon, the second track is from Mike White. 

Also included is: Impressions of Dune (2003) (39mins) a vintage featurette with various interviews from cast/crew. 

Includes the 2005 featurettes including:

Designing Dune (8mins) 

Dune FX  (6mins) 

Dune Models & Miniatures (7mins)

Dune Costumes (4mins)

Deleted Scenes w/intro by Raffaella de Laurentius  (4mins) 

Also included is: Destination Dune (6mins) a 1983 featurette directed by Paul M Sammon tp promote the film at conventions and publicity events to the lead up for the film. 

Rounding out the features is Trailers and TV Spots and Image Galleries. 

It appears there is nothing new included in this release but I suspect that Arrow may have been barred (I DONT know but its an educated guess) from producing anything new for this release. 

Lynch interview sourced HERE

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Interview with John Malahy Author of Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics

Author John Malahy Talks about his Book for TCM Entitled: Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics! 

Summer may be almost over but its still a perfect time to grab a good book and discover or re-discover some classic cinema. I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing author John Malahy who wrote the fabulous book Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics. 

My Review for Summer Movies HERE

To Buy It Link HERE

Another TCM Related Posts:

Dark City Book Review HERE

Eddie Muller Interview HERE

How long did the entire process take from concept to finished book?

It took a couple of years from start to finish. I originally brought up the idea in a pitch meeting in mid-2019 but I hadn’t intended to write the book myself. I’ve worked on many other books that TCM has published, and normally there are a few months of development at the beginning, determining what we want the content to be, looking at similar books (if there are any) and how they’ve treated the subject. So I was working on this for Summer Movies and at a certain point I had gotten so wrapped up in it that I just decided to try to write it myself. It was my idea and I wanted to see it through to the end. So the writing really began in earnest in the spring of 2020 when were all at home in quarantine. It was a strange time for everyone, but it turned out to be helpful in terms of writing since I had fewer distractions. The manuscript was finished by late summer, then the editing and photo layout stages took another few months.  

Why summer movies?

TCM had done a nice book on Christmas movies, and one on Halloween, so I was looking for other season-oriented ideas. Our traditional notion of a “summer movie” is a big studio tentpole, popcorn blockbuster, but there are also a lot of films that are set in the summertime, that show characters on vacation or hanging out at the beach, or sweating it out in a hot city, and that no one had ever really put a spotlight on the season as depicted by Hollywood. I had loved movies like Jaws and Do the Right Thing for years and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to pull those and a few dozen other movies together under one heading. I also liked the idea of giving readers some inspiration for their own summer adventures – I love to travel and a lot of these movies were inspiring to me because of the places and experiences they depict. 

Can you explain a little about the process of selecting which films would be included?

Like Jaws and Do the Right Thing, there were a few movies that just had to be included. I’m thinking of The Endless Summer and National Lampoon’s Vacation, as well as the Katharine Hepburn movie Summertime. Those are already a diverse bunch and I wanted to lean into that diversity, so I cast a wide net. After asking around (the team at TCM is extremely knowledgeable) and doing some research I came up with a long list of about 300 titles. And then I started to trim it down, using certain parameters: I wanted each movie to be set during the summer (sorry, Grease), to show a relatable experience (Dog Day Afternoon doesn’t quite work) and most importantly to be good enough to recommend (I wouldn’t push Corvette Summer on anyone). I also wanted to show a range of time periods, so the book covers everything from silent film to movies made just a few years ago (Call Me by Your Name) and everything in between.  

Did you watch many films in order to narrow things down?

There was a two or three month period where I all did was cram on summer movies, mostly things I hadn’t seen before – or at least hadn’t seen in a long time. I was also watching familiar movies in a new context – like Caddyshack, which at least ostensibly is about a kid getting a summer job to pay for college. In a lot of cases I was trying to find good representatives of a genre or cycle, so I watched lots of baseball films before settling on A League of Their Own (like The Natural, Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Bull Durham) and several Andy Hardy movies before arriving at You’re Only Young Once. I was fairly certain I was going to include The Endless Summer, but it didn’t stop me from watching other surfing documentaries like Riding Giants and Step Into Liquid.  There were a few French movies (like Claire’s Knee and Swimming Pool) that I considered, but ultimately passed on, and I watched all the Gidget films - but the original is clearly the best. All in all, it was a pretty fun research process!

Any films that just narrowly made the list but ultimately wasn’t included?

Funny enough, the first movie I wrote about was ultimately cut. Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day is about a family vacation that goes off the rails. Way off – they get pulled into an international espionage ring. I loved that it showed these fish out of water Americans exploring the world – there were a lot of such movies in the 1950s – and I think everyone could relate to the family vacation that goes awry. But it was later swapped out for another Hitchcock movie, Rear Window, that was explicitly set in the summer and couldn’t have taken place at another time of year. 

For each of the main entries, I also suggest a second film to form a double feature. So a few of the runners-up made it in that way. Those include Body Heat, Two for the Road, and The Palm Beach Story – all great movies, but they just seemed redundant or not as essential as the main films. I also was looking at a few horror films, like Friday the 13th, but I think they just didn’t quite fit the tone. 

You have so many excellent movies included in this book. Which would you say you re-visit the most?

Of the thirty movies I write about, I’ve probably seen Rear Window the most. It’s endlessly fascinating and will never get old for me. A few others, like Jaws and Vacation, are movies I have to watch every summer. That’s probably true for a lot of people. I also have a soft spot for The Music Man, because the music is so witty and Robert Preston is an incredible performer. A couple of the more romantic movies - Before Sunrise and Call Me by Your Name - are also all-time favorites. 

If you had to describe what makes a perfect summer film what would it be?

I think the archetype is Gidget – a young person spends her summer at the beach, has a life-changing experience, and falls in love. It’s a Technicolor film shot in Malibu and the tone is just what you expect from a summer film made in Hollywood. It also helped introduce surfing to a wider audience, so it’s historically significant.

A lot of these movies are about getting out of your routine, meeting new people, and gaining a new perspective on your normal life. In terms of the setting, I think the perfect summer film depends on whatever experience means most to the one watching, whether it’s set at the beach or at a summer camp, or – for me – a European trip like the one in Summertime. That particular movie was shot in Venice, and that’s a place I dream of going to every year. 

What upcoming projects can fans expect?

I’ve just started a deep dive into 80s movies. We’ll see if it turns into a book and what that looks like at a later date. In the meantime, I’ll be working behind the scenes at TCM on some other books, including a few releases this fall on Hollywood during World War II, the history of 20th Century Fox, and a book on essential directors. 

Friday, August 27, 2021

Vincent Price in Master of the World (1961) Kino Studio Classic Blu Ray Review

Master of the World (1961) Kino Studio Classic 8/31/2021

Directed By: William Witney

Starring: Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Henry Hull, Mary Webster, Richard Harrison 

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. 

My Review for The Raven HERE

My Review for The Last Man on Earth HERE

My Kino Studio Oct. Preview HERE 

    A departure from the horror titles, Kino Studio Classics has released what I think is an underrated film in Price's filmography Master of the World (1961). Part action-adventure, part proto-stream punk this Jules Verne adaptation. The year is 1868 and a madman named Robur (Vincent Price) kidnaps a a team on a government expedition who was investigating a mysterious crater in a sleepy Pennsylvania town. High strangeness and stock footage hijinks ensue in this '60s science fiction flick. 

     While I will always love Price for his Gothic horrors it's always such a treat to see him in other genres. Hell, did you know he starred in a fantastic Sam Fuller film entitled The Baron of Arizona (1950)?  Here we get a really fun, adventure film that almost feels like something made during Disney's wholesome live-action outing from this time period. In fact, Disney did a Verne adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) just seven years prior to this film. The narrative is a bit silly and rough around the edges but I think if you can get past that the movie has a lot of charm. The plot moves at a brisk pace and the dated special effects further adds this nostalgic warm-fuzzies.  And, then you have the marvelous cast. 

     Vincent Price makes an absolute ham-dinner with his performance of the bearded baddie Robur. As always the character actor gives the material his very all and in my opinion helps gloss over some of the more awkward parts of Master. He's gleefully wicked and we the audience lap up every second of it. And hey, Chuck Bronson is in this thing as well! The pairing of Charles Bronson (best remembered for his Death Wish series)and Vincent Price  may seem really weird but they acted together in 1953's House of Wax with Bronson playing Igor the assistant. Its strange to see Bronson play a really clean cut hero but, like Price plays the thing totally straight without a hint of irony or deprecation. Also includes Mary Webster, Henry Hull (Hitchcock's Lifeboat), and Richard Harrison just to name a few. 

As a kid I was spellbound by Master of the World and whilst it doesn't quite hold up I think it was still highly enjoyable adventure fantasy film and well worth checking out. 

Picture: Master of the World is a bright and colorful movie and I am happy to report that the 1080p in my opinion does justice to the films visuals. The colors pop but are not overly processed and I am glad that there is a nice uptick in brightness and clarity. Grain is present but not overly heavy. I will say that the print does suffer from artifacts and scratches and a few minor blurring. Nothing that I think distracts from the overall presentation though. I think this is the best this movie's ever looked on home video. 

Sound: Masters of the World has a nice big bold DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue and the killer score by the legendary Les Baxter comes through really nicely. A overall nice crisp and clean sound presentation. 

Extras: Master of the World includes two commentary tracks. The first is with Tom Weaver and Vincent Price biographer Lucy Chase Williams, The second is with actor David Frankham

Also included is Richard Matteson: Storyteller and a Trailer.  

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Shocking, No One Heard The Scream (1973) Severin Blu Ray

No One Heard the Scream (1973) Severin Films 8/24/2021

Directed By: Eloy de la Iglesia  

Starring: Vincente Parra, Carmen Sevilla, Maria Asqurino 

Disclaimer: Severin 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. 

My Review for Eloy de la Iglesia Cannibal Man HERE

Other Severin Reviews: Skinned Deep Review HERE
Invaders of the Lost Gold Review HERE
Born for Hell Review HERE
Overboard Review HERE
Cruel Jaws Review HERE

     So, I admit that I am very new to the world of Eloy de la Iglesia, only having seen Cannibal Man (1972) prior to this re-release thanks to a Anchor Bay edition years ago. But, Severing re-released FIVE films from the late Spanish director. 1973's  No One Heard The Scream is my second in his filmography and more of a straight forward thriller. 

      Like Cannibal Man, No One Heard The Scream is a thriller that works extremely well for the most part. The movie is suitably grimy and grim and has a kind of chilly matter-of-fact-ness that I thought helped Cannibal Man work so well. Both films have a purposefully detached about death and suffering that make them both disturbing and fascinating. I also like how Eloy likes to sprinkle bitter ironies and black comedy. There is also a undercurrent of class-struggle which was something that I think isn't over worked in this movie but, rather plays like subtext. 

      No One also is fairly well paced with only a few dry moments. I actually did not realized an entire hour went back as the plot moves briskly and has enough going on to keep it engaging. The movie also has a few good tense moments that further help the film which has a fairly simplistic narrative. There is also a strange romance that forms that I also think This movie also could be considered a Spanish-Giallo with touches of Hitchcock throughout. It also feels progressive to have a film about a sex-worker and the movie doesn't feel the need to look down on her, nor change her. 

      Where the movie starts to sag is in the third act where things become too-talky and not enough action. Prior the movie felt like it clipped away at a nice pace but then it just screeches to a halt. Its never good when I keep checking on how much time is left until the end. Finally the movie does pick back up but it felt too little too late. No One Heard The Scream has a lot going for it but so far isn't my favorite. Next I will be reviewing the three-film Eloy set "The Qunqui Collection". 

Picture: As always, Severin does a good job at providing a fresh looking 1080p print. No One Heard The Scream is, at this point, over forty years old. And frankly, the HD presentation gives it a facelift in terms of brightness and the sharp definition. Locales, costumes and sets really retain a nice level of fine detail. This movie is colorful and hues really pop. While there are a few minor noise, the print is for the most part pristine. Overall, a damn fine job. 

Sound: No One Heard The Scream has a very nicely done DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through clear, as does the score and sound design. No audio drop out or unwanted background noise to be had. 

Extras: Eloy de la Iglesia  and the Spanish Giallo (23mins) A really interesting featurette on Spanish Giallo from scholar Dr. Andy Willis. 

Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth (1964) Kino Studio Classics

The Last Man on Earth (1964) Kino Studio Classics 8/31/2021

Directed By: Sidney Salkow, Ubaldo Ragona (Italian Print)

Starring: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Umberto Raho

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. 

Vincent Price/Boris Karloff 's The Raven Review HERE

      The Last on Earth (1964) was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson's famous novel I Am Legend published in 1954. I've seen this movie a few times but I have to say that viewing it post COVID-19 made it feel ten-times more haunting. Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is the last man on earth when a plague turns people into fiends who thirst for blood. But, it seems that he isn't the only living person in this '60s horror outing. 

     This version of Last Man on Earth has been marred by production issues including Matheson's draft of the screenplay going largely re-written. Matheson of course had been vocal in his lifetime about not liking the script, nor did he like the casting of Vincent Price in the lead role. While I disagree with the latter I think the film does have some pacing issues and and some narrative points could have used a polish. While I do not mind the film taking a little more time with exposition I do understand why it can come off as tedious at times. 

    For all its shaggy plotting the movie's lasting impact should not underplayed. Though he never officially acknowledged it during his lifetime, its hard not to see shades of  Night of the Living Dead (1968) in its shambling vampires  coupled with the at times expressionistic black-and-white photography. There are a few scenes where the ghouls have their arms stuck in the door, something that Romero famously did with more gruesome results. Its also worth pointing out that in both films a daughter comes back to life only to  attack a parent. In this film its daughter vs. dad and  its the inverse of daughter vs. mother in Night. It's not to suggest Romero or John Russo copied the film but I think its alright to say it may have inspired some elements. The book of course no doubt did. In fact, when Matteson was asked which film adaptation he liked the most of his seminal work he cheekily replied, "Night of the Living Dead". 

     Furthermore, movie does have a lot of charm and, as I mentioned above in a post-pandemic world the movie has taken on a entirely new dimension of horror. I will happily disagree with the famed scribe and say that Price is effortlessly enjoyable in the role. The icon who was in his early '50s by this point, does what I think is a fantastic job at playing a complex character. I also think for as maybe rough-around-the-edges as the screenplay is, it is a very effective and creepy little film. It has style and loads of atmosphere thanks to the chilling cinematography by Franco Delli Colli. 

    Out of the mid-60's horror films I think that The Last Man on Earth is one that gets, in my opinion unfairly lobbied as a non-starter. But, I think that outside of what I think is major influences on Living Dead the movie is a brisk, well directed and fun flick that is best watched in the Fall season. 

Picture: The Last Man on Earth is another solid transfer. The black-and-white photography has a really nicely maintained contrast with really well done deep blacks. The overall film has a sharpness that comes with a 1080p upgrades. I will say that there is a lot of artifacts and noise in this print. I don't blame Kino, in fact this may be the best this movie will look depending on what state the original film elements are in. Its an overall really good looking transfer, its not perfect but its better than anything you would get in SD. I was also happy to see grain present but really fine and smoothed out. 

Sound: The Last Man on Earth has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue and score comes through really nicely with no drop out issues or any kind of unwanted background noise. 

Extras: I am going to be comparing this re-release with the Vincent Price Vol II re-release. I will be breaking down what is included and not included and what's brand-new to this release.

I don't normally do this but I wanted to be a helpful guide and go above and beyond to what is new and what has not been ported over to the now OOP Scream Factory excellent Vincent Price Vol. II.

PLEASE NOTE: Its not to say one release is better than the other-in fact I think both the box set and stand-alone releases are well worth owning. The Kino Studio release is certainly a more affordable way to own this movie on HD.

New to this release is the feature length commentary by Richard Harland Smith. 

Also new to this is the Trailers from Hell with Joe Dante,  An American and Italian Trailer and Alternative Ending is also present on this release and not on the Scream Factory Vincent Price Vol. II 

Included on Both the Vincent Price Vol II and this release include: Richard Matteson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth

Features Not included on the Kino re-release and included on the Vincent Price Vol II Includes a commentary track with David Del Valle and Derek Botelho 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Say His Name: Candyman (2021) Spoiler FREE Review

 Candyman (2021) Review

Directed By: Nia DaCosta

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

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. In fact, moments after leaving the theater, other early press were tweeting pretty much just that. 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.

The Subversive Comedy Overboard (1987) Blu Ray Review

Overboard (1987) Severin Films 8/24/2021

Directed By: Garry Marshall 

Starring: Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Edward Hermann, Roddy McDowall 

Disclaimer: Severin 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. 

      When Severin announced that they would license the MGM film Overboard (1987) many fans of '80s cinema was 'over' joyed while some others were upset that they went "mainstream". But, you know what? Severin has for decades now put out quality off-beat cinema and I would argue Overboard fits snuggly into that category. A rich woman named heiress named Joanna (Goldie Hawn) hires Dean (Kurt Russell) to fix her boat. She has a pretty bad accident which leaves her memory completely wiped. Dean, decides to gaslight Joanna into thinking they are married and in order to have someone to take care of himself, the house and his house full of boys. Meanwhile, her real husband Grant (Edward Hermann) sees this as a chance to leave Joanna and plays along. And, because it was the '80s this is a screwball comedy! 

       I have to say that I am DEEPLY fascinated with Overboard. Not because its a great or hell, even good movie but just how strange it is. I have to say from the outset the plot of Overboard is one of those "played-for-laughs" narratives that if you even take a few seconds to really think about is deeply upsetting. It's basically about a psycho that gaslights a woman and tricks her into being a servant to his brats who display many MANY warning signs of psychopathy. Here's the thing though. Creator intent is very important when re-evaluating any work of art and, Garry Marshall and Leslie Dixon (a female creator) did not I'm sure see this as dark or disturbing. Its worth noting that Dixon screenwriting credits include many classics including: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Freaky Friday (2003 remake) and Hairspray (2007) (musical remake). 

          As for the movie itself, while I'll be totally honest the comedy is a bit too all-over-the-place board I do find it has some '80s charm. Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell add a special magic to the film that, in my opinion is the glue that holds the movie together. Each has their own moments to shine but together they really have on-screen chemistry. It has a great supporting cast as well including the late great Edward Hermann who is perfectly cast in the role. Also includes Roddy McDowell who is always a win in whatever he's in. I am a fan of screwball comedies from the '30s and '40s and Marshall and Dixon are clearing paying loving homage to those earlier films. Overboard is a movie that seems odd for Severin but I was argue its not- the movie was a weird, even subversive '80s film that just so happens to be made with a budget and big named actors. 

Picture: Overboard was previously re-released in 2018 and now gets a brand-new 2k scan for 2021! Right away I noticed that the image has a consider brighter presentation. Colors and picture thankfully don't look over processed. Hues are not garish and this restoration feels in line with the films visual palate. Grain is heavy but looks overall well distributed throughout. Skin tones have a nice natural look and, in my opinion has a sharper edge over the previous home video release. Really well done overall. 

Sound: Overboard has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely and, no shocker the sound design is handled extremely well here. 

Extras: Overboard was previously released bare bones from Mill Creek but Severin has provided a brand new interview with screenwriter Leslie Dixon. Titled Writing Overboard (14mins) Dixon talks about getting her start into screenwriting. Its a really awesome candid interview and Dixon is engaging as a interview subject. Also included is a trailer. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Vincent Price in The Raven (1963) Kino Studio Classic Blu Ray Review

The Raven (1963) Kino Studio Classics 8/31/2021

Directed By: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson, Hazel Court

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. 

Other Vincent Price Reviews:

Master of the World HERE

My Review for The Last Man on Earth HERE

My Kino Studio Oct. Preview HERE 

    During his commentary track historian David Del Valle sums this movie up perfectly in saying that its, "The closet Corman ever came to directing a Disney film". And this kind of blew me away because even after seeing the movie a dozen times before, this comparison never dawned on me at least on a conscious level.  A magician named Dr. Craven (Vincent Price) must confront his deadly enemy Dr. Scarabus (Boris Karloff) and do battle in this silly, fun movie from Roger Corman and screenwriter Richard Matteson (I Am Legend scribe). 

    So, I want to get something out of the way first and foremost. This is by far not one of the best Corman-Poe-Price movies and it suffers from plot holes, the special effects are dated and as critics both modern and at the time have rightly pointed out it  tends to be on the hammy side. However, I think its in these so-called "flaws" where the movie is pure kitsch magic. Its worth noting that this movie is more comedy than horror but Corman and Matteson seem to lean into its more campy-elements and the movie thankfully never takes itself too seriously. The humor is VERY broad which may be a outright deal breaker. But, for me it tickles my funny-bone just right. I mean, how can you not see Peter Lorre dressed like a big black bird and not be on totally on board. The production design is really excellent especially when you consider that this was made on a Corman-level production. For example Dr. Scarabus's castle interiors are truly a sight to behold in my opinion. 

     Filled with castles, cobwebs, magic duels and Gothic costumes and set designs, Raven has a wonderfully spooky vibe. It's not mean-spirited and truly makes for an enjoyable Halloween seasonal watch. The cast is fantastic with Vincent Price maybe going a bit too cartoony but I think it works in the contexts of a fantasy-comedy. Boris Karloff takes a more serious approach and he and Price mash together beautifully. Peter Lorre is, as always a lot of fun and has some brilliant ad-libbed lines that are a hoot. The lovely Hazel Court co-stars and is able to hold her own among these titans. Co-starring is Jack Nicholson , yes, that Nicholson in a very early role. 

    Again this movie has its issues but I think its a hell of a lot of fun and it's been a firm favorite of mine since I was a kid. If you go in with the right expectations I think you will find a real diamond in the rough. Stark-Raven enjoyment to be had here. 

Picture: Kino Studio Classics impresses with this transfer. I have seen this movie many times both on DVD and HD from the previous release and its safe to say this movie looks great. There is a nice uptick in brightness and you really get a nice sense of clarity as well. Colors are big and bold and details like costume textures, sets and locales really stand out nicely. The colors also tend to have a nice warmth to them and isn't overly processed. Some artifacts are present but frankly not much and not enough to distract one from the overall nice looking product. 

Sound: The Raven has a very nice and I would even say big bold sounding DTS 2.0 track. 

Extras: I am going to be comparing this re-release with the Vincent Price Vol II re-release. I will be breaking down what is included and not included and whats brand-new to this release. 

I don't normally do this but I wanted to be a helpful guide for those wanting to know what's the difference content wise. 

PLEASE NOTE: Its not to say one release is better than the other-in fact I think both the box set and stand-alone releases are well worth owning. The Kino Studio release is certainly a more affordable way to own this movie on HD. 

David Del Valle provided a brand-new commentary for this release which is the most exciting part of this new release. For those of you not in the know, David Del Valle has been a historian for decades, having interviewed and formed close relationships with many many famous genre players included the primary cast of The Raven, including Price and Hazel Court and Roger Corman. Valle has written books and been in the trenches for forty-plus years. I say all this because you really couldn't find a better person to wax-poe-tically about this film. Valle is as always incredibly well researched and shares personal firsthand knowledge gained from years of research and frankly from actually talking to the principal players. David also doesn't shy away from some criticism towards Corman, but, never in a bitter or mean way.  At the end of the day he has a wit and charm that honestly is unmatched in any other historian. Well worth 'raven' about. 

Also New to this set is a Trailers from Hell w/Mick Garris 

Ported over from the Scream Factory Release and Included in the Kino Studio Release includes: Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven, Corman's Comedy of Poe

Things NOT ported over from the Scream release includes: Promo Record, Still Gallery and Introduction and Parting Words from Vincent Price. Its worth noting that these segments were unable to be ported over to the re-issue of Vincent Price Vol 1 no doubt due to being unable to re-license them. 


Monday, August 23, 2021

Blind Beast (1969) Arrow Video Blu Ray Review

Blind Beast (1969) Arrow Video 8/24/2021

Directed By: Yasuzo Masumura 

Starring: Eiji Funakoshi, Noriko Sengoku, Mako Midori 

Disclaimer: Arrow Video 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. 

     Blind Beast (1969) is based upon a short story by author Edogawa Rampo (Horrors of a Malformed Man) which tells the tale of a blind artist who, along with his mother kidnap a beautiful model. What ensues is a psychological battle of wins in this deeply unsettling late '60s film. Director Yasuzo Masumura who had made a staggering amount of films in his career truly crafts a utterly strange non-traditional horror film. 

      I have never seen a movie that was this obsessed with tactile sensations and eroticism. This is something that is Michael Mann lightly explored in 1986's Manhunter (based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon). Having said that, this movie delves into this in a way that it more disturbing and perverse.  Few movies can truly lay claim to the mantle of psycho-sexual and Blind Beast certainly does. The movie starts out as a off-kilter and surreal dark erotic nightmare and only gets weirder as the narrative spirals into pure madness. Beast doesn't hold back when it comes to tackling some really unnerving subject matters such as incest, sexual domination, and mutilation as sexual pleasure. Masumura takes this theme of art and eroticism and fittingly amps it up to eleven. One of the most amazing set-pieces I think I've seen in a long time has got to be the warehouse that is filled with giant sculptors of various body parts such as, eyes, breasts, lips etc. It's also amazing its almost overwhelming from a visual standpoint but not in a bad way. 

The film can be a bit on the talkie side but I think that it has enough bizarre set-pieces and plotting to keep it engaging nonetheless. Highly strange and grotesquely sexual, Blind Beast is a film unlike anything I've ever seen before. A must watch. 

Picture: Blind Beast is another stellar restoration from Arrow. Beast features a pretty noticeable brightness and has a high level of clarity especially given the films over forty-years old at this point. It's also impressive that there is almost no artifacts or scratches and fans really do get a nice clean nearly pristine looking print. There are some issues but pretty minor. Images at times have a overly soft look to them and there are a few times when things looks a bit washed out or not as sharp as they could have been. I also noticed some slight pixelization at times. 

Sound: Blind Beast has a DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the score and sound design. 

Extras: Blind Beast features a commentary track by Earl Jackson, Introduction by Tony Rayns (18mins), Blind Beast: Masumura the Supersensualist (10mins) A Video essay by Edogawa Ramp scholar Seth Jacobwitz, Trailer and Image Galley 

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Warner Bros. UHD Review

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) Warner Bros. 8/24/2021

Directed By: Michael Chaves 

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Eugenie Bondurant, John Noble, Ruairi O'Conner 

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. 

     The Conjuring (2013) was a modern classic that felt like the rare time when a truly fun, interesting and at times scary movie was made from a big studio. The movie made on a twenty-million dollar budget raked in over 300-million at the box office not to mention home video sales. It, of course got a sequel that is every bit as good as the original, with some liking it more. It too made a lot of money. And, of course you had a ton of spin-off movies. Though the spin-offs were alright, fans really wanted a sequel in the mainline series. Fans were less excited when it was announced that James Wan would not return to screenwriting and directing duties as he was off doing the Aquaman sequel. If that wasn't bad enough studios were trying to navigate the strange COVID cinema-landscape. 

        Conjuring 3 aka Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do was panned by critics but made over 200 million on only a 39 million budget. So, here's the thing. I dont think the movie deserves the hate it gets but I can also freely admit its probably the weakest out of the three mainline entries (not including the numerous spin-offs). Let me first say I think Michael Chaves is a very good director. In fact, Wan hand picked him to carry on the series. Which I think is something that doesn't gets lost in the conversation. The movie opens with a fantastic horror set piece that truly is a high point for the series. Chaves has his own style but the movie also visually and thematically feel very much like a third link into the series.  Also, I noticed some people didn't like this aspect but I think that the movie has a mystery within the narrative that keeps everything engaging. The other complaint is that the movie is light on scares. While that is an issue (more on that in a bit) I still think the movie has enough nice creepy and terrifying moments. Michael Burgess conjures up some dark magic here and, I think that say what you will, this is a great looking film. I would even say  this is the best looking film out of the trilogy. 

      The magic that Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson bring to this series cannot be understated. It sounds super cliché but damnit, they really are the bloody beating heart of these films. I like how threads from previous films are brought back and wisely Chaves understands that their relationship should always be the centerpiece. This further helps connect part 3 not only tonally but thematically as well. My worry was that this new director wasn't going to understand Ed and Lorraine and how they would feel different personality wise. And, I dont think thats the case. I'm also sure that Wilson and Farmiga had input on how their characters. 

    The supporting cast is also on-fire and includes Sarah Catherine Hook (Monsterland) who, in a short amount of time is proving to be a very excellent and talented actor. Also includes very good performances by Ruairi O' Conner (Handsome Devil) and Jillian Hilliard (Wanda Vision). Hilliard its worth noting is incredible as David and further helps give the film its beating heart.  

      Here's the thing: the movie suffers from shaggy story beats, and it feels like its missing that special something that Wan brought. Having said that I was totally on board for the wild-ride and, as I mentioned above I felt that the mystery angle helped further keep the narrative interesting. 

Okay, I know this was a long review but you know, I had a lot of feelings on the film and its backlash. Conjuring 3 has some issues but, you know what? I really enjoyed it and I think it can totally stand along side the previous mainline Conjuring films. 

Picture: Conjuring 3 marks the first in the trilogy (not included the bigger Conjuring Universe films) to have a UHD release. Well, I am here to say that the wait is well worth it! As I mentioned in my review, Conjuring despite its issues is a fantastic looking film. So, its really nice to see this movie looking its best. Images are incredibly sharp with colors having a nice amount of warmth. Blacks have a nice depth and darkly lit scenes really benefit from this upgrade. 

Sound: Conjuring 3 has a big bombastic at times sound design and its nice to see a Dolby Atmos track. Audiences is in for a huge and robust sound offering here. Those with a nice surround system will find that, in my opinion this track conjures a nice 3D sound that I think helps complement the atmosphere. 

Extras: Extras are located on the Blu Ray disc and includes:  "By Reason of Demonic Possession" – An in depth look at the true story that inspired the movie, "The Occultist" – Meet the terrifying new addition to the Conjuring Universe, "Exorcism of Fear" – Delve into the making of the movie and the chilling exorcism scene that opens the film", "DC Horror Presents The Conjuring: The Lover #1" – A video comic that takes you deeper into the Conjuring Universe

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Kristina Soderbaum Double Feature: Immensse/The Great Sacrifice Kino Classics Blu Ray Review

Immense/The Great Sacrifice (1943-1944) Kino Classics 7/27/2021

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. 

Immensse (1943) 

Directed By: Veit Harlan 

Starring: Kristina Soderbaum, Carl Raddatz 

     I went into both Immensse and The Great Sacrifice totally blind, only knowing they were German films released during WWII. The film loosely based on a novel of the same name follows a seemingly doomed romance between the sweet and innocent Elisabeth (Kristina Soderbaum) and a renowned composer named Reinhart (Carl Raddatz). 

     With a lot of German movies from this period I always feel automatically uncomfortable knowing these films were made under the Nazi regime. Indeed, the movie leans heavily into themes of the ideal woman and how she must make certain sacrifices. Its hard to divorce the movie from the conditions it was made but, thankfully the movie doesn't feel like outright propaganda. The movie is somewhat of a mixed bag for me. The acting is great, as are the photography and use of locales. And, the music is also for the most part a nice layer. Still, the movie is sappy, and the characters are a bit on the flat side. Moreover, there are some pretty cringe-worthy moments as you might expect, especially with a movie that deals with gender politics from the '40s. Also, as much as I enjoyed the music, some of the cues are a bit over-the-top even for a romance film.  Immensse may not entirely work but it is important to have a historical document of a very specific time, place and wrongheaded ideals of a nation. 

Picture: A title card for Immensse reads: Two separate versions of Immensse was created for its initial release. Each was assembled from the original camera negatives, which sometimes differed greatly in terms of content and composition. An Agfacolor print of one these versions has been preserved by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv. It was the basic for this 2015 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stifung. Labwork was performed by ARRI Media in Munich. 

I have to say that this restoration really is impressive. The colors feel like they are really well handled and the film has a sharpness and clarity overall. There is some artifacts and some slight color temp flux but this is no doubt due to the films condition. I also cut some slack for a movie that is over seventy-years old at this point. Grain is smoothed throughout and you can tell a lot of clean up and work has gone into this film. 

Sound: Immensse has a strong DTS 2.0. Dialogue comes through nicely as does the music. No unwanted background noise or hiss which tends to be an issue sometimes with older films. 

Extras: Extras include a great commentary by historian Olaf Moller. Moller has done other tracks and adds a nice amount of historical context to the film. 

The Great Sacrifice (1944)

Directed By: Veit Harlan 

Starring: Kristina Soderbaum, Carl Raddatz 

     1944'sThe Great Sacrifice was directed by Veit Harlan and starring Kristina Soderbaum and Carl Raddatz and released a year after Immensse. The film follows a doomed love triangle between a married woman who is dying of typhus. Fun! So, I admit that I am pretty new to German cinema, especially ones made during the height of WWII. Thankfully, this film much like Immensse doesn't lean heavily into Nazi propaganda. Though, it does have some Nazi ideals such as a woman's place in the home not to mention literally quoting Nietzsche. Cringe-worthy gender politics aside the movie is a pretty compelling drama with really good acting from all involved, especially leads Kristina Soderbaum and Carl Raddatz. Have have a natural ease and chemistry that come to life. 

     Harlan also really does a good job at directing and showcasing some really excellent set pieces. His use of outdoor locales are also well done. The cinematography is well done and the way shots are composed and blocked are well thought out. Big bold colors are also used effectively. Though, as you can no doubt tell from my very brief summary the movie is riff with melodrama that reached near operatic levels. I will say that you will either be here for the drama and bleakness or you`ll find it a slog. The movie does get pretty bleak but it never feels like its a depressing watch and most of the film is actually fairly light until the third act. Out of this and Immensse I think Sacrifice is the better of the two but both has there high and low points. 

Picture: There is a title card about the restoration that says: Two separate versions of Opfergang were created for its initial release, each of which differed slightly in content and composition. Preserved by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in Wiesbaden are the original camera negative and a duplicate sound negative of the secondary version. These assets were the foundation of the restoration preformed by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in 2015. Color-grading was reference was an Agfacolor print preserved by the Filmmuseum der Landeshapuptsadt Dusseldorf. One missing scene was replaced with footage from a print of the primary version, with severely faded colors. 

Like Immensse, The Great Sacrifice looks great. Colors well showcased and really pop out. Skin tones look natural and locales have a stunning beauty to them. Grain is actually not that heavy thankfully and artifacts and noise have for the most part been totally cleaned up. Its a print that clearly a lot of hard work went into and for film fans and scholars alike its probably the best its ever looked. 

Sound: The Great Sacrifice has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through strong as does the films score. 

Extras: The Great Sacrifice  has a commentary by historians Alexandra Heller Nicholas and John Nelson. I am a big fan of both these historians and they do a great job at providing a really engaging and well researched track. Anyone interested in a deep dive into this film will want to listen to this after your initial viewing. 

Final Thoughts: So, I typically don't do these for single releases, only for big box sets etc. However, I do when I feel like I have more thoughts/feelings on the films. I am pretty reluctant to watch German films from WWII era because I don't want to sit through what feels like gross-propaganda. It's true the director of both of these films made some infamous anti-Semitic films and therefore I felt bad for even praising the directors work. But, I was tasked with reviewing these films in the context of singular art that sadly was made by a incredibly awful person. I said this in my review but its worth repeating, both films are not Nazi propaganda even though some of the ideals do creep in. You cant really divorce the propaganda entirely from German era cinema from this period but thankfully these films were more for entertainment and not for brainwashing. I also think death of the author very much can be applied here. I have been pushing myself to explore more world cinema from the '40s and '50s and that sadly sometimes means having the baggage of when and how these works of art came into being. Most film scholars, critics and film fans understand that I can like aspects of these movies without agreeing with the underlying politics. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Dario Argento's The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971) Arrow Video UHD Review!

The Cat O' Nine Tails (1971) Arrow Video 8/24/2021

Directed By: Dario Argento 

Starring: Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak, Horst Frank

Disclaimer: Arrow Video 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. 

For my Review of Arrow's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Click HERE

For my Review of Dead & Buried UHD Release Click HERE

1971's The Cat O' Nine Tails is the first of what would be considered Dario Argentos 'animal trilogy' which includes Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Nine Tails and Four Flies on Gray Velvet. It's worth noting that Velvet has yet to see a US HD release and indeed got a very limited DVD release in the States some years ago. 

       Argentos Cat O' Nine Tails is a kind of awkward footnote in the directors body of work. It's not as groundbreaking as his first feature Bird with the Crystal nor does it reach the heights of his later works like Deep Red (1975) and of course, what many consider his crown jewel, Suspiria (1977). While not nearly as loved as the aforementioned works I think that Nine Tails is an underrated entry into the Italian directors bloody-body of work. I can freely admit that the movie isn't as well crafted as later films but it does manage to weave together a razor-wired web of suspicion, weird through lines and of course murder. It's story isn't that groundbreaking but it has enough twists and turns and Argentos pension for bizarre side-stories that keeps it entertaining. Nine Tails isn't nearly as gory as the directors later films there is a intensity that makes the murders unnerving. 

     The cast is excellent with Karl Malden (On the Waterfront) of all people playing a blind man that gets caught up in the murder-mystery. Malden gives the movie a polish and whilst he comes very close he never goes full ham. It's in my opinion one of his better later in life performances. James Franciscus is also great as a plucky reporter who must team up with Malden to solve the case. The Cat O' Nine Tails doesn't have the kind of precession and grand-operatic style that other Argento films have but, I still think its a damn good mystery with enough sleaze, gore and twists to keep it ever-engaging.  

Picture: There has been a lot of talk about Arrow's UHD releases and if they are worthy of upgrades. I really liked the face lift they gave to Plumage and, I think equally as good is Cat Nine Tails. I noticed right away that the beginning night scenes provided a much needed uptick in brightness and definition. Indeed the entire film has a nice balance of contrasting color with things like reds almost bursting off the screen. I will say that grain is a bit on the heavy side and images in the background tend to lose some sharpness. I still think this is the best this movie has ever looked, Similar to Bird, skin tones have a nice warm natural look to them and locales, sets and costumes stand out nicely.  

Sound: Cat features a purrfect Dolby Atmos track. What fans can expect is, in my opinion an incredibly powerful track that showcases the off-beat jazzy score and top-notch sound design. I noticed how the sound has a nice complex 3D feeling and font heavy stuff like dialogue comes through nicely. Overall, this is a really great sound presentation. 

Extras: Extras have been ported over from the previous HD release in 2017. 

This includes Commentary by Alan Jones and Kim Newman, Nine Tails (15mins) A new interview with Dario Argento, The Writer O' Many Tales (34mins) New interview the co-writer Dardano Sacchetti. 
Child Star (11mins) New interview with actress Cinzia De Carolis, Giallo in Turin (15mins) New Interview with location manager Angelo Lacono. 

Also included is: The Original Ending (3mins), Trailers and Image Galleries. 

Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) Paramount Presents Blu Ray Review

Nashville (1975) Paramount Pictures 8/10/2021

Directed By: Robert Altman

Starring: Lily Tomlin, Keith Carradine, Barbara Harris, Ronee Blakley, Henry Gibson 

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 Present Reviews:

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

      Considered his masterpiece, Robert Altman's Nashville (1975) tells multiple stories revolving around the Nashville music scene.  I confess I wasn't a fan of Nashville when I first saw it. This was very early in my exploration of Robert Altman and I just found the movie to be...a lot. Later on when my taste in movie matured I re-watched Nashville and I saw it in a completely different light. I think that most people not very familiar with Altman's style to find the film to be bit daunting. After all the movie is nearly three-hours long and has a dizzying amount of characters and plot threads. 

     The brilliance of Altman's film is it truly acts as not only a time capsule of American life and music in the mid '70s but also acts as a nearly perfect satire of Americana, politics, the music industry and music stars. The movie is of course jam-packed with amazing actors including but not limited to Lily Tomlin, Karen Black, Shelley Duvall, Ned Beatty, Jeff Goldblum,  and Elliott Gould as himself. This movie is overflowing with talent and its always amazing to see these huge ensemble pieces. Everybody is given their time to shine and, it feels like everyone is on the exact same page. 

    Altman was at the height of his creative power in the '70s and Nashville comes off his streak of hits like MASH (1970) and The Long Goodbye (1973). The film is a perfect blend of dry-sardonic comedy, music and compelling story. The scope of it is huge and its the kind of film that would never ever get made today. 

Picture: Nashville has a new 4k scan. I have to say this is another slam dunk for Paramount. The visuals have a nice refreshed look with colors that pop and everything has a nice sharp defined look. Locales, costumes and sets really stand out with this new 4k scan. The color tempt. is handled extremely well and things thankfully dont look over worked nor do they look washed out. Grain is also maintained really well and isn't chunky. I don't think this has ever looked this good on home video before. 

Sound: Nashville has a DTS 5.1 track. The movie is filled with music and I love that the movie gets that extra kick. The musical numbers have a really nice huge sound on a 5.1 track and though the movie doesn't have a lot of big effects the sound does have some good moments of 3D sound. Just like the picture, I can tell a lot has gone into making this movie literally and figuratively sing. 

Extras: Includes a Commentary by Robert Altman. New feature 24 Tracks (15mins) A new featurette on the making of Nashville. Includes a archival interview with Robert Altman (filmed in 1999) and new interview with Stephen Altman (Filmed in Dec of 2020 via Home Computer) The production assistant and Robert Altman's son. 
Also includes a trailer.