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Friday, April 18, 2014

LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER -- DVD review by porfle



(NOTE: I reviewed a barebones screener for this.  The press release states that it will come "packed with exclusive extras, including deleted scenes, interviews, music videos, media appearances and more.")

It didn't take long for me to figure out that LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER (2013) was your usual WWE-inspired "sports entertainment" production with colorful fictional contestants battling according to a scripted storyline.

It didn't take much longer after that, unfortunately, to ascertain that this particular example of the genre not only lacked the budget, gloss, and relative excitement of the WWE, but that it failed even to match the dubious standards set by the old TV series "G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling)."

Whereas "G.L.O.W." presented over-the-top archetypal characters such as the all-American girl, the psycho, the farmer's daughter, the punk rocker, the fascist femme fatale, etc. performing broad farce before, after, and during some ferocious ring action, the women of L.F.C. are barely distinguishable from one another apart from race and body type.  They're also a dull bunch whose personas, if one can call them that, are as bland and limp as their faux fighting skills. 


The low-rent arena doesn't even offer the excitement of live spectators, instead giving us a blurry simulated crowd undulating in some kind of green-screen limbo.  The fights themselves consist of a pair of lingerie-clad babes hopping around throwing weak jabs and slappy kicks and then rolling around for awhile until, mercifully, a horn blows and there's a judges' decision. 

The image has the murky, cheap-video look of a full-screen picture stretched into widescreen, with jittery camerawork and choppy editing used to inject some vitality into the listless "bouts."  Half the fight time consists of cutaways to talking heads blathering endlessly to disguise the fact that nobody involved seems to know how to actually choreograph this kind of action.

The heads doing most of the talking are L.F.C. founder Roni Taylor, a statuesque redhead who supposedly saw two ring girls get into a fight during a MMA match once and noticed that the audience was more interested in them than in the actual bout, and her husband Jason Parsons, a former MMA fighter who coaches one half of the girls. 


The other half are coached by musclebound former wrestler Arik Loegen, whose extreme vanity, horndoggishness, and cluelessness about mixed martial arts (along with just about everything else) provide the show with its only real comedy, meager as it is.

We also get endless interview segments with the girls themselves,  who make the lady wrestlers of "G.L.O.W." seem like Emmy contenders.  Part of this can be blamed on a script that doesn't give them anything interesting to say, but it's clear that they weren't hired for their acting skills, which are totally non-convincing even within the context of a scripted comedy-based storyline. 

Anyone watching this for the titillation factor is likely in for a disappointment since none of the contestants are actual knockouts and the lingerie they wear isn't overly exciting.  There is some eye candy, of course, depending on each individual viewer's tastes--my favorites were blonde bodybuilder Feather Hadden and generously-endowed snake handler Jenevieve Serpentine. 


Tara "Guillotine" Gaddy manages to generate a bit of ring excitement with her signature move, which consists of smothering her opponent with her breasts (a tactic she refers to as "The Motorboat") while a bout between the two Asian girls in the group,  buxom Helen Mei and Hawaii native Susan Nakata, has a nice moment or two.  A surprise finish in the mismatch between muscular Hadden and diminutive Jody Connacher, while predictable, stretches credulity even for a show of this nature. 

At any rate, these limply staged fights and the endless interview clips that augment them are hardly anything to go out of your way to see.  Most of the between-match plotline is boring as well, with the only really sexy scene I can recall being a brief one in which the girls try on some new lingerie in front of their dressing room mirror.  Otherwise, the terminally unentertaining LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER is pretty much tapped out from the starting bell.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MR. JONES -- DVD review by porfle


Throw in elements of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PICKMAN'S MODEL along with a dash of the old Rod Serling/ "Night Gallery" vibe, shake furiously, and then bake for about half an hour too long,  and you'll have something similar to MR. JONES (2013).

It starts out like one of those "oh no, we're lost and getting loster" ordeals like the recent IN FEAR, until--surprise!--Scott (Jon Foster, PANDORUM) and Penny (Sarah Jones, "Sons Of Anarchy") actually find the place they're looking for.  It's a picturesque little love nest in the sticks where these young city dwellers hope to get away from it all while Scott soaks up inspiration for a nature documentary he's hoping to film.

Cabin fever and ennui quickly drag their good intentions down until the former lovebirds are almost at each other's throats. Until one day, they run across some strange "scarecrows" in the woods, and discover that a nearby neighbor is none other than the mysterious "Mr. Jones", a reclusive artist whose primitive work is highly sought-after by art galleries and who is known to mail his grotesque scarecrows to ordinary people, seemingly at random, who then report being strangely affected by them.


Suddenly Scott's documentary has a new and more sensational subject, but as curiosity gets the better of them, they end up finding out way more about Mr. Jones than they bargained for.  At this point, the BLAIR WITCH first-person-camera trope starts to make a little more sense storywise (although it never completely stops being somewhat awkward) as Scott and Penny venture into Mr. Jones' creepy shack in the woods and down into the dark, shadowy sub-level with its mazelike tunnels (shades of PICKMAN'S  MODEL). 

Before their fateful encounter with the wraithlike title character,  however, Scott makes a foray into the city to interview people about the enigmatic artist.  This gives director Karl Mueller (in his feature debut) the chance to include some additional faces including those of David Clennon (the dope-addled "Palmer" of John Carpenter's THE THING), Diane Neal ("NCIS", DIRTY MOVIE),  Stanley B. Herman (BLACK SWAN), and STAR TREK's ill-fated "Captain Robau",  Faran Tahir.  Their ominous testimony about Jones and his work, which is somehow related to the dark zone where reality and nightmares overlap, causes Scott to reconsider trying to get closer to him.

Meanwhile, Penny has stayed behind to keep an eye on things and has a much more personal encounter with both the art and the artist when she sees Mr. Jones putting up a few scarecrows in the forest at night.  This sequence and those within the subterranean maze, especially those involving Scott losing his way in the dark and hearing blood-curdling whispers and animal growls (this film's sound design is very well done), keep the first half of MR. JONES keenly compelling with the promise of some truly frightening developments to come.


Unfortunately, the whole thing begins to drag as the concept of the real world clashing with the nightmare world gives way to extended goofing-around montages and other cinematic confetti that is neither suspenseful, scary, nor particularly interesting in general.  Several effective moments surface amidst all of this, but not enough to sustain or reinforce the mood established earlier.  The final scenes are more tedious and confusing than scary, and ultimately anti-climactic as well when the most obvious "Night Gallery" ending drops into place with a thud.

Jon Foster and Sarah Jones give it their all and manage to make their characters both believable and sympathetic.  Writer-director Mueller, who also co-wrote the fine apocalyptic thriller THE DIVIDE, does his best to sell this tortured tale and almost pulls it off.  In fact, I can imagine some people enjoying it more than I did as long as they don't find some aspects as overly familiar and strenuously overdone. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

The lead-up to Scott and Penny's final encounter with MR. JONES is atmospheric and intriguing, with an initial premise that had my imagination a-flitter with expectations.  The movie didn't quite fulfill them, but heck, since I've seen way worse than this earnest effort I just can't resist giving it a partial recommendation.

Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray



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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DEATH DO US PART -- DVD review by porfle



One of the oldest and tired-est horror subgenres is the hoary story of the young party animals spending a fun weekend in an isolated location, only to get scared, stalked, and slashed by some Jason-like psycho killer.  Every once in a while, however, a movie comes along that proves the old genre's still got a little life left in her. 

DEATH DO US PART (2014) does this and more--in fact, it's been awhile since I started watching a movie with such low expectations only to end up being blown away to this degree.   Everything we've all seen a thousand times is right here--same premise, same set-up, same cabin in the woods, same, same, same--and yet how it's done and by whom is what makes the difference between just another piece of dreck and what, for me anyway, has the potential to become a genuine cult classic.

Writers Ryan Copple and Peter and Julia Benson know they're treading over familiar ground here, so instead of just dishing out the same rehashed story they infuse it with every imaginative twist and turn they can come up with and then supercharge it with exceptionally good filmmaking. 


Nicholas Humphries, whose previous directorial output appears to consist entirely of short subjects and some TV episodes, proves himself more than ready for feature films by giving this one a look and style beyond its budget and by keeping the pace at a fever pitch from start to finish. 

Even the familiar stereotypes are a little more interesting than usual thanks to a dash of realism and a cast that can act.  The Bensons play Kennedy Jamieson and Ryan Harris, a couple of lovebirds celebrating their impending marriage by having a "Jack and Jill" stag party in a secluded cabin with a small group of friends and family.  Unsurprisingly, the previously unseen cabin turns out to be a dump haunted by a crazy backwoods caretaker named Bo (Dave Collette), who looks like he'd be right at home stalking and slashing city folk.

Kennedy, we discover, has her own history of emotional problems and is on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck as her nuptials grow nearer. She insists on bringing her wedding dress along--the same one we see her wearing at the beginning of the film as the police find her staggering, blood-splattered and delirous, along the road.


Emilie Ullerup (HUNT TO KILL, "Smallville") is the lonesome Emily, who fears losing her best friend Kennedy to Ryan, while the bride-to-be's sister Hannah (Christine Chatelain, FINAL DESTINATION) has a really big and potentially devastating secret that she's doing her best to keep.  Chet (Kyle Cassie) is the usual obnoxious party animal, while Ryan's mysterious cousin Derrick (Benjamin Ayres, who reminds me of a young Billy Zane), is mixed up in some very dangerous business and has an ulterior motive for coming along. 

Things progress as you might guess with the group's party plans eventually interrupted by sudden terror and death.  But instead of simply presenting us with a clearly-identified "boogeyman" and then serving up a series of gore-enriched kills, DEATH DO US PART does something a lot more difficult and infinitely more satisfying by keeping the killer's identity a mystery, which not only helps generate edge-of-your-seat suspense but also keeps the story consistently scintillating and surprising. 

Due to the various jagged edges in this mismatched group's dynamic,  everyone is a potential suspect with a motive to kill.  So along with the jump scares and blood-chilling suspense (director Humphries does "creepy" right) we're constantly second-guessing who the killer is and changing our minds about it from one scene to the next. 


Even when the final reveal happens, or we think it happens, this story isn't through pulling the rug out from under us.  Which is so much more interesting than just sitting through a succession of boring death scenes garnished with gore effects and followed by the obligatory "Chucky" ending in which the killer seems to be dead and then keeps coming back to life over and over again.

The cast is terrific, with delightfully buxom Julia Benson ("SGU Stargate Universe", "Harper's Island") really selling us on her character during each stage of Kennedy's emotional turmoil.  The acting in general is much more realistic than in the usual slasher flick, and while the script contains an undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek humor, it's all much more subtle than SCREAM's self-aware self-awareness.  And never does it reach a point in which DEATH DO US PART is anything less than a full-blooded and richly effective horror flick with an old-school feel. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a making-of featurette.

It seems to me that taking a seemingly worn-out genre and doing something worthwhile with it is one of the hardest things filmmakers can do, especially when so many others have already had a go at it.  That's what makes DEATH DO US PART so impressive, and such a joy for the hungry horror fan.  It's like a full-course dinner after a steady diet of junk food, and it's done to a tantalizing turn. 

Buy it at Amazon.com


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1" Premieres in Belgium April 14th


RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH VOL 1 PREMIERES IN BELGIUM AT THE BRUSSELS INTERNATIONAL FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL MONDAY NIGHT APRIL 14TH. LEGENDARY DIRECTOR LLOYD KAUFMAN TO BE IN ATTENDANCE

3 1/2 out of 4 Stars!
"Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1 is undeniably funny, brave and so unlike anything else being put out today that it practically demands respect." - FANGORIA



(Read our review HERE.)

New York, N.Y., April 11, 2014 - Greetings from Tromaville! While Troma President and Creator of the "Toxic Avenger," Lloyd Kaufman prepares to unveil "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" in Helsinki, Finland at the Night Visions Film Festival, the Troma Team is proud to announce that the country of Belgium will soon honor the legendary director and his latest Tro-Masterpiece.

On the evening of Monday April 14th (technically Tuesday April 15th) the 32nd Annual Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival will host the Official Belgium Premiere of "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" with a Special Late Night Screening beginning at 12:30am at the Centre for Fine Arts.

Director and Star, Lloyd Kaufman will be in attendance as an honorary guest to introduce his sistine chapel film to Belgium and participate in a crowd interactive Q & A session afterwards. Lloyd Kaufman, along with the Toxic Avenger, will be available for FREE Photo Opportunities and Signings on all of your favorite Tromabilia.

Having made it's World Premiere at the Cannes film festival, been selected by the Museum of Modern Art for their prestigious 2013 "Contenders" series, and been honored by the world-renowned American Cinematheque, "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" continues to premiere across the world picking up critical acclaim along the way.

Troma Entertainment is proud to present it to Belgium for the first time ever at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. The screening begins at 8:30am, come out and celebrate Troma's 40th Anniversary and get ready to Return to Nuke 'Em High!

For more information on the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival please visit or to purchase your tickets for the Official Belgium Premiere of Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1:
Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1 Belgium Premiere

Here's what the critics are saying about "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1!"

Interview Magazine -
"People were cheering, yelling, laughing, jumping out of their seats, and just contributing wholeheartedly to the onscreen festivities. It was amazing."

Sundance Channel -
"...delicious sci-fi horror comedy"

Dread Central -
"...Return the Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1, the film is ultimately Troma
at it's best.
"

Electronic press kit for "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1"
Theatrical trailer for "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1"

MORE ON TROMA'S "RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH: VOLUMES 1 & 2":

Quentin Tarantino has long been a fan and friend of Troma Entertainment. When he made "Kill Bill" in two volumes to create an 'Event Film,' Lloyd Kaufman took note: "Michael Herz and I decided that to mark Troma's upcoming 40th year, we, too, would produce an 'Event Film' in two volumes just like Quentin did," said Kaufman, "except slightly less lavish in the budget department."

"Return to Nuke 'Em High: Volumes 1 & 2", directed by Lloyd Kaufman, is a hilarious, thoughtful sci-fi Event Film with themes ripped straight from today's headlines: the contamination and degradation of the world's food supply, rampant bullying and LGBTQ love triumphing over prejudice and violence. The film-a revisiting of Troma's 1986 Class of Nuke 'Em High-is in the same vein as other classics such as Class of 1984, Rock 'n' Roll High School and Carrie, but it's seen through the unique vision of Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team.

Welcome to Tromaville High School, where, unfortunately, the glee club has mutated into a vicious gang of Cretins. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lesbian lovers, must fight not only the Cretins, mutants and monsters, but also the evil Tromorganic Foodstuffs conglomerate. Can they and Kevin the Wonder Duck save Tromaville High School and the world?

Read more about the upcoming film "Night of the Witch" Lloyd Kaufman's collaboration with Finland's Roger! Pictures

About Troma Entertainment
Established in 1974 by Yale friends Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma Entertainment is one of the longest-running independent movie studios in United States history, and it's one of the best-known names in the industry. World famous for movie classics like Kaufman's "The Toxic Avenger", "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead", "Class of Nuke 'em High", "Mother's Day" and "Tromeo & Juliet", Troma's seminal films are now being remade as big-budget mainstream productions by the likes of Brett Ratner, Richard Saperstein, Akiva Goldsman and Steven Pink. Among today's luminaries whose early work can be found in Troma's 800+ film library are Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Jenna Fischer, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Costner, Fergie, Vincent D'Onofrio, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gunn and Eli Roth. Troma's latest productions are "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Volumes 1 & 2". Visit Troma at www.troma.com, www.lloydkaufman.com, www.twitter.com/lloydkaufman and www.tromapast.tumblr.com.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

95ERS: TIME RUNNERS -- DVD review by porfle



The chintzy cover art and awkward title led me to think this was going to be a SyFy-type movie, but 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS, aka "95ers: Echoes" (2013) is way too good to be mistaken for such piffle.  In fact, this densely plotted and visually stimulating adventure is so sharply made that it kept me keenly interested even when I wasn't sure what the hell was going on.

A surehanded directorial debut by Thomas Gomez Durham, it's the story of a beautiful FBI agent named Sally Biggs (the director's wife,  Alesandra Durham) who has the ability to turn back time for nine seconds whenever she wants to.  This means that she never drops a dish, always wins at guessing games, and makes every shot in pool, since she has the luxury of unlimited second chances.

Why she's like this and how it affects the time-space continuum in general is just, as one character puts it, the tip of the tip of an iceberg which also involves the strange disappearance of her scientist husband Horatio Astaire Biggs (Joel Bishop, SAINTS AND SOLDIERS), who was doing advanced time travel research, and a larger storyline in which future time travelers escaping from a devastating, ongoing war have been causing multiple timeline distortions with catastrophic results.



Believe me, there's too much to all  this to try and encapsulate here, especially since Thomas Durham and his co-writer brother James have conceived a vast "95ers" backstory which they hope to parlay into a multimedia franchise.  Only time will tell, as it were, whether or not this will extend beyond the current film, which had a gestation period of at least five years. 

In its own way, the "95ers" saga is just as scintillating as the original MATRIX (with the potential for more substantial sequels).  It's the kind of time travel story that goes way beyond  simply jumping from one date to another, exploring all the ramifications of how messing around with timelines can disrupt both individual lives and the fate of humankind itself. 

Agent Sally Biggs finds this out for herself when faced with an opportunity to erase her marriage and current pregnancy due to second thoughts about her relationship with her missing husband.  She's unexpectedly given this chance to change things by her mysterious boss, Hamilcar Grandon (Terence Goodman), whose motives we're never quite sure of. 



Grandon, who knows much more than he's telling about Horatio's disappearance and time travel in general, is aware of Sally's time-rewind abilities and is able to thwart them in creative ways--some of the film's most exciting scenes involve the two of them battling for control of the situation at hand.

Meanwhile, Sally must also deal with ghostly visions of Horatio--which may be echoes of other timelines--and attacks from unknown assailants from the future.  Her investigations into seemingly paranormal occurrences (one might call them "X-files") may be the key to solving the mystery. 

At any rate, we're thrust right into the middle of the Durham brothers' grand "95ers" universe without any explanation and expected to just hold on tight and figure it out as we go along.  Which I managed to do, while enjoying myself very much along the way.  The film is deftly directed and consistently engaging even when nothing's going on besides Horatio's voiceover accompanying a montage of images from his diary as Sally pores over it. 

The action scenes are especially fun when Sally's time-rewind power is put to use fine-tuning things until she manages to extricate herself from her current peril.  Her personal life also yields the film's more sentimental moments as she agonizes over whether or not to change her own timeline and nullify her marriage.  A theater group led by her sister-in-law (Anne Sward, who played Lyla Montgomery on "As the World Turns" back in the 80s) influences her decision by rehearsing Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in her home, causing her to ruminate upon past,  present, and future.


Alesandra Durham is a dynamic and charismatic lead, with able support by the rest of the cast.  Some scenes involving extreme emoting are handled rather awkwardly, but these instances are rare.

SPFX and the overall look of the film are very well done for such a relatively modest production.  James Durham supplies a lush musical score that also includes several songs and some library tracks.  A quick glance at the credits finds them full of Durhams and other names, with various people doing double-duty or more. 

The DVD from Inception Media Group is in 16 x 9 (1.78:1) widescreen with 5.1 digital surround sound and subtitles in English.  Extras include a homey commentary track with Tom and Ali Durham, deleted and extended scenes, and trailers for this and other Inception releases.

After such low expectations,  I was delighted to find 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS to be so well and fully realized, in addition to being a stimulating and invigorating sci-fi fun ride filled with timelines in flux, tipping points, convergences, and all that other good stuff. Now if only the Durhams had access to the budgets that were squandered on the conceptually-challenged MATRIX sequels...

Official site
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