HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Animal Planet and Genius Products Debut Three New DVD Titles This February

"Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One, "Whale Wars" and "Untamed and Uncut" Debut On DVD This February From Animal Planet And Genius Products


"Escape To Chimp Eden" Season OneCaptivating And Bittersweet Series About Chimpanzee Rescue And Rehabilitation Swings Onto Two-Disc DVD February 3

SANTA MONICA, CA - Journey into the depths of South Africa and experience the fascinating events at Chimp Eden when "Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One arrives as a two-disc DVD for the first time on February 3 from Genius Products and Animal Planet. Heartfelt series follows conservationist Eugene Cussons, a South African rescue director for the Jane Goodall Institute's Chimp Eden, as he travels throughout war-torn African countries to rescue neglected and abused chimps. Once brought to the sanctuary of Chimp Eden, Eugene works hands-on with these challenging chimps, sometimes putting his own safety on the line to teach them basic skills such as climbing trees and foraging for food. "Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One provides viewers with compelling stories that are both educational and adventurous. Timed with the Season Two premiere on Animal Planet in January, the two-disc DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.95.

"Whale Wars"Controversial And Powerful Seven-Part Series Sails To DVD February 10th

SANTA MONICA, CA - Prepare to surrender the booty to the eco-pirates of the high seas when WHALE WARS debuts on DVD February 10 from Genius Products and Animal Planet. Drawing attention to the global conservation issue that has caused friction between several nations over the practice of whaling in oceanic territories, viewers are invited to board ship with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The Sea Shepherd Society has used many aggressive means in its efforts to stop whale-hunting ships, without ever harming anyone in their 30-year history. Last year's Sea Shepherd campaign was particularly eventful - including a capsizing, a hostage situation, an alleged shooting, and more. Founded by Captain Paul Watson in 1977 with the belief that further efforts had to be taken to eradicate whaling, poaching, shark finning and habitat destruction, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have risked their lives to battle for what they believe in. An enlightening and electrifying nautical story, the WHALE WARS seven-part series will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.95.

"Untamed and Uncut"Thrilling Series Arrives On DVD For The First Time On February 24

SANTA MONICA, CA - Deadly animal encounters bring all the excitement and chills with the debut of "Untamed and Uncut" on DVD February 24 from Animal Planet and Genius Products. From a vicious attack by two great white sharks to a snake handler's ill-fated meeting with the highly poisonous monocled cobra, intense raw footage provides an up close look at some of the most exotic creatures. Compelling and controversial, the top-rated series offers rare insight from people around the world as they share the stories of how their lives were forever changed by an unfortunate encounter with a dangerous animal. Capturing some of the most incredible animal footage ever caught on tape, the anatomy of each critical situation is dissected with the aid of ground-breaking computer technology providing digital imagery to help explain the animal positioning in each event and the subsequent outcomes. Razor-sharp claws, lethal neurotoxins and crushing jaws of steel serve as reminders as to how dangerous wild animals can be and why mother nature should be respected. Featuring four one-hour episodes packed with high stakes action, "Untamed and Uncut" will be available for the suggested retail price of $12.95.


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Friday, November 28, 2008

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR -- DVD review by porfle

Taking over the directorial reins from Stephen Sommers, Rob Cohen (DRAGONHEART, XXX) continues the saga of Rick and Evy O'Connell and their never-ending battle against mummies in 2008's THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. If you didn't like the first two, chances are this one won't win you over either. If you did like them, you should have an exceedingly good time.

A lengthy prologue tells the story of Emperor Han (Jet Li), a ruthless conqueror who's bent on ruling the world with an iron fist. He summons the aid of a beautiful witch, Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh), to make him immortal, but when she falls in love with his trusted General Ming, the jealous emperor condemns them both to death. Zi Juan then places a terrible curse on him, turning him and his entire army into terra cotta statues.

Cut to 1946, as a retired Rick and Evy's grown-up son Alex (Luke Ford), now an action archeologist like his parents, uncovers the emperor's tomb. Needless to say, old clayhead gets resurrected and sets off to find the legendary city of Shangri-La, where he'll be able to shed himself of the curse once and for all, reanimate his terra cotta army, and conquer the world.

All our favorite characters are back, though some have changed a bit. Evy looks a lot more like Maria Bello than Rachel Weisz these days, which is cool since I've always been a fan of the lovely Maria. Luke Ford is a reasonable grown-up version of son Alex, who displays character traits from both parents--intelligence from his mom, recklessness from his dad. And speaking of Dad, Brendan Fraser is his usual wonderful self, able to perform comedy and action heroics with equal skill as few other actors can. John Hannah returns as Evy's cowardly brother Jonathan, while newcomers to the Mummy saga, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, add a whole new dimension to everything, as does Isabella Leong as Lin, Zi Juan's daughter and love interest for Alex. A particularly welcome presence is Anthony Wong (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, EXILED) as the Emperor's toady, General Yang.

Rob Cohen's direction and editing are too busy-looking at times, and I found myself wishing he'd just keep the camera still more often. Another thing that bugged me is the frequent use of less-than-convincing CGI. Of course, that's something I should be used to by now after watching the first two MUMMY films, yet it always seems to take me out of the movie.

Some of it works--an avalanche that threatens to annihilate the O'Connell party in the Himalayas looks pretty awesome, as do some of the climactic battle scenes between the Emperor's army and a horde of ancient undead summoned to engage them. The Yeti are another story, though, along with some of the character animation of Jet Li and the various supernatural creatures that he turns into (one of which bears a startling resemblance to Ghidrah). But if the digital monsters in the first two MUMMY movies or in Sommers' own VAN HELSING didn't bother you, then you shouldn't have any problem with these.

That said, there is a ton of exciting action setpieces in this film. A lengthy chase scene down the crowded streets of Shanghai is a highlight, and a fierce gun battle in the Himalayas is pretty intense. The clash between the terra cotta army and the undead is reminiscent of RETURN OF THE KING's main battle sequence. Along the way we're treated to lots of hard-hitting fistfights and other mayhem, and we even get to see Chinese superstars Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh go at it. The settings for these scenes are fantastic, including some impressive standing sets found in China (such as the old Shanghai streets) and numerous actual locations. Interior sets constructed for the Canadian phase of the shoot are also quite lavish.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound, the movie looks and sounds great. Disc one of the deluxe edition features some deleted and extended scenes and a scene-specific commentary from director Cohen. Disc two includes featurettes "Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li", "The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor", "Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy", "Creating New and Supernatural Worlds", "Legacy of the Terra Cotta", "A Call to Action: The Casting Process", and "From City to Desert." Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish, and there's even one of those tracks for the hard-of-seeing with a narrator breathlessly describing what's going on ("Rick ducks behind a column as the Emperor throws a fireball!")

While perhaps not the best in the series (I still prefer the second one), THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is a welcome continuation of Rick and Evy's seriocomic adventures. Extravagant, action-packed, funny, and loaded with dazzling imagery, it's what the term "dumb fun" is all about.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lucio Fulci's Young Dracula: A Review by Troy Howarth

Young Dracula (1975)

A businessman (Lando Buzzanca) is bitten by the effeminate Count Dragelescu

(John Steiner) and turns into a vampire....

Despite a screenplay co-written by Pupi Avati (director of the acclaimed The House with the Laughing Windows), Young Dracula - aka, Dracula in the Provinces- doesn't emerge as one of Lucio Fulci's stronger pictures. The film came at a good creative period for the writer/director, and it bears the hallmarks of classic Fulci: atmospheric cinematography by Sergio Salvati, crisp editing by Vincenzo Tomassi, a score by the trio of Frizzi, Bixio and Tempera. In terms of production values, it's a capably mounted and executed production. Alas, despite the best efforts of an above-average cast, the film never really catches fire. The film deals with the themes of homosexual panic and the exploitation of the working class, but its satire feels forced and heavy handed - a tremendous contrast to the legitimately funny The Eroticist (1972), directed by Fulci only a few years before. In that film, Lando Buzzanca gave a terrific comedic performance as a senator with an overwhelming ass fetish – its potshots at Italian institutions landed the director in hot water, whereas no controversy greeted Young Dracula, a sign, perhaps, of its comparative feebleness. That is not to say that the film is without merit, however, nor does it indicate that it belongs in the bottom tier of Fulci's filmography. Some set pieces are executed with undeniable flair, notably a genuinely amusing visit to a phony wizard, played with elan by Ciccio Ingrassia. Fulci also piles on the nudity, a genuine plus with so many attractive starlets in the cast. Buzzanca is amusing as the neurotic antihero, and he's well supported by the likes of John Steiner, Sylva Koscina and the aforementioned Ingrassia.

Valentina Cortese (Day for Night, The Girl Who Knew Too Much) makes a fleeting appearance, but isn't given much to do. The metaphor of vampirism for corporate greed promises a much sharper satire than what emerges, but devotees of the director would still do well to seek it out. Regretfully, the only version circulating in the US is of very poor quality, derived from a Greek VHS source, but at least it is in English and widescreen. One can only hope that a company like Severin or Blue Underground may afford it a proper R1 DVD release.

**1/2 out of ****


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Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three: 1941-1943 Review by Jack T

Review: Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three: 1941-1943

Fans of the Popeye the Sailor will not be disappointed in Warner Bros.’ third installment in the Max Fleischer cartoon series, even though Volume Three wraps up the Fleischer brothers’ final years animating these shorts for Paramount .

Disc one largely consists of the final 18 Max and David Fleischer cartoons, ending with Baby Wants a Bottleship. Obviously, once the 1942 season resumed, all of the shorts change direction—the 1941 season is largely Popeye putting up with and bailing his “Pappy” out of trouble. The next year changes, with far more war-themed storylines and developments. Popeye and Bluto are no longer enemies, but allies in beating up Japanese soldiers and other Axis powers.

In regards to the war-era shorts, they are NOT censored—to WB I say, “thank you.” While many might find the caricatures of Japanese characters in the shorts offensive, they are a product of their time and should remain intact. Removing the offense is even worse than leaving them in. On that note, parents of sensitive children interested in showing them these shorts may want to pre-screen them first.

Special features are abundant on this DVD, with the “Popumentaries” filling in the background of what was going on at Fleischer studios at the time. The documentary, Forging the Frame: the Roots of Animation, included on disc two is a general overview of animators from that period and is put together quite well.

Also included are some vintage Fleischer shorts from the 1920s. The Clown’s Little Brother, The Cartoon Factory, Koko Needles the Boss, and Finding His Voice are all fascinating early examples of animation and are equally entertaining (and in Finding His Voice’s case, educational) as the sound shorts that were to follow them.

Once again, Warner Bros, has outdone themselves in the video department, as these cartoons look as clear as the day they were shot. All of the transfers are presented full-frame 1.33:1 in glorious black and white. Clearly they are working with some original elements here, as gray tones and shadow and highlight detail are all balances and clear, with the right amount of grain. The audio, which is critical to many of these shorts is also clear, albeit somewhat flattened by what sounds to be equalization.

Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three comes on two discs in a cardboard sleeve with overlap case. As I’ve expressed in other reviews, I’m not a fan of these overlap cases, particularly when I’m jogging between shorts between discs, but this is a case of storage rather than convenience and I understand why Warners has chose to present them this way.

Overall, Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three is guaranteed to please all, young and old alike. It represented the last of the greatest of the Popeye cartoons. I hope that Warners keeps the chronological series up in the future rather than the rumored “Best of” sets, but between the first three volumes, I’m a satisfied customer!

DISC 1:

  • Problem Pappy - Conversation with Historian Jerry Beck & Steven Waldman
  • Quiet! Pleeze
  • Olive's Sweepstakes Ticket
  • Flies Ain't Human
  • Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle - Conversation with Historian Jerry Beck & Steven Waldman
  • Olive's Boithday Presink
  • Child Psykolojiky
  • Pest Pilot
  • I'll Never Crow Again
  • The Mighty Navy - Commentary by Historian Jerry Beck & Director Bob Jaques
  • Nix on Hypnotricks
  • Kickin' the Conga 'Round
  • Blunder Below
  • Fleets of Stren'th
  • Pip-eye, Pup-eye, Poop-eye and Peep-eye
  • Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix

BONUS FEATURES:

  • 3 Popeye Popumentaries
    • Directing the Sailor: The Art of Myron Waldman
    • Popeye: The Mighty Ensign
    • Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye an' Peep-Eye: Chips Off the Old Salt
  • 3 Out of the Inkwell Shorts
    • The Clown's Little Brother (1920)
    • The Cartoon Factory (1924)
    • Koko Needles the Boss (1927)

DISC 2:

  • Many Tanks
  • Baby Wants a Bottleship
  • You're a Sap, Mr. Jap
  • Alona on the Sarong Seas
  • A Hull of a Mess
  • Scrap the Japs
  • Me Musical Nephews - Commentary by Directors John Kricfalusi and Eddie Fitzgerald and Cartoonist Kali Fontecchio
  • Spinach Fer Britain
  • Seein' Red, White 'N' Blue - Commentary by Animator Mark Kausler
  • Too Weak to Work - Commentary by Director Bob Jaques
  • A Jolly Good Furlough
  • Ration Fer the Duration
  • The Hungry Goat - Commentary by Historian Jerry Beck
  • Happy Birthdaze
  • Wood-Peckin'
  • Cartoons Ain't Human

BONUS FEATURES:

  • Documentary: Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation, 1921 - 1930
  • Finding His Voice (1929)

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ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD -- DVD review by porfle

When the National Science Foundation invited filmmaker Werner Herzog to come to Antarctica to make a documentary, he "left no doubt that I would not come up with another film about penguins." ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007) is indeed much more than that, although it does have penguins in it.

Herzog's friend Henry Kaiser, a diver who explores the watery world below the thick ice covering Texas-sized Ross Bay, made a short film called "Under the Ice" which first interested Herzog in the desolate continent. Kaiser's underwater photography is utterly stunning, plunging us into a world every bit as strange as any alien landscape. Bizarre lifeforms scuttle along the bottom on undulating tentacles. A large Weddell seal, seeming almost like some curious, sweetly-serene E.T., leads us through a labyrinth of faintly sunlit ice tunnels. A self-illuminated jellyfish that resembles a beautifully-ornate organic lamp drifts languidly through the water.

Narrator Herzog has an odd sort of curiosity about things, and in Antarctica there are a lot of things to be oddly curious about. He comes across a lone researcher named Dr. Ainley who has lived among the penguins for so long that he's almost lost the ability to converse with humans. "Dr. Ainley, is there such a thing as insanity among penguins?" Herzog asks. Ainley considers this for a moment, then tells of the occasional penguin that suddenly decides to waddle off resolutely toward the interior of the continent, alone, for no apparent reason. We see one such penguin who, after what appears to be some deep consideration, sets off for a mountain range 70 kilometers away, his tiny form dwarfed by the looming desolation ahead. Why? It's a strange and affecting sight, as we know that he will surely perish there. The odd Dr. Ainley, meanwhile, seems no less prone to some similar unknown impulse--it wouldn't surprise me to see him heading off toward those mountains himself someday.

Antarctica seems to attract odd people whom Herzog finds fascinating. The McMurdo polar base, which depresses him at first because it resembles "an ugly mining town", turns out to be rife with interesting characters for Herzog to seek out. One freaky-looking dude found growing tomatoes in a hothouse describes the base's inhabitants as "PhDs washing dishes, linguists on a continent with no languages", people who have fallen off the earth and accumulated at the bottom. Many of them seem to exist in a metaphysical daze, perpetually zoned-out by their surroundings--even the large Weddell seals that some of them are dedicated to studying provide a fitting soundtrack for this spaced-out existence by making noises amazingly like one of those early Pink Floyd soundscapes.

Herzog seems to find interesting people wherever he ventures on this endlessly-fascinating continent. A volcano watcher keeps his camera pointed into a lava pit that explodes periodically, sending molten rock through the air. Volcano etiquette, he explains, includes facing the explosion and following the lava's aerial arc so that one might step aside when necessary. Elsewhere, a physicist who's just released an enormous balloon that will help track neutrino activity from the stratosphere ecstatically gushes at length about how incredible neutrinos are, and how they seem to exist in their own separate universe, which also seems an apt description of him and his colleagues.

Visually, ENCOUNTERS captures the vast, intimidating emptiness of Antarctica well enough, and just as efficiently records the expressive faces and compelling stories of the assortment of souls who inhabit it. But nothing else compares to the world beneath the ice, which truly sets this documentary apart from anything else I've ever seen. Herzog remarks that the divers look to him like astronauts floating in space, and it's an environment that easily conveys such an impression. The solemn atmosphere of a vast cathedral is augmented by the soundtrack's ethereal choral music during these awe-inspiring sequences. Much of the rest of the film's evocative score is performed by diver Henry Kaiser himself, with David Lindley.

The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby digital sound. Audio commentary is provided by Herzog, producer Kaiser, and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. Kaiser's film "Under the Ice" is included, along with "Over the Ice", a series of gorgeous helicopter shots of Antarctica's dry valleys near McMurdo Base. "Dive Locker Interview" is a tech-talk interview with divers Kaiser and the film's diving supervisor, Rob Robbins. "South Pole Exorcism" is a short film by Kaiser documenting his first trip to the continent, and includes the exorcism of evil engineer spirits from a tunneling machine. (Yes, these are people with too much time on their hands and not enough to do with it.) "Seals and Men" is a few minutes of the Weddell seals, followed by a trailer. The second disc consists of director Jonathan Demme's hour-long interview with Herzog before a live audience at New York's Museum of the Moving Image in June 2008.

As ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD winds toward its conclusion, Herzog begins to contemplate the fate of Mankind and its eventual demise. Ehh, whatever. The impression I choose to retain from watching this beautiful film is that of a world-traveling, deep-thinking philosopher who now drives a forklift at McMurdo base, who recalls a quote which seems descriptive of Herzog's filmic endeavor: "We are the witness through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence."
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Monday, November 24, 2008

"THE DARK KNIGHT" TAKES OVER BLU-RAY AND DVD ON DECEMBER 9th

OWN THE CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED BOX OFFICE PHENOMENON FROM WARNER HOME VIDEO

Worldwide Box Office at more than $975 million and growing

Featuring groundbreaking Blu-ray technology and Warner Bros. BD-Live™, taking your Blu-ray experience to a whole new level

Burbank, CA, September 26, 2008 – Be the first to own the biggest film of 2008 when The Dark Knight takes the world by storm on Blu-ray and DVD this December 9th from Warner Home Video. The highly-anticipated sequel to Batman Begins, the blockbuster action hit The Dark Knight from acclaimed director Christopher Nolan has become an instant must-own classic.

The Dark Knight comes from Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Christopher Nolan (The Prestige, Memento), and features commanding performances from Christian Bale (3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige), Academy Award® Winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules, Children of Men), Academy Award® Nominee Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Gary Oldman (Hannibal, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Aaron Eckhart (Thank You For Smoking, No Reservations), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Stranger Than Fiction, World Trade Center) and Academy Award® Winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Wanted).

The Dark Knight marks the first time that a major feature film has been shot in part using IMAX® cameras, marking a revolutionary integration of film formats. The Dark Knight Blu-ray disc takes advantage of the marriage of IMAX® and 35mm formats by using the hybrid master to replicate the unique theatrical experience. The IMAX scenes are also included on the 2-disc Special Edition as bonus materials.

In addition, the Blu-ray disc also includes Warner Bros. BD-Live™, which allows users with web-enabled Blu-ray players to access exciting additional content and connect and share with other BD-Live users.
The Dark Knight will be available on Single Disc for $28.98 SRP in widescreen and full-screen formats. The 2-Disc Special Edition DVD will be available in widescreen format for $34.99 SRP and the Blu-ray Disc will be available for $35.99 SRP
SYNOPSIS
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
DVD ELEMENTS FOR 2-DISC SPECIAL EDITION AND BLU-RAY

2-Disc Special Edition:
Gotham Uncovered – How Christopher Nolan and his team developed the new Bat-suit and Bat-pod and composer Hans Zimmer musically characterized The Joker’s reign of chaos.
The Dark Knight IMAX® Scenes - View these 6 action-packed sequences - shot on the largest format possible - in their original IMAX framing, just as they were intended
Gotham Tonight - 6 episodes of Gotham Cable’s premier news program
The Galleries: Poster art and production stills
Digital Copy of the Feature Film

Blu-ray Disc:
Disc 1 – Movie with Focus Points
Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene – Director Christopher Nolan and creative collaborators unmask the incredible detail and planning behind the film, including stunt staging, filming in IMAX®, and the new Bat-suit and Bat-pod.

Disc 2 – Special Features
Batman Tech – The incredible gadgets and tools (in HD)
Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight – Delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and the world of Batman through real-world psychotherapy (in HD)
Gotham Tonight – 6 episodes of Gotham Cable’s premier news program
The Galleries – The Joker cards, concept art, poster art, production stills, trailers and TV spots
Digital Copy of the Feature Film
BASICS

PRODUCT SRP
Single disc Amaray (WS) or (FS) $28.98
2-Disc Special Edition $34.99
Blu-ray disc $35.99
Street Date: December 9, 2008
Languages: English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, & Spanish
Running Time: 153 minutes
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and some menace)
DLBY TRUEHD (Blu-ray) DLBY/DGTL (Standard Disc) [CC]

Buy it here

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

KiDULTHOOD -- DVD review by porfle

First of all--this has got to be one of the worst titles I've ever seen. KiDULTHOOD (2006) sounds like a screwy Disney TV-movie, or yet another variation on BIG, or something equally distressing. When I found out what it's really about, I thought, "Oh, great...another angsty teen drama about a bunch of whiny young emos." But now that I've seen it, I can safely say that it's none of the above, and is, in fact, one of the most compelling, harrowing, and intense films I've seen all year.

The portrait of everyday inner city teen life presented here is a nightmare for the weak, whose ordinary school day means a grueling gauntlet of violence and humiliation at the hands of sadistic schoolmates. When one girl can't take the abuse anymore and hangs herself, school is cancelled the following day. This gives our main characters time to either reflect on their dead-end lives or escape into drugs, violence, and cheap thrills.

Two of the more decent kids, comparatively, are Trife (Aml Ameen) and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Alisa (Red Madrell). Trife hangs out with a couple of ne'er-do-wells named Jay and Mooney, and is toying with the idea of going to work for his really scary Uncle Curtis (Cornell John), a hardcore criminal type who promises easy money. Tensions between Trife's crew and a rage-a-holic school bully named Sam (scriptwriter Noel Clarke) escalate steadily, and we know that something really bad's going to happen before the day is over.

Alisa is worried because she just found out she's pregnant by Trife, who doesn't want anything to do with her because he thinks she's been having sex with Sam . Alisa's sex-obsessed friend Becky (Jaime Winstone) is no help--she gleefully whores herself out to older perverts to pay for drugs and shopping sprees, and is blissfully unconcerned with anyone's welfare but her own.

Clarke's script is lean and direct, capturing what I'd imagine to be an accurate portrait of these aimless, disaffected London youth who live on impulse and instinct, and converse in a dense, fascinating patois that's so foreign-sounding that I had trouble following it even with the subtitles on. Brushes with store security guards, sudden bursts of armed combat on the streets, and even a harrowing torture session in evil Uncle Curtis' apartment are presented in a straightforward, matter-of-fact way that is thrilling and scary. Through it all, the basic decency of Trife and Alisa struggles to survive the soul-crushing realities of their daily lives.

With the help of veteran cinematographer Brian Tufano (TRAINSPOTTING, QUADROPHENIA), Menhaj Huda directs his first feature with the confidence and skill of an old pro. Both his visual style and handling of actors are impeccable, giving each scene an edgy vitality that requires very little of the usual shaky-cam, jittery editing, and other stylistic clutter used to juice up so many contemporary films of this nature. KiDULTHOOD flows smoothly from scene to scene and is consistently impressive to look at, especially considering its low budget. A uniformly excellent cast is another plus, as is an evocative musical score by The Angel.

Everything comes to a head at a party that's being held in the home of a schoolmate whose parents are away. Trife and Alisa finally reunite to see if they can reconnect, and we want them to, but Noel Clarke's unsentimental screenplay guarantees no happy endings. Sam is there, too, looking to settle old scores. And to make things worse, the brother of the girl who hanged herself also shows up after paying a visit to Uncle Curtis to buy a gun, and he's looking for revenge. Needless to say, it's a situation that doesn't exactly scream "happily ever after."

The DVD image is 2:35.1 widescreen with Dolby digital sound. A half-hour featurette, "The Making of KiDULTHOOD", is a serious, in-depth look behind the scenes of the film. Also included are deleted and extended scenes, and a trailer.

To say I was pleasantly surprised by this film is putting it mildly. If you can get past the goofy title, KiDULTHOOD proves to be an impressive and richly rewarding experience, the kind that comes from talented filmmakers with a dedication to putting their vision on the screen without compromise.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Werner Herzog's "Encounters at the End of the World"

Critically-Acclaimed Documentary On Two-Disc DVD and Blu-ray™ High-Def Now
Extensive Bonus Features Include Audio Commentary and Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes

"A realm not merely of drama but of mystery and enchantment and imaginative power"
- Entertainment Weekly

"A poem of oddness and beauty" - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Not only a beautiful film, but also one of the director’s most sensitive" - Cineaste

CHATSWORTH, CALIF. (August 18, 2008) – From the Alaskan wilderness (Grizzly Man) to the Amazon (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) to the Laotian jungle (Rescue Dawn), award-winning director Werner Herzog has roamed the earth in search of fascinating landscapes and to focus his camera on the extraordinary people who inhabit them. With Encounters at the End of the World, Herzog literally traveled to the end of the earth (Antarctica) for the critically-acclaimed documentary debuting on Two-Disc DVD and Blu-ray™ High-Def November 18 from Image Entertainment. He interviews the quirky and idiosyncratic people who make their daily lives in the icy South Pole, from physicists to plumbers, biologists to bus drivers, and captures their fascinating stories on film.

Encounters at the End of the World, which debuted with the strongest theatrical opening weekend for a documentary this year, comes loaded with bonus features, including audio commentary with Director Werner Herzog, Producer Henry Kaiser and Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger; and the featurettes Under the Ice, Over the Ice, Dive Locker Interview: Werner Herzog Talks with Rob Robbins and Henry Kaiser, South Pole Exorcism and Seals and Men, and Jonathan Demme Interviews Werner Herzog. Encounters at the End of the World will be available for $27.98 SRP on Two-Disc DVD and $35.98 on Blu-ray™.

SYNOPSIS: Welcome to Antarctica – like you’ve never experienced it. You’ve seen the extraordinary marine life, the retreating glaciers and, of course, the penguins, but leave it to award-winning iconoclastic filmmaker Werner Herzog to be the first to explore the South Pole’s most fascinating inhabitants ... humans. In this one-of-a-kind documentary, Herzog turns his camera on a group of remarkable individuals, "professional dreamers" who work, play and struggle to survive in a harsh landscape of mesmerizing, otherworldly beauty – perhaps the last frontier on earth.

Encounters at the End of the World, directed by Werner Herzog, was executive produced by Phil Fairclough, David S. Harding, Julian Hobbs, Andrea Meditch and Erik Nelson; and produced by Henry Kaiser.

BASICS
DVD: $27.98
Blu-ray™: $35.98
Street Date: November 18, 2008
Order Date: October 21, 2008
Running Time: Approximately 101 minutes
Genre: Documentary
Rating: G
Language: English
Subtitles: Spanish
DVD Catalog #: ENC5068DVD
DVD UPC Code: 014381506822
Blu-ray™ Catalog # ENC5081BD
Blu-ray™ UPC Code: 014381508154

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino Star in the Suspenseful Thriller, "Righteous Kill"

AN UNFORGETTABLE DUO IN AN INCREDIBLE THRILLER ON BLU-RAY AND DVD 1/6/09

“The two best actors alive at the top of their games, with a twist at the end that will blow you away. ****!” – Larry King, CNN’s Larry King Live

BURBANK, CA – Academy Award® winners and box-office superstars Robert De Niro (Oscar® winner for The Godfather – Part II and Raging Bull) and Al Pacino (Oscar® winner for Scent of a Woman) set the screen on fire in the incendiary suspense thriller Righteous Kill, which will get the new year off to an explosive start when it makes its eagerly anticipated DVD and Blu-ray debut on January 6, 2009 (pre-book: December 4, 2008). Righteous Kill is directed by Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes, 88 Minutes) from an original screenplay by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man). SRP is $29.98 for the DVD and $39.98 for the exclusive Blu-ray.

With 14 Academy Award® nominations between them, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are among the most revered and celebrated actors of our time, yet Righteous Kill marks the first time that they’ve shared more than fleeting screen time. They previously appeared separately in The Godfather Part II, and more than twenty years later had one brief scene together in 1995’s Heat.

“This matchup is undeniably cool,” said Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News. “The Oscar® winners bring back the qualities that made them great.” “The real deal,” praised Jeffrey Lyons of Reel Talk. “The performances by De Niro and Pacino are solid, as you’d expect … You’ll walk away wishing these two parallel superstars made many more movies together over the years but it’s not too late. This is a taut thriller you’ll enjoy.”

Styna Chin of Film Threat awarded the film three and a half stars (out of four) and added: “I’d like to recognize Russell Gewirtz for a screenplay that boasts humor, an impressive plot twist, and for setting up plenty of room for De Niro and Pacino to get their grooves back in order.” “A gritty old school crime thriller,” said Prarie Millier of WBAI Radio. “Righteous Kill delivers the goods.”

Righteous Kill features a superb supporting cast that includes Emmy® Award winner and Golden Globe® and Tony Award® nominee John Leguizamo (Summer of Sam, The Happening), Golden Globe® and Tony Award® winner and four-time Emmy® Award nominee Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Cocoon, F/X 1 and 2), Carla Gugino (Sin City, the Spy Kids trilogy), Donnie Wahlberg (Saw II-IV, HBO’s “Band of Brothers”) and hip-hop phenomenon Curtis Jackson (Get Rich or Die Tryin’).

The Righteous Kill DVD will boast two bonus featurettes: The Investigation: An In-Depth Look at Righteous Kill and The Thin Blue Line: An Exploration of Cops & Criminals, audio commentary with producer/director Jon Avnet and the theatrical trailer. The Righteous Kill exclusive Blu-ray Edition is a 2-disc set that also includes a digital copy of the film and BD-Live features.

After 30 years as partners in the pressure cooker environment of the NYPD, highly decorated Detectives David Fisk (Pacino) and Thomas Cowan (De Niro) should be ready for retirement, but aren’t. Before they can hang up their badges, they are called in to investigate the murder of a notorious pimp, which appears to have ties to a case they solved years before. Like the original murder, the victim is a suspected criminal whose body is found accompanied by a four line poem justifying the killing. When additional crimes take place, it becomes clear the detectives are looking for a serial killer, one who targets criminals that have fallen through the cracks of the judicial system. His mission is to do what the cops can’t do on their own—take the culprits off the streets for good. The similarities between the recent killings and their earlier case raise a nagging question: Did they put the wrong man behind bars?


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Parliament Funkadelic DVD In Stores Today!

Parliament Funkadelic: The Mothership Connection Live 1976 Music DVD In Stores 11/18/08

It was Halloween night and Parliament Funkadelic was about to tear the roof off the Houston Summit, ready to bless the crowd with their cosmic brew of interplanetary funk. George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins and the rest of the P-Funk collective were riding the success of their first Top 5 R&B hit, "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)," a track that had earned them the kind of radio play that would bring the masses out to see them live in a stadium-sized arena. The group was only five dates into the tour when they arrived in Houston, but they were definitely ready to take it to the stage for an out-of-this-world show like no other.

Taped on October 31, 1976, these seldom-seen performances at the Houston Summit represent Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic in their ’70s prime, in the era of their Mothership Connection and The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein LPs—a rare opportunity for everyone to get their proper dose of The P-Funk.

Performances:
Cosmic Slop
Do That Stuff
Gamin’ On Ya!
Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On
Undisco Kidd
Children Of Productions
Mothership Connection (Star Child)
Swing Down Sweet Chariot
Dr. Funkenstein
Comin’ Round The Mountain
P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)
Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)
Night Of The Thumpasorus Peoples
Funkin’ For Fun
Total Running Time: +/- 85 minutes

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"KIDULTHOOD" -- Shocking urban drama hits DVD November 11

CHATSWORTH, CA, October 29, 2008- Gritty, raw and brutally frank, "Kidulthood" goes deep into London’s hidden underbelly and delivers a hard-hitting reflection of what life is really like for 21st century teenagers. In a world where sex is currency, drugs are easy and violence is a way of life, trouble can never be too far behind. "Kidulthood" is sure to stun audiences when it is released on DVD by Image Entertainment on November 11.

This isn't child's play… it's just another day in the inner city, where teenage growing pains can often lead to suicide, pregnancy and hot-blooded murder. The film follows 15-year-old Trife, a boy trapped between the world of his school friends, the girl he loves and the draw of his powerful and dangerous uncle. When classes are suspended after a bullied schoolgirl hangs herself rather than face another day of torment, Trife and his crew take to the streets where sex and drugs are a way of life and violence lurks behind every corner. Powerful, disturbing and moving, "Kidulthood" is "as potent as a shot of vodka before breakfast" (Daily Mirror), a hardcore look at lost innocence and wasted youth.

Product information
Genre: Urban/Drama
Year: 2006
Rating: R-Restricted
SRP: $27.98
Street date: November 11, 2008
Length: 92 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 1
Special Features: Making of "Kidulthood," Deleted and Extended Scenes, Theatrical Trailer
Distributor: Image Entertainment UPC: 014381497823

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Monday, November 17, 2008

MST3K 20th Anniversary DVD set review by Jessica Friedman



MST3K 20th Anniversary DVD set review

First off, let me state that I love Mystery Science Theater 3000, so this review will be a bit biased. I am sure that since my husband writes reviews as well, you are all used to glowing reviews for martial arts films, but not necessarily for science fiction fare. However, MST3K is one of those (few) common threads between Ian and me that existed before we even met, and the show continues to be a favorite of ours now. I myself watch or listen to on my iPod an MST3K movie or short almost every day before work (especially those by RiffTrax, which any fan would love, IMHO). I am a Mike girl, so it is no surprise that I was thrilled to see Michael J. Nelson episodes and interview segments. That Bridget Jones woman is one lucky lady!

Ahem. Anyway…onto the review. Since MST3K has been around for 20 years now, this awesome DVD set should satisfy any diehard fan out there. It has four great episodes: Future War, First Spaceship on Venus, Werewolf (my favorite on the set), and Laser Blast. In addition to those episodes, there is an excellently informative interview segment with all of the major players since the beginning when the show started at KTMA to the Sci-Fi years and even a video of everyone on a Comi-con panel moderated by comedian Patton Oswalt from earlier this year. I found the extras to be fun (the music box is pretty cool and nostalgic for an old timer like me), but the heart of MST3K has always been the riffs, and this dvd set has plenty.

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I am of the “Sci-Fi years were better” camp, so I really enjoy any episode featuring Pearl, Brain Guy and Bobo torturing the guys versus Joel’s episodes with Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank. In the dvd set itself, I would say the best riffing occurs in Werewolf. Aside from the ridiculous accents and crazy hairstyles, the insane Native American music that plays throughout the movie becomes one of the main targets for Mike and the ‘Bots. I will say that the ending of Werewolf, during the credits, is bar-none one of the funniest riffs MST3K had ever done, and it is fitting to include such a tremendous gag on an anniversary celebrating the greatness that was MST3K.

My husband and I still mourn the death of the show (we had a pancake breakfast and held hands while humming the Love Theme when the show had its final airing on Sci-Fi), but these dvd sets bring us together in a way no other show has. The quality of the dvd itself fares quite better than those old VHS tapes we had (keep circulating the tapes, indeed!), and the sound is great.

All in all, this is a must-have set for any fan of MST3K. The riffs are fantastic, and the extras are very informative. Even if you are a casual fan of MST3K, or have never heard of the show, this is a great set to catch up on what you have been missing out on over the years. First, get to know the characters and their bizarre relationships via the interviews in the extras, then dive head-first into the snarky fun!

Final grade: A


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Forrest J. Ackerman Update!


As we reported earlier, horror and sci-fi fan #1, Forrest J. Ackerman (otherwise known as Uncle Forry, 4E, 4SJ, the Ackermonster, and "the poor man's Vincent Price", among other aliases) has been alien--err, ailin'--to the great concern of his many fans and friends.

But you just can't keep a good monster down, and it's with great relish (plus a dash of mustard) that we can convey some encouraging news via Forry's close friend and caregiver, Joe Moe, who recently posted the following on FJA's Facebook page:

"Following a long depressing haul, there is some GOOD NEWS.

"All of your cards, letters and well-wishes have really caused Forry to rally! The torrent of love flooding the Ackerminimansion has encouraged Forry to fight for his life. I can't predict how much longer we'll have him around. A day? A week? A month? Who knows? But I CAN tell you we're taking full advantage of this upturn to really encourage Forry to get stronger and hang around a while more. I am actually feeling hopeful he'll make it to his 92nd birthday on Nov. 24th.

Please pass this message on and let everyone know that their tributes, stories and prayers have had a miraculous effect on Forry. We should all continue to support him (and each other) and enjoy his presence as long as we are able... Thank you all so much! Joe"

Now that's the kind of news that can put a Kong-sized smile on the fiendish face of any Monster Kid! We here at HK and Cult Film News continue to wish Uncle Forry the very best and are sending our warmest regards, best wishes, and lots of love to the man who's been a lifelong inspiration to so many of us. If you want to drop him a line via scare-mail and let him know how you feel, the address is:

Forrest J Ackerman
4511 Russell Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

And again, the best place we know of to talk about 4SJ with our fellow Monster Kids and learn of any latest developments from those in the know is in this thread, which can be found in the cobwebbed corridors of Kerry "Count Gamula" Gammill's Classic Horror Film Board.

We also have it on good authority that Uncle Forry recently received a visit from "the Tall Man" himself, Angus Scrimm, who delivered a steaming batch of his very own chicken soup. And upon seeing him, the Ackermonster sat up in bed and growled, "Boooooy!" Talk about a fan-tasm! It's enough to make old Drac raise his glass and say, "I never drink wine--except to offer a toast to Mr. Monster himself, Forrest J. Ackerman." We'll drink to that!
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" on DVD 12/16

The Worldwide blockbuster and one of Hollywood ’s all-time biggest franchises! Packed with Explosive Action, Breathtaking Special Effects and Non-stop Adventure!
Own the Two-Disc Deluxe Edition with Digital Copy on DVD and Blu-ray™ Hi-Def for a Limited Time Only! Available on December 16, 2008 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment­­­­­­­­­­

“The best in the series!” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

Universal City—The awe-inspiring adventure of the year with breathtaking visual effects is available to own on December 16, 2008 when The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor hits store shelves in a Deluxe two-disc Edition on DVD and Blu-ray™ Hi-Def from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The latest chapter in one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor includes riveting action, non-stop suspense, epic battle scenes, cinematic pyrotechnics and an international all-star cast: Brendan Fraser (Journey to the Center of the Earth), Jet Li (The Forbidden Kingdom), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Maria Bello (Thank You For Smoking) and John Hannah (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns).

Directed by Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) and the largest production to ever shoot in China , the film’s breathtakingly epic panorama includes such diverse locales as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the mysterious Himalayas . Considered “the best in the series” by Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon is the perfect holiday entertainment gift.
SYNOPSIS
Brendan Fraser returns as explorer Rick O'Connell in an epic adventure that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the frigid Himalayas . Along with his son Alex (Luke Ford), wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah), he must stop a mummy awakened from a 2,000-year-old curse from enslaving the world. Doomed by a double-crossing sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) to spend eternity in suspended animation, China 's ruthless Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) and his 10,000 warriors have lain forgotten for eons, entombed in clay as a vast, silent terra cotta army. When dashing adventurer Alex O'Connell is tricked into awakening the ruler from eternal slumber, he turns to the only people he can think of with the skill and knowledge to combat the undead: his parents. But the Emperor’s quest for world domination has only intensified during his imprisonment and, with unimaginable supernatural powers and a legion of Terra Cotta Warriors at his command, the Emperor Mummy could be an unstoppable force—unless the O'Connells can vanquish him first.
BONUS FEATURES
The Deluxe Edition DVD and Blu-ray™ Hi-Def come with an army of bonus features that take audiences behind the scenes of the most exciting adventure of the season, including:
· DELETED SCENES AND EXTENDED SCENES
PREPARING FOR BATTLE WITH BRENDAN FRASER AND JET LI: Watch as Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Maria Bello and Luke Ford prepare for and shoot their respective fight scenes in the film, including the epic clashes at the Emperor’s tomb, the museum, Shangri-La and the climactic battle sequence.
· THE MAKING OF THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR: Director Rob Cohen and producers Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel and James Jacks lead us through the making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, from scouting in China through the film’s completion.
JET LI: CRAFTING THE EMPEROR MUMMY: The legendary special effects artists at Rhythm & Hues Studios and Digital Domain discuss making Jet Li a digital warrior.
· FROM CITY TO DESERT: Follow director Rob Cohen and producers Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel and James Jacks as they lead the cast and crew through the film’s amazing locations in both Montreal and China .
· LEGACY OF THE TERRA COTTA: Rob Cohen discusses what is historically accurate in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
CREATING NEW AND SUPERNATURAL WORLDS: From Montreal to Shanghai , we speak with the team of art directors and set decorators responsible for creating the lavish sets.
· A CALL TO ACTION: THE CASTING PROCESS: An inside look at the preparation for the film, including table reads with the cast and production meetings with director Rob Cohen and producers Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel and James Jacks.
FEATURE COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR ROB COHEN
DIGITAL COPY OF THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY HI-DEF
U CONTROL: Universal’s exclusive signature feature, U Control puts viewers one click away from delving deeper into the making of the film without ever interrupting the movie.
KNOW YOUR MUMMY: While watching the movie, dig deeper into The Mummy franchise and discover facts, graphics, and more mysterious connections to the first two movies.
SCENE EXPLORER: View scenes from the film in its various progressions from storyboards and early renderings of the visual effects to the final version.
PICTURE IN PICTURE: Access interactive cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, all without interrupting the movie experience.
THE DRAGON EMPEROR’S CHALLENGE: In this interactive game, players are asked to determine whether or not an event, character, object or location are fact or fiction.
VISUAL COMMENTARY WITH DIRECTOR ROB COHEN
BD-LIVE FEATURES: Blu-ray and Playstation 3 players with an Internet connection can access exclusive interactive applications that allow viewers to communicate with friends and family while watching the film:
MY SCENES SHARING – Share favorite clips with your friends through the BD Live Internet connection.
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT – Download exclusive clips, trailers, and more via the Universal BD-Live Download Center .

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"SURFER, DUDE" Coming To DVD and Blu-Ray 12/30 From Anchor Bay Entertainment

CATCH A GNARLY WAVE WITH MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY IN THIS SMOKIN’ NEW COMEDY--ALSO STARRING WOODY HARRELSON, SCOTT GLENN AND COUNTRY MUSIC LEGEND WILLIE NELSON


Burbank, CA – What happens to a laid-back soul-surfer when the waves go flat? Matthew McConaughey explores this and other philosophical questions in Surfer, Dude, a hip flick that’s sure to become a cult favorite for those with midnight movie munchies.

Surfer, Dude debuts on DVD and Blu-ray on December 30, 2008. Produced by and starring the sexy Matthew McConaughey, it’s the first film from McConaughey’s production company, j.k. livin productions. Surfer, Dude also stars Woody Harrelson (No Country For Old Men, Semi-Pro), Scott Glenn (The Bourne Ultimatum, W) and country music legend, Willie Nelson – a cast that is sure to help light up the New Year! Directed by S.R. Bindler of the critically acclaimed Hands on a Hard Body documentary, Surfer, Dude will be available on DVD for $29.98 SRP with a $34.98 SRP for the Blu-ray.

Soulful longboard surfer Steve Addington (McConaughey) returns to Malibu for the summer to find his cool hometown vibe corrupted. New sponsorship demands Addington to expand into Virtual Reality Video Games and Reality TV. Unwilling to participate in this new digital reality, he chooses to spend his summer surfing his home break. But in a twist-of-fate, the waves go flat. Out of money, his expense accounts cancelled, and betrayed by his buddies, Addington is backed into a harsh corner. Aided by his manager (Harrelson), his mentor (Glenn), his guardian angel (Nelson), and his summer lover (Alexie Gilmore), Addington has a chance of keeping his cool, but it’s not going to be easy. The dude needs a wave, and there’s never been a drought like this.

The Surfer, Dude DVD and Blu-ray will offer cool bonus features including audio commentary with Matthew McConaughey, Surfer, Dude: The Real Story featurette, deleted scenes, the complete uncensored Surfer, Dude 12-Webisode series, and the theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray version will also be BD-Live capable and will include a bonus disc with a digital copy of the feature film.

SURFER, DUDE DVD

Street Date: December 30, 2008
Order Date: November 27, 2008
Format: Widescreen 1.85:1 / 16x9 & 1.33:1 / 4x3
Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1
Retail Price: $29.98
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for pervasive drug use, language and nudity
Run Time: 85 minutes
Bonus Features: Audio commentary with Matthew McConaughey, Surfer, Dude: The Real Story featurette, deleted scenes, the complete uncensored Surfer, Dude 12-Webisode series, and the theatrical trailer.

SURFER, DUDE BLU-RAY

Street Date: December 30, 2008
Order Date: November 27, 2008
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1:85:1 and 16x9) 1080p AVC MPEG-4
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Retail Price: $34.98
Genre: Comedy
Rating: R for pervasive drug use, language and nudity
Run Time: 85 minutes
Bonus Features: Audio commentary with Matthew McConaughey, Surfer, Dude: The Real Story featurette, deleted scenes, the complete uncensored Surfer, Dude 12-Webisode series, theatrical trailer, BD-Live enabled, and bonus disc with a digital copy of the feature film.
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

"PROJECT RUNWAY 4" -- DVD review by porfle

I detest the concept of "fashion", and skinny supermodels clomping around on a runway in freaky clothes don't do much for me. So why did I enjoy PROJECT RUNWAY 4 so much? Maybe it's because I'm a science-fiction fan, and watching these people and what they do holds the same giddy fascination as watching a STAR WARS prequel, with the added bonus that it's all strangely real.

In this fourth season DVD set of the popular reality show, fifteen aspiring fashion designers assemble to compete in a series of assignments that test their creativity, skill, and speed. Their tasks can be anything from designing a new look for some guest celebrity (such as Sara Jessica Parker or football star Tiki Barber) to fabricating a wearable ensemble out of candy wrappers, to outfitting a bunch of nitpicky teenage girls for their prom. In one outlandish segment, they even get to design costumes for a group of WWE Divas. Their ultimate goal? To outlast the competition during the elimination rounds and break into the fashion industry.

With each episode comes a new fashion challenge. First, there's a mad dash to buy fabric on a limited budget and then, using all the resourcefulness and improvisational skills they can muster, construct whatever they've dreamed up and stick it onto a model. When their time's up, they have to present whatever they've come up with to the judges, ready or not, and face their painfully blunt criticism. Each episode's winner gets immunity in the next challenge, while the person with the worst design gets an "auf wiedersehen" from host Heidi Klum.

Here, unlike a lot of other reality shows, you don't have to worry about who's voting who off and who has alliances or whatever. And the challenges aren't a bunch of made-up playground games as on SURVIVOR--it's all directly related to who the contestants are and what they want to do with their lives. Thus, the drama and the intense feelings are all real, and the tension level is almost nonstop.

Big-time fashion guru Tim Gunn serves as "mentor" to the contestants, wandering through their workroom and offering observations such as "Ricky doesn't look good...Ricky looks a little panicky" and "This worries me." Tim comes off as impenetrable drollness on wheels at first but reveals himself as a big teddy bear later on. The judges, various well-known designers and fashion critics along with Heidi herself, watch what's presented to them on the runway with either measured approval or naked disdain. After a while we begin to get used to such straightfaced assessments as "Where's the 'wow'?" and "This looks so sad. You made us very sad." During one judges' conference, Heidi brandishes the shears: "I guess they all thought they were better than they really are."

What really makes PROJECT RUNWAY 4 fun to watch, though, is the odd assortment of contestants. They're a great mix of personalities and it doesn't take long to become familiar with them all and start to choose favorites. My favorite didn't win, but did make it into the final four. In the last episode, the three remaining designers each get to present their line of clothing in an honest-to-goodness big-time fashion show during the Super Bowl of fashion in New York. It's a tough choice for the judges and the viewer, but I agreed with the final winner.

The 4-disc, 14-episode DVD set is presented in standard format with Dolby Digital sound. Picture and sound for this well-produced show are both good. Extras include a brief featurette on the winner's post-show activities, including a photo shoot for Elle magazine (don't look at the extras menu first because it gives away the winner), and "From the Runway to Your Way", which offers some makeup tips. Episode 12 feels like a bonus feature because it's a reunion/recap episode in which both the contestants and judges get to loosen up and reflect on the show.

Even after watching PROJECT RUNWAY 4, I still don't give a hoot in hell about fashion. But I do have a better understanding of the artistic and creative elements that go into it, and an empathy for the people who dream of fashion design as a way of life. So whether or not you get the whole "fashion" thing, I can strongly recommend this DVD set simply for its irresistible entertainment value.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Don Cheadle in "Traitor" on DVD and Blu-ray 12/19 from Anchor Bay Entertainment

ACADEMY AWARD® NOMINEE DON CHEADLE HEADLINES A TAUT AND TOPICAL POLITICAL THRILLER FROM OVERTURE FILMS AND ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT

BURBANK, CA – Academy Award® nominee, four-time Emmy Award®-nominee and Golden Globe®-Award winner Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash, Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13) gives a riveting performance in the topical and taut political thriller Traitor, which comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Friday, December 19, 2008 (pre-book November 16, 2008). This critically-acclaimed film also stars Guy Pearce (Memento, L.A. Confidential), Said Taghmaoui (“Lost”, Three Kings), Neal McDonough (“Desperate Housewives”, Flags of Our Fathers) and three-time Golden Globe®-Award nominee Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, Terms of Endearment).

Traitor is directed by screenwriter Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow), based on an original story he wrote with five-time Golden Globe® nominee Steve Martin (The Pink Panther, Father of the Bride 1 and 2, Roxanne). SRP is $29.98 for the DVD and $39.98 for the Blu-ray.

"A twisty political thriller with dazzling performances"
– Thelma Adams, US Magazine

Traitor is a taut international thriller set against a puzzle of covert counter-espionage operations. When straight-arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Pearce) investigates a dangerous international conspiracy responsible for a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice and a raid in London, all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Cheadle). But a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his suspect is a disaffected former military operative—or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue. Traitor is written and directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (screenwriter of The Day After Tomorrow).

Special features on the Traitor DVD include audio commentary with writer/director Jeffrey Nachmanoff and actor Don Cheadle, “Action! The Stunts and Special Effects of Traitor” and International Espionage: An In-Depth Look at Traitor’s Exotic Locations.” The Blu-ray release will offer he same elements plus a bonus disc with a digital copy of the feature film and will be BD-Live enabled.

Critics and audiences have been unanimous in their praise of Traitor: Joe Neumaier of NY Daily News says, “Nachmanoff fills the movie with a sense of gripping, ‘70’s style grittiness. Its story…moves like the tautest of spy thrillers…” Robert Butler of the Kansas City Star adds Traitor, “blends the elements of the international thriller...with a haunting personality study. Jeff Craig of Sixty Second Preview raves, “Smart and serious, Traitor is a top-notch thriller.” And Pete Hammond of Hollywood.com calls Traitor “this year’s Bourne Ultimatum, a nail-biting, relentless suspense thriller that will have you on edge for two solid hours.”

In addition, critics have singled out Cheadle’s powerful performance: A.O. Scott of the New York Times raves, “Cheadle’s performance gives Traitor a sense of ethical gravity and real intrigue … (he’s) as subtle an actor as any working in movies today.” “Cheadle remains the go-to man for a film like this,” raves Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. “Don Cheadle … reaffirms his excellence,” stated Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune. “Don Cheadle has been one of the best reasons to go to the movies in recent years,” claims David Denby of the New Yorker. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press also calls Cheadle’s performance, “as smart and nuanced as ever.”
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

LONG WAY DOWN -- DVD review by porfle

Part travelogue and part reality series, LONG WAY DOWN traces the motorcycle journey of actor-friends Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor as they travel 15,000 miles from the northern tip of Scotland to Capetown, the southernmost point of South Africa, for no apparent reason. (In the predecessor, LONG WAY ROUND, they went from London to New York via an easterly route.) Ewan we all know, of course, as young Obi-wan Kenobi in the STAR WARS prequels. Charley, whom you may remember as that insufferable little bastard Mordred in his father John Boorman's classic EXCALIBUR, describes Africa as "the last mad place in the world."

Why make such a journey through such a harsh continent? Because it's there, we come to understand. And what we witness over the course of 10 episodes on three DVDs is not unlike a horizontal mountain climbing expedition with a dash of blind obsession and a heap of cocky big-kid frivolity as they push ever onward toward their distant destination.

The first episode consists mainly of their extensive preparation for the 3-month journey, during which they'll be accompanied by a third cyclist-cameraman and two SUVs containing the producer and director, two cameramen, and a medic. Lending a strong sense of forboding to the entire affair is their stint in something called "hostile training school" in which they learn to observe the proper etiquette during kidnap attempts or dicey border situations at gunpoint. I don't know about you, but any sightseeing tour that begins with hostile training school is one that will most likely be missing me as an active ingredient. As it eventually turns out, though, such precautions will prove unnecessary.

Things get off to a rocky start as Ewan cracks up in London traffic and cracks a leg bone. His wife, Eve, who has never touched a motorcycle in her life, decides she wants to accompany them for ten days during the trip and undertakes a crash-course in cycling that begins with learning to take the bike off its stand and start it. This development initially doesn't set well with Charley, whose anxiety is increased when his own wife comes down with pneumonia hours before their departure and ends up with a collapsed lung.

Finally, they set off for Scotland with their BMW 1200s and, upon their arrival there, begin the journey proper. As they travel through England, France, Italy, and on to Africa, we get to know the boys as they chatter into their helmet mikes and alternately ooh-and-ahh over the scenery and complain about the weather and terrain. Ewan comes off as something of a dashing doofus, while Charley not only strikes me as the sort of bloke who'd light his own farts, but actually does so during one of their camping stops.

Much of LONG WAY DOWN consists of watching these guys ride their motorcycles through miles and miles of scenic countryside or barren wasteland, stopping off here and there to visit various points of interest. (STAR WARS fans in particular won't want to miss the Tunisia episode in which Charley and Ewan tour the original living quarters of Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, still standing after all these years.) Mostly they have a grand old time of it, but when fatigue sets in or they hit some really rough stretches of bumpy or sandy ground, it's amusing to listen to them bitch and moan as though they were on some kind of forced death march on wheels.

To add a little reality-show drama here and there, we sometimes see them rushing to make some crucial ferry crossing, cracking up on the trail (Ewan in particular seems to fall over a lot), or arguing amongst themselves, and it's during these times that the series most resembles "The Amazing Race." When they finally decide to quit being in such a hurry and take more time to enjoy the adventure, it becomes a lot more enjoyable for us.

Most interesting to me are their numerous interactions with the locals, who for the most part are wonderfully generous, helpful, and friendly. Along with the good vibes come some quite serious segments, such as a visit to a genocide museum in Rwanda and a UNICEF camp for the rehabilitation of children that have been kidnapped from their villages and trained to fight against their will.

The DVD is widescreen, with the image and sound quality being quite good for a TV show done on the fly in the wilds of Africa. (Helmet cams, diary cams, and two cameramen ensure good coverage of most everything that happens on the trip.) "The Missing Face", a disc-two documentary, describes Charley and Ewan's work with UNICEF to benefit African children who have been orphaned by AIDS and must fend for themselves. Disc three features several brief deleted bits and post-journey activities, an interactive map, and a photo gallery.

You pretty much know what you're in for when you watch LONG WAY DOWN, so if that's your cup of tea then you should find it fairly compelling entertainment. As for me, I learned a lot of interesting stuff about Africa and its people, and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery and the sight of two affably naive actors travelling--one might even say "bumbling"--their way through it all.
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MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT #25 -- A Magazine You Can Really Sink Your Fangs Into!

Well, I just got through immersing my big, goofy Monster Kid self in the Summer '08 issue of MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT (Vol. 13, No. 25), and I feel like I've just been to a horror convention in my head! Once again, editor Jim Clatterbaugh and his talented writers and crew have stitched together a creation that, in the words of old Ygor, really "does things for me."

First off, Corlandt Hull gives us an informative look at his great-uncle Henry Hull, best remembered as THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON. Included are some choice stills from this and other memorable Hull roles including Magwitch of GREAT EXPECTATIONS and his stage performances as Edgar Allan Poe and Samuel Clemens (for which he did his own makeup). We're also shown the original unused WEREWOLF makeup, which became a bone of contention between Hull and Universal makeup maestro Jack Pierce.

Next there's a massive behind-the-scenes account of one of my favorite sequels, Val Lewton's 1944's THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, by the author of one of my favorite books ("It's Alive!"), Greg Mank. "Sad, twisted, and oddly beautiful" is how Mank describes this story of a little girl guided by an angelic-looking ghost (Simone Simon) through some harrowing times involving a witchlike woman and a widowed father (Kent Smith) who neglects her. Not only does Mank give us a thorough account of the details behind the making of this dark fairytale, but also explains why it is the most strangely autobiographical of Lewton's films.

Following this is Mark F. Berry's interview with David Hedison of THE FLY, TV's "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", and various James Bond films as 007's CIA friend Felix Leiter, with special emphasis on his role in Irwin Allen's fanciful 1960 version of THE LOST WORLD. Lots of info on the latter should interest anyone who grew up watching this cheesy-but-colorful adventure film and thrilling to the sight of iguanas wrestling in slow-motion.

"Manly P. Hall, Dracula, and the Complexities of the Classic Horror Film Sequel" is a fascinating examination of the various kinds of sequels that developed during horror's early years (author Gary D. Rhodes indicates three basic types, some more adherent to logic than others) and goes on to tell us of writer Manly P. Hall and his efforts to give the world a proper sequel to Lugosi's DRACULA. Fans of both the film and Stoker's novel will be interested in reading the details of Hall's proposed continuation of the story.

Rounding off this issue is a wealth of DVD and book reviews, including a look at the second edition of "Universal Horrors: The Studio's Classic Films, 1931-1946" by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas, which includes an interview with the authors themselves. Steven Kronenberg's description of this book's contents makes me want to read it right now! It sounds like a real treasure trove of juicy info and analysis for Universal horror fans. John Clymer's interview with the authors is also of great interest even if, like me, you don't always agree with some of their views on particular films such as DRACULA.

MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT is a don't-miss publication for classic horror fans. It has the Monster Kid enthusiasm of Forrest J. Ackerman's "Famous Monsters of Filmland", but with a more mature approach and extremely in-depth coverage--and it's jam-packed with great photos, too. Plus, that awesome Werewolf of London cover art alone is enough to make you want to run outside and howl at the moon! (And while you're at it, check out the website for info on subscriptions and back issues, and a whole lot more.)
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"BURN AFTER READING" Available on DVD and Blu-Ray Hi-Def From Universal 12/23/08

An all-star cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich come together in this outrageous spy comedy about murder, blackmail, sex addiction, and physical fitness!
"A Comedic Masterpiece" –Larry King

Intelligence is relative in this hilarious new spy comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, the
Academy Award ® -winning directors of No Country for Old Men and The Big Lebowski. Academy Award ® winners George Clooney and Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and Academy Award ® winner Tilda Swinton star in this brilliantly clever and endlessly entertaining comedy of errors.

When a disc filled with some of the CIA’s most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two
determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control, resulting in a non-stop series of hilarious encounters!

BONUS FEATURES (AVAILABLE ON DVD AND BLU-RAY HI-DEF):
 FINDING THE BURN: The making of Burn After Reading from inspiration to the big screen.
 DC INSIDERS RUN AMUCK: We show the strength in putting together some of the most amazing talent in the world to create a world of Washington, DC insiders all trying to get ahead or find true love.
 WELCOME BACK GEORGE: This is a companion, comedy piece, focusing on Mr. Clooney as he returns for his third collaboration with Ethan and Joel Coen.

BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY HI-DEF:
 Get Connected with BD-Live!
o Access the BD-Live Center through your Internet-connected player and download even more bonus content, the newest trailers and more!
o Plus, explore MY SCENES and collect your favorite clips from the movie then share with your BD-Live buddies!
http://www.burnafterreading.com--live.com/#/home

TECHNICAL INFORMATION:Anamorphic Widescreen
Price: $29.98 SRP
Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes


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Monday, November 3, 2008

Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume Six DVD Review by Jack T

A companion piece to the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume Six, the sixth volume of the Spotlight Collection is geared towards general audiences rather than adult collectors. While the Spotlight Collection Volume Six consists of “child safe” shorts from the sixth volume Golden Collection, it also contains more kid-friendly fare from the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Two.


Presented on two discs are 30 animated short subjects from the vaults at Warner Bros.


Disc one consists of:


Baby Buggy Bunny (Chuck Jones, 1954) has “Baby” Finster robbing a bank and accidentally dropping the loot in Bugs Bunny’s rabbit-hole. Finster tries to retrieve it with the expected results. The UPA style has already begun to creep in at this point, to the dismay of some cartoon critics.


Broom Stick Bunny (Chuck Jones, 1956) finds Bugs Bunny trick-or-treating until he falls into the clutches of the ugly Witch Hazel (Rocky and Bullwinkle’s June Foray). When Hazel realizes Bugs is a rabbit, he becomes the next ingredient on her potion’s recipe… or so she thinks.


In To Duck… or Not to Duck (Chuck Jones, 1943), Daffy Duck and Elmur Fudd (with his dog, Larrimore) duke it out in the boxing ring, complete with the collusion of the duck referee.


In Birth of a Notion (Robert McKimson, 1947), Daffy Duck convinces dumb house-dog Leopold into staying at his house, under the condition that Daffy doesn’t alert Leopold’s master, Peter Lorre, who “needs a duck’s wishbone” for his experiment. When Daffy catches on, all hell breaks loose.


Crowing Pains (Robert McKimson, 1947) finds Foghorn Leghorn convincing Henery Hawk that Sylvester the Cat is, in actuality, a chicken. A rare appearance of Sylvester with the Foghorn/Henery Hawk combo.


In Raw! Raw! Rooster (Robert McKimson, 1956), Foghorn Leghorn is terrorized by college chum and practical joker, Rhode-Island Red. Surprise! Foghorn’s attempts to rid himself of Red all backfire.


My Favorite Duck (Chuck Jones, 1942). Camper Porky Pig is tortured by Daffy Duck, who takes every opportunity to notify Porky of his $5,000 fine if he kills Daffy out of season.


A green, Jupiterian bird is the focus of Jumpin’ Jupiter (Chuck Jones, 1955), kidnapping Silvester and Porky for his own scientific purposes.


Satan’s Waitin’ (Friz Freling, 1953) is another entry in the Sylvester/Tweety battles, this time with Sylvester spending one of his nine lives and going to kitty hell, which is run by devil dogs (literally!). Needless to say, once he realizes he has eight lives left, he uses them up in no time. Some truly wonderful animation in this one, completely with exquisitely painted backgrounds.


Hook, Line and Stinker (Chuck Jones, 1958) is the thirteenth in the Wile E. Coyote and Road-Runner series. Coyote tries to capture the Roadrunner with various Acme products and consistently fails… as usual.


A Ham in the Role (Robert McKimson, 1949) is a charming one-shot with a Shakespearian dog resigning from Warner Bros. cartoons to be a house-hold ham. His plans are cut short by two gophers (who look and sound suspiciously like Chip and Dale).


Heaven Scent (Chuck Jones, 1956) features Pepe Le Pew up to his usual tricks wooing a black cat who happens to have painted a white streak down her back.


Often an Orphan (Chuck Jones, 1949), has Charlie Dog (who sounds uncannily like Bugs Bunny) trying to convince Porky that he needs to adopt him.


Dog Gone South (Chuck Jones, 1950) features another dog that sounds like Bugs Bunny. In fact, it’s the exact same short as Often an Orphan, with Porky being replaced by a southern colonel and the addition of a bull dog.


By Word of Mouse (Friz Freling, 1954) is a short obviously taking cue from the rash of UPA shorts released around the same time, one of three funded by the Alfred P. Sloane Foundation to explain economics. In this one, a German mouse goes to America , where his US counterpart explains to him the free market system while being chased by Sylvester Cat. Followed by Heir-conditioned and Yankee Dood It, shorts both available in the special features.


Special features included on disc one are four bonus shorts:


Heir-Conditioned (Friz Freling, 1955) – the second installment of the Sloane shorts, this time featuring Sylvester, Tweety and Elmur Fudd, playing out and discussing an open market. As riveting as I’m sure you’re all thinking.


Rabbit Rampage (Chuck Jones, 1955). An amusing short about Bugs Bunny arguing with an animator (off camera) about how he should be drawn.


Sniffles Takes a Trip (Chuck Jones, 1940) is an interesting vehicle for Sniffles the Mouse, a character that did about a dozen shorts at WB, but never seemed to go anywhere. This one about him getting scared in the woods is a good example of why. The style is much more reminiscent of what Disney was doing at the time (and even a few years earlier).


Yankee Dood It (Friz Freling, 1956) – the third and final entry in the Sloane shorts has Elmur Fudd as the king of the Elves, except that the Elves are industrial shoe makers. While these shorts get their message across, they’re not particularly funny or interesting, in this reviewer’s opinion.


Disc Two consists of:


Rocket-Bye Baby (Chuck Jones, 1956). A very UPAish short about a Martian-Earth baby switch-up. June Foray is the voice of the wife.


Fresh Airedale (Chuck Jones, 1945). A double-faced dog takes credit for snagging burglars when it is, in reality, the cat that chases them away. A bizarre morality tale for a cartoon.


It’s Hummer Time (Robert McKimson, 1950). Cat chases hummingbird, lands on bulldog, expected results. Again and again.


Much Ado about Nutting (Chuck Jones, 1953). A squirrel has trouble cracking open a coconut he thinks is a giant nut.


Goo Goo Goliath (Friz Freling, 1954). A play on “Jack and the Beanstalk,” with a tipsy stork delivering an over-grown baby to normal-sized parents.


The Draft Horse (Chuck Jones, 1942) finds a talking horse trying to enlist in the Army, but changes his mind when he sees what war is really about.


Lights Fantastic (Friz Freling, 1942). A wonderful tour of the lights of Times Square , seen through the WB cartoons’ eyes. Fantastic footage of Times Square in color is included. Look for a risqué pin-up near the end of the short!


Rookie Revue (Friz Freling, 1941). One shot gags on an army base. A product of its time, Rookie Revue has some fairly realistic human renderings.


The Weakly Reporter (Chuck Jones, 1944). A parody of WWII newsreels.


Wild Wife (Robert McKimson, 1954). A bossy husband gets an earful from his wife, who proceeds to tell him what she does throughout her day.


The Hole Idea (Robert McKimson, 1955). A classic. Prof. Calvin Q. Calculus invents a portable hole. Mayhem ensues!


Page Miss Glory (Leadora Congdon, 1936) is an art deco masterpiece. A rube bellhop dreams he’s the head bellboy in a great metropolitan hotel. Song is a Dubin and Warren number from a Marion Davies film from the previous year. In glorious Technicolor!


Now Hear This (Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble, 1962). While I’m not particularly a fan of the later WB cartoons, this abstract art short is quite fascinating. No description is necessary, other than it’s a totally stream of consciousness-induced short about sound.


Norman Normal (Alex Lovy, 1968). Warner Bros. cartoons go psychedelic, or so the start of the short would make you think. The short is actually a psychological view of the business and social world with Norman Normal being the “square” centerpiece. Quite possibly my favorite cartoon in the set.


A Cartoonist’s Nightmare (Jack King, 1935) — part of the short-lived “Beans” series, an animator becomes trapped by the villains of his own creation. Beans comes to the rescue. A wonderful short, the only black and white one in the set.


Special features included on disc two are four bonus shorts:


Wild Wild World (Robert McKimson, 1960) is a “television” travelogue showing an “actual film” of primitive cavemen. This particular transfer seemed to be an older one, showing some ghosting artifacts, probably from a film chain.


Punch Trunk (Chuck Jones, 1953). An elephant, five inches tall, runs amok in the city. Also seems to be an older transfer.


Bartholomew Versus the Wheel (Robert McKimson, 1964). After a traumatic experience with a tricycle, a dog steals and buries wheels of all shapes and sizes.


Sleepy Time Possum (Robert McKimson, 1951). Ma and Pa Possum can’t seem to figure out their tree-hanging son. Another older transfer.


Trailers: Three trailers are included for PEANUTS Holiday, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and Smurfs Season 1, Vol. 2.


The transfers on each of the cartoons are colorful, sharp and vibrant, with little to no noise reduction and a natural amount of grain. Birth of a Notion, Raw! Raw! Rooster, My Favorite Duck, Satan’s Waitin’, Often an Orphan, Yankee Dood It, Sniffles Takes a Trip, Fresh Airedale and Sleepy Time Possum are presented with the re-issue “Blue Ribbon” opening titles, some of them replacing the original titles.


All of the transfers are presented full-frame 1.33:1, with the opening titles being window-boxed at 1.37:1. The reviewer wondered if most of these cartoons, released after 1953, shouldn’t be shown wide-screen. In either case, either the transfers for these later shorts are zoomed in on or are not composed thusly, as matting the DVD using the KMPlayer was unsuccessful except for a few. Ironically, the DVD menus are 16x9.


As is usual with most of the studios, the short end of the stick is the audio. Compared to original optical soundtracks of the day, the new “restored” soundtracks seem flattened and without any life, a side-effect of over-processing to remove hiss and other analog anomalies. Unlike the image, which sparkles and seems to have a judicious noise reduction, if any, the sound is hurting on these classic film releases and is an aspect that studios need to be focusing more carefully towards.


Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume Six comes on two discs in a cardboard sleeve with overlap case. I’m not a fan of these overlap cases, particularly if you’re running the shorts out of order—the removal of other discs are necessary and can lead to unnecessary wear of the discs or case. However, the set is a must have for any parent interested in showing their children the best of Looney Tunes with a conscious towards kid-friendly programming, and future generations of animation fans are sure to discover and enjoy these wonderful cartoons through these sets.



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