HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

LAID TO REST -- DVD review by porfle

"A guy in a mask chasing a girl...that usually works," thought writer/director Robert Hall while thinking up ideas for a follow-up to his '04 debut feature, LIGHTNING BUG. And what a mask--a grinning chrome skull, which fits over the face of tall, lanky, cueball-bald actor Nick Principe. With his imposing stature and graceful, deliberate movements, in addition to being nattily-dressed in a tastefully tailored black outfit, Chrome Skull is one of the most interesting slasher anti-heroes since the 80s. And LAID TO REST (2009) is a glossy, blood-drenched, pedal-to-the-metal throwback to that era.

The chilling titles sequence gives us jagged glimpses of Chrome Skull nastily doing away with several young women. Then we meet our heroine, The Girl (Hall's wife Bobbi Sue Luther in a lively performance), as she wakes up in a closed casket in a funeral home, with no memory of who she is or how she got there. After witnessing the gruesome death of an old mortician (the venerable Richard Lynch) at the hands of Chrome Skull, she flees down the highway until she's picked up by a kindly redneck named Tucker (Kevin Gage, best-known by me as the vile "Waingro" in Michael Mann's HEAT), who takes her home. Tucker's wife Cindy (Lena Headey, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles", 300) isn't too pleased at first, but soon warms up to the poor frightened woman. Then Chrome Skull shows up and pins Cindy's head to a wall with his knife.

We should probably talk about Chrome Skull's knife for a minute. It's a real doozy--in fact, it makes those things carried by guys like Jim Bowie and Crocodile Dundee look like toothpicks. Razor-sharp on one side, with jagged spikes on the other, the massive chrome blade is perfect not only for slicing and jabbing but also for sawing people's heads off. Which seems to be one of the many hobbies that keep Chrome Skull occupied. We never learn much about what happened to screw this guy up, but with a phallic extension like this, he definitely has a sexual hang-up or two rattling around in his shiny skull.

Anyway, Tucker is now on the run with Princess (his nickname for the mysterious girl) and along the way they pick up a geeky nerd named Stephen, who's played by the very familiar and funny Sean Whalen (THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, TWISTER). They take refuge in the funeral home, which is troublesome for Stephen since his mother just died, and even more troublesome when he sees her head floating toward him in the dark. After a lot of running around from place to place, and a lot of doing stupid stuff that people in slasher movies always do, the three finally end up barricaded in a small grocery store with a couple of rave-bound party boys named Tommy and Johnny (Thomas Dekker, Johnathon Schaech). But they can't keep Chrome Skull out for long, and before you know it he's in there making mincemeat out of anything with a heartbeat.

This is the kind of eye-popping, knuckle-baring slasher flick I was looking for back in the old days whenever I'd trudge to the latest FRIDAY THE 13TH crapfest or rent yet another piece of dreck like THE BURNING or THE PROWLER, ever hopeful that the next one would actually turn out to be worth watching. With LAID TO REST, Robert Hall has taken the old formula and done it up with all the bells and whistles--state-of-the-art gore effects from his own renowned makeup studio Almost Human, a sharp script that lovingly reprises all the old cliches while giving us a few new twists, a top-notch cast, and a cool monster who videotapes his kills with a shoulder-mounted camera (an element which will later provide clues to Princess' mysterious origins). Hall proves himself a very capable director, and the cinematography, done with a Panasonic HPX-3000 high-definition 1080p camera in the AVC Intra Mode (I don't know what any of that means, but it sounds awesome), makes this one of the best-looking indy slasher flicks you'll ever see. Hall's own band Deadbox contributes to the exciting heavy metal musical score.

Extras include an enthusiastic audio commentary from husband-wife team Hall and Luther and the half-hour "Postmortem: The Making of Laid to Rest", a very entertaining and well-produced documentary. There's also a look at "The SFX of Laid to Rest", a few deleted scenes, some funny bloopers, and a trailer.

This isn't "torture porn" as much as an homage to the classic stalker-slasher era with suspense sequences punctuated by sudden, flabbergasting death scenes. It's the kind of gore effects that you used to see featured in big full-color spreads in Fangoria magazine, but when you went to see the movie you'd find they'd all been snipped into almost subliminal split-second flashes to avoid an "X" rating. Not in this unrated director's cut, however--everything's as horribly graphic as the most avid gorehound could hope for. Almost Human studios specializes in realistic-looking dead bodies, which are abundant in the aftermath of Chrome Skull's homicidal activities, and they also give us some of the most shocking kill scenes ever created. These are done with good old-fashioned makeup FX (one death scene even uses bladders) which are augmented by CGI to create some pretty convincing carnage. The most jaw-dropping (literally!) effect comes fairly early as one guy gets Chrome Skull's blade right through his cheeks, which our whimsical hero removes by taking the top of the guy's head off. Yikes! If that sounds intriguing to you, then you really should check out LAID TO REST. If not, then I would advise you to stay as far away from this movie as possible.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

TIMECRIMES -- DVD review by porfle

When H.G. Wells wrote "The Time Machine", just the idea of a guy traveling back and forth in time was interesting enough. But when people started thinking about all the different variables and screwed-up timelines caused by it, this opened up a whole new area of story possibilities. One of the most recent of such stories is Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo's TIMECRIMES, aka Los Cronocrímenes (2007), a wonderfully intriguing tale of how a man out of time can become his own worst enemy.

The film starts out slow as we find the super-ordinary Hector (Karra Elejalde) bumbling through his everyday life. He's happily married to perky Clara (Candela Fernández) and they're just settling into their secluded new home in the woods, which is still under construction, when one day Hector notices something strange as he scans the forest with his binoculars--an attractive young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) slowly removing her clothes. When he hikes over to investigate, he finds her lying naked against a rock, either dead or unconscious. Suddenly a sinister stranger whose head is wrapped in bandages stabs Hector in the arm with a pair of scissors and starts to chase him. Hector runs for his life, unaware that it has already been disastrously changed, and from this point onward TIMECRIMES becomes relentlessly exciting.

Stumbling upon a compound of buildings in a clearing, Hector enters and meets a young scientist (director Vigalondo) who seems to be conducting some kind of experiment. The young man tells Hector to hide in a large circular chamber which turns out to be a time machine. Hector reemerges from it having traveled back in time one hour. Which doesn't seem like much, except now there are two of him--his present self, and his hour-earlier self whom he can see in the distance, still sitting in his backyard scanning the forest with his binoculars. What does he do now? And who the heck is the scissor-happy psycho with the bandaged head?

I love stories like this because time travel can be so fascinating when you start playing around with all the various plotholes, inconsistencies, and anomalies inherent in the concept itself. (I'm still waiting for someone to make a film out of David Gerrold's novel "The Man Who Folded Himself"--now that would blow some people's minds.) How do you restore the timeline and end up back where you started, with only one of you and all the damage repaired? As you might guess, Hector's attempts to rectify things only make them worse, and the scientist, whom we assume should know what's going on, turns out to be pretty much in the dark about it all himself. Thinking on his feet, Hector comes up with a solution that hinges upon his hour-earlier self doing exactly what he did the first time and ending up in the time machine, where the present Hector will take his place. But of course he screws this up by changing the past and must then scramble to stick the pieces back together as best he can.

It's all delightfully frantic and difficult to follow--I'm still not sure I got it all right--with Hector improvising new strategies at every turn and running into one unforeseen obstacle after another. Things get even more complicated when he runs into the girl in the forest and discovers her part in the whole thing. And then there's the guy with the bandaged face--his role in the jigsaw puzzle will eventually lead to the possible death of Hector's wife Clara and the final collapse of his entire existence.

Karra Elejalde plays Hector with an endearingly bland and somewhat comical demeanor. The character deals with what's happening to him with a dogged determination, rarely giving in to his emotions because, ironically, he doesn't have the time. Rather than shrinking from danger and accepting his fate, Hector will eventually become ruthless. Nacho Vigalondo is good as the young scientist, having already proven his acting skills in his Oscar-nominated 2003 short, "7:35 de la mañana", which is included as a bonus feature. Playing the women in Hector's life, Bárbara Goenaga as "the girl in the forest" and Candela Fernández as Clara are both appealing.

Another bonus, the 45-minute documentary "Making of TIMECRIMES", gives us a day-to-day look at Vigalondo and company putting this film together with just a few outdoor locations, limited sets (some of which are destroyed by a tornado at one point), and lots of imagination and ingenuity. His style is simple, save for a nice crane shot or two, and efficient, smoothly propelling the story along with no distractions. I like the fact that this is a small film with a tiny cast and few locations, yet brimming with interesting twists and turns.

The DVD image and sound are good, and the extras are fun. In addition to the aforementioned making-of documentary, Vigalondo's 8-minute short film "7:35 de la mañana" is a brilliant, delightfully funny and strange little vignette in which a woman sitting in a cafe' is suddenly confronted with a roomful of diners putting on a bizarre song-and-dance number for her against their will. There's also a series of cast and crew interviews, a makeup featurette, an extensive look at the creation of the TIMECRIMES Internet Game, a photo gallery, and trailers for this and other films in the Six Shooter Film Series. The film comes with both the original Spanish soundtrack with subtitles and an English dub.

As most fans of James Cameron's TERMINATOR saga will readily admit, his time-travel scenario makes no sense when you think about it. That is, how can future events come back to affect us when we've done nothing to set them into motion in the first place? It's a time loop with no beginning. And you'd expect a movie like TIMECRIMES to finesse its way around such things--yet it makes exactly the same mistake! But, I'm willing to suspend disbelief in both cases since each is so entertaining. And once you get over that basic speed-bump of illogic upon which rests the entire complicated plot, TIMECRIMES is one of the most intriguing, stimulating, and exciting time travel thrillers ever made.
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Thursday, March 26, 2009

"SPLINTER" Arrives On DVD April 14 From Magnolia Home Entertainment Under The Magnet Label

"AN INGENIOUS, AWESOME MONSTER MOVIE! The economy and freshness of this material make this suspenseful, first-rate fright flick work so sensationally." - Paper

"Splinter features the year's best beast." - LA Weekly

"...an all-around great monster creation, one you won't likely forget anytime soon."- Deadcentral.com

A young couple and a fugitive on the run are forced to work together in order to escape from a vicious parasitic monster that transforms people into bloodthirsty hosts in SPLINTER . With bloodcurdling performances from Paulo Costanzo (Forty Days and Forty Nights), Shea Whigham (Fast and Furious) and Jill Wagner ("Wipeout"), SPLINTER was directed by Toby Wilkins whose design and effects credits include Spiderman 3, The Lord of the Rings, Death Proof and Planet Terror.
Actors: Paulo Costanzo, Shea Whigham, Jill Wagner, Charles Baker
Director: Toby Wilkins
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Number of discs: 1
Rating: R
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: April 14, 2009
Run Time: 82 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com

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The Warner Brothers Archives: A Revolutionary New Service For Classic Film Fans

Warner Brothers recently announced the start of their new Warner Borthers Archives program (the full press release is at the end of this post). Warner Brothers has developed a system that will allow users in the US (and shortly worldwide) the ability to order a custom made DVD-R of films available from the service. Warner claims that the DVD-Rs are made using a proprietary system that will separate the quality of there discs from a standard burnt DVD-R that one might buy off the Internet.

This will be a way for fans to get access to films that previously could only be seen on a rare TV screening or through bootleggers who would make copies transferred from their own private prints or who had copies that come from VHS tapes copied from other VHS tapes, which caused quality to be atrocious. This allows fans a chance to get quality versions of titles that otherwise might not come out on DVD/BR because they would not sell the requisite amount of units at retail. This service however, will allow titles to be released, with unit sales no longer being as large a concern.

At the moment 150 titles are available for 19.95 plus shipping for each of them. Download for 14.95 will be available soon. Warner Brothers plans to add 20 titles a month and will have 300 titles in place by the end of 2009. The titles will be in their original aspect ration and anamorphically enhanced when proper. The titles will have cover art and cases.

The early reports have been fairly positive with reports of extremely short shipping time as people are already getting their orders. Some feel that the masters being used are older ones from previous TV or Laserdiscs masters. However, others are saying that the picture quality is fine. One most keep in mind that not all films are going to be remastered a second time, the masters used are existing masters that where used for VHS/LD/TV transfers and a new transfer may greatly increase costs.

Still, considering the unavailability of these titles for many years, I feel most fans will be willing to accept this conditions, though they still should let Warner know that they as consumers have feedback.

The one big hope is that with Warner Brothers leading that way in this new digital system, other studios will follow suit, with fans being able to buy Shadow on the Window form Sony, Mad Doctor of Market Street from Universal, The Maze from Paramount, and many other obscure titles we love, but may not get a normal retail release otherwise.

I look forward to making my first purchase soon and posting my feedback. I think readers should give it a try. When was the last time you got to see all three Barrymore's? Well, now you can order up Rasputin and the Empress and see all three!



WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT GROUP OPENS THE WORLD’S LARGEST FILM VAULT WITH THE LAUNCH OF
“WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION”

Offers Movies Never Before Available on DVD; 150 Titles at Launch Including “Abe Lincoln in Illinois,” “The Citadel” and “All Fall Down”

Burbank, Calif., March 23, 2009 – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group (WBHEG), today announced the debut of the “Warner Archive Collection” (www.WarnerArchive.com), a selection of movies spanning more than 60 years of filmmaking never before available on DVD. The world’s largest film and television vault is finally open to consumers who can now purchase authentic DVD and digital downloads of more than 150 classic titles for the first time drawn from Warner Bros. Entertainment’s unparalleled film library consisting of pre-1986 MGM, RKO Radio Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures films. They include Academy Award® nominee “Sunrise at Campobello,” “The Citadel,” “Mr. Lucky,” and many others from the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond.

To order their movies, fans visit WarnerArchive.com, select their titles, and upon purchase, a state-of-the-art manufacturing on demand (MOD) system creates a made-to-order DVD indistinguishable in quality from a standard pressed DVD. The system places the DVD into a hard plastic Amaray case featuring custom artwork; shrink wraps it and ships the finished package to the customer which arrives in approximately five days. The cost per title is $19.95, plus shipping. Alternatively, movie fans can purchase digital downloads of these classic films to enjoy immediately on their PC. The cost for a digital download is $14.95 per title.

Initially the Warner Archive Collection offers 150 sought after titles including “Possessed” starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford; “Once Upon a Honeymoon” starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers; and “All Fall Down” starring Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint. Every month approximately 20 classic films and television programs will be added and by year’s end more than 300 titles will be available online. For a complete list of current titles visit WarnerArchive.com.

“With a cinematic legacy as rich and varied as that found within our library, the challenge has been to meet the voracious demand of consumers who are seeking their favorite films on DVD,” said George Feltenstein, senior vice president, Theatrical Catalog Marketing, Warner Home Video. “Whether it’s an Academy Award® -winning classic from Hollywood’s Golden Age, a Sci-Fi cult favorite from the ‘70s, or a silent rediscovery from the ‘20s, the Warner Archive Collection has something for everyone. This unprecedented initiative represents a tremendous effort from Warner Home Video and Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and is representative of the company’s continued dedication to film preservation.”

As a companion to the Warner Archive Collection, WBHEG will launch an exciting new podcast series titled the “Golden History of Hollywood.” Available in late March on iTunes (www.itunes.com) as well as numerous online sites for free, the “Golden History of Hollywood” features captivating archival recordings from the studio’s vault including behind-the-scenes interviews with stars, radio editions of movies and much more.

Classic movie fans are invited to offer their input on future titles they would like to see in the Warner Archive Collection. Visit WarnerArchive.com and vote for a number of the next 20 titles that will be offered in April.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SHUTTLE -- DVD review by porfle

Horror films have been set in just about every other location, so I guess it was just a matter of time before we got SHUTTLE, which takes place mainly in--you guessed it--a shuttle. Of course, with a name like that, it's got to be good. That is, it better be. And for most of its running time, until a final act that sorta fizzles out, it is.

Two girls, Melanie (Peyton List) and Jules (Cameron Goodman), are "best friends 4-ever" who just got back from a vacation in Mexico and are trying to find a shuttle from the airport into the city. Two guys, the horny Seth (James Snyder) and the "I just wanna go home" Matt (Dave Power), are in the same circumstance. They all end up not in the fancy expensive shuttle, but in the dingly little shuttle that costs half as much but is driven by a guy (Tony Curran, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION, BLADE II) whom they're not really all that sure about. He's a little creepy, and he doesn't seem to know his way around because he's taking them into a deserted, rundown part of town that isn't anywhere near where they're going. When they start to complain, he gets mad. Then he gets violent. And his passengers begin to realize that they're in big trouble.

The first half of SHUTTLE is a riveting journey into terror punctuated by moments of shocking violence. Just when you've gotten over the last crimson flick of the knife or wince-inducing bodily injury, another nerve-wracking act of violence comes out of nowhere. The rest of the time we're in constant suspense as the driver takes his captives further down the rabbit hole for no apparent reason. He seems more and more like a twitching nutcase, especially when he sends Mel into an all-night grocery store to purchase a list of seemingly random items and gives her ten minutes to return with them or he'll start offing people. It's like a really tense episode of "Supermarket Sweep" as she races her cart down the aisles to grab--cat litter? Meanwhile in the parking lot, a poorly-conceived escape attempt results in one of the hostages having a really bad tire day.

This goes on until, at about the halfway point, writer-director Edward Anderson springs his nastiest surprise yet, which all you smarties out there will probably see coming but which had my jaw bouncing up and down like a yo-yo. It's around this time that the driver's accomplice shows up, and he's nutty as a fruitcake and twice as dangerous. While the whole escapade seems up to now to have been all about robbery, suddenly it appears that these two wackos are psycho thrill-killers who are simply out for a little of the old ultra-violence. But there's even more to it than that, as the story eventually reveals its final surprises.

Things get weirder and more harrowing than ever for our hapless heroines as they descend into the lowest depths of their captors' depravity--yet somehow the raw, unpredictable tension of the film's first half slowly but surely begins to dissipate. By the time we're finally shown the dire secret behind the whole dastardly affair, the story plays itself out to a blandly unsatisfying conclusion. (Although we do get to find out what the hell that cat litter was for.)

The cast does a great job of selling all this, with Tony Curran going under-the-top to nice effect as the driver and his accomplice (Cullen Douglas) supplying us with double our daily recommended dosage of "coo-coo." James Snyder and Dave Power are okay and do about what's expected of them as "the guys", while Peyton List is good as the main girl. The standout, though, would probably be Cameron Goodman as her friend Jules. Her character seems a bit shallow at first but as the story progresses she displays some impressive acting skills. This is especially evident in her screen test footage which can be found among the bonus features, in which she gets into it to the point of shedding actual tears. No wonder she got the part.

First-time director Anderson stages everything nicely, giving us not only lots of tense human drama but also a nifty series of action setpieces that include vehicular crashes, people getting chased and/or run over, some slashings and severed body parts, and a few life-or-death struggles that should have you on the edge of your seat. And then, of course, there's Mel's mad dash through the supermarket, which even manages to make shopping seem exciting. While the end sequence fails to maintain this level of tension, it does contain some elements that are pretty deranged and of morbid interest. However, the final twist isn't all that twisty and the last scene just sorta plays itself out in cursory fashion.

DVD extras include some interesting casting sessions with all of the lead actors, some non-essential deleted scenes, a brief behind-the-scenes featurette, and the trailer. The DVD looks and sounds fine, with 2.35:1 widescreen and English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital sound. Subtitles are available in Spanish only.

The idea of a movie called SHUTTLE, which takes place on, yes, a shuttle, didn't exactly fill me with waves of giddy anticipation. So the fact that much of this movie turned out to be such a nifty thrill ride came as a pleasant and quite entertaining surprise. The first three quarters or so of this nasty little thriller make it worth the trip--too bad it starts to run out of gas before reaching its final destination.
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DONKEY PUNCH -- DVD review by porfle

Seven young Brits on holiday in Spain go from party to Purgatory with a single DONKEY PUNCH (2008), director Olly Blackburn's deviously clever and exhilaratingly tense horror-thriller.

Three sexy lasses--Kim (cute-as-a-button Jamie Winstone), blonde babe Lisa (Sian Breckin), and their more reserved friend Tammi (Nichola Burley), who's nursing a broken heart--hook up with party boys Marcus, Josh, and Bluey (Jay Taylor, Julian Morris, and Tom Burke, respectively) in a nightclub on the Spanish coast. The boys are tending a luxury yacht while the owners are away and invite the girls aboard, where they meet the more reserved Sean (Robert Boulter), who we just know is going to hit it off with Tammi.

Taking the yacht out onto the open sea, the thrill-seeking yoots delve into a hedonistic free-for-all of booze, drugs, and "sexy time." While Sean and Tammi have a nice, reserved heart-to-heart chat on deck, the others soon retire to the master bedroom to indulge in enough wild softcore sex for three Skinemax flicks put together. Bluey invites shy observer Josh into the mix, but in his moment of peak excitement he foolishly applies a move jokingly referred to earlier by Bluey--you guessed it, the dreaded "donkey punch"--and in one terrible instant one of the girls is dead and the rest of the bunch suddenly has a serious problem on their hands.

Up to this point Blackburn has directed the film with the light touch of a teen sex romp, but with an underlying bad-vibes tone that lets us know things are gonna go wrong. Even the musical score somehow sounds a little off as it slithers its way around the action with a hint of mockery. The sex scene, which is probably the main reason this film is being sold in both rated and unrated versions, starts out slow and then picks up momentum until it's out of control. In another movie such graphic debauchery would seem gratuitious, but here it's necessary to convey the mindless abandon that leads to that one fateful mistake which plunges everyone into their worst nightmare.

The story then becomes a deliberate, inevitable progression from bad to worst as the guys hotly debate whether or not to cover up the deed while the remaining girls, who have no intention of watching their friend's body being dumped overboard and then complying with a fake story, begin to realize what a tenuous position they're in. The conflict will become more deadly as the situation devolves. At this point screenwriters Blackburn and David Bloom start ratcheting up the nailbiting suspense and bloody mayhem until the former pleasure cruise becomes a frenzy of survival instincts gone wild.

Blackburn deftly choreographs his actors, all of whom are very good (especially my future wife, Jamie Winstone), and the camera flows beautifully throughout the yacht's confines with an unobtrusive documentary style that's effective rather than affected-looking. It's all very straightforwardly done, with no hokey jump scares or musical stings, in an almost real-time way that makes us feel like we're a part of the relentlessly unfolding events. Once things get started, there are no lulls in the action and the suspense is kept increasingly taut until the fadeout. It's like stepping onto a carnival ride that doesn't let up until it's over.

The DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment's Magnet label is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound, which look and sound fine. Extras include a director/producer commentary track, a "making of" featurette, interviews with director Blackburn and the cast, deleted scenes, and trailers for this and the other films in the Six Shooter Film Series. As stated before, the DVD is available in both rated and unrated versions. I got to see the unrated version (heh, heh) so I'm not sure exactly what you'll be missing out on with the other one, although I'm willing to bet it'll mostly have something to do with that orgy sequence.

DONKEY PUNCH is a finely-wrought exploitation flick with a really good cast and production values, and generous helpings of sex and violence to augment its harrowingly suspenseful story. And as a cautionary tale, it should succeed in reminding today's youth that boys and girls can have a cracking good time together without the need of anyone whipping out the old donkey punch for any reason whatsoever.
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Grindhouse Releasing's Special 2 Disc DVD of Cat in the Brain is Coming March 31st!





























One of Lucio Fulci's last and most personal works is finally coming to DVD and it's coming from Grindhouse releasing so you know it's going to be filled with a ton of unique extras, including rare interviews with the late director never before seen outside Italy!

Here is a link to pre-order.

http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/aid.85597/filmID.549865/qx/details.htm
Click on the image for a larger copy of the info.


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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series review by Jessica Friedman



"All I know is, I hate racists. I hate everything about them: their music, their food, their so-called religion, the way their men are so skinny, and their wives are all so fat, but mostly, I hate the way they judge people based on tired stereotypes.”

If you find the above quotation absolutely hilarious, then Andy Richter Controls the Universe is your type of show. In the vein of the great comedies of our generation that mix frenetic surrealism with biting wit, this program was, unfortunately, canceled by (who else) Fox after only airing 14 of the 19 episodes made due to (of course) poor ratings. Yes, this is another beloved cult tv show that could not make it despite having some of the best writing ever (and I say this as a diehard Arrested Development fan). In fact, I would compare ARCtU to three of my favorite shows of all time. It captures the spirit of the after-school special reversals (like the quote from the neurotic Byron above) in Strangers with Candy (a show Richter and his wife actually appeared on), the fantastic interoffice camaraderie of Newsradio, and the beauty of dysfunction in the aforementioned AD (another show Richter appeared on briefly in a hilarious cameo). After spending a whole weekend with my husband watching all 19 episodes and the extra features (commentary by Andy and the creator, Victor Fresco, on two episodes; a featurette on the making of the show; and a cute montage entitled “What If Andy Richter Controlled the Universe?”), I can say that without a doubt this dvd set is a MUST HAVE for people who love cult comedies.

The show revolves around the life of the titular character of Andy Richter, played by Andy Richter, and his relationships with his four friends: his boss Jessica (Paget Brewster), coworker Keith (James Patrick Stuart), receptionist Wendy (Irene Molloy), and the guy he shares his office with, Byron (Jonathan Slavin). Throw into the mix Andy’s surreal flashbacks and cutaway thoughts, the recurring gag of the founder of the company Andy works for, Mr. Pickering, saying the most politically incorrect things possible (but getting away with it because he is only a figment of Andy’s imagination) and a slew of fantastic guest stars, and you have the makings of a true gem of a tv show.

As I previously noted, the DVD set comes with all of the episodes (not just the ones Fox aired), however, there is a major caveat when viewing the episodes. For unknown reasons, the set is listed out of order (which is incredibly obvious with “Second Episode” being listed fourth on Disc One). To enhance your viewing (and to not be totally confused by the hairstyle changes of the female characters season to season), do yourself a favor and watch “Second Episode” as the second episode (this seems obvious, but Ian and I didn’t watch it that way and were thoroughly confused with the plot shift). This also occurs with some of the second season episodes (the character of Wendy goes from curly hair to straight hair episode to episode), so be on the look out for this error. Aside from this minor problem, everything else about the set is great. The video quality is fine, the sound is crisp, and the extras include some insightful discussion of the show and how it came to be with interviews from all of the cast.

In regards to the episodes themselves, I would like to take a moment to describe my two favorites: “We’re All the Same, Only Different” and “Crazy in Rio.” Both of these episodes appear on the second disc and feature insightful comedy about society (racism and nepotism, respectively). The above quotation from Byron is one of the many brilliant discussions of diversity that to me is reminiscent of South Park’s take on people who hate smokers at the Museum of Tolerance, calling them “filthy smokers,” “dirty lungs,” and “tar-breath.” Better yet is that the object of Andy’s bigotry is not a typical ethnic minority group, but the Irish, which leads to many laughs as multiple levels of people don’t consider making fun of the Irish a problem, leading to the always humorous sensitivity training weekend that features one character saying what is without a doubt my favorite line of the show (it’s probably too racially insensitive to print here, but it is well worth seeking out if you enjoy political incorrectness at its extreme).

My other favorite episode that I would like to briefly mention features Andy’s late-night cohort, Conan O’Brien, as Pickering’s grandson who takes over the company as its CEO and is…shall we say, a bit eccentric. For example, at one point in the episode Conan’s character has cotton candy wrapped around his hand and tells the gang that he wasn’t offering it to them when he said “cotton candy,” he was introducing it to them. As always, Conan is hilarious with Andy by his side, and the episode takes shots at nepotism, the perks of the elite, and Italian-speaking dogs (boy, they needed to be taken down a peg or two).

In conclusion, this dvd set is a necessity for anyone who loves cult comedy shows. If you want to relive the insanity of Pickering’s diatribes against cleaning ladies and homosexuals or if you never saw the show during its initial run but have heard good things about it, I highly recommend giving Andy’s imagined universe that he controls a chance.
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Monday, March 23, 2009

42nd St Pete Reviews Severin's THE SINFUL DWARF DVD

This is sick shit and I’m enjoying every minute of it. -42nd St Pete

The Sinful Dwarf 1974 from Box Office International From Severin Films

It says on the box that Severin Films may go to hell for releasing this and I’ll be going along for watching it. When you think of epic dwarfsploitaton , several classic performances come to mind: Louis De Jesus being pleasured from a severed head in Bloodsucking Freaks, Billy Barty turning into a sparkler in The Undead, Angelo Rossito falling head first on his axe in Dracula vs Frankenstein, and Torbin Billie’s tour de force performance in The Sinful Dwarf.

Only an auteur like Harry Novak would have the keen insight to realize the cultural impact The Sinful Dwarf would have. Only a company like Severin Films would have the balls to release this film, beautifully restored from a pristine 35mm print. You’d be hard pressed to find a film with more depravity crammed into a 95 minute running time. If Jack Black was a breech birth, this might have been the result. Torbin, at times, actually reminds me of Jack’s performance in the King Kong remake.

Before the credits roll, our miniature madman has lured a young girl into the bushes with a wind up toy, hit her over the head with his cane, and dragged her back to his attic lair where other girls are imprisoned. He has a drunken slob mother, he shoots the girls up with drugs as they lie around in a crappy room naked. A British couple rent a room and have sex in a hot softcore scene. This is Danish and it really pushes the envelope similar to They Call Her One Eye (aka Thriller: A Cruel Picture). The Dwarf is selling the chics and this was way before the internet.

Torbin plays the piano while “Lady Lash” sings. The Brits seem unfazed by this, but they are interested in the attic. Cut to a john having sex with a semi-comatose girl. The Brit’s wife, who is the most attractive in the film, hears noises, one of the girls servicing a trick. This is some twisted shit. Great sex scenes, the Danes invented this stuff. You could imply just about anything and it wasn’t uncommon to have near hardcore scenes in mainstream films there.

Scenes of The Dwarf in bed with his mother are pretty unsettling. They want to “get the Blonde”. They need new girls as these are using too much heroin. It gets sicker, Mom’s dope connection is a toy store. Mom looks like Sarah Palin after she got hit in the face with a hockey puck. A Girl gets fake whipped.

The toy store’s drug runner gets killed, so they hire the Brit, mainly to get his wife for the midget, ah, dwarf, ah, little bastard. She gets caught in the attic and chained up by Mother & Dwarf. Funny, the younger chics are buck naked, she is in bra & panties. Eventually she gets humped by the drooling dwarf. This is sick shit and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

The law is closing in after a teddy bear od’s on heroin. The cops really want the “little bastard” . The cops find the girls and now go dwarf hunting. Mom gets shot and the Dwarf caves in a cop's skull. The Dwarf falls off the roof with a wet splat .

This is great stuff, the print is excellent, you’ve never seen the Box Office International logo look this gorgeous. The extras are limited to a fake Severin documentary about the film and it’s controversy, and also a trailer under the Abducted Bride title, radio spots, and an easter egg with a trailer for the movie under the Sinful Dwarf title, with some awesome narration (EDITOR NOTE: I actually helped supply Severin with the trailer, I couldn’t get a hold of a higher quality copy, hence why it is only an easter egg. Still, you have to give a company like Severin the credit for look out for any and all extras for the film and being willing to include it at all, some labels lacking a higher quality material would just exclude it).

Why are you still reading this people? ITS TIME TO GO TO HELL with Severin and the Sinful Dwarf!
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Voting Closed For 7th Annual Rondo Awards

Here's the latest word from David "taraco" Colton of the Classic Horror Film Board:

"The winners of the 7th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards will be unveiled category by category, as is our tradition, in the CHFB Chatroom, also known as the Blind Hermit's Hut (you can find it here), on Monday at 10 p.m. ET. The winners will then be announced in full at the Rondoaward.com website and in the Rondo folder [at CHFB]. We seem to have a record vote. Thanks one and all!"

An earlier CHFB post by David, dated 3/16/09, expressed some of his observations about the vote-tallying process:

"One of the fun (if exhausting), things about the Rondos is counting all the ballots and seeing the little asides, comments, explanations or even denunciations that people include with their vote. Only the promised anonymity of the voting process keeps me from reprinting many of them.

One guy called me out yesterday for missing a better episode of SUPERNATURAL than the one I had chosen as a nominee: 'Dude! Do you even watch Supernatural...?' it said. (Actually, I don't watch it much, and he was right, the episode he suggested would have been a better choice).

But another ballot arrived today -- #2,161 -- that just made me smile. A simple message, the voter said: 'Thanks for reminding me to vote and for making all this possible. It's nice to know our voices are being heard.'

I liked that on two levels: First off, I do email hundreds of past voters reminding them to vote (AOL kicked me off twice as a spammer in recent years!), and while a few people complain, far more seem to appreciate the reminders.

Secondly, sometimes people question why we leave such important Rondo decisions up to voters rather than forming some kind of committee or panel that would decide the winners, and there's a lot of merit to that argument.

But the email-your-vote Rondo process, as flawed as it may be and as open as it is to campaigning and fun skullduggery, does in the end reflect the fan's point of view, and for that, all we can do is tally up the votes and see what happens. The happy thing is that with few exceptions, in my view the voice of the people has been pretty dead-on over the years.

Anyhow, back to counting. If you haven't voted yet, several races are Ripper-razor thin, so do take a moment if you can. Thanks as always.

And don't hesitate to call me out if I messed up. Dudes.

david"
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"DANTE 01"--Science Fiction Nightmare Lands On DVD April 21st From The Weinstein Company And Genius Products

"Like an amphetamine powered version of Doom"­ quietearth.us

SANTA MONICA, CA ­ A new arrival at an appalling space prison unveils adisturbing tale in Dante 01, arriving on DVD April 21st from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company under the Dimension Extreme label. "Visually riveting" (Variety) and equally as horrifying, Dante 01 is the hotly anticipated solo directorial debut from French filmmaker Marc Caro (City of Lost Children, Delicatessen).

The sole survivor of an alien encounter and convicted of his crew¹s murder, Saint Georges is banished to Dante 01, the intergalactic facility for the criminally insane. Home to the Universe¹s most deranged criminals, the prison serves as a testing ground for a new protocol, humans as guinea pigs. Armed with mysterious powers from his alien encounter, Georges finds himself caught in a battle to suppress the monstrous power within him before it infects the other dangerous occupants of Dante 01, unleashing a violent rebellion that could turn the terrifying, labyrinthine world upside down. Dante 01 will include a making-of featurette and will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.97.
Synopsis
At the edge of the galaxy, drifts Dante 01, a hellish space station designed to contain and study the worst of the criminally insane. After an unidentified mute inmate arrives on the ship, he begins to reveal frightening alien powers.

Basics
Price: $19.97
Street Date: April 21, 2009
Rating: R
Running time: 82 minutes
Languages: English Dolby 5.1 and French Dolby 5.1
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Closed Captioned
Buy it at Amazon.com
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"DONKEY PUNCH" and "SHUTTLE"--Two Thrillers From Magnolia/Magnet DVD April 7

An Accidental Death Leads To Paranoia And Panic In The Dark And Dangerous Thriller, DONKEY PUNCH, Arriving On DVD April 7 From Magnolia Home Entertainment As Part Of The Six Shooter Film Series Under The Magnet Label

"Fans of HORROR and THRILLER films should put Donkey Punch on their MUST-SEE list for 2008." - Toronto Star
"...a gruesome hostage thriller."- Los Angeles Times
"PURE NASTY FUN." - Sixty Second Preview

After meeting at a nightclub in a Mediterranean resort, seven young adults decide to continue partying aboard a luxury yacht in the middle of the ocean - what follows is a downward spiral of drugs, debauchery and hedonism. When one of the seven dies in a freak accident, the others argue over what to do next, which leads to a ruthless fight for survival.
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R/Unrated
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
Run Time: 99 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com rated/ unrated
----------------------------------------

Dark, Terrorizing Thriller Starring "Mad Men's" Peyton List, SHUTTLE Arrives On DVD April 7 From Magnolia Home Entertainment Under The Magnet Label

"Shuttle packs in more reversals and twists than you can shake a handful of severed fingers at...a stripped down, organic ode to the evils of the dark and the folly of misplaced trust." -Twitch

When two friends return home from a girls' weekend vacation in Mexico, they find themselves stranded at the airport. Rain-drenched and eager to get home, they board an airport shuttle for what should be a short trip. However once their feet cross the threshold of the shuttle, the night rapidly descends into darkness and they no longer worry about just getting home - but getting home in one piece. Discovering that actions have severe consequences, Mel and Jules soon learn the only thing more terrifying about not knowing where they are going is learning that they may not be coming back. Written and directed by Flawless writer Edward Anderson, the disturbing joyride gone-wrong features Peyton List ("Mad Men," "Big Shots"), Cameron Goodman ("Mad Men," Frozen Kiss, Hurt, The Informers) and Tony Curran (The Good German, The Lazarus Project, Underworld: Evolution).

Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Rating: R
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: April 7, 2009
Run Time: 107 minutes

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"HOUSE" -- Horrifying Thriller from Lionsgate on DVD April 7

"A suspenseful psychological roller coaster ride." – MovieJungle.com
"Creepy and entertaining"- HorrorMovieADay.com

Best selling authors Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti transform their supernatural novel into the thrilling film House. Positively received by critics, the film follows Jack and Stephanie Singleton, a self-absorbed couple who get sidetracked on their way to a counseling session. After blowing out their tires, they find their way to the Wayside Inn, a ramshackle B&B where they meet an equally self-obsessed couple, Randy and Leslie. The foursome quickly find themselves terrorized by a household of ghoulish servants and a masked lunatic, known as "The Tin Man," who demands a dead body by sunrise. Their only way out, it seems, is to venture further in. But the deeper they go, the more horrifying the killer’s game and their night becomes. House is a tale of punishment and redemption that will keep you pinned to the edge of your seat.


CAST
Michael Madsen--Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Reservoir Dogs, Sin City, Species, Free Willy, Donnie Brasco
Reynaldo Rosales--TV’s "Medium," TV’s "Inconceivable," TV’s "The 4400"
Julie Ann Emery--Hitch, TV’s "The Riches," TV’s "Commander in Chief"
Heidi Dippold--HBO’s "The Sopranos," "TV’s "NYPD Blue," TV’s "Angel"
Bill Moseley--The Devil’s Rejects, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Rob Zombie’s Halloween
Leslie Easterbrook--The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie's Halloween
J.P. Davis--Blue, Fighting Tommy Riley, The Curse of the Komodo

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2008
Title Copyright: © 2007 House Film, LLC and Total Living Network. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for some violence and terror
Genre: Horror/Drama/Thriller
Closed Captioned: English Closed Captioned
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Format: 16x9 Widescreen (1.78)
Feature Running Time: 88 minutes
DVD Audio Status: 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital

Watch the trailer
Official site
Buy it from Lionsgate
Buy it at Amazon.com



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Resident Evil 5 Review by Ian Friedman

Resident Evil 5 Review by Ian Friedman

Resident Evil is finally upon us, it has been a long wait for fans of the series, has the wait been worth it, or has it fallen short of its goal in wrapping up the saga of Resident Evil?

Story: The story of Resident Evil takes a decidedly realistic turn, with a move away from gothic mansions and police stations that seemed more like something from Edgar Ulmer’s The Black Cat. In Resident Evil 5 there is an emphasis on the idea of what if Resident Evil took place in the real world (similar to Resident Evil Degeneration). It’s a change that I wish the series had embraced in the past. After a certain point, nothing can be covered up, and Umbrella was going to have to become known.

The past Resident Evil’s do attempt to deal with this (the Spec Ops team in RE3 in the Dead Factory, the National Police Force report on Irons), but at the same time, most of the dealt with escape and survival, which was fine, its just that after Raccoon City was destroyed, there needed to be an switch and shift in tone.

Resident Evil 5 is what Metal Gear Solid 4 was to that series. It does an excellent job in tying up all of the loose ends of the series and providing copious documentation about the history of the series and the people and organizations that inhabit it. Really there are ton of files to be read and examined and I’m happy that the Resident Evil 5 took the time to provide a great deal of information about the series. Most importantly it finally explains what Spencer’s goal was with Umbrella (and it explains greatly a lot of Umbrella’s odd behavior with regards to the idea of making a profit).

The story itself takes place in Africa and despite what some misinformed reviewers might tell you, is not racist and actually offers heroic non-stereotyped roles for blacks and not just as the Cole Train (which isn’t racist either, since everyone in Gears of War is a hyper masculine character, who makes the Ultimate Warrior look even keeled, and I do love Gears of War dearly too). It’s a game that posses a decidedly anti-colonialist streak as pointed out in a recent videogamer.com article and in document files in the game. The story is Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar hunting down leads in trying to explain a rapidly degenerating situation in the Kijuju region of West Africa. If they developers were to just homogenize the location and setting, it would be far worse in my opinion, because then you are simply painting an entirely different region and cultural environment in nothing but a Western shell.

Resident Evil is at its heart a series built up not just from George Romero’s Living Dead series, but also the work of Lucio Fulci and numerous other Italian greats. It also has a decidedly 1980s action movie emphasis on the dialogue and story. The voice acting is excellent, which can be ironic for some considering how the series started out. The writing is still very much what one might hear in Mark Lester’s Commando or Bruno Mattei’s Robowar or Strike Commando. Truth be told, I don’t think I would want it any other way. Some of the best dialog in Resident Evil 4 was the banter between Leon and Saddler and Salazar. I’m happy that for Resident Evil 5 no one tried to “improve” the writing, which would have just made it dull in the end.

Some may find the ending anti-climatic, but it’s logical and doesn’t make you scratch your head. If you’ve ever seen a James Bond movie, which is one of the places that the game takes it’s influence from, it will all feel at home.

Graphics: and Sound: Killzone 2 may be considered the champ for both graphics and sound, but if it is than Resident Evil 5 is close up on its tail. It’s is a wonderful game to look at, from all the detail even when close up to an object. The lighting is great and has an extremely natural feel to it as if one was looking around outside on an extremely hot day. The locations are varied and you never get a feeling of haven’t I been there before. Everyplace in the game has a unique look and style helping to eliminate the feeling in the series in older games caused by backtracking or levels that had a similar feel to it.

The sound features excellent 5.1 sound mixing that is both immersive and engaging. Games like Resident Evil 5, Killzone 2, Gears of War II, and Metal Gear Solid 4 are reasons no gamer should be without even an entry level 5.1 setup. The sound effects are varied and as I mentioned earlier mixed well with the musical score.

The score itself is excellent and helps create an experience that one is playing the latest Hollywood blockbuster and not a simple video game. Resident Evil 5 is a reason to stay homes from the movies and instead just play it at home. I couldn’t test the PCM 5.1 on the PS3, and was only able to test the DD 5.1, but it was excellent.

Gameplay: Now for the most important category: If the gameplay isn’t fun then it can negate all the gains made in the other categories. The gameplay of Resident Evil 5 is an evolution of Resident Evil 4, simply if it isn’t broke, just improve it! Despite some of the hubbub made of the control of the game, I have to say I was able to get a handle on the controls within a short period time, my fellow reviewer Rich did take a little while longer, but eventually was handling it like a pro.

I actually wound up finishing the game solo and found that Sheva controlled perfectly. The game is great at co-op too and will be a huge boon for those who like to play with friends. This is the perfect game to play with a friend for hours on end. I actually didn’t mind split-screen either; then again I was playing it on a 40-inch television. The replay value of the game is immense, and while I can’t describe them, let me simply say that beating the game is only the beginning.

The combat is extremely enjoyable and does an excellent job of building tension and keeping you on your tows as a gamer. The variety of weapons and the new ability to purchase them at the end of each section or when you die, makes the game easier, but allows you to customize your loadout, which leads to more experimentation and variety, which is something I always love. The boss battles were a blast to play and had a lot of variety in dealing with the enemy and how to defeat them (boss variety, which like in Metal Gear Solid, is always a sign of great gameplay).

My standout moment of gameplay was when I was facing a heavily armed opponent on a catwalk and I was trying to shoot him, but I had to reload. The enemy was already starting up their heavy weapon, and I was like damn, I’m screwed. However, at the last second, my friend at the other end of the catwalk snipes the bad guy in the head, killing him and saving me at the last second. It was an intensely exciting and cinematic moment and something that will stay in my memory for a long time. You hope all games will be able to give you a moment like that, Resident Evil 5 does it, but it’s not even programmed in. It shows the great strength of the co-op, that it allows for such gameplay moments.

Overall: Resident Evil 5 is a great game that manages to wrap the series up (and most of the older plot points) in a way that is not condescending or abuses pseudo-magical/spiritual solutions that would upset the new move to realism (in setting and tone). The gameplay is intense and fun, with a variety of different gameplay solutions.

I’d recommend getting the version for whichever system you prefer the controller of, or use the most. The differences between the two is a slightly slower framerate with the PS3 version because it has vsync turned on, and screen tearing on the Xbox 360 version, but a better framerate. The differences are fairly minor, as I said the purchase choice should really be on your own controller preference.

Resident Evil 5 is a great game I recommend for all fans of action, horror, the series, or just great gaming.

5/5 Stars
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) -- DVD Review by Porfle



Up till now, I'd only seen Wes Craven's 1972 horror-movie debut LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT once, when I rented the VHS tape back in the 80s, and for the life of me I couldn't remember a damn thing about it. Which I found somewhat strange considering its reputation as a ghastly, hardcore horror ordeal that so many found hard to watch and even harder to forget. Now that I've seen it again, I can understand why I originally found it unmemorable, but I'm still at a loss to explain its profound effect on others. To me, it's just a fairly decent cheapo murder flick, despite whatever perceived historical significance it may have. Have I really become that desensitized, or what?

Sweet young Mari Collingwood (Sandra Cassel), who just turned 17, is on her way to a rock concert with her more worldly friend Phyllis (Lucy Grantham), when they're kidnapped by sadistic escaped convicts Krug (David Hess) and Weasel (Fred Lincoln), their wretched moll Sadie (Jeramie Rain), and Krug's junkie son Junior (Marc Sheffler), who'll do whatever his pop tells him to in order to get his next fix. The bad guys dump their captives into the trunk and head for the hills, but their car soon breaks down on a secluded road. They take Mari and Phyllis into the woods, where the girls are humiliated, raped, tortured, and murdered.

Posing as stranded travelers on a business trip, they're taken in by a friendly couple who offer them food and accomodations for the night. As it turns out, however, John (Richard Towers) and Estelle (Cynthia Carr) are Mari's parents, the Collingwoods. And when they discover that their houseguests have just murdered their daughter, the mild-mannered mom and dad find their own killer instincts fiercely kicking in. Naturally, more bloody violence and mayhem ensue.


Visually, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is pretty artless, bringing to mind the likes of BLOOD FEAST and early John Waters films such as PINK FLAMINGOS. Wes Craven attributes this to a deliberate attempt at a documentary, cinema-verite' style, and claims that this makes the film's events seem more realistic. Marc Sheffler's assessment, as stated in one of the DVD's bonus featurettes, is that "in its professional ignorance, its stylistic ignorance, it has created its own style." I think it's just crummy camerawork. Plus, it's hard to be fooled into thinking "Hey, this is real!" when the characters are so borderline farcical and the acting, for the most part, is on a porn-movie level. (The script, in fact, started as a sick hardcore porn project, which is how adult actor Fred Lincoln became involved, before most of those dubious elements were wisely jettisoned.)

Hess, who would later appear in Wes Craven's SWAMP THING, comes off fairly well in a brutish way, while Lincoln isn't very convincing as a psycho killer. Sheffler's "Junior" is more of a comic doofus than the pathetic heroin slave he's intended to be. Jeramie Rain (who later became Mrs. Richard Dreyfuss and is surprisingly beautiful in her recent interview footage) comes off pretty well as the feral Sadie. As Mari's parents, Richard Towers and Cynthia Carr are superficial at best, although Carr comes to life in the final scenes. I like the two girls, Sandra Cassel and Lucy Grantham, who are unpolished yet appealing and who manage to express genuine terror during key moments, although in Cassel's case there's more to this than acting skills (more on that later). Her sad death scene provides one of the film's genuinely affecting moments.

As far as the violence and gore are concerned, there's nothing more extreme than George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD from four years earlier, or even 1963's BLOOD FEAST. And I can never take these characters seriously enough for their acts to be truly shocking or difficult to endure. The only thing I find hard to watch--the rape scene--comes not from what's happening in the story but from what went on during the filming of it. As David Hess relates during the commentary, he had the already nervous Sandra Cassel so distraught and fearful of him that much of her humiliation and distress during the scene are real. Marc Sheffler also tells of actually grabbing her and threatening to push her over a precipice if she didn't stop fouling up take after take of their main scene together. For me, these two accounts are the creepiest thing about the movie.


Meanwhile, awkward attempts at comedy relief keep inexplicably popping up at the darndest times. These come mainly in the form of a fat, bumbling sheriff (Marshall Anker) and his moronic deputy (Martin Kove, the most recognizable actor in the film), who run out of gas on their way to the Collingwood home and try to hitch a ride on a chicken truck. In an early scene, the world-weary sheriff laments, "Sometimes I wish I was something else" and his deputy asks, "You mean, like a duck?"

This, we're told, was meant to counterpoint the (already humor-laced) serious scenes just as David Hess' irreverent soundtrack songs serve as a jarring contrast to onscreen events. But as Fred Lincoln, who still refers to the film as "a piece of sh**", states in the commentary, "to cut back to them was to cut back to a different movie." It's like switching channels between a slasher flick and "The Dukes of Hazzard." The cartoonish Ozzie and Harriet-ness of Mari's parents is similarly overstated in their early scenes.

The blood-splattered finale, which takes place in and around the titular house, has its moments but is pretty much a mess. Reacting to the death of their daughter not with crippling grief but with a strangely industrious fervor, Mrs. Collingwood becomes a deadly seductress while Mr. Collingwood turns into a vengeful cross between Tim Allen and MacGyver. I won't give away too much of what happens, but aside from a few cool images, it's not all that shocking or suspenseful. A curiously tame chainsaw showdown does result in the destruction of some nice furniture, though. And one character's swimming pool demise is quite satisfying.


Fans of the film will no doubt enjoy the yakky, argumentative, and funny commentary track featuring Hess, Lincoln, and Sheffler (but not Craven or Cunningham, who did a commentary for the 2002 DVD release), as well as the behind-the-scenes featurette "Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on the Left" and the 40-minute documentary "Celluloid Crime of the Century", both of which contain much interview material with Craven, producer Sean S. Cunningham, and members of the cast. Along with some interesting inside info, the personable Craven also dishes up a little after-the-fact hooey about the script (based on Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING) that he banged out with no deep intentions besides making a simple horror flick, "but I think what was going on subconsciously was a pretty complex matrix of the fundamentalists being alive in America at that time, and...uh, the Viet Nam war..." He also opines that some scenes evoked a perverse sympathy for the villains which resulted in a "trememdous turmoil of emotions in the audiences that created a lot of anger." I guess you had to be there--at no time while watching the film do I feel any sympathy for them whatsoever.

In "Scoring Last House", David Hess tells of how he wrote the music for the film and performs snippets from some of the songs. "Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out" is about eleven minutes of silent Wes Craven-directed footage from an unfinished 1976 film. There are also some silent never-before-seen LAST HOUSE outtakes, a minute of deleted dialogue from Mari's death scene, and some trailers for other films. This unrated "collector's edition" DVD, released on 2/24/09, is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital mono sound and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. Picture and sound quality are about as good as can be expected considering the age and low budget of the film.

According to Roger Ebert, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT "never lets us out from under almost unbearable dramatic tension." I was really hoping it would have the same effect on me, and was genuinely surprised when it didn't even come close. For the most part, I found it lively and reasonably fun to watch, though much of the fun was of the "so bad it's good" variety with very little of it being just plain good. And it was nowhere near the grueling cinematic ordeal that I've come to expect over the years. I wonder if I've become desensitized, or if the film just isn't as sensitizing as it's cracked up to be.



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Thursday, March 12, 2009

THE FUGITIVE: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO -- DVD review by porfle

When I was growing up, "The Fugitive" was a television show that just about everybody watched. Not only was it very well made on all counts, but the premise was one which anyone could identify with. There was something for everyone--fast action, nail-biting suspense, intense human drama, desperate romance. The only thing I don't remember was comedy, since the story of an innocent, haunted man on the run after being found guilty of murdering his wife doesn't really lend itself to comic relief. For such a popular show, which had a four-season (1963-67) run of 120 episodes, it's consistently somber and downbeat.

The tragic odyssey of Dr. Richard Kimble continues with CBS-Paramount's four-disc DVD collection THE FUGITIVE: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO. In these fifteen episodes, David Janssen's classic character travels from town to town, taking different jobs under assumed names as he stays one step ahead of his dogged pursuer Lt. Philip Gerard (co-star Barry Morse) and searches for the one-armed man who killed his wife and got away with it. Try as he might to mind his own business and remain anonymous, the kind-hearted, compassionate Kimble can't help but get mixed up in the personal lives of those around him, often being forced to expose his identity and risk capture in order to help others.

One of the main assets of this series is its perfect casting. David Janssen, one of television's most unusual stars, invests the Kimble character with a deeply sad and wistful quality that's never less than totally convincing. Always introspective and withdrawn, Kimble often stands slumped with his hands in his pockets, looking down and mumbling as though beaten by the world. At any moment he may be forced to flee for his life like an escaped animal or perform desperate acts in order to survive. Yet his humanity is never far from the surface, revealed by a caring look and the briefest of smiles, and his frequent emotional connection with the people he meets keeps the show from becoming too disheartening.

As Lt. Gerard, Barry Morse is an excellent, interesting actor whose angular physique and intense demeanor make Gerard seem almost like a relentless bird of prey, obsessed with seeing Kimble meet his appointment with the executioner. The character appears only sporadically to avoid overuse, and the episodes in which he is featured usually bristle with suspense.

Although the series would later switch to color, season two is still beautifully shot in atmospheric, noirish black-and-white, which adds greatly to the overall mood and distinctive visual style, while the episodes are helmed by veteran TV directors such as Alexander Singer, Don Medford, and Abner Biberman. The writing is generally top-notch.

William "Cannon" Conrad's deep-throated narration grimly recounts Kimble's story during the dramatic opening titles--the still-photo montage of him coming face-to-face with the fleeing one-armed man who just murdered his wife, and his subsequent escape from a train derailment while on his way to be executed, are still haunting. Conrad's voice also bookends each episode with grave observations about Kimble's continued plight as we watch him furtively make his way to the next town.

The episodes are replete with interesting guest players, from past and future "big name" stars to those familiar character actors who could always be relied on to give solid performances. Among those appearing in this set are Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson, James Doohan, Pat Hingle, Tom Skerritt, Celeste Holm, Bruce Dern, Shirley Knight, Ed Asner, Telly Savalas, Norman Fell, Dabney Coleman, Jack Klugman, Ruth White, Harry Dean Stanton, Louise Sorel, Barry Atwater, Lou Antonio, Ed Begley, Murray Hamilton, Virginia Christine, Richard Anderson, June Harding, Roy Jensen, Dabbs Greer, Whit Bissell, Virginia Gregg, John Anderson, Jean Hale, Harry Townes, Geraldine Brooks, R.G. Armstrong, Vaughn Taylor, Mort Mills, Peter Haskell, Jan Shutan, Richard Devon, Sharon Farrell, Ben Piazza, Steve Forrest, Laurence Naismith, and John Erickson. Paul Birch, a familiar face in several schlock sci-fi/horror flicks from the 50s, appears a few times as Lt. Gerard's boss, Captain Carpenter.

The DVD is 4.3 full-screen with Dolby Digital mono sound, and the episodes are transferred from the original negatives so they look as good here as they did when first broadcast. A major gripe with earlier sets was the replacement by CBS-Paramount of much of Pete Rugolo's dynamic original music in order to avoid potential legal problems. Here, however, Rugolo's classic score is intact, along with the occasional recognizable musical cues from shows such as "The Twilight Zone." Episodes are listed with summaries and original airdates inside the keepcase. There are no bonus features, but the shows themselves amount to a total running time of almost 13 hours.

I'm glad "The Fugitive" is being released on DVD because it was a great series that deserves to be made available to both old fans and new audiences. I had a great time reliving the richly entertaining episodes contained in THE FUGITIVE: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO, and anyone who enjoys quality classic television should make it a point to track this show down.
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May Releases From CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment

STAR TREK: THE BEST OF THE ORIGINAL SERIES

"Space...The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. It's five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!" The series set in the 23rd century where Earth has survived World War III, then moved on to explore the stars. Features "City on the Edge of Forever," "The Trouble with Tribbles," "Balance of Terror," and "Amok Time."

Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Roger Perry, DeForest Kelley, Hal Lynch
Directors: Anton Leader, David Alexander, Don McDougall, Gene Nelson, Gerd Oswald Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
Run Time: 201 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com

STAR TREK: THE BEST OF THE NEXT GENERATION

Set in the 24th century and decades after the adventures of the original crew of the starship Enterprise, this new series is the long-awaited successor to the original Star Trek (1966). Under the command of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, the all new Enterprise NCC-1701-D travels out to distant planets to seek out new life and to boldly go where no one has gone before. Features "The Best of Both Worlds" (Part 1 and Part 2), "Yesterday's Enterprise", and "Measure of a Man."

Actors: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby, Michael Dorn
Directors: Adam Nimoy, Alexander Singer, Chip Chalmers, Cliff Bole, Corey Allen
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
Language: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
Run Time: 181 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com
GUNSMOKE: SEASON THREE, VOLUME TWO

Matt Dillon (James Arness) is in charge of Dodge City, a town in the Wild West where people often have no respect for the law.

Actors: James Arness, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, Milburn Stone
Format: Color, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
Run Time: 523 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com

THE MOD SQUAD: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO

Meet Pete, Linc, and Julie: The Mod Squad. This trio consists of rich, long-haired Pete Cochran, Lincoln "Linc" Hayes from the tough streets of inner city Los Angeles, and beautiful flower child Julie Barnes, a runaway from San Francisco. They're recruited by police captain Adam Greer (Tige Andrews) for a covert unit that will help bridge the generation gap. Each week these three cops with love beads wrestled with criminals--and their own consciences. They may have been "the fuzz", but they were determined to never compromise their values.

Actors: Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton, Clarence Williams III, Tige Andrews
Format: Box set, Color, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 26, 2009
Run Time: 663 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com

JAKE AND THE FATMAN: SEASON TWO

Hard as nails District Attorney Jason "Fatman" McCabe strikes down on the crime in Hawaii together with his easy-going special investigator partner Jake Styles and assistant D.A. Derek Mitchell.

Actors: William Conrad, Joe Penny, Alan Campbell, Brigid Brannagh, Janet Carroll
Directors: Alexander Singer, Christopher Hibler, Chuck Bowman, Dale White, Daniel Attias Format: Box set, Color, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC
Language: English
Number of discs: 3
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: May 5, 2009
Run Time: 507 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com

ALSO COMING IN MAY:

TV SETS: ACTION PACKED
TV SETS: FOREVER FUNNY
PENN AND TELLER BS!: THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON
SISTER, SISTER: THE SECOND SEASON
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Haven't I seen this before: Copyright Infringement in Foreign Films by Ian Friedman

This is a presentation about the issue of infringement in foreign films given by me (Ian Friedman) during an event sponsored by the IP Law Society and the Entertainment and Sports Law Society of Seton Hall Law School on March 9, 2009. It deals with the issue of stolen music, film footage, and plots in foreign films.



This presentation can be viewed in conjunction with this youtube playlist. The playlist contains the slideshow and all video clips as used in the presentation.



If you want to get some of the films featured in this presentation you can get them at HK FLIX.

Lady Terminator (and you get Dangerous Seductress for free!)
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.538996/aid.85597/qx/details.htm

Commando Directors Cut Special Edition
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.535335/aid.545883/qx/details.htm

3 DEV ADAM
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.537631/aid.545883/qx/details.htm


Turkish Pop Cinema Double Bill (features the excellent documentary of the same name about Turkish Cinema)
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.535847/aid.545883/qx/details.htm


Bollywood Horror Collection (the source of the quote from an Indian producer and some great Bollywood Horror)
Volume 1
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.538971/aid.545883/qx/details.htm
Volume 2
http://www.hkflix.com/xq/asp/filmID.549268/aid.545883/qx/details.htm

I hope you all enjoy it!
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sci-fi Thriller "TIMECRIMES" Lands On DVD March 31 From Magnolia Home Entertainment As Part Of The Magnet Six Shooter Series


Winner Of The Audience Award And Best Feature Jury Prize At Fantastic Fest 2007And An Official Selection Of The 2008 Sundance Film Festival

"IT"S ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC. Elegant, tight and brilliant with no loose ends - a perfect film." - (Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News)

"...sends ripples through reality..." (Los Angeles Times)

"PROBABLY ONE OF THE BEST TIME TRAVEL MOVIES OF ALL TIME. Truly a gem to behold." - (Bloody Disgusting.com)

Oscar nominated short film director Nacho Vigalondo (7:35 in the Morning) makes his feature film debut in the tense, unstoppable vision of science and natural law gone awry in TIMECRIMES. Starring lauded Spanish writer and director Karra Elejalde (Holy Mary), the film follows the jarring tale of an ordinary man named Hector who accidentally travels back in time and is forced to fight for survival and to protect the woman he loves.

Drawing from the best traditions of classic science fiction and crime fiction, TIMECRIMES plays games with the genre and the audience, giving the protagonist a Russian-doll like shell of identities that are shed so often that Hector can be playing one of any number of whodunit archetypes at any given moment as he becomes increasingly more complicit in the complicated mess that he's trying to fix.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Saturday, March 7, 2009

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN -- DVD review by porfle


One of the topic titles on the IMDb forum for this movie dismisses it as "FRIGHT NIGHT + MY GIRL." Which, superficially, is a fairly accurate way to describe the Swedish film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, aka Låt den rätte komma in (2008). It isn't strictly a horror film, although it's filled with horrific elements, nor does it try to be particularly scary even though certain moments are rather chilling. What makes it so affecting is the way it explores a visual and emotional territory that your typical horror flick rarely bothers with.

Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a troubled 12-year-old boy who is terrorized daily by bullies at school and spends most nights in an empty apartment while his mother works. Preoccupied with sensational newspaper stories of murder and mayhem, he fantasizes about slashing his schoolyard tormentors with the knife he carries about. One night, an older man and a little girl move into the apartment next door. As Oskar and Eli (Lina Leandersson) gradually get to know each other during their nightly encounters in the snow-covered courtyard of the building, he's glad to find that she is also lonely and troubled, and their friendship grows. But there's something very mysterious and strange about her.

People in the area start to turn up violently murdered, and we find that Eli's guardian, Håkan (Per Ragnar), is killing them and collecting their blood in large containers. When he's captured by the police, Eli is forced to go on the prowl herself, and as we see her attacking and killing people with little effort, it becomes clear that she is, in fact, a vampire. As Oskar realizes this, his initial reticence is overcome by his feelings for her, and in turn she begins to help him gain the confidence he needs to fight back against his cruel schoolmates. But as their hostility toward him reaches lethal proportions, Eli's secret is discovered and she must flee just when Oskar needs her help the most.


When I started watching what the Washington Examiner calls the "Best. Vampire Movie. Ever" (I wouldn't go quite that far), I had no idea that it was going to be a sensitive, contemplative love story filled with moments of haunting beauty. Oskar is so alone--his parents are divorced so he rarely sees his father, and none of the adults in his life can help him anyway--that we can feel the enormously uplifting effect Eli has on him. And being that Eli is even more alone in the world, the fact that she has a friend her own physical age (we never know how old she really is), who comes to accept her for what she is, gives some meaning to her useless life.

At times we see them merely lying together, holding hands--this simple contact makes each feel more substantial and alive. In a deleted scene, Oskar playfully hisses at her and she hisses back at him, gently mocking the image of the traditional screen vampire. Even the fact that Eli isn't quite what she appears to be ("I'm not a girl," she cryptically tells him at one point) ultimately doesn't matter to Oskar.

In a way, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is almost like a blood-drenched version of those somber made-for-TV children's films I used to watch when I was growing up, about two lonely misfits who find each other. In those films, the story was about two kids, or a kid and a dog, or a kid and a cat, or a kid and an understanding old person. Here, it's about a human kid and a vampire, but the slow, thoughtful story development and heartfelt empathy for the lead characters are the same. And within this framework, the matter-of-fact way that the shocking horrors are presented makes them all the more unsettling.


Eli's guardian, Håkan (is he her father, or an older version of Oskar?), prepares for his night's work as though he's going to any other routine job, calmly abducting people off the street and hanging them upside-down to drain their blood. His eventual fate is suitably grim, leaving Eli to fend for herself in a series of violent nocturnal attacks. Virginia (Ika Nord), a woman in Oskar's building who survives an encounter with Eli, enters the apartment of a cat-loving friend and is viciously mauled by his enraged felines, then later deals with the problem of her impending vampirism in a spectacular manner.

Tomas Alfredson, who has directed this film with impressive skill and restraint, saves the best for last in the climactic sequence. In a placid and almost silent underwater environment, we suddenly witness several violent killings without actually seeing them, in a shot that's so cleverly conceived that it comes as a delightful surprise. I had to watch it two or three times before I could get over what a visually imaginative piece of storytelling it is. (The behind-the-scenes featurette shows the filming of this shot in detail.) There are other interesting touches throughout the film, such as a glimpse of Eli climbing up the side of a building in the far background, or the pivotal scene in which Oskar, torn between feelings of love and loathing, demands to know what will happen to Eli if she enters his apartment without being invited. I also like the way Alfredson often slowly moves his camera around until something unexpected enters the frame.

The adult actors are all good but it's the juvenile leads who carry the film. As Oskar and Eli, Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson couldn't be better as each gives a performance that is complex and moving. The film itself has the cold, icy look of a Swedish winter but is warmed by their affection and concern for one another. Every aspect of the production is similarly well-done. I've never read John Ajvide Lindqvist's novel, but his screenplay adaptation is fine. As for the ending, I'm still wondering whether or not it's a happy one (Alfredson contends that it is). It's definitely thought-provoking.


The DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment is 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound, both of which are good, and the soundtrack comes in the original Swedish or an English dub with subtitles. Bonus features include four deleted scenes, a "making of" featurette, a photo gallery, and a theatrical poster gallery. There are also trailers for this and other features in the Six Shooter Film Series.

Viewers looking for a fast-moving succession of shocks and visceral thrills will likely be disappointed in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. But most people who can appreciate extremely compelling filmmaking--even those who may have trouble getting past the fact that it's a "vampire" movie--will be glad that they let this one in. The most famous screen vampire, Bela Lugosi's DRACULA, unknowingly gave this worthy successor a fitting recommendation way back in 1931: "Listen to them...children of the night. What music they make."


Read our review of the remake LET ME IN




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