HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
(Blu-Ray comments by Ian Friedman)
A raucous, tasteless, over-the-top, unapologetically schlocky gorefest--not quite what I'd call the first movie in this series, but that description fits the sequel, WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END (2007), like a bloody glove. Once I stopped worrying about how it compared to the previous film and realized that this is pure exploitation filmmaking of the sincerest kind, I allowed first-time director Joe Lynch and his enthusiastic cast to carry me away on a wave of pure giddy Monster Kid fun.
Kimberly Caldwell, who plays herself (she's supposed to be some kind of well-known TV personality, right?) dies real good in the film's stunning opening sequence, in which she takes--you guessed it-- a wrong turn while driving through rural West Virginia. First thing I noticed was one of those great shots where the camera circles all the way around a moving car and settles into a closeup of the driver. I love those! And when Kimberly is distracted while yakking to her agent on her cell phone and rams into a pedestrian, there's an impressive shot of him flying right over her head. So I already know that we have a capable director and DP at work here, and in just a minute it's clear that we've also got some really demented guys working on the makeup and practical effects as well.
This becomes apparent when the guy Kimberly just hit with her car turns out to be an inbred mutant freak who bites half her face off shortly before his equally monstrous Pa chops her right down the middle with one stroke of his axe. Guts splatter, and the two maniacs gleefully drag the neatly-bisected Kimberly away into the sunset. And that's just the beginning!
There's just enough story set-up to get a bunch of clueless city folk into the backwoods so that a whole family of cannibalistic mutants can terrorize, slaughter, and devour them. Henry Rollins does a great job chewing the leafy scenery as Dale Murphy, an intense former Marine hired to host a "Survivor"-like reality show that gets really real when the contestants and crew come face-to-face with "The Family"--Ma, Pa, Brother, Sister, and our old friend from the first film, Three Finger (played here by Jeff Scrutton).
But first, the contestants split up into teams of two and scamper off into the woods. The likable, down-to-earth Mara (Aleksa Palladino) and spooky Goth vegan Nina (Erica Leerhsen, who played "Pepper" in the TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE remake) find themselves hiding in a broken-down shack where they witness a horrendous birth as Ma squirts out another monster-baby on the kitchen table. Sister spots them peeking through the bedroom door and suddenly the two girls have the whole horrible family after them. This leads to another imaginative kill scene.
Meanwhile, the goofy slacker dude Jonesy (Steve Braun) and the gung-ho military chick Amber (Daniella Alonso) come across an unattended campfire where a big hunk of sizzling barbecue is cooking. The hungry campers share their ill-gotten feast with another contestant, frustrated football player Jake (Texas Battle), until one of them happens to spot Kimberly's tattoo on it. They've been eating her leg!
That's pretty gross, but even worse is when Brother and Sister murder yet another contestant and the act gets them all hot and bothered for some frenzied mutant incest. When our hapless campers stumble across the revoltin' scene, they find out that coitus interruptus is a killin' offense in that neck of the woods and the chase is on. One thing about the mutant makeup--it isn't quite as good as the Stan Winston creations in the first movie, but it's still very effective. These psychotic hillbillies make great monsters and the actors portraying them are totally convincing. The females make an especially interesting new addition to the clan and are just as bloodthirsty and feral as the males.
As the cast gets whittled down--literally--Murphy fights back with dynamite-laden arrows and blows up a few mutants real good. The survivors take on the remnants of The Family in a frenetic showdown within an old abandoned paper mill where a hilariously horrific grinding machine comes into play. Director Lynch, who can often be seen beaming with fanboy glee in the behind-the-scenes featurettes, throws in an obvious homage to the dinner scene from TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE as well as other references to the 70s and 80s horror classics that he grew up with.In fact, watching this film is like running barefoot through an old issue of "Fangoria."
This 20-Century Fox DVD has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1. It's a little softer and grainier than the WRONG TURN Blu-Ray, but I think thats because it was shot on digital as opposed to film. It's pretty good, but not as good as the first. I do think that is partially due to the reality show setting. Colors are a little muted compared to the first one, then again it could be intentional.
There's an interesting commentary by director Joe Lynch and actors Erica Leerhsen and Henry Rollins, and a less interesting one with writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien. Featurettes include "More Blood, More Guts: The Making of Wrong Turn 2", the fun and educational "Making Gore Look Good", and something called "On Location with P-Nut", which I was unable to even begin to care about.
WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END succeeds in being what it sets out to be--a spectacularly gory and perverse splatterfest that's like a rollercoaster ride through a charnel house. As a horror fan who doesn't always require subtlety and good taste in my entertainment, sometimes that's more than enough.
Buy it at Amazon.com
When in tarnation are them thar city folks gonna learn to stay out'n them thar woods? In WRONG TURN (2003), six tenderfeet--two camping couples plus a recently-dumped girlfriend named Jessie (Eliza Dushku) and a stranger named Chris (Desmond Harrington) who just plowed his Mustang into their minivan on a dirt road and stranded them all in the deep middle of Nowhere, West Virginia--find out the hard way that they should've stayed home that week.
This mishmash of elements from the likes of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, DELIVERANCE, and a couple dozen other backwoods thrillers still manages to seem fresh thanks to good acting, a taut script, excellent makeup effects from the shop of producer Stan Winston, and an imaginative director, Richard Schmidt, who films it all with style and never allows the pace to let up. The formula of city slickers in hillbilly hell has yielded a truckload of half-assed, boring movies over the years, but when the filmmakers put some effort into it there's no reason they can't come up with a cracking suspense thriller like this one.
The first couple goes down pretty quick--their unfortunate purpose is to clue us in on just how crazy and bloodthirsty these inbred yokels are. Schmidt stages an early scene in which the good guys are hiding in closets and under beds while the hillbillies go to work on one of their first victims. It's horrible stuff, but the director shows us just enough to inspire ghastly mental images of the rest.
As we get to know the characters better, the stakes become higher and each death is more painful. One particularly shocking demise, a decapitation which comes suddenly at the end of a nailbiting stalking sequence in the deep, dark woods, is dazzling in its design and execution. Equally impressive are the makeups devised for the killers, which render these monsters believable yet utterly revolting.
Experienced at hunting for their supper, they're expert killers, too. One massive ogre-like beast, Sawtooth, wields a shotgun, while One-Eye strikes with deadly accuracy using a bow and arrow. The most demonstratively deranged of the bunch is a blade-wielding scarecrow named Three Finger, who resembles a redneck Ork. These single-minded psychos trail our heroes tirelessly through the woods and pick them off one by one until finally they capture the fair maiden Jessie and drag her back to their cabin. I won't tell you exactly how things turn out, but the finale is a well-staged free-for-all of bloody, fiery mayhem.
The new Blu-Ray disc from 20-Century Fox is in 1.85:1 widescreen with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are in English and Spanish. The picture quality is pretty good--a little soft at times, but nothing horrible. The bit-rate for the video is in the upper 20's, if not the 30's.
Extras include a commentary track by director Rob Schmidt and stars Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington, deleted scenes, and a trailer. There are four brief featurettes: "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn", "Making of Wrong Turn", "Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods", and the aptly-titled "Stan Winston Featurette." These are the same features that appeared on the previous DVD release.
One of the best-made examples of this kind of film that I've seen in years, WRONG TURN easily climbs right into the upper echelons of the hillbilly-stalker genre, a mere rung or two down from the classic 70s shockers that inspired it. I don't mind seeing a rehash of familiar ingredients as long as they get the recipe right, as they do here.
Buy it at Amazon.com
The Ultimate Park Chan-Woo
Vengeance Trilogy Box-Set
LOS ANGELES — September 28, 2009 — For Immediate Release —You’ve been asking, we’ve been planning and this November Palisades Tartan will release the most exciting, impressive and comprehensive Vengeance Trilogy box-set the world has ever seen! Featuring 8-discs and more special features then any other set on the planet (including the Korean version), celebrity essays as well as a few surprises, Palisades Tartan will release Park Chan-Wook’s VENGEANCE TRILOGY November 24th in DVD stores across the country.
SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE is the first film in Park Chan-Wook’s acclaimed Vengeance trilogy. The sister of a simple and deaf factory worker, Ryu, falls ill and needs a kidney transplant, however he is not a match so he looks to the black market which he can’t afford. After being fired from his job, his rebel girlfriend suggests that he kidnap the child of his former boss, Park. When the girl accidentally dies, her father seeks vengeance for her death.
OLDBOY is Park Chan-Wook’s classic genre-defining revenge tale of a man who’s wrongly been imprisoned for 15 years and is then suddenly released. Given money and a cell phone, he’s challenged to discover who incarcerated him in the first place, but he only has five days to uncover the truth. Even with a mysterious young girl to help him, his tortures have just begun. Cannes-winner championed by Tarantino, OLDBOY regularly appeared in top ten best movie polls across the country and is listed as one of the all-time best films as rated by IMDB users.
LADY VENGEANCE, the final film in the trilogy was created by Chan-Wook for his daughter. After being wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and murdering a young child, a beautiful young woman (Lee Young-ae) is imprisoned for 13 years. While in prison she gains the respect and loyalty of her fellow cellmates, all the while plotting her vendetta on the man responsible (OLDBOY’s Choi Min-Sik). Upon her release she sets in motion an elaborate plan of retribution, but what she discovers is a truth so horrifying, even revenge doesn’t seem punishment enough.
Director Park Chan-Wook’s most recent film THIRST won the Jury Prize at Cannes (2009) and was released in the US earlier this year by Focus Features. All three films in his celebrated Vengeance trilogy collection have garnered an impressive 28 Film Festival wins at prestigious venues including Cannes, Venice, Chicago, Fantasia, Stockholm, Hong Kong and the Sitges International Film Festival to name a few.
Each film is recorded in their original language (Korean) and offer English and Spanish subtitles. Each title is presented in anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS Surround Sound 5.1.Special features include an essay on each film by celebrated filmmakers, actors and writers, including Eli Roth... Additional features include but are not limited to Audio commentary by Park Chan-Wook and actor Ryoo Seung-wan (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE), Behind the Scenes, The Process of Mr. Vengeance, My Boksu Story, Storyboards, Photo Gallery, Filmographies, Film Notes, Crew Interviews, Three Audio Commentaries (OLDBOY), 5 Behind the Scene featurettes, Le Grand Prix at Cannes, Deleted Scenes with commentary, Regular and Fade-To-White versions (LADY VENGEANCE), Character Interviews – Lee Geum Ja, Prof. Baek, Prisoners, Families, Lady Vengeance at the 62nd Venice Film Festival, Trailer, Film Notes, Making of and Deleted Scenes.
Tartan Films was originally founded in 1984 in the UK and is credited with bringing Asian Extreme film to the West as well as some of the most compelling art house films of the last quarter century. In May 2008, Palisades Pictures acquired Tartan Films US library assets and two months later, acquired a majority of Tartan Films UK’s 400+ film library assets. The new company Palisades Tartan has operations both nationally and internationally. Palisades Tartan will continue to expand an already distinctive and provocative slate of films by focusing on quality film acquisitions, thus significantly increasing the size of their overall library in both territories. Palisades Pictures and its parent company Palisades Media Corp is a prestigious financier of print & advertising for the independent film market. Together with its affiliate, Palisades Media Asset Fund, Palisades has securitized and financed more than 550 films.
VENGEANCE TRILOGY Box Set - (SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE / OLDBOY / LADY VENGEANCE)
Palisades Tartan Video
Rating: Not Rated (Special Features Not Rated/Subject to Change)
Language: Korean (English Subtitles)
Format: DVD Only / 8-disc (Box-set)
Running Time: Approximately 361 minutes (Not Including Special Features)
MR. VENGEANCE – 129 min (Not Including Special Features)
OLDBOY– 120 min (Not Including Special Features)
LADY VENGEANCE – 112 min (Not Including Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Pre-Order Date: October 27th 2009
Street Date: November 24th 2009
Catalog #: TVD8307
UPC Code: # 842498000076
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Warner Brothers are thrilled to have these Roddenberry treasures join the Warner Archive in October which will also be accompanied by the release of several other great titles including:
Confessions of a Nazi
The Joe McDoakes Collection
GENESIS II synopsis:
"My name is Dylan Hunt. My story begins the day on which I died." GeneRoddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, brings fans another enthralling tale of the future. Set in a time between now and the era of the starship Enterprise, Genesis II follows Hunt (Alex Cord), who awakes after 154 years of suspended animation into a post-apocalyptic world that’s torn between the peace-loving citizens of Pax and the militaristic, mutant Tyranians. Both want Hunt to join their cause.
But the Tyranians have two cruel weapons to persuade Hunt: a device of torture called a stim. And an alluring mutant (Mariette Hartley) with two navels--and one ice-cold heart.
Starring ALEX CORD
Guest Stars MARIETTE HARTLEY, TED CASSIDY, and PERCY RODRIGUES As Primus Kimbridge
Written and Produced by GENE RODDENBERRY
Directed by JOHN LLEWELLYN MOXEY
A NORWAY Production in Association with WB Television
Burbank, Calif. June 22, 2009 -- The ravishing bathing beauty who pioneered a new genre of moviemaking -- "Aqua Musicals" -- will splash once more in Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies' TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2 on October 6. This highly anticipated follow-up to the 2007 TCM Collection includes the DVD debuts of six Technicolor films from classic Hollywood's swimming superstar - Million Dollar Mermaid, Thrill of a Romance, Easy to Love, This Time for Keeps, Fiesta and Pagan Love Song. Each of these MGM musical favorites have been newly remastered especially for this DVD release.
Also included are a boat-load of special features, including rarely-seen deleted musical outtakes, vintage shorts and classic cartoons. The films will be available only as a complete collection, in a collectible digi-pak gift set for $59.92 SRP. Order due date is September 1.
About the Films
Million Dollar Mermaid (1952): Glamorous, amphibious Esther Williams portrays real-life Australian swimming champ Annette Kellerman, in a splashy biopic co-starring Victor Mature. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and Oscar® nominated for Best Color Cinematography, the movie is loaded with stunning spectacle, including a must-see Busby Berkeley choreographed water ballet extravaganza. Is this lovely Esther's signature film? Well, she called her 1999 autobiography The Million Dollar Mermaid.
Special Features:· AUDIO ONLY: Lux Radio Theater presentation of Million Dollar Mermaid starring Esther Williams and Walter Pidgeon· Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry cartoon "The Little Wise-Quacker" (1952)· Classic M-G-M short subject "Reducing" (1952) · Original theatrical trailer
Thrill of a Romance (1945) Van Johnson and Esther Williams headline this frothy musical, just the ticket for a World War II-weary nation yearning for laughs, romance and glamour. And that's exactly what they got, plus swinging TechnicolorÒ tunes from Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra and operatic grandeur from famed Wagnerian tenor Lauritz Melchior in his film debut.
Newlywed swimming teacher Cynthia Delbar (Williams) has everything a girl could want for her honeymoon: a posh mountain lodge, glorious weather and a drop-dead trousseau. The only thing missing is her tycoon groom, who chose closing a deal in DC over cuddling with his brand-new missus. A pretty sorrowful situation - until a good-looking war hero staying at the hotel decides he needs swimming lessons.
Special Features:· Outtake Musical Numbers: "Gypsy Mattinata" (Lauritz Melchior) "I Should Care" (Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra) "Please Don't Say No" (The King Sisters)· Classic M-G-M short subject "The Great American Mug" (1945)· Classic M-G-M Tex Avery cartoon "Wild and Woolfy" (1945)· Original theatrical trailer
Special Features:· Classic M-G-M Short "Romantic Riviera"(1953)· Classic M-G-M Barney Bear cartoon "Cobs and Robbers" (1953)· Original theatrical trailer
This Time For Keeps (1947): Whether soaring from the high board or redefining grace in a lavishly choreographed water ballet, Esther Williams is at her radiant, swim-suited best in this lighthearted aquatic musical centered on her romance with an ex-GI (Johnnie Johnston). Settings include Michigan's picture-perfect Mackinac Island, with notable supporting stars providing specialty numbers. Famed tenor Lauritz Melchior brings his artistry to La Donna È Mobile, Xavier Cugat (with signature tea-cup Chihuahua at hand) adds big-band élan to the proceedings and Jimmy Durante delightfully dismantles his piano.
Special Features:· Outtake musical number: "Little Big Shot" (Jimmy Durante)· Classic M-G-M short subject "Now You See It" (1947)· Classic M-G-M Tom & Jerry cartoon "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse" (1947) · Original theatrical trailer
Fiesta (1947): Glamorous Williams forsakes her trademark swimsuit for a matador's red cape and black montera in the colorful film Fiesta. Williams portrays Maria, disguising herself as her twin brother Mario (Ricardo Montalban in his first credited U.S. film) and enters the ring in his place after he abandons bullfighting for classical music studies. An Oscar-nominated score* (including a restyling of Aaron Copland's "El Salon Mexico") spices up this gender-bender tale. Lovely Cyd Charisse plays Mario's partner in dance and romance.
Special Features:· Classic M-G-M short Goodbye, Miss Turlock (1947)· Classic M-G-M Tex Avery cartoon Hound Hunters (1947)· Original theatrical trailer
Pagan Love Song (1950):Esther Williams and Howard Keel share the bliss of this eye-filling musical excursion which includes the rhapsodic title tune and a charming Rita Moreno (in her third movie role as a spunky islander). Pristine Hawaiian locations fill in for the story's Tahitian setting. Of course, where there's an island, there's water, and Esther swimming in it. But in one fanciful sequence she also swims among the clouds, sending viewers' spirits aloft with her.
Half-Tahitian beauty Mimi Bennett (Williams) is eager to leave the easygoing life of Tahiti for the excitement and bustle of the United States. But when Ohioan Hazard "Hap" Endicott arrives to manage his late uncle's coconut plantation, the sparks flying between them may turn Mimi's travel plans into wedding plans.
Special Features:· Seven deleted musical outtakes includingo Why Is Love So Crazyo Sea of the Moon o Tahiti Version Oneo Tahiti Version Twoo Music on the Water Version Oneo Music on the Water Version Twoo The House of the Singing Bamboo · Classic M-G-M cartoon "The Chump Champ" (1950)· Classic M-G-M short subject "Curious Contests" (1950)· Original theatrical trailer
TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams Volume 2
Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change.
Buy it at The WB Shop
Quickly realizing they are in for much more than they bargained for, the volunteers are told that only one person will make it out of the room alive in what turns out to be a brutal and chilling classified experiment. “Shrewd, smart and thought provoking” (Bloody-Disgusting.com), THE KILLING ROOM garnered much attention after the 2009 Sundance Film Festival premiere. A suspenseful flick that will keep viewers on the edge-of-their-seat through to the shocking ending, THE KILLING ROOM is “a very taut thriller” (FirstShowing.net). The DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.95.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Monday, September 28, 2009
Directed by Jules White ("The Three Stooges") and Zion Myers, these shorts are corny take-offs on various movie genres and sometimes certain films in particular, using dogs in place of human actors. This means you'll see different breeds of dogs wearing clothes, walking around, hanging out in bars, etc. and speaking with dubbed voices. The miniature sets and props are great--sometimes I'd forget they weren't full-sized. Some shots of dogs driving cars, flying (and parachuting out of) airplanes, riding in buses and fire engines, and just about anything else you can think of, are ingenious.
Are these shorts funny, you ask? Well, the sight of a bunch of dogs strolling around on their hind legs wearing clothes and "acting" out scenes from old movies just can't help being occasionally funny, especially when the costumes and setpieces are more elaborate. Every once in a while a dog's expressions will synch perfectly with the dubbed dialogue and be laugh-out-loud hilarious. And even when it doesn't work, you just sit there mesmerized, thinking, "What the hell am I watching?"
Of course, the thing that will make some viewers uncomfortable and others refuse to watch altogether is the possibility of animal cruelty. To what degree any actual abuse might be involved here in these pre-SPCA shorts is hard to ascertain--mainly the dogs just look like they'd rather be somewhere else instead of wearing clothes and pretending to be movie actors, often sporting a distinct "WTF?" expression.
The most bothersome aspect is the use of harnesses and invisible wires to make the dogs walk around on their hind legs. The sight of entire chorus lines of dogs being manipulated in these contraptions is especially worrisome. However, I didn't see anything in any of the shorts that I would consider out-and-out abuse. I assume (naively, perhaps) that these dogs were valuable to MGM and well cared for during the shoots, and that they at least didn't have it as rough as they would if they were being forced to pull sleds in the Yukon.
Running from 1929 to 1931, the series is wonderfully antique-looking with beautiful opening titles. Dubbing and sound effects are well-done considering that talking pictures were still in their infancy, and the editing is snappy and cartoon-like. The first three Dogville shorts are billed as "All Barkies", after which each is officially designated "A Dogville Comedy." MGM's celebrated mascot Leo the Lion sounds like he has a frog in his throat in his first few appearances, loses his voice altogether for a few shorts, and then finally comes back in fine voice for the last ones.
In "College Hounds", a spoof of the old campus football comedies, we find a dorm room full of students going about their daily business--shaving, brushing their hair, relaxing in the bath, lifting weights, ironing their clothes--as they discuss the upcoming big game. Later, a scoundrel with big money bet on the other team hires a femme fatale to lure hometown hero Red Mange into a trap so he'll miss the game. There's a really bizarre love scene, and an even more bizarre football game with two whole teams full of dogs in uniforms being scooted around like puppets on a tiny football field.
"Who Killed Rover?" is a Phido Vance murder mystery complete with knives, guns, and all sorts of scary goings on. An all-dog wedding ceremony leads to a romantic honeymoon night with a rather risque' scene--the groom enters the bedroom, whisks the pillow off one of the twin beds, and nestles it next to the other one. Ooh, suggestive! This one has a surprisingly downbeat ending.
"The Dogway Melody", a spoof of backstage musicals, is one of the best. A slick-talking smoothie hustles to get his girlfriend into the big show, which consists of a series of mind-boggling production numbers including an elaborate version of "Singin' in the Rain."
Then comes the impressive war movie spoof "So Quiet on the Canine Front", which features a full-scale WWI battle sequence with machine guns, cannons, and flea grenades. Private Barker is enlisted to go behind enemy lines disguised as a nurse and ends up at the wrong end of a firing squad before his pal rescues him in the nick of time.
"The Big Dog House" tells of a mild-mannered bookkeeper for the Dogville Department Store who is framed by his boss Mr. Barker (related to Private Barker, perhaps?) for embezzlement and murder, and sent to Dogville Penitentiary. A funny spoof of hardboiled prison pictures, this one has another suspenseful ending with the innocent dog on his way to the electric chair as his girlfriend Trixie, after hearing Mr. Barker's deathbed confession, races with the governor to stop the execution.
Heartbroken soldiers in the Foreign Legion recount their sad tales of romantic betrayal in "Love Tails of Morocco", which offers several entertaining flashbacks in various settings. In "The Two Barks Brothers", gypsies steal a baby who later becomes a shiftless tramp named Oscar, while his twin brother grows up to be an anti-liquor crusading district attorney. Underworld beer king "Scartail" Growler hires Oscar to slip some gin into the D.A.'s water pitcher, leading to a hilarious scene in which the D.A. tries to deliver a temperance speech to some conservative citizens while getting sloppy drunk.
The final short, "Trader Hound", lampoons the enormously popular jungle adventure "Trader Horn" which would in turn inspire MGM's "Tarzan" series. Using the same music and basic plot, this spoof begins with a safari into darkest Africa in search of the great white goddess, Nina T-Bone. This film seemed promising but turned out to be one of the worst of the series--much time is devoted to the antics of human actors in animal costumes, with an extended battle between a lion and a gorilla proving particularly boring. The whole thing is narrated by Pete Smith in his usual unfunny (to me, anyway) style. However, the dramatic appearance of Nina T-Bone and the climactic chase as the hunters flee a tribe of dog-eating cannibals liven things up at the end.
As usual with the Warner Archive series, this burn-on-demand DVD set is taken from the best available video masters in the Warner vault, but with no remastering or restoration. Thus, the picture quality is less than perfect, yet considering the age of these shorts they look and sound quite good. Average running time is 15 minutes each.
The entertainment value of these DOGVILLE COLLECTION shorts is, of course, a matter of taste, not to mention one's tolerance for seeing dogs being manipulated like puppets to walk around on two legs and perform other human-like activities. While several moments elicited big laughs, the overall effect of this series of novelty films is a sort of dazed incredulity at their utter strangeness. I would love to see a roomful of stoners watching these things and flipping out.
Buy it at The WB Shop
Sunday, September 27, 2009
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Beware He Who Walks Behind The Rows! Based on the short story from Stephen King and to celebrate the silver anniversary of the 1984 motion picture, the 2009 remake of Children of the Corn will be released on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on October 6th, 2009. Written, directed and produced by Donald P. Borchers, producer of the 1984 original, the 2009 version not only presents a new, bold vision of the story, but also utilizes state-of-the-art visual effects created by Emmy™-winning special effects artist Kevin Kutchaver (“Lost,” “Alias,” X-Men X2, The Bourne Ultimatum, Hellboy). SRP is a vine-ripened $26.97 and pre-book is September 3rd.
Starring David Anders (“Alias,” “Heroes,” Into The Blue 2), Kandyse McClure (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Reaper”) and Preston Bailey (“Dexter”), Children of the Corn represents the ultimate road trip nightmare. Burton and Vicki (Anders and McClure) are an unhappily married couple making their way across the country when an accident leaves them stranded in the middle of a corn field. They stumble upon a cult of children led by the charismatic young leader Isaac (Bailey) and his right hand “man” Malachai (Daniel Newman, the upcoming Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant). They soon learn that this is no typical cornfield and there is something different about the children living in Gatlin, Nebraska. “Harvest” takes on a life-or-death urgency when Burton and Vicki must find a way to escape before they becomes sacrifices to He Who Walks Behind The Rows!
Premiering on the SyFy Channel September 26th, the 2009 Children of the Corn DVD will present the unrated version of the film, as well as a cornucopia of insightful bonus features, including:
“New Directions” – An interview with Writer/Producer/Director Donald P. Borchers on remaking a cult classic.
“Cast Of The Corn”– Interviews with Actors Kandyse McClure (“Vicki”), David Anders (“Burt”) and Daniel Newman (“Malachai”).
“To Live And Die In Gatlin” – Interviews with Production Designer Andrew Hussey and Special Make-Up FX Supervisor Alan Tuskes.
“Fly On The Wall” – Behind-the scenes footage from the set of CHILDREN OF THE CORN.
The Children Of The Corn DVD presents the totally uncut and uncensored version, featuring gruesome images, sexually graphic material and scenes deemed too offensive for cable television audiences.
About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is the home entertainment division of Starz Media, LLC. It includes the Anchor Bay Films and Manga Entertainment brands. It distributes feature films, children’s entertainment, fitness, TV series, documentaries, anime and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats. It is the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of the theatrical titles from Overture Films. Headquartered in Burbank, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Starz Media is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Capital Group.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Saturday, September 26, 2009
When New York stage actress Shelly Carnes (Ruth Roman) is ordered by her doctor to go West, she falls for a young man named Trevelyan (Richard Todd) whom she meets when they both take shelter during a storm. At the Tumble Moon Ranch she meets Liza McStringer (Mercedes McCambridge) and her crippled younger brother String (Darryl Hickman) and finds out that the reclusive Trevelyan has just been acquitted of murdering his wife after his second trial resulted in a hung jury. Liza, who clearly has a thing for him, was the jury member who kept him from being convicted.
Shelly and Trevelyan's next meeting leads to a whirlwind romance and a quickie marriage. But on their wedding night, Shelly's growing doubts about her new husband's innocence are confirmed when Liza admits to having witnessed the murder--and hints that the killer was indeed Trevelyan.
This is a good old-fashioned atmospheric thriller that's lean and well-paced. Simply yet stylishly directed by King Vidor, with good use of southwestern locations, the story is taut and suspenseful and never lapses into melodrama. The editing, except for a couple of curiously jarring moments, is noticeably good and the crisp black and white photography is a pleasure to look at. Master film composer Max Steiner contributes a robust musical score.
Mercedes McCambridge, with her natural and self-confident (and somehow peculiar) Method acting style, is fascinating to watch from her first moment on the screen. What an interesting young actress she was. She's subtle yet spellbinding during her long expository speech to Shelly, going about little bits of business around the kitchen in an offhand way and then deftly rolling a cigarette with one hand and lighting it as she delivers her dramatic exit line. After that I looked forward to watching the rest of her performance during the movie, and does it ever pay off before it's over.
Appearing only briefly is Zachary Scott as Trevelyan's friend Harvey Fortescue Turner, an idle playboy who knows more about the murder than he's telling. Kathryn Givney and Frank Conroy are Myra and J.D. Nolan, wealthy ranchers who raised Trevelyan as their own after the death of his parents. Familiar character actor Rhys Williams plays the local priest, Father Paul, a reluctant witness whose testimony was damaging during Trevelyan's trial. Former child actor Darryl Hickman is effective as Liza's troubled brother, String.
Ruth Roman's femme fatale gaze from the cover of this Warner Archive Collection DVD is hardly indicative of her character, but it looks cool anyway. The full-screen image and English Dolby 2.0 sound are good considering that this burn-on-demand title, like the rest of the Archive series, isn't restored or remastered but simply transferred from the best video master in the Warner Brothers' vaults. This means that picky videophiles will probably cringe at some of the scratches and pops. I barely notice them, having gotten used to seeing much worse prints on TV and in theaters over the years. In fact, the less-than-perfect picture quality only increases the film's nostalgic appeal for me.
LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE is the kind of movie that I took for granted back when you could see this kind of stuff on TV all the time. Now that old black and white films are, sadly, a real rarity amidst a sea of infomercials and other cheap filler, getting to watch this classy thriller on DVD is a real treat.
STAN HELSING will be playing for a one-week exclusive theatrical engagement starting Friday, October 23rd at:
New York – Village East Cinemas
Los Angeles – Mann’s Chinese 6 Theaters
Vancouver -- Tinseltown Theaters
Toronto -- Bloor Cinema
Ottawa -- Mayfair Theater
Written and directed by Bo Zenga, the executive producer of SCARY MOVIE, STAN HELSING follows the misadventures of hapless video store clerk Stan Helsing (Steve Howey) and his friends one unfortunate Halloween night when they find themselves stranded in the mysterious residential development of Stormy Night Estates. There, Stan learns of his true destiny as a descendant of the legendary monster-hunter Van Helsing.
With his motley band in tow – including his best friend Teddy (“Saturday Night Live” star Kenan Thompson) – he will battle true evil in the form of parodies of movie monster icons “Freddy,” “Jason,” “Leatherface,” “Pinhead,” “Michael Myers,” and “Chucky.” In addition to riotously sending up some of the cinema’s greatest scream meisters, Stan Helsing also features the appearance of comedy film legend Leslie Nielsen (Airplane!, the Naked Gun films, Scary Movie 3 and 4) as well as a surprise cameo that will frighten the Republican Party!
Keep watch for announcements on additional theaters that will play this year’s silliest shockfest – STAN HELSING!
Directly following "Summer Camp" will be the world premiere of it's 10 minute sequel, "Caesar and Otto in the House of Dracula." The film picks up directly after the cliffhanger ending of "Summer Camp" and stars Ed Dennehy, brother of Brian, as Steve Dracula, Dracula's lesser-known younger brother. Shot entirely against green screen, the short film is a black and white throwback to the Universal horror movies of yesterday.
"Summer Camp" premiered earlier this month at Kentucky's "Fright Night Film Festival", where it received an honorable mention.
Watch the festival trailer
Read our "Caesar and Otto's Summer Camp Massacre" review!
The screening will take place at Perspective studios in Glen Cove. Tickets are $12, but that includes 2 features length films and 2 shorts.
Contact: Ilona Sikorska
After punching out the police chief's mentally challenged brother, an effete tough guy, Caesar, is on the run.
Together, he and his slovenly half brother, Otto, take on new identities as counselors at the strangely vacant Camp Sunsmile.
The would-be summer camp has attracted a motley crew of Hollywood outcasts, all with something to hide. But when the mysterious Carrie (Felissa Rose, star of Sleepaway Camp) shows up, counselors begin disappearing one by one.
Soon, Caesar and Otto find themselves at the edge of a summer camp killer's blade as they run, duck, and swoosh for their lives!
Friday, September 25, 2009
The show doesn't have a lot of big, dumb slapstick moments designed to get the live studio audience whooping and hollering. Compared to most sitcoms of its era, it's low-key and character-driven. It would be hard to come up with a more reserved, contemplative lead character than Judd Hirsch's Alex Reiger, who serves as a de facto father figure for the group. Alex plays straight man for the nuttier characters but has a talent for deadpan one-liners and snags a good share of the laughs himself. He's also a conduit for the writers to insert a more rational point of view into the show's nuttier scenes.
The main setting is the New York City taxi garage where Reiger and his coworkers spend an awful lot of time just hanging around. (As in "Welcome Back Kotter", the place is haunted by those spooky extras who always hover silently in the background but never interact with the main characters, just like the "other" students in Mr. Kotter's class.) Danny DeVito is great as their vain, self-centered blowhard of a boss, Louie De Palma, whose bombastic personality compensates for his diminutive stature and trollish appearance. Marilu Henner is divorced single mom Elaine Nardo, an ultra-cute redhead who also works at an art gallery. She isn't funny, but she's ultra-cute.
Ex-boxer Tony Banta is played by Tony Danza with his usual obnoxious street-doofus style. As aspiring actor Bobby Wheeler, Jeff Conaway appears only a couple of times in this season since he left to pursue his own acting aspirations. This is okay with me because I never cared for his jittery character and, by this point, the cast seems overcrowded when he's there. I like Conaway a lot in GREASE, but I don't think his style is very well suited for this kind of sitcom.
The two comedy characters most people remember when they think about "Taxi" are mechanic Latka Gravas (Andy Kaufman) and Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd). Lloyd, who entered the public consciousness along with DeVito when they appeared as mental hospital inmates in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, gets plenty of laughs with his cockeyed, spaced-out character--he's the show's crowd-pleasing equivalent to Kramer from "Seinfeld"--but I don't always find Reverend Jim to be nearly as knee-jerk funny as we're supposed to. He can, however, be very amusing at times.
Latka Gravas, of course, is Andy Kaufman's "Foreign Man" character which he'd been performing in his stand-up routines for years, transplanted into a sitcom setting. As a Kaufman fan, I look forward to his appearances although his bizarre sense of humor is watered-down here. Kaufman would later regret having sold out the character, whom he regarded as an expression of his own more innocent side.
Latka's comedy potential was greatly expanded when it was decided to give him multiple personalities, enabling Kaufman to come up with characters such as sleazy lounge lizard Vic Ferrari, a cornfed cowboy, and his friend Reiger. Latka, along with Reverend Jim, gives the writers a chance to get sillier once in a while. My only regret is that Kaufman's most abrasive and off-putting alter ego, the horrendous Tony Clifton, was fired during rehearsals for a guest appearance and ousted from the studio lot.
One of the funniest episodes is "Take My Ex-Wife, Please", in which Louise Lasser of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" appears as Alex's ex-wife, Phyllis, who ends up on a disastrous date with Louie. An excellent comedienne, Lasser applies her comedic skills to this modestly funny script and turns her scenes with DeVito and Hirsch into some of the best moments of the whole season.
Another memorable guest star is the adorable Carol Kane in the recurring role of Latka's girlfriend, Simka Dahblitz. In "Simka Returns", Latka becomes jealous of her growing infatuation with the more outgoing Vic Ferrari. "The Wedding of Latka and Simka", with CUCKOO'S NEST alumnus Vincent Schiavelli as the priest who performs the ceremony, is both touching and comically surreal as we observe the strange wedding customs of their native country.
Ted Danson guests as a flamboyant hairdresser who gives Elaine the most embarrassing hairstyle imaginable in "The Unkindest Cut." In "Tony's Comeback", Bubba Smith is funny as an ex-football player who encourages Tony to get back into the boxing ring. The great Martin Short plays a struggling TV programmer who takes advantage of Jim's psychic abilities in "Jim Joins the Network." In "Like Father, Like Son", Alex's estranged father returns in the form of venerable comic actor Jack Gilford and becomes his surprise romantic rival. Danny DeVito's real-life mom and his wife Rhea Perlman can be seen in other episodes.
In the two-part season finale, "The Road Not Taken", Elaine's indecision about taking a better job in Seattle leads to everyone recounting stories about various turning points in their own lives. Reiger is shown as an ambitious business executive whose career is derailed by his rebellious nature. J. Pat O'Malley plays the cab company's previous dispatcher who is forced into retirement by the devious Louie. Latka tells of the day he left home to come to America, and Tony reveals his first encounter with the shady side of boxing. Best of all, we get to see Reverend Jim as the bright, straight-arrow Harvard student that he was before he became a drug burn-out, with a young Tom Hanks as his stoner roommate.
The 3-disc, 24-episode DVD set from CBS/Paramount is in the original 4.3 full-screen with Dolby Digital sound and closed-captions. Episodic promos for all episodes are included.
The main thing I didn't like about "Taxi" originally, besides the fact that a lot of the jokes were lame, was my feeling that it was trying to appear deeper and more thoughtful than it really was. I still think a lot of the jokes are lame, but upon viewing TAXI: THE FOURTH SEASON, I've come to see the show as an often genuinely affecting combination of dumb comedy, naked sentiment, and grown-up sensibilities.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
In the case of WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD (2009), the key elements for this kind of film are taken care of within the first five minutes--stupid city youths in the middle of nowhere, the aforementioned white water rafting, dope smoking, a good girl with a nice boyfriend, a slutty girl who doffs her top to reveal some really big boobs, a lecherous boyfriend who avails himself of them right before they both die horribly, and, last but not least, three consecutive "WTF?" kills that should have gorehounds squirming with delight. Woo-hoo! This baby's off and running.
And then, with this mini-movie out of the way, WRONG TURN 3 becomes a different movie altogether. Now it's about a busload of hardened criminals being transferred from one West Virginia prison to another and taking a shortcut through crazy-hillbilly country to get there. The worst of them are Latino badass Chavez (Tamer Hassan), ill-tempered skinhead Floyd (Gil Kolirin), and deranged goofball Crawford (Jake Curran). One convict is a semi-good guy named Brandon (Tom McKay) and another is undercover officer Juarez (Christian Contreras). The guards consist of aspiring law student Nate Wilson (Tom Frederic), bus driver Walter (Chucky Venice), and another guy whose name doesn't matter because he's the first one to get killed.
With all these characters established, along comes our old friend Three Finger, the craziest inbred mutant hillbilly of them all, who runs the bus off the road with his wrecker truck and over an embankment in a spectacular crash that's like something out of THE FUGITIVE. And for the rest of the film, the now-armed convicts and their captive guards must trudge their way through the woods as Three Finger picks them off one by one in creatively horrible ways.
Not quite as serious as the first film in the series, yet much less awesomely over-the-top insane than the second one, WRONG TURN 3 focuses a lot on the interplay between the convicts and the guards and what happens after they stumble upon a wrecked armored truck full of cash. A whole non-horror action-suspense thriller could have been made using just this part of the story, and for long stretches of screen time, that's exactly what we get. Chavez bullies and threatens everybody, Floyd tries to out-alpha male Chavez, and guard Nate is kept alive only because he's a native of the area and knows the way out. With all of this going on, we sometimes forget that old Three Finger is even out there somewhere.
Still, there are some occasionally exciting kill scenes. Three Finger baits one of the convicts into a nifty full-body barbed-wire snare with his truck's winch and takes the unfortunate fellow on a high-speed drag down a paved road. Another convict has his skull opened like a pop-top and his brain feasted upon like a Jello mold. There's the old "drop the spear out of a tree while a guy is looking up at it" impalement gag, not to mention those old stand-bys such as knives, hatchets, arrows, and a nasty meat hook.
Before it's over, we end up in Three Finger's ghastly lair of death where he's holding the last survivor of that opening sequence, good girl Alex (Janet Montgomery), while Nate rushes to her rescue. This leads to a prolonged hand-to-hand combat scene (one of several in the film), not to mention another exciting vehicle-crash stunt, and finally one of those "he's dead...he's not dead" endings which leads to yet another twist ending.
One thing about it, this is a suspenseful, action-filled movie that doesn't get boring. Compared to the breathtakingly splatterific extravanganza that came before it, however, it seems a tad mundane. I could've sacrificed the more involved prison-bus storyline if only the creativity and unpredictability of the opening sequence could've been maintained. Maybe this series works better with simpler young-people-in-peril plotlines serving as a basis for more interesting variations on the mutant hillbillies and their outlandish activities.
The largely English cast is uniformly fine and the director, Declan O'Brien, knows how to make this stuff look really good. (His only other credit that I know him from, strangely enough, is as a producer and writer for the light family film ALICE UPSIDE DOWN.) This time around, the cool makeup and practical effects are augmented by some obvious CGI, which in some cases is a bit of a letdown. As evidenced by the first two films of the series, this kind of graphic gore often looks better when it's done for real, with a minimum of digital trickery.
The DVD from 20th-Century Fox looks and sounds good, with 1.85:1 widescreen, 5.1 English Dolby, and Spanish, French, and Portugese Dolby Surround. (Subtitles are available in all four languages.) Extras consist of two brief deleted scenes and an 18-minute featurette, "Wrong Turn 3 In Three Fingers...I Mean, Parts." The three chapters are titled "Action, Gore, and Chaos!", "Brothers in Blood", and "Three Finger's Fight Night."
I would definitely recommend this to fans of the series--it's a solid horror flick and a fun, exciting continuation of the Three Finger saga. But this time, the wonderfully go-for-broke wildness of the second film has been reined in and WRONG TURN 3: LEFT FOR DEAD only sporadically gets as mind-boggling as we expect it to.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
“The Best Sci-Fi/Horror Thriller Since ALIEN”, Says Fangoria; Film To Be Restored From Director Richard Stanley’s Own Print
LOS ANGELES, CA– Severin Films today announced the October 13th release of the 1990 sci-fi/horror cult classic HARDWARE, the infamous feature film debut of music video visionary turned writer/director Richard Stanley (DUST DEVIL). Originally rated X by the MPAA and subsequently edited by distributor Miramax, HARDWARE will be presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever from a print supplied by Stanley himself. In addition, the limited edition two-disc DVD and Blu-ray will include audio commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and Stanley’s never-before-seen hour-long Super 8 version of the film.
Golden Globe® winner Dylan McDermott (The Practice) stars as a post-apocalyptic scavenger who brings home a battered cyborg skull for his metal-sculptor girlfriend. But this steel scrap contains the brain of the M.A.R.K. 13, the military’s most ferocious bio-mechanical combat droid. It is cunning, cruel, and knows how to reassemble itself. Tonight, it is reborn…and no flesh shall be spared. Stacey Travis (GHOST WORLD) co-stars – along with appearances by Iggy Pop, Lemmy of Motörhead and music by Ministry and Public Image Ltd. – in this kick-ass sci-fi thriller that New York Newsday hailed as “thought provoking and disturbing”, and Fangoria still calls “gritty, trippy and frightening…HARDWARE is one of the best horror movies you’ve never seen.”
“They say 'once in every generation a plague shall fall upon you',” says director Richard Stanley, “and so it is that after an absence of almost two decades I am proud to announce the second coming of HARDWARE to American shores in its full, savage, psychedelic, utterly unexpurgated and wholly unrated glory. We have relished working with Severin films and Norman Hill of Subversive Cinema – who oversaw the successful 2008 release of DUST DEVIL – to fully restore, remix and remaster HARDWARE for its first appearance on DVD and to provide the viewing public with an experience unlike anything they have ever seen before. You have been warned!”
Buy it at Amazon.com:
EAGLES OVER LONDON
WWII Epic From Writer/Director of Original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS Includes Tarantino Bonus Features
LOS ANGELES, CA – Severin Films today announced the first-ever DVD/Blu-ray release of the WWII epic EAGLES OVER LONDON. The 1970 hit was the international breakthrough film by Italian action master Enzo Castellari, best known as the writer/director of the original INGLORIOUS BASTARDS which will also be released on DVD and Blu-ray by Severin on October 13th.
“EAGLES OVER LONDON is a terrific film with one of my favorite storylines ever,” Quentin Tarantino said at the film’s Los Angeles premiere in 2008. “You’re in for a real treat!” Exclusive bonus features on the disc include footage of Tarantino hosting the film’s premiere in “Eagles Over Los Angeles”, plus the candid and revealing "A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Enzo G. Castalleri Part 2" and more.
Nine years before his classic BASTARDS, Enzo Castellari virtually invented the ‘Macaroni Combat’ genre with this over-the-top saga of valor, vengeance and machine-gun mayhem starring Hollywood legend Van Johnson (THE CAINE MUTINY) and Frederick Stafford (Hitchcock’s TOPAZ) as military officers pursuing a team of Nazi saboteurs through war-ravaged London. For this landmark international production, Enzo would re-create the evacuation of Dunkirk with 2,000 extras on a beach in Spain as well as the Battle Of Britain on a soundstage in Rome. “Almost 40 years later,” says Enzo, “Severin’s restoration and release of my first major film is both tremendously satisfying and humbling.”
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Fully Restored On DVD & Blu-Ray For First Time Ever; “Makes PORKY’S Look Like Proust” Says DVD Talk
(UPDATE: The latest word is that SCREWBALLS has been pushed back once again to an October 27 release.)
LOS ANGELES, CA – Severin Films today announced the October 13th release of the infamous ‘T&A’ classic SCREWBALLS on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time ever in America. This long unreleased, totally unhinged and generally unclothed ‘Canucksploitation’ masterwork has languished in a snowbound Alberta vault for decades. Following the Severin Legal Team's rescue of the film’s original 16mm inter-negative from a black widow's web of legal entanglements, Severin’s Archive Commandos immediately rushed the film to its state-of-the-art facility for high definition transfer and restoration.
SCREWBALLS remains perhaps the most relentlessly raunchy teen comedy of the ‘80s, the saga of Taft & Adams High – including campus virgin Purity Busch, chronic masturbator Melvin Jerkovski and blonde bombshell Bootsie Goodhead – and its incomparable curriculum of freshman breast exams, bikini cheerleader practice and inappropriate uses for bowling ball holes. Russ Meyer goddess Raven DeLaCroix (UP!) co-stars in this notorious drive-in classic originally released by Roger Corman that Mr. Skin hails as “the essential four-star epic of horny high school kids.” Severin’s disc will feature an all-new audio commentary and in-depth featurette documentary with the film’s cast and crew.
When you've got your hands on the Citizen Kane of high school sex cinema, you don't (fool) around" says Severin co-founder David Gregory. "Every day, I get pelted with phone calls asking, 'When is it coming out?' Hey, we don't want to waste a day bringing SCREWBALLS to your DVD and Blu-ray players. But first, we must provide our customary cavalcade of morally casual extras. The cultural importance of this particular title demands nothing less than Severin's absolute best." Added Severin co-founder/CEO Carl Daft, "In my career, I've only personally dealt with two or three motion pictures that deserve the banner of 'masterpiece'." SCREWBALLS is most certainly one of those films. The first time I saw Purity Busch's jubblies unveiled in crystalline high definition transfer, I felt as if my entire adult life had been leading me to that specific moment."
Read our review
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Severin Films was formed in 2006 with offices in Los Angeles and London. Their previous releases include THE SINFUL DWARF, recent Goya Award winner Jess Franco’s MACUMBA SEXUAL and BLOODY MOON, Walerian Borowczyk’s IMMORAL WOMEN, the unrated Director’s Cut of GWENDOLINE starring Tawny Kitaen, Oscar® nominee Patrice Leconte’s international hits THE HAIRDRESSER’S HUSBAND and THE PERFUME OF YVONNE, and Enzo Castellari’s original action classic INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. http://www.severin-films.com/
Up-And-Coming Martial Arts Master Marko Zaror - “The Latin Dragon” Stars In Mirageman, Kicking Its Way Onto DVD October 6 From Magnolia Home Entertainment
“One of my favorite superhero movies of all time… full speed, full contact action.” - Ain’t It Cool News
Maco, a reclusive nightclub security guard, fills his free time training in the martial arts. One fateful night, disguised in a mask, Maco saves a television reporter from a gang of vicious attackers. When she praises her unknown savior on national television, Maco turns into a mysterious hero, making his unexpected life path suddenly seem clear: to save the lives of others while maintaining a secret life as an everyday superhero.
Winner at the 2004 World Stunt Awards for Best Overall Stunt, Best Fight and Best Specialty Stunt, Marko Zaror reunites with writer and director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza (Kiltro) in this action-packed Audience Award Winner for Best Film at the 2007 Fantastic Fest, Mirageman.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Monday, September 21, 2009
Dermot Mulroney gives a solid performance as King, an older street kid who's more thoughtful and responsible than most and tries to take care of the younger, more naive ones. His best friends are Greg (Sean Astin), a self-destructive speed freak, and the more laidback Crasher (James Le Gros, who played the goat roper who escapes from the bar slaughter in NEAR DARK). King is especially protective of the vulnerable, unstable Little J (Balthazar Getty) and a pretty new arrival, Heather (Lara Flynn Boyle).
The kids are always on the run from the cops, including Adam Baldwin and Rachel Ticotin as Officers Black and Landers. Meanwhile, Greg grows ever closer to being seduced into heroin use by vile drug dealer Ted (Kyle MacLachlan) while Little J reluctantly begins earning extra cash as a boy-toy for an aging perv (Stephen Tobolowsky, best known as "Sammy Jankis" in MEMENTO) and becomes a danger to society when he finds a gun. King, wanting to escape to a better life with his new girlfriend Heather, eventually finds himself unable to keep on protecting his friends from both society and themselves.
Not nearly as gritty as some other films of its kind, WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU is a somewhat romanticized take on the subject which eschews cinema verite' for a slicker pictorial style from director and co-writer Marc Rocco (adopted son of actor Alex Rocco). The kids may sleep under a bridge but they seem happy enough and don't look all the worse for wear--girls like Heather and Kimmy (Alyssa Milano) are perky and pretty, Ricki Lake's "Brenda" doesn't seem to be missing any meals, and most of the guys wouldn't look out of place at your typical keg party. (They often tell each other that they smell bad, but they don't look like they do.)
Sean Astin's character seems to be on the fastest track to oblivion--he hits rock bottom when he wakes up in his own vomit on the floor of Ted's filthy apartment after his first heroin trip--yet he comes from a non-abusive middle-class home to which he could return at any time, so I found it hard to feel all that sorry for him. Will Smith as "Manny", on the other hand, has it the hardest since he's missing both legs and is confined to a wheelchair, yet he's one of the most cheerful and self-reliant characters. Smith appears only briefly in a few scenes, but his attack by a brutal pimp named Tommy Ray (Peter Dobson) who's out for revenge against King sets up Tommy Ray's murder by one of the group, which ultimately leads to tragedy.
There seems to be no escape for these kids even when some of them finally decide to take a bus out of town. Not only do they have no actual destination in mind, and are thus unlikely to be heading for any kind of a better life, but fate continues to work against them. Here, during a climactic bus station sequence, the film could've used a grittier and more natural style in order to give greater impact to what happens. As it is, much of the effect is diluted by self-conscious direction, too much slow motion, and a mood-killing Melissa Etheridge song that's meant to be deeply moving but isn't. A prolonged epilogue also tries to give the ending more emotional weight than it has actually earned.
The DVD from Anchor Bay is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Surround 2.0, and offers subtitles in English, Spanish, and French. The theatrical trailer is included.
While not a perfect film, and not quite as powerful as it intends to be, WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU is still an engaging and sometimes moving story with characters you can care about, and numerous young actors giving noteworthy performances. It's definitely worth checking out as long as you're not expecting to be blown away.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Basically, this show is a slickly-produced and richly-photographed series of variations on the movie GHOST, with most episodes doing their best to reproduce that famously emotional "Ditto" finale in one form or another. Although supposedly inspired by the experiences of certain real-life spirit communicators, this rather conventional series dwells on the more fanciful, romantic, and melodramatic storylines that can be drawn from such a premise.
Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as Melinda Gordon, who, just like Haley Joel Osment's character in THE SIXTH SENSE, "sees dead people" and tries to help them solve whatever problems are keeping them earthbound so that they can cross over into the light. Her paramedic husband Jim (David Conrad), antique store employee and best friend Delia (Camryn Manheim), and Delia's teenage son Ned (Christoph Sanders) are aware of Melinda's "gift" and help her whenver they can. In this season Melinda also acquires a new friend, Dr. Eli James (Jamie Kennedy), who has recently gained the ability to hear ghosts and becomes her reluctant sidekick.
Most stories play like a Halloween episode of "Touched By an Angel", with a few mildly scary elements giving way to heart-tugging emotional situations once Melinda discovers the ghost's problem and seeks to solve it. These apparitions are usually just troubled people with unfinished business or unresolved issues, although on some occasions they may have more sinister or destructive intent.
The standard ending for these supernatural sob stories is a prolonged scene of reconciliation between the troubled spirits and the living, with Melinda relaying the ghost's final sentiments before he or she enters the light with a beatific smile. More often than not, these scenes are allowed to drag on until they become unbearably cloying. "Bloodline", for example, starts out as an interesting "angry ghost" story, but the blubber-fest ending, complete with maudlin piano music, lasts about five minutes too long. Several episodes also contain an inordinate amount of sappy emo ballads popping up with disconcerting regularity.
"Body of Water" is about as horrific as the show gets, with a teenage girl going for a late night swim in a pond which she discovers is filled with decaying corpses. It turns out that a failing funeral home director (David Clennon) has been dumping the bodies after the furnace he was using to cremate them broke down, and their spirits are upset and ashamed that their loved ones must now be called upon to identify their gruesome remains. But by the end of the story Melinda straightens everything out in time for the obligatory extended cry-a-thon.
The most noteworthy aspect of season four is a prolonged story arc that begins with Melinda and Jim's concerted efforts to conceive a child, then veers suddenly in a totally unexpected direction. (Skip the rest of this paragraph and the next if you don't want to know what happens.) In episode 6 of the season, "Imaginary Friends and Enemies", Jim is accidentally shot by the police while trying to disarm an assailant, and, to Melinda's horror, dies in the hospital soon after. But while visiting Melinda in her car the next day, Jim's ghost witnesses a man's death in a traffic mishap. After seeing the accident victim's spirit rise and go into the light, Jim enters the vacated body and returns to life, only to wake up with a different identity and total amnesia.
For much of the rest of the season, considerable time is spent showing Jim (now "Sam") trying to get his memory back and coping with his new life. Living in Melinda's garage, he finds himself falling for her all over again until the surprise appearance of Sam's fiancee, Nikki (Terri Polo), complicates things further. Not only must Sam now decide between his old and new lives and loves, but an inexplicably vehement new skepticism toward anything supernatural becomes a massive stumbling block between him and Melinda. Needless to say, this continuing subplot which spans several episodes is pure soap-opera stuff.
Camryn Manheim, whom I can't stand, does her usually capable job in the role of Melinda's friend Delia. Replacing regular castmember Jay Mohr in the season's first episode, "Firestarter", is comedian Jamie Kennedy as college professor and psychologist Eli James. After a fire in which Dr. James dies for a brief time before being resuscitated, he suddenly finds himself capable of hearing (but not seeing) ghosts. Melinda helps him cope with his newfound ability and he soon becomes an invaluable helper in her paranormal endeavors. Kennedy is well-suited for this role, playing it with just the right comedy touch while remaining a believable character.
The CBS/Paramount DVD set contains 23 episodes on 6 discs which are boxed in three slimline cases. The anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 image and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound are fine. Extras include the featurettes "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment", "Season 4: Love Never Dies", and "Scoring the Spirit World" with composer Mark Snow ("The X-Files"). Disc six features an interactive haunted-dollhouse trivia game, interactive fashion style guide, The Other Side III Webseries, and another trivia game called "Grave Mistakes." Closed-captioning for the hearing impaired is available.
If you're a sucker for mildly spooky ghost stories and shamelessly sappy chick flicks, GHOST WHISPERER: THE FOURTH SEASON is a combination of the two which should provide several hours of mildly spooky and shamelessly sappy entertainment. Others may find the show's sickly-sweet oversentimentality to be the scariest thing about it.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Richly evocative of the 80s-90s era in horror, yet steeped in the moody aura of the classic fright films of the past, each episode from the 1989-1990 season is like an atmospheric mini-movie replete with hideous monsters, evil spirits, malevolent magic, and everyday people taking a walk on the dark side.
As usual, beautiful redhead Micki Foster (Robey) is still trying to track down the cursed items that were sold from the curiosity shop she's inherited from her evil Uncle Lewis (R.G. Armstrong), who died after his deal with Old Scratch fell through. She's aided by her uncle's former antique dealer, Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins), whose knowledge of arcane lore and the dark arts is invaluable. Micki's cousin Ryan (John D. LeMay) is half-owner of the shop, but his character is done away with during the season premiere and replaced by Steven Monarque as Johnny Ventura, a wide-eyed novice in the world of the supernatural.
The cursed antiques, which can be anything from a coin to a child's toy to a haunted television set, wield an evil influence over their owners and are usually used for deadly revenge or personal gain. Either way, they tend to kill people in extremely horrible ways, which is bad for our heroes, but great for us horror fans.
The season gets off to blood-curdling start with a two-parter called "The Prophecies." Jack finds himself in a small French village whose convent is the home of a revered nun, Sister Adele (Marie-France Lambert). Her childhood vision of the Holy Mother has made the village a mecca for people seeking to be healed of their afflictions. But this haven of holiness finds itself under attack from fallen angel Asteroth (Fritz Weaver in full Fritz Weaver mode), who, armed with a cursed copy of the Satanic Bible, is determined to fulfill a series of prophecies that will enable Lucifer to walk the earth.
The story loses steam during the second part as Weaver's one-note character begins to grate on the nerves, but the first half of this tale contains some of the scariest stuff ever done for television. When Jack is awakened at 3:33 a.m. by groaning, distorted church bells, the effect is chilling. Then we see Sister Adele attacked by a possessed nun while in prayer, a scene that should unsettle anyone who was ever scared by THE EXORCIST. Soon after, a sequence in which a ward full of mental patients attack the convent's staff and slaughter them in unholy ways is pure bedlam, and very strong stuff. Topping it all off is the bizarre and unexpected fate of Ryan, which is one of the strangest main character departures ever.
"Night Prey" is an old-fashioned wing-flapping, cross-shunning vampire tale which ends with some nice messy disintegrations. In "The Charnel Pit", Micki is sucked into the past via an old painting and falls into the hands of none other than the Marquis de Sade. "The Tree of Life" is the story of a modern sect of Druid priestesses who grow new recruits in their own fertility clinic and then sacrifice the parents to a tree god.
A cursed wheelchair enables a paralyzed girl to get revenge on the boys who tried to rape her in "Crippled Inside", which boasts one of the most amazing stunts I've ever seen--a stuntwoman goes down a flight of stairs in a wheelchair, backwards! Other episodes deal with a headless biker, a television that serves as a conduit for angry ghosts, an evil jack-in-the-box, and a man who uses a cursed leash to (as the episode summary puts it) "merge his dog and his wife into one super-devoted companion." Cool!
As Micki, Robey does her usual great job of being a big-haired babe while bringing depth and conviction to her role. Chris Wiggins as the ever wise and stalwart Jack grounds the show with his dignified presence and experience, no matter how far-out the plots may get. New castmember Steven Monarque's character of Johnny Ventura, first introduced in season two, gives the viewer a fresh, unjaded perspective through which to witness all the weirdness that Micki and Jack have become accustomed to.
Production values are high and the feature-level direction and writing are consistently good. The show doesn't skimp on the horror factor, either--there are lots of awesome old-school makeup effects such as the impressive full-body costume and cable-controlled head for the main creature in "Demon Hunter", and the horrific acid-dissolving victim (like something out of Cronenberg's THE FLY) in "Crippled Inside." In "Stick it in Your Ear", guest star Wayne Best's repulsively organic hearing aid, which allows him to read minds, causes him to break out in some wonderfully disgusting and squishy air-bladder makeup. The show's use of CGI is still hinky-looking as ever, but for the most part the effects are first-rate.
This five-disc set from CBS/Paramount contains all 19 third-season episodes, most with the original network promos. The 1.33:1 picture and Dolby Digital English mono sound are good although the show's cinematography always tended toward the murky side. (A heavy-handed racial episode, "Hate On Your Dial", is shot largely in beautiful black-and-white and is probably the best the show has ever looked.) The episodes often have that melancholy, autumnal atmosphere that is somehow common to many Canadian horror productions of the era, which contributes in large measure to the show's effective mood.
I was very impressed by this series' first season, and FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES--THE FINAL SEASON continues in the same high quality vein to the very end. Horror fans in search of the real deal can't go wrong with these satisfying, finely-wrought tales of terror.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Read our review of "Friday the 13th: The First Season"