HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, October 31, 2011

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (1979) -- DVD review by porfle

I've always been a big fan of over-the-top depictions of the international spy as a glamorized action hero, as best typified by Ian Fleming's James Bond.  But author John le Carré's realistic world of workaday intelligence agents toiling at a thankless and often soul-deadening job filled with real danger and paranoia has its own dark fascination.  Capturing this like an absorbing Cold War novel come to life is the first-rate BBC mini-series adaptation, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (1979), starring Alec "Obi-Wan Kenobi" Guinness as the indefatigable George Smiley. 

The aging Smiley is "retired" from the agency known as The Circus due to being one of the fall guys after a botched mission in Czechoslovakia ends in chaos and the near-fatal shooting of agent Jim Prideaux (Ian Bannen).  Smiley's former boss, known only as "Control", has been replaced by the ambitious Percy Alleline (Michael Aldridge) and his close-knit circle of associates--Haydon (Ian Richardson), Bland (Terence Rigby), and Esterhase (Bernard Hepton). 

When one of these men is suspected of being a mole supplying vital information to a sinister Russian contact named "Karla", Smiley is pressed back into service at the behest of a top government official in order to head a secret investigation.  But his efforts only seem to uncover deeper mysteries involving internal corruption, deception, and betrayal on a grand scale, with the evil spectre of Karla lurking behind it all.

Alec Guinness is pitch perfect as the enigmatic George Smiley, a keenly intelligent, emotionally distant man constantly haunted by reminders of his wife's infidelity.  Guinness' dry performance is an ideal match for this restrained, slow-burn production whose story slowly and methodically pieces itself together like a jigsaw puzzle. 

There's very little of the standard action-movie stuff save for Prideaux's ill-fated affair in Czechoslovakia early on, and even the suspense scenes--such as Smiley's young assistant Guillam (Michael Jayston) burgling files from their own agency--are staged in a realistic, matter-of-fact way without the usual cinematic frills.

The very literate script by Arthur Hopcraft is so subtle and low-key, in fact, that a lot of viewers may have trouble following it.  Crucial names and references necessary to understanding the increasingly complex plot are hard to keep up with for those without photographic memories.  So, when I finished the fourth episode out of six and realized that I pretty much had no idea what the hell was going on, I actually went back and started over. 

This time, fortunately, everything fell into place and became extremely absorbing, and I found the last couple of episodes riveting.  It may take some patience getting there, but the final revelations in episode six, which come after a highly suspenseful build-up, prove extremely satisfying. 

Among the supporting cast are Hywel Bennett as "scalphunter" Ricki Tarr, who sets events into motion after his chance encounter with a Russian woman seeking help in defecting in exchange for sensitive information.   Ian Richardson of FROM HELL plays Circus inner-circle member Bill Haydon, and Ian Bannen is outstanding as the unfortunate Prideaux, who takes up teaching at a boys' school until he's sufficiently recovered from his wounds to seek revenge. 

Joss Ackland (LETHAL WEAPON 2, HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER) appears briefly as an old friend of Smiley.  As "Karla", a young, dark-haired (but already bald as a cueball) Patrick Stewart displays considerable bad-ass presence during an interrogation scene in which he doesn't speak a single word.

The film has the usual early-BBC filmed look, which is perfect for the dark and rather dreary world in which these agents operate.  Direction by John Irvin is lean and efficient.  Geoffrey Burgon's cello-heavy original score helps push the suspense along very nicely.

The three-disc DVD set (approx. 324 min.) from Acorn Media is in 4:3 full-screen with Dolby Digital sound, with closed-captioning but no subtitles.  Extras include a 28-minute interview with John le Carré along with text-based production notes, cast filmographies, a glossary of main characters and terms, and a le Carré biography and booklist.

Whereas the 007 films serve as flamboyant, thrill-packed eye candy, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY takes us on a gripping and mentally stimulating journey through the cigarette-smoke and stale-coffee netherworld of spydom.  Once I got my head around all the myriad characters and subplots I found it to be one of the most richly rewarding films of its kind that I've ever seen. 

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Feast on "The Simpsons Season 14" on Blu-ray and DVD December 6th

Humans! You are cordially invited to a feast for the senses with the Dec. 6th release of “THE SIMPSONS” SEASON 14 Blu-ray and DVD from the foolish earthlings at Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment!

“THE SIMPSONS” SEASON 14 Blu-ray and DVD are loaded with bonus features including the incredible 300th episode starring Tony Hawk and blink-182. Additionally, the Blu-ray and DVD are packed with deleted scenes, features and never-before-seen footage, audio commentaries, sketch galleries, original animated menus, a special language feature and much more.

Other guest stars throughout the season include rock 'n' roll legends Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Tom Petty, Elvis Costello and Brian Setzer. Also paying Springfield a visit are Elliott Gould, Marisa Tomei, Little Richard and the dynamic duo of Adam West and Burt Ward.

The longest-running scripted show in television history, THE SIMPSONS exploded into a cultural phenomenon in 1990 and has remained one of the most groundbreaking and innovative entertainment franchises, recognizable throughout the world. Matt Groening created the iconic family: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

Currently airing its record-annihilating 23rd season, THE SIMPSONS will celebrate their historic 500th episode in February 2012, and creator Matt Groening will receive a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The series has won 27 Emmy Awards, been the subject of a hit feature film, created “Krustyland” and a revolutionary virtual coaster – The Simpsons Ride – at Universal Studios, received a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame, been honored with five U.S. postal stamps personally designed by Matt Groening, and named the “Best Show of the 20th Century” by Time Magazine.

THE SIMPSONS is a Gracie Films Production in association with 20th Century Fox Television. James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean are the Executive Producers. The Gracie Films Worldwide Brand Division develops and produces the Blu-ray and DVD collections for the series. Film Roman, a Starz Media Company, is the animation house.

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Director Ryan Thompson took a bunch of his favorite things about movies, mashed them all together into a low-budget, high-energy conglomeration, and called it ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION (2011). 

In a by-now standard vision of a dystopian post-nuclear future, good guys and bad guys battle for what's left of the ravaged world.  Knox (Johnny Gel) escapes from the marauders, a group of ex-military scavengers led by brawny psycho Rome (Jerry Lynch), and is taken in by the benevolent followers of Moses (Fred Williamson).  Former soldier Knox proves himself worthy of their trust and becomes a valuable member of the group while eventually winning over tough girl Sarah (Alicia Clark) who initially hates him. 

After the marauders attack their encampment and kidnap whoever they don't kill, Knox must lead his new friends Robert (Joseph Scott Anthony) and Lucas (Tommy Beardmore) into the bad guys' fortress-like cathedral hideout on a desperate rescue mission.  In order to help compensate for being vastly outnumbered, the heroic trio cleverly manipulate a roving horde of zombies into becoming their unwitting allies.

The fact that the zombies themselves seem to be guest stars in their own movie is explained by director Thompson in the making-of featurette.  "We decided right away we didn't want it to have anything to do with the original ZA film," he reveals.  "I really wanted to do a post-apocalyptic movie... with zombies in it."  Thus, this sequel often comes off as a poor man's "Mad Max" flick which also owes a lot to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and various other grungy action movies.  (Anthony's character even seems to morph into Snake Plissken before it's over.) 

During the many action setpieces that take place throughout, the emphasis is on gunplay and physical combat between the human foes, with the zombies eventually butting in and turning the tide in favor of the good guys.  While the staging and choreography often appear rather shoddy, these sequences are done pretty much as well as can be on such a low budget and tight schedule, with plenty of action.  The CGI blood splatter and muzzle flashes are particularly good, and some of the not-so-hot digital effects can be overlooked. 

The undead look pretty convincing, with several of the "hero" zombies displaying above-average makeups.  Straight horror elements are few--we never even get the usual scene where someone dies and comes back to life--but there's one moment that's as shockingly horrific as anything you'll ever see in this type of movie.  During a good old fashioned zombie shoot-em-up scene midway through the story, we also get the classic bit where an unlucky individual gets disemboweled and feasted upon by the ravenous undead.  More such mayhem ensues when they intrude en masse upon the final free-for-all battle and get in on the fun.

As for the acting, the skill level fluctuates wildly among the cast although all are enthusiastic performers.  Old pro Fred Williamson comes off best, as you might guess, making the most of both his dialogue and action scenes.  Johnny Gel is adequately "cool" and heroic as Knox and co-stars Anthony and Beardmore hold up their end well.  As Sarah, Alicia Clark's winsome looks help compensate for her lack of acting talent (especially when clad in a slave-girl outfit a la Princess Leia in RETURN OF THE JEDI) and her climactic catfight with villainess Angelique Sky is fun. 

The most hilariously arch performance comes from Jerry Lynch as Rome, who tells Sky in one scene: "If I want your opinion, I'll rape it out of you!"  He's so wildly overwrought in the role that he makes DAY OF THE DEAD's Joe Pilato seem mild-mannered in comparison.

The DVD from Pacific Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a genial commentary track with Thompson, Gel, and co-writer Matthew O'Day, a "making-of" featurette, deleted scenes, image gallery, and trailers.  Be sure to stay till the end of the closing credits for a final tag scene.

While ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION suffices as passable grade-B entertainment, it still must be appreciated mainly on a "so bad it's good" level, and if you can't do that then this is definitely a movie you should avoid.  But if lively little low-budget flicks are your thing, and you can appreciate the efforts of indy filmmakers doing what they can with extremely limited resources, you should have a pretty fun time with this.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

13 -- DVD review by porfle

In THE DEER HUNTER, a game of Russian Roulette proved so overwhelmingly intense that, as I sat watching it in the theater, I wasn't even sure if I'd be able to get through it.  Géla Babluani's 13 (2010) gives us an entire movie based on the game but manages only to be moderately entertaining without coming anywhere near that level of tension.

Sam Riley is Vince, an average young guy whose family--mom, dad, and two sisters--has hit rock bottom financially after the father is badly injured.  Stumbling across an illicit Russian Roulette tournament involving some very high-stakes betting, Vince manages to take the place of one of the entrants in hopes of surviving to solve his family' money problems.  Needless to say, this descent down the rabbit hole will be a nightmare with the spectre of sudden, violent death hovering over him every minute.

Riley gives a restrained but effective performance and makes his character easy to root for.  Vince is believably freaked out during the first round while quickly getting more hardened to the game out of necessity.  When he makes it to the final round, which we know he will since the opening flash-forward gives it away, he's still reluctant but his initial hesitance has been overcome by sheer desperation.

Technically, 13 is as good as it needs to be but no more, relying on the inherent fascination we derive from seeing a group of men standing in a circle, each with his gun pointed at the head of the man in front of him and then firing on command, with some surviving and others thudding clumsily to the floor.  With each round the stakes rise along with the number of bullets in each gun.

Even so, we never really get that caught up in the game itself, and it's the sketchily-drawn characters who provide the most interest.  As Jasper, Jason Statham is likable as usual even playing a rat who plucks his brother Ronald Lynn (Ray Winstone) out of a mental hospital to compete in the game.  Winstone is an imposing figure, even more so when Ronnie's meds start wearing off and he becomes increasingly hostile both to Vince and to Jasper for using him. 

Mickey Rourke is interesting to watch even when he's coasting through a role as he does here, playing a convict named Jefferson who's been whisked out of a Mexican prison and into the competition against his will.  Rapper 50 Cent plays Jefferson's handler, Jimmy.  Belgian actor Ronald Guttman, whom I recognized as one of the Russian defectors in THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, is Vince's sponsor in the game, and David Zayas of "Dexter" is a police detective trying to put an end to it. 

Film and TV veteran Ben Gazzara is a welcome presence as Schlondorff, sponsor to his own nerve-frazzled entrant.  In the small role of Vince's handler, Jack, Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård manages to convey an unspoken sympathy for Vince that makes his character more tolerable.  Michael Shannon (airplane mechanic "Gooz" in PEARL HARBOR) plays the role of coldblooded game ringmaster Henry with particular relish, harshly barking out commands such as "Spin the cylinder!" and "Cock the hammer!"  Gaby Hoffman, who was little "Maisy" in UNCLE BUCK, is all grown up now and plays Vince's sister Clara in a brief role.

Ray Winstone's menacing character becomes the focal point in the game's final stages and gives 13 its most gripping scenes.  After the game, however, the film wanders down a pretty predictable path and finally comes to a stop after failing to find anything interesting to do with itself save for a mild attempt at some kind of irony.  Director Babluani and his co-scripter Gregory Pruss really needed to throw a few more ideas around before settling for this acutely unremarkable ending.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  There are no extras.

In other hands, 13 might've been a really riveting nailbiter.  As it is, it's a nifty little suspense yarn that doesn't quite make you feel like you've gotten your money's worth when it's over.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bruce Willis, Forest Whitaker, Malin Akerman star in "CATCH .44", coming December 20th to Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Films

All it takes is one itchy trigger-finger...


Watch Your Back December 20th on Blu-ray™ and DVD

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – In the tradition of Pulp Fiction, Traffic and Go, and from the producers of Machete and 16 Blocks, Anchor Bay Films takes aim with the December 20th release of Catch .44 on Blu-ray™ and DVD. Oscar® winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior”), Bruce Willis (the Die Hard films, Red, The Expendables) and Malin Akerman (Watchmen, The Proposal, Couples Retreat) lead an all-star cast in this suspense thriller where everyone has an agenda...and a Magnum to back it up!  SRP is $26.98 for the DVD and $29.99 for the Blu-ray™. Pre-book is November 23rd.

For Tes (Akerman) and her two cohorts Kara (Nikki Reed, Thirteen, the Twilight franchise) and Tara (Deborah Ann Woll, “True Blood”), the job sounded simple enough: intercept a double-cross drug shipment for their crime boss Mel (Willis) at an isolated diner. But when an unstoppable chain of events unfolds, everyone soon realizes no one is who they seem and the job may be something other than eliminating the competition. What started as simple instructions has now turned into a deadly cat-and-mouse game – with large guns pointed at everyone. Catch .44 also stars Brad Dourif (The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, Dune), Michael Rosenbaum (“Smallville”) and Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”).

Bonus features on Catch .44 Blu-ray™ and DVD will include a filmmakers’ commentary.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THE HAGSTONE DEMON -- DVD review by porfle

As aesthetically pleasing as it is blood-chilling, director Jon Springer's THE HAGSTONE DEMON (2011) often looks like an art film with its lush black-and-white photography and creative camera angles.  But instead of pretense, director Jon Springer has infused this Gothic horror tale with a queasy sense of unease dotted by moments that are genuinely unsettling.

Mark Borchardt stars as Douglas Elmore, a former journalist who's now the caretaker for a spooky old apartment building scheduled to be demolished.  As the last tenants reluctantly prepare to vacate, Elmore becomes involved with a homeless girl named Karna (Nadine Gross) squatting in a basement apartment.  Her increasingly strange behavior is somehow linked to Elmore's visions of his dead wife Julia, who committed suicide after they took part in a Satanic ritual which was supposedly meant to enable them to have a child. 

The gangly, long-haired Borchardt has perhaps the least refined acting style of the otherwise excellent cast, but this fits his unassuming and somewhat listless character.  His manner initially suggests that the film is going to be a dry spoof of the genre, especially when an eccentric old lady reads his fortune after he fixes her plumbing in an amusing opening scene.  But any deadpan humor derived from these characters serves only as a stark contrast to the dark events to follow.

Karna's involvement with an unearthly-looking man and her calculated sexual advances toward Elmore lead us deeper into the mystery surrounding the Hagstone building.  Haunted by his wife's apparition, Elmore lapses into weird dreams (which are in vivid color) and has a vision of being forced to partake in yet another ritual while drugged.  Then some of the building's tenants start to turn up dead. 

Springer directs all of this with an artist's eye while the black-and-white photography reflects a number of influences, from the shadowy beauty of film noir to the morbid nightmarishness of David Lynch's ERASERHEAD.  The cemetery scenes look like something out of Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. 

A major influence seems to be the low-budget cult classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS--the look and atmosphere are often similar, while Elmore's confusion about what's happening around him is heightened as his world becomes increasingly dreamlike.  We even get the occasional strain of creepy organ music.  The most striking similarity comes when Elmore is sitting in his car at night, and Springer shocks us out of our seats with a shot that almost mirrors one of the scariest moments in the earlier film.

As Elmore's past sins begin to catch up with him, he enlists the aid of his brother-in-law, a young priest named Carl (Sasha Andreev), and his pretty neighbor Barbara (Cyndi Kurtz), who's inexplicably attracted to him, in an attempt to confront the evil infesting the Hagmore.  What follows is a series of bizarre and frightening setpieces including a frenzied possession scene and a really disturbing foray into the dark crawlspace beneath the building.  Here, Springer deftly pulls off a number of bloodcurdling shocks along with some horrifically haunting imagery that should give you an acute case of the shivers.

The supporting cast is top-notch, with standouts including Nadine Gross' intense performance as Karna, Marilyn Murray's endearingly eccentric Mrs. Brennan, and Jay Smiley as excitable oddball Mr. Thompson.  Andreev and Kurtz are capable as Elmore's allies against evil, while Gizelle Erickson, who plays the dead Julie, is a highly expressive presence.  The film is stocked with numerous other interesting players who add to the overall atmosphere.

The DVD from Pacific Entertainment is in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  There are no subtitles.  Along with an odd commentary by Springer and star Mark Borchardt (which often has little or nothing to do with the film), extras include a creepy 20-minute Springer short film called "Dollface", a video interview with Borchardt, behind-the-scenes photos and illustrations, deleted and alternate scenes, and trailers.

It's one thing when a film is this interesting to look at, but when it also comes through with as much spooky ambiance and nerve-rattling scares as THE HAGSTONE DEMON, it's a keeper.  Or at least worthy of a rental.  Either way, fans of old-fashioned Gothic horror should definitely check it out.

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THE BIG TRAIL -- DVD review by porfle

It's not every day you get to watch a 1930 blockbuster movie in widescreen, with enough sheer spectacle to leave even modern viewers breathless.  The movie in question is Raoul Walsh's Western epic THE BIG TRAIL, a young John Wayne's first starring role and a genuine treasure for Western fans.

Shot on 70mm film using an early widescreen process known as "Fox Grandeur", THE BIG TRAIL was expensive to shoot and expensive to project--new equipment had to be installed in theaters just to show it--and with the onset of the Great Depression, it seemed the "Fox Grandeur" process had come along at just the wrong time.  Only a couple of theaters in New York and Los Angeles ever exhibited the widescreen version, while everyone else saw a much less impressive 35mm Academy aspect ratio version that was filmed simutaneously.  It would be another two decades before Cinerama offered moviegoers such wide vistas again.

The story takes place as a cattle drive blazes the trail for a wagon train full of settlers bound to reach the land north of Oregon.  For five months, director Raoul Walsh and his crew filmed 185 full-sized Conestoga wagons (or "prairie schooners") and thousands of extras on a 2,000-mile trudge across five states, facing conditions much like those experienced by the actual pioneers.  The settings, including a bustling river town, a massive riverboat, and various outposts along the trail, are meticulously detailed and wonderfully authentic, as are the costumes, props, and all other aspects of the production. 

The 23-year-old John Wayne plays buckskin-clad Breck Coleman, a tall, good-natured frontiersman who hires on as the group's scout for two reasons.  One, he's infatuated with a lovely young pioneer woman named Ruth (Marguerite Churchill), who can't stand him, and two, he's sworn revenge against the burly bullwhacker Frack (a Bluto-like Tyrone Power, Sr.) and his weaselly henchman Lopez (Charles Stevens) for murdering his best friend in order to steal his valuable stock of wolf pelts.  To complicate things, these skunks are in cahoots with a lowdown riverboat gambler named Thorpe (Ian Keith), who is also smitten with Ruth and is looking for an opportunity to shoot Breck in the back somewhere along the trail.

The actors, from the stars down to the extras, all look and act as though they belong in that era, despite the sometimes stilted acting styles (a leftover from the silent era, along with the expository intertitles).  And when the settlers encounter various tribes of Indians along the way, both friendly and not-so-friendly, they definitely aren't refugees from central casting--they're the real thing.  Much of this film is like a window into the past because the Wild West as we know it still existed at the time this was made, and Walsh's cameras were there to record it in its gloriously uncivilized state.

Breathtaking scenery and amazingly rich tableaux fill the screen throughout the film, with wagons, horses, and cattle often stretching as far as the eye can see.  One sequence shows the wagon train during a harrowing river crossing, while another details the grueling task of lowering the wagons, livestock, and people down the face of a sheer cliff by ropes.  We also get the obligatory "circling the wagons" scene (never as well-done as it is here) as the hostile Cheyenne attack and the settlers fight desperately to repel them. 

The excitement comes from knowing that these events are actually taking place and not being simulated by special effects or augmented by CGI.  From the rolling hills and mountains of the midwest, through miles of burning desert, and finally to the lush, majestic redwood forests (with a brief stop-off at the Grand Canyon along the way), the genuine locations used for THE BIG TRAIL are a non-stop feast for the eyes.

As Bill Cooke recently stated on the Classic Horror Film Board, "John Wayne may be a little rough in his first acting role, but was never more charming."  The financial failure of THE BIG TRAIL would relegate Wayne to a long string of B-movies until his breakthrough role as "The Ringo Kid" in John Ford's 1939 classic STAGECOACH, but his Breck Coleman character is just as likable and appealing as any he ever played.  He's earnestly convincing whether palavering with his friends the Indians, bashfully courting the gal of his fancy, or stalking his best friend's killers with deadly determination.

Marguerite Churchill, whom I always liked as Otto Kruger's sassy secretary in DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1936), is winsome as the girl Breck must try his darndest to win over.  As the loathesome Frack, Tyrone Power, Sr. is almost cartoonishly villainous, but he's a formidable bad guy nonetheless.  Tully Marshall is outstanding as Breck's pal, the aging frontiersman Zeke, while vaudeville comedian El Brendel provides love-it-or-hate-it comedy relief as a Swedish doofus named Gus who is constantly being harangued along the way by his tyrannical mother-in-law.

20th Century Fox's 2-disc DVD of this restored version of THE BIG TRAIL is a real treat for fans of John Wayne and of Westerns in general.  Despite some rough patches here and there, the film looks great and is always visually impressive.  Four informative featurettes and some photo galleries make for interesting supplemental viewing, although the same can't be said, unfortunately, for Richard Schickel's boring commentary track.  The second disc contains the standard fullscreen version, which is interesting for comparative purposes although you probably won't care to sit through the whole thing after watching the widescreen version.

For me, the combination of a great Western adventure with the novelty value of seeing a beautiful widescreen film shot in the early days of talking pictures is a thrill that's hard to beat.  Add to this the opportunity to watch John Wayne shine in his starring debut and director Raoul Walsh at the height of his creative skills, and you've got THE BIG TRAIL--surely one of the most spectacular and irresistibly entertaining Westerns ever made.  To borrow another quote from Bill Cooke:  "By the time this one is over, you actually feel as if you've taken a wagon train out West."

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT -- DVD review by porfle

With so many zombie movies out there, it's nice to come across one like SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT (2009) that still has that old zing.  This low-budget indy may have been done with limited locations and resources, but it makes up for any such disadvantages by being both an interesting "people" story and a good old-fashioned undead blowout.

The cast are certainly up to the task--the lead performances are intriguing and fun to watch even when they don't display the kind of finesse that wins big, shiny awards.  Likewise for the script, which actually gives them some interesting dramatic scenes and scintillating character interplay along with the carnage.

Your classic love triangle forms the basis of the plot as two buddy cops, Frank Talbot (Jack Forcinito) and Nash Jackson (Andy Hopper), have a falling out over their mutual interest in Frank's lovely wife Sarah (Nadine Stenovitch).  Meanwhile, a zombie apocalypse is brewing right under their noses, which they seem blissfully unaware of until a little undead girl bites Andy in the foot and Frank shoots his toe off while dispatching her.  (Most of the best scenes between these two guys will occur during zombie attacks.)

Back at Andy's apartment, Frank and Sarah nurse him back to health while the zombies mill around outside and try to get in.  We find that Frank can be a huge S.O.B. but a very handy one to have around, with Forcinito playing the role in a casual and lighthearted way that makes the character likable.  Hopper and Stenovitch both play off him very well and have a good chemistry with each other as Andy and Sarah's illicit love inches toward consummation.  With her intense performance, Stenovitch in particular adds weight to the more serious side of the story.

Action-guy Frank can't resist loading up his shotgun and making a nocturnal foray into zombieland, resulting in some cool kills and an amusing passage in which he makes like Babe Ruth on a few skulls to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."  (Elsewhere, Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is also well used for comic effect.)  More human-type drama ensues when he runs across Jeffrey (Lew Temple) hiding out in his attic after his family has been killed.

Writer-director Sean Cain solves the eternal "fast zombie-slow zombie" dispute with some blah-blah scientific exposition that allows him to feature a pleasing combination of both.  The faster and smarter zombies are led by a snarling, leisure-suit-wearing used car dealer whose roving pack of voracious marauders supply much of the film's giddy menace.  The other zombies are nicely played with a variety of individual attributes in both appearance and behavior, all boasting some excellent makeups which make good use of prosthetics, airbrush, and contact lenses.

Vernon Wells ("Wez" of ROAD WARRIOR fame) and Felissa Rose (SLEEPAWAY CAMP) ramp things up big-time with their late appearance as part of a heavily-armed rescue group locating stray survivors.  Frank, naturally, manages to piss off even these good Samaritans, and his altercation with Felissa gives her an opportunity to deliver some of the best acting I've seen from her in years.  As for Wells--any time Wez shows up in your movie is a good time.

Sean Cain keeps the dramatic scenes interesting and the action scenes full of splattery fun, his lean directorial style perfectly complimented by the no-frills camerawork and editing.  Aside from some quick cuts of exploding heads, nasty bites, and a dismemberment or two, there really isn't a whole lot of over-the-top gore for its own sake, but the film is so suspenseful and the characters such fun to watch that I barely noticed.  Or maybe I really have become desensitized after all these years.

The DVD from Pacific Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a commentary with director, producer, and cinematographer, deleted scenes, bloopers, trailers, and a brief Easter egg featuring Vernon Wells.

Neither exceedingly downbeat nor wisecrackingly frivolous, SILENT NIGHT, ZOMBIE NIGHT hits just the right tone from the start and just keeps getting better.  If you can appreciate the ambiance of a good B-movie with its heart in the right place, this lively zombie romp should be on your Christmas list.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Adam Rifkin's "LOOK: SEASON 1" coming to DVD November 29th from Image Entertainment


Clever, interesting and disturbing." - USA Today
"I love this show!" - MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell
"The series has taken voyeurism to a new level." - Los Angeles Times

Based On Adam Rifkin’s Critically Acclaimed And Award-Winning Film -- Opening Your Eyes on DVD November 29

Chatsworth, CA – Who are the people that attract the most relentless camera attention?  Movie stars?  Politicians?  No:  average Americans are the subjects of approximately 40 million surveillance cameras, their actions captured over 200 times a day… never aware of this unwelcome focus. 

On November 29, Image Entertainment presents the hit Showtime Original series “LOOK: Season 1,” based on Adam Rifkin’s (The Dark Backward, co-director of Chillerama) unblinking feature LOOK, the original 2009 film which the Los Angeles Times hailed as “brilliant,” and USA Today called “powerful.” Written, co-produced and directed by Rifkin, “LOOK:  Season 1” focuses on our privacy and secrets…and the silent voyeurs that threaten them.  All eleven episodes will be available on DVD for an MSRP of $24.98.  Prebook is November 1. 

In department stores, gas stations, even public bathrooms, no one is safe from the persistent stare of the cameras hidden in every corner of day-to-day life. Shot entirely from the viewpoint of security cameras, LOOK:  Season 1 paints a shocking picture of what people do when they believe they’re alone.   Following its characters throughout the series, the camera does not judge or criticize – but you just might. And you will begin to look over your shoulder, to peer into your surroundings…and wonder:  is anybody watching? LOOK: Season 1 is based on the original 2009 film written and directed by Rikfin.

With a cast that features Matt Bushell (“Castle,” “The Mentalist”), Colton Haynes (“Teen Wolf”) Lee Reherman (“General Hospital,” “Medium”) and Haley Hudson (Marley and Me, “Weeds”) LOOK:  Season 1 is a thought-provoking view into private actions and hidden truths.  It explores our secret lives and makes us think:  Are we always alone when we think we are?

LOOK:  Season 1 DVD
Genre:                        Drama, Television
Rating:                        Not rated
Language:                   English 
Format:                      Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                        Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles:                     English, Spanish
Year:                          2010
SRP :                          $24.98
Street Date:                 November 29, 2011
Pre-Book:                   November 1, 2011
Length:                       308 minutes
UPC :                         014381714326
Cat#:                         CTL7143DVD

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"SLEDGE HAMMER! THE COMPLETE SERIES" coming December 13th from Image Entertainment

SLEDGE HAMMER!  THE COMPLETE SERIES From Image Entertainment December 13th

Both Seasons On One Complete DVD Set For The Very First Time – At A Great Low Price!

Using extreme force to enforce the law, Sledge Hammer is a trigger-happy crime fighter who’s gunning for criminals – be they murderers or jaywalkers!   On December 13, Image Entertainment presents “Sledge Hammer!  The Complete Series,” the notoriously funny cult comedy about a clueless cop who always gets results:  one hilarious way or another!   Including both seasons – all 41 episodes – “Sledge Hammer!  The Complete Series” will be available as a 5-disc DVD set for an explosive SRP of $34.98.  Pre-book is November 15. 

Sledge Hammer:  known for battling the Mafia, revolutionaries, even an Elvis impersonator serial killer; notorious for tying a gangster to the hood of his car (“my favorite hood ornament”). David Rasche (Burn After Reading, “Bored to Death,” “All My Children,” “Rubicon”) stars as Sledge, the multi-decorated – and multi-suspended – rebel cop his boss, Captain Trunk (Harrison Page – “JAG,” “Ally McBeal”), relies on time and time again. Sometimes using grenades, Uzi machine guns or bazookas, Sledge is never far from his beloved .44 Magnum in his comedic quest to make the streets safe for all law-abiding citizens.

Created by Alan Spencer, and co-starring Anne-Marie Martin as Dori Doreau, Sledge’s long-suffering partner in crime-fighting, “Sledge Hammer!” episodes were directed by such notables as Bill Bixby (“My Favorite Martian,” “The Incredible Hulk”), Charles Braverman (“Melrose Place,” “Northern Exposure”) and Jackie Cooper (Treasure Island, the Christopher Reeve Superman films). Wanna make your day? Get “Sledge Hammer! The Complete Series DVD!”

Sledge Hammer!  The Complete Series DVD
Genre:             Comedy, Television, Cops, Crime/Criminals, Crooked Cops
Rating:            Not Rated
Languages:      English 
Format:            1.33:1
Audio:             Dolby Digital Mono
Year:               1986
SRP :                $34.98
Street Date:     December 13, 2011
Pre-Book:        November 15, 2011
Length:            1,025 minutes
UPC :               014381776522                       
Catalog #:        LAK7765DVD

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Gritty Psychological-Thriller "BOY WONDER" on DVD Nov. 8

Inception Media Group, Lightning Media & Boy Wonder Productions Proudly Present "BOY WONDER" -- Multi-Award-Winning Psychological-Thriller Critically Acclaimed During Limited
Theatrical Run & at Film Festivals Across the Country & Internationally

"A dangerous, new superhero … -
"A dark, twisted, pulse-pounding film." -
"… the indie superhero movie that could literally punch the throat out of the big boys this year …" - 303 Magazine
"Some are good, some are great but few have the raw energy of Michael Morrissey's fantastic directorial debut Boy Wonder …" -

LOS ANGELES - Nov. 1, 2011 - For Immediate Release - The urban psychological-thriller
Boy Wonder - already an underground cult hit that has garnered 13 awards and been critically acclaimed during a limited theatrical run and at film and pop culture festivals across the country - now debuts on
VOD (Oct. 28) and DVD (Nov. 8) from Inception Media Group.

In this riveting and gritty film, a young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his mother during a Brooklyn car-jacking … leaving him to be raised by his alcoholic father (Bill Sage, HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Handsome Harry, 2010 Best Picture-nominee Precious, American Psycho, If Lucy Fell). Now a 17-year-old loner, Sean Donovan (Caleb Steinmeyer, HBO's True Blood, ABC's Lost) is relentlessly haunted by his past and obsessed with finding his mother's killer.

Drawn into a nocturnal urban underworld, Sean's consuming rage is vented one night, defending himself from a chaotic attack by a drug dealer. Thus begins his life as a quiet, straight-A student by day and a self-appointed hero at night.

Investigating a series of vigilante murders, hot-shot new homicide detective Teresa Ames (Zulay Henao, Fighting, S. Darko, Feel the Noise) - broken by her own troubled life - takes an interest in Sean and his case. Yet the closer Teresa gets, the more suspicious she becomes. Engaged in a twisting game of cat and mouse, Sean and Teresa become allies by day … and enemies by night.

But what is a real hero? Who decides what is right or wrong? As the boundaries between justice and vengeance blur, Sean's dual life wears on his psyche and his two worlds careen dangerously close to colliding.

Like a graphic novel you can't put down, Boy Wonder challenges morality, distorting perceptions of what is right and what is justified, as it races to its shocking conclusion.

Written and directed by Michael Morrissey, who makes his feature film debut, Boy Wonder also stars James Russo (Public Enemies, Extremities) and Tracy Middendorf (HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Mission Impossible III).

Boy Wonder, which marks the feature film debut of Morrissey, received accolades from critics during a limited theatrical release and won 13 awards at film festivals across the country, including:

Best Feature at the 2011 Crystal City International Film Festival (London); Best Feature at the 2011 Vail Film Festival; Best Feature at the 2011 Hardacre Film Festival; Gen-Next Film Award at the 2011 KahBang Music, Art & Film Festival; Best Feature Film and Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the 2010 Sacramento Film Festival; Best Feature, Best Director (Morrissey) and Best Actor (Caleb Steinmeyer) at the 2010 Williamsburg International Film Festival; Best Feature and Best Actress (Zulay Henao) at the 2010 ThrillSpy International Thriller & Spy Film Festival; Best Feature Film at the 2010 Festivus Film Festival; and Best Editing (Ray Hubley & Doug Fitch) at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival.

It was also an Official Selection of HBO's 2011 New York International Latino Film Festival; 2011
New York City International Film Festival; 2011 Sedona International Film Festival; 2011 Twin Cities Film Fest; 2011 Ruby Mountain Film Festival, 2011 Crystal Palace International Film Festival (London); 2011 Tacoma Film Festival; 2011 Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival; 2011 Hell's Half  Mile Film & Music Festival; 2011 FirstGlance Film Festival; 2011 Titanic International Film Festival (Budapest); 2011 Fantaspoa International Film Festival (Brazil); 2010 Dallas Inernational Film Festival; 2010 Canada International Film Festival; and the 2010 Kansas City FilmFest.

Boy Wonder is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (2.40:1) and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound.  Special features include "Making Of" Featurette.

Boy Wonder
Inception Media Group
Genre:  Psychological-Thriller
Rated: R
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 97 Minutes (Plus Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price:  $26.98
Pre-Order Date:  October 11, 2011
Street Date:  November 8, 2011
VOD:  October 25, 2011
Catalog #:  IMG1098DVD
UPC Code:  #815300010419

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

THE TREASURE HUNTER -- DVD review by porfle

THE TREASURE HUNTER (2009) is one of those action-adventure flicks where certain parts are greater than the whole, but that may be enough to make it worth watching--even if several of those parts are from other, better movies.

We're first introduced to the Eagle of the Desert, a lone warrior who protects the ancient treasures buried beneath its sands from tomb raiders.  He keeps this job until somebody comes along who can defeat him.  These sand-clogged fight scenes are the best-looking in the movie and it makes me wonder why the rest of them weren't done so well.  After such a changing of the guard, Qiaofei (Jay Chou, THE GREEN HORNET) returns to the real world, hanging out in a remote tavern and forcing passing scavengers to hand over their ill-gotten booty to be returned to their rightful place.

You may think you've wandered into a hyped-up Sergio Leone film when director Yen-ping Chu starts quoting shots from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, complete with open-air saloon, spinning windmill, locations that sometimes resemble Monument Valley, and other obvious reminders.  When a group of raiders barge through the swinging doors in a cloud of dust, you'll recall Jason Robards' gang arriving to rescue him from his escort on the way to prison. 

Then Qiaofei saunters down the stairs to engage them in battle, which is a mish-mash of martial arts and Robert Rodriguez-style moves which reminds us that bad wirework, not-too-sharp fight choreography, and sloppy action camerawork are still alive and well in the cinema.  It's all pretty lively, though, and every once in a while something happens that's cool enough to be worth rewinding for--as when Qiaofei reassembles the pieces of an automatic pistol as though by sleight of hand, just in time to blow away an armored boogeyman erupting out of the earth and charging at him on horseback across the saloon floor.

More supernatural stuff enters the picture with the appearance of a semi-mummified guy (he actually looks like he just climbed out of a vat of Charmin) whose wrappings become lashing tentacles--here the film loosely resembles a CGI-fueled superhero flick with echoes of THE MATRIX.  Indiana Jones is invoked when a treasure map to a lost desert temple pits Qiaofei against a mysterious fedora-wearing fortune hunter named Hua (Daoming Chen) and his rotund, avaricious comedy sidekick Pork Rib (Eric Tsang). 

Qiaofei's "Marian Ravenwood" equivalent is Lan (Chiling Lin), with whom he has a longstanding love-hate relationship that's renewed when she finds herself along for the ride.  Along the way, turbulent reunions with both his sister and the current Eagle of the Desert will yield some heart-tugging drama (or a reasonable fascimile thereof) in addition to more frenetic fight action.

Aside from a few draggy spots (mostly the romantic, touchy-feely scenes), THE TREASURE HUNTER moves through its action setpieces at a pretty fast clip.  A lengthy encounter with a band of horsemen called the Sandstorm Raiders, who are followed everywhere they go by a huge, sandy tornado, turns into a chase that's right out of both THE ROAD WARRIOR and STAGECOACH. 

It's a lively enough sequence which, unfortunately, is marred by the apparent use of the kind of horse-tripping stunts that have always made me cringe.  It's hard to enjoy a scene where dozens of galloping horses are having their front legs yanked out from under them, driving them headfirst into the ground.

The final sequence inside the buried temple--which is reminiscent of Stephen Somers' MUMMY films (in addition to Universal's 1940 THE MUMMY'S HAND)--features people turning into ghouls, ghostly sword-slinging wraiths flitting around, and more Indiana Jones-type booby traps, with some surprisingly good CGI. 

As in various Leone films, Hua's intermittent flashbacks of his first expedition to the site finally play out to reveal why he's so obsessed with finding it again.  This aspect of the story helps add some emotional weight to the film's climax, as does the final scene between Lan and Qiaofei, ultimately making THE TREASURE HUNTER seem slightly more than an elaborate but superficial comic book adventure.  Although, basically, that's exactly what it is.

The DVD from Funimation is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital soundtracks in Mandarin and English, with English subtitles.  The only extras are trailers for this and other Funimation releases.

Lavish but wildly uneven, THE TREASURE HUNTER occasionally captures the epic feel that it's striving for while remaining, for the most part, a not-altogether successful attempt to transcend its familiar storyline and mish-mash of derivative elements.  If you understood why THE BEASTMASTER was fun to watch on cable back in the 80s, you may find this slapdash adventure mildly diverting as well.

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"Tucker & Dale VS. Evil" Coming To Blu-ray & DVD November 29


Hilariously Gory, Horror Comedy Starring Alan Tudyk And Tyler Labine Brings Evil To Blu-ray And DVD November 29 From Magnolia Home Entertainment Under The Magnet Label

"A deliciously fun satire.” - Salon
More than promising as a first feature.” - Variety

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – Kick back, relax and enjoy a dose of evil when Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes a hilarious turn for the worse on Blu-ray and DVD November 29 from Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet Label. Making his directorial debut Eli Craig makes “an endearingly cheeky tribute to suspense and slasher classics” (Hollywood Reporter). A huge hit with horror fans the film stars cult-fan favorite Alan Tudyk (“Firefly,” “Suburgatory”), Tyler Labine (“Reaper,” Zack and Miri Make Porno) and recently named Esquire’s Sexiest Women Alive, Katrina Bowden (“30 Rock”).

Best friends Tucker and Dale are excited for relaxing weekend of fishing at their secluded cabin. Unfortunately for them, evil has different plans when a series of misunderstandings and tragic events start killing a group of preppy college students who believe they are backwoods hillbillies out to kill them. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has been a hit on the festival circuit after its debut at Sundance. It won the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW, the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia, the Best Director Award at The Fantaspoa Film Festival, and the Best Motion Picture Award at The Sitges Film Festival. The Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Blu-ray and DVD bonus features include the making of the film and hilarious commentary with Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and director Eli Craig. The Blu-ray and DVD will be available for the suggested retail prices of $29.98 and $26.98 respectively.

Tucker and Dale are two best friends on vacation who are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of preppy college kids. When one of the kids gets separated from her friends, Tucker and Dale try to lend a hand, but as the misunderstanding grows, so does the body count.

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"HALF PINT BRAWLERS: SEASON 1" Coming to DVD November 15 From Image Entertainment


WARNING! It’s Extreme, Absurd And On DVD November 15, 2011

CHATSWORTH, CA– Imagine a show that’s “Jackass” meets Girls Gone Wild meets “Little People, Big World!” On November 15, 2011, Image Entertainment releases Half Pint Brawlers: Season 1 on DVD, a truly uproarious, outrageous and unpredictable reality show.  A hit since it premiered on TV, the series follows the exploits of a group of little wrestlers, with big ambitions, who travel the country to put on unforgettable shows for some very rowdy fight fans – including those locked up in a maximum security prison! All six episodes (plus footage not seen on TV) of the rough and tumble reality program are on DVD with an SRP of $14.98. Pre-book is October 18th.

From the executive producer of Jackass: The Movie, Half Pint Brawlers: Season 1 chronicles the often-absurd yet astonishing and weird adventures of one of the most extraordinary performance groups in the country. These self-proclaimed hardcore little person wrestlers, led by their gregarious owner, Puppet "The Psycho Dwarf," entertain crowds in venues all across the U.S. with their unique brand of wrestling prowess and in-your-face personalities.

Along the way, Puppet must deal with issues surrounding little person wrestling events while at the same time keeping his rambunctious wrestlers in line. As "The Brawlers" travel the underground wrestling circuit, you’ll have a front row seat to see all of the action inside the ring… and their wild, chaotic lifestyles outside the ring.

Episodes: 28 Stitches to the Head, The Rookie Pays His Dues, Little Persons, Big Easy, The Southern Pride Festival, Mischief in Mexico, The Littlest Battle Royale Ever!

The Brawlers were featured in the Jackass 3-D movie and have made unforgettable appearances on “The Best Damn Sports Show,” “MTV’s Real World,” “Fox and Friends,” and have even performed at rock concerts by Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker and Sevendust.  But here is Half Pint Brawlers: Season 1 at its unfiltered and uncompromising best, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before - a true no holds barred experience! So get ready to watch Puppet and his gang of little people as they use staple guns, thumb tacks, broken bottles and barbed wire in creative new ways that will leave you asking, “What will they do next?”

About Image Entertainment
Image Entertainment, Inc. (OTCQB: DISK) is a leading independent licensee and distributor of entertainment programming in North America, with approximately 3,200 exclusive DVD titles and approximately 340 exclusive CD titles in domestic release and more than 450 programs internationally via sublicense agreements. For many of its titles, the Company has exclusive audio and broadcast rights, as well as digital download rights to over 2,100 video programs and approximately 400 audio titles containing more than 6,000 individual tracks. The Company is headquartered in Chatsworth, California. For more information about Image Entertainment, Inc., please go to

Half Pint Brawlers: Season 1 DVD
Genre:             TV/Special Interest
Rating:             NR
Language:        English
Format:            Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:             Dolby Digital 5.1 
Year:               2010
SRP:                $14.98
Street Date:     November 15, 2011
Pre-Book         October 18, 2011
Length:            132 minutes
UPC:               014381733723
Cat#:               ID7337 HDVD

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Monday, October 17, 2011

"CHILLERAMA" from Image Entertainment -- Coming November 29th to Blu-ray and DVD

"Chillerama is a Late Night Classic for the new millennium." — Jason Bene,

"The most offensively nostalgic fun time I’ve personally experienced in theaters in I don’t know how long." — Aaronflux, Dread Central

"Ghoulishly good and delicious." — Why So Blu?

"Highly recommended fun." — Fangoria

"Worth checking out for a laugh and some seriously gross-out moments." — Shock Till You Drop


CHATSWORTH, CA – After a triumphant premiere at the famed Hollywood Forever Cemetery and after grossing out, er, entertaining audiences all over the country with a 20-city Roadshow Tour, the long-awaited new cult classic finally comes home! On November 29th, Image Entertainment unleashes the horror anthology CHILLERAMA to home theaters everywhere on unrated Blu-ray™ and DVD. SRP is $29.97 for the Blu-ray™ and $27.97 for the DVD. Pre-book is November 1st.

From the depraved minds of directors Adam Rifkin (Detroit Rock City, The Dark Backward), Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs,VH-1’s “Scream Queens”), Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen), and Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Knights of Badassdom), CHILLERAMA is a festival of gore, guts, goofiness and good times. In addition to experiencing all the chills, thrills – and goo – of the ultimate midnight movie in high-definition 1080p picture and DTS-HD audio, CHILLERAMA boasts two hours of insightful and heretofore unseen bonus features that delve deep into the creative process of these four renowned directors of the macabre, as they labored and toiled to create a cinematic love letter to horror and film fans.  

Produced by ArieScope Pictures and in the spirit of classic “omnibus” films like Dead of Night, Tales From the Crypt, Creepshow and Twilight Zone: The Movie, with four vignettes that not only celebrate the golden age of B horror schlock but also nearly the entire history of horror cinema itself, CHILLERAMA offers something for every bad taste.  With titles like “Wadzilla,” “I Was A Teenage Werebear,” The Diary of Anne Frankenstein,” and “Zom-B-Movie,” CHILLERAMA features appearances by Joel David Moore (Avatar, Hatchet), Lin Shaye (Insidious), Ray Wise (X-Men: First Class), Kane Hodder (Hatchet and Hatchet II), Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight, Sharktopus) and more cameos than one can (body)count.  

It's the closing night at the last drive-in theater in America and Cecil B. Kaufman (Richard Riehle, Bridesmaids, Hatchet) has planned the ultimate marathon of lost film prints to unleash upon his faithful cinephile patrons.  Four films so rare that they have never been exhibited publicly on American soil until this very night!  What could possibly go wrong? 

Bonus features on CHILLERAMA Blu-ray™ and DVD include:
Directors' Video Commentary
Wadzilla Deleted Scenes and Trailer
The Making of The Diary of Anne Frankenstein
I Was A Teenage Werebear Behind the Scenes, Deleted Scenes, and Trailer
Zom-B-Movie Deleted Scenes
Directors' Interviews
Original Theatrical Trailer 

For more information, check out

About ArieScope Pictures
ArieScope Pictures is a feature film and television production company based in Los Angeles. Founded in 1998 by writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Will Barratt, and producer Cory Neal, ArieScope Pictures has become a leader in original independent genre film production bringing titles to the screen such as HATCHET, HATCHET 2, FROZEN, GRACE, and SPIRAL. For more information on ArieScope Pictures, please visit

About Image Entertainment
Image Entertainment, Inc. is a leading independent licensee and distributor of entertainment programming in North America, with approximately 3,200 exclusive DVD titles and approximately 340 exclusive CD titles in domestic release and more than 450 programs internationally via sublicense agreements. For many of its titles, the Company has exclusive audio and broadcast rights, as well as digital download rights to over 2,100 video programs and approximately 400 audio titles containing more than 6,000 individual tracks. The Company is headquartered in Chatsworth, California. For more information about Image Entertainment, Inc., please go to

Chillerama Blu-ray™
Genre:             Action / Adventure, Comedy, Horror, Feature Film, Fantasy, Musical/Performing Arts
Rating:             Unrated
Format:            Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:              DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles:          English, Spanish
SRP:                $29.97
Street Date:     November 29, 2011
Pre-Book:        November 1, 2011
Length:            120 minutes
UPC:               014381700459
Cat#:               CHI7004BD

Chillerama DVD
Genre:            Action / Adventure, Comedy, Horror, Feature Film, Fantasy, Musical/Performing Arts
Rating:            Unrated
Languages:      English
Format:           Anamophic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:             Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:          English, Spanish
SRP:                $27.97
Street Date:      November 29, 2011
Pre-Book:        November 1, 2011
Length:            120 minutes
UPC:               014381673821
Cat#:               CHI6738DVD

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

A LITTLE HELP -- DVD review by porfle

A LITTLE HELP (2010) is one of those chick-flicks that isn't all that bad once you actually find yourself sitting down to watch it--usually against your will--although if you're like me you'll spend the entire running time wishing the Terminator would break the door down and start annihilating everybody.

Jenna Fischer ("The Office") plays Laura Pehlke, a recently-widowed young mom whose life is crashing down around her.  Jenna manages to make her mousey, indecisive character somewhat endearing enough so that we can stand her for an hour-and-a-half.  Some of her more amusing scenes have her working as a dental hygienist with a parrot constantly squawking over her shoulder.  The best ones involve Laura and her overweight, misfit son Dennis, played by Daniel Yelsky in his movie debut.

Yelsky is the best thing about A LITTLE HELP.  As Daniel, he's a painfully insecure little kid with the soul of a Borscht Belt comic.  Yelsky's delivery is priceless even when he's obviously reading his lines from cue cards--he's both deadpan funny and dramatically impressive in some crackling exchanges that allow him and Fischer to really have at each other (particularly the "You suck!" scene and the "9-11 is cooler" scene).  Even the part where they sing along with "Runaround Sue" in the car is bearable (along with the "bad date with the wrong guy" scenario, the "singing along to an oldie" thing seems to be a chick-flick staple).

Laura's life is taken over by her hellishly overbearing sister Kathy (Brooke Smith, the abducted girl from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) and meddling mom (Lesley Ann Warren), who coerce her into putting Daniel into a private school and suing her late husband's doctor for malpractice.  This takes place during a brow-beating "intervention" which is cringe-inducing for anyone who's experienced anything similar.  As the litigating lawyer, the great Kim Coates ("Chet" from THE LAST BOY SCOUT) gets a role he can really sink his teeth into, which is fun to watch. 

Daniel, meanwhile, has been trying to fit in at his new school by telling everyone his dad was a fireman hero on 9-11, a colossal lie that snowballs until Laura is caught up in it herself.  This yields both humor and ultimately devastation when they're both found out.  One theme of the film seems to be that lying is just bad all around because the truth always comes out.  I learned that way back in the Our Gang short "Don't Lie" but I guess you can never hear it enough times.  

Ron Leibman's deft comedy touch livens up his turn as Laura's dad, and Sam McMurray (RAISING ARIZONA) is good as an irreverent D.J. (Dion does a cameo as one of his interview subjects).  Chris O'Donnell's okay as Laura's husband, Bob, but he's only in the movie long enough to kick off and throw her life into chaos.  As Kathy's easygoing, henpecked husband Paul, Rob Benedict plays a likable enough character until he confesses that he's always been in love with Laura and starts getting creepy.  In fact, their entire subplot is kind of icky, and the fact that it's part of the emotional heart of the film gives off a "please don't go there" vibe that's averted by mere chance.

Writer-director Michael J. Weithorn, making his feature film debut here, handles the direction and editing well but Fischer and Yelsky's performances are the main reason the story isn't as lightweight as it could've been.  Things still tend to get a little cloying and overly contemplative whenever one of Jakob Dylan's soulful songs intrudes, but that's something you just have to expect when you're watching a film like this. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and English subtitles.  Extras consist of a trailer and TV spot, a Jakob Dylan music video, and a number of thumbnail promotional interviews with cast and director.

The main message of A LITTLE HELP is the usual stand up for yourself, darkest before the dawn stuff.  We see the darkest but we don't see any of the dawn due to a somewhat abrupt ending, so we're left to assume Laura is on the verge of finally getting her head out of her ass.

Buy it at

BAARIA -- DVD review by porfle

Writer-director Giuseppe Tornatore (CINEMA PARADISO) waxes nostalgic about his Sicilian hometown in the lavish BAARIA (2009), with mixed results.

For two-and-a-half hours, we follow the evolution of Baaria (nickname for "Bagheria") from a small village in the 20s where everyone knows each other to a bustling, impersonal city of the 70s, through the eyes of three generations of the Torrenuova family.  The main character is Peppino, whom we first meet as a boy earning money for his poor family as a shepherd's helper.  We'll see him grow to manhood (handing the role over to Francesco Scianna), start a family, and become a politically-active Communist whose pursuit of justice for the common man will become a lifelong obsession.

The story is a patchwork of episodic impressions that are never developed enough to build very much emotional resonance--in fact, various brief vignettes come and go so quickly that BAARIA sometimes resembles an extended trailer for a better film.  The handsome Scianna manages to make Peppino a likable character but we rarely feel his passion, whether courting his future wife Mannina (Margareth Madè in her film debut) over the objections of her anti-Communist parents or wading through the stormy seas of political unrest.

A lot depends on the expressive faces of some of the actors, especially the children who play little Peppino and his own offspring later on, and the older actors such as Lina Sastri (as Mannina's mother), whose careworn features add their own unwritten detail to the story.  The film is populated by so many peripheral characters that it's hard to keep track of them all, but Tornatore has cast all of these roles well and they add to the cumulative impression of his boyhood town that the director wants to convey. 

All of this is beautifully filmed both in the actual town of Bagheria and in an expensive recreation (in Tunisia) that's meticulously detailed and bathed in nostalgic ambiance (with a score by Ennio Morricone).  But it is, for the most part, a montage of experiences that rarely pauses long enough for us to get deeply involved in any of them.  With such a rich setting, I found myself yearning for a more engaging story in addition to a series of interesting but somewhat superficial events. 

Then I wondered if perhaps the very superficiality of Peppino's political exploits was meant to emphasize how much he was missing by neglecting to appreciate what a wonderful wife and family he had.  Throughout the film, we see them going about their lives and creating memories that he would never share due to his frequent absences.  Only when he ultimately fails to accomplish any of the goals he's strived for over the years does it apparently dawn on him that his priorities have been misplaced all along.

With that in mind, the strangely surrealistic final sequence of BAARIA, which is ambiguous enough that viewers must make the effort to sort out its meaning on their own, ends the film on an optimistic note.  I'm not sure I completely got what Tornatore is trying to say here, but I have my own interpretation and I'm sticking with it.  Anyway, it helps bind the narrative's various threads together in a more satisfying way and make the experience of watching this long, difficult film a bit more worthwhile. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound (Italian language with English subtitles.)  Extras include a subtitled director's commentary, photo and poster galleries, deleted scenes, an interview with Tornatore, and featurettes on the making of the film and its subsequent promotion.

In the commentary, Tornatore states that "this film was the longing to express, to settle, to distill all that our relationship with our birthplace represents" with a mixture of historical facts and his own sensory impressions and hazy memories, "just for the pleasure of evoking (them)."  BAARIA is definitely the film he set out to make in order to do all that, and I suspect he may be its biggest fan.  I'm not, but I don't regret experiencing this interesting and finely-wrought piece of cinema.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

FREERUNNER -- DVD review by porfle

You might call FREERUNNER (2011) the "Running, Jumping, and Definitely Not Standing Still" film.  It may have its ups and downs as a piece of filmmaking, but what it has going for it in spades is an amazing array of breathtaking stunts.

The story involves a guy named Ryan (Sean Faris, PEARL HARBOR, GHOST MACHINE) who partakes in a citywide footrace that's broadcast online for betting purposes.  He and fellow contestants with names like Decks, West, Turk, and Kid Elvis race to collect three flags and cross the finish line first.  Ryan hopes to win the final round in order to move to the ocean with his girlfriend Chelsea (Rebecca Da Costa) and ailing Grandpa (Seymour Cassel) and take up sailing.

What he doesn't know is that billionaire playboy Mr. Frank (Danny Dyer, MALICE IN WONDERLAND) plans to turn the whole thing into a death race for his filthy rich friends to bet on.  Now equipped with non-removable exploding collars, the runners must reach three deactivation scanners in order to keep their heads on their shoulders.  With only thirty minutes to get to the final scanner, the race is now a cutthroat fight for life in which only the winner will survive.

Director Lawrence Silverstein shows that he can handle slower scenes pretty well when Ryan is visiting his feisty Grandpa in the hospital or romancing Chelsea, but as soon as the action starts it's shaky-cam time.  And not the well-done kind of shaky-cam either--it sometimes looks as though all the cameramen are falling-down drunk and the film is being edited by a bunch of hyperactive kids.  A good deal of FREERUNNER's visuals are so marred by pointless kineticism and salad-shooter cutting that it makes QUANTUM OF SOLACE seem like an English drawing room comedy in comparison. 

This is especially unfortunate when one sees the behind-the-scenes footage in which Silverstein has directed much of the action in long takes that are very well choreographed and come off just fine as they are.  A stellar group of stunt performers, including the unbelievably nimble Ryan Doyle who plays Ryan's freerunning nemesis Finch, deliver numerous impressive stunts involving precision jumps, dazzling gymnastics, and some unusual moves such as a front-flip onto a motorcycle. 

More familiar stunts such as freefalls, vehicle crashes, and martial arts fighting are handled expertly as well.  So well, in fact, that you may find the bonus featurettes covering all of this stuff to be more exciting than the movie.

Sean Faris makes an okay hero as Ryan, and Danny Dyer as the smugly sinister Mr. Frank makes a sleazy enough villain.  As Grampa, the venerable Seymour Cassel is a welcome presence, as is Tamer Hassan as Reese, a tough guy who formerly sponsored the race but has been forced into working with Mr. Frank.  The rest of the cast perform pretty much up to speed, especially those doubling as stuntmen.

Casey Durkin adds some humor to the film as online race commentator Stacey, giving the film a bit of a DEATH RACE vibe.  Not so fun are the frequent cutaways to a bunch of billionaire gamers squabbling amongst themselves via their computer monitors, an aspect of the film that isn't nearly as amusing as intended.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround and subtitles in English and Spanish.  In addition to the trailer, bonuses consist of the featurettes "Behind the Scenes, Outtakes, and Bloopers", "Over the Rooftops and Behind the Scenes", "Freerunner Stunts, Fights, and Effects", "Playing Ninja", and "Parkour/Freerunning."  Headed by John Bernecker (Sean Faris' double) and Ryan Doyle, these shorts provide much of the DVD's entertainment value.

Despite the film's uneven technical qualities, FREERUNNER does have a fast pace and some suspenseful sequences.  There isn't nearly as much actual "parkour" as I expected, at least insofar as my understanding of the word goes, but the nonstop stunts are enough to keep the film interesting.  Still, there's a lightweight direct-to-video vibe to the whole thing that keeps it from being what you might call "essential viewing."

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Friday, October 14, 2011

GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2 -- DVD review by porfle

From what little I've seen, SyFy Channel's "Ghost Hunters" is a pretty fun show to watch.  We have a paranormal investigation group called TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) traveling to celebrated haunted sites around the U.S.A., spending a night collecting "evidence" and personal experiences, and then analyzing it all for proof of ghostly manifestations.  Sounds like fun to me.

None of this is really terrifying--if it were, in fact, you'd probably hear even more cries of "fake!" from the show's skeptics.  But it is pleasantly creepy, as I found from watching the 3-disc DVD set GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2.  The team sets out to either prove or disprove the ghostly accounts related to them for each location, seemingly with equal enthusiasm, which adds some credibility to the show's "100% real" claims. 

Of course, we have no way of knowing how much of the supernatual stuff shown is real--if any--or whether or not SyFy and TAPS are just pulling the wool over our eyes.  But that doesn't really matter if the show succeeds in making us suspend disbelief for a while, which, in my case, it does.  And something about the earnest nature of the participants tends to make me think they're pretty much on the level.  Does that make me gullible?  Maybe, but I still find the show entertaining.

The group is headed up by a couple of plumbers named Grant and Jason, who "moonlight" as paranormal investigators.  Some episodes open with them in full plumbers' regalia as they unstop somebody's toilet before getting called into ghost-hunting action.  These scenes, like several others along the way, are obviously staged, but that's to be expected in a show like this.  After being briefed on the latest mission by the team's case researcher (resident babe Kris Williams performs this duty for most of the episodes before being transferred to "Ghost Hunters International"), they set off for their destination along with fellow investigators Steve Gonsalves, Dave Tango, Amy Bruni, and whoever else happens to be in the line-up at the time. 

A site representative--usually a docent or tourist liason, sometimes a resident--gives them a tour of the place and a rundown on reported ghostly activity.  The team sets up their cameras and other equipment and waits until sundown, when it's "lights out."  That's when things start getting spooky.  Wandering around in the dark in groups of two or three, they urge the spirits to reveal themselves in some way, which is something that you will never, ever catch me doing, ever.

Much of the time nothing happens, but occasionally there are footsteps, knocks on the walls, and disembodied voices that can't be explained.  (Later analysis often reveals things that were missed first time around, although the interpretations of these anomalies as "supernatural phenomena" can be pretty loose.)  Some of the encounters result in what appears to be an interaction with unknown entities, as when questions are "answered" by a blip on an instrument or a flicker on a flashlight.  In some cases, video seems to reveal a shadowy humanoid shape lurking in the room, but there's never anything really definitive. 

Then again, the mere possibility is enough to raise the hackles on the back of my neck.  The show, naturally, is designed to do just that, with shock editing and strident musical cues working overtime to make everything that happens seems as creepy as possible, compounded by the overall ghostly look which the night-vision cameras lend to the participants and their surroundings.  Add to this the sudden banging noises, footsteps running across the room, doors opening or closing by themselves, and team members freezing with apprehension upon seeing something weird (often accompanied by Grant breathlessly asking "What wuzzat?"), and you've got the makings for some BLAIR WITCH PROJECT-style chills. 

The locations are a big factor, with the TAPS team finding themselves in some of the scariest places I can imagine.  One of them is the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama, one of those dangerous old industrial complexes where several workers died due to nonexistent safety measures.  (Ghost enthusiast Meat Loaf joins them on this one, and turns out to be a pretty good team member.)

Another is the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis, a dark place with a cloud of death and suicide hanging over it, and the Ulster County Jail in Georgia where a lot of bad things have happened over the years.  These locations with violent and otherwise tragic histories, whose spectral inhabitants are the most troubled or malevolent, are the spookiest.  An old school in Illinois where a young girl was raped and murdered by a janitor is another shudder-inducing spot, as is the imposing Buffalo Central Terminal, location of the 2006 indy horror flick PRISON OF THE PSYCHOTIC DAMNED.

Other locations are a bit more on the lighter side, relatively speaking.  A visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to try and commune with the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, whose voices are said to emanate from their wall plaques, is more fun than frightening.  Ditto for the boyhood home of author James Thurber, whose true-life account "The Night the Ghosts Got In" is investigated--and pretty much debunked.  As always, Grant and Jason seem to derive just as much satisfaction from successfully debunking a ghost legend as they do validating it, often discovering them to be misperceptions of the most mundane things. 

The 3-disc, 13-episode DVD set from Image Entertainment is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles or extras. 

You'd have to be a total skeptic to discount everything that happens in GHOST HUNTERS: SEASON SIX, PART 2 as fake.  Personally, I can't, because I've heard disembodied footsteps in an empty room myself, while visiting a friend whose house was purportedly haunted.  Maybe that's why I'm open to all this stuff, and why I find this show to be as unsettling as I do.  In a fun and entertaining way, that is.  As long as I'm safe at home with the lights on.  Wait--what wuzzat?

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