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Saturday, March 31, 2012
Much to my relief, THE IRON LADY (2011) is anything but the stuffy, serio-uncomic bio-bore I thought I was in for. On the contrary, for much of its running time this (mostly) true story of England's first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, is a breezy and very likable tale sprinkled with all kinds of delightful little moments. This is eventually offset by the gravitas of her turbulent administration, which saw England go to war in the Falkland Islands and suffer chaotic divisiveness at home.
Meryl Streep is almost ethereally good as she loses herself in the character. While some seem to regard her as a "stunt" actress flaunting an array of affected accents and mannerisms, I find her to be a quite amazingly talented actress, period. Her Thatcher is delightfully dowdy and matronly, staunchly conservative and proper yet fiercely independent, intelligent, and practical--all of the qualities that help her succeed in a man's world and finally propel her into office. Whether playing the dynamic public figure or the doddering recluse who no longer seems to have a place in a changing world, Streep's portrayal is thoroughly realized and fascinating to watch.
Thatcher's political career is shown as a whirlwind progression from struggle to triumph to tribulation, with the lighthearted tone of her early successes giving way to a darker period of turmoil--the Falklands war, riots and terrorism, loss of support due to her intractable and increasingly critical nature--until the day she is forced to resign. Meanwhile, we see how her preoccupation with politics causes her personal life to suffer. "When did I lose track of everyone?" the older Margaret asks upon realizing that her children have grown up and gone away.
Of course, all of the scenes involving the elderly Thatcher's struggles with Alzheimer's (a fact publicly revealed in 2008 by her daughter Carol, portrayed in the film by Olivia Colman) and the kaleidoscope of memories and delusions swirling through her mind during the film are sheer speculation, even outright fantasy, on screenwriter Abi Morgan's part. This is especially true in regard to Thatcher's frequent conversations with her deceased husband Denis, who cheerfully supported her in life and apparently continues to do so in spectral form.
Such a skewed perspective on Thatcher's life gives much of what occurs onscreen the aura of a Pete Townsend rock opera (at times, director Phyllida Lloyd seems to be channeling a more sedate version of Ken Russell), or a liberal extrapolation of established canon along the lines of "Jesus Christ Superstar." And yet, while THE IRON LADY is part biography and part downright fantasy--we pretty much know which is which--the more fantastical aspects help to breathe life into the story while providing most of its humor and charm.
This non-linear, sometimes dreamlike narrative, which often makes Thatcher seem as unstuck in time as SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE's Billy Pilgrim, allows the screenwriter to alternate between traditional biopic-type scenes and free-form montages that help make the story more breezy and briskly-paced than it would be if it were simply the usual series of extended flashbacks. Since we see it all from her point of view, she seems not so much delusional as constantly haunted by the ghosts of people and events from her past, with various moments in her life playing off each other as their relevance intertwines.
Jim Broadbent is hilarious as Denis, who seems to have been much too perpetually delighted with life to worry about something as trivial as ego. He and Streep are very good together, playing out Maggie and Denis' strangely symbiotic relationship with a prickly kind of warmth and humor. One can understand how she remains drawn to him even in the moments when she realizes that his post-mortem presence is indicative of her deteriorating mental state.
Harry Lloyd captures the younger Denis with the same zeal, while Alexandra Roach is an ideal choice to play young Margaret, who, to paraphrase Thatcher herself, wasn't preoccupied with being someone but with doing something. The scene in which Denis proposes to her after she loses her first bid for Parliament is sweetly romantic, and the wistful way in which an older, solitary Margaret recalls such happy snippets of memory is poignant.
The DVD (also available as a Blu-Ray+DVD+Digital Copy combo) from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. Extras include a making-of featurette and four shorter ones covering various aspects of the production.
While the film doesn't really know how to end, the filmmakers manage to contrive a final sentimental bit that reaffirms the Iron Lady's celebrated resolve before the fadeout. Since THE IRON LADY is more of a contemplative meander through a hall of broken mirrors than a history lesson, I guess it sorta fits.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 4:25 AM
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Throw together various elements from zombie flicks and urban disaster thrillers with a little "Die Hard" action and some conspiracy-theory stuff for good measure, then put it all in a trash compactor and smash it down to the size of a low-budget direct-to-video potboiler, and you've got THE TERROR EXPERIMENT (2010).
With some rather seedy-looking old building in need of landscaping standing in for the federal building in Lafayette, Louisiana, we find a homegrown terrorist carrying out his dastardly plan to expose a secret bio-weapons project by detonating a concussion bomb in the laboratory. This releases a gas which turns everyone below the sixth floor into an adrenaline-charged, kill-crazy zombie and puts everyone above the sixth floor into a distinctly awkward position.
These survivors have three choices--either make their way out of the place through the gas and the zombies, or stay where they are and either get attacked or blown up when the government's last-resort cover-up plan is implemented. Our hero, a computer geek named Cale (Jason London), desperately wants to get to the fourth floor daycare center to rescue his daughter, with the help of female P.I. Mandy (Alicia Leigh Willis) who is there for a job interview. Among the others in their ragtag group are young office drone Ryan (Alexander Mendeluk), annoying executive Williams (John Chambers), and a white-haired doctor named Andzari (Jerry Leggio) who is involved in the secret project.
The low-budget nature of the film is fairly obvious from the start, but hey, no need to hold that against it. Director George Mendeluk does what he can although he never quite manages to make THE TERROR EXPERIMENT look any better than an episode of a low-end TV series. After a nice build-up which juxtaposes mundane everyday office life with the terrorist's infiltration of the building, the initial post-explosion chaos is itself executed in pretty chaotic fashion with sloppy editing and dizzying Shaky-Cam. Subsequent zombie attacks and other bursts of action are done in similar fashion and are sometimes a bit hard to follow.
As cubicle dweller Cale, London is sort of a James Spader-type who believably steps up to whatever has to be done survival-wise, while beautiful blonde Willis as Mandy goes from P.I. to machine gun-toting action babe about halfway through in a way that I found quite stimulating. The rest of the building-bound cast do okay as long as they aren't called upon to emote very much.
Meanwhile down on the ground, upright police chief Grasso is played by C. Thomas Howell, who is finally looking his age and seems to have morphed into a dependable character actor. Grasso wants to go in and rescue the survivors, but sleazy government types Agent Wilson (Judd Nelson) and Dr. Wexler (Robert Carradine) are all about containing the problem and hushing the whole thing up. Carradine is his usual bland self while Nelson, who gets special "and" billing in the opening credits (as in, "and Judd Nelson"), is so stiff that he could've used a dose of that super-adrenaline stuff himself before shooting his scenes.
With a somewhat overactive musical score nudging things along, the story is dotted with a few lively run-ins with the zombies which take place mostly in the emergency stairwell and occasionally get a bit bloody (the most graphic scene contains a briefly-seen disembowelment).
There's also some rooftop action when a rescue helicopter is taken out by a bomb left behind by the terrorist. Mandy gets to go Rambo (alas, all-too-briefly) against some of the maniacs and Cale has a less than conciliatory reunion with his ex-wife Carol (Serah D'Laine) in the daycare center. The building's built-in countdown to self-destruct gives it all a certain edge until the modest CGI-explosive finale.
The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. The sole extra is a director's commentary.
I can't knock THE TERROR EXPERIMENT too much--it's a passably entertaining low-budget quickie that generates a certain amount of suspense and lowbrow fun in its own earnest, albeit shoddy-looking way. But it's nothing you'd want to go out of your way to see unless you're really starved for something to watch or are a diehard Judd Nelson fan, which, come to think of it, are pretty much the same thing.
Buy it at Amazon.com:
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 10:52 PM
Film Chest Proudly Presents on the HD Cinema Classics Label
The Red House
Of the Man and Girl in the Red House, People Speak Only in Whispers …
Psychological-Thriller Starring Edward G. Robinson & Lon McCallister Haunts DVD & Blu-ray in Special Combo Pack April 24th
NEW YORK CITY - April 1, 2012 - For Immediate Release - Two friends explore an abandoned nexus of mystery and secrets in The Red House - restored and in HD for the first time ever - available in a special DVD/Blu-ray combo pack April 24 from Film Chest on the HD Cinema Classics label.
Based on the popular 1943 novel once serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, The Red House stars Edward G. Robinson (Double Indemnity, The Stranger), Lon McCallister
(The Big Cat, Winged Victory), Judith Anderson (Rebecca, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) Rory Calhoun (The Texan, How to Marry a Millionaire), Allene Roberts (Knock on Any Door, The Hoodlum) and Julie London (Man of the West, TV's Emergency!).
Disabled farmer Pete (Robinson) and his sister Ellen (Anderson) have raised young Meg (Roberts) from infancy on their reclusive homestead. Now a teen, Meg persuades her friend Nath (McCallister) to come by each day to help with her chores.
When Nath insists on using a backwoods shortcut home one day, Pete cautions him against doing so, speaking of ominous screams in the night and terrors that lie within a mysterious, abandoned red house on the outskirts of his property. Curious, Nath and Meg - who has growing feelings for Nath much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Tibby (London) - ignore Pete's warning and explore.
Dark, troubling secrets and entangled relationships are soon revealed in this chilling tale directed by Delmer Daves (Dark Passage, 3:10 to Yuma), featuring an eerie original score by Miklós Rózsa.
Digitally restored in high definition and transferred from original 35mm elements, this DVD/Blu-ray combo pack includes original 35mm trailer, before-and-after restoration demo and an original movie art postcard.
The Red House is presented in full screen with an aspect ratio of 4x3 and standard Dolby audio. Includes commentary track by author William Hare (Early Film Noir: Greed, Lust and Murder Hollywood Style, L.A. Noir: Nine Dark Visions of the City of Angels and Hitchcock and the Methods of Suspense) and Spanish subtitles.
About Film Chest:
Founded in 2001, Film Chest offers high-quality content for a wide variety of production and distribution needs, boasting one of the world's largest libraries (10,000+ hours) of classic feature films, television, foreign imports, documentaries, special interest and audio-much of it restored and digitized in HD. Headquartered in Bridgeport, Conn., with offices in New York City, the company also produces collector's DVD sets, released on three labels. HD Cinema Classics are films painstakingly restored in HD - utilizing state-of-the art digital technology - from original film assets. American Pop Classics features classic American film and TV shows from the '30-70s. CULTRA showcases the best (and worst) of cult cinema. Film Chest releases theatrically, on DVD (through its Synergy Entertainment distribution arm) and digitally on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Verizon FIOS and more. Visit us online at www.filmchestmediagroup.com
The Red House (2 Discs)
Genre: Mystery/Film Noir/Thriller
Original Release: 1947 (B&W)
Format: DVD/Blu-ray Combo Pack
Running Time: Approx. 100 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $15.98
Pre-Order Date: March 16, 2012
Street Date: April 24, 2012
Catalog #: HDCC-008
UPC Code: #851169003087
Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 5:13 PM
(This review first appeared online in 2007.)
SICK NURSES (2007) is a mind-boggling horror flick from Thailand that plays around with all those Asian ghost-story cliches and offers some of the most flabbergasting, over-the-top death scenes I've seen in quite a while. It's a wickedly fun tale of revenge, summed up pretty well by Michael Madsen's "Budd" in KILL BILL: "That woman deserves her revenge...and we deserve to die." But Budd got off easy in that movie, because if he'd been in this one, he would've ended up worse off than Paula Schultz.
Dr. Tar (Wichan Jarujinda) is a celebrated young doctor who's engaged to the lovely nurse Tahwaan (Chon Wachananon). But when she catches him fooling around with another nurse--her own sister, Nook (Chidjan Rujiphun)--she goes ballistic and threatens to expose the dirty secret that he sells bodies on the side. As the rest of the nurses hold Tahwaan down, one of them stabs her to death. Exactly seven days later, right before midnight, the ghost of Tahwaan returns to the hospital to wreak bloody vengeance upon Dr. Tar and the other nurses.
This is one weird, gory, surrealistic movie. Tahwaan's ghost is jet-black with piercing eyes and long, long black hair, which she uses for all sorts of fun things like cocooning people or hanging them from the ceiling. And that's just for starters. She can also turn your arms and hands black and take control of them, causing you do commit grave and usually very ironic injury to yourself. A bulemic nurse who spends most of her time binging and purging ends up stuffing herself with some extremely unhealthy items until her jaw-dropping demise, while a couple of cute twins who deeply admire one another's beauty are eventually compelled to lay into each other with hacksaws. As for Nook, who is pregnant with Dr. Tar's child...well, you can imagine her ironic fate.
The setting is what must be the emptiest hospital since HALLOWEEN II--there isn't a patient in sight--and the nurses all seem to have their own private, girly bedrooms and don't ever actually do anything except scamper around in sexy uniforms. It's more like a big giddy sorority house run by SCTV's Johnny LaRue than a hospital. This doesn't matter, though, because once the terror begins, logic would just get in the way.
At first it seems as though there's barely any story at all, but little scraps of the narrative fall into place along the way, mostly in flashbacks, to make things interesting between bursts of bloody horror. And there's an awesome twist ending which, I must admit, I didn't see coming at all. It doesn't make total sense, but that's one of the endearing things about this movie--it's so freakishly entertaining that it doesn't have to.
The simple premise is similar to dozens of killer-on-the-loose borefests we've sat through over the years, but here, lots of visual style and a truly imaginative sense of the bizarre set it apart. SICK NURSES benefits from an enthusiastic young cast (composed mainly of lovely young ladies), impressive gore effects with a minimum of bad CGI, and an attitude that's as gleefully sick as those titular nurses.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 12:42 AM
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Business is Booming at the Crematorium
Starring Horror Fave Brad Dourif, Burning up on DVD April 24th
"4 stars (out of 5). It's Karate Kid meets Dexter … a (darkly) comic tale of a master teaching the student … And since the killer is played by the great Brad Dourif, it works almost flawlessly. Just take my word-it's pretty damn good."
- Bloody Disgusting
"I was blown away … This movie is nothing short of brilliant and
I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly recommended."
- Horror News
BOCA RATON - April 1, 2012 - For Immediate Release - Some relationships can really burn you up in Death and Cremation, on DVD April 24 from Green Apple Entertainment.
Crest Point is stereotypical Anywhere, U.S.A., where people go about their business, attend Friday night football games and the local cops' biggest worry is youthful pranksters.
Stan (Brad Dourif, the Halloween films, HBO's Deadwood, the voice of Chucky, The Lord of the Rings films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) is a 59-year-old recluse who offers cremation services from the basement of his funeral home … though he doesn't seem much interested in promoting his business. In fact, he's a deranged sociopath who eliminates anyone he perceives to be a bully.
Jarod (Jeremy Sumpter, TV's Friday Night Lights, P.J. Hogan's Peter Pan, Frailty) is a fatherless, 17-year-old high school outcast who no longer even attempts to fit in at school. Things aren't much better at home with mom's abusive boyfriend (Daniel Baldwin, Vampires, Born on the Fourth of July).
When Stan takes the beleaguered teen under his wing, they soon develop a demented friendship. But the neophyte makes mistakes and - as detective Fairchild (Scott Elrod, Escapee, The Switch, Hellhounds) struggles to pull together clues from local disappearances - Stan must decide if protecting his newfound protégé is worth killing for …
Death and Cremation is presented in full frame with an aspect ratio of 4x3 (1.33:1) and 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.
Green Apple Entertainment is a leading international distributor of quality, independent entertainment on DVD, Blu-ray, download and streaming platforms and cable VOD. Headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., Green Apple works directly with filmmakers to cultivate superior filmmaking for a variety of genres - including action, drama, romance, thrillers, horror/sci-fi, documentaries, family and animation - and fresh new viewing experiences for a diverse array of audiences. Green Apple was founded in 2005 by industry veteran Tim Warren.
Death and Cremation
Green Apple Entertainment
Format: DVD Only
Running Time: Approx. 86 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price: $24.98
Pre-Order Date: March 27, 2012
Street Date: April 24, 2012
Catalog #: GAE-F75
UPC Code: #855982002708
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 5:05 PM
Monday, March 26, 2012
Two Generations. Two Wars. One Powerful Story.
IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT PROUDLY SALUTES OUR MEN IN UNIFORM WITH "MEMORIAL DAY"
Starring Jonathan Bennett and Oscar® nominee James Cromwell. Shipping out on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital Download May 29th
Chatsworth, CA – The wars may differ, but the stories and emotions are universal. On May 29, Image Entertainment invites you to peer into the unique experiences of soldiers at war—and at peace—with Memorial Day. This deeply stirring account of two soldiers from the same family but vastly different eras weaves together on Blu-ray™ and DVD, as well as digital download and VOD. SRP is $29.97 for Blu-ray™ and $27.97 for the DVD. Pre-book is May 1.
It’s Memorial Day 1993, when 13-year-old Kyle Vogel stumbles upon his grandfather Bud’s (James Cromwell, The Artist, Babe) World War II footlocker. Though reluctant to discuss the war with his grandson, Bud strikes a deal with Kyle: He’ll tell the stories of any three objects from the footlocker that Kyle chooses. As we flash back to see Bud’s WWII tales (the younger Bud is played by John Cromwell, James Cromwell’s son) from Europe unfold through his souvenirs and memories, we also flash forward to see how the present day SSgt. Kyle Vogel’s (Jonathan Bennett, Mean Girls) experiences in Iraq parallel them—and how that day on the porch with his grandfather will affect how he ultimately deals with the losses, regrets and moral dilemmas that unite all soldiers across all wars and generations.
Memorial Day is an inspiring and emotionally authentic portrayal of what military members face in combat on a day-to-day basis, and the importance of handing down stories from generation to generation. Military personnel who have seen the film have praised it for its “poignant and clever storyline” and “tremendous imagery”—and hailed it as “a truly cathartic film for current and future generations.” At a time when thousands of soldiers are returning home (and 850 WWII veterans pass into history each day), Memorial Day serves as a powerful reminder that encouraging living veterans to tell their stories is as important as honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Bonus features on Memorial Day Blu-ray™ and DVD include an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, and audio commentary with the cast, Director Sam Fischer and Writer Marc Conklin.
Memorial Day Blu-ray™
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, War
Rating: Not Rated
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Street Date: May 29, 2012
Pre-Book: May 1, 2012
Length: 104 minutes
Memorial Day DVD
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, War
Rating: Not Rated
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Street Date: May 29, 2012
Pre-Book: May 1, 2012
Length: 104 minutes
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 1:46 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2012
With a slick bank robbery and a chase involving helicopters and jet skis, RAPID FEAR (2004) gets off to a good start, and makes you think you're about to watch a cracking crime thriller. Then, when the leader of the bank robbery trio, James Storer (Peter Kent) is shown getting out of prison ten years later and told that a condition of his parole is that he must now counsel teen offenders, this Australian production appears to be turning into one of those rehabilitation dramas like Michael Mann's BAND OF THE HAND. But wait--it still hasn't settled into what it wants to be just yet.
James is assigned to take a group of juvenile delinquents on a rafting expedition down a raging river, which is supposed to teach them teamwork and cooperation and stuff. But when we see a mysterious figure lurking about in the woods and members of the group start disappearing, it looks like we're in for a "Ten Little Indians"-style stalker/slasher flick. Especially after one of the teens, Nick (Guy Edmonds), regales the others with a campfire tale about an asylum for the dangerously insane that used to be located somewhere in the vicinity.
So, is that the deal--they're being stalked by some psycho who intends to pick them off one by one? Our uncertainty is increased when we discover that James has enlisted his former cronies, Wilson and Smart, to secretly tag along and help scare the kids straight, so to speak. But neither one of these guys resembles the shadowy figure we've seen sneaking around in the woods, so what the heck's going on?
Actually, I was hoping for a little slasher action to commence since the teenagers in this movie are such an insufferable bunch of smart-alecky punks. Sure, we get to know them a little better later on and maybe not hate them quite as much, but for awhile there I was just itching for a few of them to meet some creative deaths. But that was when I still thought this was going to be a slasher movie, which it isn't.
In fact, I really can't even tell you what kind of movie this eventually turns out to be, since that would necessitate giving away too much about the climactic events. I can say that it keeps you guessing for most of its running time, and there's a fair amount of suspense as we see the kids trying to make their way down the churning rapids ("rapid" fear--get it?) or running away from the person or persons who are revealed to be behind it all.
But when we do discover what's really going on, it's a pretty big letdown. It's one of those situations where you just know the filmmakers aren't going to do a certain thing because that would be way too obvious, and they go ahead and do it anyway.
The acting, for the most part, is broad but not that bad. Peter Kent does a good job of making Storer a likable character, and the younger actors succeed in making their characters unlikable. As Wilson and Smart, Gary Atkinson and Rico Rameko Lescot look the part but aren't very convincing.
The best performance comes from Steven Grives as Tremaine, the hardboiled cop who originally captured Storer and is determined to make him reveal where he stashed the bank loot ten years earlier. I'd like to have seen more of him in this movie--aside from a few good scenes, his character is pretty much wasted, just as all that bank robbery and prison stuff that piqued our interest in the opening scenes turns out to be merely a set-up for the less intriguing situations that follow.
There's a surprise ending that's supposed to leave us with a smile but doesn't make a whole lot of sense. On the whole, RAPID FEAR doesn't make a whole lot of sense, either--it's a fairly entertaining time-waster, but ultimately disappointing because it seems to have the potential of being so much more.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 12:38 PM
Thursday, March 22, 2012
THE COMMANDER, SET 2 Debuts on DVD April 3, 2012
Compelling new mysteries from the creator of Prime Suspect; Episodes available to U.S. audiences for the first time
“Great crime series” —NPR’s Weekend Edition
“Intricately plotted, gripping” —The Seattle Times
“Murder, lies, loyalty, and romance” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Silver Spring, MD — From the creator of the Emmy®-winning series Prime Suspect comes the DVD debut of the final mysteries of The Commander, Set 2 arriving on April 3, 2012 from Acorn Media. Amanda Burton (Silent Witness) stars as the ambitious and exacting Commander Clare Blake in these four feature-length crime dramas from Lynda La Plante. Supported by an outstanding ensemble cast, Burton delivers a powerhouse performance as the complex and driven Blake. Broadcast on ITV in the U.K. between 2007 and 2008 and available to U.S. audiences for the first time with its release, this gripping series brims with tension and excitement in the vein of La Plante’s hit mysteries, Prime Suspect, Trial & Retribution and Above Suspicion. The DVD 3-disc set includes The Commander’s final four mysteries (Series 4 and 5, $49.99, www.AcornOnline.com).
Leading New Scotland Yard’s Murder Review Team has Commander Clare Blake (Amanda Burton) feeling trapped in her office. Eager to get back to investigative work, Blake welcomes a transfer to the Homicide and Serious Crime division, where she’s assigned to a slate of difficult cases. Ambitious, imperious, and dedicated, Blake keeps her private life separate from her work—until two deeply personal crimes threaten everything she has worked for.
The series co-stars Mark Lewis Jones (The Other Boleyn Girl) with guest stars Greg Wise (Sense & Sensibility), James D’Arcy (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), Celia Imrie (Bridget’s Jones’s Diary) and Simon Williams (Upstairs, Downstairs).
Set 2 Mysteries: The Devil You Know, Fraudster, Windows of the Soul, Abduction
Street: April 3, 2012
DVD 3-Disc Set: 4 mysteries - Approx. 411 min. - 16:9 widescreen – SDH subtitles
Bonus Features: Text introduction by Lynda La Plante, Amanda Burton biography and filmography, and Lynda La Plante biography
Contains violence, graphic images, and coarse language
Acorn Media previously released The Commander, Set 1 (Series 1-3) in November 2008 as well as other Lynda La Plante series’ Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren, Trial & Retribution, and Above Suspicion.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 9:45 PM
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
It's been a while since I've done a review for my site, with porfle at the helm, it's not really a concern, but I figured no better time to get back into the thick of things like now. So I'll be doing a series of reviews on random things I've watched, for the moment my attention is on serials/cliffhangers/chapter plays. So without further adieu...
Catchy title, great ideas, godawful cheap execution. Canadian Mounties vs Atomic Invaders is a clear example of what filming with no budget was like at the tail end of Republic's serial production days. The plot itself is actually a great idea, a foreign power is seeking to setup hidden missile bases in Canada to bombard American cities in 90 days as part of a plan to force the unconditional surrender of the US! The stakes are high and failure will lead to the total devastation of the United States (not that the heroes ever seem to be aware of this!). The only problem is due to a low budget these evil plans are carried out by onlu three main villains and maybe two or three other "extras." Our hero is only one person helped out by an undercover operative for the RCMP and a Commissioner and one other officer who pops up. It feels so empty and devoid of a real threat or counter to the threat.
To save on money the base will never be built (and no missiles will be seen), denying us a Lydecker Brothers secret missile base model set. The serial can be broken into two parts, the first with the two assistant villains trying to stop homesteaders from setting up near their first planned missile base with the RCMP agent and the undercover operative going along. This part is actually pretty fun since it's a mix of Western and Northern adventure. However, once we get to the second part back home (the villains now need to setup the base somewhere else) it becomes a pretty cheap and dull affair of numerous failed attempts to either kill the RCMP officer (who kind of reminds me of John Agar) and/or move concrete and explosives. It's so small scale, that it becomes annoying when the idea of a missile base is being teased. I was at least hoping for one last chapter where the base has to be destroyed...but that wasn't going to happen. The fights are okay, nothing near Manhunt in the African Jungle or Masked Marvel, but not totally bad either. They suffer from having to little variety and the fights generally being between the same three people. The few car and boat stunts are rather nice, including a jump onto a moving open bed truck from a hill, but too little to change the tide of a dull and cheap serial. My copy came from the old Republic 2 Tape VHS Set. I haven't seen any of the other Mountie titles, but I have to assume they are fair better than A Canadian Mountie vs Three Guys.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
On April 13th the wildly popular and legendary slapstick comedy trio returns to the big screen in the Farrelly Brothers’ rendition of The Three Stooges. Winning over the hearts and funny bones of millions - Moe, Larry and Curly are ready to unleash their ageless antics for die-hard fans once again!
MADtv veteran Will Sasso will be playing the iconic Curly in the film and Image Entertainment doesn’t want you to have to wait to see his unique comedic persona. You can see him in the recently released DIVISION III: FOOTBALL'S FINEST ( DVD , Blu-ray, Digital Video) and upcoming NATIONAL LAMPOON'S THE LEGEND OF AWESOMEST MAXIMUS ( DVD , Blu-ray; March 20th release). For those interested in brushing up on the classic routines in preparation for the new film, we have enough Three Stooges collections to keep you busy.
The Best of the Three Stooges (4-DVD Set)
This collection features Larry, Curly and Moe (with a side order of Shemp!) at their boisterous best, showcasing the famed trio at nearly every stage of their five-decade run of riotousness! Includes Disorder in the Court, The Swing Parade, short film shenanigans, episodes from their classic cartoon show, and more!
Three Stooges: More Nyuk for your Buck (2-DVD Set)
Join the Stooges for 12 of their craziest adventures into absurdity! First, get set for silver screen sight gags galore with four of the group’s most acclaimed films from their Hollywood heyday of the 1930s and 1940s, including the legal lunacy of Disorder in the Court and the royal rambunctiousness of Malice in the Palace! Then, step through the looking glass and cavort with the group’s pen-and-ink incarnations through a set of zany zoological cartoons, including classics like Bee My Honey, Turnabout is Bearplay and Watt’s My Lion!
The Three Stooges: 75th Anniversary (3-DVD Set)
The classic comedy troupe and all their legendary laughs are brought together in this collection of some of their funniest moments on film. This three-DVD collector’s tin can also include a bonus booklet with a history of the Three Stooges, biographies of all the Stooges who passed through the legendary troupe during their 50-year career and rare photos that showcase the giggle makers in a whole new light! On the 75th anniversary of their debut as the kings of clowning around, join millions of other Stooges enthusiasts for hours of fun that will most “soitenly” entertain!
The Three Stooges: Collector’s Edition (4-DVD Set)
Slip these discs into your player and prepare to slip a disc laughing as the group's early MGM shorts, movie trailers, TV performances, and even a few deranged commercials parade before your eyes. Get ready for some "Beer and Pretzels," "Corn on the Cob," "Nertsery Rhymes," "Roast Beef and Movies," and the feature-length Swing Parade of 1946. Elsewhere in this truly expansive collection, you will find the trio's invasion of prime time on The Steve Allen Show, in addition to many candid moments for the Family Album documentary.
We hope that these suggestions will provide you with enough gags to get you through the wait!
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 2:44 PM
Monday, March 19, 2012
Get ready for a real eye opener! On May 1st Image Entertainment takes you back in time to the gorgeous, glamorous, girl-esque of the 1950’s with Strip Strip Hooray. This six-movie compilation featuring the best of burlesque exploitation films dances its way on unrated DVD for an SRP of $19.98. Pre-book is April 3.
Midnight Frolics (1949, B/W, 68 mins.): Direct from L.A.’s Belasco Theatre comes a galaxy of gorgeous girls including Sunny Knight (The Golden Girl of the Golden West), Mickey “Ginger” Jones, Aleene, Boo LaVon, Shirley Heart, Annette Warren and “Sonney’s Sunkist Beauties”!
Everybody’s Girl (1950, B/W, 83 mins.): Gay Dawn heads a “Whirly-Girly cast of 40” including Mary Andes, Sylvia, Levalon, Leonora, Alberta, Charmaine, and Diana (The Glamour Girl of Burlesque)! If you don’t have high blood pressure already, you will after ogling this humdinger!
French Follies (1951, B/W, 77 mins.): The Strip Parade continues with Mary Andes, Jennie Lee (The Sexiest Girl in Burlesque), Joanne Bridges (The Platinum Dream Girl), Ruby Lee, headliner Val de Val (The H Bomb of Burlesque), and the classic “Crazy House” comedy routine! “Say no more, Joe, say no more!”
“B” Girl Rhapsody (1952, B/W, 77 mins.): To be or double-D is the question, and here to answer it is Amber Dawn, Frenchy La Von, Ruby Lee (The Wham-Wham Girl), Nona Carver (TheBlonde Venus), smoking (literally) Joan Bridges, red hot Chili Pepper (The South American Cyclone) and headliner Lily!
The A-B-C’s Of Love (1953, B/W, 74 mins.): Get ready for more wiggles, jiggles, and giggles featuring Blaza Glory, Mae Blondell (The Blonde Temptress), Bebe Hughes, Helen Lewis, and headliner Gilda (The Golden Girl) who’s actually former Little Rascals child-star Shirley Jean Rickert turned Striptease Queen!
A Night In Hollywood (1953, B/W & Color, 62 mins.): Misty Ayers, Jeanne Saunders, Rea Walker, and Mae Blondell set the stage on fire before the tempestuous Tempest Storm, The Girl with the Fabulous Front, turns this black-and-white film into gorgeous color for a dazzling bra-busting climax!
With these six steamy and sensual films all brought together on one disc, we are positive you will find Strip, Strip, Hooray worthy of a “standing” ovation!
Strip Strip Hooray! DVD
Genre: Special Interest, Something Weird, 50s, Stripping/ Erotic Dancing
Audio: PCM Mono
SRP : $19.98
Street Date: May 1, 2012
Pre-Book: April 3, 2012
Color: Color/Black & White
Length: 432 Min.
UPC : 014381792928
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 9:11 PM
Friday, March 16, 2012
“Genuinely Shocking.” – Fangoria
“Extremely Effective.” – Ain’t It Cool News
Witness THE COLLAPSED from Anchor Bay Entertainment -- Making U.S. DVD Debut June 5th
Beverly Hills, CA -- Already generating buzz from screenings at the Fangoria Film Festival, the Fright Night Film Festival, Rue Morgue’s Festival of Fear, as well as winning awards at the 2011 Metropolitan Film Festival of New York and the Crypticon Film Festival, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents the U.S. DVD debut of the apocalyptic thriller The Collapsed on June 5th. A chilling glimpse into one family’s battle to stay alive while traversing a hellish landscape of barbarism and cannibalism, The Collapsed carries a gaunt SRP of $22.98. Pre-book is May 9th.
“I'm very excited to have Anchor Bay as a distribution partner,” noted the film’s writer/director Justin McConnell. “It feels like the perfect home for The Collapsed. They're a company I've proudly collected titles from while growing up, and I'm proud to have a film on their roster."
In wake of an unknown event that has catapulted civilization into a fatal downward spiral, the Weaver family – father Scott (John Fantasia), young adult son Aaron (Steve Vieira), mother Emily (Lisa Moule) and teenage daughter Rebecca (Anna Ross) – desperately tries to survive.
Fleeing the city, their only hope of sanctuary is a rural hometown from their past, Dover’s Bend. With the constant threat of violent death forcing them to stay as far away from civilization as possible, they take to the forest. However, they soon discover that the danger posed by other survivors may be the least of their worries. Someone -- or something -- seems to have followed them into the wilderness...
Go behind-the-scenes behind the end of the world with the bonus features on The Collapsed DVD, including:
· Feature length behind-the-scenes documentary "Apocalypse On A Budget: The Making of The Collapse;"
· Two audio commentaries: director/writer/producer Justin McConnell & co-story/co-producer Kevin Hutchinson; lead actor John Fantasia;
· Music Video: Rob Kleiner's "Devil In Disguise;"
· Trailers, photo gallery, original score jukebox & MP3 album download, original screenplay, easter eggs and more!
In addition, The Collapsed DVD will have a special QR code, giving fans even greater inside access into the making of the film!
Kevin Kasha and Josh Thomashow of Anchor Bay Films negotiated the deal on behalf of Anchor Bay and Managing Partners Michael Paszt and James Fler of Raven Banner Entertainment negotiated on behalf of Producer/Director, Justin McConnell.
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 Blu-ray™ and DVD formats. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Starz Media (www.starzmedia.com) is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation.
THE COLLAPSED DVD
Street Date: June 5, 2012
Pre-Book: May 9, 2012
Catalog #: 0 1313 24933-9 8
UPC #: DV24933
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1; Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Retail Price: $22.98
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 82 minutes
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 7:57 PM
Thursday, March 15, 2012
You know those long, grueling workdays that are such an ordeal that it seems they'll never end? I REALLY HATE MY JOB (2007) is a comedy about just such a day in the lives of five women working in a small London restaurant on the Thames. Unfortunately, watching it is an experience that can be described exactly the same way--it's a long, grueling ordeal that I thought it would never end.
Shirley Henderson plays Alice, a mousy, virginal waitress who aspires to be a writer but ends up filling in for the cook on the night this story takes place. Alexandra Maria Lara is Suzie, a ditzy, artistic blonde waitress with an off-kilter perception of reality. A hot-blooded Latina (is there any other kind in the movies?) named Rita (Oana Pellea) is more trouble than help to Alice in the kitchen. Madonna (Anna Maxwell Martin), who runs the place for the owner although nobody ever listens to her, is a timid lesbian fretting over the fact that her partner said "your slippers repress me" to her. At least, that's what I think she said--I found the dialogue in this movie hard to decipher much of the time. Anyway, it was something similarly upsetting.
Finally, there's Neve Campbell as Abbie, the character I most wanted to strap into the electric chair and "roll on two" before it was all over. She's upset because her boyfriend just broke up with her, frustrated because she's expected to actually work when she's at work, and freaking out because famous actor Danny Huston (yes, that Danny Huston) is expected to show up at the restaurant that night, which aspiring actress Abbie thinks may somehow be her big chance to get noticed for something besides her mewling self-pity and insufferable demeanor.
Oh yeah, and it's her thirtieth birthday, which means that in just 40 short years, she'll be 70. Of course, waitresses turn thirty every day--I'll bet some of them are doing it right now. But then again, she's so much more sensitive, deep, and interesting than everybody else, not.
Toss these characters and their unique personality traits together, mix well, and you've got one of the most soul-deadening and aggressively unentertaining cinematic assaults ever launched against my unsuspecting eyeballs. At times I simply marvelled at the things I was supposed to perceive as "funny" or "endearing." When Abbie whines about the high interest rate on her VISA card, Suzie ponders, "Why do they call it 'interest'? It's so not interesting." Abbie does a slow take to give us time to finish laughing before the next line.
They do that a lot in this movie, except for when they use overlapping dialogue and chaotic action to "screwball" things up. The director, Oliver Parker, also plays a lot of little editing tricks here and there to emphasize certain things, which I really wished he'd stop doing. I thought about writing him an email that simply said "STOP DOING THAT!", but of course by that time it was too late.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen, Alice is positively exhausting to watch as she frantically crams inedible meals together while Rita does comedy relief stuff like jerking around to salsa music and obsessing over rats. Rita does have one good line as she and Alice yak at each other amidst the ear-splitting cacophony: "You know, sometimes you have the smugness of a hippy fascist." Which was actually amusing enough to make me not want to go on a tri-state killing spree for a few seconds.
While all of this frantic activity is going on, the dining room itself seems sparsely populated by docile, unobtrusive zombies who do hateful, provocative things such as asking what the specials are or requesting a wine list. Oh, my god! The horror of such outrageous indignities drives Abbie to sarcastically berate them for their impertinence. Can't these self-obsessed cretins see she's frustrated and fraught with intense feelings of insecurity? She just turned thirty, dammit! How dare they expect a pleasant dining experience.
Thank goodness, while she's running the bar she has time to engage in lengthy conversations with Suzie because nobody ever approaches it and asks for anything. Most of the time the customers might as well be played by mannequins, the place is so dead. And yet we're supposed to believe it's bustling with enough non-stop activity to drive each of the haggard employees to the frazzled brink of insanity.
On the plus side, some of the rat scenes are mildly funny. A few startling closeups of Rita flailing around jar us out of our stupor now and then. There's a scene after closing time in which poor Madonna finally breaks down and elicits a twinge of sympathy from her idiot coworkers. Danny Huston (I finally remembered seeing him in the Aussie western THE PROPOSITION a few years ago) shows up at last in a top hat and tails, and suddenly the movie turns into a black-and-white fantasy that looks like something out of a Taco video.
Oh, and before I forget, Neve does a gratuitous nude scene near the end. This would normally be relatively noteworthy, but by that time I was near death and slipping in and out of a coma. I vaguely recall feeling sorry for her for having to get nekkid for a movie like this, right before everything went black. But don't worry, Neve Campbell fans, because this part is probably already floating around out there online somewhere.
When I REALLY HATE MY JOB finally dragged its steaming carcass across the finish line, I felt totally drained, as though I'd just put in a hard, stressful shift at work myself. I could only sit there, numb, until my mind began to slowly emerge from the deep state of stupefication into which it had descended for the last hour-and-a-half. I'd love to end this with a lame, obvious quip like "Forget your job--I really hate this movie!" but somebody else has probably beaten me to it by now.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 8:19 PM
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
With two versions of a controversial, neo-classic Japanese action epic, one version of its inferior sequel, and a whole extra disc of extras, Anchor Bay's four-disc BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is a viewing experience that should keep action fans off the streets and out of trouble for awhile.
BATTLE ROYALE (2000) begins at the dawn of the 21st century in a Japan whose society is falling apart. With thousands of students boycotting school and youth violence and unemployment at an all-time high, the fascist government "bigwigs" pass the BR (Battle Royale) Act in hopes of curbing juvenile delinquency. Thus, a graduating ninth-grade class is chosen at random once a year, taken to a deserted island, and forced to fight each other to the death until there's only one survivor. If more than one person is alive at the end of three days, they all die via their nifty exploding necklaces.
Hey, sounds like a pretty effective idea at first, but darn if we don't start sympathizing with these troublemaking teens as soon as their school field trip suddenly morphs into their worst nightmare. There's Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara), the cool but troubled kid whose dad hanged himself on the first day of school; his sorta girlfriend Noriko (Aki Maeda), a nice girl who is constantly bullied by the mean girls; Shuya's nerdy foster-home roommate and best pal Nobu (Yukihiro Kotani); and several others who are familiar to us because they're like a lot of kids we grew up with ourselves. The odd man out here is the mysterious Kawada (Tarô Yamamoto), a former winner being forced to play again although he'll eventually become a crucial ally to Shuya and Noriko.
The classroom scene that sets up the whole situation gets things off to a shocking start with its offhand carnage. Frustrated teacher Kitano (actor-director Beat Takeshi at his understated, laconic best) has had enough of being belittled, ignored, even stabbed by his students and relishes the opportunity to preside over some official payback. He indulges his newfound freedom to punish bad behavior such as whispering in class with summary executions, and the exploding necklaces each student wears are demonstrated in grisly fashion when an unruly student dares to mock him. (An incongruously amusing instructional video augments his lethal lecture.)
As the seriousness of their predicament dawns on the teens, we get the feeling that we're in for some serious mayhem as soon as they're let loose into the wild with their randomly-selected weapons (guns, knives, hatchets, crossbows, etc.) and other provisions. No sooner are they all out the door than the first tentative attacks begin, with some students' instincts for self-preservation kicking in faster than the less aggressive ones.
The action then breaks down into isolated skirmishes fueled by quick, startling bursts of violence that are often brutal, while handy intertitles keep us informed of the running death count. Making things even more difficult are the "red zones", which are regularly rotated and mean instant exploding-necklace death for anyone caught in one at the wrong time.
We quickly get to know various characters and their stories as they gather in pairs or groups--mainly the same couples and cliques carried over from school--in which they feel some measure of safety. Even in such circumstances, however, the slightest suspicion or wrong move can erupt into a blood-splattered melee, as when a group of pacifist girls barricaded in a lighthouse suddenly go Rambo on each other when their situation takes an unexpected turn.
While the good kids are banding together for safety or, in the case of some enterprising tech nerds, to beat the system, the bad kids simply play the game the old-fashioned way. The cunning and way-scary mean girl Mitsuko (Kô Shibasaki) and trigger-happy psycho Kiriyama, a sullen transfer student with spiky red hair who is actually there because he volunteered, prowl the jungle picking off anyone they come across like predatory animals.
The action scenes are quick and explosive. One of the most sustained action setpieces is the lighthouse scene, and even this messy, disorienting eruption of senseless violence is over before we know it. In a film that's littered with such scenes from start to finish, there's no need for prolonged shoot-outs or gratuitous sadism, and the fact that we know and empathize with these characters enough to root for them gives it all considerable emotional impact.
While not as gory or as violent as I expected, the shock value comes from seeing all these innocent (and not-so-innocent) school kids killing each other in a variety of gruesome ways. Of course, dead teenagers are a familiar sight in just about every slasher flick from the 80s onward, and there's no more violence here than in the average Jason flick or, say, KILL BILL VOL. 1. So if you're used to movies like that, there's no need to be braced for any really over-the-top shocks here save for a vicious knife thrust to a guy's crotch (delivered by Chiaki Kuriyama, who played "Go-Go" in the aforementioned Tarantino flick), a severed head, bullet hits and slashings galore, and lots of spewing blood.
Kinji Fukasaku's direction is superb without resorting to a lot of needless cinematic tricks, and the camerawork is also fine. There's an expansive, full-bodied orchestral score by Masamichi Amano that reminded me at times of Alex North's music for DRAGONSLAYER. The screenplay by Kenta Fukasaku is finely-rendered pulp fiction that fully realizes its premise and then some.
The director's cut, entitled BATTLE ROYAL: SPECIAL EDITION (2001) is, from what I could tell, pretty much the same movie but with the addition of a few extra scenes. Several flashbacks of our main characters bonding during a school basketball game (filmed about a year after principal photography) are interspersed throughout the film, and the ending is beefed up with some brief "requiem" vignettes. My favorite addition is a revealing flashback which gives us a clue as to why bad girl Mitsuko turned out the way she did.
And then, for better or worse, there's the sequel. After enjoying the first film so much, I was filled with keen anticipation for its follow-up, a feeling that BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUIEM (2003) didn't quite live up to. It may not be the worst sequel to a good movie that I've ever seen--MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME and EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC are more worthy contenders for that title--but my socks were in little danger of getting knocked off while watching it.
It's three years after the end of the first story, with Shuya now a notorious terrorist waging war on the world's adult population from his island bunker. We meet a new BR class who will be the first to go into battle under new rules--storm Shuya's island, engage him and his followers in combat, and kill him (with extreme prejudice) within 72 hours. This time the participants are paired up boy-girl, and if one dies or wanders more than fifty meters away from the other, both collars explode. All of this is explained to our group of cowering students by a new and much more hostile teacher, Takeuchi Riki, who hams it up with such unbridled ferocity that you wouldn't be surprised if he started hammering nails with his eyeballs.
Instead of the free-for-all competition for survival we got in the first movie, this one starts out as a fun, but somewhat average war flick made interesting mainly because it's a bunch of terrified ninth graders doing the fighting. The island siege is filmed like a junior version of the Omaha Beach sequence from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, only with sloppier editing and lots more Shaky-Cam. It plays a little like something you might see on the SyFy Channel, but with a bigger budget and extra helpings of entertaining violence generously slathered on top.
(One thing that had me wondering, though--why, if the government wants these kids to take out Shuya, do they continue to make things hard for them with the boy-girl collar thing and by continuing the red-zone policy from the first movie?)
Eventually, of course, we meet Shuya, who now sports a bleached-blonde mullet, has evolved into a brooding, full-of-himself bore with messianic delusions, and seems to be mired in a perpetual state of resentful adolescence. Apparently, we're meant to sympathize with Shuya in his amorphous battle against "the adults" which he fights by blowing up several skyscrapers (two of which bear a distinct resemblance to the World Trade Center) as the film waxes poetic about how noble and romantic terrorism can be if committed by a cool guy like Shuya. This, along with some annoying anti-American sentiments thrown in for good measure, constitutes the sort of blobby, self-important political hogwash that bogs the movie down for much of its running time.
Even when the government sends in its crack commando forces to eradicate the terrorists once and for all (which had me wondering why they didn't just do this in the first place), the furious battle action is diluted by gobs of maudlin sentiment, mawkish dialogue, and some unintentionally funny dramatic touches that may have you either wincing in pain or rolling on the floor laughing.
Every time one of the "good guy" characters gets mortally wounded, all the intense fighting around them comes to a dead stop so they can perform a dramatic dying speech while Shuya reacts with renewed grief and outrage. Even at this point we still get the same death count intertitles but by now the "battle royale" concept has been so thoroughly diluted that they only serve to remind us how the movie we wanted to watch in the first place never actually happened.
In addition to the wildly overacting Takeuchi Riki, Shûgo Oshinari also lays it on pretty thick as the the leader of the student warriors, Taku. Ai Maeda does a nice job as Kitano's daughter Shiori, who volunteers for the BR in order to come to terms with what she believes was her father's murder. Beat Tageshi returns briefly in a touching flashback that shows his character in a more sympathetic light. The rest of the performances cover a pretty wide range from good to not so good, with Sonny Chiba doing a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo.
While it certainly has its share of bloody, shoot-em-up action and a couple of good dramatic moments here and there, BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUEIM ultimately comes across as an ill-conceived, wrongheaded, and sometimes just plain silly affair that qualifies more as a guilty pleasure than the follow-up to a classic. In its attempts to be an emotionally powerful and thematically grandiose dystopian epic, it teeters precipitously on the verge of embarrassing itself.
Disc four in this collection consists of bonus features for BATTLE ROYALE. The mostly self-explanatory titles include:
The Making Of BATTLE ROYALE
BATTLE ROYALE Press Conference
Instructional Video: Birthday Version
Audition & Rehearsal Footage
Special Effects Comparison Featurette
Tokyo International Film Festival 2000
Battle Royale Documentary
Basketball Scene Rehearsals
Original Theatrical Trailer
Special Edition TV Spot
TV Spot: Tarantino Version
Bonus features are in full screen with Dolby 2.0 sound. The three feature films are all in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and English subtitles. (BATTLE ROYALE: SPECIAL EDITION also comes with an English soundtrack.) The packaging itself is exquisite, resembling a sturdy, hardbound book with thick cardboard "pages" that house the discs and contain key photos and artwork from the films.
For someone unfamiliar with the "Battle Royale" films, I can't imagine a better introduction than BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. And those who are already fans will definitely want to own this cool-looking set, or at least take it for a test drive. While I wasn't exactly bowled over by the so-so sequel, the original film itself is one that I'll be revisiting at least once a year--right around graduation day.
Buy it at Amazon.com
BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION DVD
BATTLE ROYALE: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu-Ray
BATTLE ROYALE DVD
BATTLE ROYALE Blu-Ray
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
(This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2006.)
After suffering through FORGET ABOUT IT (2006), that's exactly what I wanted to do. It's advertised as being "from a producer of AS GOOD AS IT GETS and JERRY MAGUIRE", but he must've been lost in the shuffle since IMDb lists about twenty executive, associate, and co-producers with their fingers in this pie. Maybe they just wanted a lot of people around to share the blame. Anyway, they should've gotten the producer of GET SHORTY instead, since that's the kind of movie this one desperately wants to be.
Michael Paloma plays a portly wiseguy named Nitti who steals four million dollars from Don Giovanni (also Paloma, doing a bad Brando impersonation) and disappears into the witness protection program. He's relocated to a desert resort community in Phoenix, Arizona, where his new neighbors are retired oldster pals Sam, Carl, and Eddie (Burt Reynolds, Robert Loggia, and Charles Durning). Before long, they stumble upon Nitti's buried stash and start living it up along with their gal pal, former Vegas showgirl Christine DeLee (Raquel Welch), until the wiseguy gets wise.
In one sequence, the three geezers visit a nudie bar and throw wads of cash around, gaining the full attention of all the girls and angering some faux bikers who feel left out. As we've already learned from ARMAGEDDON, there's always a gang of faux bikers who get mad when you throw too much money around in a nudie bar. But not to worry, because these are three tough old coots and they beat up the bikers. Really, it's just as funny as it sounds.
Meanwhile, a Mafia hit squad led by tough-guy Richard Grieco and a duo of greedy FBI agents with the hots for each other are zeroing in on Nitti's location, and we just know that when all these various characters converge it's going to be a real melee. Not a funny melee, though--just your standard unfunny melee. I don't think anything funny actually occurs during this entire movie, except maybe the parts where Burt and Raquel perform "Dueling Facelifts."
If you're one of those people who shout "Oh, boy! Richard Grieco!" you may enjoy the parts that he's in. Fan fave Tim Thomerson shows up again (he seems to be doing that a lot lately) as one of them cowboy-hat-wearin' car salesmen. There's even a brief, thankless cameo by legendary comedianne Phyllis Diller, who probably wished she were back doing a crappy Bob Hope comedy instead. Guys like Bob Hope knew how to make crappy comedies that looked pretty good and were sorta funny. Even some of today's lowest-budget indy filmmakers are turning out comedies better than this with far less resources and no big names.
Technically, FORGET ABOUT IT is subpar in every respect. BJ Davis directs it with less finesse than one of those comedy specials that Don Adams and Don Rickles used to churn out. The camerawork and lighting are dreary. Even the editing is bad--shots are stacked on top of each other like Jenga blocks, and with each new scene comes yet another blast of overbearing music to convince us of how funny it is. There's a shootout at the airport in the closing minutes that actually might've been slightly cool if that awful music weren't there to pound it into the tarmac.
None of the lead actors really put much into their characters, and you can hardly blame them. Burt coasts on his usual comedy persona at its most casual. Raquel, still lookin' good despite the obligatory surgical enhancement, isn't going for an Oscar here. The fine actor Charles Durning seems lost most of the time in a role that doesn't give him much to do besides look old. For his part, Robert Loggia tries to put some spark into this clunky story, which is no less than you'd expect from the only man alive tough enough to challenge Ben Gazzara as King of the Universe.
All in all, this has got to be one of the lamest comedies I've ever seen, and I've seen AT LONG LAST LOVE. It makes DELTA FARCE look like a Marx Brothers film. If you happen to spot FORGET ABOUT IT lurking on a video store shelf my advice is to do exactly what the title suggests. I wish I could.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 1:32 AM
Sunday, March 11, 2012
If you answered "a Trojan penis"--without even having to hear the question first--then you pretty much know what to expect with National Lampoon's THE LEGEND OF AWESOMEST MAXIMUS (2011). Most of its creaky, obvious humor is similarly groanworthy, and, some might say, extremely stupid (myself included). However, I found it more grudgingly amusing than wincingly unfunny, with some of it being so utterly, almost guilelessly moronic that I couldn't help chuckling now and then.
Will Sasso does his usual thing as the title idiot, an inept Trojan general who got the job because he's married to the daughter (Kristanna Loken as the cleverly named "Hottessa") of senile old King Looney (Rip Torn, proving that he's a lot funnier when the writers of "The Larry Sanders Show" are doing his dialogue).
Hottessa wants Awesomest to inherit the throne instead of Looney's effeminate son Orlando (Gary Lundy), but when Orlando makes off with King Erotic's wife Ellen (Sophie Monk) during a goodwill visit to Greece, King Looney is delighted by this apparent proof of his son's heterosexuality ("My son's no pole smoker! He don't gobble no goop!"). In truth, Orlando really only wants Ellen as his BFF because her superior fashion sense makes him giddy, but his act results in bloody war against the Greeks with Troy's military under Awesomest's dubious command.
Needless to say, gay jokes abound along with words like "homo", "pussy", and "fruitcup", with King Erotic (Khary Payton) queening it up like his life depended on it. Sex-related humor in other forms makes up most of the rest of the film as well--Awesomest and his men spend their off time in titty bars, his visit to some holy men known as the "Ephors" to get his fortune told finds them surrounded by naked pole dancers, and various scantily-clad babes generally pop up just about everywhere else.
The Ephors warn Awesomest of the coming of the Greek army and that the gods decree he must fight them off with only--you guessed it--300 men. (And also that their "costumes" must be "super-faggy.") Since the YouTube-video-turned-feature-film 305 already covered that territory (and did it way funnier), here we get a brief 300-and-BRAVEHEART-inspired battle followed by Awesomest going MIA and ending up being captured by slave traders and sold as a gladiator.
At this point the film actually gets funnier as it spoofs the likes of GLADIATOR and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand", with gladiator school consisting of games like musical chairs and three-legged races. The arena sequence apes the jittery speed-up/slo-mo effects and editing that's become the norm these days. In addition to the bloody one-on-one combat there's a football game using a severed head and a torture sequence (also inspired by BRAVEHEART) that will delight chubby lovers while leaving others aghast.
The hit-and-miss comedy continues when Awesomest returns to Troy in time for the Greeks' final assault on Troy, complete with the aforementioned "Trojan Penis", which, naturally, won't fit through the gates until it is rammed in, backed up, rammed in again, etc. Inside are a group of Greek soldiers led by Testiclees (a buff-looking Ian Ziering), whose Achilles-like invincibility has only one vulnerable point. (Yes, there.)
Ziering's character is a pretty funny spoof of Brad Pitt's balletic super-warrior in TROY as a preening stoner who does a slo-mo tumbling run before running his opponents through. His dimwitted cousin, known only as Testiclee's Cousin, is played by Edward Barbanell, whose main talent seems to be the ability to look like he has Down's Syndrome. One running gag consists of Testiclee's rather kinky relationship with his mother Milfia (Tiffany Claus), who apparently gave birth to him when she was five years old.
Complete with an unfunny Samuel L. Jackson-wannabe narration (which actually has a nice pay-off at the end), THE LEGEND OF AWESOMEST MAXIMUS looks okay in its own low-budget, green-screeny way, with capable direction by Jeff Kanew (REVENGE OF THE NERDS) and a rather robust musical score. Performances range from good to not-ready-for-The-Carol-Burnett-Show.
Tony Cox is funny as Minoritees, a midget warrior who goes over to the Greeks after being spurned by Awesomest and then spends most of his time turning down King Erotic's offers of copious gay sex as a reward for his service. Deon Richmond of NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE turns up in the role of laidback, weed-smoking gladiator Jamal. As Quantas, a genuinely capable military leader kept busy fixing Awesomest's screw-ups, Kevin Linehan stands out by being just about the only actor in the film to play it straight.
The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. The only extra is a trailer, but the closing credits begin with a brief collection of outtakes.
Make no mistake--while I did derive a modicum of enjoyment from THE LEGEND OF AWESOMEST MAXIMUS, it's the kind of movie that you'd have to be a drunk, stoned, teenage frat rat to fully appreciate. So if you have an inner one of those lurking around inside you somewhere, this should keep him happy for awhile.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 10:24 PM
Saturday, March 10, 2012
(This review originally appeared online back in 2007.)
At first glance, I thought CHERRY CRUSH (2007) was going to be some doofusy nouveau-noir filtered through a Kool-Aid haze for the attention-span deficient--an MTV version of the old hardboiled tales of a doomed man and a manipulative dame who proves to be his downfall. But director Nicholas DiBella and his co-scripter Paul Root have taken some classic noir elements and given them a modern look and feel while retaining a hint of the zingy dialogue and situations that made the genre interesting. It's still no DOUBLE INDEMNITY--more like a "teen BODY HEAT", as one IMDb user aptly described it--but at least somebody put some effort into it.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE redux's Jonathan Tucker plays rich, privileged Jordan Wells, who would rather be a photographer than the doctor or lawyer his parents expect him to become. He has a way with his female subjects, somehow coaxing them to reveal their true selves in his erotic portraits of them. Posting these on the internet, however, proves to be a mistake--they are discovered by the faculty of his posh private school, and Jordan is banished to a public high school with the rest of the peons. Here, he meets a beautiful young cello player named Shay (Nikki Reed, THIRTEEN, LORDS OF DOGTOWN), who mesmerizes him completely and proves to be his most fascinating photographic subject ever.
But Shay will pose for him only on one condition. Jordan has to follow her one night and snap compromising photographs of her from afar with a wealthy older man named Wade Chandling (Frank Whaley, PULP FICTION'S "Brett"), a lawyer who has promised to pay her way into Harvard but is showing signs of backing out of the deal. Shay wants to use the photos to blackmail him, but one thing leads to another until there's a deadly confrontation in which Chandling ends up dead, and Jordan is suddenly an accessory to murder.
Enter Detective Griffin (Michael O'Keefe), who wastes no time uncovering all the messy details of the killing and is curious to know what happened to the million dollars that is now missing from the victim's home safe. He's pretty sure Shay has it, and if Jordan doesn't find it and hand it over to him real soon, he'll blow the whistle on both of them. Jordan, not really used to having his life descend into a hellish maelstrom of fear and turmoil, does his best to comply. But again, one thing leads to another, and the situation goes way south in no time flat.
Jordan spends much of the movie wondering if Shay is on the level or just using him as a fall guy, and we're never quite sure ourselves. As he tells us in his noirish, melancholy voiceover, his life has been pretty much planned out all along by his parents, and it's fun to watch him thrust into the unfamiliar position of struggling to hold it together as those plans keep flying out the window one by one.
Jonathan Tucker gives a subdued but effective performance as Jordan, although it's at least ten years too late for him to be playing a high school student. He appears to have bulked up a bit since CHAINSAW and lost some of his nerdiness, but still has no trouble conveying a somewhat ineffectual and easily-manipulated character. Nikki Reed's Shay is mysterious and alluring, and we can understand how a gullible young man might find himself doing certain unwise things at her behest. She's nowhere near as effective a femme-fatale as, say, Linda Fiorentino in THE LAST SEDUCTION, although that character was intended to be irrefutably evil from the git-go.
Jordan's friend, Desiree, who happens to be the D.A.'s daughter, starts out as a rather bland character until her inside knowledge of Chandling's murder investigation makes her a valuable, though unwilling, ally to Jordan; Julie Gonzalo's deft handling of the role becomes increasingly impressive during the course of the film. And I was especially pleased to see how Michael O'Keefe (THE GREAT SANTINI, CADDYSHACK), who not so long ago might've been playing the Jordan character himself, seems to be making the transition into middle-aged character roles quite nicely.
The film is seamlessly directed and edited, with an appealing visual style that carries the story along without overpowering it. The only thing that really disappointed me was the ending. I was expecting all that suspense to lead to a dramatic payoff that would leave me breathless. Instead, the fade-out came unexpectedly in the middle of what I thought was still part of the build-up.
At that point, I had to go back and re-evaluate the scenes leading up to it and assess their importance in a new light, thinking perhaps I'd missed some nuance here or there. But I hadn't. Not only are we left hanging, but the old noir traditions don't seem to have been followed through as I thought they should have been. And one of the main characters just disappears without anything close to a potential-fulfilling resolution. All of which lessens the effect of everything that's gone before.
I liked CHERRY CRUSH a lot, and I wanted to like it all the way to the end credits. But instead of a killer ending, all we get is a shrug and a "th-th-th-that's all, folks."
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 7:39 PM
Friday, March 9, 2012
When you sit down to watch one of these recent monster flicks from Roger Corman's New Horizons pictures, the question isn't whether it's going to be good or bad, but whether it's going to be bad in a good or bad way.
With CAMEL SPIDERS (2012), I don't know what to tell you except that it's both really bad and sorta fun. Looking like the result of the usual quick, dirty, and totally artless Corman film shoot (with Jim Wynorski at the helm under the alias "Jay Andrews"), it begins with a passable fire fight between U.S. forces and the Taliban with what appears to be the Vasquez Rocks area passing for Afghanistan. Suddenly, a bunch of large, spiderlike creatures appear and wipe out the opposing team while Captain Sturges (Brian Krause) and his men look on in shock and awe.
The injured Sturges gets shipped back to the States along with the body of a fallen friend. Unbeknownst to him, however, some of the "camel spiders" have hitched a ride in the coffin and make it into the wilds of Arizona. Breeding like, well, camel spiders, they begin to attack everyone in sight while Capt. Sturges, sexy female soldier Sgt. Underwood (Rocky DeMarco), and a group of civilians hole up in an old gypsum plant to fight them off.
Our lust for blood is satisfied early on when some teenagers on a jaunt in the desert get wiped out, making way for yet another group of 20-somethings who find themselves trapped in an abandoned farmhouse. The film cuts back to them from time to time although eventually it apparently forgets that storyline altogether and we never find out what happens to those who are left. Other glitches and illogical elements include zero cell phone reception in not one but two key locations plus a hotwired truck that suddenly has a keyring conveniently dangling from the ignition. (Not to mention the fact that if Afghanistan was actually swarming with these things, there wouldn't be any people left by now.)
Besides Sturges and Underwood, the main group includes a redneck sheriff (C. Thomas Howell, finally starting to look his age), cafe' owners Reba and Joe, a couple headed for divorce and their little girl, a sullen liberal-type who dislikes the military and is a pacifist because "the chicks dig it", a dimwitted waitress named Patty, and an evil businessman who wants Reba and Joe to die because they won't sell him their cafe' to make way for a new freeway.
Once they're all ensconced in the gypsum plant for the night, the film slows down long enough to make some cursory attempts at characterization which consist mainly of cheesy acting and some pretty corny dialogue (mmm...cheesy corn), as in these choice exchanges between Sturges and Underwood:
"So, what's worse...the Taliban or these spiders?"
"I hate spiders. They bite."
"So do I."
"Keep your eyes open, huh?"
"Do I have to? Man, this is creepy."
The CGI spiders are only as convincing as they have to be, which is not very. The film can't help but be somewhat suspenseful when the main attack comes and the pesky critters start crawling out of the woodwork, with several of the characters doing predicatably stupid things that practically scream "kill me." These doomed souls flail around while the superimposed digital bugs swarm over them accompanied by some squirty CGI gore effects. Attempting to escape in the aforementioned hot-wired truck (the one with the keys in the ignition), the others blast away with AK-47s as the film makes a limp effort to be a really, really poor man's ALIENS.
The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. There are no extras.
As with most of Corman's New Horizons pictures, CAMEL SPIDERS is just well-done enough to contain the bare minimum of entertainment value for undiscriminating creature-feature fans. If you're in a generous mood you may find it minimally entertaining. If not, chances are you're in for a pretty dismal time.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 10:27 PM
Thursday, March 8, 2012
If, like me, your only knowledge of Confucius is when people say "Confucius say..." and then reel off some pithy remark, director Mei Hu's CONFUCIUS (2010) will help to enlighten you about what made the guy so quotable in the first place.
Former John Woo action star Chow Yun Fat (THE KILLER, HARD-BOILED) gives a measured, meticulously controlled performance that displays his continuing maturation as an actor. His Kong Qiu--as Confucius was more commonly known circa 500 B.C.--is a family man in his early fifties whose quiet wisdom and belief in government based on ethics and civility earn him a position that puts him right in the middle of clashes between rival provinces and "noble" families in ancient China.
The film begins with his successful fight to end the practice of burying slaves alive with deceased noblemen and his peaceful resolution of a potentially volatile dispute with a neighboring dukedom. Further attempts to reduce the growing power of the three main families in the Kingdom of Lu make him a target of their conspiratorial schemes, until even his main allies in government turn against him. Accompanied by his fervent followers, the exiled Kong Qiu wanders the land from state to state as the country goes to hell around him, until in desperation the leaders of an embattled Kingdom of Lu seek his council once again.
The story's pretty simple if you can make your way through all the needless exposition and rapid-fire introduction of so many characters you'd need a photographic memory to keep track of them all. The dry, stately narrative is at its best when we see Kong Qiu countering the chest beating of his power-hungry political rivals with reason and compassion, or figuring out logical solutions to problems that seem destined to be resolved on the battlefield.
He doesn't manage to peacefully defuse all of these situations, thank goodness, which means we get two or three large-scale battle sequences to liven things up here and there. They're impressively rendered with a combination of full-sized sets and deft digital trickery--in one sequence, a tidal wave of molten metal blazes down a stone incline into a horde of attackers as the sky is filled with flaming arrows.
Even so, these battle scenes are brief, perfunctory stepping stones in the narrative, with little emotional impact. The film itself never really tries to be an epic even when all the elements of one are right there on the screen. Rather, it's the story of a humble man living in epic times--although, for the most part, we learn more about Kong Qiu as a font of wisdom and an inspiration to others than as a man. Even the scenes in which he interacts lovingly with his family are mere snapshots. It's left up to Chow Yun Fat to supply most of his character's depth of feeling with that expressive face of his.
CONFUCIUS is at its best when Kong Qiu meets Nanzi (Xun Zhou), the beautiful consort to a neighboring king and the true power behind his throne. He's awed by her royal radiance and beauty as she basks in his mental and emotional depth--at first, each tries to bow lower than the other in deference. Taking advantage of this rare opportunity for a woman of the time to commune with such a sage, Nanzi seduces Kong Qiu with a spiritual and intellectual flirtatiousness which the actors portray almost as a delicate, exquisite kind of dance.
The Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Funimation is in 16:9 widescreen with Mandarin and English 5.1 Dolby sound. Subtitles are in English. Extras consist of several "making-of" featurettes (approx. 7 minutes each) and a trailer.
CONFUCIUS is a film in which the potentially sweeping visual splendor is held firmly in check by a sometimes bloodless story, and the plot resolutions are more intellectually stimulating than emotionally stirring. It is, in fact, an outstanding accomplishment which deserves to be seen, yet--after a promising start--I found the scenes which I most wanted to be moved by to be oddly unmemorable.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 9:55 PM