HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, November 30, 2012

THE WILD GEESE -- Blu-Ray/DVD review by porfle




When THE WILD GEESE (1978) first played theaters, I actually went to see it a couple of times.  This doesn't necessarily indicate how good a movie it was but how boring my college days were, especially before home video.  (I also went to see Gil Gerard's dopey "Buck Rogers" movie twice.) 

Now that Severin Films is releasing it on Blu-Ray/DVD, I find it enjoyable for three reasons: nostalgia, an entertainingly cheesy ambience, and a wealth of genuinely thrilling action sequences.

One of Maurice Binder's lesser quasi-007 main titles creations gets things off to an interesting start, accompanied by a tweety Joan Armatrading theme song that took a while to grow on me.  (Joan gets a picture credit along with the cast at film's end.)  We find further Eon touches in the presence of co-star Roger Moore (circa MOONRAKER) and editor/second-unit director John Glen, who would go on to helm FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and other 007 adventures.  Even Sean Connery's stunt double Bob Simmons is the action coordinator.


Director Andrew V. McLaglen's work (CHISUM, McCLINTOCK!, THE UNDEFEATED) has always been blandly competent at best, but his stodgy, get-'er-done style is what helps make THE WILD GEESE such perverse fun.  From the first scene, the bad dubbing and chintzy production values play right into the film's pleasantly tacky 70s ambience. 

As an actor, Richard Burton's bad performances were just as interesting to watch as his good ones, and here he straddles the line in fine form as Colonel Allen Faulkner, a mercenary hired by wealthy bigwig Sir Edward Matherson (a nicely stuffy Stewart Granger) to lead a dangerous mission in Africa.  ("I don't discuss fees," Faulkner tells Matherson.  "I get what I want.") 

Faulkner's task will be to rescue progressive African leader Julius Limbani (Winston Ntshona) from the military dictator who has taken over his country, with the help of old friends Capt. Rafer Janders (Richard Harris) and Lt. Shawn Fynn (Roger Moore), plus a handpicked platoon of fifty soldiers-for-hire.


Back in 1978, an action film could start out slow and then gradually build toward the good stuff without audiences fidgeting in their seats like speed freaks.  Here, Burton takes his time recruiting old pals Harris (who would rather spend dad-time with his son Emile than return to the field of battle) and Fynn (Moore's introduction is a corker of a scene in which he forces a heroin dealer at gunpoint to eat his own product), after which they and the fifty other soldiers are trained quick and dirty by gruff old sergeant Sandy (Jack Watson, EDGE OF DARKNESS).  The wonderful Hardy Kruger (FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, HATARI!) also joins the group as South African explosives expert Lt. Coetzee, who just wants a ticket back home.

Once these guys finally get to Africa, THE WILD GEESE shifts into high gear with a stunning parachute sequence that has the entire platoon pouring en masse out the back of the plane and into an exhilarating freefall before opening their chutes.  The assault on the military dictator's compound features a scene that I found queasily disturbing in 1978 and still do--dozens of sleeping soldiers literally being exterminated in their bunks like bugs as the mercenaries silently move down the rows spraying them with cyanide.  This ruthless manner of neutralizing the enemy is shown in a matter-of-fact way that leaves the viewer to deal with his or her own moral/emotional reaction to it.

Next comes the usual machine-gun blasting, grenade-chucking battle action as President Limbani is rescued and our heroes head for a nearby airstrip for extrication.  But they've been double-crossed by Sir Edward (which comes as no surprise considering Stewart Granger plays him with an extra helping of slime) and discover that they must make their own way out of Africa as hundreds of hardcore African soldiers known as "Simbas" start coming out of the woodwork with guns blazing. 


This is where THE WILD GEESE really hits its stride and director McLaglen manages to string together a series of explosive action setpieces that almost rival the edge-of-your-seat excitement of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. 

Burton, of course, in unrivalled when it comes to delivering such lines as: "Me, I'll work for anybody as long as they pay me...it's an ineradicable flaw in my character."  The always quirky Harris gives the Janders character his own off-kilter persona and makes us sympathize with his desire to spend Christmas with his son (we fear he'll never get another chance).  Moore, meanwhile, is all cigar-chomping badassedness, which he seems to be having a lot of fun playing at even though he's definitely no Lee Marvin. 

Frank Finlay (LIFEFORCE), Jeff Corey (TRUE GRIT), Ronald Fraser (FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX), and Barry Foster (SMILEY'S PEOPLE, FRENZY) make brief but welcome appearances.  As the racist Coetzee and the wounded African leader whom he must carry on his back, Hardy Kruger and Winston Ntshona bring another vital emotional element to the story, with Coetzee gradually realizing the error of his ways.


The 2-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Severin Films is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  (I noticed a slight flutter in the music during a couple of scenes.)  No subtitles.  In addition to a trailer and a juicy commentary track featuring Sir Roger, producer Euan Lloyd, and second unit director John Glen, extras consist of several choice featurettes.  These include interviews with Andrew V. McLaglen and ex-mercenary military advisor Mike Hoare, a profile of maverick producer Euan Lloyd with appearances by Roger Moore, Ingrid Pitt, Joan Armatrading, and others, a vintage making-of short, and a star-studded Movietone newsreel of the film's royal charity premiere. 

While liberally topped with finely-aged 70s cheese and at times a bit rough-hewn technically, THE WILD GEESE remains an impressive large-scale independent production that delivers big-time on the kind of battle action that war movie fans crave.  It may not be the equal of the all-time great war epics, but it certainly deserves to be on the same shelf with them.


Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at Amazon.com


Share/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 29, 2012

SILENT NIGHT -- DVD review by porfle



I'm not sure who first had the idea of turning Santa Claus into a psycho killer, but I do recall sitting at the drive-in and thrilling to the sight of a not-so-saintly Saint Nick menacing Joan Collins in the original TALES FROM THE CRYPT.  Later, the home video age allowed me to witness Linnea Quigley's celebrated antler-skewering in 1984's SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT in the comfort of my own recliner.  And now, with Anchor Bay's release of SILENT NIGHT (2012) on DVD, the jolly old elf with the axe and the attitude problem stalks the snow-swept streets yet again.

The pre-title sequence gets things off to a nice start with some teasing glimpses of Psycho Santa gearing up to go medieval on a couple of squirming home-invasion captives.  One guy's harrowing electrocution, complete with exploding eyeballs, gives us a foretaste of the film's generous gore content which will include plenty of slashings, choppings, piercings, dismemberments, and other mischief all done with old school 80s-style practical effects. 

Strangely enough, though, we've seen all this stuff so many times before that even the ghastliest effects have a "been there, done that" quality.  It's the staging of the mysterious killer Santa's attacks that makes the difference, with director Steven C. Miller doing his best to inject new life into very familiar situations.  He's already shown that he can do horror on a small budget (AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION) and handle action scenes with skill (THE AGGRESSION SCALE). 

Here, both are done with Miller's usual competence, although little that happens is original or over-the-top enough to really impress us on the level of, say, HALLOWEEN--which this movie resembles a bit in its earlier scenes of a placid Midwestern town lazily gearing up for a holiday amidst ominous glimpses of a murderous masked intruder.  As slasher killers go, this hulking Santa with the plastic mask has the size and imposing bearing for the job, yet lacks the personality needed to make him truly memorable in the "Michael Myers" vein.

Jaime King, who was the beautiful Goldie in SIN CITY, does a fine job in a non-glamorous role as a woman who actually looks like she might be a smalltown deputy.  Having just lost her husband, she's getting moral support from her parents over the holidays but is called in to work when Deputy Jordan (Brendan Fehr, COMEBACK SEASON) fails to show up--for reasons we're already aware of. 

As the killings escalate and a Santa-suited slasher is identified as the main suspect, the investigation is made doubly difficult by a plethora of Saint Nicks wandering the streets in preparation for the big Christmas parade.  Red herrings and false leads abound, including Donal Logue as an amusingly cynical fake-Santa who likes to make the kiddies cry by telling them the truth about Christmas.  Playing a crotchety old sheriff who looks forward to dealing with something exciting for a change, Malcolm McDowell is a welcome presence and seems to enjoy lending this earnest little horror flick some name value.

King's acting talent is given full range as her character's vulnerability and shaky self-confidence are evident in a series of close calls with suspects and some disturbing crime scenes including the murder of a little girl (who, as we see earlier, is an insufferable brat who richly deserves her fate!)  Equally shocking ends are in store for a stereotypically lecherous priest and an even more stereotypically sex-crazed teen couple whose lusty liason is rudely interrupted.  (The latter includes a direct homage to SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT that echoes a similar re-enactment by Linnea Quigley herself in CAESAR AND OTTO'S DEADLY XMAS.)

The gore effects are hokey but fun, with a crudely inventive woodchipper scene being perhaps the most genuinely unpleasant sequence.
Miller uses his modest budget to good effect and his movie looks pretty good (the Christmas ambience is especially well done) except for when the camera starts spazzing out during the murder scenes.  A frenetic flamethrower finale inside the police station isn't all that exciting but is rather impressively staged. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 soun and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of some deleted scenes and a brief behind-the-scenes featurette.

Like most good yuletide horror movies, SILENT NIGHT is melancholy and atmospheric, and actually generates a bit of Christmas spirit with which to contrast its brutal carnage.  While in no danger of becoming a perennial cult favorite along the lines of BLACK CHRISTMAS, and not particularly memorable in general, it's a morbidly fun way to pass the time while waiting for your chestnuts to roast.


Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray


Share/Save/Bookmark

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN" on Blu-ray & DVD on January 8th from Anchor Bay



Based On The True Story Behind The Biggest Manhunt In American History…

ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT and THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY PRESENT SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN ON BLU-RAY™ AND DVD

 A Gripping Portrayal Of The Real-Life Mission Authorized by President Obama, SEAL Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden Heads To Retail On January 8, 2013!



BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Anchor Bay Entertainment and The Weinstein Company announced today the Blu-ray™ and DVD release of SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN, from director John Stockwell (Into The Blue) and Academy Award®-winning producer of The Hurt Locker, Nicolas Chartier.  Based on true events, framed by real-time footage, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN, recounts the dramatic behind-the-scenes decisions that brought the world’s most wanted man to justice. 
Starring Cam Gigandet (Burlesque), Anson Mount (AMC’s “Hell on Wheels”), Freddy Rodriguez (Grindhouse), Xzibit (Derailed), Kathleen Robertson (The Starz Original Series, “Boss”), Eddie Kay Thomas (American Pie) and Kenneth Miller (The Company You Keep), the feature-length film heads to retail on January 8, 2013 for an SRP of $24.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $19.98 for the DVD.

Premiering on the National Geographic Channel on November 4th, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN became the network’s most-watched World Premiere movie in 2012, drawing 2.7 million viewers.  America’s very first look at the real story behind the historic manhunt and raid that took down al-Qaeda’s notorious leader, the events portrayed in SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN were vetted by a team of experts, including a recently retired Navy Seal, a top CIA operative, and one of the most renowned bin Laden historians.

A break in the manhunt for Osama bin Laden serves as the backdrop for the gripping story about an extraordinary group of U.S. Navy SEALs who undertake the mission of a lifetime.  Despite inconclusive evidence that bin Laden is inside the compound, and ignoring the possible ramifications of an unannounced attack on Pakistani soil, the Pentagon orders the attack.  SEAL Team Six bands together in the most daring military operation of our generation, completing their mission of justice in a riveting final showdown.

The SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN Blu-ray™ and DVD special features include a “The Making of Seal Team Six: The Raid On Osama Bin Laden” featurette.  Note: Special features are subject to change.

SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN BLU-RAY™
Street date:                               January 8, 2013
Pre-book:                                 December 12, 2012
Catalog #:                                 BD60265
UPC:                                        013132602653
Run time:                                  90 Minutes
Rating:                                      Not Rated
SRP:                                        $24.99
Format:                                    Widescreen Presentation
Audio:                                     5.1 DTSHD-MA

SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN DVD
Street date:                               January 8, 2013
Pre-book:                                 December 12, 2012
Catalog #:                                 WC60263
UPC:                                        013132602639
Run time:                                  90 Minutes
Rating:                                      Not Rated
SRP:                                        $19.98
Format:                                    Widescreen Presentation
Audio:                                     Dolby Digital 5.1

Buy it at Amazon.com



Share/Save/Bookmark

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CACHE' (HIDDEN) -- movie review by porfle




(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2006.  Contains spoilers.)


Watching CACHE' (HIDDEN) (2005) is like reading a really intriguing mystery thriller and then discovering that not only has the author deliberately left out the last chapter, but it was never really a mystery thriller after all, silly. 

For most of the film's running time, director Michael Haneke (THE PIANO TEACHER) leads us to believe that we're watching a mystery that will eventually be resolved, but the joke's on us because it turns out to be a sociopolitical shaggy dog story--Haneke wants to comment on past mistreatment of Algerians by the French in particular, and racism in general--and our reward for sitting through it to a staggeringly inconclusive ending is a nagging puzzlement over its meaning.  Not about racism--that's bad, I get it--but about what the heck happens at the end of this story about a French family of three who suddenly start receiving anonymous videotapes that look like surveillance videos of their daily lives.

It seems the man of the family, Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), has a dirty secret.  When he was a little boy, an Algerian family worked for his family, and when the parents were killed during a protest in which French police massacred many Algerian immigrants, Georges' parents decided to adopt their orphaned son, little Majid.  But Georges was jealous, so he told his parents bad things about Majid, and Majid was sent away. 


So now the Laurent family is getting these videotapes, and one of them shows an apartment house in another part of town.  A street sign is visible on the tape, and the video ends at the front door of a flat and reveals the apartment number.  Georges goes there and finds that the grown-up Majid (Maurice BĂ©nichou) is living there.  But he claims not to have sent the tapes, and we believe him, although Georges warns him to desist.  Shortly thereafter, the Laurents receive another videotape of this conversation between Georges and Majid, taken by a hidden camera within Majid's apartment.

Later, the Laurents' son Pierrot disappears, and the parents have a fit, calling the police and having them roust Majid and his son and take them to jail.  But it turns out that Pierrot went to a friend's house to spend the night and neglected to tell his parents (or so he claims).  When his mother Anne (the wonderful Juliette Binoche, who played Catherine to Ralph Fiennes' Heathcliff in 1992's WUTHERING HEIGHTS) confronts him about this, he counters by accusing her of having an affair with a family friend, Pierre (Daniel Duval).  Is Pierrot involved in the making of the mysterious videotapes?  Does he want to prove to his mother that she is under his watchful eye?

Up until the point at which one of the characters does something truly and shockingly unexpected, I really thought I was watching one corker of a mystery.  All that was missing was the ending, but since CACHE' was so engaging until then, I was pretty certain that I was in for a dramatic revelation before the end credits, one that would cleverly explain everything and leave me with the satisfaction that comes from watching a good movie.  After all, nobody makes a mystery flick with a build-up like this and then just lets it come to a dead end, do they? 


But, as it turns out, we weren't supposed to expect a traditional "ending" after all--in fact, it was rather unsophisticated of us to do so.  Instead, we're supposed to think, "Oh, look at all these wonderful social and psychological loose ends for us to ponder.  Here is a truly unique filmmaker at work."  And the end is not only open, it's gaping.

The final shot is another surveillance-like view of Pierrot's school letting out. (Is it real, or is it another videotape?)  Kids come through the doors and hang around on the front steps, waiting to be picked up by their parents.  They stand there talking.  They wander around.  This is the point where, if something's going to happen, it has to happen now.  And then--the credits begin to roll. 

I rewound a few times to make sure I hadn't missed some vital piece of information that would make sense of everything.  Sure enough, if you look closely at the lower left side of the screen, and you've got pretty sharp vision, you'll recognize two of the people amidst the crowd talking with each other.  But this raises more questions than it answers, and if you're watching it in a theater and don't happen to notice it the first time, you're out of luck. 

CACHE' has won several awards and been critically acclaimed. 


Buy it at Amazon.com



Share/Save/Bookmark

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

CHRISTIE'S REVENGE -- movie review by porfle



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com in 2008.)

From the Canadian producing team of Pierre David (SCANNERS) and Tom Berry comes another example of what they seem to do best these days, which is to put together moderately entertaining domestic thrillers that liven up the Lifetime Channel a bit before landing on DVD shelves. 
One of the better ones I've seen, CHRISTIE'S REVENGE (2007) comes from the prolific pen of screenwriter Christine Conradt, based on a story by Julia Stan & Glenn Pineau, and fulfills its purpose of keeping us entertained for a couple of hours.

Poor Christie...first her mom walked out on the family, and now her dad has popped a cap in his own ass, leaving Christie lonely, confused, and extremely angry.  She ends up living with her kindly uncle Ray (John Wesley Shipp of TV's "The Flash") and aunt Miranda (Cynthia Gibb), which would be lovely except that Ray, whom she blames for her father's suicide, is the person she's extremely angry with. 

And with the help of a devious, money-hungry blonde named Selene (Anastasia Phillips), Christie sets into motion a complex scheme to totally ruin Ray's life.  What we don't know at first, though, is just how far she plans to go.

This is one of those movies that gives us most of our information up front and then simply lets events play themselves out, and in this case being able to predict what's going to happen next only adds to the suspense.  Still, there are a few surprises here and there, such as why Christie's father really killed himself and just how far she's planning to go in exacting her revenge.  Which turns out to be pretty far. 

It's all nicely-done and fairly involving for a TV flick of this kind, leading inexorably to a life-or-death finish that had me inching toward the edge of my seat.  Not completely up to the edge, mind you, but pretty close.

The acting is adequate as this type of story doesn't really require stellar performances.  John Wesley Shipp, whom I always liked from "The Flash" and his soap opera days (yes, I am a recovering soap-a-holic), is a solid Mr. Nice Guy type.  Cynthia Gibb is pretty good, too, although it makes me feel a little old seeing her playing the mom here--I still picture her as the plucky young ingenue.  Annie Bovaird plays Ray and Miranda's bratty, belligerent daughter Haley, who manages to overcome her "I-can't-stand-her" status when she begins to suspect cousin Christie and dig up usefully incriminating stuff on her. 

As Christie, Dani Kind does a nice job of alternating between artificial sweetness and creepy, glaring malevolence. Ironically, in the earlier Lifetime domestic thriller MAID OF HONOR, she herself played the suspicious young daughter trying to expose Linda Purl's two-faced villainess before she could wreck her family.  Here, she graduates to the bad girl role and makes it her own.

Not content with simple blackmail or even framing the hapless Ray for murder, Christie eventually reveals the sinister depth of her evil intent as it builds to its deadly conclusion while Miranda races against time to stop her.  Although the DVD box indicates that CHRISTIE'S REVENGE is being marketed as another HARD CANDY, it isn't.  It's simply a Lifetime Channel-type psychological thriller which should be aimed at the people who go for this kind of thing, because as far as that goes, this one delivers.


Buy it at Amazon.com


Share/Save/Bookmark

LAWLESS -- Blu-Ray/DVD review by porfle



In director John Hillcoat's 2005 film THE PROPOSITION, he took a familiar genre--the American Western--and gave it a distinctly Australian spin that practically turned the Outback into Monument Valley.  With LAWLESS (2012), he and screenwriter Nick Cave bring this Western sensibility forward into the Prohibition era with a stunning backwoods mash-up of gunfighters, moonshiners, and Chicago-style gangsters. 

THE PROPOSITION's star, Guy Pearce (MEMENTO, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL), is back as special deputy Charlie Rakes, a mildly grotesque-looking dandy with a severe haircut and a total lack of both eyebrows and scruples.  Rakes is a crooked lawman who intends to muscle his way into the booming moonshine business that makes Franklin County, Virginia "the wettest county in the world", but in doing so comes up against the tightly-bonded Bondurant brothers--Forrest, Howard, and Jack--who have no intention of giving the big-city interloper one red cent of their moonshine profits no matter how many gun-toting government goons he sends their way.

This, of course, leads to war.  Forrest (Tom Hardy, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, STAR TREK: NEMESIS), leader of the Bondurant boys, is a soft-spoken, taciturn lug with a reputation for immortality--he tends to survive even the most grievous injuries and no-win situations, until finally his fabled luck runs out on him in one of the film's most shocking scenes. Vengeance follows close behind, and with it an escalation of the violence into the realm of the horrific (to which director Hillcoat is no stranger). 


Hardy's simmering yet robust performance is among LAWLESS' many fascinations, notable in part for the sympathy and admiration evoked by such a sometimes ruthless character.  When city girl Maggie (Jessica Chastain, CORIOLANUS) seeks work at the Bondurants' rural roadhouse to escape a troubled past, Forrest's uncomfortable shyness in response to her romantic overtures is endearing. 

As de facto head of the family, he looks after his brothers the only way he knows how--by being a fearsome badass who never backs down to anybody.  This leads to some tense and exciting confrontations between him and various local and state lawmen who dare to stick their noses in his business.

Howard (Jason Clarke, DEATH RACE, PUBLIC ENEMIES) is older and brawnier than Forrest but not as smart or responsible.  He can go from affable to animalistic in seconds, and in one of the film's highlights, two deputies delivering an ultimatum from Rakes learn the hard way not to rile Howard when he's been on a stump-whiskey bender. 


The youngest Bondurant, Jack (Shia LaBeouf, A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS), is a crackerjack driver but lacks the cruel edge needed to be a gangster like his idol, "Mad Dog" Floyd Banner (a wonderful Gary Oldman).  Floyd pulls into Jack's sleepy town one day, whips out his Tommy gun, and coolly riddles a pursuing ATF man's car with bullets while the youngster looks on admiringly.

Jack has a harrowing brush with Floyd in Chicago later on while trying to move a load of moonshine along with his younger partner Cricket (Dane DeHaan, CHRONICLE), with Oldman making the most of his brief appearance in the role. 

Shia LaBeouf is at his best here as the callow, naive outlaw-wannabe preening like a peacock in his late father's suit, playing gangster while headed for a rude awakening as Rakes and his goons close in on the Bondurants.  Meanwhile his awkward romantic intentions are inflamed by a doe-like preacher's daughter named Bertha (Mia Wasikowska, THAT EVENING SUN), who finds him more appealing than does her fire-and-brimstone father.  Jack's coming-of-age is the main story in LAWLESS, as his innate humanity prevents him from fully transforming into that which he wrongly idealizes.


Hillcoat directs both the action and the quieter scenes with impeccable style, as finely-detailed production design captures the look and atmosphere of the era.  There's an oddly delirious intensity to the scene in which a drunken Jack visits Bertha's church just in time for a mutual foot-washing ritual that he finds unbearably erotic, while Maggie's late-night seduction of a bashful Forrest is both haunting and strangely amusing.  Such moments are offset by instances of sudden, bone-crushing violence that are unsparingly brutal.

The 3-disc Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo from Anchor Bay and the Weinsteins is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  There's an informative commentary track with director Hillcoat and author Matt Bondurant, who wrote the source novel "The Wettest County in the World" based on his own family history.  Extras also include deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a music video by Willie Nelson for the song "Midnight Run."

Strangely, the rose-colored glasses through which Matt Bondurant seems to view his relatives' unsavory past ultimately give us an ending that almost matches RAISING ARIZONA for smarmy sentimentality.  Despite their more admirable qualities, these guys are violent, ruthless criminals--cornpone Corleones, you might say--so I must admit I didn't get that warm family vibe that Bondurant intends to impart at story's end.  But until then, LAWLESS is thrilling, emotionally resonant, exquisitely rendered, and riveting.



Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy





Share/Save/Bookmark

Monday, November 19, 2012

WANTED:DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON TWO -- DVD review by porfle



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at Bumscorner.com back in 2007.)

Three of the main things that make me glad I own a DVD player are Steve McQueen, Westerns, and classic TV.  So when WANTED:DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON TWO fell into my hot little hands, my inner joy buzzer went haywire.  This is the good stuff, pardner!

Steve McQueen was effortlessly cool in whatever he did.  His "Josh Randall" character is a bounty hunter, but instead of the cold, ruthless type we usually associate with that occupation, he's more of a kind-hearted Good Samaritan who spends much of his time getting involved in other people's problems and helping them out.  This gives the stories a lot more variety than they'd have if Randall just tracked down bad guys all the time, although we often get to see him do that, too.  But even then, there's always some novel twist that makes it more interesting than the standard "good guy vs. bad guy" yarn.

Since Steve is the sole continuing castmember, the show's premise is similar to that of "Route 66", "Then Came Bronson", "The Fugitive", "The Incredible Hulk", etc., in that the main character travels from town to town interacting with a different set of guest stars in each episode and getting himself mixed up in their affairs.  (Josh Randall has one advantage over the others, though--he doesn't have to find a different odd job in every town.)  And if you enjoy watching great character actors as I do, the endless assortment of notable guest stars in these episodes is a constant source of delight.

In "The Hostage", Lee Van Cleef makes a very imposing outlaw who breaks out of his jail cell and threatens to kill the captive Josh Randall unless he's given safe passage out of town.  "The Empty Cell" features both classic horror icon Lon Chaney, Jr. and Star Trek's DeForest Kelley in fine performances.  In "Bad Gun", King Donovan plays a prissy gun salesman from the East who hires Randall to lead him into the badlands to track down "Curly Bill" Brocius, simply to exchange a defective gun that he sold him!  Even Tony "Scarface" Montana's mother, Miriam Colon, shows up in the episode "Desert Seed", along with Kurt Russell's real-life father, Bing, who would later appear with Steve in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. 

Other familiar guest stars include Brad Dexter and Robert Wilke (also of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), Warren Oates, Richard Farnsworth, John Carradine, Gloria Talbot, Dabbs Greer, John Dehner, child actor Richard Eyer (THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD), Everett Sloan, Royal Dano, Virginia Christine, Claude Akins, Beverly Garland, Philip Ahn, James Westerfield, Charles Aidman, Jean Willes, Jay "Tonto" Silverheels, Susan Oliver, William Schallert, Dyan Cannon, Martin Landau, Mara Corday, voice-over legend Alexander Scourby, R.G. Armstrong, Mort Mills, and Virginia Gregg. Wow!  As I've said before, this kind of consistently fine guest star line-up gives fans of these actors the feeling that they're watching an "all-star cast" during several episodes.

This DVD set consists of four discs in three attractively-designed slimline cases and contains 32 episodes from the classic series which ran from 1958-61.  They're so beautifully restored they could've been shot last week, and the cinematography is feature-quality.  Each episode is a 26-minute mini-Western that wastes no time in getting the story going and keeping things moving right up till the end.  Some of the scripts are penned by such familiar names as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Star Trek's Fred Freiberger and Samuel A. Peeples, and contain some choice dialogue.  "Can you hit anything with this?" someone asks Randall in one episode, indicating his unusual gun.  "It's happened," he drawls.

My favorite TV Western of all time is still "The Rifleman", but "Wanted: Dead or Alive" is now a close second.  Like Lucas McCain, Josh Randall packs a distinctive weapon--the "Mare's Leg", a sawed-off 1892 Winchester lever-action rifle that he carries in a holster.  Unlike Lucas McCain, however, Randall rarely uses his gun, preferring to talk his way out of violent situations rather than shooting his way out, and the body count on an entire season of this show is lower than a few trips to town for Lucas McCain.  But the drama and excitement levels are just as high, and the fact that Randall isn't tied down by home and family gives him the chance to partake in a wide assortment of storylines that could never take place on shows like "The Rifleman" or "Bonanza." 

The sole bonus feature on this 4-disc set is a brief (approx. 11 min.) featurette entitled "The Women of Wanted: Dead or Alive", which is pleasant but not very informative.  But the 32 episodes of the show themselves are sufficient compensation for the lack of extras. 

Besides, the main thing that makes WANTED:DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON TWO such fun to watch is that Steve McQueen is just so darn cool.  I'd watch this show just to see him even if it was a piece of junk, so the fact that it happens to be one of the finest Westerns in TV history makes it absolutely essential viewing for his fans.  Just out of curiosity, I checked jumptheshark.com to see when this series reached its "jump the shark" point, and the unanimous verdict was: never.  As one voter put it:  "The shark wouldn't stand a chance against Steve."


Buy it at Amazon.com
Read our review of Season Three


Share/Save/Bookmark

Friday, November 16, 2012

Anchor Bay Entertainment Presents "Seeds of Destruction" on Blu-ray and DVD February 19th!



Get ready to see the roots of evil!

On February 19th, Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the unforgettable eco-shocker Seeds of Destruction on Blu-ray™ and DVD. This earth shaking tale of a monstrous plant life gone wild originally aired on the Syfy channel and stars Adrian Pasdar (“Heroes”), Jesse Moss (The Andromeda Strain), James Morrison (“24”) and Stefanie von Pfetten (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief). The SRP for the Blu-ray™ is $24.99 and $19.98 for DVD. The pre-book is January 23rd.

When a fringe scientist releases a prehistoric seed, it unleashes a horrific root system that rips through Nevada like an earthquake and devastates everything in its path. Now a hard-nosed government agent, a desperate plant expert and a pair of young environmentalists must find a way to stop its destructive growth. The military cannot kill it. Shattered chunks regenerate to thousands of feet tall. But is this biblical green behemoth headed for an even more catastrophic life source?

Directed by Paul Ziller (Ice Quake)  and co-staring James Morrison (“24”) and Jesse Moss (Tucker &  Dale vs. Evil)  Seeds of Destruction proves you can’t fool with Mother Nature.

Seeds of Destruction Blu-ray
Street Date:                  February 19, 2013
Pre-Book:                     January 23, 2013
UPC #:                         01313260068080
Item:                            BD60068
Audio:                          Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles:                      English SDH and Spanish
Retail Price:                  $24.99
Genre:                          Sci-Fi
Rating:                          PG-13
Run Time:                     91
Year:                            2011

Seeds of Destruction DVD
Street Date:                  February 19, 2013
Pre-Book:                     January 23, 2013
UPC #:                         01313260067380
Item:                            DV60067
Audio:                          Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                      English SDH and Spanish
Retail Price:                  $19.98
Genre:                          Sci-Fi
Rating:                          PG-13
Run Time:                     91
Year:                            2011


Buy it at Amazon.com




Share/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Acorn TV streams Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect, Hugh Laurie, Damian Lewis, Keira Knightley, Tom Wilkinson and more Best Brit TV



“Acorn Media, chief curators of the best Brit TV” –TIME Magazine


Starting Monday, Acorn TV, the first British TV streaming service in North America, offered the first two series of Helen Mirren’s iconic, Emmy®-winning role as Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect. Series 1 guest stars also include Tom Wilkinson and Ralph Fiennes. As always, the first episodes of each of the 18 series are available for free, while complete access to the 125 hours of the very best in British mysteries and dramas is just $2.99/mth or $29.99/yr.

Currently streaming: The complete series of Fortysomething starring Hugh Laurie (House) and Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC’s Sherlock); the “Outrageously Entertaining” (NPR) Slings & Arrows, featuring Paul Gross, Rachel McAdams, and Mark McKinney; the North American premiere of Midsomer Murders, Set 21; Fresh Fields starring Julia McKenzie and Anton Rodgers; the complete 40-episode Pie in the Sky series starring Harry Potter’s Richard Griffiths; as well as Keira Knightley and Sam Neill in Doctor Zhivago; Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) and Oscar-nominee Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) in Fingersmith; David Suchet in Agatha Christie’s Poirot; Tom Wilkinson in First Among Equals; the final episodes of Lynda La Plante’s Trial & Retribution; among many others.

Acorn TV recently announced an increase of programming by 200% since its launch in June 2011, the addition of a monthly option (just $2.99) and availability in Canada, and month-long marathons, like November’s Pie in the Sky complete 40-episode marathon. Acorn TV is available on Roku, iPhones, iPads, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet, Apple TV, Google TV, among others. AcornOnline.com/TV

Coming Nov. 19th to Acorn TV:

Robson Green in Northern Lights Collection and Touching Evil Series 3 as well as Rosemary & Thyme (Series 1-3) and Kelly Reilly and Ciaran Hinds in Above Suspicion Set 1


DVD Gift Sets:

Acorn Media is releasing several of our best-selling series in some of our nicest and biggest value-priced sets ever. They include:

·         Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases Collection - 45 mysteries, 13-Disc Blu-ray $250, 18-Disc DVD $200, Series 1-6 (Oct. 23)

·         The Complete Red Green Show: High (Quality)/Quantity Collector’s Set – 50 discs, 300 episodes, 15 seasons, $300 (Oct. 16)

·         Wish Me Luck: The Complete Collection – 6-disc, $80, Series 1-3 (Oct. 23)

·         The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection – 31 episodes, 10 disc, $80 (Oct. 23)

·         As well as earlier 2012 releases: The Costume Drama Classic Collection (15 discs, $99), Joseph Campbell: Mythos-The Complete Series (6-disc, $99), The Best of Foyle’s War (6-discs, $50), Midsomer Murders: Mayhem & Mystery Files (15 feature-length mysteries, $150, Series 10-11), and Poldark: The Complete Collection (8-discs, $80).


Acorn Media/Athena DVD Release Calendar:

Oct. 16: Waterloo Road Series 1, Brave New World, The Complete Red Green Show, and Bill Moyers: A World of Ideas II-Great Thinkers

Oct. 23:  Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases Collection (Series 1-6, DVD/Blu-ray), The Duchess of Duke Street Complete Collection, and Wish Me Luck: Complete Collection

Nov. 6: Vera Series 2, Narrow Escapes of WWII, and Cornwall with Caroline Quentin

Acorn’s and Athena’s DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from Acorn Media at (888) 870-8047 or www.acornonline.com and www.athenalearning.com.


Share/Save/Bookmark

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"The Millennium Bug" Crawls Onto DVD Dec. 18th



Green Apple Entertainment Proudly Presents "The Millennium Bug"

Y2K is the Least of Their Worries

No CGI Monster Fest Unleashing on DVD Dec. 18th

"… a refreshing old-school throwback to the last millennium."
- Fangoria
"Plays out like a love song to all of the horror films we all grew up watching."
- Ain't it Cool News


BOCA RATON - Dec. 1, 2012 - For Immediate Release - A little quiet time in the forest while the Y2K craze blew over is all this family wanted in the no CGI monster fest The Millennium Bug unleashing on DVD Dec. 18 from Green Apple Entertainment.

The Haskin family seeks refuge from Y2K hysteria in the isolated forests of the Sierra Diablos Mountains. Soon, however, the threat of technological shutdown is the least of their worries.

Abducted by a vicious hillbilly clan, the family battles for their lives … But neither they nor their captors can imagine the monstrous nightmare about to erupt from the bowels of the earth.

Now they must all join together if anyone is to survive!

The Millennium Bug is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (1.78:1) and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. 

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.

The Millennium Bug
Green Apple Entertainment
Genre:  Sci-Fi/Horror
Not Rated
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 88 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price:  $24.98
Pre-Order Date:  November 20, 2012
Street Date:  December 18, 2012
Catalog #:  GAE-F209
UPC Code:  #818768010083


Buy it at Amazon.com



Share/Save/Bookmark

Friday, November 9, 2012

Let the Bad Times Roll With "CREEP VAN"--Coming to DVD December 11th



Inception Media Group Proudly Presents "Creep Van"

Buckle Up … It's Going to be a Bloody Ride! Screeching Onto DVD Dec. 11th

"A scary homage to '80s horror movies." - Chuck Walton,  Fandago
"This film rocks!"- HorrorNews.net


LOS ANGELES - Dec. 1, 2012 - Buckle up for a bumpy ride when Creep Van screeches onto DVD Dec. 11 from Inception Media Group.

Life without a car is murder … and nobody knows that better than Campbell Jackson, a 20-something, out-of-work, out-of-options misfit. Forced to take a dead-end job at a Detroit car wash, Campbell spies a dilapidated '70s van for sale and attempts to buy it.

Little does he know, it's the Creep Van, whose mysterious owner has been terrorizing locals-killing and torturing victims with a host of elaborate booby traps inside its rusted shell. For those unwilling to climb aboard, the Creep and his Van have no qualms about running folks down or smashing through walls.

Forced to team up with a sleazy conman to hunt down and stop the mayhem - before he and his girlfriend become the next victims - Campbell finds himself in for one hell of a bloody ride!

Directed by Scott McKinlay (Gag) and featuring special effects by Almost Human's Robert Hall (Laid to Rest, Chromeskull).

Creep Van is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (1.78:1) and 5.1 digital surround sound. Special features include "Anatomy of a Killer Van Smash" and "Creep Van: Under the Hood" featurettes, "Bits and Pieces" (interview with the actors), theatrical trailers, deleted scene and audio commentary by the filmmakers.

About Inception Media Group
Inception Media Group, LLC is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and is a diversified media company specializing in the production, acquisition and distribution of motion pictures and other filmed entertainment across all media platforms and channels of distribution. Inception Media Group's management team has extensive relationships with exhibitors, retailers, distributors and technology companies, enabling the company to maximize the services performed on behalf of its content partners. Inception Digital Services, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Inception Media Group, provides a wide range of digital encoding, electronic packaging and high-speed delivery services and possesses certified delivery access to all major online, broadcast media and VOD platforms. More information is available at www.inceptionmediagroup.com

Creep Van
Inception Media Group
Genre:  Horror
Not Rated
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 85 Minutes (Plus Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price:  $26.98
Pre-Order Date:  November 6, 2012
Street Date:  December 11, 2012
Catalog #:  IMG1176DVD
UPC Code:  # 815300011287


Buy it at Amazon.com



Share/Save/Bookmark

INCREDIBLY EVER AFTER -- Blu-Ray/DVD review by porfle



Mixing wuxia-style hijinks, superhero heroics, and screwball domestic comedy comes INCREDIBLY EVER AFTER, aka "Mr. and Mrs. Incredible" (2011), one of the more warm and sweet-tempered Chinese action flicks I've seen.

Unlike modern-day superhero adventures, the story takes place in ancient China after Mr. and Mrs. Incredible have already retired to a quiet life of marital bliss in a remote mountain village.  Flint (Louis Koo, TRIANGLE, PROTEGE'), the former "Gazer Warrior", is now head of the town guard--a job that requires practically zero effort--while his wife Rouge, the one-time "Aroma Woman", divides her time between domestic duties and trying to get pregnant despite the fact that civilian life has severely slowed her metabolism.

Enter the Bai Xiao Clan, whose job it is to sort out and rank the many different sects of Chinese martial arts and who have decided to hold a competition in the village.  While hoping the excitement of the event will stimulate Rouge's fertility, the super duo also begin to notice strange things about the young man in charge, Grandmaster Blanc (Wang Bo-Chieh), whose hidden agenda will force Flint and Rouge back into action in a life and death battle against evil.

Those expecting non-stop thrills and mind-bending excitement will very likely be disappointed in INCREDIBLY EVER AFTER, which for much of its running time is a gentle, low-key domestic comedy that's as laidback as its rural setting.  Much of the humor comes from Flint and Rouge trying to agitate themselves into a more fertile state by provoking one another to anger and jealousy, with their methods becoming more and more desperate and absurd.  (Their anger, however, never lasts long.)  We also get to see the lengths they must go to in order to hide their super powers from their neighbors--even something as simple as a sneeze can have drastic results.

The martial arts ranking competition provides unexpected slapstick humor as some of the different fighting styles prove laughably lame.  Flashbacks give us a peek at the former exploits of Gazer Warrior (his capture of the Pest Four during a bank holdup is a highlight) and Aroma Woman, who uses her olfactory powers to foil a domestic abuser.  Their meeting and subsequent love affair are delightfully depicted with plenty of lighthearted charm, as is their devious use of super powers in their everyday lives (especially to help persuade a real estate agent to lower the price of their seaside dream home).

Standard superhero action comes to the fore late in the film when Grandmaster Blanc finally makes his move and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible must don their legendary heroic guises once again.  Much of the action here is dominated by cartoonish CGI and has an absurd quality that's somewhat reminiscent of the Shaw Brothers' earlier HOLY FLAME OF THE MARTIAL WORLD or THE BATTLE WIZARD although not nearly as mindblowingly outlandish.  As in the rest of the film, the violence is mild and nothing is taken overly seriously, although there's a touching depth to the feelings expressed by our heroes for one another during their most desperate moments.

Vincent Kok (FORBIDDEN CITY COP) directs with a sure hand and deftly handles both the action and comedy elements.  Colorful, eye-pleasing visuals are enhanced by some nice location photography and sets.  The main draw here, however, is the pairing of Louis Koo and Sandra Ng Kwan Yue as one of the most appealing, endearing screen couples I've seen in a long time.  I love how, no matter what they do to agitate and provoke one another (all in their effort to conceive a child together), they simply can't stay mad at each other.

The Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Funimation is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 Cantonese surround sound and English subtitles.  Extras consist of four different trailers (containing new material) and previews of other Funimation titles.  The closing credits crawl features bloopers from the film.

I've seen comments pointing out the lack of action (except in the final fifteen minutes of so) and the similarities between this and Pixar's THE INCREDIBLES.  But as far as I'm concerned, the almost effortlessly charming INCREDIBLY EVER AFTER is simply too much of a sheer delight to complain about. 



Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at Amazon.com



Share/Save/Bookmark

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SNOWMAGEDDON -- DVD review by porfle



There seems to be an entire category of movies on the SyFy Channel in which small Canadian towns double as small Northwestern towns in the USA which are menaced by some kind of supernatural (or super-natural) force, which resides or has its origin in a nearby mountain.  Bad CGI comes as a standard feature; giant tentacles are optional. 

One of the latest entries in this curious little sub-genre is SNOWMAGEDDON (2011), a movie whose title pretty much lets us know what kind of movie we're in for.  This time, a rustic burg in Alaska gets hammered by a series of unnatural disasters such as a storm cloud that shoots ice torpedoes which shatter into deadly shrapnel, gaping fissures bisecting city streets and gushing flames, and huge pointy things shooting up out of the ground to spear moving vehicles like shish-kabobs. 

The reason for all this is kept from us at first, lending the film an air of supernatural mystery that's mildly intriguing--until, that is, we find out that the secret behind it all is pretty freakin' dumb.  Suffice it to say that there's this kid named Rudy who plays a role-playing game about dragons and wizards, and he anonymously receives a strange snowglobe for Christmas with a tiny repica of the town in it, and whenever he winds it up, something bad happens.  Somehow, all of this is related to that RPG that he plays.  Why?  Don't ask me.

The destruction is depicted with some pretty good practical effects--the picturesque little town is trashed quite nicely--along with the usual fair-to-awful CGI.  Once the slush hits the fan, the action is split into different little suspense situations of varying interest, including two hapless shlubs trapped in a bus covered with downed power lines, stranded snowboarders who picked the wrong mountain to board, and a mother-daughter duo in a crashed helicopter. 

Good editing helps jazz things up a bit, but it's all just standard time-waster stuff that helps cheapo flicks like this fill in the space between the opening and closing credits. 

Once the kid finally convinces the grownups that his evil snowglobe is causing all the trouble--which, admittedly, might be a bit hard to swallow at first--they follow his sage advice on how to combat the supernatural menace.  Which means two things: one, they've really run out of ideas.  And two, his dad, John Miller (David Cubitt), must make a trek up the now-volcanic peak in order to do what the hero in the game does to stop the evil. 

The acting is about as good as you'd expect from this sort of thing, with Laura Harris (of the late, lamented "Defying Gravity") deserving better as Rudy's plucky mom, Beth.  The dialogue isn't any better or worse than required, save for the occasional eye-rolling exchange such as this:

LARRY: "That thing's straight from Hell itself."
FRED: "Calm down, Larry."
LARRY: "You calm down, Fred."

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  No extras.

Really, I can't add any more to this than you can already figure out from the title.  If the word SNOWMAGEDDON doesn't tell you exactly what this movie is all about and whether or not you'll enjoy it, nothing will.  Bottom line: it's a passable, tolerable time-waster.


Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray
Share/Save/Bookmark

Monday, November 5, 2012

FRIDAY THE 13TH - THE SERIES: THE FIRST SEASON -- DVD review by porfle




Here's the original prologue that used to begin each episode of "Friday the 13th - The Series":  "Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki, and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store... and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back and the real terror begins."

For some reason this prologue is omitted from the 6-disc DVD set FRIDAY THE 13TH - THE SERIES: THE FIRST SEASON, but I figured it would be a good way to start my synopsis.  In the first episode, veteran character actor R.G. Armstrong plays Uncle Lewis, whose sudden relocation to Hell leaves Micki and Ryan as proprietors of his antique store, Curious Goods.  Lewis' former partner, a sage old sorceror named Jack, shows up and warns the two that all the cursed items that have been sold from the store will cause untold death and destruction if they don't track them all down and lock them in the vault downstairs. 

After witnessing some supernatural shenanigans firsthand, it doesn't take long for our heroes to get over their initial "yeah, right" attitude and dedicate themselves to this monumental task.

The main characters are likable and fun.  First, there's Robey ("Louise" when she's at home) as Micki, the fiery redhead who's lots of fun to look at.  Micki sacrifices her upcoming marriage to some Mr. Perfect-type to become a cursed antique tracker-downer, because she knows people will die if she doesn't.  Then there's her cousin Ryan (John D. LeMay), who comes off as a bit of a doofus at first--in fact, I thought he was going to be the bumbling comedy-relief until his character began to develop considerably as the season went on. 

Not unlike Mulder and Scully, or Steed and Mrs. Peel, Micki and Ryan have a lighthearted relationship that can also have its serious and dramatic moments.  At times, their characters are given a surprising amount of depth and often suffer sizeable personal tragedies.  Rounding things off is Chris Wiggins as their mentor, Jack, whose wisdom and knowledge of the black arts are indispensible. 

The thing that makes this unlikely trio of do-gooders so endearing is that they aren't professionals--they risk their lives in every episode out of concern for others.  (All together now:  "Awwwww...")

To me, the series has that distinctive look of 80s low-budget Canadian cinema, like RABID or one of the SCANNERS movies.  I've heard complaints about the picture quality, and indeed much of the photography is somewhat muted and murky.  But this is true mainly of the earlier episodes, and as the season progresses so does the look of the series (although the video FX are consistently fake-looking).  The same can also be said for the stories themselves, which start out a little on the hokey side and then keep getting better and better. 

For example, episode 4, "Cup of Time", is delightfully cheesy.  Familiar B-movie babe Hilary Shepherd plays a rock star whose youthful appearance depends on a teacup that emits leafy tendrils which suck the lifeforce from anyone who drinks from it.  We see decadent punk rocker-types standing in line for one of her concerts, but when we hear her sing it's so typically 80s spandex-glitter-pop awful you'll wonder why these fans aren't lobbing molotov cocktails at her. 

Another "more cheese, please" episode is "Shadow Boxer", in which a pair of evil boxing gloves helps a down-and-out palooka by enabling his bobbin' and weavin' shadow to run around beating people to death.

Things really start getting good when David Cronenberg steps in to direct "Faith Healer", starring SCANNERS alumnus Robert Silverman as a man with a horrible disease looking for someone with the power to cure it.  That someone, unfortunately, gets his power from a cursed glove that must be recharged by, you guessed it, sucking the lifeforce from some hapless victim.  Along the way Cronenberg gets to indulge his fondness for "body horror" with some grisly makeup effects.

"Scarecrow" is a nifty Halloween-tinged episode that plays like a creepy low-budget movie, with a wonderfully sinister, eye-rolling performance by Patricia Phillips as a woman who eliminates her smalltown enemies with the help of a scythe-wielding scarecrow.  In one scene, the scarecrow lops off some poor old lady's head and we actually see it bobbling on the floor, her face still contorted in terror.  Pretty cool for a TV show!  Like many other episodes, "Scarecrow" is like a mini version of the cheap 80s horror flicks that many of us remember so fondly.

"Vanity's Mirror" is a delightful anti-Carrie story about a really vile high school geek-girl who uses her cursed item, an antique gold compact that makes any female irresistible to men, to lure various tormentors to horrible, gory deaths.  Eventually, she steals her beautiful sister's boyfriend from her and orders him to beat and then string up the hapless lass before whisking her away to the prom!  Awesome.

I could go on about how good various episodes are, but for me, the two-part "Quilt of Hathor" is the highlight.  Amidst a stark, snowy setting, we meet an ultra-strict religious community known as the Penetites who eschew technology and live much like they did back in the old Salem witchhunt days.  Scott Paulin (THE RIGHT STUFF) plays their leader, Reverend Josiah, who is, by law, required to take a wife.  But his prospective brides keep dying off thanks to a homely woman who has the hots for him and possesses a quilt which allows her to kill people by dreaming their violent deaths. 

Micki and Ryan go undercover with the Penetites and try to recover the quilt, but in the process Ryan falls in love with Reverend Josiah's daughter and ends up in a death duel with the jealous geek-boy to whom she's betrothed.  The set-up for this fight looks just like something out of the wackier side of STAR TREK--I almost expected to hear someone say "One thousand quatloos on the newcomer!"  During this richly atmospheric double-episode, several people suffer an unpleasant demise before the suspenseful finale.

Besides those already mentioned, some other interesting guest stars pop up here and there.  The first episode features the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake's Sarah Polley as a little girl.  In "Cup of Time" we also get to see what Lisa Jakub (Randy Quaid's daughter in INDEPENDENCE DAY) looked like as a wee tyke.  One of the victims of anti-Carrie in "Vanity's Mirror" is an older Zack Ward, who was A CHRISTMAS STORY's memorable bully Scut Farkus.  Ray Walston plays a renowned comic book artist in "Tales of the Undead." 

Other notable guest stars include Carrie Snodgress, Cliff Gorman, Gary Frank, Val Avery, David Proval, and Michael Constantine (as Ryan's estranged father in the emotional episode "Pipe Dream.")  Oh, and R.G. Armstrong's "Uncle Lewis" character may have died in the first episode, but that's hardly the last we see of his evil, cackling mug.

Back in the 80s when FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES was new, I never watched it because of its association with the Jason movies, which I've always regarded as junk.  But thanks to this season one DVD collection, I've discovered it to be a highly worthwhile horror series that's loads of fun to watch.



Buy it at Amazon.com
Read our review of "Friday the 13th: The Final Season"




Share/Save/Bookmark

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CROOKED ARROWS -- DVD review by porfle



According to some comments on IMDb, CROOKED ARROWS (2012) bears a strong resemblance to another sports underdog comedy, "The Mighty Ducks."  I never saw that particular film, but I can attest to this one's many similarities to, among other films, the earlier "The Bad News Bears."  It's as though these things pop out of the same mold like gelatin, with only a few of the ingredients changed. 

Here, the usual "crappy sports team makes good" tale involves a high school lacrosse team composed of aimless young Native Americans who have lost sight of their cultural heritage, to the point where they don't even realize the game they're playing was given to their tribe by the Creator himself and is known as "the medicine game."  Thus, one of those new ingredients is a large slathering of overbearing and occasionally self-righteous religious mysticism that eventually finds each team member going on a spirit quest to discover his own personal animal guide.  Oooookay.

Discovering one's self, however, isn't limited to the players.  Brandon "New Superman" Routh plays Joe Logan, a Sunaquat tribe member who runs the reservation's casino and is regarded as a sell-out by his peers even though he puts a whole lot of money back into the community.  I was on his side from the start although I think we're all supposed to look down our noses at him the same way his dad Ben (Gil Birmingham) and sister Nadie (Chelsea Ricketts) do, in addition to his ex-girlfriend Julie (Crystal Allen), a Caucasian who teaches at the local high school and is an expert on Sunaquat culture. 

Joe wants to expand the casino but the tribal council decrees that he must first pass a spirit test given by his dad.  Ben decides that Joe will take over his position as coach of the lacrosse team, with the plucky Nadie as his assistant, in hopes that this will help him progress spiritually.  Joe, we find later, once had a bad lacrosse-related experience in his past and resists the idea, to no avail. 

So before he knows it, he's trying to whip a bunch of no-account misfits into a semblance of a team he dubs the "Jackpots."  Along the way, a tribal sage known as Crooked Arrow (Dennis Ambriz) will lend the team his name in addition to his great wisdom, which will naturally make them all better lacrosse players. 

And just as the Bears had their secret weapon--baseball bad-ass Kelly Leak--the Crooked Arrows will acquire an invincible player in the brawny Sasquatch-like Maug, who lives in the forest.  They'll also have a Timmy Lupus equivalent in Julie's timid son Toby (Jack Vandervelde), who, as you might guess, will get his chance to come off the bench for that one big confidence-building, day-saving play.

All the other hoary cliches are trotted out one by one and checked off the list by rote as the team fails miserably for the first half of the season only to find the inspiration to come back strong enough to threaten the seemingly invincible first-place team ("Coventry Academy" in this case, a stereotypical group of cocky young Aryans for us to root against).   

Most of the game play is shown in rapidly-edited montage style so that we get brief, deafeningly-scored impressions of what's going on rather than actually settling into the game--director Steve Rash seems to be in a hurry to bombard us with all the standard tropes along with copious shots of the good guys leaping, cheering, and pumping their fists in slow-motion.  By the final act, subtlety gets stomped into oblivion once and for all by an onslaught of self-congratulatory tribal togetherness that turns the act of actually finishing the big game into a mere formality. 

The DVD from 20th-Century Fox Home Entertainment is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras consist of a commentary with director Rash and producers Mark Ellis and Neal J. Powless, plus theatrical trailer and four behind-the-scenes featurettes. 

As a pro-Native American tract designed to instill pride and raise spiritual and cultural awareness in young tribe members who have lost their moral compass, CROOKED ARROWS does a pretty good job.  As a comedy, it's pretty grim.  And as a sports flick, it's so ridiculously over-the-top that you can either enjoy its "so bad it's good" qualities or retreat into your own personal spirit quest until it's over.



Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray


Share/Save/Bookmark