HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I've heard about drones--unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft that drop bombs--but never thought much about them because I assumed they were being scrupulously aimed at the right targets, i.e. known terrorists.  But according to the documentary UNMANNED: AMERICA'S DRONE WARS (2013) that assumption is as off-target as, apparently, many of the drones themselves.

Director Robert Greenwald (WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE, KOCH BROTHERS EXPOSED, IRAQ FOR SALE: THE WAR PROFITEERS) has assembled a compelling argument against the current administration's reckless use of drones in the war against terror, with vivid testimony from Pakistanis whose families and friends have died violently. 

One of these is primary school teacher Rafiq ur Rehman,  who was injured along with several of his children and whose mother was killed.  We also hear from another Pakistani man who has made it his mission to photograph the results of such attacks for the world to see.  Many of the photographs are of children, hundreds of whom are said to have been among the collateral damage of drone strikes. 

Particularly effective are the words of former U.S.A.F. drone targeter Brandon Bryant,  who tells of how his original hopes of doing something worthwhile in his job were dashed when he began to realize the true damage he was helping to cause.  Various psychiatrists add their own perspective on how people who live in the path of these drones have begun to suffer the psychological effects of a constant threat of sudden death from overhead.

Greenwald's cinematic skills are brought to bear in subtle but effective ways as he allows the impact of his interviewee's words and the accompanying images, which are often quite powerful, to deliver the film's message without bombast or strident sensationalism.

His low-key, reasoned approach is persuasive and ultimately convincing.  Adding to his argument in addition to those directly affected by drone strikes are the words of several experts on the subject including national security correspondents and law professors.

The DVD from Brave New Foundation is widescreen with 2.0 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a thoughtful commentary track by Greenwald along with extended interviews, short films, and a discussion by legal experts of President Obama's drone policy.

The message of UNMANNED: AMERICA'S DRONE WARS is straightforward and well-presented.  Its goal is to both enlighten and disturb the viewer, and in doing so Greenwald saves a particularly troubling assertion for last--that due to resentment toward the U.S. as a result of  these indiscriminate drone strikes, they are creating far more terrorists than they are eliminating.


Monday, December 30, 2013

Wishing You an In-Toxie-Cating New Year!

Happy New Year from The Troma Team!! We are very excited to kick off our 40th year as an independent film studio!!!!

To begin the celebrations, Lloyd Kaufman's latest tromasterpiece 'Return To Nuke Em High Volume 1' will be screening at the Museum of Modern Art on the 9th of January as part of 'The Contenders 2013' series. This will be followed by two theatrical runs in both NYC (10th-16th at the Village East Cinema ) and LA (16th to 23rd at The Laemmle Noho 7). Check out the website for more information:

We thank you for your ongoing support and look forward to 2014 as being our most tromazing year yet!!!!


Friday, December 27, 2013

"RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH, VOL. 1" Theatrical Engagements Announced!

Anchor Bay Films and Troma Entertainment announce exclusive New York and Los Angeles theatrical engagements in January 2014

Launching Troma’s 40th Anniversary on the 

Big S-C-R-E-E-N!

Anchor Bay Films and Troma Entertainment proudly announce that RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOL.1, the film that marks the return of Lloyd Kaufman to the director’s chair and kicks off Troma Entertainment’s 40th Anniversary celebration, will have exclusive theatrical engagements in New York and Los Angeles starting in January 2014 at the following venues:

January 10th – Village East Cinemas, 189 2nd Ave, New York.

January 17th – Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Theaters, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

Q&As with Lloyd Kaufman and cast & crew will be take place at both NY and LA locations, with exact dates and times TBA.

With its inclusion in the NY Museum of Modern Art’s “The Contenders 2013”  film series (Lloyd shares the same roster with such directorial luminaries as David Lynch, Sofia Coppola, the Coen Brothers and Woody Allen), and recently named “People’s Choice Award for Film of the Year” at the Bizarre Atlantic City festival, RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOL. 1 is Lloyd Kaufman’s latest Tromasterpiece. A hilarious, thoughtful sci-fi event film with themes ripped straight from today's headlines: the contamination and degradation of the world's food supply, rampant bullying and LGBTQ love triumphing over prejudice and violence. The film -- a revisiting of Troma's 1986 Class of Nuke 'Em High -- is in the same vein as other classics such as Class of 1984, Rock 'n' Roll High School and Carrie, but it's seen through the unique vision of Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma Team.

Welcome to Tromaville High School, where, unfortunately, the glee club has mutated into a vicious gang of Cretins. Chrissy and Lauren, two innocent lesbian lovers, must fight not only the Cretins, mutants and monsters, but also the evil Tromorganic Foodstuffs conglomerate. Can they and Kevin the Wonder Duck save Tromaville High School and the world?

Come celebrate Troma’s 40 years of creating some of the most revered – and reviled – films of all time!


Up for a "SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE"? Take the pledge February 11th on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment!

...delivers red hot women and gruesome murders...SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE is a surefire winner!” - Screen Spotlight


Get Ready for Girls’ Fright Out On DVD Starting February 11, 2014

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Beautiful sorority babes. An isolated island with nowhere to hide. A crazed killer targeting them one-by-one. Ah, the joys of higher learning... On February 11, 2014, Anchor Bay Entertainment unleashes Sorority Party Massacre, a master class in girls, gore, carnage and comedy.  Guaranteed to tutor you in terror, Sorority Party Massacre will be available on DVD for an MSRP of $22.98.  Pre-book is January 15, 2014.     

An isolated town full of sexy college girls has a dangerous secret:  one girl has gone missing each year for the last 20 years.  A big-city cop, in danger of losing his badge, agrees to aid the town’s sheriff in investigating these unsolved disappearances. Quickly they realize that they are dealing with a psychotic killer whose brilliance has been twisted into a taste for terror, torture and sorority sister torment. But when this party gets started, who will graduate – and who will be held back?

Directed by Chris W. Freeman and Justin Jones, and featuring a headline cast including Tom Downey (Mirror Image), Kevin Sorbo (“Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”), Ed O'Ross (“Six Feet Under”), Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects), Richard Moll (“Cold Case”), adult film legend Ron Jeremy and new Scream Queens Marissa Skell, Eve Mauro and Yvette Yates, Sorority Party Massacre teaches old school terror exploitation.  This party is comedy camp at its shocking, slashing, sexy best!

Bonus features on the Sorority Party Massacre DVD include:
·        Audio Commentary by Producer/Writer/Director Chris W. Freeman and Producer/Director Justin Jones;
·        Deleted Scenes;
·        Outtakes;
·        Paige Fight Scene;
·        Barney Lumpkin Campaign Ad.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading home entertainment company.  Anchor Bay acquires and distributes feature films, original television programming including STARZ Original series, children's entertainment, anime (Manga Entertainment), fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports, and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats.  The company has long term distribution agreements in place for select programming with AMC Networks, RADiUS, and The Weinstein Company. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Anchor Bay Entertainment
( is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business,

Sorority Party Massacre DVD
Street date:                               February 11, 2014
Pre-book:                                 January 15, 2014
Catalog #:                                DV61387
UPC:                                        013132613871
Run time:                                 103 Minutes
Rating:                                     R
Subtitles:                                  English SDH, Spanish
SRP:                                        $22.98
Format:                                    Widescreen
Audio:                                     Dolby Digital 5.1

Buy it at

Monday, December 23, 2013


Yes, that S. Epatha Merkerson--you know her from her roles in "Law & Order" and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, as well as playing "Mann and Machine"'s Captain Claghorn and Reba the Mail Lady on "Pee Wee's Playhouse."  But did you know she was a talented documentary filmmaker?  Me, neither.

She and writer Rockell Metcalf have teamed up to direct THE CONTRADICTIONS OF FAIR HOPE (2012), which I found to be quite an impressive effort for a couple of first-timers.   A fascinating study in black history, it begins with a succinct telling of how newly-freed slaves after the Civil War found themselves with little or no support except from each other, forming what was known as "benevolent societies."  

Such a community offered mutual aid for its members in everything from medical help (there were no hospitals or insurance plans for these struggling people) to the simple dignity of being given a proper burial.  Founded in 1888, the Fair Hope community in rural Alabama was centered around its church and meeting hall, where the people elected their own president and queen and saw to each other's well-being in a number of ways. 

These God-fearing people, mostly farmers, were a close-knit and extremely conservative group whose customs and traditions remained fairly constant for many years.  Gradually,  however, more of them began to migrate to big northern cities in Alabama for factory and construction jobs, returning once a year to reunite with family and friends.  These reunions evolved over time into large-scale events that drew people from all around, including money-grubbing vendors and other opportunists, until Fair Hope found itself hosting an annual bacchanalia complete with drinking, drugs, prostitution, and violence.

With an artful use of images and old film clips (the early days of slavery and its aftermath are vividly depicted) along with lots of great interview footage with current and former members of the society in their everyday surroundings,  the filmmakers have captured the earthy flavor of a rural black Christian community seemingly untouched by time and somewhat at a loss to deal with this invasion of carnal revelry.  The sometimes eccentric interviewees are a fascinating bunch of characters to spend some time with, and the stories they tell are the stuff of American history that we don't often hear.

"There is a heaven side and a hell side to Fair Hope Benevolent Society," one member opines.  And indeed, some of Fair Hope's citizens are more accomodating than others, profiting from what's known as the "Foot Wash" celebration (a Biblical reference now lost on most of its attendees) by leasing their land to strangers they know will use it to supply all manner of illegal and immoral indulgences. 

The documentary pulls few punches in depicting this event in all its Babylonian debauchery, with rampant drug use at every turn and near-naked prostitutes brazenly displaying their "wares."  Gunplay and other acts of violence bring local police into the mix,  but they're seemingly content to simply quell the worst of it while turning a blind eye to everything else.  How this clash of wildly disparate cultures and sensibilities eventually begins to be reconciled and/or repaired makes up the final segment of the film.

Whoopi Goldberg lends her dulcet tones to a straightforward narration which needs no sensationalism, manipulative music, or other flashy cinematic techniques to get its point across.  Merkerson and Metcalf employ no cheap tricks to make this story more exciting--either you're interested enough in the subject to pay attention or you aren't.  If you are, this very capably shot and edited film is richly informative and quite engrossing.

The DVD from Shelter Island is in 1.78:1 widescreen with 2.0 sound and English subtitles.  Extras consist of appox. 40 minutes of material featuring members of Fair Hope (and some others) singing spirituals, praying, telling stories, etc. in what amounts to a substantial supplement to the film.

Has the annual "Foot Wash" devolved into a maelstrom of sin that will drag the entire Fair Hope community down with it?  Or will the people of this age-old benevolent society somehow manage to restore the values and virtues that its founders intended?  THE CONTRADICTIONS OF FAIR HOPE gives us both sides of the question in highly entertaining form and leaves us pondering. 

Buy it at


Saturday, December 21, 2013

ZOMBIE HAMLET -- DVD review by porfle

If you like madcap mockumentaries,  zombies, and Shakespeare, then ZOMBIE HAMLET (2012) may be just the low-budget indy mish-mash you didn't even know you were looking for.

Filmmakers seem to have fun making movies on shoestring budgets that are about how much fun it is making movies on shoestring budgets.  Here, aspiring writer-director Osric Taylor (Travis Wester) and his producer-partner Kate Spangler (Vanessa Lee Evigan) find themselves stuck with a fraction of the millions originally promised them by sleazy movie mogul Jerry (John de Lancie, best known as "Q" on "Star Trek: The Next Generation"), and are forced to turn their epic Civil War-era version of "Hamlet" into a Southern-fried zombie flick.

Their Louisiana shooting location is the antebellum home of reclusive romance author Hester Beauchamps (June Lockhart) and her blonde granddaughter Annabelle, who wins both Osric's heart and the leading lady role in his movie.  June is one of the film's major delights, displaying a flair for dizzy farce that wasn't called for too often on "Petticoat Junction."

She's matched by "Good Times" vet John Amos as her shrewd, no-nonsense lawyer Edgar Mortimer, whose suspicions about these "Hollywood types" are proven correct when Hester suddenly dies and the filmmakers must pretend she's still alive (with Osric himself dressing in drag to impersonate her) in order to retain access to her bank account.

Amos is delectably deadpan while threatening Osric ("I'm a Louisiana lawyer--I can do anything I want!") lest he try to take advantage of Hester, and much of the fun centers around Mortimer's dogged attempts to get the goods on him.  Voodoo rears its ugly head at one point when Osric seeks a high-risk loan from some scary backwoods types. All of this is taped documentary-style for the eventual DVD by goofy makeup guy  Lester (Brendan Michael Coughlin), a local who sees the film as his ticket out of town.  Coughlin is very likable as the dorky Lester eventually starts taking his "documentarian" duties way too enthusiastically.

Shelley Long turns up as local TV gossip queen Shine Reynolds and proves that she's still a deft comedienne as her character gleefully eavesdrops on the secretive production.  Rounding out this impressive cast is Jason Mewes (JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK,  SILENT BUT DEADLY) as action star Zack Buckley, coming to the film's rescue at the request of his former girlfriend Kate.  Mewes handles the role of the self-impressed but not too bright star with just the right measure of drollness, while much fun comes from flashbacks of his previous action flicks. 

Naturally, the main draw of ZOMBIE HAMLET is watching the unholy communion between the Bard and the undead unfold right there on our screens, which does lead to much laughter even though it never achieves the all-out hilarity we're hoping for.  The pace rarely lets up and is helped along by lots of zippy visual exposition and cartoonish editing.

Director John Murlowski (SANTA WITH MUSCLES) and first-time screenwriter John McKinney go for broke with a really big slapstick sequence late in the film that doesn't quite come off, but for the most part they manage to keep things on track nicely and tie up all the loose ends for a satisfying fadeout.

The DVD from Level 33 Entertainment is widescreen with 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of trailers from this and other Level 33 films.  The main titles sequence is a cool montage of scenes from various Shakespeare and zombie films.

This briskly-paced cinematic amusement park ride hits the ground with its wheels spinning furiously and hardly lets up till the end.  ZOMBIE HAMLET proves that while "epic" may cost a lot of money, "funny" is limited only by the filmmakers' imaginations.

Buy it at


Friday, December 20, 2013

SURVEILLANCE (2006) -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared at in 2006.)

Being able to spy on people all day through a bank of surveillance monitors might tend to give someone a godlike feeling.  If that someone is a mentally unbalanced sadist, has a tendency for manipulation, blackmail, and murder, and is the chief of security for your mall, then you just might have a slight personnel problem.

SURVEILLANCE (2006) shows us what happens when such a man, in this case a single-minded, grimly determined obsessive named Harley (Armand Assante, THE MAMBO KINGS, GOTTI), wields the all-seeing, all-knowing power of his position in more ways than are contained in his job description.  Harley inhabits his beloved occupation like a spider lurking in its web, waiting for the next hapless victim to fall into his clutches.

When mall director Ben Palmer (Robert Rusler, SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK, WEIRD SCIENCE) rubs him the wrong way, he sets the guy up and has him humiliatingly arrested in his own office.  When Palmer's assistant Claire (Laurie Fortier, TO GILLIAN ON HER 37TH BIRTHDAY) resists his efforts to blackmail her by threatening to name her as Palmer's accomplice, he starts to stalk her. 

That's nothing, though, compared to what Harley does to shoplifters.  Oh, no--he has a special way of dealing with them down in a forgotten basement storeroom for which only he has the key.  We see what happens to them only peripherally, in split-second images--this movie isn't part of the current "gore porn" cycle--but the revelation that he was an orphan raised by an uncle who was a mortician fills in a few of the blanks for us, while one particularly grisly depiction of a guy being fitted with a device that sucks his eyeballs right out of his face illustrates Harley's creative side in disturbing fashion.  At any rate, it's safe to say that he has a rather low tolerance for shoplifters.

Into this situation comes Dennis (Nick Cornish), a first offender who's been ordered by the court to do 120 days of honest work to avoid jail.  He gets to be Harley's assistant, which he'll later learn to regret.  Harley shows Dennis the ropes, trains him to be a fairly efficient security man, and involves him in an embezzlement scheme. 

When Dennis and Claire begin to uncover evidence of Harley's guilt, he uses the power of his position to spy on their activities until he's ready to unleash his rage upon them.  And you just know that, sooner or later, Dennis and Claire are going to be given the VIP tour of Harley's secret playroom.

This isn't a great movie by any means, but it looks pretty good and is consistently well-made, with a story that should keep your attention all the way.  Some sequences really had me going--the one in which Dennis is in an empty office secretly accessing computer info on Harley, while a suspicious Harley furiously makes his way through the mall toward Dennis' location, is terrifically suspenseful. 

The finale is somewhat disappointing, with things being resolved in a rather perfunctory fashion that harkens back to a few old Universal horror films as well as I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, but overall I felt that this film was well worth the time I spent watching it.

The main reason for this is Armand Assante.  It's interesting to see a great actor giving an A-list performance in a B-movie, and Assante tackles this role with everything he's got.  His nimble, naturalistic line reading makes his dialogue sound as though it's coming from right off the top of his head--he's thoroughly convincing and fascinating to watch as the hyper, intense, dangerous wack-job that he's portraying.  If you're an Assante fan, SURVEILLANCE is for you.  If not, watching it just might turn you into one.

Buy it at


Friday, December 13, 2013

THE COLOR OF FREEDOM -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review was originally posted at in 2007.)

At first glance, the based-on-a-true-story THE COLOR OF FREEDOM, aka GOODBYE BAFANA (2007) looks as though it might be one of those dry, preachy historical dramas that so often turn into borefests.  But this story of a white South African prison guard whose contact with Nelson Mandela over a period of twenty years led to a close and sympathetic relationship is both moving and at times surprisingly suspenseful. 

Joseph Fiennes (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) plays James Gregory, a young family man and warrant officer transferred to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela is being held as a political prisoner. Since Gregory fluently speaks Mandela's native language of Xhosa, he is placed in charge of censoring Mandela's mail and monitoring his personal visitations. 

While at first a supporter of the virulently racist apartheid policies of the government, Gregory eventually comes to respect Mandela over time and recognize the brutality and injustice of the system.  As he secretly begins to help Mandela in any way he can, his actions draw increasing suspicion from his superiors and fellow warders, and end up placing both him and his family in danger.

While ably portraying Mandela as a man of quiet dignity and wisdom, the physically imposing Dennis Haysbert (HEAT, "24") visually conveys his near-mythic stature as well.  Joseph Fiennes is consistently interesting to watch as Gregory, taking us from his initial contempt for the "bloody caffers" all the way through his slow process of enlightenment and moral compulsion to revolt against the corruption surrounding him.  During a particularly brutal episode in which a fleeing black woman is beaten by a policeman and her baby flung to the sidewalk, he's forced to see the incident through the eyes of his horrified children, who naturally find such actions incomprehensible. 

Diane Kruger (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, NATIONAL TREASURE) is given a chance to display her dramatic skills to good effect as Gregory's wife Gloria, who fears that her husband's actions are jeopardizing their family and making them outcasts.  Patrick Lyster (THE BONE SNATCHER) is subtly effective as a mysterious government intelligence officer who sees Gregory as a useful tool in keeping Mandela's political influence under control.  And Faith Ndukwana adds to the pathos of the story with a realistic performance as Winnie Mandela. 

Despite the ugliness of much of the subject matter, director Bille August (SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW) gives us a film that is often beautiful to look at, while handling the intimate dramatic scenes well.  At times, we also get some of the nail-biting suspense of a political thriller, especially during a tense scene in which Gregory gains illegal access to classified documents, and later when his continued involvement in the government's handling of Mandela draws him into further intrigue. 

For me, though, the best scene in the movie is an impromptu stick-fight between Gregory and Mandela that mirrors similar competitions Gregory once had with his childhood friend, a black African boy named Bafana.  It's the one truly exhilarating moment of the film.

It's somewhat disappointing to discover, after the fact, that the real James Gregory may have fabricated some, if not most, of this account of his relationship with Mandela over the years.  But despite this, THE COLOR OF FREEDOM remains an involving and often moving story of a man whose basic human decency triumphs over a lifetime of indoctrination in the politics of hatred.

Buy it at


Monday, December 9, 2013

"END OF THE WORLD" begins March 11th on DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment

Anchor Bay Films gives you lots of laughs alongside the complete annihilation of planet Earth with the release of End of the World on DVD on March 11th

This Syfy Original Movie stars Neil Grayston (“Eureka”), Greg Grunberg (“Heroes”) and Academy Award® nominee Brad Dourif (The Lord of the Rings) as a group of goofy science fiction geeks who now hold the fate of the world in their hands – but can we trust their hands? The SRP is $19.98. The pre-book is February 12th.

Nothing can stop it! Massive earthquakes violently shake cities and mysterious plasma spheres pummel the earth’s surface. The end nears. Who can save the world from destruction? Two small town sci-fi fan boys, who work at a video store, dig deep into their vast knowledge of disaster films to find a plan that could rescue humanity from complete and total obliteration.

Also featuring Caroline Cave (“The L Word”) and Mark Hildreth (“V”), End of the World is part satire and part loving homage to the disaster genre. This is a hip and hysterical film that’s filled with sly references to many of the movies that nerds love. Who knew that death, destruction and the end of the world would also be so darn funny!

End of the World DVD
Street Date:                  March 11, 2014
Pre-Book:                     February 12, 2014
UPC #:                         01313261259180
Item:                             AF61259
Audio:                          Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                      English SDH, Spanish
Retail Price:                 $19.98
Genre:                          Sci-Fi
Rating:                         PG-13
Run Time:                    90 Minutes
Year:                            2012

Saturday, December 7, 2013

GREEDY LYING BASTARDS -- DVD review by porfle

You pretty much know in advance that any documentary entitled GREEDY LYING BASTARDS (2012) is going to be pure propaganda, which this one is.  Whether you object to this or pump your fists and cheer depends entirely upon which side of the global warming/climate change debate you happen to be on.

If it's the latter,  then writer-director Craig Rosebraugh and executive producer Daryl Hannah have just the movie for you.  Rosebraugh kicks things off with a terrifying montage of natural calamities worthy of Cecil B. De Mille, including tornados, wildfires, hurricanes,  and floods, and blames them all on global warming.  Tearful accounts of lost homes and possessions by sad families are accompanied by mournful music, and one kid finds his mom's scorched Nativity stable, a precious family heirloom, while rummaging through their home's charred ruins.

After a few minutes of this, of course, we tend to stop listening critically to what's being said since the music is already giving us the gist of how we're supposed to react.  More effective in my opinion are the first-hand accounts of people living close to nature in Alaska and the tropics whose environments are being made uninhabitable by gradual changes that might or might not be caused by global warming.  I'm still not sure what to think about the midwestern farmer demonstrating how dry his drought-ridden field is by squirting a garden hose at it for five minutes.

Rosebraugh's trod through familiar Michael Moore territory also includes his own world-weary regular-guy narration as he appears in the film as both sympathetic observer and muckraking crusader.  He also includes old film footage in a funny-ironic way along with plenty of animated charts and diagrams, and offers various experts and other designated hitters who agree with him (and whom we are to believe without question) a platform to express their views and present their case at length.  This includes several Democratic politicians and representatives of organizations such as Greenpeace.

The other side--that is, those who claim global warming is a hoax based on unreliable or fabricated scientific findings--is represented by "hired guns" and "career skeptics"  working for such greedy, lying bastards as Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, and big tobacco.  The usual suspects, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly,  and, of course, Fox News, are demonized along the way, as are George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, and Clarence Thomas.   Anyone else espousing a negative view of climate change is dismissed as either a charlatan or a moron, or both.

Rosebraugh, a long-time political activist whom Wikipedia tells us was once dubbed "The Face of Eco-Terrorism" by The New York Times Magazine and is a former spokesperson for the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, comes to the fore late in the film when he tries to "get ahold of" the CEO of ExxonMobil by phone.  After failing to do so, his response is pure Michael Moore: "This was typical of trying to get interviews with big corporations.  I guess he was busy with world domination that day."

Later, he purchases some stock in ExxonMobil so that he can gain admittance to a shareholders' meeting in which he can actually lob a few words across a crowded room at the man in question, briefly giving the film a bit of that old ROGER AND ME vibe.  I kept hoping that he might also mention the irony of his getting from place to place by automobile, since there are several shots of him driving around including one in which he pulls up across a lake from an oil refinery and poses dramatically against it.  One of the film's final images is a montage of fossil-fuel-hungry consumers gassing up their cars, but we never actually see Rosebraugh himself doing it. 

The DVD from Shelter Island and One Earth Productions is in 1.78:1 widescreen with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo sound.  Closed-captions available.  Included are 18 minutes of bonus material that didn't make it into the final cut.

The end credits song,  "B.A.S.F. (Bastards and Swine Forever)" exclaims: "I want to kick and I want to punch...pain and suffering is never enough..."   If you bear similar ill will toward the GREEDY LYING BASTARDS that Rosebraugh rails against then you'll probably enjoy being a member of the choir that he's preaching to here.  But without the entertainment value which Michael Moore manages to instill in his own personal statements, this strident activist's message tends toward the dull side.

Buy it at


Friday, December 6, 2013

FORCE OF EXECUTION -- Blu-ray/DVD review by porfle

Steven Seagal continues to keep one big foot planted firmly in the action sub-genre that he himself created--namely, the "Steven Seagal movie"--but in the case of the mildly entertaining FORCE OF EXECUTION (2013) his participation is noticeably limited to little more than "guest star" status.

Just as the titles of these movies are now mostly random combinations of the same group of words, the plot of this latest Seagal foot-fest is a simple mix of action and gangster movie tropes upon which to hang fight sequences like Christmas ornaments. 

But let's face it--that's just what we want, as long as it's put together with skill and a little pizzazz, as this minor but watchable effort is.  This time, Seagal plays his usual ex-military badass who now uses his training to advance himself to kingpin status in the world of crime.  When he sends his most trusted man, Roman Hurst (Bren Foster, MAXIMUM CONVICTION, "Days of Our Lives") on an important hit, it's deliberately botched by Ice Man (Ving Rhames), an up-and-coming gang boss who wants to move up in Steve's crime family before taking it over himself.  Roman gets the blame, is punished by having his hands broken, and is sent into exile as a street bum.  

While drinking his way through his new life, Roman befriends an ex-con named Oso (Danny Trejo) who runs a diner along with Roman's heartthrob, the lovely Karen (Jenny Gabrielle, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN).  When Oso and Karen get drawn into the escalating war between Steve and Ice Man, Roman realizes he must knock himself back into some kind of fighting shape in order to protect both them and his former boss, to whom he is still loyal for some damn reason I couldn't quite figure out. 

It's the same tired old plot about warring crime lords vying for top-dog spot in a particular hood, but you really don't have to worry too much about the details as long as you keep track of who the good bad guys are as opposed to the really bad, evil, nasty bad guys.  The violence-enriched story by Richard Beattie (MAXIMUM CONVICTION) and first-timer Michael Black doesn't quite flow but instead jerks forward from one cliched situation to the next, coming to life when these trash-talking bastards threaten, torture, or physically attack each other.

Seagal, thank goodness, seems to have managed to keep his weight down lately and wears something that looks more like a regular suit than a muu-muu.  In fact, he seems to be in the same relatively spry shape as in the recent MAXIMUM CONVICTION, another film by director Keoni Waxman (HUNT TO KILL, THE KEEPER) which really scored a home run while giving stars Seagal and Steve Austin plenty to do. 

But even though he's more sedentary these days, Steve's strengths lie in how he uses his still considerable presence, talking trash and being the baddest mofo in whatever room he happens to saunter into.  And by now, director Waxman knows how to work his movie magic in order to make it look as though the big guy is doing more than just flailing his arms and letting a stand-in do all the heavy lifting.  Steve's fans are well aware that he does a minimum of the agile stuff himself these days, so just getting the illusion right is pretty much all we can ask. 

Waxman does well with a decent script and knows how to put together a terse, coherent action scene in which quick cutting adds to the excitement rather than the confusion. In fact, you can almost sense his own cinematic excitement  gearing up when the talking's done and it's time to get down to business. 

With the young and athletic Bren Foster, whose character is actually FORCE OF EXECUTION's main attraction, Waxman has someone he can work with to create some wildly furious fight scenes in which guns and knives come into play as well as fists and feet.  As an actor, Foster reminds me of a perpetually nonplussed Colin Farrell, which is either good or bad according to your own tastes.  Action-wise, he's got the kind of moves (including a very good spin-kick) that make fans of this kind of flick happy. 

Ving Rhames has some fun chomping on the scenery as a more jovial version of PULP FICTION's Marcellus Wallace, delivering lines like "It's lucky for you I promised my mama I wouldn't kill anybody today" and shooting off two guns at a time with both eyes shut tight.  The ever-reliable Danny Trejo, who should be well on his way to "national treasure" status by now, also seems to be having a good time, especially when using his witch doctor skills to apply deadly scorpions to an unwilling patient in order to "heal" his wounds.  As Karen, Jenny Gabrielle makes an appealing love interest/damsel-in-distress for Foster's hero to rescue from her dastardly captors.

The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby  5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes featurette.

By the final reel, Steven Seagal has geared up into commando mode to fight off Ving and his men in his own fortress of crime, which leads to a highly eventful (but seemingly rushed) finale.  While nowhere near the rollicking success of MAXIMUM CONVICTION,  and lacking anything resembling URBAN JUSTICE's cool-as-hell ending, FORCE OF EXECUTION still manages to provide more than the minimum requirement of entertainment that we've come to expect from the latter-day Seagal.

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Blu-Ray/DVD Combo


Thursday, December 5, 2013

"MUSICAL CHAIRS" To Screen At The 2013 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championshiops in Tokyo

Producer Janet Carrus To Sponsor The Netherlands' Team   

"Effervescent! Seidelman's feel for setting and character is truly spectacular." - Time Out New York

"Susan Seidelman still knows how to capture the chaotic magic of New York." - The Village Voice

"A terrific film full of life, heart, music and fantastic dancing. A movie that just makes you feel good. See it!" - Boxoffice

New York, NY - December 5, 2013 - The inspiring romantic film MUSICAL CHAIRS will be screened at the 2013 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships taking place in Tokyo, Japan at the Grand Pacific Le Daiba Hotel on the evening of Sunday, December 8th. Janet Carrus, the producer of MUSICAL CHAIRS, will be sponsoring The Netherlands Team at the championships, which will be held from December 7-8. For more details about the Tokyo Screening or for air-times on HBO Latino, HBO Signature and HBO Comedy please visit:

The 2013 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships willhost over 160 athletes from over 25 countries for the first competition in Tokyo since the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded to the city.This year's championship will be organized locally by the Japanese Wheelchair Dance Sport Federation. For more information, please visit:

A unique blend of dance, drama, and romance, MUSICAL CHAIRS stars newcomers Leah Pipes and E.J. Bonilla as a pair of unlikely lovers in contemporary New York who must face a number of challenges, both separately and together, before finding one another--and themselves.  Also starring Tony-winner Priscilla Lopez, Jaime Tirelli, Laverne Cox, Morgan Spector, Auti Angel, Jerome Preston Bates, Nelson R. Landrieu, and Angelic Zambrana, MUSICAL CHAIRS was produced by Janet Carrus and Joey Dedio.

Active in charities benefitting the impaired and ardent ballroom dance enthusiast, co-producer Carrus initiated the idea of creating a film around wheelchair ballroom dancing. As an activity long popular in Europe and Asia, wheelchair ballroom dancing has only recently developed a wider following in the United States.

About the film, which features both impaired and able-bodied performers in its rousing dance scenes, Carrus says, "Susan has succeeded in conveying the struggles we all face, both able-bodied and disabled, making our way, whether through life or on the dance floor. She has a real talent for embracing people in all their diversity and making them real, believable, and acceptable." 

Set against the exciting backdrop of competitive ballroom dancing, MUSICAL CHAIRS is about Armando (Bonilla) a Bronx-bred Latino who aspires to be a dancer but whose only way in is as a handyman at a Manhattan dance studio, and Mia (Pipes), an Upper East Side princess who is the studio's star performer. Though worlds apart, their shared passion for dance promises to bring them together until a tragic accident changes Mia's life forever, and she finds herself wheelchair-bound at a rehab facility, with her dreams of a dance career shattered. Fortunately, Armando has enough dreams for both of them and, when he hears about a wheelchair ballroom dance competition that will soon be held in NY, he sees a way to return something to Mia that she thinks is lost forever.  At first she is reluctant--wheelchair dancing, though highly popular overseas, is something she never even knew existed. But, with the help of several other residents at the rehab center, Armando organizes an intense training program that will bring them all center stage and in the spotlight. The prize is irrelevant; what they really stand to win back is their zest for life.

WHAT: Musical Chairs Screening at the IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport World Championships
WHERE:Grand Pacific Le Daiba Hotel | 2-6-1 Daiba, Minato Tokyo 135-8701, Japan
WHEN: Sunday, December 8th | Evening

For more on the film visit:



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"KEY OF LIFE" Available on DVD Jan. 7 From Film Movement

Mistaken-identity comedy from acclaimed director Kenji Uchida
Played Toronto Int'l Film Festival

"A chessboard of ingenious subplots!" -Maggie Lee, Variety

"Filled to brimming with heart, charm and sensibility!" -Iceberg Ink Blog

December 4, 2013 (NY, NY) – Film Movement, the distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films, announces today that KEY OF LIFE, the black comedy crime caper with a case of mistaken identity, will be released on DVD January 7th in North America. Key of Life weaves together three unique storilines - a failing actor down on his luck, a corporate executive desperate to find a husband, and an assassin in trouble with crime bosses - to hilarious ends.

All Film Movement DVD releases include a short film - this month's release includes FINALE, a film by Balazs Simony. The film, from Hungary and 8 minutes in length, follows two well-dressed gentlemen who enjoy a few drinks at a bar only to head out to complete a mysterious job.

An official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, Key of Life will be available on DVD at Film Movement, and also through major retailers such as The film will be available to stream directly from Film Movement for just $3.99; online streaming begins January 7th and can be accessed here. Additionally, Amazon Instant will make the film available for rent and download beginning January 7th.

Synopsis of KEY OF LIFE:
A case of stolen identity and one determined bride-to-be intersect in this comedic escapade from famed Japanese filmmaker Kenji Uchida. Struggling actor Sakurai is out of work, out of luck and can't even succeed at taking his own life. When a mysterious man slips and falls at the bathhouse, Sakurai switches locker keys and identities with the man, who turns out to be a hit man named Kondo. His memory lost in the fall, Kondo begins piecing 'his' life as Sakurai back together with the help of Kanae, a young woman he meets in the hospital who is determined to find a husband. Meanwhile, Sakurai, posing as Kondo, incurs the wrath of ornery gangsters. As the truth about Kondo and Sakurai comes to light, they must scramble to resolve the chaos of this topsy-turvey chain of events.

KEY OF LIFE |2013 | Comedy | Japanese with English subtitles | 128 minutes I Unrated

About Film Movement:
Launched in 2003, Film Movement is a full-service North American distributor of award-winning independent and foreign films, based in New York City.  Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts from 50 countries on six continents, including top prize winners from Sundance, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca and other prestigious festivals.  Film Movement releases its films through numerous distribution channels, including thousands of art-house cinemas, universities and libraries; home video (Netflix and Amazon); television outlets (Sundance Channel, HBO, IFC and Showtime); Cable Video on Demand (including its very own branded cable VOD platform—Film Festival on Demand—available in over 40 million US homes); In-flight Entertainment (Alaska Airlines, Air Canada and United/Continental,) and broadband outlets (iTunes, Hulu, Amazon and YouTube). For more information, please visit

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT -- DVD review by porfle

A mix of the "spooky old house" and "axe murderer on the loose" genres, SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1972) is hardly the campy-fun slasher-trash fest I expected.  In fact, there isn't an ounce of humor, intentional or otherwise, in this somber, wintry horror tale.

The gravely-intoned prologue, in which the Mayor's daughter Diane Adams (Mary Woronov, EATING RAOUL, ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL) reflects on  the horrible events surrounding the old Butler mansion at the edge of town, is enough to let us know that we're in for a depressing time,  It all has to do with the house's original owner, Wilfred Butler (Philip Bruns,  "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman"), his mysterious death by fire, and the tragic fate of his daughter, Marianne. 

When his grandson Jeffrey (James Patterson, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT) disobeys the stipulation in his will that the house remain untouched and unsold, a mysterious killer begins stalking the premises to make sure that whoever goes in doesn't come out.

Cue Jeffrey's lawyer John Carter (a typically urbane, laid-back Patrick O'Neal) and his secretary-slash-mistress Ingrid (the way-cute Astrid Heeren),  who decide to spend a night in the house while finalizing the details of its impending sale.  As if this isn't enough to stir things up, Jeffrey himself returns just in time to endure a night of murder and mayhem that will leave the quiet little town littered with corpses.  His uneasy alliance with Diane will result in them ending up right in the middle of the film's horrific climax. 

The confusing story will eventually yield a nice surprise or two, but it's basically just an excuse for the filmmakers to see how much of a dreary and oppressive gloom 'n' doom atmosphere they can muster with their low budget and limited resources.  Mary Woronov's husband Theodore Gershuny, who directed two other films and several episodes of TV shows such as "Tales From the Darkside" and "The Equalizer", helms Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller's funereal screenplay in a crudely effective fashion.  The film's rough-hewn production elements and choppy editing alternate between being distracting and somehow enhancing its dreary mood.

Once the killer stops creeping around unseen and gets the old axe a-swingin', we get a few mildly gory chop-'em-up scenes with some fake blood splattered about, along with a dismembered hand or two.  These moments of mayhem, however,  come after long, mundane stretches that are interesting only if you enjoy watching a very old John Carradine (and who doesn't?) or a very young and attractive Mary Woronov (ditto).  Distinguished actor James Pattererson, who died at age 40 shortly after this film was made, comes off well despite an understandably uninspired performance. 

Similar in feel to Bob Clark's 1974 BLACK CHRISTMAS, with the dreariest version of "Silent Night" you can imagine and a score that's almost more downbeat than Bernard Herrmann's music for PSYCHO, the best of SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT is saved for its centerpiece flashback sequence.  As Diane reads from Wilfred Butler's tattered journal, we're transported into a grainy, sepia-hued world that's so dark and depressingly surreal as to be almost a cross between David Lynch and H.P. Lovecraft. 

This vignette occurs during the time the Butler house served as an insane asylum, with the inmates being let loose to wreak revenge upon their cruel keepers, and is so fascinatingly, unremittingly nightmarish as to seem like part of a different film altogether.  Afterwards, the story's actual ending comes as something of an anti-climax despite director Gerhuny's efforts to build to a shocking finale that he isn't quite able to pull off. 

The DVD from Film Chest is in widescreen with 2.0 sound.  No subtitles or extras.  Opening titles (featuring the alternate name "Deathhouse") bleed off the sides of the screen a bit.  The film is an HD restoration from 35mm elements but the print used has several rough spots.  Personally, I like it when a film looks like it's been around the block a few times, but those wanting something closer to pristine may cringe a few times. 

Movies like SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT straddled some interesting cinematic territory between old-style Gothic horror and slasher-era gore while inadvertently helping to lay the groundwork for the tired "dead teenager" formulas of the 80s and 90s.  While unpolished and at times technically crude, it still manages to create an extremely effective and unrelievedly depressing mood (definitely not recommended for the suicidal) with atmosphere to burn. 

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HBO Home Entertainment Announces "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth"

"A Heavyweight Performance" - People Magazine

Mike Tyson's One-Man Hit Stage Show
Directed By Academy Award®Nominee Spike Lee

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
Comes to DVD with Digital Copy on February 11, 2014 During Black History Month

New York, N.Y., December 3, 2013 - Controversial and charismatic former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson bares it all in Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, his hit one-man stage show directed by Academy Award® Nominee and personal friend Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, HBO's When the Leeves Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts).

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth will arrive on DVD with Digital Copy ($14.98) on February 11, 2014 (timed to Black History Month) and includes "Conversations," a featurette including interviews with Lee and Tyson, along with executive producer/writer Kiki Tyson and executive producer Jon Kilik, that discuss the story behind Undisputed Truth.

Raw, honest, powerful and full of humor, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" features "Iron Mike" recounting his life's highs and lows in his signature candid style. Filmed before a live audience at Broadway's Imperial Theatre in New York City, this HBO Films® presentation finds Tyson opening up about his troubled youth, landmark boxing career, key people in his life, controversies, time in prison, self-examination, family and new beginnings.

Reviewing the stage production, the Los Angeles Times called Tyson "a riveting stage presence with compelling stories to tell" and the New York Daily News described his show as "entertaining" and "fascinating," adding that he "is gifted with iron-clad charisma."

Earlier this year, Tyson wrapped a ten-week U.S. tour of Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, which ran on Broadway the previous summer, both directed by Lee. He will perform the show overseas through spring 2014. Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth is executive produced by Spike Lee, Mike Tyson, Kiki Tyson, Jon Kilik and James Nederlander; directed by Spike Lee; written by Kiki Tyson.

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth
DVD & Digital Copy
Street Date:                 February 11, 2014
Order Date:                  January 7, 2014
Rating:                         TV-MA
Runtime:                      Approx. 90 minutes (not including bonus material)
Price:                          $14.98 DVD & Digital Copy (1 Disc)

About HBO Home Entertainment®  
HBO Home Entertainment develops, distributes and markets an extensive array of critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking programs in three formats: Blu-ray, DVD, and digital throughout the world. Releases include the global hits Game of Thrones®, True Blood® and Girls®, favorites such as The Sopranos®, Sex and the City® and Entourage®, and multiple Emmy Award-winning mini-series The Pacific® and Band of Brothers®. The company's catalog contains hundreds of titles including the Peabody Award-winning children's program Classical Baby, provocative programs from HBO Documentary Films including The Weight of the Nation, innovative movies from HBO Films including Game Change and Behind the Candelabra,and comedy specials featuring stand-up performers like George Lopez and Ricky Gervais.  Launched in 1984, HBO Home Entertainment has offices in New York, London and Toronto and the company's releases are sold in over 80 territories around the world. 

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Dolph Lundgren stars in "BATTLE OF THE DAMNED" -- coming to Blu-ray and DVD February 18th from Anchor Bay Films

Explosions, bullets, zombies and robots…I loved every minute of it!” – The Other View


Bring The Battle Home on Blu-ray™ and DVD February 18, 2014

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – “Zombies. Killer Robots. Nice town you got here.” Anchor Bay Films presents Battle of the Damned, where you can pick your apocalypse – germ warfare, zombie assaults, and/or deadly robots!!   With unrelenting action and unyielding suspense, Battle of the Damned commences February 18, 2014 on Blu-ray™ and DVD, with an SRP of $29.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $24.98 for the DVD.  Pre-book is January 22, 2014.   

When a deadly virus is accidentally released into a major city, its population is quarantined by military blockade. And for a wealthy industrialist desperate to rescue his daughter from inside the rabid chaos, his only hope is former commando Max Gatling (Lundgren).

Now Gatling has one day to bust in, blast through hordes of the undead, find the girl, and hunt for a way to get them both out alive. But will a small band of survivors and an army of killer robots turn his mission into maximum slaughter?

Matt Doran (The Matrix) and David Field (Chopper) co-star in this intense action shocker that calls “awesome badass…one of the craziest movies of Dolph’s career and arguably one of his best!”

Also starring Esteban Cueto (Fast Five, Iron Man 2, The Scorpion King), Battle of the Damned   is a terrifying look into the future.  Set against a ravaged landscape, it is a battle against flesh and steel – a battle between outlaw and outbreak!

Battle of the Damned is written and directed by Christopher Hatton and produced by Ehud Bleiberg, Leon Tong and Hatton.

About Anchor Bay Films
Anchor Bay Films is a division of Anchor Bay Entertainment and provides quality distribution with operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and offers distribution capabilities in other key territories.  Anchor Bay Films uniquely offers the creative community a fully integrated distribution capability on all platforms and an international solution extending beyond the United States.  The company focuses on a platform release strategy for its films with an eye toward maximizing their potential across all ancillary distribution platforms.  Theatrical releases include Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car starring Robert Duvall, John Hurt, Kevin Bacon and Ray Stevenson, Slasher Films’ premiere release Nothing Left to Fear featuring music from legendary guitarist Slash and the upcoming release At Middleton starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga.  Films in its library include the recent theatrical release of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem starring Sheri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison and genre favorite Ken Foree, 10 Years starring Channing Tatum and Rosario Dawson, the critically-acclaimed comedy City Island starring Andy Garcia and Solitary Man starring Michael Douglas as well as Kill the Irishman starring Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Val Kilmer and Christopher Walken, and Toronto Film Festival award-winner Beautiful Boy with Maria Bello and Michael Sheen.  Anchor Bay Entertainment ( is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business,
Battle of the Damned Blu-ray™ 
Street date:                                           February 18, 2014
Pre-book:                                             January 22, 2014
Catalog #:                                            BD61384
UPC:                                                   013132613840
Run time:                                              89 Minutes
Rating:                                                  R
Subtitles:                                               English SDH, Spanish
SRP:                                                    $29.99
Format:                                                Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio:                                                  Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Bonus Feature:                         “Battling the Damned” featurette

Battle of the Damned DVD
Street date:                                           February 18, 2014
Pre-book:                                             January 22, 2014
Catalog #:                                AF61383
UPC:                                                    013132613833
Run time:                                 89 Minutes
Rating:                                                  R
Subtitles:                                               English SDH, Spanish
SRP:                                                    $24.98
Format:                                                Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                                     Dolby Digital 5.1
Bonus Feature:                         “Battling the Damned” featurette


Sunday, December 1, 2013

VIVA BASEBALL! -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared at in 2006.)

One of our most enduring images is that of a group of scuffy kids playing baseball in a vacant lot, sometimes using whatever is available to them in place of actual balls and bats, because their love for the game compels them to play it.

In Dan Klores' documentary VIVA BASEBALL! (2005), narrated by Marc Anthony, we are shown how pervasive this love for baseball has been in the lives of Latinos in the Americas and the Caribbean since the late 1800's, and what it was like for those good enough to come to the United States and try to make it into the major leagues despite obstacles such as racism and political turmoil back home.

In one of his interview segments, legendary Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant, Jr. spells out his goal as a young player: "I'm gonna show you I can do the same thing as everybody out here--white, black, African, Chinese--whatever."

The problem for some, however, was getting a chance to do this in an era when black players weren't allowed in the major leagues regardless of their abilities. When pitcher Luis Tiant, Sr. shut out a group of Major Leaguers visiting Cuba, striking out Babe Ruth, USA teams started importing white Cuban players. But Tiant, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, was black, and thus never got a chance to pitch in the major leagues.

The interview segments with old-timers like Rod Carew, Tony Perez, Vic Power, "Minnie" Minosa, and Orlando Cepada, along with more recent stars such as Keith Hernandez, Alex Rodriguez, and Carlos Beltran, are consistently interesting and informative, and often emotional as well.

The last thing I expected when watching this movie was to be moved to tears, but sure enough, the story of superstar Roberto Clemente's death in a plane crash while rushing to aid Nicaraguans after a catastrophic earthquake, as related by his wife, family, and fellow players, almost had me reaching for the Kleenex, as did Luis Tiant, Jr.'s account of his long struggle to get his parents out of Cuba. When they were finally allowed to leave, they got to see their son pitch against the Cincinatti Reds in the World Series. Not long afterward, though, they died within days of each other.

Interwoven with the interviews is a wealth of photographs and archival footage that keeps things visually interesting throughout, covering the early days, the mid-period when integration in baseball began to slowly and torturously take hold, and the latter days leading all the way up to Sammy Sosa being honored by the President during his State Of The Union address. Douglas J. Cuomo's fine musical score is augmented by dozens of songs by such artists as Xavier Cugat, Count Basie, and Santana, helping to bring to life the flavor of each time period.

There isn't a single lull or boring spot in VIVA BASEBALL! because there's an endless parade of fascinating stories to present. Although the racism faced by the early Latino players is a major focus, the main thing that comes through, which director Dan Klores (CRAZY LOVE) and writer Charles C. Stuart have captured beautifully, is the undying and all-encompassing love for the game of baseball that is felt by these great players.

As Mets General Manager Omar Minaya puts it: "We were born with baseball in our blood. It's more than just a sport--it's a passion, it's an opera, it is just a way of life, a way of being. It's almost's like breathing."

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE -- DVD review by porfle

ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006) is another throwback to the teen slasher flicks of the 80s, with its cast of horny highschoolers partying it up in a secluded location while an unknown stalker lessens their number "Ten Little Indians" style.  Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes it's not so good.  Here, we sorta waver between the two wondering which one will win out in the end.

Amber Heard (AND SOON THE DARKNESS, THE RIVER WHY, ExTERMINATORS,  MACHETE KILLS) fills the bill as Mandy, the quintessential gorgeous virgin whom every guy (and some girls) wants to "get with" first.  Sure enough, she's the main attraction when she accepts an invitation to spend a party weekend at the isolated ranch home of nerdy-but-horny classmate Red (Aaron Himelstein, excellent as a young Austin Powers in GOLDMEMBER). 

Also vying for Amber's attentions are macho Jake (Luke Grimes, TAKEN 2) and token black dude Bird (Edwin Hodge).  The other girls in the gang are prissy blonde Chloe (Whitney Able) and earthy brunette Marlin (Melissa Price), whose own petty jealousies and insecurities have them constantly at each other's throats.   And trying to keep these rambunctious youngsters from wrecking the place in the absence of Red's mom and dad is ranch caretaker Garth (Anson Mount, HICK), an older Marlboro Man-type who arouses the interest of the girls.

But first--nine months earlier, to be exact--there's an interesting pool-party prologue in which rich, popular Dylan (Adam Powell) is egged on by Mandy's jealous friend Emmett (Michael Welch, TWILIGHT series) to perform a drunken stunt to impress her and is horribly killed.  After such a promising start, it's a bit disconcerting when the story then settles right into the usual groove of sex-obsessed high school kids making plans for the big weekend bash where we don't have to be psychics to predict pretty much how things will go.

Sure enough, the rowdy road trip to Red's ranch (during which they steal several kegs of beer from a hapless roadside merchant) and the giddy build-up to party time upon their arrival at the scenic location lead right into the standard booze 'n' weed blowout.  Besides being one of the most boring teen parties ever filmed (making it, at times, sadly realistic) it's replete with the expected romantic and other interpersonal conflicts resulting in bruised feelings and resentment, which in turn leads to various people going off into the night alone to sulk before being stalked and killed by an unknown murderer.  Betcha didn't see any of that coming, huh?

Since this movie has no urban legend-spawn local brute with a unique killing tool, getting revenge on all teens for some unfortunate incident in his past, we're left to wonder who the hell is killing Mandy's friends and why.  Is it one of the teens themselves, carrying out some hidden agenda?  Another classmate,  perhaps?  Or is it the seemingly sane ranch hand, Garth?  Why am I asking you? 

At least we know it isn't  Mandy, since we see her elsewhere during each murder.  At any rate, the script does a bland job of building tension between kills since everyone just sits around getting bored, revealing hidden insecurities, or trying to talk Mandy into getting romantic with them until finally people start passing out.  Not exactly edge-of-your-seat stuff there. 

Anyway--not to reveal too much--the next day brings some welcome action and a few surprises which, while not earth-shakingly original, at least break up the monotony and get things percolating.  Director Jonathan Levine has a knack for moving the camera in interesting ways, using those wide-open spaces around Red's family ranch to good advantage and staging the action well. 

The emphasis is on Jacob Foreman's lean story rather than how graphic  the kills are, so, with some exceptions, there's a surprising lack of gore effects during the mainly conventional shootings and stabbings.  In fact,  while this film may fit snugly into the stalker-slasher genre,  it doesn't really qualify as a horror flick. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is an informative and personable commentary track by director Levine.

Despite being a mostly unexceptional example of its genre,  ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE is a good-looking film which manages to avoid being terminally boring.  The somewhat rousing finale edges it into "worth seeing" territory, and I wasn't left at the fadeout feeling as though I'd wasted  my time.

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Friday, November 29, 2013

JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR -- Blu-ray review by porfle

With his latest Southern-fried saga, Billy Bob Thornton has heated up his very own hot tin roof and tossed on a whole carload of jittery cats.  JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR (2012), that is.

Billy Bob even name-checks Tennessee Williams at one point in the dialogue, but he might as well be ringing the venerable playwright's doorbell and running away.  Although his movie is loaded with familiar Southern stereotypes mixing it up with each other in the humid plantation-like halls of 1969 Alabama, the story is mainly an unfocused mix of turgid drama and near-farcical nonsense.

Robert Duvall is Big Daddy--I mean, Jim Caldwell, the narrowminded, hardheaded patriarch of a well-to-do but highly dysfunctional family.  Former army medic Jim has two sons who are also military vets--Carroll (Kevin Bacon), whose tour of duty has turned him into a longhaired peace protester, and the addlebrained Skip (Billy Bob), a decorated flying ace still living at home and letting life pass him by.  The only son Jim doesn't constantly butt generational heads with is non-military family man Jimbo (Robert Patrick), who in another life would be played by Jack Carson.  (An almost unrecognizable Shawnee Smith should delight her fans in the role of Jimbo's deceptively mild-mannered wife.)

While hashing over their usual dinner-table conflicts, they get a call informing them that former Caldwell matriarch Naomi, who long ago left Jim for a British gentleman named Kingsley Bedford (John Hurt), has died.  Since her last request was to be buried in her hometown, this means that Kingsley, his son Phillip (Ray Stevenson, KILL THE IRISHMAN), and daughter Camilla (Frances O'Connor, A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE) are on their way to Alabama to meet the Caldwells.  This is gonna be good, right?

Well, it's eventful, anyway.  Jim's problems with his sons bring similar resentments between Kingsley and Phillip to the surface, while this and other factors begin to draw the two older men closer together.  Skip and his brassy-blonde sister Donna (Katherine LaNasa), unhappily married to a fat boor who takes her for granted, find Camilla and Phillip's Britishness irresistible.  The script garnishes all of this with a variety of other seriocomic events hovering around the periphery like moths to a porchlight.

The story by Thornton and Tom Epperson tries to say something profound about Jim's obession with deadly auto accidents, which he visits after listening Godlike to his police band radio.  "There was a soul in this Volkswagen a little while ago," he gravely tells a highway cop as they gaze upon one such mishap.  "Now there ain't nothin' but a voice-throwed dummy a-layin' there."  Not only did this have me wondering "who talks like that?" but I spent much of the film trying to figure out the significance of his car-crash hangup. 

Meanwhile, Thornton fills JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR with more awkward, artificial dialogue being spoken by actors "playing" Southerners the way people play Hobbits and other fantasy creatures.  If Katherine LaNasa's "Donna" were any more of a faded Southern belle she'd have to have a trademark stamp.  As for Skip, his random, blathering monologues to Camilla are simply pointless until he finally, almost out of the blue, says something meaningful enough to surprise both her and us. 

But just when we think the film might be getting kind of deep, it cuts to Skip, his lip bleeding where he's bitten right through it, furiously masturbating to Camilla while she recites poetry in her British accent, naked.  We all know Billy Bob Thornton is a good writer--at least, us SLING BLADE fans do--but here, as in much of this wildly uneven narrative, he comes off like Horton Foote with Tourette's Syndrome.

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  A behind-the-scenes featurette is the sole extra.

I wanted to like JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR and, indeed, I did enjoy certain elements of it.  But like the cultural and generational differences among its characters, those elements just didn't get along very well.

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