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Sunday, March 30, 2014

ORDER OF ONE -- DVD review by porfle



(NOTE: This review originally appeared at Bumscorner.com in 2006.  The movie has since been re-released under the title ORDER OF ONE: KUNG FU KILLING SPREE.)

Is it as much fun as THE MATRIX? Maybe. Is it as much fun as the MATRIX sequels? Hell, yeah.

ORDER OF ONE (2006) is the latest entry from Robomonkey Productions (in association with Braemar Entertainment), who two years ago gave us the outrageous SINNERS AND SAINTS. While ORDER OF ONE isn't nearly as outrageous, mind-bogging, or flabbergasting as SINNERS OR SAINTS (like, nobody goes to Hell or has decapitated heads giving them oral sex, or anything like that), it's still jam-packed with all the fights, car chases, shoot-outs, and other goodies that a low-budget enterprise such as this could possibly hope to offer the entertainment-starved viewer.

And, as always with movies such as this, it's way more interesting to see this kind of stuff done on a miniscule budget than to see a bunch of big-time Hollywood hacks knocking off some forgettable crap with unlimited funds and resources at their disposal.


The story begins in a roadside cafe' late at night, where ace newspaper reporter Ross Conroy (writer-director Kevin Woodhouse) comes across a guy with a story to tell, and the story involves his family's centuries-long search for The Sword, which was forged using a chunk of the one that pierced Christ's side on the cross. (This gives it extra-added specialness and all that, as you'd probably guess.)

He's got the sword, at long last, and is determined to return it to "The Order", who are the rightful owners of it for some reason that I never quite got but it doesn't really matter. But the uber-crime boss of the city, Mr. Park (Grand Master Hyung Chul Kim) wants the sword for himself, and he's sent a trio of lovely-but-deadly ladies known as "The Sirens" to get it.

But first, a couple of hungry cops show up with a convict named Sonny (Jason Cavalier) in tow. One look and we know he didn't really do whatever he's supposed to have done. They're transferring him to a maximum security prison for starting a riot (he had a good reason, but that didn't count), but The Sirens change all that by bursting into the cafe' with guns blazing and shooting up the place, including the cops and anyone else who is dumb enough to try and mess with them.

Sonny uses the melee' as a means to escape in Conroy's car, with Conroy (who now has The Sword after its caretaker has had his head ventilated) hanging out of the passenger window. One of The Sirens is killed, leaving Butterfly (production manager Danielle Dubois) and Dynamite (the voluptuous and multi-talented Melantha Blackthorne, who also served as editor, stuntwoman, and director of photography, and who is, by the way, totally awesome) to continue the chase.

Thus, ORDER OF ONE becomes a "buddy-slash-road picture", among other things, as Sonny and Roy head down the highway with The Sword, rushing headlong into a series of encounters with The Sirens, Mr. Park's murderous henchmen (including his #1 son Tommy, played by Harrison Chan), and whoever else Mr. Park has hired to assassinate them.

One confrontation concludes with Roy falling backward and shooting a guy right in his grenade, causing him to explode. A fight scene in a strip club called "Barker's Babes" is particularly exciting, especially due to the presence of some rather gorgeous semi-clad ladies (I've emailed my marriage proposal to "Lucille"--contact me at this address if you want to know how it turns out).

When The Sirens catch up to them, Sonny and Roy get dragged behind their car for awhile before Sonny gets loose and some really nice mayhem ensues. Sonny and Dynamite even have time for a brief love scene--Dynamite finds him interesting even though she's determined to kill him--which will later result in a really cool final scene between the two.

When our heroes finally reach Mr. Park's compound and go head-to-head with his goons, there's a guns-blazing martial arts free-for-all that will have action fans shouting "HOO-AHH!" Some of the good guys get killed, too, so get ready to shed some tears. (Okay, you won't, but it's still surprising.)

And just when you think it's over, there's more. In fact, the final ten minutes or so feature a feast of martial arts choreography that takes place in a single set, mostly with two guys going one-on-one, that matches anything I've seen in awhile. Jason Cavalier brings all his skills as an action director to bear during this sequence and it's a really intense piece of action entertainment.


All during the film we see certain fight moves labeled in graphic terms such as "PARALYSIS PALM!" and "SKULL DESTRUCTION FIST!" (a nice one).  During this final sequence I got to see my two favorites--"EYEBALL EXIT PUNCH!" and "HEART EXTRACTION FIST!" (These are particularly nice.)

Needless to say, there's a healthy dose of satirical comedy accompanying the action throughout the movie. It's all done in 70s style, right down to the paisely miniskirt and bellbottoms worn by The Sirens and the 70s TV cop show-type musical score by producer and castmember David Findlay.

When the movie's over, there's still a second disc chock full of bonus features such as deleted scenes, bloopers, and featurettes with behind-the-scenes stuff and a "how-to" on some of the more impressive stunts. It's fun to watch a group of people with such a zest for filmmaking using their talents and whatever resources are available on a low budget to put together a movie that is so entertaining.

What distinguishes this from most other low-budget fare is that every shot counts, every sequence propels the story and offers new thrills. This isn't "stick something in the can" or "sell 'em a load of clams" filmmaking, not by a long shot. Every one of the people behind this movie worked hard to give the viewer their money's worth. And when it was over, I felt as though I were stepping off a really fun carnival ride, and I didn't even feel like throwing up.

Buy it at Amazon.com


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Saturday, March 29, 2014

SINNERS AND SAINTS (2004) -- DVD review by porfle



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online in 2004.)

SINNERS AND SAINTS (2004) is proof that you don't need millions of dollars to produce an audacious, imaginative, entertaining film. It's not often you see a shot-on-video exploitation flick with this many elements -- horror, sex, sci-fi, kung fu, gunfights, swordfights, comedy -- coming at you at such a frantic pace.

There's so much going on in this movie, in fact, that in less skilled hands it could've been a mess. But director/star Melantha Blackthorne deftly manages to keep it all together with a droll wit and a keen sense of the absurd.

She stars as Necrotia, the Queen of Hell, who for some reason has taken an intense interest in a certain Father Drake (co-scripter Jason Cavalier), a combat-ready priest who is engaged in a never-ending battle against the forces of evil.


With Necrotia's help, he blasts, chops, slices, and kicks his way through a series of well-staged fight scenes against opponents both human and supernatural, with stunts and wirework that are on par with films like THE MATRIX (Cavalier also served as stunt coordinator).

There are several stunning action set-pieces throughout the film, my favorite being the eventual confrontation between Father Drake and Necrotia after he finds himself in Hell (for reasons I won't go into here since it would give away too much).

There's also an abundance of surreal, horrific imagery that is often both disturbing and funny, and definitely not for the squeamish. And did I mention the topless combat nun (Liz Faure's "Sister Merrick") who leaps into battle wearing a leather habit and Doc Martens?


But best of all, there's the beautiful Melantha Blackthorne, who is equally adept at looking gorgeous and kicking all kinds of bad-guy booty. She and Jason Cavalier (co-founders of Robomonkey Productions) make a good team both in front of and behind the camera, and here they've come up with a movie that looks much better than you'd expect for a low-budget, independent feature.

How this was accomplished is nicely demonstrated on the DVD's second disc, which is loaded with behind-the-scenes vignettes, bloopers, trailers, and music videos from some of the bands who contributed to the soundtrack.

If you're in the mood for some mind-boggling, no-punches-pulled entertainment that spin-kicks the crap out of most of what Hollywood is churning out these days, SINNERS AND SAINTS may be just what you're looking for. And it might even help to wipe away those unpleasant memories of the last Ben Affleck movie you watched.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Friday, March 28, 2014

THE BEST OF BOGART COLLECTION (The Maltese Falcon/ Casablanca/ The Treasure of the Sierra Madre/ The African Queen) -- Blu-ray review by porfle



When I made a list of my top 100 favorite actors a few years ago, the first three positions were pretty much a lock.  Number one, of course, was John Wayne.  Two--well, I'm a Bruce Willis fan from all the way back to "Moonlighting", and I even liked "Armageddon." 

But as for number three, there's only one actor who could knock either of them out of their slots at my slightest whim, and that's Bogart.  He invented cool, refined it, and perfected it to such a degree that nobody else could ever be quite that cool again. 

Now, Warner Home Video has brought four of Bogart's greatest and most varied performances together on Blu-ray with THE BEST OF BOGART COLLECTION, a four-disc set which contains "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), "Casablanca" (1942), "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (1948), and "The African Queen" (1951). 

Humphrey DeForest Bogart looked like he'd been around the block a few times and could take care of himself in a tough scrape, unlike a lot of the pretty-boy leading men who populated movie marquees then and now.  Which is ironic, since he started out as a male ingenue in film roles that were pure fluff. 

This prompted him to keep returning to his native New York and the stage, where he eventually landed the role of escaped killer Duke Mantee in the play "The Petrified Forest."  When this was slated to become a film, star Leslie Howard insisted that Bogart be cast as Mantee, and his chilling, tough-as-nails performance made him a movie star in the Warner Brothers gangster vein.

Bogart's screen persona wavered between no-nonsense good guy and fearsome bad guy, with sometimes a little of both.  If need be, he could also portray either a frightening psycho or a pathetic failure.  As an actor with a much broader range than one might first suspect, he could make any of these personas both convincing and compelling, with a nuance and intensity that few actors can ever achieve.  And there was something about that unforgettable face which seemed to express everything his character was thinking and feeling. 

One of the finest actors in the history of the medium, Humphrey Bogart's filmography contains several of the greatest movies ever made.  The best of these comprise quite a selection of Hollywood filmmaking at its peak as both an art form and a means of pure escapist entertainment.  


THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)

The first great "film noir" set the standard both storywise and in its impeccably exquisite visuals.  First-time director John Huston does a masterful job orchestrating his actors and crew to create a visual experience which is consistently involving and often dazzling. 

The film, shot mostly on interior sets, was brought in on budget and ahead of schedule despite Huston requesting an extra day of rehearsal for the film's climactic sequence, which takes place entirely within a single hotel room with almost all members of the main cast.  The complex character interactions and the way the tangled plot is meticulously resolved during this scene makes for some of the most breathlessly riveting cinema ever filmed.

Huston uses clever direction and camera movements to keep things from getting claustrophobic, and never once lets the pace drag.  His screenplay follows Dashiell Hammett's novel almost to the letter (the two earlier, inferior adaptations, 1931's "Dangerous Female" and the comedic "Satan Met a Lady" in 1936, didn't), and crackles with scintillating dialogue, intriguing plot twists, and relentlessly building suspense. 

Hammett's celebrated anti-hero Sam Spade is the perfect noir detective--brash, resourceful, self-assured, keenly intelligent, streetwise, tough but not infallible, and opportunistic.  He does have a moral code, one not easily compromised, and a motto that is rigidly enforced: "Never play the sap for anyone." 

The first person to try and use him is quintessential femme fatale Brigid O'Shaughnessy (exquisitely  played by Mary Astor), who hires San Francisco private detective Spade and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) to locate her missing sister along with a mystery man named Floyd Thursby.  When both Archer and Thursby turn up dead, it appears there's more to Brigid's story than she's letting on. 


Before long Spade discovers that she's after a priceless treasure known as the Maltese Falcon, for which she's in fierce competition against  "the Fat Man" Kaspar Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) and the wily, effeminate Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre).  Spade must spar with these conniving characters while fending off police detectives Dundy and Polhaus (Barton MacLane, Ward Bond), who suspect him in the murders although the more genial Polhaus tends to side with Sam.  All in all, these actors comprise one of the finest casts ever assembled for a film.  (Look for John Huston's father Walter in a quick cameo as a fatally wounded ship's captain.)

Huston delights in working with these masterful performers as any artist deftly employs his chosen medium.  The dialogue scenes between Bogart and Greenstreet are a verbal delight (Gutman constantly admits his glowing admiration for the crafty Spade), while the utter dishonesty underlying Spade's love affair with Brigid gives it an air of perversion. 

Lorre's Joel Cairo, both dangerously scheming and amusingly fussy, is always fun to watch.  I love the scene in which Spade disarms and manhandles Cairo, whose main concern is expressed with the heated accusation "Look what you did to my shirt!"

Even young character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. gets to shine in the plum role of Gutman's "gunsel" Wilmer Cook, a callow trench-coated hood hiding his cowardice behind guns and tough talk.  (Dwight Frye played the part in the 1931 version.)  The ever-sharper Spade delights in yanking Wilmer's chain, and in one incredible closeup we see fat, glistening tears suspended in each of the young killer's eyes as he's overcome with burning frustration and impotent rage (another bravura touch by Huston).


But it's Bogart's show, and his performance is a pure delight.  We know Spade's a stand-up guy, yet the moment his partner's murdered he has the signs around the office changed from "Spade and Archer" to "Samuel Spade."  He's even having an affair with Archer's wife, Iva (Gladys George), but loses interest once he meets Miss O'Shaughnessy.  Yet we know he's an okay guy as long as his faithful gal Friday, Effie (Lee Patrick), still secretly loves him. 

In one delightful moment, after storming out of a tense encounter with Gutman and Wilmer in the Fat Man's swanky hotel room, Spade smiles when he realizes that his hand is shaking and his palms sweating.  Spade may be brave, but he still gets scared, a fact which both amuses and excites him.

This vintage detective yarn sizzles with suspense and excitement for viewers who are able to plug themselves into its high-voltage current.  For me, it took several viewings before I finally began to appreciate just what a finely-rendered thing of beauty it truly is.  Others (as some IMDb comments would indicate) seem to take a strange kind of pride in remaining immune to its charms, believing that such classics are revered by many simply because they're "old." 

But if it doesn't hit you right away, just keep watching and remain open to it.  Sooner or later, hopefully, THE MALTESE FALCON will weave its magic spell over you.  Like the rare and unique artifact of the title, it's "the stuff dreams are made of.

1080p High Definition 1.33:1, DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0, Dolby Digital: Espanol 1.0
Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

·         Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
·         Featurette The Maltese Falcon: One Magnificent Bird
·         Breakdowns of 1941: Studio Blooper Reel
·         Makeup Tests
·         Becoming Attractions: The Trailers of Humphrey Bogart
·         Warner Night at the Movies
·         1941 Short Subjects Gallery
·         Audio-Only Bonus: 3 Radio Show Adaptions
·         Vintage art card


CASABLANCA (1942)

This is one of those films which we can now look back on as an undisputed classic in which everything seems to come together perfectly.  At the time, however, it was regarded by the studio as just another production, whose script, based on the unproduced play "Everyone Comes to Rick's", was being written on the fly and didn't even have a proper ending worked out until shortly before it was shot.

The story takes place in 1942 in the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca, which overflows with refugees desperately struggling to gain passage to America and elsewhere in the free world to escape Nazi encroachment in Europe .  Exiled American (and ex-freedom fighter) Rick Blaine, played to perfection by Bogart , runs a nightclub called "Rick's CafĂ© AmĂ©ricain" in which many of these people meet to buy and sell the hope for freedom. 

Also on hand is Rick's friend, Captain Louis Renault (THE INVISIBLE MAN's Claude Rains in one of his best performances), the head of the local police and an opportunist of the first order whose greatest pleasure is accepting bribes both monetary and sexual.  Renault openly admires Rick's similarly self-serving qualities and even displays a platonic crush on him ("If I were a woman, and I were not around, I should be in love with Rick," he admits). 

We wonder how Renault would react if Rick started reverting back to his old, noble self, especially in the presence of the vile German officer Major Heinrich Strasser (Conrad Veidt, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI,  THE MAN WHO LAUGHS), newly-arrived and on the trail of famed Czech resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henried). 

While Rick starts out as an anti-hero, he gradually and without really meaning to becomes more heroic as the story progresses.  Early on, Peter Lorre's oily Ugarte--who recently killed some German soldiers to attain two letters of transit to sell in Casablanca--begs Rick for help before he's captured ("Hide me, Rick!  Hide me!").  Rick's terse response: "I stick my neck out for nobody." 


And indeed, Rick seems grudgingly content to sit out the current world war as manager of his bustling nightclub until one night, when an old flame named Ilsa (the utterly radiant Ingrid Bergman) comes through the front door with her husband, none other than Victor Laszlo.  Rick, once an idealistic crusader himself but now cynical and disillusioned, has never forgiven Ilsa for inexplicably running out on him during the fall of Paris, at the height of their love affair--not knowing that Laszlo, whom they both thought dead, had turned up alive.

When Rick obtains the two letters of transit from Ugarte, he has the means of whisking Ilsa back to America with him and resuming their love affair while leaving Laszlo behind to carry on alone and devastated.  But will he do something so selfish and immoral?  Or regain his soul and commit the supreme act of sacrifice for the sake not only of Ilsa and her husband but of the free world itself?

This is the dilemma which gives CASABLANCA much of its power to effect us emotionally while simmering with a growing suspense.  As a film, everything clicks-- Michael Curtiz' sharp direction, the gorgeous black-and-white photography, great performances by a stellar cast, a powerful musical score by Max Steiner, and a story that's always totally engaging. 

Action and romance are perfectly balanced and compliment each other, while comedic touches abound, especially from the delightfully corruptible Renault,  the antics of Rick's eccentric staff (including S.Z. Sakall), and a fez-topped Sydney Greenstreet (again) as a competing club owner who wants to acquire Rick's place along with his loyal piano-playing band leader Sam (Dooley Wilson, who croons the classic "As Time Goes By"). 

But when Laszlo exhorts Sam and his band to strike up a stirring rendition of "La Marseillaise" in response to Strasser and his fellow German officers belting out "Die Wacht am Rhein", the move (which Rick okays with a subtle nod of his head) not only stirs the patriotic fervor of everyone else in the club but may bring the viewer to tears as well.  (Steiner uses this same anthem as a fanfare for his own musical credit during the main titles.)


The climax of the film takes place at the airport, a focal point for dreams of freedom throughout the story.  Rick now literally holds the ticket to a new life with Ilsa, who will join him if he asks her to.  Yet his newly reawakened sense of duty to humanity now fights for precedence.  Meanwhile Renault, his own duty to Strasser  putting him at odds with his friend, awaits Rick's decision. 

When the plane fires up its engines, Steiner's music swells, and there comes a stunning, perfectly-edited series of  closeups of Bogart,  Bergman, and Henried which generate a dramatic tension few films could ever attain.  It's pure, undiluted Hollywood magic at its most sublime, and the resolution which follows couldn't be more perfect.  CASABLANCA is an intricate jigsaw puzzle of seemingly disparate pieces which fit together to form a beautiful picture.

1080p High Definition 1.33:1, Dolby Digital: English 1.0, Francais 1.0 & Espanol 1.0
Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

·         Commentary by Roger Ebert
·         Commentary by Historian Rudy Behlmer
·         Introduction by Lauren Bacall
·         Additional Scenes & Outtakes
·         Scoring Session Outtakes
·         Bacall on Bogart
·         You Must Remember This: A Tribute to Casablanca
·         Featurette As Time Goes By: The Children Remember
·         Production Research Gallery
·         Homage Cartoon Carrotblanca
·         Who Hold Tomorrow? : Premiere Episode From 1955 Warner Bros. Presents TV Series Adaptation of Casablanca
·         Audio-Only Bonus: Radio Production with the Movie’s 3 Key Stars
·         Theatrical Trailers
·         Vintage art card


THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948)

With this epic outdoor action-drama, based on a novel by enigmatic writer B. Traven,  Bogart once again joined with director John Huston and his father Walter for a grueling tale of the devastating effects of greed on average men.  During the film's arduous shoot in the wilds of Mexico, any hint of Hollywood glamour would soon become a distant memory. 

As Fred C. Dobbs, Bogart loses himself in one of his grittiest and least sympathetic roles.  Dobbs is an American stuck in a small Mexican town with no job or money, wandering the streets and begging for pesos.  (The younger Huston has a funny cameo as a well-to-do man Dobbs keeps hitting up for change.)  Dobbs will fling water in the face of a small boy (Robert Blake) pestering him to buy a lottery ticket, yet we sense a modicum of decency somewhere beneath his gruff exterior. 

This early sequence of him trudging his way through life, getting bad haircuts, chasing after prostitutes, etc. lets us sit back and watch Bogart at work creating one of his finest characters.  Dobbs hooks up with a fellow American named Curtin (Tim Holt) for a job in which they're cheated out of their pay by a crooked foreman (Barton MacLane of THE MALTESE FALCON) whom they beat senseless after he attacks them in a bar.  (This well-choreographed fight scene is brutally effective.)  Then, after meeting grizzled old prospector Howard (Walter Huston) in a flophouse, they take his advice and set out to find gold in the mountains of the Mexican desert. 

Walter Huston enjoyed recounting the story of how he told his son John that if he ever became a filmmaker to "write me a good part."   The old gold-hunter Howard is that part, a role the elder Huston,  sans dentures, inhabits so fully that he almost manages to steal the picture right out from under Bogart.  (He would go on to win an Oscar for it.)  Howard is a goodnatured, level-headed old man, and we believe him when he warns of the evil effects gold can have on weak-willed men.  


Dobbs blusters against such talk, thinking himself above any negative influences.  Yet without missing a beat, he will fulfill each of Howard's admonitions one by one as the lure of gold transforms him into a paranoid,  resentful,  and ultimately dangerous man.  By the time he's gone over the deep end, he's a frightening character, convinced in his mindless desperation that everyone's out to get him and that he's justified in whatever heinous act he may commit to protect himself and his newfound fortune.

When Dobbs and Curtin finally find themselves locked in a life-or-death battle of wills in the middle of the desert, the film almost takes on the eerie inevitability of a horror movie.  The only thing that undercuts it, along with much of the rest of the film, is one of Max Steiner's worst musical themes--a loping, folksy motif that  I find jarringly out of place.

In addition to being a fascinating character study,  TREASURE is a terrific action-adventure.  Alfonso Bedoya is unforgettable as the ruthless Mexican bandit Gold Hat,  whose gang attacks our heroes' train during their trip into the mountains and then later stumbles upon their mining camp, leading to a blazing gunfight.  Gold Hat may be a monster, but Bedoya manages to make him funny, especially with his immortal response to Dobbs' question "If you're federales, where are your badges?"

"Badges? We ain’t got no badges...we don’t need no badges...I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!"


Tim Holt is solid in the less flashy role  of sturdy, dependable Curtin, who shares Howard's dismay at Dobbs' growing instability.  Walter Huston is a delight in a truly wonderful performance--he even gets to break the fourth wall and give us a sly look during one sequence in which he's being given the royal treatment by a tribe of Indians after doing them a good turn.  We don't even hold it against Howard when he votes along with the others to execute another man, Cody (Bruce Bennett), who tries to horn in on their find. 

But it's Bogart, as a man susceptible to bouts of pure, wild-eyed insanity, who makes the film as truly memorable as it is.  No matter how low he sinks and what horrible things he does, we always remember the relatively decent guy he was before gold changed him, and feel some remorse for what he's become.  And just like Dobbs, I'd like to think gold wouldn't make me act that way--but who knows?

1080p High Definition 1.33:1, DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0, Dolby Digital: Francais 1.0 & Espanol 1.0 (Both Castilian and Latin)
Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

·         Commentary by Bogart Biographer Eric Lax
·         Discovering Treasure: The Story of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
·         Documentary Profile John Huston
·         Warner Night at the Movies
·         1948 Short Subjects Gallery: Leonard Maltin Introduction, Newsreel, 2 Classic Cartoons, Comedy Short, Theatrical Trailers.
·         Audio-Only Bonus: Radio Show with the Movie’s Original Stars
·         Vintage art card


THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)

Here's the story of two people you'll want to get  to know very much--Humphrey Bogart as Charlie Allnut, a goodnaturedly uncouth little man who runs a tiny supply boat up and down the river in German East Africa in 1914,  and Katharine Hepburn as Miss Rose Sayer, a Christian missionary who, along with her brother Reverend Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley), brings God's word to the natives until German soldiers burn down the church and village, kill her brother,and leave her all alone in the jungle.

Director John Huston deftly blends comedy with tragedy in the opening scenes.  Shortly before their horrific encounter with the German military, the Sayers invite Charlie to tea during a supply stop.  He hasn't eaten in awhile, so his stomach starts making the most impolite growling noises to which Rose and her brother react with growing dismay until finally Charlie explains brightly, "Ain't a thing I can do about it!" 

Charlie returns later to bury the brother and take Rose away in his boat, the "African Queen".  But her first thought is to somehow aid in her country's war effort by whatever means available.  Hearing of a German gunboat, the "Louisa", which is terrorizing the countryside from a large lake somewhere downriver, she hatches a scheme in which Charlie will devise a couple of torpedos out of compressed gas bottles and they will then ram the Louisa with the torpedos sticking out of the African Queen's bow. 

Humoring her for the time being--and not realizing that he has begun something he won't be able to back out of--he later mocks Miss Sayer's request in a grumbling approximation of her prim accent: "Can you make a torpedo?  Then do so, Mr. Allnut." 


This belly-laugh moment, courtesy of Bogart's irresistibly natural, likable performance as the ragtag river rat, is just the beginning of what will be a rip-roaring adventure, a tender romance, and a gut-busting comedy.  The independent production, filmed mostly on location in Africa in lush Technicolor, is one of John Huston's warmest and most heartfelt films.  This is due in large part to the chemistry between the two stars and Huston's ability as a master director to showcase them at their best.

Miss Rose Sayer is naturally brave and resourceful, which helps make up for her naivete' and inexperience with life in general.  She adapts quickly and becomes instantly addicted to the thrill of adventure as a substitute for sexual intimacy (her first excursion down the rapids leaves her as though she'd just had her first sexual release).  Learning to handle Allnut's boat is symbolic of her growing familiarity with the man himself  while he, in turn, finds himself suddenly yearning to bring out the inner woman behind the straight-laced exterior. 

Allnut is one of Bogart's funniest and most uninhibited characters--his emotional honesty and expressiveness are at their peak here.  Often a single look on his face will convey more thought and emotion than many actors can manage with an entire speech.  Hepburn is ideally cast as the initially very proper, timid spinster who gradually lets her hair down (literally) and begins to appreciate the more sensual and even carnal aspects of life as her love for Charlie Allnut blossoms toward fruition.


Their journey down the river is a series of funny and romantic vignettes interspersed with moments of harrowing danger which are excitingly staged.  The rapids are a major obstacle, as are mosquitoes, leeches, and, in one suspenseful sequence, German bullets.  Through it all, Rose's indefatigable attitude brings out the best in Charlie, and together they give each other something to live for even when things are at their worst.

Huston's technical skills are dazzling throughout the film.  The location photography is not only stunning but often amazing as well, as when we see a number of large alligators diving off the bank into the water right after Bogart has moved out of the frame--all in a single shot.   The process shots are as well integrated into the action as possible for the time and, for me at least, proved little distraction.  Allan Gray's musical score is another of the film's many pleasures. 

The story reaches its triumphant conclusion aboard the German gunboat, where our unlikely hero and heroine reach the end of their journey in fine style.  Like SHANE, which is tied with KING KONG (1933) as my favorite movie of all time, there are scenes throughout THE AFRICAN QUEEN which bring me to the verge of tears.   Not because these scenes are particularly sad, or particularly happy, but simply because they're quite disarmingly beautiful. 

1080p High Definition, Dolby Digital: English 1.0, Francais 1.0 & Espanol 1.0.
Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

Special Features:

·         Embracing Chaos: Making The African Queen
·         Vintage art card


Own it on Blu-ray:

Official WB Shop Link
Official Facebook
Official You Tube Videos

Images shown are not stills from the actual Blu-ray discs
Street Date: March 25, 2014
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

"RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH, VOL. 1" DVD signing at Dark Delicacies on Sunday, March 30th!



Celebrate 40 years of Troma Entertainment with director/ co-writer Lloyd Kaufman and cast members of

RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOL. 1 DVD signing at Dark Delicacies on Sunday, March 30th!


WHAT:                       Join legendary Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman and cast members of Troma’s latest opus as they sign Return to Nuke ‘Em High, Vol.1 DVDs at Burbank’s famed Dark Delicacies bookstore.

WHEN:                       Sunday, March 30th, 2:00pm

WHERE:                    Dark Delicacies Bookstore
                                      3512 W. Magnolia Blvd.
                                      Burbank, CA 91505
                                      (818) 556-6660

WHO:                          Director/Producer/Co-writer Lloyd Kaufman; Stars Gabriela Fuhr and Stefan Dezil

DETAILS:                  Fans must purchase RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOL. 1 Blu-rays and DVDs at Dark Delicacies for signing. One additional item will be signed at celebrities’ discretion.


RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH, VOL. 1 is Lloyd Kaufman’s latest Tromasterpiece. Welcome to Tromaville High School where, unfortunately, the glee club was 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?

READ OUR REVIEW OF THE MOVIE!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

HBO Home Entertainment Announces "True Detective"



"Rich and absorbing...unlike almost anything else on TV" - Variety
"A tour de force for stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey" - Entertainment Weekly

Available on Blu-ray™ with Digital HD, DVD & Digital Download June 10, 2014 
Bonus Content Includes Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Interviews with A-list Cast & Crew

New York, N.Y., March 26, 2014 -Starring Academy Award® nominee and Emmy Award® winner Woody Harrelson (The Hunger Games) and Academy Award® winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) as two detectives assigned to a grisly and cultish murder case in the Louisiana bayou country, True Detective has become one of the most critically-acclaimed new series of 2014.

This "breathtaking" (Time) crime drama, which was the most-watched first season of any HBO® original series since the legendary premiere of Six Feet Under® in 2001, makes its home entertainment debut on Blu-ray with Digital HD ($79.98), DVD ($59.99) and Digital Download on June 10, 2014, just in time for Father's Day.

Both sets of True Detective include the full eight-episode season, along with extensive bonus materials including exclusive interviews with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, a discussion between series creator Nic Pizzolatto and Academy Award®-winning composer T Bone Burnett about the development of the show and the pivotal role of the series' music, and never-before-seen footage from the series.

True Detective focuses on Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey), two detectives and former partners who worked in Louisiana's Criminal Investigation Division in the mid-1990s. At first glance, Hart and Cohle couldn't be more different. Hart, a native Louisianan, is an outgoing family man with two kids, whose marriage to wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) is buckling under the stress of the job. Cohle, a former undercover narcotics detective from Texas, embraces isolation, articulating a pessimistic, even bleak, world view.

But they share an obsession with justice and a facility for violence that will inflict irreparable damage on both men. In 2012, the two are interviewed separately by investigators about their most notorious case: the macabre 1995 murder of a prostitute by a possible serial killer with disturbing occult leanings. As they look back on the case, Hart and Cohle's lives collide and entwine in unexpected, sometimes catastrophic ways, and their personal backstories and often-strained relationship become a major focal point of the investigation.

Alternating between 1995 and 2012, all eight episodes were written by series creator and showrunner Nic Pizzolattoand directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Jane Eyre), who executive produce along with Scott Stephens (HBO's Deadwood®), Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, and Steve Golin.

Also featured in True Detective are Kevin Dunn (HBO's Luck®) as Major Quesada, Hart and Cohle's boss; Tory Kittles (Sons of Anarchy) and Michael Potts (HBO's The Wire®) as detectives Papania and Gilbough, in charge of the 2012 investigation; Elizabeth Reaser (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn) as Laurie; Shea Whigham (HBO's Boardwalk Empire®) as revivalist Joel Theriot; Clarke Peters (HBO's Treme®) as a rural minister; Jay O. Sanders (Person of Interest) as Billy Lee Tuttle; and Lili Simmons (Cinemax®'s BansheeSM) as Beth, a prostitute.

Special features for both the Blu-ray & DVD releases include:
    Making True Detective - A behind-the-scenes look at production on the hit series, featuring interviews with cast and crew and including never-before-seen footage from Episode 4.
    Up Close with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson - Exclusive interviews with the stars about filming the series.
    A Conversation with Nic Pizzolatto and T Bone Burnett - An in-depth discussion with the series writer/creator/executive producer and the legendary composer on both the series and the pivotal role music played in the show's development.
    Inside the Episode - Series creator/executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga discuss character development and offer insights into each episode of the series.
    Two audio commentaries  -  Featuring  series creator/executive producer/writer Nic Pizzolatto, composer T Bone Burnett and Executive Producer Scott Stephens
    Deleted Scenes  -  Never-before-seen episodic footage from the series

True Detective
 Blu-ray with Digital HD, DVD & Digital Download
                     Street Date:     June 10, 2014
                     Order Date:      May 6, 2014
                     Rating:              V-MA
                     Runtime:           Approx. 480 minutes (excluding bonus features)             
                     Price:                $79.98 Blu-ray with Digital HD (3 BD discs; Digital HD)
                     Price:                $59.99 DVD (3 discs)
                                                                                             
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 digitalthroughout 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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Friday, March 21, 2014

PATRICK (1978) -- Blu-ray/DVD review by porfle



I don't know about you, but my initial introduction to the Australian film boom of the late 70s-early 80s came mainly from the pay-cable channel Cinemax, a redheaded stepchild to HBO which, in those days, was kind of like having your own private small-screen drive-in.  It was there that I first saw (and taped for repeated viewings) such entertaining genre flicks from "dan-unda" as MAD MAX, ROAD GAMES,  and DEAD KIDS (aka STRANGE BEHAVIOR).

One which I considered the lesser of the bunch at the time was a strange little tale called, simply, PATRICK (1978).  Maybe I just watched it wrong, or didn't really pay proper attention to its rather stately-paced story.  Maybe it was the cheap dubbing with American voices that the U.S. distributors insisted on, or perhaps it was the murky pan-and-scan print.  Anyway,  I wasn't very impressed.

Now,  however, thanks to Severin Films' current release of several of these old faves on Blu-ray, I've had a chance to rewatch, reappraise, and, finally, newly appreciate PATRICK for what it is--a solid, engrossing horror/suspense thriller that really sticks to your ribs. 


Not the least of the reasons why it's so good is that it was directed by Hitchcock aficionado Richard Franklin, who would go on to make the aforementioned ROAD GAMES and, true to his devotion to the master of suspense, the belated Hitchcock sequel PSYCHO II. 

PATRICK definitely looks like it was made by someone who studied a lot of Hitchcock films, especially PSYCHO (even the hospital in the story resembles that spooky old house behind the Bates Motel).  Brian May's typically lush and powerful musical score, while sounding distinctly May-esque, follows suit by paying tribute to Bernard Herrmann in several key moments. (Note: If you listen to the Italian language track you can hear the alternate musical score by Goblin!)

And just as Norman Bates murdered his mother and her lover before the action in that film begins, here we see a pre-titles sequence in which a troubled young Patrick (Robert Thompson, THIRST), ambulatory for the only time in the movie, surprises his mother and a soapy suitor by tossing an electric heater into their bathtub.  When next we see him three years later, he's comatose in a hospital bed,  stiff as a plank, his eyes perpetually open wide. 


Jittery,  excitable Dr. Roget (renowned actor and ballet dancer Robert Helpmann of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and THE RED SHOES) has trouble finding nurses to tend the creepy patient so orders his reluctant head nurse to hire Kathy Jacquard (Susan Penhaligon, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT) on the spot when she applies for the job after separating from her husband.

It's during Kathy's private quality time with Patrick that she begins to suspect he's conscious and aware, a suspicion borne out when she discovers that he can use his mental powers to communicate with her via the typewriter she uses for hospital clerical work.  Patrick's telekinetic powers become more pronounced and more deadly when his burgeoning love for her turns to violent jealousy against her ex-husband Ed (Rod Mullinar, THIRST, BREAKER MORANT) and would-be lover Dr. Brian Wright (Bruce Barry). 

He also strikes back in a big way against Dr. Roget when the doc starts experimenting on him secretly, and Matron Cassidy (Julia Blake, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE), the head nurse who thinks Patrick should be euthanized.  Patrick's clashes with these two medical authority figures who hold his fate in their hands provide the film with some of its most gripping passages. 

Also keeping us on the edge of our seats are Patrick's homicidal thought crimes directed at the increasingly hapless men in Kathy's life.  Some signs of his growing power are as subtle as the water in Brian's swimming pool rippling as he and Kathy get romantic.  Elsewhere, an opening elevator door (which we know should be out-of-order) beckons Ed inside for what will prove to be a lengthy detour on his way upstairs to visit Kathy at the hospital. 


Strangely enough, there isn't a whole lot of violence in PATRICK,  at least nowhere near as much as you might expect.  I don't even think it ever shows any of his victims actually dying on camera.  (We do see a frog death that animal lovers will find disturbing despite a disclaimer that the frogs in the film were killed under some kind of official zoological supervision.) 

Susan Penhaligon is a likable heroine, while Helpmann overacts wonderfully as the sort of doctor who's a little too fond of weird research.  As the title character, Robert Thompson doesn't do much besides lie there the whole time, but he certainly has the perfect look for Patrick--you take one gander at that tensed, malevolent face and bulging eyes and you know something diabolical is going on in that supposedly dead brain.

Best of all, perhaps, is Julia Blake as Matron Cassidy.  Hers is a performance that can really be savored and admired.  There's a terrific scene in which her character is chewing out Kathy for getting too "close" to Patrick, and for five minutes or so her expert delivery makes the film absolutely riveting.  Later, she's at the center of one of the more suspenseful and Hitchcock-like sequences as she creeps surreptitiously through the darkened hospital with the aim of finally pulling the plug on Patrick once and for all.

The story takes its own sweet time getting started, so some modern viewers may be bored stiff wondering when the non-stop bloody thrills and gore are going to start flying at them.  This is the kind of film you settle into and allow it to weave its leisurely but increasingly compelling story--sort of like curling up with a good book instead of playing a fast-paced video game.  If you're not in a big hurry to be thrilled, it's well worth sitting back and letting it go about building up to some creepy and sometimes shocking situations.

The Blu-ray/DVD combo from Severin Films is in 1.77:1/16x9 anamorphic widescreen with English, Spanish, French, and Italian Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include an informative Richard Franklin commentary track, original trailer and TV spots, an hour's worth of entertaining cast and crew interviews from the documentary "Not Quite Hollywood", a vintage TV interview with Franklin, and two fun Easter eggs--one is a trailer for the lurid Italian sequel, and the other a TV spot that should be a treat for fans of "The CBS Late Movie."  The film's original cut was 140 minutes, the USA cut 96 minutes--this print runs for about 112.

PATRICK is a good example of the distinctive Richard Franklin style, a bit like early Argento or Cronenberg in that it sometimes hints of that kind of vibe. There's a sure hand at work here although you don't really see any "style" until it's needed, and never for its own sake.   Neither a rollercoaster ride nor a cold blast of horror from out of an abattoir, this is simply a solid, involving, and satisfying old-school horror tale that you don't have to be brain-dead to appreciate.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

SCREAM PARK -- movie review by porfle



First-time writer/producer/director Cary Hill has done a workmanlike job with his debut feature, SCREAM PARK (2012).  Which would be enough, except that he's also managed to give his ultra-low-budget slasher flick enough extra zing to help distinguish it from the rest of the pack.

Not that it's any kind of classic, or even that much above average.  But compared to some of the utterly lackluster entries which tend to accumulate until this particular genre is bursting at the seams with boredom, it's downright invigorating.

The set-up is a simple one: a group of amusement park employees are about to be laid off and their workplace closed due to lack of interest, so they decide to stay after work one night and have one last boozy party.  Unbeknownst to them, however, their boss, Mr. Hyde (Douglas Bradley), has hired a couple of homicidal yokels to murder them all in hopes that the publicity will bring customers back to the park.


At least it's not another freakin' summer camp, right?  And this kind of setting is always interesting, especially when imbued with a last-gasp melancholy mixed with the inherent spookiness of a deserted fun park after dark.  Once the stalking starts, Hill takes good advantage of these surroundings with various action taking place on roller coasters, inside haunted houses, etc. along with behind-the-scenes facilities.

The characters are still pretty much the usual suspects but are somewhat more likable than the norm.  Wendy Wygant is Jennifer, a "final girl" finalist right off the bat because she's actually nice (we see her letting people win the ring-toss game she oversees).  Jennifer will later prove refreshingly brave and resourceful against the duo of demented goons bent on killing them all. 

Not only is Wygant a competent actress, but she also has a world-class behind, something I point out only because such things tend to enhance a film's production values.  Also adding to SCREAM PARK's sex appeal are the delightfully abundant chest of  ditzy spookhouse performer Carlee (Kailey Marie Harris) and the Goth-chick charms of Nicole Beattie as Missi.  Alicia Marie Marcucci is the film's resident blonde, Allison, another character who starts out one-dimensional but is given enough time to actually make us care about her.


As for the guys, Steve Rudzinski is Marty, the park's stick-in-the-mud manager who has a crush on Jennifer but will waver precariously between bravery and sheer cowardice when the funnel cakes hit the fan.  Dean Jacobs is Carlee's horny boyfriend Tony, who foreshadows the gore to come by running around with a fake blood-spurting wrist stump earlier in the story.

Tyler Kale is love-starved geek Rhodie, and Kyle Riordan is Allison's punky boyfriend Roy, who supplies the booze for the party and gives Marty headaches with his improper behavior.  The prominently-billed Douglas Bradley, not surprisingly, is an afterthought who appears only briefly in flashback, so if you're watching this simply because you're a fan of "Pinhead" from the HELLRAISER series you'll be disappointed.

The killers, thank goodness, are neither faceless forces of evil nor unkillable murder machines.  Both wear masks and do that Michael Myers thing where they let people get a chilling glimpse of them before ducking behind a tree or whatever.  Later, however, one of them loses the mask and reveals himself as Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy (as "Iggy"), a chatty, excitable psycho who's actually kind of interesting.  His partner (whose name, incidentally, is "Ogre") is the brawny, brainless type who's dumb enough to shrug off a butcher knife in the back and keep on comin'.


The opening titles kick off with a wonderfully robust, angular main title composition by Christian Kriegeskotte, done almost entirely with brass and woodwinds, which, if you're like me, you'll want to download from somewhere as soon as you hear it.  The opening montage of carnival shots lets us know right away that this is a very low-budget and thus very unpolished-looking film, something I can easily live with if there are talented hands at work guiding things. 

With the preliminary "getting to know the characters" scenes (which are actually rather entertaining) out of the way, Cary Hill starts to crank up the scares and suspense until  SCREAM PARK is firing on all cylinders. The gore effects are rudimentary by most standards, yet some of the kills are filmed in more imaginative style than your usual slasher flick.  And where many films of this kind tend to run out of steam as the running time runs down, this one keeps getting better and better until the last jarring shot.

I viewed a barebones screener so I can't comment on tech stuff or extras.  According to Wild Eye Releasing's press release, "the DVD release of Scream Park...will exclusively include a commentary with director Cary Hill, bloopers and trailers, available at major retailers nationwide including Best Buy and Walmart."

SCREAM PARK is a minor slasher flick done on the cheap--to say the least--so if you have a certain production-values standard that must be met before you'll watch a film, this one probably won't meet it.  Yet it's such an earnest effort, with occasional flashes of style, imagination, and even wit, that I couldn't help but find it both entertaining and a little endearing.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE DINOSAUR EXPERIMENT (aka RAPTOR RANCH) -- movie review by porfle



(NOTE: I viewed a screener for this one so I can't comment on specs or bonus features on the final DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.)

When Agent O'Reilly (Declan Joyce) suggests to his partner Agent Logan (Lorenzo Lamas) that the horrible death they're investigating in rural Texas may have been committed by drug runners, Logan responds:  "Drug runners...with six-inch teeth?  That EAT people?"

That's about the only part of THE DINOSAUR EXPERIMENT (2013) with Lorenzo Lamas in it that's anywhere near worth noting. The reason for this is that, as far as I can tell, Lamas' scenes were filmed later by another, less talented director in order to fill out the running time (the fact that two directors are credited on IMDb seems to bear this out).  And compared to the rest of the movie, those scenes really, really suck. 

But if you forget about that unfortunate part of the movie and concentrate on the rest of it, "Raptor Ranch" (the original, more fun-sounding title) is a straight-up hoot.  The last thing I was expecting from the somber box art and synopsis was a comedy, so it took me awhile to get on this movie's wacky, satirical wavelength.  Once I did, though,  everything pretty much started to click and then--whoopee!


Filmed for the SyFy Channel, it's the story of a small Texas town (which was actually filmed in Texas instead of Canada!) where mad scientist Dr. Cane (Jack Gould) is rumored to be raising some kind of exotic emus on his secluded ranch, when in fact he's raising dinosaurs. 

Abbi Whitecloud (singer Jana Mashonee in her acting debut) lost  her mother to one of them six months earlier, and is soon to be menaced by them herself during a night of flesh-rending terror.  Her boss, Billy Wayne (Cole Brown), who runs a gas station-diner where he secretly feeds his customers squirrel meat, is a fat, gloriously disgusting sexist slob who is just one of the many extremely stereotypical characters that grace this movie.  Abbi works as his waitress because she still owes him for the pickup he sold her,  and he makes her dress like a hooker (bless his heart). 

Which reminds me--one of the best things about "The Dinosaur Raptor Ranch Experiment" is simply girl-watching gorgeous Native American babe Jana Mashonee, whether dressed to thrill Billy Wayne's goggle-eyed patrons or dragging herself out of bed in her undies and doing archery on a picture of her boss (which happens to feed my girls-doing-archery fetish in a big way). 


Rapidly converging on her tiny hometown to join in the fun and get added to the raptor menu are three college kids on their way to Tahoe--nerdy Sheldon (Cody Vaughan), party animal Lucas (Donny Boaz),  and the Bluto-like Man Beast (Rowdy Arroyo). Also headed their way is a dilapidated tour bus containing washed-up funk singer Little Willie (Marcus M. Mauldin) and his ditzy backup singers Kolin (Lexy Hulme) and Josie (Kimberly Matula). 

Circumstances lead them all to Dr. Cane's ranch, where they're just in time for the big raptor breakout which is hilariously orchestrated and executed (by the good director) as well as being pretty suspenseful.  In fact, the extended chase sequence that this touches off gradually develops into a genuinely thrilling edge-of-your-seat series of close calls and narrow escapes that take the main characters from Raptor Ranch to Abbi's house (where we get to see Billy Wayne turned into raptor chow) and all the way back into town.

Lots of individual bits of business add to the comedy and excitement, some of them quite imaginative (the sex scene between Lucas and Josie in Little Willie's tour bus ends with one of the most riotously audacious visual gags I've ever seen).  Their breathless flight from the ravenous raptors just keeps getting more and more exciting as the body count among the main cast rises rapidly.


The characters, rather than growing progressively tiresome as happens in many films of this type, actually get funnier and more endearing as the action mounts, particularly Lexy Hulme's energetic performance as drug-addled Goth chick Kolin and Rowdy Arroyo as sweetly stupid Man Beast.  But all perform above and beyond the norm.

A big factor in how surprisingly good this all turned out to be is the more-than-passable level of SPFX--this would definitely rate as some of the best CGI I've seen in a SyFy Channel movie.  The full-sized animatronics aren't too shabby, either. 

Of course, there are the fakey parts, especially a bad CGI explosion during the finale and some shots where the dinosaurs aren't up to par.  But on the whole the effects are quite adequate, as are editing, camerawork, etc.  (Except, that is, for the sore-thumb sections with Lorenzo Lamas in them, which look like someone's home movies were edited into the rest of the picture.) 

Even if it had been as bad as I expected, THE DINOSAUR EXPERIMENT (I wish they'd kept the original title) would be worth watching solely for the eye-candy attributes of the delightfully hot Jana Mashonee wearing sexy clothes and doing archery.  But the fact that I expected so little and got such a surprisingly entertaining experience instead makes me like this silly little movie a lot.  It may just be a poor man's JURASSIC PARK, but then again, I'm a poor man.

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"Necronos: Tower of Doom" & "Dangerous Obsession" Now Available in the Troma Shop



"DANGEROUS OBSESSION" & "NECRONOS: TOWER OF DOOM" (with Explicit Cover Art) Now Available in the Troma Shop!

March 11, 2013, New York, NY - Troma Entertainment is pleased to announce it's first two new releases of 2014, "Dangerous Obsession" and "Necronos: Tower of Doom" are now available on DVD.

The seedy, cocaine-laced 1980's Manhattan Financial district is the setting for "Dangerous Obsession", a scandalous tale of murder directed by Yuri Sivio and guest starring Anthony LaPaglia ("Without a Trace.") When a crooked Televangelist is murdered in his high-rise apartment and someone doesn't want Detective Nathan Weinschenk to find out who pulled the trigger. "Dangerous Obsession" is a spiral of sex, seduction and sin.

In "Necronos: Tower of Doom," Necronos, one of the mightiest minions of the devil himself has come to Earth to create an army of the undead under the leadership of barbaric demons, called Berzerkers, in search of the chosen one - a virgin witch. Directed by Marc Rohnstock's "Necronos: Tower of Doom" is "...one of the goriest and bloodiest movies that have evolved from the German Underground..." - Bloody Disgusting. It makes Cannibal Holocaust look like Bambi! "Necronos: Tower of Doom" is available with Explicit Cover Art available EXCLUSIVELY through Troma.

Purchase your copy of "Dangerous Obsession" and "Necronos: Tower of Doom" at the Troma Shop today and for a limited time take advantage of the 30% Off Sale! 

Visit the Troma Shop for all of your new favorite Troma films

Watch the official "Necronos: Tower of Doom" teaser trailer

Established in 1974 by Yale friends Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz, Troma Entertainment is one of the longest-running independent movie studios in United States history, and it's one of the best-known names in the industry. World famous for movie classics like Kaufman's "The Toxic Avenger", "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead", "Class of Nuke 'em High", "Mother's Day" and "Tromeo & Juliet", Troma's seminal films are now being remade as big-budget mainstream productions by the likes of Brett Ratner, Richard Saperstein, Akiva Goldsman and Steven Pink. Among today's luminaries whose early work can be found in Troma's 800+ film library are Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Jenna Fischer, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Costner, Fergie, Vincent D'Onofrio, Samuel L. Jackson, James Gunn and Eli Roth. Troma's latest productions are "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Volumes 1 & 2". Visit Troma at www.troma.com, www.lloydkaufman.com, www.twitter.com/lloydkaufman and www.tromapast.tumblr.com/.



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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IN FEAR -- Blu-ray review by porfle



"Please don't be like EDEN LAKE...please don't be like EDEN LAKE..."  This was what I kept chanting to myself as Tom and Lucy, the young couple in the 2013 horror-suspense thriller IN FEAR, got themselves mired deeper and deeper into a metaphorical morass of confusion and dread.

Thank goodness this story didn't plumb the depths of profoundly depression-inducing nightmare territory as did the exercise in sheer suicidal grief that is EDEN LAKE.  But for awhile there, as the young lovers' predicament continued to escalate, I was preparing myself for the worst.

Having come to Ireland together to attend a festival with friends, Tom (Iain De Caestecker, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.") and Lucy (Alice Englert, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES)  first decide to celebrate their two-week anniversary as a couple by stealing away to a (very) secluded hotel Tom found on the internet. 


But as they drive deeper into the woods along narrow dirt roads, past forbidding-looking shacks with "Keep Out" signs, following direction signs to the hotel which seem to keep changing and causing them to wander around in circles, it gradually dawns on them (and us) that something is very wrong.

All we know is that something happened inside the pub they visited before setting off on their journey, which involved a group of rowdy locals whom Tom may have somehow offended.  But he isn't talking about what happened.  And now it looks as though those unbalanced individuals may be behind what's going on.  Just how mad did Tom make them, and how far will they go to get back at him and his girlfriend?  Or are they being stalked and menaced by someone else entirely? 

The scenario brings to mind all manner of similar ones from the past,, chief among them being THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (even places like Ireland have their dangerous backwoods yokels).  As the suspense becomes more and more gripping, it appears we'll have to endure some  painfully tense situations in order to find out how far in that direction this particular film is willing to take us. 


Before that, though, IN FEAR has already got us firmly in its grip, which keeps tightening as Tom and Lucy's initial good spirits become as waterlogged as the muddy roads they're traveling on, their fears darkening like the forbidding forests that close in more and more as minutes tick away.  Running lower on gas with every lost mile, their hopes of finding the hotel long dashed, their main concern finally becomes one of survival itself.

Little by little they encounter definite signs that there's someone else out there with them as their unseen stalkers make their eerie presence known.  Finally, the attacks become terrifyingly direct as a series of jump scares have us gasping in shock and lurching around in our seats.

IN FEAR is Jeremy Lovering's first credit as a feature director but you wouldn't know it by looking at this lush film which is so imaginatively, deliberately conceived and shot that much of it boasts the production values of an avant-garde car commercial.  Richly moody photography and an atmospheric New-Agey score immerse us in a growing sense of helpless dread while lending the film a real upper-class veneer, as do the excellent performances by the leads.


This eventually comes to include a third character, Max (Allen Leech, "Downton Abbey", "Rome"), whom Tom runs down with his car while fleeing in panic down a lonely road.  Max is a wild card--is he truly another potential victim running from the bad guys, or is he one of them? 

Either way, having him bleeding all over the back seat, in addition to giving Tom directions which still seem to lead nowhere, definitely adds to Tom and Lucy's paralyzingly immediate concerns.  And the stakes get even higher when they're forced to make some tough and ultimately heartrending decisions that could directly effect each other in very negative ways.

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

What happens to Tom and Lucy is the sort of situation that anyone can identify with, in which you suddenly and unknowingly cross a boundary between real life and the world of waking nightmares.  IN FEAR builds and builds, until the tension is almost sickening.  The fact that it doesn't pay off as strongly as I'd hoped--or, with EDEN LAKE in mind, as I'd dreaded--matters little when taking into consideration just how well-made and effective this film is. 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

HAZMAT -- movie review by porfle



If you're looking for an effective weapon to wield in the war against insomnia, you could do worse than the stalker-slasher snooze HAZMAT (2013).  Watching it may be slightly more fun than counting sheep,  but not much more exciting. 

It gets off to a good start with an amusing fakeout.  What we think is a flash-forward to the suspenseful conclusion--with two frantic young ladies in a showdown against the hulking killer who is pursuing them--turns out to be the final reveal of a reality-TV show based on Shannon Dougherty's "Scare Tactics" (here known as "Scary Antics"). 

If you've ever pondered how easily the actual show could go wrong, with unsuspecting people suddenly plunged into what they think are real-life terror situations by their so-called "friends", you'll find the initial premise of the story intriguing.  On-air host "Scary" Dave (Todd Bruno) gleefully sets up his latest prank within an abandoned chemical plant which, years before, was the scene of a horrible fire whose victims' ghosts are said to still haunt the labyrinthine hallways. 


So, what do you do if your best friend's dad was one of the 138 employees killed in the fire?  Simple--you set him up to be terrorized in those very corridors by a fiend in a hazmat suit, all courtesy of the good folks at "Scary Antics."  It seems the target of this hilarious "punk", Jacob (Norbert Velez), has allowed his father's death to make him a little too "weird" and "creepy" to suit friends Adam (Reggie Peters), Melanie (Gema Calero),  and Carla (Daniela Larez), so they're hoping the traumatic experience will prove theraputic. 

No way would it transform the tightly-wound Jacob into a crazed killer instead, right?  Wrong!  When Jake witnesses a hazmat-suited actor from the show pretending to kill Adam, it pushes him over the edge and he decides to add a new wrinkle or two to the scenario. 

Finding another hazmat suit in a locker and borrowing a nice big fire ax from its perch on the wall,  Jacob goes from zero-to-Jason so fast you'll wonder how this guy got so far in life without totally going berserk already.  In fact, it's so convenient to the story for him to go this quickly and overtly coo-coo that we don't buy it for a second.  One minute he's all jazzed about taking his "friends" on a tour of the crumbling ruin where his dad died, and the next minute he's suited up in his serial killer costume doing that distinctive Michael Myers head-tilt as he watches his victims die from gaping ax wounds to the chest. 


Meanwhile in the TV crew's office HQ, "Scary" Dave and his would-be love interest,  makeup lady Brenda (Aniela McGuinness),  witness the whole horrible situation transpire from behind a barricaded door and wonder how the hell they're going to get past Jacob and out of the building.  (It seems there must be at least twenty or thirty hidden cameras in addition to Jacob's helmet cam, which he stole from the show's own hazmat-suited guy.) 

Cowardly sound guy Gary (Giordan Diaz) becomes the character I most identify with since, well, he's a coward.  Unfortunately, the more the cast are called on to emote, the worse the acting level gets.  By this time the shaggy dog story has degenerated into them watching Jacob stalk the others on a monitor, and making the occasional unsuccessful escape attempts themselves. 

Producer-writer-director Lou Simon (THE AWAKENED), who looks like a movie star herself, is competent enough behind the camera to make a passable-looking low-budget horror flick, especially noteworthy since it takes place almost entirely inside a dreary old building.  Still, the best part of this one visually are the opening titles.  Even gorehounds will be disappointed by the half-hearted effects. 


 I watched a barebones screener so I can't comment on any extra features the final DVD from Uncork'd Entertainment may contain.  The film is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby Digital surround sound.  The street date is April 1, 2014.

If you've seen countless other films in this genre which merely tread water without adding anything new or unique to the mix, then you know just how tedious and uninspired it can be to watch it all over again.   HAZMAT has practically no story, especially when the various twists and surprises you're predicting eventually fail to materialize and the whole thing just comes to a jarring halt without much interesting happening at all. 

Buy it at Amazon.com



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Saturday, March 15, 2014

OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION -- DVD review by porfle



As all movie fans know, there's nothing more kickass than a collection of movie trailers!  Unless, of course, it's a collection of trailers for rom-coms or Merchant Ivory films.  Those don't get described as "kickass" very often.  But you know what does?  Ozploitation flicks!!!  So you know what would be a really kickass trailer collection?  OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION!!!

This 2014 DVD from Intervision doesnt literally explode, of course, but there may be times when you'll think it is, or that your brain itself is exploding from the overload of pure, unadulterated exploitational trash-cinema goodness that you're subjecting it to. 

It's a delirium-inducing cornucopia of drive-in fodder that offers ample evidence that the Australian film industry was a beehive of activity back in the glorious 70s and 80s, with directors such as the great Simon Wincer ("Lonesome Dove", "Quigley Down Under"), actor and Rick Wakeman album narrator David Hemmings, the prolific Colin Eggleston, and even Peter Weir and Bruce Beresford manning the director's chair.  (If the production could afford a director's chair, that is.)

The three things that best transcend a low budget are sex, horror, and action, so these trailers fit snugly within those categories.  "Sexploitation and 'Ocker' Comedies" ("ocker" meaning "consisting of broad and uncultured Aussie stereotypes") gets the ball rolling with a string of low-class and often painfully corny flicks that are as twangy and hick-ified as "Hee Haw."


Barry Crocker and Barry Humphries give us the rowdy musical "The Adventures of Barry McKenzie" (with a young Peter Cook) and its sequel, "Barry McKenzie Holds His Own", guest-starring none other than Donald Pleasence as Count Plasma the vampire.  Graeme Blundell, who went on to play Padme's father in deleted scenes from "Attack of the Clones", stars in a couple of "Alvin Purple" romps about the sexploits of a nerdy-looking chick magnet who is given this valuable business advice: "There are openings everywhere for the right man!"

"Plugg" offers the gorgeous Cheryl Rixon along with some really bad cop hijinks, while Susannah York and Trevor Howard find themselves ensconced in a dreary-looking period costume farce called "Eliza Fraser."  The trailers for "Fantasm" and "Fantasm Comes Again" feature a too-close-for-comfort view of John Holmes' trouser snake while giving us teasing glimpses of favorite 70s porn stars Candy Samples (as "Mary Gavin"), Uschi Digard, Roxanne Brewer,  Rene Bond, and Rainbow Smith. 

In addition to the slapdash and gleefully vulgar comedies are nudge-nudge wink-wink mockumentaries such as "The Love Epidemic", which exhorts viewers to have sex while warning them of V.D., and "The ABC of Love and Sex Australia Style", which we examined in detail here.  All serve as naughty looks at what was considered shocking in "Strine" society in those days and, like the comedies, are brimming with a multitude of boobies and great gobs of softcore sex. 


The ubiquitious Jack Thompson ("Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence") plays the no-nonsense, ultra-manly "Petersen", who takes no guff and tells people to "get stuffed."  Arthur Dignam of "Dead Kids" (aka "Strange Behavior") co-stars, but it's the welcome sight of a topless young Wendy Hughes who makes this trailer interesting.  Thompson turns up again (and again) in "Libido", which offers the usual sexual situations with a lurid and melodramatic leer. 

Much of this material seems to be the same kind of stuff that turned up as late-night filler on the Playboy Channel in the 80s.  Like most of OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION, I'm not sure I'd care to actually sit through some of these films yet their trailers provide non-stop entertainment in handy capsule form.

Moving on to "Horror and Thriller",  we get another staple of Aussie cinema that was either well-done or utterly gosh-awful in seemingly equal measures.  Roo-doo potboilers such as "Outback" and "Night of Fear" appear to represent the latter, while something called "Inn of the Damned" ("in the tradition of Hitchcock!") manages to boast none other than Dame Judith Anderson in what is known as "slumming" with a capital "S." 

Returning to sex-comedy territory is "The Night The Prowler", about a woman named Felicity who turns the tables on her nocturnal rapist and becomes a sex-starved prowler herself. "End Play" mixes two brothers, a secluded country house, and a pretty young hitchhiker to give us something that is, the announcer warns, "terribly, terribly wrong."


Reprenting the best of low-budget Australian horror cinema are the trailers for some familiar faves.  "Patrick" tells of a comatose man who may be causing chaos on a subconscious telekinetic level.  "Thirst" is a story of modern-day vampires, while "Dead Kids" is the richly compelling horror thriller by filmmaker Michael Laughlin which stars Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher,  Fiona Lewis, Dan Shor,  Marc McClure, and Arthur Dignam. 

Peter Weir's "The Last Wave" stars Richard Chamberlain in a nightmare of supernatural evil.  Sigrid Thornton looks great topless in "Snapshot" while being menaced by Vincent Gill and propositioned by "Thirst" star Chantal Contouri.  "Nightmares" is as lurid a horror-slasher flick as they come.  A personal favorite of mine, "Roadgames" (1981), stars Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis as a truck driver and a hitchhiker on the trail of a highway serial killer. 

Of the three categories featured here, perhaps "Cars and Action" is the one the Australians do best.  Ever since "Mad Max" roared through American drive-ins and cable TVs there's been a string of imitations and outright clones of it and its superior follow-up, "The Road Warrior", which really set the standard for white-line mayhem. 

The same cast members keeping turning up too--not the least of which is probably the busiest man in Oz cinema, Bruce "Gyro Captain" Spence, who seems to be in damn near everything in this collection.  "Mad Max"'s ever-popular "Goose",  Steve Bisley,  heads sci-fi action-thriller "The Chain Reaction", which has its own incredible car chases, crashes, and stunts. 


More automotive vehicles are destroyed and stunt drivers endangered in the hair-raising "Stunt Rock", "Stone" (the guy flying off a cliff on a motorcycle is a stunner), "Fair Game" (another beleaguered woman turns the tables on her antagonists), and the mind-boggling "Midnight Spares" with, you guessed it, Bruce Spence. 

Judging by their trailers, these films are jam-packed with the kind of stuff that makes Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" look like a fender-bender.  I can only guess at how wide-open the stuntman trade must've been in Australia during that era.  Some of them seem to be risking life and limb with utter abandon. 

Elsewhere, Alan Arkin does a funny turn as a washed-up superhero in "The Return of Captain Invincible."  "Terminator" rip-off "The Time Guardian" stars Dean Stockwell and Carrie Fisher.  Jimmy Wang Yu goes up against erstwhile 007 George Lazenby in "The Man From Hong Kong." 

There are would-be spaghetti westerns such as "Raw Deal" and Dennis Hopper (in a series of horrible fake beards) as "Mad Dog Morgan."  Aerial thriller "Race for the Yankee Zephyr", with Ken Wahl, George Peppard, Lesley Ann Warren, and Donald Pleasence, is directed by David Hemmings ("Thirst") and features some of the most exhilarating helicopter photography I've ever seen. 

"Attack Force Z" is a mercenary shoot-em-up with Mel Gibson, Sam Neill, Olivia Hussey, and John Phillip Law.  Getting short shrift here is Nicole Kidman's teenage debut,  "BMX Bandits", whose brief trailer seems more like a TV spot.  Peter Weir's "The Cars that Ate Paris" (1974) is just as nutty and stunt-packed as it sounds, and yes, Bruce Spence is in it.

Among the other luminaries popping up here and there in this collection are Broderick Crawford, Judy Davis, Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, Tom Skerritt,  and James Mason, along with frequent Ocker faves such as Frank Thring and Briony Behets. 

The DVD from Intervision Picture Corp. is in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital mono sound.  No subtitles or extras.  The picture quality is about what you'd expect from a bunch of forty-year-old trailers (give or take a decade).  Running time is 165 minutes.  Many more trailers besides those mentioned here are included (65 in all).

If you're not in the mood for a sit-down meal but fancy a snack tray of sex, horror, and violence goodies, then Mama always said you should try OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION.  Because even though you never know what you're gonna get, you can be sure it'll be chock full of fine Strine cui-sine.

Buy it at Amazon.com



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