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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

JUNCTION -- DVD review by porfle



An interesting low-budget thriller, JUNCTION (2012) mixes equal parts morbid humor and nail-biting suspense with a plot that keeps heading up unexpected pathways and getting more and more intense as it goes along.

The four main leads all do excellent work as a group of edgy addicts huddled in a dilapidated car on their way to try and score some more meth.  David (Tom Pelphrey), the de facto leader of the group because it's his car, is at a disadvantage when dealing with meth-lab maestro Tai (Anthony Ruivivar, STARSHIP TROOPERS) since he doesn't have any money. 

Tai, who operates out of his mom's basement, comes up with a deal--he'll supply the goodies if David and company come up with a TV set for his mom's birthday.  Thus given an offer they can't refuse, the four jonesing junkies set off on a mission to break-and-enter their way back to wellness.

Trouble is, they're all on the verge of a spaz attack even while creeping through the home of some unknown family and trying to make off with their flat-screen TV.  David is relatively level-headed, and so is his female friend Kari (Summer Crockett Moore), but Kari's boyfriend "Spot" (Harris Doran) is a nervous bundle of free-floating hostility while addlebrained addict Donald (Neal Bledsoe, SEX AND THE CITY 2) makes Scooby-Doo's pal Shaggy look like Alistair Cooke. 


Up to this point, JUNCTION is toodling along nicely as what seems mainly to be a very deadpan comedy leavened with suspense, some ominous foreshadowing, and an underlying sense of tragedy from seeing these otherwise fairly decent people wasting their lives and bodies away (they really look awful) in pursuit of the next elusive fix. 

All at once things take their first really sharp left turn thanks to an inadvertent discovery by Donald in the attic.  I won't tell you what it is, but it's something that affects him on such a deeply personal level that the sudden appearance of the house's owner, Connor (Anthony Rapp, A BEAUTIFUL MIND), causes the seemingly harmless Donald to attack him like a wild animal, beat him brutally, and then tie him up and torture him.  (It's also the first jarring indication of just how graphic this film's violence is capable of getting.)

This doesn't set well with the others so Donald attacks them for trying to stop him, and pretty soon the situation has become a harrowing free-for-all in which we don't know who's going to go off on whom.  One thing we do know, though, is that in addition to its more ruefully comic moments, JUNCTION now functions on a much darker level where anything can happen and, with Donald getting crazier and more desperate by the minute, chances are it will be bad. 

Further complications appear in the form of Connor's wife Jennifer (Sharon Maguire), who also must be tied up, and young daughter Mia (Danielle Kotch), whom Donald is convinced he must rescue from what, in his mind, are her evil parents.  Worst of all, Mia manages to call 911 and bring supercops Tarelli (David Zayas, "Dexter") and Walters (Michael O'Keefe, CADDYSHACK, THE GREAT SANTINI) into the mix along with most of the city's police force. 


This is where JUNCTION begins to take on elements of past films such as THE DESPERATE HOURS and DOG DAY AFTERNOON as the hostage crisis escalates amidst much interpersonal drama between both cops and criminals.   (All of which is handled nicely on the film's small budget.)  David and Kari's basic decency puts them at odds with the now extremely dangerous Donald, while Spot's focus on self-preservation makes him  yet another unpredictable wild card. 

Zayas and O'Keefe keep things hopping on the law-and-order side as they prove themselves to be two of the most capable character actors at work today.  The sharp script by first-time director Tony Glazer lags a bit here and there but always manages to get its second wind--aided by some very nimble direction and editing--as things build to a fairly riveting conclusion. 

The DVD from Grand Entertainment Group is in 1.33:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of the film's trailer and a making-of featurette. 

With lead actors who are truly convincing as meth addicts scraping the bottom of life's barrel, JUNCTION establishes a solid basis from which to spring a disorienting series of events on the viewer.  The climax is cathartic, but there's a final touch at the fadeout that's troubling even though you'll probably sorta see it coming.

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Monday, April 28, 2014

SSI: SEXY SQUAD INVESTIGATION -- DVD review by porfle



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

Remember how a lot of cheap porn movies tried to be comedies, and between the old in-out, in-out scenes there would be embarrasingly lame attempts at humor by people who had absolutely no comedic skills, or acting ability in general?  You don't?  Uh, me neither.  Heh...I never watched movies like that. 

But it's a sure bet that those movies would've been a heck of a lot funnier if Thomas J. Moose and Andy Sawyer had made them, because their SSI: SEXY SQUAD INVESTIGATION (2006) is a scream.

Of course, this isn't a porn flick--there's nothing here that you couldn't see in the latest issue of Playboy, or at least Penthouse.  But the emphasis is on T & A, and there's plenty of it.  There are some really hot women in this movie.  One quick shot of a gorgeous black actress named Lexi Martinez reclining naked on a couch almost made me choke on my bean burrito.  "HOOO-LY SH**!" I cried, hastily grabbing for--the remote control.  (What did you think I was going to say, Mr. Dirty Mind?)

There are several other moments in SSI that are similarly inspirational, though these scenes are pretty brief.   Since this movie is as much a comedy as it is a gawkfest, the sex stuff isn't allowed to drag on to the point of boredom like it does in porn films.  Or so I've heard. 

However, the keepcase contains a coupon you can send in, along with three dollars postage, to receive an "unrated" version in which, I would assume, these scenes are much longer and more...uhh..."useful."  If you're a PERVERT, that is!

The story, such as it is, takes place in New York, although most of it was shot in Manchester, England, with actors valiantly struggling to simulate American accents with wildly varying degrees of success.  The guy who plays President Shrub (Frank Bowdler) sounds about as Texan as Leslie Howard, and his cowboy hat looks more like a pimp hat.  But it doesn't matter, because he's funny. 

President Shrub's decree that all sex outside the bonds of holy matrimony is now illegal necessitates the formation of the titular Sex Squad, who tirelessly peep around corners and through windows trying to catch perps in the act of "gittin' it on."

SSI agent John Honeysuckle (John Paul Fedele) is haunted by memories of the day his partner and brother Mickey (director Thomas J. Moose) was accidentally shot in the head by a farmer as they were spying on some sex-criminals while disguised as a pantomime horse.  This is the first of several laugh-out-loud scenes in the movie. 

Another is when Agent Honeysuckle is gazing at his new partner, Officer Katrina Lightbody (the lovely, flourescent-eyed A.J. Khan) while she examines some evidence.  The camera slowly pushes in on her as she picks up a cheerleader's pom-pom in slow motion, and the close-up of Honeysuckle's lovestruck face informs us that he's having a feverish fantasy.  He's imagining her dressed as a cheerleader, right?  No, he's imagining himself dressed as a cheerleader. 

Later, when he has another flashback about his former life as a welder who dreams of being a dancer, Fedele's goofily energetic spoof of Jennifer Beals in FLASHDANCE is a howl.  And then there's Honeysuckle's Viet Nam flashback, where a grenade went off in his lap and blew his balls off, and they landed in "Oozedick" Kawalski's mess kit, and...

Anyway, Honeysuckle and Lightbody's investigation of a mysterious woman who is going around seducing people into illegally having sex with her leads them to uncover a sinister plot that is directed at the President himself, and his virginal daughter, Jessica (Natalie Heck). 

But that's about as much of the story as I need to yak about, since it's really just an excuse for one comedy bit after another.  Much of this is similar to stuff like Mr. Show or SCTV, with generous helpings of Benny Hill thrown in.  There are a few slow spots along the way, but heck, even BLAZING SADDLES has a few slow spots. 

The commentary track features Thomas J. Moose (I wonder if he's any relation to Bullwinkle?) and Andy Sawyer, but I could only get through about half of it because almost everything they start to say is cut off by cries of intense pain.  For some reason they decided to play an old Victorian parlor game that administers electric shocks while talking about the movie, so the commentary sounds pretty much like this:

"So, these shots were taken in Manchester, and John Fedele, who stars in the movie as 'Honeysuckle', shot all the New York material, and we found that--AAAAGGGGHHH!!!"

"In fact, there were a couple of streets in Manchester that we used a couple of times, you'll see one later...in fact, there it is GAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  BASTARD!!!"

Along with a short blooper reel and some trailers, the DVD also contains a thirty-minute short called FBI GUYS, which is a black-and-white mock episode of a 50s-type cop show that won "Best Program" in the 1992 USA Hometown Video Awards, whatever that is, and it's also hilarious.

No, this isn't a Woody Allen film, and it's not likely to pass within range of Roger Ebert's eyeballs any time soon, but SSI: SEXY SQUAD INVESTIGATION is brimming with babes and it's cheap, stupid, and funny.  As Major Kong might say, "a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

TENTACLE 8 -- DVD review by porfle



Siskel and Ebert, who often lamented the lack of complicated plots in Hollywood movies, once criticized Brian DePalma's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE for having a plot that was too complicated. 

The funny thing is, I had no trouble following what was going on in that movie.  The plot of TENTACLE 8 (2014), on the other hand, makes MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE look like PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.  This is pure spy thriller stuff of the most hush-hush kind--dense, complex, very dry, very involved--and even if you pay utmost attention to every word and action the whole time you're still liable to get as lost in it as I was.  (I was halfway through the similarly plot-heavy Alec Guinness version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" before I realized I was going to have to start over from the beginning in order to get up to speed.)


Still, I enjoyed it for its smart dialogue, fair-to-good performances, and general air of deep-penetrating paranoia in which various branches of the U.S. Intelligence Community are worried about what the other branches are up to, especially after a devastating computer virus wipes out a bunch of top-secret records and may be the first sign of something really scary to come.

One National Security Agency code analyst, Ray Berry (Brett Rickaby, THE CRAZIES, BEREAVEMENT) gets sucked into the whole mess far beyond his usual work-a-day status and suffers brutal torture when he's suspected of being part of the problem.  Even his impromptu romantic relationship with a female CIA agent named Tabitha (Amy Motta, SPREAD) may be based more on deceit than their mutual love of old books.  But his main concern is Mosely (Joshua Morrow, "The Young and the Restless"), a dogged young agent who has been assigned to track him down.

Rickaby's Ray Berry is the kind of everyday hero we can identify with--all he wants is to be an average working stiff with a normal life, something which an older, world-weary agent who's helping him (Bruce Gray, STARSHIP TROOPERS' "Sky Marshall Dienes") sadly informs him is long out of his reach.  Even more sadly,  Ray discovers that what makes him most dangerous to his superiors is the fact that he has a conscience which guides his actions. 

Forced into self-preservation mode, Ray is interesting to watch as necessity makes him draw upon all his cunning and resources to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.  We never know who's on his side or merely conning him, including the homeless guy who hits him up for spare change outside a convenience store.  Even when he's with Tabitha he can never completely let his guard down, although their scenes together come closest to giving TENTACLE 8 its only truly heartfelt moments. 


In his feature writing-directing debut, John Chi turns in a more-than-competent job with some nice flashes of style.  While Chi says he was inspired by such films as Coppola's THE CONVERSATION and Alan J. Pakula's "Paranoia Trilogy" (KLUTE, THE PARALLAX VIEW, and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN), his comparatively micro-budget effort takes place mostly in comfortably low-budget rooms and street locations with lots of money-saving dialogue scenes in place of action.   Still, the story is intense enough to sustain interest despite such limitations. 

The DVD from Grand Entertainment Group is in 1.33:1 widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  The sole extra is a trailer for this and other GEG releases. 

TENTACLE 8 is, as John Chi states, "a film that's supposed to knock you sideways a little."  It certainly did that for me, although I can't help but think I would've enjoyed it more if, while being knocked sideways, I'd also had a better idea of what the hell was going on.  But it speaks well for the film that I liked it anyway.  And another viewing may clear up some of those pesky plot complexities that me and Siskel and Ebert sometimes have trouble with.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WALKER PAYNE -- movie review by porfle



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

The only thing Walker Payne (Jason Patric) loves more than Brute, his sweet-tempered pitbull, is his two young daughters Sara and Beth.  But his spiteful ex-wife Lou Ann (Drea de Matteo) won't let him see the girls anymore until he comes up with $5000 so she can leave her smalltown life behind for better things.  Broke and out of work, Payne has no choice but to hook up with a shady, sharp-dressed hustler, Syrus (Sam Shepard), and enter Brute into sadistic and illegal dog-fighting competitions.

Set in a tiny Illinois town in the 50s, WALKER PAYNE (2006) has a good period atmosphere and captures the era and the setting well.  The script by Alex Paraskevas and director Matt Williams (who does a solid job for a TV sitcom veteran) avoids big showy moments in favor of an understated realism (my favorite line is when Syrus describes Payne as "too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash"). 

After establishing the main conflict and introducing a love interest for Payne--pretty bank teller Audrey (KaDee Strickland) from Chicago--this leisurely-paced, slightly soapy drama starts to heat up and take on a feeling of dread as Payne's dealings with Syrus get darker and more dangerous.


Jason Patric does a good job here of helping me forget that he's the guy from THE LOST BOYS.  As the ex-wife from hell, Drea de Matteo totally sheds her Jersey persona from "The Sopranos" and is surprisingly convincing as a poor Midwestern gal.  Sam Shepherd, of course, can do no wrong, and neither can the venerable Bruce Dern as Payne's animal-loving friend, Chester. 

Guy Boyd, another one of my favorite character actors, shows up as the resident dog-doctor during the fight scenes, which was a very pleasant surprise since I've thought he was dead for about the last ten years.  The whole cast is good--heck, even the dog gives a moving performance.

As a contrast to the lazy, hazy smalltown ambience we see early on, the dogfight scenes are pretty disturbing.  By this time we're well aware of the close bond between Payne and his dog, and it's pretty hard to watch as he sends Brute into the fighting pit, desperate to get the money to buy his daughters back. 

These scenes take place in isolated backwoods locations where danger and paranoia hang heavy.  A couple of police chases amp up the suspense, especially since Payne's breaking his parole by both participating in illegal dogfights and crossing the state line to do it. 

Some brief nudity pops up now and then, which is nice, except that one of the bare backsides we catch a glimpse of during the film belongs to Jason Patric.  (As he was sitting nude on the bed, I kept thinking, "Don't stand up...don't stand up...", but he stood up.)  Of course, I guess this is a plus if you're a big Jason Patric fan. 

There's very little comedy relief past the first third or so--even during an impromptu lovemaking scene by a scenic lake, the budding romance between Payne and Audrey is low-key and somber.  And if you love dogs, the scenes during and after the final dogfighting "championship" may be hard to watch.

It's here that a final surprise comes right out of left field.  Earlier, Syrus tells Payne the story of a man who once brought his pitbull into a bar and bet everyone that he could skin it alive without a whimper ("A bulldog's indestructible," chuckles Guy Boyd's character while stitching up the ravaged Brute after a fight).  And in one startling moment, we see just how much of a bastard Syrus really is.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER -- DVD review by porfle



(NOTE: I reviewed a barebones screener for this.  The press release states that it will come "packed with exclusive extras, including deleted scenes, interviews, music videos, media appearances and more.")

It didn't take long for me to figure out that LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER (2013) was your usual WWE-inspired "sports entertainment" production with colorful fictional contestants battling according to a scripted storyline.

It didn't take much longer after that, unfortunately, to ascertain that this particular example of the genre not only lacked the budget, gloss, and relative excitement of the WWE, but that it failed even to match the dubious standards set by the old TV series "G.L.O.W. (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling)."

Whereas "G.L.O.W." presented over-the-top archetypal characters such as the all-American girl, the psycho, the farmer's daughter, the punk rocker, the fascist femme fatale, etc. performing broad farce before, after, and during some ferocious ring action, the women of L.F.C. are barely distinguishable from one another apart from race and body type.  They're also a dull bunch whose personas, if one can call them that, are as bland and limp as their faux fighting skills. 


The low-rent arena doesn't even offer the excitement of live spectators, instead giving us a blurry simulated crowd undulating in some kind of green-screen limbo.  The fights themselves consist of a pair of lingerie-clad babes hopping around throwing weak jabs and slappy kicks and then rolling around for awhile until, mercifully, a horn blows and there's a judges' decision. 

The image has the murky, cheap-video look of a full-screen picture stretched into widescreen, with jittery camerawork and choppy editing used to inject some vitality into the listless "bouts."  Half the fight time consists of cutaways to talking heads blathering endlessly to disguise the fact that nobody involved seems to know how to actually choreograph this kind of action.

The heads doing most of the talking are L.F.C. founder Roni Taylor, a statuesque redhead who supposedly saw two ring girls get into a fight during a MMA match once and noticed that the audience was more interested in them than in the actual bout, and her husband Jason Parsons, a former MMA fighter who coaches one half of the girls. 


The other half are coached by musclebound former wrestler Arik Loegen, whose extreme vanity, horndoggishness, and cluelessness about mixed martial arts (along with just about everything else) provide the show with its only real comedy, meager as it is.

We also get endless interview segments with the girls themselves,  who make the lady wrestlers of "G.L.O.W." seem like Emmy contenders.  Part of this can be blamed on a script that doesn't give them anything interesting to say, but it's clear that they weren't hired for their acting skills, which are totally non-convincing even within the context of a scripted comedy-based storyline. 

Anyone watching this for the titillation factor is likely in for a disappointment since none of the contestants are actual knockouts and the lingerie they wear isn't overly exciting.  There is some eye candy, of course, depending on each individual viewer's tastes--my favorites were blonde bodybuilder Feather Hadden and generously-endowed snake handler Jenevieve Serpentine. 


Tara "Guillotine" Gaddy manages to generate a bit of ring excitement with her signature move, which consists of smothering her opponent with her breasts (a tactic she refers to as "The Motorboat") while a bout between the two Asian girls in the group,  buxom Helen Mei and Hawaii native Susan Nakata, has a nice moment or two.  A surprise finish in the mismatch between muscular Hadden and diminutive Jody Connacher, while predictable, stretches credulity even for a show of this nature. 

At any rate, these limply staged fights and the endless interview clips that augment them are hardly anything to go out of your way to see.  Most of the between-match plotline is boring as well, with the only really sexy scene I can recall being a brief one in which the girls try on some new lingerie in front of their dressing room mirror.  Otherwise, the terminally unentertaining LINGERIE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS: LACE VS. LEATHER is pretty much tapped out from the starting bell.

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MR. JONES -- DVD review by porfle


Throw in elements of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PICKMAN'S MODEL along with a dash of the old Rod Serling/ "Night Gallery" vibe, shake furiously, and then bake for about half an hour too long,  and you'll have something similar to MR. JONES (2013).

It starts out like one of those "oh no, we're lost and getting loster" ordeals like the recent IN FEAR, until--surprise!--Scott (Jon Foster, PANDORUM) and Penny (Sarah Jones, "Sons Of Anarchy") actually find the place they're looking for.  It's a picturesque little love nest in the sticks where these young city dwellers hope to get away from it all while Scott soaks up inspiration for a nature documentary he's hoping to film.

Cabin fever and ennui quickly drag their good intentions down until the former lovebirds are almost at each other's throats. Until one day, they run across some strange "scarecrows" in the woods, and discover that a nearby neighbor is none other than the mysterious "Mr. Jones", a reclusive artist whose primitive work is highly sought-after by art galleries and who is known to mail his grotesque scarecrows to ordinary people, seemingly at random, who then report being strangely affected by them.


Suddenly Scott's documentary has a new and more sensational subject, but as curiosity gets the better of them, they end up finding out way more about Mr. Jones than they bargained for.  At this point, the BLAIR WITCH first-person-camera trope starts to make a little more sense storywise (although it never completely stops being somewhat awkward) as Scott and Penny venture into Mr. Jones' creepy shack in the woods and down into the dark, shadowy sub-level with its mazelike tunnels (shades of PICKMAN'S  MODEL). 

Before their fateful encounter with the wraithlike title character,  however, Scott makes a foray into the city to interview people about the enigmatic artist.  This gives director Karl Mueller (in his feature debut) the chance to include some additional faces including those of David Clennon (the dope-addled "Palmer" of John Carpenter's THE THING), Diane Neal ("NCIS", DIRTY MOVIE),  Stanley B. Herman (BLACK SWAN), and STAR TREK's ill-fated "Captain Robau",  Faran Tahir.  Their ominous testimony about Jones and his work, which is somehow related to the dark zone where reality and nightmares overlap, causes Scott to reconsider trying to get closer to him.

Meanwhile, Penny has stayed behind to keep an eye on things and has a much more personal encounter with both the art and the artist when she sees Mr. Jones putting up a few scarecrows in the forest at night.  This sequence and those within the subterranean maze, especially those involving Scott losing his way in the dark and hearing blood-curdling whispers and animal growls (this film's sound design is very well done), keep the first half of MR. JONES keenly compelling with the promise of some truly frightening developments to come.


Unfortunately, the whole thing begins to drag as the concept of the real world clashing with the nightmare world gives way to extended goofing-around montages and other cinematic confetti that is neither suspenseful, scary, nor particularly interesting in general.  Several effective moments surface amidst all of this, but not enough to sustain or reinforce the mood established earlier.  The final scenes are more tedious and confusing than scary, and ultimately anti-climactic as well when the most obvious "Night Gallery" ending drops into place with a thud.

Jon Foster and Sarah Jones give it their all and manage to make their characters both believable and sympathetic.  Writer-director Mueller, who also co-wrote the fine apocalyptic thriller THE DIVIDE, does his best to sell this tortured tale and almost pulls it off.  In fact, I can imagine some people enjoying it more than I did as long as they don't find some aspects as overly familiar and strenuously overdone. 

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

The lead-up to Scott and Penny's final encounter with MR. JONES is atmospheric and intriguing, with an initial premise that had my imagination a-flitter with expectations.  The movie didn't quite fulfill them, but heck, since I've seen way worse than this earnest effort I just can't resist giving it a partial recommendation.

Buy it at Amazon.com
DVD
Blu-Ray



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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

DEATH DO US PART -- DVD review by porfle



One of the oldest and tired-est horror subgenres is the hoary story of the young party animals spending a fun weekend in an isolated location, only to get scared, stalked, and slashed by some Jason-like psycho killer.  Every once in a while, however, a movie comes along that proves the old genre's still got a little life left in her. 

DEATH DO US PART (2014) does this and more--in fact, it's been awhile since I started watching a movie with such low expectations only to end up being blown away to this degree.   Everything we've all seen a thousand times is right here--same premise, same set-up, same cabin in the woods, same, same, same--and yet how it's done and by whom is what makes the difference between just another piece of dreck and what, for me anyway, has the potential to become a genuine cult classic.

Writers Ryan Copple and Peter and Julia Benson know they're treading over familiar ground here, so instead of just dishing out the same rehashed story they infuse it with every imaginative twist and turn they can come up with and then supercharge it with exceptionally good filmmaking. 


Nicholas Humphries, whose previous directorial output appears to consist entirely of short subjects and some TV episodes, proves himself more than ready for feature films by giving this one a look and style beyond its budget and by keeping the pace at a fever pitch from start to finish. 

Even the familiar stereotypes are a little more interesting than usual thanks to a dash of realism and a cast that can act.  The Bensons play Kennedy Jamieson and Ryan Harris, a couple of lovebirds celebrating their impending marriage by having a "Jack and Jill" stag party in a secluded cabin with a small group of friends and family.  Unsurprisingly, the previously unseen cabin turns out to be a dump haunted by a crazy backwoods caretaker named Bo (Dave Collette), who looks like he'd be right at home stalking and slashing city folk.

Kennedy, we discover, has her own history of emotional problems and is on the verge of becoming a nervous wreck as her nuptials grow nearer. She insists on bringing her wedding dress along--the same one we see her wearing at the beginning of the film as the police find her staggering, blood-splattered and delirous, along the road.


Emilie Ullerup (HUNT TO KILL, "Smallville") is the lonesome Emily, who fears losing her best friend Kennedy to Ryan, while the bride-to-be's sister Hannah (Christine Chatelain, FINAL DESTINATION) has a really big and potentially devastating secret that she's doing her best to keep.  Chet (Kyle Cassie) is the usual obnoxious party animal, while Ryan's mysterious cousin Derrick (Benjamin Ayres, who reminds me of a young Billy Zane), is mixed up in some very dangerous business and has an ulterior motive for coming along. 

Things progress as you might guess with the group's party plans eventually interrupted by sudden terror and death.  But instead of simply presenting us with a clearly-identified "boogeyman" and then serving up a series of gore-enriched kills, DEATH DO US PART does something a lot more difficult and infinitely more satisfying by keeping the killer's identity a mystery, which not only helps generate edge-of-your-seat suspense but also keeps the story consistently scintillating and surprising. 

Due to the various jagged edges in this mismatched group's dynamic,  everyone is a potential suspect with a motive to kill.  So along with the jump scares and blood-chilling suspense (director Humphries does "creepy" right) we're constantly second-guessing who the killer is and changing our minds about it from one scene to the next. 


Even when the final reveal happens, or we think it happens, this story isn't through pulling the rug out from under us.  Which is so much more interesting than just sitting through a succession of boring death scenes garnished with gore effects and followed by the obligatory "Chucky" ending in which the killer seems to be dead and then keeps coming back to life over and over again.

The cast is terrific, with delightfully buxom Julia Benson ("SGU Stargate Universe", "Harper's Island") really selling us on her character during each stage of Kennedy's emotional turmoil.  The acting in general is much more realistic than in the usual slasher flick, and while the script contains an undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek humor, it's all much more subtle than SCREAM's self-aware self-awareness.  And never does it reach a point in which DEATH DO US PART is anything less than a full-blooded and richly effective horror flick with an old-school feel. 

The DVD 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 making-of featurette.

It seems to me that taking a seemingly worn-out genre and doing something worthwhile with it is one of the hardest things filmmakers can do, especially when so many others have already had a go at it.  That's what makes DEATH DO US PART so impressive, and such a joy for the hungry horror fan.  It's like a full-course dinner after a steady diet of junk food, and it's done to a tantalizing turn. 

Buy it at Amazon.com


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Return to Nuke 'Em High Vol. 1" Premieres in Belgium April 14th


RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH VOL 1 PREMIERES IN BELGIUM AT THE BRUSSELS INTERNATIONAL FANTASTIC FILM FESTIVAL MONDAY NIGHT APRIL 14TH. LEGENDARY DIRECTOR LLOYD KAUFMAN TO BE IN ATTENDANCE

3 1/2 out of 4 Stars!
"Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1 is undeniably funny, brave and so unlike anything else being put out today that it practically demands respect." - FANGORIA



(Read our review HERE.)

New York, N.Y., April 11, 2014 - Greetings from Tromaville! While Troma President and Creator of the "Toxic Avenger," Lloyd Kaufman prepares to unveil "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" in Helsinki, Finland at the Night Visions Film Festival, the Troma Team is proud to announce that the country of Belgium will soon honor the legendary director and his latest Tro-Masterpiece.

On the evening of Monday April 14th (technically Tuesday April 15th) the 32nd Annual Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival will host the Official Belgium Premiere of "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" with a Special Late Night Screening beginning at 12:30am at the Centre for Fine Arts.

Director and Star, Lloyd Kaufman will be in attendance as an honorary guest to introduce his sistine chapel film to Belgium and participate in a crowd interactive Q & A session afterwards. Lloyd Kaufman, along with the Toxic Avenger, will be available for FREE Photo Opportunities and Signings on all of your favorite Tromabilia.

Having made it's World Premiere at the Cannes film festival, been selected by the Museum of Modern Art for their prestigious 2013 "Contenders" series, and been honored by the world-renowned American Cinematheque, "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1" continues to premiere across the world picking up critical acclaim along the way.

Troma Entertainment is proud to present it to Belgium for the first time ever at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. The screening begins at 8:30am, come out and celebrate Troma's 40th Anniversary and get ready to Return to Nuke 'Em High!

For more information on the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival please visit or to purchase your tickets for the Official Belgium Premiere of Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1:
Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1 Belgium Premiere

Here's what the critics are saying about "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1!"

Interview Magazine -
"People were cheering, yelling, laughing, jumping out of their seats, and just contributing wholeheartedly to the onscreen festivities. It was amazing."

Sundance Channel -
"...delicious sci-fi horror comedy"

Dread Central -
"...Return the Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1, the film is ultimately Troma
at it's best.
"

Electronic press kit for "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1"
Theatrical trailer for "Return to Nuke 'Em High: Vol. 1"

MORE ON TROMA'S "RETURN TO NUKE 'EM HIGH: VOLUMES 1 & 2":

Quentin Tarantino has long been a fan and friend of Troma Entertainment. When he made "Kill Bill" in two volumes to create an 'Event Film,' Lloyd Kaufman took note: "Michael Herz and I decided that to mark Troma's upcoming 40th year, we, too, would produce an 'Event Film' in two volumes just like Quentin did," said Kaufman, "except slightly less lavish in the budget department."

"Return to Nuke 'Em High: Volumes 1 & 2", directed by Lloyd Kaufman, is 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?

Read more about the upcoming film "Night of the Witch" Lloyd Kaufman's collaboration with Finland's Roger! Pictures

About Troma Entertainment
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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Friday, April 11, 2014

95ERS: TIME RUNNERS -- DVD review by porfle



The chintzy cover art and awkward title led me to think this was going to be a SyFy-type movie, but 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS, aka "95ers: Echoes" (2013) is way too good to be mistaken for such piffle.  In fact, this densely plotted and visually stimulating adventure is so sharply made that it kept me keenly interested even when I wasn't sure what the hell was going on.

A surehanded directorial debut by Thomas Gomez Durham, it's the story of a beautiful FBI agent named Sally Biggs (the director's wife,  Alesandra Durham) who has the ability to turn back time for nine seconds whenever she wants to.  This means that she never drops a dish, always wins at guessing games, and makes every shot in pool, since she has the luxury of unlimited second chances.

Why she's like this and how it affects the time-space continuum in general is just, as one character puts it, the tip of the tip of an iceberg which also involves the strange disappearance of her scientist husband Horatio Astaire Biggs (Joel Bishop, SAINTS AND SOLDIERS), who was doing advanced time travel research, and a larger storyline in which future time travelers escaping from a devastating, ongoing war have been causing multiple timeline distortions with catastrophic results.



Believe me, there's too much to all  this to try and encapsulate here, especially since Thomas Durham and his co-writer brother James have conceived a vast "95ers" backstory which they hope to parlay into a multimedia franchise.  Only time will tell, as it were, whether or not this will extend beyond the current film, which had a gestation period of at least five years. 

In its own way, the "95ers" saga is just as scintillating as the original MATRIX (with the potential for more substantial sequels).  It's the kind of time travel story that goes way beyond  simply jumping from one date to another, exploring all the ramifications of how messing around with timelines can disrupt both individual lives and the fate of humankind itself. 

Agent Sally Biggs finds this out for herself when faced with an opportunity to erase her marriage and current pregnancy due to second thoughts about her relationship with her missing husband.  She's unexpectedly given this chance to change things by her mysterious boss, Hamilcar Grandon (Terence Goodman), whose motives we're never quite sure of. 



Grandon, who knows much more than he's telling about Horatio's disappearance and time travel in general, is aware of Sally's time-rewind abilities and is able to thwart them in creative ways--some of the film's most exciting scenes involve the two of them battling for control of the situation at hand.

Meanwhile, Sally must also deal with ghostly visions of Horatio--which may be echoes of other timelines--and attacks from unknown assailants from the future.  Her investigations into seemingly paranormal occurrences (one might call them "X-files") may be the key to solving the mystery. 

At any rate, we're thrust right into the middle of the Durham brothers' grand "95ers" universe without any explanation and expected to just hold on tight and figure it out as we go along.  Which I managed to do, while enjoying myself very much along the way.  The film is deftly directed and consistently engaging even when nothing's going on besides Horatio's voiceover accompanying a montage of images from his diary as Sally pores over it. 

The action scenes are especially fun when Sally's time-rewind power is put to use fine-tuning things until she manages to extricate herself from her current peril.  Her personal life also yields the film's more sentimental moments as she agonizes over whether or not to change her own timeline and nullify her marriage.  A theater group led by her sister-in-law (Anne Sward, who played Lyla Montgomery on "As the World Turns" back in the 80s) influences her decision by rehearsing Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in her home, causing her to ruminate upon past,  present, and future.


Alesandra Durham is a dynamic and charismatic lead, with able support by the rest of the cast.  Some scenes involving extreme emoting are handled rather awkwardly, but these instances are rare.

SPFX and the overall look of the film are very well done for such a relatively modest production.  James Durham supplies a lush musical score that also includes several songs and some library tracks.  A quick glance at the credits finds them full of Durhams and other names, with various people doing double-duty or more. 

The DVD from Inception Media Group is in 16 x 9 (1.78:1) widescreen with 5.1 digital surround sound and subtitles in English.  Extras include a homey commentary track with Tom and Ali Durham, deleted and extended scenes, and trailers for this and other Inception releases.

After such low expectations,  I was delighted to find 95ERS: TIME RUNNERS to be so well and fully realized, in addition to being a stimulating and invigorating sci-fi fun ride filled with timelines in flux, tipping points, convergences, and all that other good stuff. Now if only the Durhams had access to the budgets that were squandered on the conceptually-challenged MATRIX sequels...

Official site
Buy the DVD


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Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Zombinator"--Coming to DVD & VOD May 13th from Inception Media Group



Inception Media Group Proudly Presents
THE ZOMBINATOR

It’s Death by Design

LOS ANGELES — May 1, 2014 — For Immediate Release — A town relies on one man to save them from planned destruction in The Zombinator, coming to DVD and VOD May 13 from Inception Media Group.

While filming a documentary in a small, Ohio town, a group of college students come face to face with the undead, turning the class project into a horrific nightmare.

Behind the zombie takeover is an evil corporation intent on lowering the town’s population and a mercenary working for the company, the Colonel (Patrick Kilpatrick, Minority Report, Eraser, Last Man Standing), has exposed the locals to an infectious serum.

Now, their only hope of survival is the Zombinator (Joseph Aviel, Divergent), a former soldier-turned-zombie killer, who must protect them from the Colonel and fend off the walking dead … But can one man save them all?

The Zombinator is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of (1.78:1) and 5.1 digital surround sound. 

About Inception Media Group
Inception Media Group, LLC is based in Los Angeles and is a diversified media company specializing in the production, acquisition and distribution of motion pictures and other filmed entertainment across all media platforms and channels of distribution. Inception Media Group's management team has extensive relationships with exhibitors, retailers, distributors and technology companies, enabling the Company to maximize the services performed on behalf of its content partners. The company boasts a catalog of approximately 100 filmed entertainment properties and over 2,500 hours of digital content encompassing feature films, episodic television series, documentaries and special interest programming. More information is available at www.inceptionmediagroup.com

The Zombinator
Inception Media Group
Genre:  Horror/Zombies
Not Rated
Format:  DVD
Running Time:  Approx. 82 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price:  $26.98
Pre-Book Date: April 8, 2014
Street Date:  May 13, 2014
Catalog #:  IMG1296DVD
UPC Code:  #815300012260

Buy it at Amazon.com
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"Piggy"--Psychopathic Thriller Slashing Up DVD and VOD May 13th from Inception Media Group



Inception Media Group Proudly Presents
Piggy

A New Breed of Vigilante 

LOS ANGELES — May 1, 2014— For Immediate Release — A grieving brother takes justice into his own hands with the help of a new friend in the bloody, revenge thriller Piggy, slashing up DVD and VOD May 13 from Inception Media Group.

When John (Neil Maskell, Kill List, Atonement, Basic Instinct 2) is brutally murdered, his shy, mild-mannered brother, Joe (Martin Compston, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Red Road), finds solace in Piggy (Paul Anderson, The Sweeney,  Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), one of John’s long-time friends.

Taking the reclusive, grieving brother under his wing, Piggy teaches Joe his gritty, vigilante ways. As their friendship grows, Joe finds himself in an increasingly dangerous,  murky world of violence and revenge as the duo embarks on a bloody mission to exact justice upon John’s killers.

As his life collapses around him, Joe begins to question his mentor’s ways … Now, could he be the next one on the butcher’s block?

Also starring Josh Herdman (the Harry Potter franchise), Ed Skrein (Ill Manors, The Sweeney, HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Louise Dylan (Vampire Killers), Piggy is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 (2.35:1) and 5.1 digital surround sound. 

About Inception Media Group
Inception Media Group, LLC is based in Los Angeles and is a diversified media company specializing in the production, acquisition and distribution of motion pictures and other filmed entertainment across all media platforms and channels of distribution. Inception Media Group's management team has extensive relationships with exhibitors, retailers, distributors and technology companies, enabling the Company to maximize the services performed on behalf of its content partners. The company boasts a catalog of approximately 100 filmed entertainment properties and over 2,500 hours of digital content encompassing feature films, episodic television series, documentaries and special interest programming. More information is available at  www.inceptionmediagroup.com

Piggy
Inception Media Group
Genre:  Thriller/Horror
Not Rated
Format:  DVD
Running Time:  Approx. 106 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price:  $26.98
Pre-Book Date: April 8, 2014
Street Date:  May 13, 2014
Catalog #:  IMG1294DVD
UPC Code:  #815300011706

Buy it at Amazon.com
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Commemorate Memorial Day With Two Wartime Classics From Olive Films This May



OLIVE FILMS RELEASES TWO CLASSIC WAR THEMED FILMS

FLYING TIGERS
AND
HOME OF THE BRAVE

ON BLU-RAY™ AND DVD MAY 13, 2014

Newly Remastered in HD and on Blu-ray™ for the First Time!

CHICAGO, IL – Olive Films releases two classic films that honor the military just in time for Memorial Day, Flying Tigers and Home of the Brave (1949), on Blu-ray™ and DVD May 13th. Flying Tigers (1942) stars John Wayne in a story set just prior to the invasion of Pearl Harbor and contains some of the most nail-biting aerial combat sequences ever shot.

Home of the Brave is a more hard-hitting personal story of an African American solider and the discrimination he faces during his service in WWII. Newly remastered in HD for the first time, these films have never looked better. SRP is $29.95 for the Blu-ray™, and $24.95 for the DVD. Pre-book is April 8th.

Flying Tigers follows a small and daring band of American mercenaries who soared into battle against Japan in defense of China’s freedom. The 'Flying Tigers' were heroic adventurers and America’s hottest ace pilots. Possessing unmatched skill and bravery, Capt. Jim Gordon, played by Wayne, was the Tigers’ leader and top gun. Gordon faces a battle on and off the ground when his good friend and ace pilot, Woody Jason (John Carroll, Hit Parade of 1943) is suspected of recklessly and selfishly endangering the lives of his fellow pilots.

Gordon’s fight to retain his respect for Woody while maintaining the solidarity of his pilots is an explosive battle of courage and heroism that lights up the sky with action. Directed by the great and underrated David Miller (Lonely Are the Brave, Sudden Fear) with rousing score by Victor Young (My Favorite Spy, The Quiet Man), Flying Tigers is a memorable story of daring, and was nominated for three Academy Awards®.

Based on a play by Arthur Laurents (Rope), Home Of The Brave recounts the story of a young black soldier who has suffered a nervous breakdown and developed psychosomatic paralysis. Crippled by rage and trauma, his condition was induced by experiences encountered during a reconnaissance mission combined with a lifetime of racial discrimination. He may be able to walk again, but only if he can overcome his anger and frustrations.

The film’s theme revolves around a diverse group of men subjected to the horror of war and their individual struggles. Home Of The Brave was one of Hollywood's first bold statements regarding the issue of race and the realities of war. The cast includes Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, Douglas Dick, James Edwards, Steve Brodie and Jeff Corey. Produced by Stanley Kramer (On the Beach) and directed by Mark Robson (Champion) with a screenplay by Carl Foreman (High Noon). The National Board of Review named the movie one of the 10 best of 1949.

About Olive Films
Olive Films was founded in 2003 by Farhad Arshad as a boutique theatrical and distribution label. Currently located in Chicago, Illinois, its catalog boasts over 500 titles cultivated from the libraries of Paramount, Republic, Warner and HBO and includes such Hollywood classics as the Oscar® winners High Noon starring Gary Cooper and John Ford’s The Quiet Man starring John Wayne, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Kevin McCarthy, Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 starring Robert DeNiro, the John Wayne classics Rio Grande, McLintock! and Sands of Iwo Jima, along with such contemporary classics as Stephen King’s Cujo, the Wachowski’s Bound, The Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ironweed starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

Flying Tigers Blu-ray™
Street Date:                 May 13, 2014
Pre-book:                     April 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         OF776
UPC:                           887090077606
Run Time:                   102 Minutes
Rating:                        N/A
SRP:                            $29.95
Format:                        1.37:1 (16x9)
Audio:                         Mono

Flying Tigers DVD
Street Date:                 May 13, 2014
Pre-book:                     April 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         OF775
UPC:                           887090077507
Run Time:                   102 Minutes
Rating:                        N/A
SRP:                            $24.95
Format:                        1.37:1 (16x9)
Audio:                         Mono

Home of the Brave Blu-ray™
Street Date:                 May 13, 2014
Pre-book:                     April 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         OF772
UPC:                           87090077200
Run Time:                   86 Minutes
Rating:                        N/A
SRP:                            $29.95
Format:                        1.37:1 (16x9)
Audio:                         Mono

Home of the Brave DVD
Street Date:                 May 13, 2014
Pre-book:                     April 8, 2014
Cat. #:                         OF771
UPC:                           87090077101
Run Time:                   86 Minutes
Rating:                        N/A
SRP:                            $24.95
Format:                        1.37:1 (16x9)
Audio:                         Mono

Buy "Flying Tigers" at Amazon.com
Blu-Ray
DVD

Buy "Home of the Brave" at Amazon.com
Blu-Ray
DVD


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Monday, April 7, 2014

It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World -- Mickey Rooney Passes Away at 93



While many took him for granted over the years, or underappreciated his talents, Mickey Rooney continued to be one of the world's greatest and most versatile actors for pretty much his entire life. 

Born Ninian Joseph Yule Jr. in Brooklyn, New York in 1920, he would first appear on the vaudeville stage at age 17 months before going on to star in his own comedy short series as "Mickey McGuire" in 1927.  This led to a career in films that has rarely been matched for longevity and productivity.


Highlights include the "Andy Hardy" series, teen musicals with Judy Garland, BOYS TOWN with Spencer Tracy, playing a hardbitten killer in THE LAST MILE, a memorably autumnal role in THE BLACK STALLION, and a great team up with Buddy Hackett and a host of other great comedy stars in the perennial favorite, 1963's IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD.

Also noteworthy is his appearance in surrealist filmmaker Fernando Arrabal's off-kilter children's film THE EMPEROR OF  PERU,  which we reviewed here.


Rooney had a sometimes volatile personal life which included eight marriages, the first to actress Ava Gardner.  He was said to be a difficult interview subject and notoriously crabby during DVD commentary tracks for his old movie and TV appearances. 

In recent years he has been living with his son and daughter-in-law Mark and Charlene Rooney, seemingly enjoying a full and happy life.  He passed away on April 6, 2014.

We've enjoyed his movies immensely over the years and loved just having him around.  Now we'll miss him, but we'll always have our memories of the Mick.


SELECTED FILMOGRAPHY
(Thanks to IMDb)

 2011 The Muppets
Smalltown Resident

 2006 Night at the Museum
Gus

 1998 Babe: Pig in the City
Fugly Floom

 1982 Odyssey of the Pacific (aka The Emperor of Peru)
The Railway Engineer

 1979 The Black Stallion
Henry Dailey



1977 Pete's Dragon
Lampie

 1969 The Comic
Martin 'Cockeye' Van Buren

 1968 Skidoo
George 'Blue Chips' Packard

 1965 How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
Peachy Keane

 1963 It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Ding Bell

 1962 Requiem for a Heavyweight
Army

 1961 Everything's Ducky
Kermit 'Beetle' McKay

1961 Breakfast at Tiffany's
Mr. Yunioshi

 1959 The Last Mile
'Killer' Mears

 1958 Andy Hardy Comes Home
Andrew 'Andy' Hardy

 1957 Baby Face Nelson
Lester M. 'Baby Face Nelson' Gillis

 1956 Francis in the Haunted House
David Prescott

 1954 The Atomic Kid
Barnaby 'Blix' Waterberry

 1944 National Velvet
Mi Taylor

 1941 Babes on Broadway
Tommy Williams

 1940 Young Tom Edison
Thomas Alva 'Tom' Edison

 1939 Babes in Arms
Mickey Moran

 1939 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Huckleberry Finn

 1938 Boys Town
Whitey Marsh

 1938 Love Finds Andy Hardy
Andrew Hardy

 1937 Captains Courageous
Dan
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Friday, April 4, 2014

Olive Films Picks Up Cult Epics Titles For Distribution



CULT EPICS JOINS OLIVE FILMS’ GROWING FAMILY OF EXCLUSIVE LABELS

CHICAGO, IL – Olive Films has entered into an exclusive multi-year distribution agreement with Cult Epics, the independent label known for its catalog of cult classic horror, art-house and erotica titles from the 1920s to the present.

The deal includes all North American distribution rights across all platforms including theatrical, packaged media, digital, VOD, television and more.  The deal was announced by Olive Films/Martini Entertainment Senior Vice President Eric D. Wilkinson.

“I’m excited to bring the Cult Epics studio under the Olive Films’ family of labels that also includes our recent partnership with 108 Media,” stated Wilkinson. “Cult Epics’ catalog of titles is a great compliment to our existing library and we look forward to working with Nico and taking the brand to the next level.”

Nico Bruinsma, Cult Epics CEO concurs, "I have known and done business with Olive Films from the early days of selling DVDs and am very excited to trust them with the complete and exclusive distribution and representation of my library."

Originally founded in the Netherlands in 1991, Cult Epics has been in business in the U.S. & Canada for over 15 years.  The Cult Epics catalog represents some of the most legendary cult directors such as Fernando Arrabal, Rene Daalder, Tinto Brass, and Radley Metzger. Its library boasts over 100 films including In a Glass Cage, Viva La Muerte, Un Chant D’amour, Radley Metzger’s Score, The Lickerish Quartet, Camille 2000, PIG/1334 and Bettie Page. 

Under this new agreement, Olive Films will be premiering Cult Epics high definition Blu-ray™ releases of Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, Tinto Brass’ Black Angel and the German horror classic Nekromantik, including theatrical promotional screenings across the country.

This deal was initiated by Eric D. Wilkinson on behalf of Olive Films/Martini Entertainment and negotiated with Nico Bruinsma for Cult Epics.

About Olive Films
Olive Films was founded in 2003 by Farhad Arshad as a boutique theatrical and distribution label. Currently located in Chicago, Illinois, its catalog boasts over 500 titles cultivated from the libraries of Paramount, Republic, Warner and HBO and includes such Hollywood classics as the Oscar® winners High Noon starring Gary Cooper and John Ford’s The Quiet Man starring John Wayne, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers starring Kevin McCarthy, Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1900 starring Robert DeNiro, the John Wayne classics Rio Grande, McLintock! and Sands of Iwo Jima, along with such contemporary classics as Stephen King’s Cujo, the Wachowski’s Bound, The Running Man starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ironweed starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.



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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

I AM DIVINE -- DVD review by porfle



I can't remember where I first heard about "Pink Flamingos" and its outrageous drag-queen star Divine--probably Danny Peary's book "Cult Movies"--but back in 1981 when I got my first VCR and started ordering movies on tape (owning a movie on VHS in those days was both exciting and expensive) that infamous John Waters film was one of them. 

And it didn't disappoint.  Outrageous?  The crudely-filmed paean to filth oozed with one outrage after another, culminating in Divine's most unforgettable act ever--eating dog poop, for real, right there in the final closeup. How, I wondered, does a person get  to that point as an actor, as a personality, and as a human being?  I knew quite a bit about the movie, but who was Divine?

I AM DIVINE (2013), a documentary by filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz ("Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story"), sets out to answer this question in entertaining and fairly informative fashion.  With friends and acquaintances supplying the voiceover along with archival comments from Divine, we get the straight story (so to speak) along with tons of film and video footage presented in a pleasing animation-enhanced visual style. 


Being familiar as most of us are with Divine the flamboyant star (to put it mildly), my main interest was finding out about the person behind the character.  I AM DIVINE satisfies this curiosity by telling us the story of a lonely, introverted boy named Harris Glenn Milstead, whose childhood in Baltimore was a daily ordeal of getting mocked and beaten up for being different. 

Not openly gay--that would come later--Glenn was, as his family doctor warned his mother Frances,  a very effeminate boy.  Besides attending Sunday School, his interests lie in hairstyling, clothes, and, as he discovered while preparing to attend a costume party with his then-girlfriend Diane Evans, dressing up like a girl. 

This would later lead to his entry in various drag contests,  but while the competition busied themselves trying to emulate female appearance and behavior, Glenn's goal was to exaggerate it to the extreme. He didn't want to be a woman, but a bizarre caricature of one which would allow him to flaunt his own suppressed personality traits in public with no inhibitions. 


In a low-key,  matter-of-fact style, this film guides us through the various milestones of Glenn's life including his fateful meeting with aspiring underground filmmaker John Waters when both were teenagers.  Rare photographs and film footage recount the evolution of the Divine character, a collaboration between Glenn, John Waters, and makeup man Van Smith, and his appearance in early Waters films such as "The Diane Linkletter Story", "Mondo Trasho", and "Multiple Maniacs."  It was Smith who gave Divine his most distinctive feature--the partially-shaved hairline with grotesquely exaggerated eyebrows and eye makeup. 

Clips from Waters' early magnum opus "Pink Flamingos" include a behind-the-scenes view of the celebrated dog-poop finale in which they were forced to follow the dog around for hours waiting for it to perform as planned.  The documentary cuts away at precisely the fateful moment, presumably in order to avoid an X-rating, but it's still interesting hearing Divine and others talk about what it was like doing it and the effect it had on audiences at the time.  (As for me,  I can no longer watch the actual scene without gagging.)

Later, as one might guess, Divine would come to view such infamy as both a blessing and a curse which hindered his aspirations as an actor.  Meanwhile, however, we see his meteoric rise to underground super-stardom and cult worship with smash international appearances as a disco singer and stage actor. 

He also enjoyed subsequent successes in Waters' "Female Trouble" (described as the filmmaker's "Gone With the Wind") and later entries into the mainstream such as "Polyester" with Tab Hunter, the wildly popular "Hairspray" with Ricki Lake, and a non-Waters cult comedy-western "Lust in the  Dust" with Hunter and Lainie Kazan.


Inevitably, the documentary begins to reveal how overindulgence in drugs (he was a self-described "pot head") and food, along with a generally unhealthy lifestyle, would put Divine on the road to an early demise.  The tragic irony is that this occurs just as his career is hitting its peak and he has made a happy reconciliation with his parents.  Frances Milstead's own wistful recollections of her son Glenn give I AM DIVINE much of its heart and allow us to see the human being behind Divine's garish fascade.

John Waters fills in a lot of the blanks with his own personal stories, as do Divine friends and co-stars Mink Stole, Susan Lowe, Diane Evans, Ricki Lake, Tab Hunter, Lisa Jane Persky, and several others.  Among those appearing in archival footage are David Lochary, Van Smith, and Edith Massey. Several interview clips of Glenn Milstead himself reveal him to be a thoughtful, soft-spoken man who wanted to be accepted on his own rather than being forever identified with his fictional counterpart. 

The DVD from Wolfe Video is widescreen with 5.1 and 2.0 sound.  Subtitles are in English.  Extras include a commentary track featuring director Schwarz, producer Lotti Pharriss Knowles, and actress Mink Stole, along with trailers for this and other gay and lesbian-related films from Wolfe Video.

With copious amounts of footage showcasing Divine's wilder side, including shaking his massive flab onstage in halter tops and G-strings, famously getting raped by a giant lobster in "Multiple Maniacs", and (my favorite) strutting his stuff down the main drag of Baltimore in "Pink Flamingos" while actual bystanders gape in open-mouthed astonishment, I AM DIVINE should satisfy viewers who are interested only in the more freakish aspects of the immortal underground star's persona.  But its main accomplishment for me is the non-sensationalistic way in which it presents Harris Glenn Milstead as a basically decent person who was loved by many and fondly remembered by many more.

Buy it at Amazon.com



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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE WALKING DEAD fans -- Mark Your Calendar!



MARK THIS DATE IN YOUR CALENDAR!
AUGUST 26, 2014

Dear “Walking Dead” Media Fans:

Now that the fourth season of “The Walking Dead” has concluded, we at Anchor Bay Entertainment know that having to wait almost half a year for another zombie fix can be a challenge.

Therefore, we are pleased to announce that “The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season” will be released on Blu-ray™ and DVD on August 26th.  As with the previous Blu-ray™ and DVD releases, fans will be able to enjoy this groundbreaking series with pristine picture and sound as well as hours of bonus features.  And for the die-hard “Walking Dead” fan, there will be a specially-created limited edition “tree walker” Blu-ray™ set created by MacFarlane Toys.

More information, including bonus feature content and technical specs, will be available soon.

So, for now, make sure there’s nothing lurking in the shadows, always walk at a brisk pace and look for “The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season” later this summer.

Pleasant dreams!

Pre-order it at Amazon.com
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Lingerie Fighting Championships Makes DVD Debut April 22



Lingerie Fighting Championships: Leather Vs. Lace
The World's First All-Female MMA League
Coming to DVD April 22nd from Wild Eye Releasing

 New York, NY - Wild Eye Releasing is bringing home a look at world's first all-female Mixed Martial Arts league.  Following a successful debut on Pay-Per-View, Lingerie Fighting Championships: Lace vs Leather will be available to own on DVD April 22nd.   The Lingerie Fighting Championships were founded by Roni Taylor after seeing two ring girls get into a fight at an MMA event and realizing the audience was more interested in that fight than any of the scheduled fights. She runs the league with an iron fist and recruits only the hottest girls to fight for her.  Lace vs Leather is the first event of the wildly popular series, and promises all the knockout action of mixed martial arts with a full storyline.

Lingerie Fighting Championships: Lace vs Leather features the world's most controversial MMA league where beautiful mixed martial artists, dressed only in lingerie, are forced to live together, train, and ultimately do battle in the ring.  Starring Lingerie Football star Michelle "Scrapper" Blanchard and ex-pro wrestler Arik Loegen, go behind the scenes for an action-packed mix of combat sports, drama and humor in the tradition of UFC and WWE.

The DVD release of Lingerie Fighting Championships (SRP $19.95) will arrive packed with exclusive extras, including deleted scenes, interviews, music videos, media appearances and more.

Pre-Order Lingerie Fighting Championships at Amazon.com


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SHANGHAI KISS -- movie review by porfle



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

After a brief prelude in which a struggling Chinese-American actor named Liam Liu (Ken Leung, X-MEN:THE LAST STAND, SAW) fails to land a toothpaste commercial gig because he can't speak Chinese and doesn't know kung fu (shades of HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE), SHANGHAI KISS (2007) goes into full "meet-cute" mode when a dejected Liam encounters a perky, underage blonde named Adelaide Bourbon (Hayden Panettiere, "Heroes"), who is twelve years his junior, on the bus ride home.  She tells him to look happy because she's sketching his portrait, then scoots beside him and starts serenading him with a happy song. 

If I were him I'd be calling the police or brandishing a crucifix at her by now, because the way she practically forces herself on him with her Disney-character cuteness and quacky baby-talk voice is downright alarming.  But Liam is taken with her Thumper-esque charms and begins a weird relationship with her in which he drives her to and from high school every day and accompanies her to laundrymats and such while carefully remaining just outside the "boyfriend zone" for both moral and legal reasons.  Too bad, too, since she's just the kind of girl he wants and can relate to--if only they'd met a few years later. 

But just as I'm beginning to already hate this movie, which promises to assault me with full-on romantic-comedy-type complications to the point of nausea, something unexpected happens.  Liam's estranged father, whom Liam hates for being a drunk and blames for the death of his mother, calls him with the news that his grandmother has died and willed him her house in Shanghai.  So off to China he goes to sell the house for a bundle and get in touch with his Asian roots in the bargain.

Liam discovers that the house isn't worth a fraction of what he'd hoped, so he decides to keep it and move in, immersing himself in Chinese culture and relishing the fact that he's finally found a place where he truly fits in (he thinks).  But looking Chinese doesn't necessarily make you Chinese if you were born and raised in Noo Yawk, and it isn't long before he realizes how out of place he is. 

The movie fluctuates between comedy and drama so much that it takes awhile to get a handle on it.  Ken Leung as Liam kept reminding me of a young Chinese Billy Crystal (I am not a Billy Crystal fan), and some of his one-liners are just as cringeworthy.  Check out this barroom pickup line he springs on a blonde bimbo early in the film while he's still living a hollow, meaningless existence in dreary, superficial L.A.:

"I was compelled to meet you...and normally, I wouldn't succumb to my compulsions so easily.  But I'm trying to embrace a new philosophy of life that involves succumbing.  And if I have to succumb...I wanna succumb on you."

Groan.  Anyway, there are a few funny scenes here and there, and some equally heartfelt moments, such as the one in which Liam discovers some of his mother's old love letters from his father which help him see the old man in a more sympathetic light. 

Dippy romantic comedy rears its ugly head again when he hooks up with a beautiful, sophisticated Chinese woman named Micki (Kelly Hu), whom he falls head over heels for until he discovers her highly disturbing secret (no, she isn't a man).  This leads to a surprisingly moving sequence in which Liam makes a tremendous sacrifice that he finds both maturing and liberating.  The cast and filmmakers handle this part very well and it's the main reason that I ended up sorta liking this movie.

Back in L.A., Liam reunites with his father (the venerable James Hong) in an emotional scene, and then tries to straighten things out between himself and Adelaide once and for all while coming to terms with his own cultural identity.  The ending is expectedly sappy, but not terminally so. 

According to co-director (with Kern Konwiser) and writer David Ren, much of this story is autobiographical.  This independent collaboration between Ren and the Konwiser brothers, Kip and Kern (who co-produced), seems to be a labor of love, as evidenced by the thoughtful commentary track in which all three participated.  Also on the plus side, the Shanghai locations are pretty stunning, the film as a whole looks good, and the cast gives it their all. 

While at times skirting dangerously close to boring chick-flick territory, in addition to occasionally being just a tad too Billy Crystal-ish for my tastes, SHANGHAI KISS yields just enough substance to make it intermittently rewarding and worthy of a viewing if you're in the right mood.  Personally, I'm never in that particular mood, but I managed to make it all the way through without succumbing.

Buy it at Amazon.com


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