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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

John Carpenter's 'Halloween' Returns To Theaters For One Night Only



Halloween Comes Two Days Early this Year With the Return of 'John Carpenter's Original Halloween'
in Cinemas October 29

Fathom Events and SpectiCast Present the Haunting Story of Michael Myers in Select U.S. Theaters for a One-Night Event That is Sure to Scare


DENVER - September 30, 2015 - The horror classic "John Carpenter's Original Halloween" (1978) is returning to the big screen for a special one-night event on Thursday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m. local time. Fathom Events, in partnership with SpectiCast, will present this fan favorite in its entirety with an exclusive introduction by John Carpenter, providing insights on "Halloween" and how it has forever changed the horror genre in Hollywood.

Tickets for "John Carpenter's Original Halloween" can be purchased online by visiting www.FathomEvents.com, or at participating theater box offices. Fans throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy the event in select movie theaters through Fathom's Digital Broadcast Network. For a complete list of theater locations visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

"We are very excited to work with SpectiCast and Fathom this year to bring John Carpenter's timeless classic, Halloween, back to the big screen," said Trancus International Films CEO Malek Akkad.


John Carpenter's "Halloween" premiered on October 25th, 1978, in Kansas City, Missouri. After performing successfully in the Midwest, it then moved on to Chicago and New York. From there, it had a platform release across the country, playing in cities all across the U.S. Over 35 years later, the movie has made its money back more than 200 times, making it one of the most successful independent horror movies of all time, just behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Blair Witch Project. The movie is based around the story of Michael Myers who, at age 6, brutally murdered his sister on a cold Halloween night in 1963. After spending 15 years in a mental hospital, he escapes and returns to his quiet hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois, with a plan to kill.

"This movie is well deserving of another play on the big screen," said Fathom Events CEO John Rubey. "We cannot wait for audiences to experience this twisted tale in theaters for Halloween."

About Fathom Events
Fathom Events is the recognized leader in the alternative entertainment industry, offering a variety of one-of-a-kind entertainment events in movie theaters nationwide that include live, high-definition performances of the Metropolitan Opera, the performing arts, major sporting events, music concerts, comedy series, Broadway shows, original programming featuring entertainment's biggest stars, socially relevant documentaries with audience Q&A and much more. Fathom Events takes audiences behind-the-scenes and offers unique extras, creating the ultimate entertainment experience. It is owned by a consortium called AC JV, LLC., comprised of AMC Entertainment Inc. (NYSE: AMC), Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK) and Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC), the three largest movie theater circuits in the United States. In addition, Fathom Events' live digital broadcast network ("DBN") is the largest cinema broadcast network in North America, bringing live events to 820 locations in 177 Designated Market Areas® (including all of the top 50). For more information, visit www.fathomevents.com.

About SpectiCast
SpectiCast is the fastest growing event cinema marketing and distribution company in the world, providing specialty film programs, cultural arts events, contemporary music programs, and other alternative content to over 2,000 theatrical and non-theatrical venues in 47 countries around the globe.  SpectiCast provides content rights holders with turnkey access to theatrical and all downstream digital platforms including DVD, VOD and TV and distributes programs from some of the world's most prestigious cultural arts organizations including the Strafford Festival, Opera de Paris, The Salzburg Festival, The Paris Opera Ballet, the Mariinsky Theatre, the British Museum, and the Philadelphia Orchestra

SpectiCast is a privately owned and operated firm based in Philadelphia, PA.
www.specticast.com

About TrancusInternational Films & Compass International Pictures
Trancas International Films, along with its subsidiary, Compass International Pictures, has been involved with the production of every film in the "Halloween" franchise. Based primarily in Los Angeles, California, but operating world-wide, Trancas and Compass consistently strives to deliver Halloween and Michael Myers to the fans in the best possible way.



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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

FUZZ TRACK CITY -- Movie Review by Porfle



(NOTE: I viewed a barebones screener for this film and thus can't comment on any DVD particulars.)

"It was Tuesday.  Or...Wednesday."  A helpful intertitle reads: Friday.  "Anyway," the voiceover continues, "it was late June."

This is the kind of off-kilter private eye narration we get in the cockeyed mystery thriller FUZZ TRACK CITY (2013), because that's just the kind of non-traditional, slightly dazed detective yarn this is.

It's one of those low-budget productions that starts out underwhelming me until I get caught up in it and settle into its slightly spoofy and, as it turns out, endlessly inventive style, and then it ends up knocking my socks off.  So just when I was starting to think "This movie isn't quite as clever or cute as it wants to be", it turned out to be exactly as clever and cute as it wanted to be.


The rumpled hero, Murphy Dunn (Todd Robert Anderson, BLAST FROM THE PAST), is a P.I. whose partner and mentor, Stan, recently died and left him to run their detective agency by himself.  When his former high school guidance counselor and secret crush Miss Dawn Lockwood (Dee Wallace) comes to him for help finding her missing son, it's his first solo case.

When a couple of rival dicks try to strongarm him away from the case, one of them describes him as "a hard rock gumshoe from the valley who still uses pay phones and sweats Cutty Sark."  (Dunn does acquire his first cell phone during the story, which is a source of several good gags.) More comically hardboiled dialogue includes the line "Is that the dirtiest look you got, you brick-top honky bitch?"  Not exactly poetry, but it'll do.

After two more street thugs hired by someone else turn up and start twisting and breaking parts of his body, Dunn realizes that he's stumbled onto something big.  In fact, it all has to do with a missing rare 45 rpm record that the country's current number one rock god, Zack Lee (Sean Wing, FORGET ME NOT), is desperate to get his hands on along with various other shadowy figures.


It's this desperation that gets Dunn into a series of tight situations that he must either use his wits or his fists to squeeze his way out of.  With his shaggy hair and porn stache, Anderson plays the part with just the right amount of hangdog, world-weary cool, reminding me of a cross between Brendan Fraser and Tom Hanks who's kind of a living time capsule from the 80s.

Along the way Dunn encounters several interesting characters such as Ziggy, the agoraphobic record collector (Josh Adell, LOST ON PURPOSE), Greg, the resentful over-the-hill musician who actually played on the mystery 45 and knows its secret (Dave Florek, GHOSTBUSTERS II), and Jo (Abby Miller), an aspiring smalltown singer who waitresses at the diner Dunn hangs out in for coffee and Monte Cristo sandwiches. 

His ex-wife Al (Tarina Pouncy, MINDGAME), whom he caught in bed with Stan shortly before his death and is pregnant with his baby, comes back as Dunn's secretary and stakeout companion, a touchy arrangement to be sure.  (Especially since she's ready to pop at any moment.)  As Miss Lockwood, Dee Wallace is as lovable as ever and we can't help rooting for Dunn to have a fling with her despite the fact that she's old enough to be his way-older sister.


Writer-director Steve Hicks is a definite talent and seems to have put everything he's got into this sprightly, pitch-perfect blend of satire, deadpan drama, and classic detective fiction.  It reminded me at times, in spirit anyway, of Robert Altman's THE LONG GOODBYE, although Dunn isn't nearly as ruthless or cynical as Elliott Gould's Phillip Marlowe.

Despite all the breezily funny touches intertwined throughout the entire script, FUZZ TRACK CITY is never less than a gripping, suspenseful detective story with a corker of a mystery at its heart.  It's the kind of surehanded musical comedy-thriller that THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE wanted to be but with a tinier budget and a way better screenplay.  And it's the kind of pleasant surprise that only comes when low expectations turn into big fun.

Buy it at Amazon.com

Tech Specs

Studio: Indican Pictures
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: 1:85 Flat (HD)
Sound: Dolby SR
Rating: NR
Genre: Urban/Action
Language: English
Country: USA



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"THE GIFT" on Digital HD and Blu-Ray/DVD October 27



JASON BATEMAN, REBECCA HALL AND JOEL EDGERTON
STAR IN A THOUGHT-PROVOKING THRILLER

THE GIFT

DEBUTING ON BLU-RAY™ COMBO PACK, DVD AND DIGITAL HD
OCTOBER 27, 2015 FROM UNIVERSAL PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

“A Modern Day ‘Fatal Attraction”’ – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times


Universal City, California, September 29, 2015 – Revenge comes in an artfully wrapped package in The Gift, a chilling psychological thriller available on Blu-ray™, DVD, Digital HD and on Demand October 27, 2015, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. From STX Entertainment and Blumhouse Productions (Whiplash, The Purge) The Gift is a suspenseful and thrilling morality tale that earned a “Certified Fresh” seal on Rotten Tomatoes with a remarkable score of 93%. The Blu-ray™ and DVD are packed with chilling bonus features including a riveting alternate ending, deleted scenes, feature commentary with writer and director Joel Edgerton, and more.

The Gift asks the question, “Can you really go through life having never wronged anyone?” Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going as planned until a chance run-in with Simon’s high-school acquaintance sends their world into a narrowing tailspin. At first Simon doesn’t recognize Gordo (Joel Edgerton), but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years. As Robyn learns the unsettling truth about what happened between Simon and Gordo, she is forced to contemplate: how well we really know those closest to us, and are bygones ever really bygones?

To view the trailer visit: http://uni.pictures/TheGiftTrailer

BLU-RAYTM and DVD BONUS FEATURES:

    Alternate Ending
    Deleted Scenes
    Karma for Bullies
    The Darker Side of Jason Bateman
    Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Joel Edgerton

The film will be available on Blu-ray™ with DIGITAL HD and UltraViolet™ and DVD.

    Blu-ray™ unleashes the power of your HDTV and is the best way to watch movies at home, featuring 6X the picture resolution of DVD, exclusive extras and theater-quality surround sound.
    DVD offers the flexibility and convenience of playing movies in more places, both at home and away.
    DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet™ lets fans watch movies anywhere on their favorite devices. Users can instantly stream or download.

FILMMAKERS
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton
Directed By: Joel Edgerton
Written By: Joel Edgerton
Produced By: Jason Blum, Rebecca Yeldham, Joel Edgerton
Executive Produced By: Jeanette Volturno-Brill, Couper Samuelson , Luc Etienne, Robert Simonds, Adam Fogelson, Oren Aviv, Donald Tang, Dennis Wang, James Wang
Director of Photography: Eduard Grau
Production Designer: Richard Sherman
Edited By: Luke Dulan
Casting By: Terri Taylor, CSA
Costume Design By: Terry Anderson
Music By: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

http://uni.pictures/TheGift

TECHNICAL INFORMATION BLU-RAY™:
Street Date: October 27, 2015
Copyright: 2015 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number: 64173126
Layers: BD-50
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen 2.40:1
Rating: R for language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French Subtitles
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Run Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

TECHNICAL INFORMATION DVD:
Street Date: October 27, 2015
Copyright: 2015 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Selection Number: 64173127
Layers: Dual
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Rating: R for language
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish Subtitles
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Run Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

About Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD





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Daniel Baldwin Stars in "A Little Christmas Business" -- On DVD and VOD Oct. 27



A LITTLE CHRISTMAS BUSINESS
ON DVD & VOD THIS FALL


This holiday season Breaking Glass Pictures is releasing the faith-friendly movie A LITTLE CHRISTMAS BUSINESS on DVD and VOD starting October 27, 2015. A film for the entire family, A LITTLE CHRISTMAS BUSINESS stars Daniel Baldwin in a performance much like Jimmy Stewart's iconic role in It's A Wonderful Life.

Don (Baldwin) has a wonderful life and family, but is caught up in the chaos of corporate America. While working Christmas Eve, it seems that everyone Don meets is a ghost from Christmas past. Is this a coincidence or a heavenly intervention?

The Dove Foundation proudly awarded the film the Dove "Faith Friendly" seal for all ages and raved the "heartwarming story encourages us to slow down and enjoy our families."

Starting October 27, A LITTLE CHRISTMAS BUSINESS will be available on the following VOD platforms: iTunes, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Google Play, Vubiquity, and Dish Network.

Official trailer

Buy it at Amazon.com



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Monday, September 28, 2015

HE'S A BULLY, CHARLIE BROWN -- DVD Review by Porfle



Here's another "Peanuts" DVD collection that most kids (and many adults) should greet with open eyeballs.  HE'S A BULLY, CHARLIE BROWN offers a trio of complete half-hour cartoons from across the spectrum (1969-2006), and all three are examples of the "Peanuts" production team at or near the top of their game.


"He's a Bully, Charlie Brown":

This pleasant little 2006 episode in the Charlie Brown saga harkens back to the earlier cartoons with its reworked Vince Guaraldi score, bucolic atmosphere, and a simple premise that just about any kid can identify with.

There's some nice voice work, and the animation is good despite some of the digital touches looking a bit obvious such as when the bus to camp performs a 360-degree turn that's just too smooth. 

The early focus here is on the character of Rerun, who discovers a jar of colorful marbles in the attic which belonged to his Grandpa Felix, a marbles champion.  Rerun becomes fixated on being a marbles champ himself, which is important since the titular bully of the cartoon, Joe Agate, whom we'll meet later when the gang go to summer camp, is a marbles shark.


I never really considered Rerun to be an official Peanuts character.  He's apocryphal to me, just a hinky decision Charles Schulz made without really thinking about it.  Although here, he's effective enough if I just pretend that he's a young Linus.  He's kind of like the Cousin Oliver of Peanuts.

Poor little Rerun's the one who gets the brunt of the bully's cruelty in this story.  We know Joe Agate is a bully because he's drawn with heavily-lidded eyes and a surly sneer, and we know he's a marbles shark because, well, he's named after a marble. (I know nothing about shooting marbles and even I knew that an agate is a kind of marble. Yay, me.) Anyway, the story wastes no time in establishing his villainy when he harrasses Charlie Brown and Snoopy right off the bus and cackles wickedly after every misdeed. 

Even worse, he takes advantage of innocent little Rerun by offering to help teach him how to shoot marbles and then winning every one of his marbles including the prized shooter than belonged to Grampa Felix.


It's all pretty predictable, but then again, I think kids prefer for this kind of story to be predictable.  Come to think of it, so do I.  When you watch a Charlie Brown cartoon there are certain things you want it to do, certain beats you want it to hit, and when it does, it hits the spot. 


"It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown":

While "He's a Bully, Charlie Brown" reminds one of the earlier, better Peanuts cartoons, "It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown" IS one of the earlier, better cartoons. In fact, it's from way back in 1969 when they were in their prime, which is always a good thing. 

Vince Guaraldi is on hand to perform his famous musical themes himself.  Peter Robbins and Pamelyn Ferdin even do the voices of Charlie Brown and Lucy.  And it's written by Charles Schulz before he started to run out of good ideas for these things.


It starts out with the gang looking forward to the cool stuff they're going to do over summer vacation, when suddenly all of that is ruined when Lucy announces she's signed everyone up for summer camp.  (Why they're compelled to go along with this is never made clear.)  Everyone's devastated, especially Linus who's convinced that he's going to get chomped by a queen snake. 

I never went to summer camp as a kid but all the summer camp stories I saw over the years kind of made me wish I could've gone to summer camp.  This is a bit contradictory since most summer camp stories make summer camp look like a living hell for kids.  My big brother went to scout camp one summer, though, and it looked like fun.  Then again, just about anything that the big kids did looked like fun.

This is old school Peanuts in which Charlie Brown is at his most downcast and depressed for much of the running time.  Everything he does is a failure--even his attempts at the simple pleasure of roasting marshmallows results in one blackened, inedible glob after another while his dog Snoopy easily roasts several at a time on a multi-pronged stick.  This is the Charlie Brown that people with severe emotional problems and feelings of utter inadequacy can really latch on to.


Aside from its positive aspects, the main drawback of this cartoon for me is that the old trope of the girls inexplicably being better than the boys at everything and beating them handily in every competition is amusing for about a minute, but when you base the whole cartoon on this it tends to get a little tiresome. 

Why in the world would the boys who are watching this cartoon want to see themselves portrayed as a bunch of hopelessly inept buffoons?  I never got that.  It's nice to give girls a little positive reinforcement now and then, but good grief, there's a limit.  The only thing that makes this even remotely believable is that the girls have Peppermint Patty drilling them into shape. 

The ending, while somewhat abrupt, at least rectifies this a bit at the last minute although once again it's Snoopy to the rescue.


"Snoopy: Team Manager":

Finally, this mid-period entry from the 80s (with the onscreen title "The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show") is a grab bag of short episodes, again written by Schulz, that are pleasanty low-concept little slices of Peanuts life.

It's nothing world-shaking, but it doesn't try to be.  The first tale, "Shoveling", is simply Lucy starting a garden and getting Linus and Snoopy to do all the actual work for her. 


"Re-Run" shows us how Lucy and Linus' baby brother fares during his daily jaunts sitting in the kids' seat on back of his Mom's bicycle.  This largely superfluous mini-clone of Linus offers his running commentary on potholes, veering too close to trucks and trees, and falling into bushes when Mom forgets to put the kickstand down.

"Lost Blanket" is like something right out of a week's worth of Peanuts comic strips with Linus mailing his security blanket to himself when he learns that his blanket-hating grandmother is coming for a visit.  He panics when it doesn't show up in the mail for several days, worrying that it has ended up somewhere on the other side of the globe or something.  It's classic Peanuts.

And so is "The Manager", yet another tale of Charlie Brown's travails as the coach of his baseball team which has never won a game.  In hopes of changing this, Charlie Brown passes on his manager's cap to Snoopy, whose crabbiness alienates everyone while failing to improve the team's luck.  This one is so old school that it even manages to include Lucy's celebrated "He's alway changing rainbows" line. 


The DVD from Warner Home Entertainment is in full screen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in various languages.  No extras besides trailers for other cartoon DVDs from Warners.

HE'S A BULLY, CHARLIE BROWN is a triple dose of Peanuts fun that you'll want to introduce your kids to if they haven't already met Charlie Brown and the gang.  Their low-key, relatively cerebral ambience will be a welcome contrast to much of the raucous nonsense that passes for kids' cartoons these days. 

Buy it at the WBShop.com
Street date: October 6, 2015

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Great Scott! Cricket Pictures' "OUTATIME: SAVING THE DELOREAN TIME MACHINE" Feature Documentary is Here



Witness the Epic Rebirth of a Cultural Icon

CRICKET PICTURES PRESENTS
OUTATIME: SAVING THE DELOREAN TIME MACHINE


Feature Documentary Chronicling the Restoration of the DeLorean Time Machine; to Follow Abridged Version on 30th Anniversary BTTF Blu-Ray

Los Angeles, CA – 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most beloved film franchises of all time: the Back to the Future trilogy. In the three decades since the release of 1985’s Back to the Future, and the sequels, fans all over the world have thrilled to the time traveling exploits of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and “Doc” Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) as they traverse the space-time continuum in a custom-built DeLorean Time Machine. But, while the films have endured, the Time Machine itself was running out of time.  Plagued by decades of souvenir hunters, rats, and harsh weather, this cinema icon seemed destined for the junkyard.  Until a very passionate and dedicated group of people decided to re-set the calendar back to 1985.

“OUTATIME: Saving the DeLorean Time Machine” chronicles the efforts of BTTF co-creator Bob Gale, Universal Studios, and the film’s dedicated fan community as they work together to bring the original Time Machine back to life. Working closely with the Time Machine Restoration Team, Executive Producer Steve Concotelli was granted exclusive behind-the-scenes access for the multi-year restoration. Joe Walser (Head of the Restoration) and his team of experts had one singular goal – restore the car with 100% accuracy. Every bolt. Every detail. Exactly like it was in the movie.

“Restoring the Time Machine was a huge passion of mine,” states Gale. “And making a movie about the restoration was a huge passion of Steve’s.”

Concotelli also interviewed dozens of people involved with the restoration and the BTTF franchise - including Bob Gale, John Murdy, Michael Scheffe, Michael Lantieri, Kevin Pike, Claudia Wells, Joe Walser, members of the Restoration Team, fans, and more!  “OUTATIME” will have limited theatrical engagements nationwide. Announcements regarding the DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD availability of the feature version are forthcoming.

A portion of the film will also be featured on the upcoming “Back to the Future” 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release, coming out October 20th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

“We are thrilled to be included on the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray,” remarked Concotelli.  “Being an official part of the ‘Back to the Future’ legacy is a dream come true.  But the Blu-ray is just the beginning of our story.  Our feature length version will have more interviews, more detail, and will reveal more of the Time Machine’s incredible journey.”

For a trailer and more information, visit the film’s official website, OUTATIMEmovie.com.

About Steve Concotelli: For over 20 years, Steve has been making award-winning television. During his career, he has worked in every aspect of production, working his way up to Executive Producer. Steve has helped create over 500 hours of television with content partners including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Discovery Channel, TruTV, CMT, Spike, G4 and others.

About Joe Walser: Joe Walser has decades of film production experience under his belt and quickly worked his way up the ranks of the Art Department to Production Designer. His pet project to build himself a Delorean Time Machine quickly became his passion. Joe’s realized goal was to build the first truly accurate DeLorean Time Machine replica. His first Time Machine is currently on display in a museum in Santiago, Chile. His second is the official car used by Universal Studios for all their official media projects. Joe’s professional background, relentless quest for accuracy, and loyalty to the Back to the Future franchise made him the perfect candidate to head the screen-used, hero DeLorean Time Machine restoration project for Bob Gale and Universal Studios.



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"DARK AWAKENING" from Cafe Oscuro Films -- Arising This October



DARK AWAKENING
LANDS ON MULTIPLE PLATFORMS
THIS MONTH – JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY NIGHTMARES!


LOS ANGELES, CA –  Just in time for the horror season, the critically-acclaimed thriller DARK AWAKENING becomes available on DVD, digital and On Demand platforms through Alchemy Entertainment. 

Released on September 22, 2015, DARK AWAKENING is a suspenseful thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat holding your breath. Directed by Emmy™ winner Dean C. Jones and starring iconic actor Lance Henriksen (Aliens, “Millennium”), the film centers around James Thomas (Jason Cook), a district attorney who has seemingly left his family ties behind him.

Due to his mother’s untimely death, James moves his wife, Jennifer (Valerie Azlynn), and 7 year old son Danny (William Pifer) to the family’s rural estate in Cedar Rock Falls, North Carolina to tie up loose ends and sell his mother’s house. Shortly after arriving, Jennifer and Danny begin to experience strange paranormal occurrences involving the spirits of children. And to add to the peculiar nature, it seems that Danny is the only “living” child in town. 

Determined to understand what is happening, Jennifer seeks spiritual guidance from the parish priest and family friend, Father Donovan O' Malley. The mystery deepens with Father O' Malley. He is cognizant of the origins of the dead children, the reason for their resurrection and how and why it ties to her husband James, who holds the darkest secret of all.  The film was executive produced by Liliana Kligman and Michele Weisler (The Ring).

The film was a co-production between Café Oscuro Films, LLC and Atlantic & Pacific Pictures. It has been featured as Official Selections at both the 2014 SITGES Film Festival and the 2014 Montreal Comicon Horror Film Festival.  The film also screened at the Cannes Film Market in May 2014.  The Little Film Company is its worldwide representative.

https://www.facebook.com/darkawakening
https://twitter.com/dark_awakening


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THE AMERICAN DREAMER -- Blu-ray/DVD Review by Porfle



Fat-cat studio executives in 1969 didn't understand EASY RIDER's overwhelming success, and I'm not altogether sure its director and star Dennis Hopper did, either.  At the time, he probably thought he was just making an above-average drive-in flick with colorful pretentions of relevance.
 
But they figured he must know something they didn't, so they handed him a much bigger budget and let him run wild with it.  Which he did by taking all his friends to Peru, having a blast on the studio's tab (including, according to legend, enough cocaine to choke a snow plow), and coming up with a resounding box office bomb called THE LAST MOVIE. 

It was during this period of self-indulgence, unbridled creativity, and uncertainty over what direction to follow as a person and a filmmaker that Dennis Hopper undertook yet another film with a troubled protagonist...Dennis Hopper.  The result was a mock documentary called THE AMERICAN DREAMER (1971).


When you make a documentary about yourself, or collaborate as Dennis Hopper did with photojournalist Lawrence Schiller and filmmaker L.M. Kit Carson, it becomes more of a visual journal, a calculated self-portrait which Hopper paints in broad, flamboyant, and sometimes tellingly unguarded strokes.

Is it self-indulgent?  Sure, very much so.  Hopper's acting the role of himself as tortured artist, philosopher, caring social ponderer, and sad, contemplative loner who must create in order to survive.  And the camera isn't just catching him in the act of living, but as he directs himself the way he would direct any other star according to a preconceived image. 

(Interestingly, the matter of how a documentary camera alters or inhibits its subjects does come up, during which Dennis gets so worked up about it that he sounds just like his character in APOCALYPSE NOW.)


I think he fancies himself partly as a kind of rebel hero, a voice of his generation.  Maybe even a role model for dropouts.    

But he's also sort of a phony because he still overindulges in "broads" and self-medication (of various sorts) like any other decadent Hollywood star, holding court with several gullible girls during a naked "encounter" session. 

And he doesn't seem to mind showing us this side of himself any more than he minds showing Schiller and Carson his bare backside when they appear to ambush him in the bath during the film's opening minutes, or stripping off while strolling down the street in a residential neighborhood.


Hopper is credited as a writer on the film, and I'd be surprised if he didn't at least have a hand in the editing.  This is apparent in things such as the cockeyed symbolism of him shooting off guns on his ranch in New Mexico (funny that in those days a counterculture hero could also be what is now referred to as a "gun nut"), intercut with flashes of a large crucifix that stands nearby, or the many other EASY RIDER-like moments in which various images are combined to create little visual whirlpools and eddies of vague profundity. 

This goes hand-in-hand with Hopper's many verbal ramblings, almost invariably enhanced by weed and alcohol.  He often sounds not unlike his EASY RIDER counterpart Billy who waxed pseudo-philosophical around the campfire ("I'm a mystical, spiritual person").

Here, he roams the desert or kicks back at home surrounded by friends and hangers-on, grooving on stoner revelations like how he's really a lesbian in spirit, quoting Charles Manson's "I'm just a reflection of you" nonsense, expounding on human evolution, or fantasizing about different varieties of group sex.  (The odd moments of actual sincerity stand out like little diamonds in the rough.)


If this is truly an accurate portrait of 1970-era Dennis Hopper, then all of these rather shallow musings are a valid part of it.  It's simply fun, if you're a fan, to spend time with him at this point in his life and listen to him talk, even when a lot of it is B.S. ("I don't believe in reading").

It's also interesting to see the nervous, uncomfortable Dennis emerge while dealing with a studio suit, compulsively stroking his shaggy beard while being prodded about his progress on putting THE LAST MOVIE together or at least coming across with some promo materials, to which his artistic side responds with thinly-veiled begrudgement. 

We know how healthy his ego is, at least as far as film is concerned, when he starts comparing himself to Orson Welles and drawing parallels between EASY RIDER/THE LAST MOVIE and CITIZEN KANE/THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS even as he struggles to piece together a viewable cut of his work in progress.


Knowing how the unfinished project was doomed to critical and financial failure as well as eventual obscurity adds a certain poignance to the young filmmaker's dreams of being an American film auteur.  Perhaps it's here more than ever that he embodies the film's title.

The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD set from Etiquette Pictures is in full screen with mono sound. The film has been restored as well as can be considering its rough-hewn 16mm origins.  Subtitles are in English.  Extras include two nicely-produced featurettes, "Fighting Against the Wind: Making 'The American Dreamer'" and "'A Long Way Home': Preserving the American Dreamer", along with a gallery of photos by Schiller.  Also included is a booklet and essay by film historian and Temple of Schlock blogger Chris Poggiali.  The keepcase features a reversible cover.

"I hate to reveal things about myself" Hopper ironically asserts at one point, to which an off-camera voice asks, "Why are you making this movie, then?"  I can't make out his laughing response, but it might as well be "Ego."  THE AMERICAN DREAMER, above all, is an amusing, compelling, enlightening study of Dennis Hopper's healthy young ego, and I don't mean that disparagingly.  If it were me in those circumstances--wunderkind filmmaker makes good, lets it go to his head--I'd probably be exactly the same way.

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Stills used are not taken from Blu-ray/DVD



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Sunday, September 27, 2015

THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL -- DVD Review by Porfle



No padding, no filler--just a solid wall-to-wall slab of pure, undiluted exploitation, dripping with sex, violence, and horror from start to finish.  That's THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL (2006), one of schlock superstar Bruno Mattei's final films and, from what I've seen, one of his most gleefully sadistic and extreme. 

This steamy mish-mash of elements from women-in-prison flicks mixed with a little poor man's PAPILLON by way of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME begins with three hapless female prisoners being transferred by boat to a remote jungle prison in the Philippines. 

Carol (Amelie Pontailler) killed her pimp, Lisa (Love Gutierrez) trafficked in "dirty things with dirty people", and Jennifer (Mattei veteran Yvette Yzon of ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD and ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING in her first starring role), brags of having done a little of everything.


When they get to the prison camp they find a hellhole of sadism and brutality in which the trollish warden (Odette Khan), who looks like a female cross between Paul Giamatti and the guy from TIMECRIMES, is either torturing the inmates or renting them out to the Governor of the island (Jim Gaines, also of ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD and ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING) as sex slaves in his nightclub-slash-brothel. 

The prison scenes yield the expected sensationalism including copious amounts of nudity--with a shower scene or two that would launch the slobbering pervs from PORKY'S into orbit--and the inevitable lesbianism, along with constant physical and mental abuse from the warden and her sadistic guards.  Chief among the latter is the constantly screaming Juana, played with singleminded intensity by Vanessa Bolabas in a gloriously one-note performance. 

The Governor's palace of carnal sin offers even more perversion with his customers, as vile a bunch of freaks as ever portrayed on film, using and abusing the more attractive prisoners such as Jennifer during all sorts of rapey activities, one of which involves a full-grown python. 


It's during the biggest and most elaborate of these sex parties that Jennifer and the others, including her new friend Monica (Dyane Craystan, ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING) plan their big escape.  (This, by the way, comes after Jennifer has bargained to have Monica removed from a partially-submerged bamboo cage full of rats a la THE DEER HUNTER which she shared with several half-eaten corpses.) 

Unfortunately, the girls leap right from the frying pan into the fire when their escape attempt becomes a human hunting party, with the Governor's friends tracking them down like animals and disposing of them in horrific ways.  This is where Bruno Mattei goes all out to shock, horrify, and generally test our tolerance for graphic screen violence against a bunch of hapless damsels in distress. 

Gorehounds who live for this kind of stuff should be in hog heaven at this point, while the more easily offended--well, let's face it, I really doubt if the more easily offended are going to still be watching after the first five minutes.  Some viewers will find this sequence easier to endure by looking forward to the girls finally turning the tables on their tormentors, including that bitch-troll of a warden and her goons back at the prison. 


Bruno Mattei (under his "Vincent Dawn" pseudonym) puts the whole thing across in relatively capable fashion, displaying some of his best directorial skills and camerawork that I've seen so far.  Production values are fairly good thanks in part to some well-chosen locations, with a musical score that sounds as though it could've been written by Brian May.

As for the cast, Yzon and Craystan are the standouts, while the actresses playing the warden and head guard Juana are a hoot.  Anyone else playing a bad guy in this movie does so in such cartoonish, googly-eyed terms that even D.W. Griffith would tell them to tone it down.

The DVD from Intervision is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of an interview with Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson on "Acting With Bruno", a talk with THE JAIL's producer Giovanni Paolucci and co-writer Antonio Tentori ("Prison Inferno"), and the film's trailer. 


Mattei died in 2007, a year after this film was made, but he left behind a filmography packed with some of the most outlandish, mindboggling, and just plain nasty exploitation thrillers ever made.  And if that sounds good to you, then THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL serves up a heapin' helping of it with all the trimmings. 

Buy it at Amazon.com
Street date: October 13, 2015


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Thursday, September 24, 2015

COP CAR -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



Sometimes you just want to lose yourself in a movie that's mostly action and sensation, without a lot of complicated "plot" getting in the way.  COP CAR (2015) is just that movie.  It's about a cop car.  And it stars Kevin Bacon.  All-righty, then!

Our favorite "six degrees of" guy stars as Sheriff Kretzer, a small-town lawman who has gotten himself into some really shady dealings (drugs, murder, whatever) and needs to dispose of a body real quick.  So he parks at the wooded edge of a vast, empty field, pulls the body out of his trunk, and drags it off into the woods to dump it down a well.  When he comes back, his patrol car is gone. 

And that's it!  The rest of the movie is Kretzer frantically trying to get his car back while hiding the fact that it's missing from the dispatcher and deputies on his force.  (Mainly because there's something else in the trunk that just might be slightly...incriminating.) 


But wait--there's more.  Who has the cop car?  Why, two mischievous young boys who have just run away from abusive homes and think finding an unattended cop car in the middle of nowhere is just about the most fun thing imaginable.  So now free-spirit Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and his somewhat more timid companion Harrison (Hays Wellford) are tear-assing up and down isolated rural highways with lights flashing and sirens blaring.  And Sheriff Kretzer on their trail. 

Co-writer (with Christopher D. Ford) and director Jon Watts (CLOWN, OUR ROBOCOP REMAKE) takes this simple premise and runs with it in lean, economic fashion all the way to the end without missing a beat.  And even as Kretzer closes in on the boys, a mid-story development of great importance occurs which detours the plot into a whole new area of suspense. 

Suffice it to say that Shea Whigham's nameless character (he's billed as "Man") has a bone to pick with Kretzer and has no qualms about using the boys as bait to lure him into a trap.  As this hyperactive loon scurries around preparing for the sheriff's arrival, the movie takes time to further develop the characters of Travis and Harrison as they sit trapped in the back seat of the patrol car on the side of the road. 


It turns out that they're a couple of interesting little kids with sort of a symbiotic relationship, and Wellford and Freedson-Jackson handle the roles with an impressive maturity.  This is the heart of the film which underlies all the other stuff and carries us to a hauntingly effective (though curiously abrupt) ending. 

But all that aside, we get to sit back and enjoy the sight of Bacon, Whigham, and Camryn Mannheim--whose character of "Bev" should've just kept on going when she saw that cop car whiz by her with a couple of kids driving it--engaged in a desperate flurry of action and violence that will result in somebody having a really bad day. 

The Blu-ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment is in 1080p high-definition widescreen 2.40:1 with Dolby 5.1 audio and subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.  Bonus features consist of a promo short called "Their First and Last Ride: The Making of Cop Car" and instructions for downloading an HD digital copy of the movie.


One thing I liked about COP CAR is that the simple story gives Kevin Bacon, the filmmakers, and the rest of the cast plenty of room to stretch out and make the most of a promising idea.  It may not be the stuff cinematic dreams are made of, but this breezy little adrenaline rush of an action flick is just as terse and no-nonsense as its name. 

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD

Street Date: September 29, 2015
Stills used are not taken from the Blu-ray





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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Reign: The Complete Second Season" 5-Disc Set Comes to DVD Oct. 6th



Betrayal At Its Finest

REIGN: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON

The Five-Disc Set Features All 22 Episodes From The Second Season Plus Never-Before-Seen Special Features

Available on DVD October 6, 2015


BURBANK, CA (July 1, 2015) Queen Mary is as fierce as ever as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment brings Reign: The Complete Second Season to DVD on October 6, 2015. Don't be a lady in waiting, and catch up with all of the temptation and scandal from the second season, just in time before the season 3 premiere on The CW.

Reign stars Adelaide Kane (“Teen Wolf”) as Queen Mary Stuart, Toby Regbo (“One Day”) as Prince Francis, Torrance Coombs (“The Tudors”) as Sebastian "Bash", Megan Follows (“Anne of Green Gables”) as Queen Catherine, Celina Sinden (Newcomer) as Greer, Caitlin Stasey (Newcomer) as Kenna, Anna Popplewell (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) as Lady Lola, Jonathan Keltz (“Entourage”) as Leith Bayard, Sean Teale (“Skins”) as Louis Condé, Craig Parker (“Spartacus”) as Lord Narcisse, and Rose Williams (Newcomer) as Princess Claude.

The five-disc set contains all 22 one-hour episodes from the second season, plus never-before-seen extras including a featurette, and deleted scenes.  Reign: The Complete Second Season is priced to own at $44.98 SRP with an order due date of September 1, 2015.

The second season of Reign begins with Mary and Francis on the throne of a nation burning.  France is rocked by the aftereffects of the plague, a disease that creeps inside the castle walls, taking thousands upon thousands of lives across the land, and ravages the stability of a nation.  From the ashes, powerful lords will rise, carrying out personal, religious and political vendettas, taking lives, and tearing at Mary and Francis’s commitment to each other, and their people.  Friendships will be tested, loved ones murdered and betrayed.

Meanwhile, a mysterious and deadly threat snatches victims from village streets and castle corridors; leaving evidence of savagery that looks like the work of monsters; mythical creatures who are the subject of nightmares, but who walk among us; doing the Devil's bidding.

Reign airs on The CW Network and is produced by CBS Television Studios and Whizbang Films/Take 5 Productions with executive producers Laurie McCarthy (“The Ghost Whisperer”), Frank Siracusa (“Beauty And The Beast”), John Weber (“Beauty And The Beast”), Brad Silberling (“Moonlight Mile”) and Harley Peyton (“Dracula”).

“We are very excited to release the next installment of this scandalous and seductive series on DVD,” said Rosemary Markson, WBHE Senior Vice President, Television Marketing. "With 1.7 million viewers tuning in weekly*, the show’s fan base is incredibly strong and we think fans will be delighted with the never-before-seen added content, in addition to the 22 riveting episodes.”

*Source: Nielsen Galaxy Explorer L+7 US AA%; excluding repeats, specials & breakouts; This Season = 14-15 Season =  09/29/2014-05/14/2015

SPECIAL FEATURES
Playing By Her Rules: A Day on Set with a Queen and Her Court - behind-the-scenes featurette will take fans on set for one day in the life of their favorite reigning Queen, Adalaide Kane, and her co-stars.
Deleted Scenes

22 ONE-HOUR EPISODES
The Plague
Drawn and Quartered
Coronation
The Lamb and The Slaughter
Blood for Blood
Three Queens
The Prince of the Blood
Terror of the Faithful
Acts of War
Mercy
Getaway
Banished
Sins of the Past
The End of Mourning
Forbidden
Tasting Revenge
Tempting Fate
Reversal of Fortune
Abandoned
Fugitive
The Siege
Burn

BASICS
$44.98 SRP
Street Date: October 6, 2015
Order Due Date: September 1, 2015
5 DVD-9s
Audio:  English (5.1)
Subtitles:  ESDH, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 16 x 9
Approximate running time: Feature - 968 minutes. Enhanced Content - 23 minutes
DVD Catalog # 1000525942
UPC # 883929444755

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees.

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QUEEN CRAB -- DVD Review by Porfle



"Let me get this straight--your best friend is a giant crab?"

Like one of those old Roger Corman B-movie creature features, or a giant-monster cheapie that wanted to use stop-motion animation for its oversized critters but couldn't afford to get Ray Harryhausen to do it (think MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL or CRATER LAKE MONSTER), the monster-movie spoof QUEEN CRAB (2015) is a giddy, goofy throwback to those hokey flicks we grew up eating TV dinners to.

The first "crab" we see is an ill-tempered young wife and mother who constantly berates her well-meaning but mischievous daughter Melissa and henpecks her nerdy scientist husband whose upstairs laboratory is home to experiments in unnatural animal growth.  While dancing around on the banks of Crabbe Creek Pond, Melissa finds and makes a pet of a small crab which she feeds with some strange berries grown in her father's lab.  You can pretty much guess what happens next.


Skip ahead a decade or two, and Melissa (Michelle Miller, who earlier played the part of Melissa's mother), orphaned by an unfortunate lab explosion, is now an eccentric trigger-happy hermit with an isolated cabin near Crabbe Creek Pond where she can commune with her crab-monster significant other, whom she has dubbed "Goliath."

But encroaching on her personal space are childhood friend Jennifer Kane (Kathryn Metz), now a Hollywood actress popping in for an unexpected visit, and state wildlife agent Stewart MacKendrick (A.J. DeLucia), drawn to the area after examining Sheriff Ray's plaster cast of a giant crab pincer print made at the scene of a cow-devouring. (It seems something really big and awfully hungry has been crashing through barn walls and chowing down on the local livestock.)

What really sets the colossal crustacean off, however, is when she pops out a passel of football-sized crab eggs that are shotgunned by Sally (Yolie Canales), another of the reclusive local loons who all seem to wield shotguns.  The eggs that actually hatch into little baby giant crabs are crunched by a recklessly driving  yokel who laughingly careens all over the highway while his terrified passenger, a woman he picked up after her own narrow escape from the creatures, screams in terror (one of my favorite scenes).


The caustic relationship between burly Sheriff Ray (Ken Van Sant), who raised niece Melissa after her parents' death, and boneheaded deputy Sonny Huggins (Rich Lounello) is also rife with lowbrow humor.  Some of it takes place in the town biker bar where Sonny picks a fight with Jennifer and, unaware that she has received martial arts training for one of her films, gets the old foot to the face until dizzy.

This comic interlude is interrupted, however, by the beginning of what will become a full-scale crab attack, which is when QUEEN CRAB really takes off.  Once Goliath goes into action, the fun barely lets up with a succession of stop-motion animation sequences that are a real treat to anyone who loves this particular medium and is a little tired of seeing nothing but CGI at every turn. 

While not exactly spectacular, the effects are smoothly executed and well integrated into the live action.  One particularly nice shot is when Melissa actually mounts Goliath and rides her "like a pony" as MacKendrick describes it.  It reminded me of one of those shows about a circus kid and their pet elephant.  Also impressive are some of the attack sequences with the crab pursuing her human prey and disposing of them in well-animated fashion.


There's even some nicely rendered miniature backgrounds, model vehicles (including a jeep and an army tank), and a couple of jet planes that dive bomb the creek where Sheriff Ray and a well-armed local militia (called into service with the promise of something to shoot at like they're never seen before) have the Queen Crab cornered.

The acting ranges from serviceable to pretty good, with even the lesser-skilled non-thespians in the cast managing to be rather amusing.  (I like the guy who plays the mechanic filling in for the bartender and getting everyone's drinks wrong.  The guy can't act but he's still funny.)  Prolific schlock filmmaker Brett Piper (TRICLOPS, A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL) handles the technical end of things well enough and knows how to direct this kind of hokey material.

The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is in widescreen with 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include a commentary with director Piper and producer Mark Polonia, a blooper reel, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and trailers for this and other Wild Eye releases including some of Piper's other films. 

It's definitely lightweight stuff and it isn't likely to win many awards, but QUEEN CRAB is the kind of movie that intentionally tries to be "so bad it's good" and actually succeeds.  Although don't be surprised if you pop it into the DVD player and then end up watching it alone after the unenlightened have fled the scene.

Buy it at Amazon.com
Street date: Sept. 29, 2015



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"SPECTRE" -- Action/Stunt Vlog


video

SPECTRE
Action Adventure
November 6, 2015

MGM
Columbia Pictures


A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal.  Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as SPECTRE. 

Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of the Centre for National Security, questions Bond's actions and challenges the relevance of MI6, led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White (Jesper Christensen), who may hold the clue to untangling the web of SPECTRE. As the daughter of an assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot.

As Bond ventures towards the heart of SPECTRE, he learns of a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks, played by Christoph Waltz.


Directed by:
Sam Mendes

Written by:
John Logan and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade

Produced by:
Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli 

Cast: 
Daniel Craig 
Christoph Waltz
Léa Seydoux
Naomie Harris
Ben Whishaw
David Bautista
with Monica Bellucci
and Ralph Fiennes as "M"

This film is not yet rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.  For future rating information, please visit www.filmratings.com.  Credits not final.

 Genre: Action Adventure
Release: November 6, 2015

SPECTRE © 2015 Danjaq, MGM, CPII. SPECTRE,  and related
James Bond Trademarks, TM Danjaq. All Rights Reserved.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT -- DVD Review by Porfle



There are so many zombie apocalypse movies these days that in order for one of them to distinguish itself from the pack, it has to be really good (naturally) and it also helps if it has a hook that's sort of intriguing and unique.  A good example of this would be COLIN, which is told from the living dead protagonist's point of view.

A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT (2013) has both qualities and, thus, is one of the best post-Romero undead mini-epics that I've seen.

It mimics George Romero's seminal classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by being a low-budget zombie flick with crisp, atmospheric black-and-white photography and a somber attitude.  There's also the requisite political and social undercurrent although nowadays the story conjures up implications that even Romero didn't dream of back in '68.


Like most modern zombie movies, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT seems to explore the same timeline created by Romero's film and joins the ranks of unofficial sequels to it.  What sets this tale apart, however, is the fact that humankind has learned to co-exist with the living dead. 

It seems that, having fired the first shots, we humans started a war that the zombies were compelled to counter the only way they knew how--by eating us.  Stop shooting them, and they lose their hunger for human flesh and become docile, unthreatening, albeit exceedingly unproductive citizens.

This solution to the conflict is its own wonderfully repellent nightmare, of course, with the living forced to go about their everyday lives amidst an ever-growing population of shambling corpses endlessly milling about.  It also creates the problem of what to do when your late loved ones are still walking around and looking more horrible with each passing day.


As Clay Marshall (David Chandler) ruminates while taking his sister Mia (Eva Boehnke) to visit her dead boyfriend Gerry, cemeteries were better when the dead were buried below the ground and not strolling around on it.  Clay's concerned not only for his seemingly loony sis, who just knitted a new wool cap for her decaying beau, but also for his roommate Todd (Maxwell Moody), a very nice but painfully straightlaced fellow who loves Mia but can't compete with the lingering charm of Gerry's moldering corpse. 

It sounds a bit spoofy, and at first, I thought that's what this movie was going to be--a rigidly deadpan satire of zombie movies.  But beyond some very tongue-in-cheek references and Maxwell Moody's performance, which is so restrained as to be almost over-the-top, it turns out to be one of the grimmest, scariest, and most harrowing entries in the genre. 

The turning point comes when Clay decides to do something drastic, the result of which is a shockingly sudden halt to the cease-fire between the living and the dead when a raging, snarling horde of zombies come running--yes, running--over a hill like a tsunami, all clutching hands and gnashing teeth.


This also heralds a brilliantly executed switch from black-and-white to color that's just as purposeful, and almost as exhilarating, as the one in THE WIZARD OF OZ. 

After that, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT is one long, seemingly endless zombie attack on the city of Terminus (an apparent nod to AMC's "The Walking Dead") with Clay running for his life as warning sirens blare and unsuspecting citizens become a human sushi buffet for the slavering ghouls.  Co-direction by Benjamin Roberds and Jordan Reyes keeps the suspense taut and visually compelling, while the makeups are top-notch--several of these zombies are pretty scary-looking. 

There are some terrific vignettes in which Clay interacts with a frightened little girl named Alexandra in a dark, abandoned house and encounters a blind zombie who stops his frantic thrashing around periodically in order to listen for his prey to make a sound.  The filmmakers accomplish all of this despite their low budget and the results are impressive, suggesting a full-scale zombie invasion without the need for hundreds of extras.


The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is in widescreen with 2.0 sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of domestic and international trailers for the film and trailers for other Wild Eye releases.

After putting us through the wringer by making us vicariously experience a scarifying zombie attack, A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT ends with a final irony that I think George Romero would approve of.  Not all that pleasant after all, but as these films go, this one's a keeper.

Buy it at Amazon.com
Street date: Sept. 29, 2015
Trailer




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Monday, September 21, 2015

THE ANOMALY -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



With its clever premise and solid execution, THE ANOMALY (2014) manages to conjure up all kinds of sci-fi goodness without a lavish budget. 

This is the third feature of director Noel Clarke, who also plays protagonist Ryan.  You may recognize him from his brief role as an anguished father at the beginning of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, or, going farther back, as one of the troubled tweeners in KIDULTHOOD

Here, he plays a PTSD sufferer who blacks out during his stay at a rehab facility and then wakes up months later as someone else.  He still looks the same, but now he's a bad guy who just kidnapped a little boy after murdering his mother. 


When this condition persists--that is, when he keeps blacking out and waking up as another person in a totally different environment, sometimes a different continent, for ten minutes at a time--Ryan starts to take drastic action to find out what the heck's going on. 

Unfortunately, this action is met by guys with guns who either beat him up or try to kill him, or both, including a big, mean Russian pimp named Sergio (Michael Bisping) who doesn't appreciate Ryan running off with one of his best girls (Alexis Knapp of PITCH PERFECT as "Dana).

A nattily-dressed young man named Harkin Langham (Ian Somerhalder, "Lost", "Smallville") keeps popping up wherever Ryan goes, and he seems to know what's going on but isn't telling.  We eventually discover that both Langham and his scientist father, Dr. Langham, Sr. (Brian Cox, MANHUNTER, RED, X-MEN 2) are behind the whole complicated affair. 


The gradual unfolding of this intriguing plot is riveting, yielding a wealth of twists and turns before we finally reach the bottom of this sinister rabbit hole. 

Director Clarke fills the movie not only with lots of nice shoot-outs but also a succession of impressively choreographed MATRIX-style fights that use the old speed-up/slow-down effect very well.

The sci-fi elements are modest for the most part, with some of the snazzy computer hardware reminiscent of MINORITY REPORT.  The story is also MEMENTO-like in its ability to keep putting us into strange new situations that are as baffling to us as they are to our befuddled hero.


Noel Clarke gives an intense, energetic performance in the role while handling director's duties with aplomb.  Somerhalder is almost his equal as the enigmatic junior Langham, while Brian Cox lends his gravitas to a very brief but pivotal role. 

Alexis Knapp is quite fetching as Dana and we can understand Ryan's attraction to her as she helps him to rediscover his identity. Luke Hemsworth (INFINI) turns up as a hair-trigger government agent who doesn't believe Ryan's outlandish story even while he's waterboarding him aboard a jet that's about to get shot down.

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  There are no bonus features.

The nice thing about the increasingly twisted plot of THE ANOMALY is that it eventually does straighten itself out quite satisfactorily, which isn't always the case when writers work themselves into a corner they can't get out of.  Here, all the pieces fall neatly into place and it's fun watching the final picture come together. 

Buy it at Amazon.com:
Blu-ray
DVD




Street date: October 6, 2015
Stills shown are not taken from the Blu-ray






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Friday, September 18, 2015

FAMOUS NATHAN -- DVD Review by Porfle



Heartfelt and finely-crafted, the documentary FAMOUS NATHAN (2014) is a glowing tribute to filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker's celebrated grandfather Nathan, the hot dog maven of Brooklyn's Coney Island.  It's a story of dedication, a work ethic the like of which is long past, the will to succeed, and, most importantly, family values. 

Lloyd has combed his way through mounds of ancient home movies and audiotaped interviews in order to give voice and image to long-deceased grandfather Nathan, who tells of leaving Poland, where he toiled as a youngster to help feed his family, and coming to America to work his way from menial jobs to owning one of the most wildly successful restaurants in the history of fast food.

We learn of Nathan's Famous (the name given to his renowned eatery) from its humble beginnings in 1916 to its preeminence with Coney Island visitors who purchased, at its peak, tens of thousands of hot dogs a day.  Nathan's employees churned them out at record speed and took pride in performing at their peak at all times for a boss to whom they were intensely loyal.  Both they and Nathan's friends and competitors gladly attest at length, sometimes emotionally, to what a wonderful guy he was.


Relatives and family also speak highly of him but in more measured terms.  There were the usual squabbles with his sons, Murray and Sol (Lloyd's father), who felt they could never measure up to Nathan's high standards while often waiting in vain for words of praise.  (Sol remarks that if Nathan wasn't criticizing him for something, that was as close as he came to actual praise.) 

Unrest between the brothers themselves over how to run the business once Nathan was urged to take an unwanted retirement (he said he preferred to die on the job over a life of leisure) and subsequent unwise decisions that lead to the company's eventual downfall help give the narrative the same depth and drive of a fictional family saga. 

All the while Lloyd's artful use of montage--many of his faded film clips of a New York that no longer exists are priceless--gives us a sense of the bustling joy that was a day at Nathan's Famous while also humanizing the man whose name sits atop the sign. 


There's a warm humorous element to several of the interview segments with family friends (I loved watching some of the aging Jewish couples lovingly kvetching at each other as they argue over long-ago details) and Lloyd's likable dad Sol himself.  Sol's visit with now-senile brother Murray in an old folks' home is touching, especially the following exchange:

MURRAY: How old are you?
SOL: Eighty-five.
MURRAY: Eighty-five? (Shakes his head) How old am I?
SOL: You're eighty-nine.
MURRAY: Eighty-nine? (Laughs in disbelief)

Finally, FAMOUS NATHAN takes us through the final stages of the Handwerker empire which, no longer in Nathan's hands, takes on increasingly unsuccessful spin-off ventures and franchise operations until the family is forced to sell out to a corporation.  And thus, the once-bustling hot dog palace joins a crumbling Coney Island itself in a slow descent into oblivion.  Lloyd Handwerker manages to make us feel as melancholy about this as he obviously does. 


The DVD from Film Movement is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  There are no subtitles but closed captions are available.  Extras include a director's commentary, bonus and deleted footage, and trailers for this and other Film Movement releases.

I've always enjoyed a good, nostalgic documentary about fast food and novel tourist attractions in America (the History Channel's "American Eats" and "Highway Hangouts" are two of my favorites), and FAMOUS NATHAN pays off richly in that regard.  Better yet, though, is its wonderfully engaging portrait of an admirable man who dared to dream and then, against staggering odds, made that dream come true.

Buy it at Amazon.com
Street date: Sept. 29, 2015



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