HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, July 31, 2017

MAN UNDERGROUND -- Movie Review by Porfle



MAN UNDERGROUND (2016) is about how hard it can be for one man to get the truth out to the people when nobody wants to hear it or believe it.  Especially when shadowy forces in the hush-hush inner government would rather such truth remain secret despite the obsessive efforts of one lone conspiracy theorist (i.e. "nut") to shine a light on it.

Unkempt, eccentric loner Willem Koda (George Basil) is the "nut" in question, or at least he seems like one to the waitresses at the diner in rural Middle America where he eats the same thing every day. 

One of them, Flossie Ferguson (Pamela Fila), takes a shine to him and, being an aspiring actress, agrees to appear in an autobiographical shot-on-video film Willem has decided to make with his goodnaturedly nerdy pal Todd Muckle (Andy Rocco) in order to tell Willem's story to the public more effectively than with the occasional sparsely-attended speech or social media video.


So far, the whole thing seems to play like an ultra-dry deadpan comedy, especially when we start to see the three of them filming Willem's comically overdramatized account of his past trauma under the most amateur of conditions. 

The events that made him the man he is today, we find, involve his working as a geologist for the government until having a terrifying close encounter of the worst kind after uncovering a sealed underground vault. 

We know of Willem's horrific past experience, resulting in a painful breakup with his wife, solely through these humorously-staged, laughable recreations (there are no dramatic flashbacks), and thus have no way of knowing whether he's telling the truth or simply tragically delusional.

Still, the smartly-written script of MAN UNDERGROUND by co-directors Michael Borowiec and Sam Marine manages to come up with some spooky clues here and there which, at times, have us hanging on this pathetic, socially-malajusted paranoiac's unsettling nocturnal encounters as though we're watching a low-key political thriller or an episode of "The X-Files."


All of this potential background intrigue, meanwhile, is presented within the context of three societal misfits (and Flossie's annoying boyfriend Francis, played with smooth-nerd aplomb by Felix Hagen) making a glorified home movie while stumbling through their own awkward relationship problems--most of which stem from Willem's mercurial, distrustful nature--as deadpan humor gives way more and more to increasingly absorbing human drama. 

The film's climax, in fact, is surprisingly dramatic, and by this time the writer-directors have managed to make these borderline-farcical characters more than sufficiently well-rounded enough for us to care about them.  More than that, they're quite thoroughly sympathetic and likable, even realistic in their own way, which is due in no small part to some wonderfully deft performances by the leads. 

MAN UNDERGROUND is unlike any "conspiracy theory" story I've seen, mixing subtle humor and serious drama the way real life often does, with the same variances in tone and lack of clear-cut resolution, and with the same kind of unsettling yet somehow appealing unpredictability.   

Tech Specs
Runtime: 93 mins.
Format: 1:85 Flat
Sound: Dolby 2.0
Country: USA
Language: English
Website: www.IndicanPictures.com
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror/Comedy




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"TELETUBBIES: FOLLOW THE LEADER" On DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on September 5



"TELETUBBIES: FOLLOW THE LEADER"

Six All-New Episodes and a Special Featurette with the Adorable Tinky Winky on DVD September 5

Family Entertainment with Developmental Benefits


CULVER CITY, Calif. (July 28, 2017) – The wonderful world of Teletubbies is back with 6 all-new adventures for your little ones when TELETUBBIES: FOLLOW THE LEADER arrives on DVD on September 5.

Celebrating 20 years of entertaining families across the world, the new generation of Teletubbies is designed to appeal to today's tech-savvy infants and toddlers through relatable storylines, and high-tech features including their Touch-Screen Tummies and Tubby Phone smartphone. Parents will be able to provide their toddlers with creative learning experiences that are fun, playful and inclusive.


The DVD encourages early social skills, including taking turns, physical activity and coordination, as well as recognizing colors, objects and patterns.

Synopsis:
Join Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po as they laugh, play, sing, dance and share big hugs. Teletubbies makes exploring and experimenting so much fun, your child will shout "Again! Again!". Contains six new episodes, including “Follow the Leader”.

Bonus Feature Includes:
·         Meet the Characters: Tinky Winky

TELETUBBIES: FOLLOW THE LEADER has a run time of approximately 75 minutes. The collection is not rated. 

ABOUT SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) company. Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition and distribution; television production, acquisition and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. For additional information, go to http://www.sonypictures.com.

ABOUT TELETUBBIES
Originally created in 1997, Teletubbies is one of the most successful global children’s brands of all-time. Targeted at young pre-school viewers, it has reached over 1 billion children to date. The original episodes have aired in over 120 territories in 45 different languages.

Debuting on Nick Jr. in May 2016, the new Teletubbies series (60 x 12 min. episodes) stays true to the original series but is designed to captivate today’s digital toddlers with updated elements and visual CGI-enhancements. The characters now have Touch-Screen Tummies and high-tech gadgets like the Tubby Phone smartphone, introducing a contemporary twist for a new generation of pre-schoolers. The multi award-winning Teletubbies encourages young children to watch television creatively, providing a safe and beneficial viewing experience. Teletubbies is produced by DHX Media. www.teletubbies.com

ABOUT DHX MEDIA
DHX Media Ltd. (TSX: DHX.A, DHX.B; NASDAQ: DHXM) is a leading children’s content and brands company, recognized globally for such high-profile properties as Peanuts, Teletubbies, Strawberry Shortcake, Caillou, Inspector Gadget, and the acclaimed Degrassi franchise. One of the world’s foremost producers of children’s shows, DHX Media owns the world’s largest independent library of children’s content, at 13,000 half-hours. It licenses its content to broadcasters and streaming services worldwide and generates royalties through its global consumer products program. Through its subsidiary, WildBrain, DHX Media operates one of the largest networks of children’s channels on YouTube. Headquartered in Canada, DHX Media has 20 offices worldwide. Visit us at www.dhxmedia.com.

TELETUBBIES and all related titles, logos and characters are trademarks of DHX Worldwide Limited. ©2017 DHX Worldwide Limited. All Rights Reserved.



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Artsploitation Puts Theatrical Release Under the Tree for "RED CHRISTMAS"



Artsploitation Decks the Halls with a
"RED CHRISTMAS"


Craig Anderson's Festival Hit Opens in Los Angeles August 25th
Blood-Soaked Holiday Cheer to Spread in Limited Release


"An energetic, candy-colored romp through genre tropes that manages to take its subject matter seriously while poking fun at itself at the same time."
-- Variety 


"Quite simply, Wallace can do no wrong, and Red Christmas proves that she still is - and always will be - a horror force to be reckoned with."
-- Horror Film News


Philadelphia, PA - Artsploitation has unwrapped a gift for all the bad boys and girls with the upcoming limited release of the Australian horror film Red Christmas.  Veteran television director and actor Craig Anderson makes his feature debut with Red Christmas, combining the banal horror of family gatherings with the issues of abortion, feminism, ethics, religion and privacy, with a blood-splattered twist on what happens when secrets refuse to stay dead.


Genre icon Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, E.T., Cujo, Critters) stars as the stressed-out mother of a squabbling family, gathered together in a remote Outback estate on Christmas Eve.  Their petty dramas threaten to blacken the holiday until a mysterious and deformed stranger appears at the door seeking bloody vengeance.  Red Christmas will open in Los Angeles August 25th for a weeklong run at the Laemmle Music Hall, and expand to screens in San Francisco, Denver, Dallas and more over the coming weeks.

August 25th Theatrical Release:
Laemmle Music Hall 3
9036 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Dee Wallace headlines as Diane, a matriarch presiding over the gathering of her squabbling grown children on Christmas Day.  Tensions give way to terror when a deformed stranger appears at the door with vengeance on his mind.  Diane must protect her family as limbs are severed and secrets are brought into the light.

Red Christmas (Official Trailer)

Red Christmas: English / Australia / 82 minutes


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Sunday, July 30, 2017

APT 3D -- Movie Review by Porfle



The old "haunted apartment" routine gets another crack at chilling our jaded blood in APT 3D (2014).  And, in its own slow, low-key, almost minimalist sort of way--with a few unexpected elements tossed into the mix, including sci-fi--it kinda does.

First-time writer-director Zack Imbrogno (with co-director Horst Dieter Baum) plays it like a slow tease, never giving us too much information at a time but always keeping us on edge, making us wait for each little clue as to what the hell's going on.

It all starts when Ben (Imbrogno) and his girlfriend Erin (Maxxe Sternbaum) move into the New York apartment of Ben's sister during her three-month jaunt to Africa.  Ben's all excited about his new TV-writing job, but Los Angeles girl Erin feels like a fish out of water and hates being left alone during the day.  This is just the beginning of a growing rift between them.


Making matters worse is a pushy, too-friendly neighbor named Chris (Jordan Lewis), whom Erin eventually suspects of stalking her.  The tension level is increased when we're shown brief glimpses of this.  But is he simply a pervert?  Or is there something more complicated, and perhaps more sinister, at work?

The apartment is small and modern, hardly the spacious old Gothic layout we see in such films as THE RESIDENT, but the directors manage to make it eerie enough with peripheral touches we almost don't notice--a shadow flitting across the wall, a closed door creaking open a crack--and weird, unexplained noises emanating from the most unlikely places.

It seems like a simple case of either stalking or paranormal infestation, except there are other things at work here such as UFOs glimpsed from the rooftop and bizarre visions that come over both Ben and Erin.  Some of the physical manifestations they experience along with these hallucinations seem...well...alien in nature.


APT 3D strings us along expertly and maintains a constant level of suspense, brimming with paranoia, that neither overdoes it nor loses its tension.  The gradual introduction of the more unbelievable, improbable aspects of their baffling plight only adds to our rapt involvement, even when we share Ben and Erin's skepticism when the enigmatic Chris turns out to be their main source of information.

Any more than this I'm loathe to reveal, save that this modestly budgeted mini-thriller with limited locations, a tiny cast, and a modicum of visual effects lets its actors and story carry us along in lieu of spectacle or sensation.  It's like a crackerjack extended episode of some excellent TV anthology like "The Outer Limits" or "Friday the 13th--The Series."

The one sticking point--which may be a make-or-break thing for many viewers--is the abrupt ending. Just when I think it's switching into high gear, there's the fadeout leaving us hanging.  But the more I thought about it, the more satisfied I was with the way APT 3D gives me just enough information and then allows me to imagine what happens next.  

Tech Specs
Runtime: 79 mins
Format: 1:85 Flat
Sound: Dolby SR
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller

Buy it at Amazon.com





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Saturday, July 29, 2017

BEYOND THE DARKNESS -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle



I love to watch movies while I'm eating. Some movies, however, really--and I mean really--don't lend themselves to mealtime viewing.  Joe D'Amato's BEYOND THE DARKNESS, aka "Buio Omega" (1979, Severin Films) is one of them.  Hoo boy, is it ever.

Generally speaking, it's your basic Italian 70s-era Grand Guignol potboiler dripping with that old-country Goth flavor and a sort of lurid, rough-hewn visual flair characteristic of much of Italian cinema. 

But it's the particulars in this case that really drive the film into gut-punch territory.  When D'Amato (THE ALCOVE, EMMANUELLE AND THE WHITE SLAVE TRADE) wants to shock or gross us out, he delivers with some strong, graphic gore and cringe-inducing perversion that'll most likely set your nerves on edge and your stomach on "queasy."


It all starts when otherwise handsome and normal-looking young Frank (Kieran Canter, THE LONELY LADY) loses his beloved wife Anna (Cinzia Monreale, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, THE BEYOND).  Unable to bear the loss, he steals her body from its grave and, using his skills as a taxidermist, preserves it in his basement laboratory so that he may, err..."consort" with her as before. 

In this he's helped by faithful family servant Iris (Franca Stoppi, THE OTHER HELL), who has an unhealthy relationship with Frank that's sexual, yet weirdly maternal.  Having Anna offed by a voodoo priestess was just step one in Iris' plot to become the mistress of the manor--and now, she has a vested interest in not only helping Frank preserve his dead wife's body (for the moment, anyway) but also in covering up the murders of young women that he just can't seem to resist having sex with in the bed next to Anna's corpse.

This latter activity is where BEYOND THE DARKNESS is indeed at its darkest, as D'Amato indulges in some classic body disposal that includes meat-cleaver dismemberment and then the old acid bath.  (Cremation comes later as well.)  Entrails, eyeballs, and all matter of offal are on the menu, especially when Frank gets a bit peckish during passion.  But even he has to hurl at the sight of Iris gobbling down a post-body-disposal platter of disgusting food in a scene that's the polar opposite of the erotic meal in TOM JONES.


Making these scenes even harder to stomach are several close shots that could pass as footage from an actual autopsy.  Indeed, they're often thought by fans to be just that, although D'Amato himself reveals that animal entrails and pig skins were used.

At any rate, the film continues along its morbidly merry way until a predictable plot twist sets up the very lively, very splattery finale.  A final heart-stopping shock right at the fadeout is particularly satisfying.  

(And speaking of hearts, we just know the director is pulling our legs when Frank, having removed Anna's heart while "processing" her, lovingly kisses and then lustily bites into it, causing the severed arteries to squirt blood.  Now that's some really dark humor, folks.)


Kieran Canter is a pretty one-note actor as Frank, but it's just the right note and he plays it with conviction.  Franca Stoppi, on the other hand, gives a bravura performance as a woman who's a monster, in the words of Ed Wood, to be both pitied and despised.  Also performing at their peak are The Goblins, who contribute their usual excellent musical score.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films features both English and Italian (with English subtitles) 2.0 soundtracks.  A generous Severin bonus menu includes a documentary-length interview with D'Amato that's augmented by comments from friends and coworkers and packed with film clips.  There are also interviews with Franca Stoppi and Cinzia Monreale, as well as a live Goblin performance from 2016 of the main title track, a "Locations Revisited" short, and the film's trailer.  Best of all, the first 2500 units will contain the entire Goblins soundtrack on its own CD disc. 

"Shock is an ideal way to involve the audience in the film," Joe D'Amato declares during his interview footage. "And cannibalism is definitely pretty shocking."  As is much of what he dishes out in BEYOND THE DARKNESS, for horror fans who like to gorge themselves on the grotesque.

Buy it from Severin Films




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"CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND" -- 40th Anniversary Trailer & Poster -- In Theaters Sept. 1



Close Encounters of the Third Kind
(Sony Pictures)


Release Date: September 1, 2017
On Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Sept. 19


40th Anniversary Trailer and Poster

After an encounter with U.F.O.s, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.
 


Written and Directed by:
Steven Spielberg

Produced by:
Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips

Cast:
Richard Dreyfuss
Teri Garr
Melinda Dillon
with Francois Truffaut as Lacombe

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Friday, July 28, 2017

THE MAN FROM OUTER SPACE -- Movie Review by Porfle



The story of a man frantically trying to juggle family and career, THE MAN FROM OUTER SPACE (2017) is a simple, somewhat threadbare tale even though it's made up of two interwoven storylines.

In the first one, Louis (Christopher Mychael Watson, UNTOUCHED) is an aspiring screenwriter whose big break comes when he and his narcissistic young agent Kyle (Darren Hummel) are allowed the privilege of pitching some story ideas to big-wig producer Harold (Todd Christian Elliott).

But when Louis gets cornered into whipping up a script over the weekend, this conflicts with all the fatherly stuff he's promised he would do with his daughter Makayla (Aliyah Conley), putting him in the dog house with both her and his rather unyielding wife Alyssa (Erica Auerbach, UNDERCURRENT).


The second storyline consists of the relatively pedestrian sci-fi yarn Louis is making up on the fly about an astronaut from Mars who crash-lands on post-apocalypse Earth and discovers two inhabitants, a mother and her daughter, living in the wild. 

The three characters are played by Louis and his family, so it becomes clear pretty quick that this is all a metaphor for what's going on in his real life at the moment.  The astronaut will eventually have to decide what's more important--his mission, or the relationship between him and his new "family."

In his feature debut, writer-director Ben Hall does a decent job with a modest budget while giving us a story so predictable that actually watching it to the end feels like going through the motions.

The real-world Louis has my sympathies as he desperately struggles to make good on his big break despite being made out as a neglectful father by a wife who seems to have zero empathy and understanding for him.  The kid I can understand, but Alyssa really turned me off as a character.


Fantasy-Louis is somewhat more interesting despite the fact that his big sci-fi saga--the one that's supposed to grab the demanding producer's attention--is about as original and deep as "Space Ship Sappy" with the Three Stooges. 

And when some of his fellow astronauts from Mars show up acting all arch and threatening, it reminded me of TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.  Which was fun in a way, but not terribly involving.

My reaction to THE MAN FROM OUTER SPACE as a whole was similarly mixed--fun at times (mainly the bad sci-fi elements) but not all that engaging overall.  Maybe next time Louis could come up with a more harrowing script based on his life, and call it "The Man Who Was Almost Nagged To Death."





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Thursday, July 27, 2017

"ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON" Makes its Retail Debut on 9/5, Packed with Laughs, Guest Stars and Hours of Bonus Programming!



Although "Saturday Night Live," "MADtv" and other sketch shows have captured some of the flavor of "Laugh-In," no other comedy show has matched it in terms of its hyper-speed outrageousness and offbeat sensibility.
-- The Los Angeles Times

"The frenetic, chaotic comedy still earns laughs 50 years later...
it's a wonderful time capsule of the era"

-- DVD Talk

From 1968 to 1973, anarchy reigned supreme on NBC,
and network television was never quite the same

-- Winston-Salem Journal

MORE LAUGH-IN FROM TIME LIFE?
YOU BET YOUR SWEET BIPPY!

THIS SEPTEMBER, TV'S GROUNDBREAKING VARIETY SHOW LAUNCHES AT RETAIL WITH A ZANY, STAR-STUDDED
INAUGURAL SEASON DVD SET

ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN:
THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Street Date: September 5, 2017
DVD SRP: $24.95


The 4-Disc Set Features 14 Remastered Episodes from the Landmark Emmy® and Golden Globe®-Winning Series - 64% of Which Have Never Before Been Available at Retail -- Hours of Bonus Programming Including the Pilot Episode and a New Interview with Creator George Schlatter; Guest Stars Include Harry Belafonte, Milton Berle, Johnny Carson, Cher, Tim Conway, Sammy Davis Jr., Sally Field, Jerry Lewis and Many More!



PROGRAM SYNOPSIS
The '60s gave us "in-crowds," "be-ins" and "love-ins," and starting in 1968, the happening place for free-form comedy was Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, broadcast from beautiful downtown Burbank. Straight man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a gaggle of goofballs through a rapid-fire assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief. Anything and anyone in the public eye was a target.  Political correctness?  Forget it!  The off-the-wall groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning show would go on to anchor the Monday 8 p.m. time slot on NBC until March 12, 1973, transforming both pop culture and the medium of television.

Following the acclaimed release of LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE SERIES (available exclusively through TimeLife.com/Laugh-In), the TV-DVD archivists at Time Life are making ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON available for classic TV aficionados
and comedy lovers alike.  Comprised of 4 DVDs and 14 complete episodes - 64% of which have never before been available at retail -- the star-studded set delivers audiences to the beginning of the landmark series which became an instant classic and one of the most popular shows in the history of television. 

Flip Wilson as Adam (now residing outside of the Garden of Eden); Tim Conway and Cher as John Smith and Pocahontas; a silent salute to presidential candidate George Wallace; a Mod, Mod World look at the Olympics -- these are just a few of the zaniest things crammed into Season 1.  Also making their appearances for the first time: Goldie Hawn's giggly blonde, Judy Carne's "Sock-It-To-Me" girl, Jo Anne Worley's anti-chicken-joke militant, Ruth Buzzi's perpetually-frustrated spinster and Arte Johnson's "verrry interesting" German soldier.  The biggest news, however, was the first national television appearance of Tiny Tim, the ukulele-toting, falsetto-singing throwback to a bygone era of American pop music.  He made the rest of the cast seem normal -- and Dan and Dick squirm.  The show's first season was also highlighted by long running fan favorite features including "Sock It to Me," "Cocktail Party," the "Joke Wall", and the first appearance of Johnson's elderly Tyrone F. Horneigh and Sammy Davis Jr. introducing the all-time classic sketch "Here Comes the Judge".


ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON includes hours of specially-produced extras, including the rare Laugh-In pilot, an all-new interview with creator and executive producer George Schlatter, 25th Anniversary Cast Reunion Highlights and Laugh-In Bloopers.

CAST
Dan Rowan
Dick Martin
Pamela Austin
Ken Berry
Eileen Brennan
Ruth Buzzi
Judy Carne
Barbara Feldon
Henry Gibson
Goldie Hawn
Larry Hovis
Arte Johnson
Gary Owens
Jo Anne Worley 

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Format: DVD/4 Discs
Running Time: 869 minutes
Genre:  TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo



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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GHOST IN THE SHELL -- Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Review by Porfle



Futuristic sci-fi thrillers such as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, BLADE RUNNER, and the more recent THE FIFTH ELEMENT used to amaze and astound us with their eye-popping visuals and stunning practical effects. Nowadays, such fare is so overloaded with CGI-generated artificial wonders jam-packed into every frame that we tend to get numbed by it all. 

GHOST IN THE SHELL (2017)--a live-action adaptation of the original manga by way of the excellent 1995 animated version--starts out that way, cluttered with too many whiz-bang visuals that don't always seem to exist in the real world, with the ever-present advertising motif of BLADE RUNNER taken to new extremes and a sort of architectural imagination gone mad.

As the film progresses, however, we settle in and adapt to this frenetic, plastic vision of the future, mainly because the theme of the story is technology gone too far--people becoming willing cyborgs for vanity and convenience and all connected body and mind to a central core--and the main characters are meant to feel alienated by it as well. 


Our heroine, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) of the anti-terrorist group Section 9, is especially attuned to such feelings, being that she is the first successful fusion of a human brain with an entirely robotic body (i.e., a "ghost in the shell") and thus constantly conflicted as to how much of her humanity remains and what percent of her is pure machine connected to the company mainframe. 

Her inner conflict is heightened when her group's newest nemesis is a cyber-criminal named Kuze who can hack into any system including all cyborgs--meaning just about everybody to one degree or another--and service robots. 

His goal is revenge, which he wreaks to the extreme in some explosive action setpieces.  But exactly why remains a mystery until Mira and her team manage to fight their way right into his sinister clutches and discover the truth behind not only Kuze but their own organization.


Scarlett Johansson strikes the right balance between robotic demeanor and inner conflict, which she underplays until it's time to delve headlong into her action scenes.  These lack the angular inventiveness and quirky choreography of, say, THE MATRIX, but are still packed with satisfying excitement in their own way, replete with gunplay and hand-to-hand combat with sci-fi elements such as invisibility and advanced weaponry. 

"Beat" Takeshi Kitano (BATTLE ROYALE, VIOLENT COP) lends his considerable presence as Mira's boss, Aramaki, as does Juliette Binoche--who will always be Catherine Earnshaw of 1992's WUTHERING HEIGHTS to me--as Dr. Ouelet, the head scientist who created Mira and regards her as a daughter.  Pilou Asbæk is also good as Mira's partner Batou, a gruff, bearlike agent who's just a regular guy beneath it all. 

Mira's quest to find herself, to uncover suppressed memories of her former life and get to the truth of why and how she was created, eventually takes GHOST IN THE SHELL to a place that's both powerful and tragic, lending emotional depth to its final chaotic showdown between good and evil (traits which will shift their meaning considerably before it's over). 


The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD set from Paramount is in 1080p high definition (DVD is widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs) with Dolby 5.1 stereo and subtitles in multiple languages.  The DVD contains the feature film only.  The Blu-ray disc contains the feature plus three bonus behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Visually and emotionally compelling, the live-action GHOST IN THE SHELL never quite reaches the sublime beauty of its animated predecessor but tries its damndest to do so.  In this, it succeeds in being a lively, thought-provoking, and often dazzling entry in the dystopian-future sci-fi genre which fans won't want to miss.


Street Date:      July 7, 2017 (Digital HD) July 25, 2017 (4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD) 
U.S. Rating:    PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content and some disturbing images
Canadian Rating: PG, not recommended for young children, violence


Buy it at Amazon.com:Blu-ray/DVD/Digital
DVD
3D

Read our original coverage





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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

THE BEST OF HARVEY KORMAN -- DVD Review by Porfle



A lot of people these days only know Harvey Korman from his Mel Brooks movies ("That's Hedley!"), but there was a time before that when his star shone brightly as the Emmy-winning second banana on TV's legendary "The Carol Burnett Show."

Time-Life's DVD release THE BEST OF HARVEY KORMAN assembles four complete (more or less) nostalgia-heavy episodes from 1969-71, three of which haven't been seen in 40 years, and they serve as a real time machine back to the way variety shows looked in those days.

Watching them now, the show's comedy is as incredibly corny as it can be, with paper-thin writing and forced punchlines, but also with a laidback informality (the performers break character often to either ad-lib or crack up at each other) that continues to appeal.


Production-wise, it often looks almost like a local TV production even though it was a top-rated show on a major network.  Strangely enough, this also adds to the show's charm--it didn't need a big budget with such likable performers to keep audiences happy.

Chief among these of course was Carol, that lovable, rubber-faced genius of physical and verbal comedy who always came across as the superstar next door.  She was a bundle of sparkling personality, especially during the celebrated Q & A segments with the studio audience.

Korman was second only to her in versatility, playing everything from henpecked husbands to weaselly lotharios (as in the lengthy and tedious Latin lover sketch) and everything in between. 


Rounding out the cast was cartoonishly handsome Lyle Waggoner, forever goodnaturedly spoofing his own manly image, while a sweetly callow Vicki Lawrence was the perennial "kid sister" before her eventual breakthrough as "Mama."

Comedy skits alternate with often cringe-inducing song and/or dance numbers, with the first episode in the set giving Lyle and Vicki solo songs that are less than memorable. Even veteran performers such as Bernadette Peters, Nancy Wilson, and Diahann Carroll can't do much with the tacky arrangements they're given. (A pre-"Jeffersons" Isabel Sanford appears briefly as a housekeeper in one segment.)

As for Korman, his appearances in the set are sporadic--the episodes seem pretty much picked at random and don't really showcase his best work at all.  The fact that he's in them seems enough to qualify them for inclusion here.


A skit in which he appears in drag seems to be the collection's highlight. Other points of interest are "The Old Folks" (Harvey and Carol as a doddering elderly couple), a solo comedy song emphasizing Harvey's vanity, Harvey as Richard Nixon, and a guest appearance by future castmember Tim Conway who would become Harvey's most frequent comedy foil. 

While not exactly THE BEST OF HARVEY KORMAN as the title suggests, it's fun to watch these episodes again after all this time and relive those decades-old memories.  Still, viewers who aren't seeing these creaky old skits and corny musical numbers through a golden haze of nostalgia might wonder what all the fuss is about.

Buy it at Amazon.com

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Format: DVD/Single
Running Time: 178 minutes
Genre:  TV DVD/Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: Stereo



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Monday, July 24, 2017

1944 -- DVD Review by Porfle



Some of the best war stories are the ones that humanize all soldiers, and make us feel for them whatever the greater forces that compel them to fight.  Director Elmo Nüganen's World War II epic 1944 (Film Movement, 2015) is especially effective in doing so, since its opponents consist of men from the same country who have been forcibly conscripted by two different warring nations, Germany and Russia.

Karl (Kaspar Velberg) is an Estonian peasant fighting for the Germans in hopes of someday rescuing his family from exile. Jüri (Kristjan Üksküla) is a fellow Estonian who will be haunted after killing a countryman during battle and then contacting the man's sister despite the danger of suspicion by his Russian superiors. 

The film's production values are impeccable, with a fluidly-mobile camera and stark, yet beautiful photography.  Authenticity of period and setting are also first-rate, as are the performances of an excellent cast.


There are plenty of intense, frenetic battle scenes that are down-and-dirty and, like the real thing, often confusing.  (The trench warfare sequence is stunning.) 

Since the viewer has little stake in the outcome, we tend to root for whichever main character is being focused upon at the time.  This keeps the emphasis squarely on the individuals as human beings rather than soldiers defending a national directive.

Indeed, some of 1944's most powerful scenes are its quietest, as when Jüri visits the sister and they sit together in an empty church, deriving an elusive comfort from one another's presence. 


Dialogue amongst the soldiers themselves during off hours is sensitive and knowing, yielding several moments in which joviality is laced with piercing sadness. 

This sadness is always compounded by the fact that the Estonians are killing each other for the most futile and useless reasons, and watching their homeland being destroyed as a battleground for people who view them with suspicion and contempt.

In one of the film's most telling moments, a member of the Estonian government under the Germans proudly addresses the troops in the field with the announcement that, after intensive scientific research, their people have been deemed worthy of being called "Aryans." 


The withering looks of those hearing the news are ample evidence of how little this means to them--and yet, they must continue to fight and kill their countrymen, day after grueling, heartrending day, until finally, in whatever ways they can, they rebel.

The DVD from Film Movement is in 2.39:1 widescreen with 5.1 surround sound and 2.0 stereo, both English and Estonian with English subtitles.  Extras include a bizarre short film and trailers for this and other Film Movement releases.

The hauntingly bittersweet 1944 doesn't merely try to impress us with its scope, or its sweeping battle scenes, although it has both; more than anything else, it's a celebration of humanity, and how tenuously some cling to it in the face of overwhelming oppression and despair.


DVD Available Exclusively at Walmart
Release Date: Aug. 1, 2017


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