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Thursday, July 31, 2008

DEATH VALLEY -- DVD review by porfle

Four friends from the city attend a rave in the middle of the Mojave desert, run afoul of a gang of local psychos on dirt bikes, and spend the rest of the movie trying to survive and escape back to civilization. That's all you need to know about the plot of DEATH VALLEY, aka "Mojave" (2004). As in other movies of this type, most of the entertainment value comes not from great plotting, acting, or dialogue (although those do tend to help), but in how well the filmmakers can do action and suspense. First time writer-directors David Kebo and Rudi Liden do them pretty well. Not exceptionally, but well enough to hold our interest till the fadeout.

Eric Christian Olsen plays Josh, a harried cubicle dweller who's looking forward to a fun weekend in the desert with his pals to celebrate his birthday. Olsen was already on my good side from his role as a dopey blonde himbo in the hilarious NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE, and here he does a pretty good job in the lead. Rider Strong also turns in a good performance as Daniel, the wimpy rich kid who wants to rebel against his dad while continuing to spend his money. Bumper Robinson and Wayne Young round out the group as Anthony and Brick, while Genevieve Cortese plays Amber, a girl who tags along with them after the rave and later regrets it.

After discovering Daniel's SUV vandalized the next morning, the group accuses a couple of scruffy-looking locals of the deed. One of them, Reno, is played by Vince Vieluf, who was Seth Green's moronic brother in RAT RACE. He's basically the same character here, only evil. The situation erupts into violence and shots are fired, leaving Reno's buddy dying of a stomach wound and Brick with a bloody hole through his foot. Things go from bad to worse, until our erstwhile partiers find themselves holed up in a cave with an entire gang of murderous desert rats out for their blood.

What follows is pretty much DELIVERANCE in the desert, with Josh and the rest forced to draw upon their primitive survival instincts to fight off the bad guys. There's nothing really imaginative here--just your basic cat-and-mouse stuff that we've seen in a thousand movies. Some of the good guys will die, and some of them will overcome the odds and survive. Kebo and Liden won't win any awards for movies like this, but they're competent filmmakers and DEATH VALLEY is fairly involving and fun to watch. In fact, it's just the sort of thing that used to go over well back in the old drive-in days when teenagers were in the mood for an action flick that they didn't have to think about. Nowadays, I imagine such films are best watched with a group of rowdy guys and a few six-packs.

As I said, the performances range from adequate to good on most counts. The main flaw of DEATH VALLEY, however, is the miscasting of Dash Mihok as the leader of the bad guys. Someone like THE ROAD WARRIOR's "Humongous" was needed here, but instead we get Dom, a thoroughly tepid excuse for a hardbitten sadist-type. ("Dom"?) He's about as threatening as an overgrown playground bully trembling with insecurities. He's also not too bright--in one scene, he has a hapless captive spread out over the hood of his truck before putting a bullet through the guy's brain, which is fine except that he's shooting his own truck at the same time. Duh-uhh. The rest of the time you wonder why the other grizzled psychos are taking orders from this lame-o. Dash was pretty good in a comedy I saw sometime last year entitled LOVELESS IN LOS ANGELES, and I think he should stick to comedy. Trying to act like a badass doesn't suit him.

The DVD has an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with 5.1 surround sound and Spanish subtitles. Extras include a directors' commentary, a brief making-of featurette, about 18 minutes of alternate and deleted scenes, a gag reel, and trailers for this and other Allumination releases.

I've seen this described as a horror film, but if that's what you're expecting you'll probably be disappointed because it really isn't one. (Unless you consider DELIVERANCE to be a horror film.) However, if you're looking for a decent action thriller with a fair amount of violence and suspense, on about the same level as the stuff we used to watch through our windshields on the old outdoor screen, then DEATH VALLEY should fit the bill.

Sound the Alarm! Tim Robbins makes NOISE

On September 16, Anchor Bay Entertainment Presents A Dark Comedy That Proves Silence is Golden

Burbank, CA -- In a shrill world, how many people are willing to fight for their own, personal quiet space? On September 16, Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the DVD Noise, the critically-acclaimed fable of an average citizen facing down the misery of our modern culture of distraction. Available for an SRP of $26.97, this disc shouts of extras such as a Director’s Commentary, a Behind-The-Scenes Featurette and interviews with cast and crew.

Noise stars Tim Robbins (Mystic River, The Shawshank Redemption) as David Owen, a Manhattan husband and father, outwardly meek and peaceful. However, David is forced to wage a one-man war against the ubiquitous car alarms that are driving him to desperation and destroying his precious personal space.

Adopting the name of The Rectifier, he becomes a noise vigilante, stomping out noisemakers wherever he finds them, in the process butting heads with New York’s sleazy Mayor Schneer (William Hurt, The Incredible Hulk, Into The Wild) who vows to silence him.

Co-starring Bridget Moynahan (I, Robot, "Sex In The City"), Margarita Levieva (The Invisible) and William Baldwin (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, "Dirty Sexy Money"), this is a film that takes a sharp, incisive look at life in the big city -- a world that suppresses and suffocates. Written and directed by Henry Bean (writer, Internal Affairs; director, The Believer), it creates a vision that is eccentric and wickedly humorous.

Critics are loud in their praise of Noise, including David Denby of The New Yorker who calls it "a splendidly eccentric film alive with the creative madness of New York City!" Noise is "a satisfyingly screwy New York story" says The Philadelphia Enquirer, while USA Today calls it "eccentric and generally entertaining." Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly also commends its "delirious integrity and outsider-art charm."

Noise is a rare gem: a dark comedy made for and about adults that addresses the real problems of a world that assaults our senses and invades our lives. It asks the question: must a man lose his mind in order to retain his "peace" of mind?

Street Date: September 16, 2008
Order Date: August 14, 2008
Catalog #: DV 16156
UPC #: 0 1313 16156-9 2
Run Time: Approx. 88 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Retail Price: $26.97

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BABY BLUES -- DVD review by porfle

Whoa--I must say, this movie took a rather shocking turn I didn't expect. When I started watching BABY BLUES (2008) I had no idea what it was about, so I was on the lookout for the usual horror elements to start popping up. The setting, an isolated rural farmhouse in Georgia with a typical family of six--Mom, Dad, two boys, a girl, and a baby--seemed ripe for ghostly occurrences of some sort, or maybe a possession or an axe-wielding maniac. And that scarecrow that keeps giving Mom the heebie-jeebies sure seems like it might come to life at any moment. But the real horror that strikes this family isn't supernatural, and it doesn't come from outside.

I almost hate to give away any more about it, but the pivotal event in the story happens so early on that I wouldn't be able to talk about the movie otherwise. To put it bluntly, BABY BLUES is pretty much inspired by the case of crazed Texas housewife Andrea Yates, who murdered all of her children in one fell psychotic swoop back in '01. (At least, that's what this "based on a true story" story brought to my mind.) The "baby blues" of the title refers to postnatal depression--perhaps "psychosis" would be more apt--which has Mom (Colleen Porch) wandering around with black circles under her eyes while drifting in and out of a state of hallucinatory paranoia. We also see her reading (gasp!) the Bible in her first scene, rarely a good sign in a modern horror film.

Her family, on the other hand, is pretty normal and well-adjusted. Dad (Joel Bryant) is an easygoing lug who unfortunately has to spend much of his time driving a big rig. Jimmy (Ridge Canipe), the oldest, is a typical boy who plays baseball and carries a slingshot. Holden Thomas Maynard and Kali Majors are younger siblings Sammy and Cathy, and bringing up the rear is the new baby, Nathan. Jimmy's starting to notice that Mom isn't quite her usual self lately, but nobody suspects what will happen when she finally flips out during Dad's absence and begins to see her children as vile creatures who need to be severely punished.

I don't know what your tolerance level is for seeing bad things happen to little kids in movies, but BABY BLUES will definitely test it. Mom's breakdown leads to one murder, an attempted bathtub drowning, and various other acts of violence until finally there's a bloody stabbing that may have you picking your jaw up off the floor. After that, the surviving kids run for their lives as the suspense becomes almost unbearable for the rest of the film. Most movies would build up to a sequence this intense as a finale, but this one hits a high tension level about a third of the way through and more or less sustains it till the end.

As Mom, Colleen Porch ably conveys her slow descent into madness and the hysterical homicidal rage that finally bursts forth. There's a great early scene in which, after hearing that a former classmate has scored a job doing the local TV weather report, a haggard Mom stands in front of the bathroom mirror with a bright smile and recites "Tonight will be mostly cloudy, with a slight chance of rain" over and over, until the smile gradually becomes hideous and the phrase itself seems to boil over with bitterness and despair. The kids all give realistic performances, especially 13-year-old Ridge Canipe as Jimmy. He's just about as believably natural as a child actor can get and we can't help but pull for him as he tries to protect his siblings and himself. The authentic Southern accents and atmosphere are also a plus.

The direction by Lars E. Jacobson and Amardeep Kaleka is first-rate as are the editing and the cinematography, which has a rustic warmth in the daytime scenes that gives way to a colder, harsher look later on. Michael Filimowicz's music augments the action well without competing with it.

The DVD is 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and Spanish subtitles. I watched a screener so I can't comment on any extras, but the promotional info mentions a behind-the-scenes documentary and a trailer.

This isn't about some cool serial killer in a hockey mask slaughtering a bunch of vapid teenagers in delightfully gory ways, and the fact that the setting is so normal and the events so plausible makes it all the more horrifying. Each death is tragic and hurtful to watch, and the suspense leading up to them is dreadful. Impeccably made and intensely effective, BABY BLUES more than succeeds in what it sets out to do, but boy, is it ever hard to watch. And you may suffer from a bad case of postcinematic depression when it's over.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TRILOQUIST -- DVD review by porfle

"Ventriloquist dummy horror" is an interesting sub-genre that's been around for a long time, at least as far back as 1945's DEAD OF NIGHT, which featured Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist whose personality was taken over by that of his sinister dummy. Cliff Robertson had a go at it in a memorable "Twilight Zone" episode, and in 1978 Anthony Hopkins was in the thrall of his own creepy dummy in MAGIC.

Now, with the DVD release of the comedy-horror thriller TRILOQUIST (2007) on the "Dimension Extreme" label, we get a new take on the subject that's interesting to watch but not nearly as successful. Perky blonde cutie Paydin LoPachin plays Angelina, a homicidal sociopath whose singleminded, self-obsessed, lethally impulsive rampage through life is strewn with dead bodies. Her autistic brother Norbert (Rocky Marquette) looks and dresses like a disturbed Howdy Doody and is never without his grotesque alter-ego, a dummy named Dummy (inherited from their late ventriloquist father), through whom the mute boy speaks (or does he?).

Orphaned when their prostitute mother OD's on heroin, the brother and sister are left in the charge of a perverted uncle. The kids murder him (or does Dummy do it?) and are separated--Angelina to a foster home, Norbert to the loony bin. Years later Angelina springs Norbert and Dummy, and they set off for Vegas where she dreams of her brother becoming a famous "triloquist." Along the way, she gets it in her head that in order to keep their great triloquist name and bloodline from dying out, Norby needs to have a son. So they kidnap a random young woman named Robin (Katie Chonacas) for the reluctant Norbert to impregnate. All the while, their road trip to Vegas is splattered with the blood of their hapless victims.

Dummy looks like a cross between Anthony Hopkins' "Fats" and the infamous Chucky. The difference between those two characters is that Fats is a manifestation of the ventriloquist's own madness, while Chucky is actually alive. With Dummy, however, we're never quite sure what's going on. Sometimes it seems that perhaps Angelina or Norbert is operating him without even realizing it themselves, and at other times we suspect they're only imagining that Dummy is walking and talking. And yet there are scenes in which Dummy is obviously ambulatory and attacking people, or carrying on conversations with outsiders such as Robin. So the usual split personality theme doesn't seem to apply here--or does it? I couldn't figure it out. TRILOQUIST contains all the elements of "ventriloquist dummy horror" film yet is heedless of the genre's conventions.

This indecisiveness regarding Dummy's character makes for a confusing final act. Robin escapes and is chased through the forest by Angelina and Norbert to a deserted shack where the final action takes place. During this time and in some previous scenes, Angelina seems to display actual magical powers, such as the ability to transport herself at will or make solid objects (such as handcuffs) appear or disappear. Norbert appears to be the one making Dummy talk, and yet at one point Angelina claims to be supplying his voice--while all along we continue to see Dummy walking and talking on his own. Just when we think there's been a surprise revelation, it's contradicted moments later. Maybe I was missing something, but I just didn't get it and found the story unsatisfying because of this confusion.

Another thing while I'm thinking of it--for some reason, there are a couple of scenes of Angelina talking to people when suddenly there's a brief sting shot of Dummy lurking behind them. But nothing happens to them and nothing comes of this, so I didn't get that, either.

Technically, the film is very nicely done. The cinematography and lighting give it a colorful candy-coated look, and the direction by Mark Jones (LEPRECHAUN) is brisk and surehanded. I also liked the soundtrack, which features some cool songs, although I started to get tired of the multiple reprises of "Billy Boy" after the terrific main titles arrangement. Paydin LoPachin gives an energetic performance as Angelina, interesting and kinda cute in her own way, but ultimately without much real impact. Rocky Marquette does about as well as an actor can when asked to imitate a deranged marionette, and Katie Chonacas is adequate as the captive Robin. In a smaller role, Brian Krause (SLEEPWALKERS) portrays an ill-fated police officer, while the redoubtable Bruce Weitz supplies the voice of Dummy and seems to have a field day doing so. Another familiar television face pops up as himself in a brief cameo that comes as a delightful surprise.

The DVD comes in matted widescreen format with English Dolby 5.1 sound and Spanish and English subtitles. No extras.

As a really weird variation on NATURAL BORN KILLERS and the previously-noted ventriloquist dummy films, TRILOQUIST is nice to look at, unpredictably eventful, pleasingly perverse, and pretty much fun to watch. (For those keeping score at home, there's also a fair amount of boobage on hand, too.) But there isn't a single scary scene, and most of the violence takes place off-camera, so don't expect a horror film.

Monday, July 28, 2008

BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY -- DVD review by porfle

Although it's been likened to THIS IS SPINAL TAP, writer-director Stevan Mena's BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY reminded me more of 1993's "...AND GOD SPOKE", a similar mockumentary about bad filmmakers battling their way through a hellish bottom-of-the-barrel production. In that movie they tackled the misguided task of filming the entire Bible on a shoestring budget; here, they're just trying to get through the making of a single craptacular slasher flick alive.

Harry Penderecki (David Naughton) is a low-low-budget horror filmmaker whose previous bargain bin fodder includes titles such as "Fish Who Ate Flesh!", "Bowel Movement", "Saquatch at the Mall", and "I'll Take Back the Ring--And the Finger, Too!" After finally scrounging up enough backing and assembling the most inept cast and crew ever, Harry launches a grueling two-month shoot in the middle of a freezing cold wilderness where everything goes horribly wrong from start to finish.

One thing's for sure, this is definitely my all-time favorite David Naughton performance. He completely inhabits the character of Harry in a wonderfully deadpan way that's consistently right on the mark. I like him better at this age--graying and a little paunchy--than any other time in his career. If he'd started out at this age instead of wasting all those years being young, dancing around drinking Dr. Pepper, starring in failed sitcoms, and being a werewolf, he would already be one of my favorite actors.

The rest of the cast is a delight. Ash's sister Cheryl and girlfriend Linda from THE EVIL DEAD (Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker) are on hand as Harry's frazzled production manager and burnt-out casting director. Ellen's part is bigger and she makes the most of it, her most memorable scene coming when her character, Natalie, tries to empty the filled-to-capacity toilet tank in the location RV and...well, I won't tell you what happens next, but it may be even worse than getting raped by trees. This could be Ellen's "Oscar" moment.

DAWN OF THE DEAD's Ken Foree plays the key grip whose duties increase every time Harry fires someone. Kevin Smith regular Brian O'Halloran plays Jay, the A.D. with ADD. As Harry's loyal East Indian cameraman, Hanu, the diminutive Gerry Bednob gets funnier as the movie goes on. Director Mick Garris and Fangoria's Tony Timpone show up early on as themselves. And playing a (what else?) googly-eyed psycho who may or may not start killing people at any minute is old Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen.

At first it didn't seem as though this film was really going to come together. Then, as I got accustomed to its rhythm and low-key approach, I really started to enjoy it. The hilarity isn't non-stop, and there are some slow spots, but just when things threaten to get boring there's another unexpected belly-laugh to goose them again. And as everything grows progressively more bleak and hopeless for our stalwart filmmakers, I almost started to get a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT vibe that somehow enhanced the black comedy.

There's some pretty funny stuff going on here: a key scene is interrupted when the cast and crew discover that they're in the middle of a firing range; after miles of footage is exposed, Harry finds out that his sound man has no idea what he's doing; a group of rowdy local teenagers keeps ruining shots by driving their jeep through them; and the "fake corpse" that Harry's supposed FX expert is secretly laboring on throughout the production turns out to be less convincing than a CPR practice dummy. Aside from this, there are several funny instances of Harry trying to direct his talentless actors through terrible dialogue scenes and ridiculous action.

Of course, Harry's film features the prerequisite blonde bimbos and plenty of boobage. Amy (Emily Brownell) has lofty aspirations both cinematic and intellectual--when asked if she's well-read, she replies, "Well, I read the entire script." Her co-star, the even less intelligent Tanya (Michelle DiBenedetti), has no qualms about exposing her charms on film, reasoning that she's only using what was given to her by God and then enhanced by her surgeon. And as a nod to the kind of flicks this film is spoofing, female characters often find reasons to bend over so the camera can focus on their backsides.

The DVD features 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. Besides the trailer, extras include several deleted scenes, some of which are really funny (you've got to see Ken Foree and Gerry Bednob furiously wrestling each other to the death in the motel bed that cheap Harry has forced them to share). There's also a behind-the-scenes featurette which is also a mockumentary with everyone still in character, so it's like an addition to the movie itself.

Not on the same level as SPINAL TAP or the other Christopher Guest mockumentaries, with less spontaneity and improvisation, BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY is still an often giddily funny valentine to low-budget horror fans. It's also the movie that finally, after all these years, has made David Naughton a household name. In my house.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The English Language Dub of House of Traps has been found and is Coming from Image in September!

No, really it is, bet you didn't expect that happen. Now can someone please find the dub for Mercenaries From Hong Kong :)

From Kung Fu Fandom Member Magicpoe based on his followup of a post from Dub Master of Fandom Bobo on a report of the English dub being listed for House of Traps at cduniverse.

Received a call back from Image this evening.


Spoke with a Mr. Thompson who apparently is overseeing these releases. He said they found the dub via the Library of Congress. Same place they sourced the dub for Intimate Confessions. All that sound familiar, it should.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WARGAMES: THE DEAD CODE -- DVD review by porfle

"Would you like to play a game?"

If this quote brings back pleasant memories of smarty-pants computer whiz Matthew Broderick making that big vein in Dabney Coleman's forehead throb back in 1983's WARGAMES, then chances are you'll find something to enjoy in MGM's direct-to-DVD sequel, WARGAMES: THE DEAD CODE (2008).

In this belated follow-up, another teenage computer geek named Will Farmer (Matt Lanter) crosses paths online with a secret government super-computer named R.I.P.L.E.Y. which is programmed to seek out and destroy terrorists by luring them into playing online videogames for money. Marked as a terrorist himself, Will becomes a fugitive trying to stay one step ahead of the feds while the increasingly ruthless R.I.P.L.E.Y. uses all the resources of modern technology to track down and terminate him.

As you might guess, R.I.P.L.E.Y. has been designed with just a little too much autonomy, which comes back to bite her creators in the ass when things get out of hand and entire cities begin to be viewed as targets. This time Colm Feore (STORM OF THE CENTURY, PEARL HARBOR) plays the guy with the throbbing forehead, while Chuck Shamata and Maxim Roy are a couple of project members who see the danger coming and try to shut the computer down before it can retaliate. There are definite shades of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY here when their characters discuss the matter in private while the crafty computer takes a tip from "H.A.L." and reads their lips.

Matt Lanter is bland but adequate when he isn't required to emote. As Annie, the girl who gets drawn into the situation and finds herself on the run with Will, Amanda Walsh is cutely appealing. Nicolas Wright is alternately funny and irritating as Will's slacker friend Dennis, whose character disappears from the film just as he's getting kind of interesting. And in case you're wondering if there's any direct connection between this story and the original, two characters from the 1983 film show up along the way. One is played by a different actor, Gary Reineke, who does okay although the original actor is sorely missed in the role. The other is--well, I won't reveal it, but I found his appearance to be a pleasant surprise.

I know roughly as much about "techmology" as Ali G. so I can't tell you how much of this is plausible or not, but it's presented in such a way that I pretty much bought most of it. Lanter's character isn't tied down to a home PC the way Broderick was back in '83, so he can run around evading government agents while still staying hooked into the system via his laptop and cell phone. On the other hand, R.I.P.L.E.Y. now has more up-to-date means of tracking him with public surveillance cameras, satellites, and scary military hardware at her disposal, which gives some scenes a nice sense of paranoia. The visual effects are generally well done, especially an exciting sequence in a subway tunnel and some explosive incidents involving a remote-controlled Predator aircraft equipped with missiles and other nasty stuff. (The bird's-eye-view bomb drop from PEARL HARBOR is duplicated early on.)

Director Stuart Gillard keeps the annoying visual indulgences to a minimum and moves things along rather briskly except for a few slow spots. As in the first film, the climax involves a battle of wits between man and machine inside the computer control center, with the lives of millions depending on our teen hero's madd puter skilz. It doesn't match the suspense of the original film and sometimes I was a little lost as to exactly what was going on, but the tension level is pretty well maintained.

The DVD is two-sided, giving us a choice between full screen (for all you diehard full-screen fans out there) and 1.85:1 widescreen. A commentary track features Gillard and Lanter chatting goodnaturedly about the film when they aren't caught up watching it and forget to talk. There's also a fourteen-minute "making of" featurette, a photo gallery, and trailers for THE ONION MOVIE, which looks pretty funny, and Uwe Boll's IN THE NAME OF THE KING.

The idea that R.I.P.L.E.Y. finds terrorists by luring them into a terror-themed online computer game (which appears to be on about the same difficulty level as Frogger) and then identifying them by their advanced terrorist game-playing skills doesn't make much sense, but then neither does a lot of what goes on in this movie. However, if you don't get too hung up on little things like logic, WARGAMES: THE DEAD CODE can be pretty fun to watch.

Monday, July 21, 2008

SHADOWS LIGHT -- Terrifying Supernatural Thriller On DVD 8/5/08

Unusual killings, a young woman in mortal danger, and a powerful supernatural evil compel a world weary priest to risk everything, including his very soul. Enter a world of Angels, Demons, and Djinn in this compelling supernatural thriller that explores courage, conviction, and the timeless struggle of good and evil.

Shadows Light introduces the character Father Cuth Abelard, an exorcist who has just met his toughest encounter yet with the darker powers of the world. Given a leave of absence by his bishop, Father Abelard heads to his hometown to recover from the ordeal, in addition to finding some space to mourn the recent, difficult passing of his mother.

Back in his hometown, he quickly reunites with his boyhood best friend, Ryker Prodiga. Ryker is a man who is in the process of picking up the pieces a life gone awry, with the help of a kindly café owner that has recently given him regular employment.

Also employed at the café is a young woman, Dana Fontaine, whose sister is an exotic dancer who is endeavoring to gain favor within a powerful, wealthy circle that surrounds the enigmatic figure Ashton Legares. Ashton Legares is an individual who almost single-handedly is propelling the candidacy of a US senator that represents a major breakthrough for Ashton’s shadowy and influential organization.

Strange killings are occurring with more regularity in the city, and as Dana fears greatly for her sister’s well-being, she reaches out to Father Abelard for help.

Compounding matters even further is the fact that Dana herself was a former exotic dancer, whose hellish near-death experience after a drug overdose proved to be a life changing event that has placed her at odds with her sister.

Father Abelard comes to learn that Ashton Legares is much more than he seems, as is the circle around him. Finding himself beset with otherworldly adversaries, Father Abelard embarks on a mission to help Dana rescue her sister and overcome the clutches of demonic powers.

Allies and adversaries come in all types as the tale unfolds, bringing Angels, Demons, and even one of the mythical Djinn into a struggle that calls for sacrifice, courage, and resilience in the face of great darkness.

Shadows Light introduces Tom Phillips, long considered one of the finest talents out of Central Kentucky, who has relocated to LA where he is a working actor. Tom played the lead role of Father Cuth Abelard in Shadows Light, first of a series of films based around this character and supernatural themes.

An ensemble cast featuring many outstanding rising talents such as Cynthia L. Allen (Lily), Scott Sullivan (Ryker), Tucky Williams (Dana), Jessica Kline (Evan), Vince Bingham (The Djinn), John Schroering (Ashton) drives a very character driven story.

Also introduced in Shadows Light was director is Stephen Zimmer, whose short film The Sirens is slated as part of a feature length DVD to be released later in 2008, in addition to another late 2008 release, his first full length novel, an epic modern fantasy.

Shadows Light also features the award-winning special FX talents of Cineline Productions artists Matt Perry and Sven Granlund, who along with Visual Effects Supervisor Dave Workman spearheaded a talented unit that produced several creature designs, animatronics, and an array of digital FX. Angels, Demons, and Djinn were brought to life by this talented FX crew, ranging from facial prosthetic applications to a full body creature suit with animatronic enhancements. Costume Design for the fantasy-oriented film was done by Courtney Zimmer.

Produced by the up-and-coming Ever After Media in collaboration with Cineline Productions, Shadows Light heralds an exciting new production team whose second project together, featuring the two horror tales Murderer and The Sirens, is slated for a fall/winter 2008 release.

Shadows Light is a fresh and original fantasy thriller that balances a character driven story with the kind of creature/special FX that fans of the genre have come to love.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

I GOT THE FEELIN: JAMES BROWN IN THE 60s In Stores 8/5/08 From SHOUT Factory

The Godfather of Soul. The Activist. The Peacemaker. A True Unsung Civil Rights Hero.
He is James Brown…

Extraordinary Collectible 3-DVD Box Set Presentation of
Director’s Cut of the Critically Acclaimed Film
The Night James Brown Saved Boston
James Brown Live at The Boston Garden, April 1968
Man To Man – James Brown Live at The Apollo Theater 1968

LOS ANGELES, CA – Multi-Grammy Award winning artist James Brown, best known for his smoldering singing and revolutionary rhythmic style, is recognized worldwide as one of the most prolific figures in 20th century popular music. He remains a strong cultural influence as a newsmaker, musician, activist and peacemaker that transcends even the awesome celebrity he achieved as the "Godfather of Soul." A whole new generation is discovering James Brown today through his music and his pivotal presence in American political affairs in the 1960s. DVD & music collectors and fans of the late James Brown will be treated to a whole new electrifying experience when I Got The Feelin’: James Brown in the ’60s 3-DVD box set arrives on August 5, 2008, exclusively from Shout! Factory.

I Got The Feelin’: James Brown in the ’60s features the director’s cut of The Night James Brown Saved Boston and the full-length concert performances James Brown Live at The Boston Garden from April 1968 and Man to Man - James Brown Live at The Apollo Theater 1968. This definitive 3-DVD collector’s box set is brimming with a special deluxe booklet and extensive bonus content such as James Brown’s legendary performance of "Out of Sight" from The T.A.M.I. Show, interviews with James Brown’s band members, friends and colleagues, additional audio from the radio simulcast of his Boston Garden Live performance 1968, rare performance footage culled from the archives and much more! A fitting tribute to the man and the times, this DVD collection pays homage not only to James Brown’s enormous contribution to American music, but also reveals his often overlooked impact on American race relations. I Got The Feelin’: James Brown in the ’60s DVD box set is priced at $ 39.98 SRP.

The Night James Brown Saved Boston (Director’s Cut)
A film by award-wining filmmaker David Leaf and executive produced by Shout! Factory CEO Richard Foos, David Leaf Production and VH1, The Night James Brown Saved Boston focuses on one of the most historic moments in Boston and America’s musical social and political history. The night Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, rioting began to tear at the fabric of America’s cities. Everybody wondered if there was anyone who could stop the violence, who could bring peace to the streets? The truth is, there was only one man – James Brown. So, on April 5, 1968, the night after Dr. King was shot and killed, James Brown took the stage for a previously scheduled show at the Boston Garden for a concert that was televised live on Boston’s public station WGBH, televised for just one reason---to keep the citizens of Boston off the streets, to try and stop a riot from starting. James Brown, a great artist at his peak, was thus thrust on to the center stage, facing the crucible moment of his career. He wasn’t known at that time as an activist, but that night, he rose to the occasion and kept Boston spell-bound with a musical tour-de-force, a performance that is considered so legendary that forty years later, Bostonians still regard it as the greatest concert the city every hosted.

Through the actual performance footage and the personal reminiscence of James Brown’s band members, the recollections of James’ friends like activist Al Sharpton and personal manager Charles Bobbitt, Boston citizens, those who attended the concert, politicians (like former Boston Mayor Kevin White) and Newsweek’s David Gates, The Night James Brown Saved Boston tells the compelling story of an artist at the absolute peak of his powers using his artistry for the greater good.

This film, which premiered at SXSW 2008 and broadcasting on VH1 on April 5, is an amazing look back at one heroic moment in James Brown’s life as a performer, a public figure and a man.

The Night James Brown Saved Boston Bonus Content:
Additional interview footage with
Rev. Al Sharpton
Dr. Cornel West
Anecdotes with Charles Bobbitt who worked with James for 40 years

James Brown Live At The Boston Garden
With cities around America reeling from sorrow, shock and anger, this is the actual April 5, 1968 concert James Brown gave at the Boston Garden as it was filmed and broadcast that fateful night. Boston PBS station WGBH agreed to televise the performance in an effort to keep the streets of Boston from erupting into violence.

Bonus Content:
Additional audio from radio simulcast
Additional interview footage with WGBH’s Director and Producer of the concert.

James Brown Live In The ‘60s – The T.A.M. I. Show, 1964 & Man To Man
The T.A.M.I. Show:
James Brown’s 1964 performance of "Out Of Sight"

James Brown Live at the Apollo Theater 1968 – This was one of a series of concerts James Brown performed at the Apollo in Harlem in March 1968. This performance was taped in color and broadcast on television as Man To Man.

Box Set Performances Include
And many more

Is It a Game, Or Is It Real? WAR GAMES: THE DEAD CODE Hits DVD

The Government Conspiracy Continues July 29 When MGM Home Entertainment Premieres The Sequel To The Thrilling 80’s Cult Classic

LOS ANGELES, CA – Revisit the game where the only winning move is not to play when WarGames: The Dead Code premieres on DVD July 29 from MGM Home Entertainment. In the sequel to the 1983 $79 million box-office smash, the government is keeping a watchful eye on Will Farmer – a computer hacker who engages a super-computer named Ripley in an online terrorist-attack simulation game that is designed specifically to profile potential threats to the United States. When Homeland Security becomes convinced that Farmer is indeed a potential threat, he must do all in his power to clear his name and end the game. Directed by Stuart Gillard (RocketMan, The Initiation of Sarah) and starring Matt Lanter ("Heroes," "Commander in Chief") and Colm Feore (The Chronicles of Riddick, Chicago), the DVD features director and actor audio commentaries, a "Making Of" featurette and photo galleries.

The WarGames: The Dead Code DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $26.98 U.S. / $37.98 Canada. The WarGames: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD will be available for the suggested retail price will be $14.98 U.S. / $15.98 Canada. Pre-book for both titles is July 2.

WarGames: The Dead Code
When Will Farmer (Lanter) hacks into a restricted network of online gaming known only as R.I.P.L.E.Y., he stumbles onto a national defense system designed to ferret out fledgling terrorist cells…and becomes Ripley’s next target! His identity compromised, his family and friends jeopardized and his hometown in the crosshairs of an automated military response, Will’s only hope to clear his name lies in beating Ripley at her own game. But when the game escalates to the next level, it becomes a race against time to stop Ripley from unleashing Armageddon!

WarGames: The Dead Code
• Audio Commentary from Director Stuart Gillard and Actor Matt Lanter
• The Making of Wargames: The Dead Code Featurette
• Photo Gallery

WarGames: The Dead Code
DVD Price: $26.98 U.S. / $37.98 Canada
Order Due Date: July 2, 2008
Street Date: July 29, 2008
Catalog Number: M110287
Running Time: 100 minutes
MPAA Rating: NR
Screen Format: Widescreen
Audio Features: English Dolby Surround 5.1
Subtitles Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes

BBC Video and Warner Announce DVD Release of WILD CHINA on 8/5/08


This August, witness the astonishing complexity of one of the oldest civilizations in the world as BBC Video brings Wild China to DVD and Blu-ray Disc. For the first time in almost a century, China is opening up to the world. Geographically and culturally one of the richest places on Earth, this landmark series gains unprecedented access into the most enigmatic of countries, to reveal a land of astonishing natural complexity, fabulous landscapes, rare and surprising wildlife and diverse human communities. By using the latest aerial filming technologies and high definition cameras, this dazzling series uncovers the fabulous diversity of China’s natural wonders and captures exceptional moments, such as the never-before-seen mating rituals of the wild Panda.

Coming to stores on August 5, 2008 – just in time for the Summer Olympics in Beijing and two days after the final episode airs on the Travel Channel – Wild China contains over five hours of footage as well as the bonus featurette "Making of Hunting Dragon" and traditional Mandarin subtitles. This 2-disc set will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.98 ($37.48 in Canada) and Blu-ray Disc for $39.99 ($49.98 in Canada). The prebook date is July 1, 2008.

Episode 1 - Heart of the Dragon
The improbable egg-carton hills of Southern China seem to float in a sea of glistening rice paddies. This is a landscape full of surprises - next to peasants plowing with buffaloes are rivers concealing dwarf alligators and giant salamanders, trained cormorants that catch fish for their masters, bats with unusual tastes, and monkeys that hide in caves. But this isn’t a nature park - almost 300 million people live here, with a tradition of eating wildlife. So what forces have shaped this remarkable landscape and how do farmers and wild creatures manage to coexist among the rocks and the rice fields?

Episode 2 - Shangri La
Beneath billowing clouds, in China’s far South West, rich jungles nestle below towering peaks. Jewel-colored birds and ancient tribes share forested valleys where wild elephants still roam. These remote forests stretch into northern territories where normally deserts would be found. How do these forests exist? Perhaps the rugged landscape holds the key.

Episode 3 - Tibet
The size of Western Europe, the Tibetan plateau covers a quarter of China. This vast windswept wilderness is one of the world’s most remote places, defined by the glacier-strewn Himalayas. But this brutal region is home to incredible wildlife such as rare chiru, brown bear, wild yak and even the highest predators on earth. There are more large creatures here than anywhere else in China. Tibet has a unique culture, defined by over one thousand years of Buddhism.

Episode 4 - Land of the Panda
China’s heartland with its Han people is the centre of a 5,000-year-old civilization. This land contains the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven and Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. It is home to some of China’s most charismatic creatures such as the giant panda, golden snub-nosed monkey and golden takin. China has undergone significant development in the past 50 years, bringing many environmental problems. But the relationship of the Chinese to their environment and its creatures is in fact deep, complex and extraordinary.

Episode 5 - Beyond the Great Wall
China’s emperors built the Great Wall to keep their kingdom safe from the hostile lands to the north. Warrior nomads, bizarre wildlife and extreme weather conditions are found beyond the Wall. How does life survive the harsh deserts and frozen wastes? But northern China is also a place of great beauty, rich with history. The legendary Silk Road drew traders across the deserts in search of fabulous wealth. Nomadic tribes hunt with golden eagles and race horses. Adapt or die is the way to survive these extreme lands.

Episode 6 - Tides of Change
From the eastern end of the Great Wall, China’s coast spans 14,000 kilometers and more than 7,000 years of history. This is a place of huge contrasts - futuristic modern cities jostling traditional seaweed-thatched villages, ancient tea terraces and wild wetlands where rare animals still survive. Here white dolphins, red-crowned cranes, deadly vipers, giant sturgeon and saber-wielding monkeys struggle to eke out a living faced by competition from 700 million people, widespread pollution and over-fishing.

Wild China
Street Date: August 5, 2008
Prebook Date: July 1, 2008
U.S./CA Price: DVD: $29.98/$37.48
Blu-ray Disc: $39.99/$49.98

Own it on DVD from BBC America
Get the inside scoop on WB movie & DVD releases at


Shaw Brothers' Classic HUMAN LANTERNS Now On DVD

Swordplay, savagery and blood-chilling thrills reign supreme in this outrageous mixture of martial arts and the macabre from Shaw Brothers! Two rivals, one rich and the other poor, enter an unholy pact to win an annual lantern-creating contest in their village; however, the terrifying secret behind their remarkable creations lies within the supple flesh of local maidens, who are disappearing at the hands of a demonic assailant! Now featuring shocking scenes too extreme for its Asian DVD release, this unflinching action-horror masterpiece is now finally available to American audiences to enjoy full strength and full throttle!

Shaw's Baby Doll: An Interview with Shawn Yin Yin
Extended Scene
Shaw Brothers Trailers
Production Stills Gallery

"Brilliantly shot and undeniably creepy... deliriously sick, sleazy and gory with some kickass action!" - 10,000 BULLETS
"Arresting... gorgeous!" - HONG KONG DIGITAL
"This beautifully shot classic is immensely entertaining thanks to a combination of outrageous swordplay and richly gruesome and bizarre imagery!" - KUNG FU CINEMA
"A wonderfully gruesome tale!" - A BULLET IN THE HEAD

GENRE: Horror / Action /Hong Kong Cinema
Year: 1982
Rating: Not Rated
Country: Hong Kong
UPC: 014381320220
SRP: $19.98
Release Date: 06/10/08
Color / 95 minutes
LANGUAGE: Chinese with English subtitles
WIDESCREEN: 2.35:1 / Enhanced for 16x9 TVs
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby Digital Mono

Available at HK Flix

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A small note on Media Blasters Shaw Brothers DVD.

I talked briefly with Richard York of Media Blasters today in preparation for a larger interview that should appear on the site by the end of July. He had some great news to pass onto Shaw Brothers fans: Challenge of The Masters and all future Shaws will be progressive and not interlaced.

Stay on the look out for our full interview in the future.

Friday, July 11, 2008

ALICE UPSIDE DOWN -- DVD review by porfle

I've gotten quite a few DVDs to review for this site that I normally wouldn't watch in a million years, and so far I've been pretty lucky in that not only did most of them not suck, but I've actually found some to be quite enjoyable. The latest in this series is the preteen angst comedy ALICE UPSIDE DOWN (2007), whose kiddie-hip bubblegum packaging and "coming of age" synopsis had me cringing in fear. Would my lucky streak of non-totally-horrible movies continue? In a word--yes. In fact, this is one of the most entertaining family-friendly films I've seen in a long time.

Alice (Alyson Stoner, CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN) is a sixth grader moving to a new town along with her widowed father, Ben (Luke Perry) and older brother Lester (HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL's Lucas Grabeel). Fraught with insecurities while trying to fit in at her new school, she misses her mother terribly and yearns for a female role model in her life. Ben tries his best as a single dad and struggles to help Alice with her problems while tentatively re-entering the dating scene. Lester, meanwhile, is an affably laidback slob whose social life benefits from his membership in a popular local band called the Naked Nomads.

The very likable Alyson Stoner, with her non-glamorous looks and natural acting style, is terrific in her first starring role as Alice. She plays the character with a subtle realism that's lacking from many films of this type, and is helped by a screenplay refreshingly free of slapstick, forced "hip"-ness, and empty razzle-dazzle. Her attempts to make friends while suffering from one embarrassing blunder after another are just the sort of thing that both kids and adults can identify with.

The fact that Alice often has flashy wish-fulfillment fantasies in which she's beautiful, stylish, and wildly popular seems at first to be an intrusive gimmick, but this is used sparingly and is done in a way that I could relate to. Her habit of speaking directly to the camera to express her inner thoughts is also well-handled. Sometimes what she says is a little on-the-nose, but younger viewers may benefit from having things spelled out for them now and then.

The subtle humor comes from comparatively realistic situations. Alice is trying on new school clothes in a store, and when she opens a dressing room door there's a boy her age standing there in his underwear. Horribly embarrassed, she not only finds that the same boy goes to her school but that she's now known as "the Peeping Tom." Later, when she auditions for a school play, her off-key caterwauling is ridiculed by everyone and her appearance in a minor role during the play's premiere is a disaster. It's the same kind of stuff that happens to most kids, and it's believably done.

Alice sets her sights on a beautiful young teacher named Miss Cole (Ashley Drane) as her perfect female role model and potential new mom, but ends up stuck in the class of the school's most dreaded teacher, Mrs. Plotkin (Penny Marshall). Here, of course, Alice learns that first impressions aren't always correct, and that sometimes the unlikeliest people are the ones who make the biggest difference in our lives. I'm not a big Penny Marshall fan, but she's surprisingly good here, playing the part with a lot more warmth and depth than you usually get from her.

As Ben, Luke Perry proves that he's settling into older roles quite well and is convincing as the well-meaning dad. Lucas Grabeel gets to play Alice's older brother Lester as easygoing and clumsily supportive of her, which is a nice change from the usual insensitive dolt. The rest of the kids' roles are well-cast, especially Bridgit Mendler as a Little Miss Perfect type who causes Alice constant grief by effortlessly excelling at everything.

To my great relief, this film has none of the usual MTV-style camerawork and editing, over-precocious child actors spewing artificial dialogue and cracking snarky jokes, or mawkish sentimentality. Alice cries only once in the whole movie and it comes at just the right time to be effective. Based on Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's book The Agony of Alice, the screenplay strikes just the right tone throughout while the direction and photography have the polished look of one of the better Disney Channel films.

The DVD image is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 surround sound. Extras include brief interviews with Alyson Stoner and Lucas Grabeel, both of whom seem just as likable off-camera as on, a look at the film's costuming, and trailers for this and four other Anchor Bay kid-vids. The end credits contain some bloopers.

If you're looking for a family film that will keep everyone entertained while unobtrusively teaching the kids a few valuable lessons about life, you could do a lot worse. And if you normally don't like this kind of movie but find yourself watching ALICE UPSIDE DOWN for some unlikely reason, you just may end up enjoying it as much as I did.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Not being able to go out much on July 4th (I'm one of the few schmucks still carrying around a pager), I decided to watch HANCOCK. I figured at the very least I'd be able to watch the QUANTUM OF SOLACE trailer on the big screen. Big mistake. HANCOCK is not a terrible film per se, but it's a film that has stirred my terrible wrath in the days since. This is one of those movies that make me question the meaning of life and whether I'm better off ending it now. I really paid $8.25 for that? Again, this is not the most painful movie I've sat through. And hey, I love watching Will Smith insult people. If the movie were 90 minutes of Smith giving people demeaning nicknames a la George W such as "Thickness," I'd be a satisfied customer. But, you know, if you're going to spend $150 million to produce movies like that, please leave that money to charity and eat a bullet. As MST3K said, films should be made by filmmakers. And I'd like to think they'd agree that you shouldn't make half a movie and then release it as a full movie. That's what they've done here. They started making a movie, realized there was only 45 minutes worth of material, and vomited another 45 minutes of half-digested material. I'm expected to be satisfied by that? Look, I understand buying a movie ticket has some risk-reward tradeoffs. If you don't like it, that's the gamble you took. That said, I'm tracking down Will Smith and asking for half of my money back. He also needs to apologize to the art of cinema in general. I had to watch NOTORIOUS, TO CATCH A THIEF, and NETWORK over the weekend just to wash the taste out of my mouth. Bottom line: if you can't be bothered to make an entire movie, go fuck yourself.

When a movie from MST3K is above and beyond your movie, you know you're in trouble. DANGER: DIABOLIK was an interesting choice for their final episode. There was a lot of talent and budget that went into this movie. Lavish sets, plenty of car chases and action, Mario Bava at the helm, and Ennio Morricone providing the score. I was able to catch a screening at the Seattle International Film Festival theater (in the same complex as the Space Needle). This was my first time watching it unMSTed and uncut. The first thing I noticed was that the dub was different (according to IMDB, this would be the dub and print used on the DVD), leaving out the classic line, "Is that *Stud* coming?" Overall, the dub was less cartoonish than the video version's, which is a bad thing. The acting is flatter and the script is not as punchy. A goofy comic book movie like this needs the dubbing to match. The two dubs are similar enough that I had trouble discerning if different voice actors were used. This version was noticably inferior, though. The material left out of the MST3K episode fills in the gaps of the story with a lot of dialogue between Ginko and the ministers and almost fetishizes the extravagant sets. Remember that sequence where Diabolik and Eva enter their lair and go through the 5-hour process of taking the elevator down, etc? It's about twice as long. With a shower scene! The his and her showers themselves are pretty interesting actually. They have four walls of glass with a circle of frosted glass in the middle of the front wall obscuring the naughty bits. The night club scene with the guy trying too hard to dance? It's now 5 minutes of hippies passing around a single joint (seriously, it passes maybe 12 hands). Anyway, the obsession with showing off every angstrom of the sets and the added dialogue don't do much for the pace of the movie. It takes Diabolik ten times as long to decide to have sex on top of the cash as it did to steal it. The movie at it's best is a beautifully photographed (lots of great camerawork), bouncy, goofy, lighthearted comic book movie about an antihero fighting the establishment for only his own personal gain. Seeing Diabolik escape the police should be exciting like doing the same yourself in Grand Theft Auto. It's a very entertaining movie in it's own right, but it's a little bloated. I hear the same thing about THE DARK KNIGHT.

WALL-E is the anti-HANCOCK. A movie that reaffirms the power of cinema and love and laughter. It teaches us to believe in love again. A beautiful, surprisingly deep and nuanced story. Anyone who dislikes this movie has no soul. How good of a human being you are is directly proportionate to how much you like this movie. I saw it a third time tonight. I'm trying to work myself up to a Albert Schweitzer level. I'm pretty sure a hobo was in the theater tonight seeing the movie. He was carrying around enough plastic bags full of crap from the drugstore. Much better use of his money than drugs or booze. He's a better human being for seeing the movie. You will be, too!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sony Updates From Mike

Mike, sent us a small update today on two subjects, first he wanted to say thank “everyone for the unexpected torrent of e-mails. I'll try to answer everyone's questions, but obviously it's gonna take a few days”. He also wanted to add that his comments about US versions of the Toho Movies only referred to versions where only footage was deleted, not ones with unique footage or re-arranged scenes.

VCI Entertainment Announces 50% Off On All DVDs During 4th Of July Blowout Sale

For those who can't get enough of classic movies and TV, you might want to check out what's happening at VCI Entertainment during their 4th of July Blowout Sale. If you order any DVDs between July 4-7 and use the coupon code below, you'll get 50% off the price. (The coupon code is good for one time use and the offer is only valid for website orders, not on phone orders.) Not a bad way to celebrate the 4th!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

ROCK THE PAINT -- DVD review by porfle

Described as a "racially-charged fish-out-of-water basketball movie", director Phil Bertelsen's ROCK THE PAINT is about a couple of Jewish white boys from rural Indiana who endure the usual culture shock when their widowed father gets a teaching job in Newark, New Jersey. The older teen, Josh (Douglas Smith) wants to play basketball, while his nine-year-old brother Tim (Sam Stone) suffers from the delusion that he's an aspiring rapper. As you might guess, both come into conflict with various urban black teens in their new 'hood, while Dad struggles to convince the black students in his class that he's qualified to teach about the civil rights movement in the 60s.

Less than five minutes into the movie, I was already starting to hate these kids. Josh and Tim steal a tractor from the farmer who allows them to live on his land and destroy much of his cornfield just for laughs. This gets the whole family evicted, yet the rebellious Josh is not only unrepentant, but also indignant that they're moving just so Dad can find gainful employment. When the script calls for it, Douglas Smith starts jerking around wildly and bellowing his head off to express intense emotions, but the rest of the time he's barely there.

As Tim, Sam Stone struts around like a pint-sized gangsta, grabbing his crotch and saying stuff like "F--- off, beeyotch!" in what I assume is intended to be comedy relief. In short, he's one of those obnoxious child actors who, instead of really acting, broadly mimics adult performances he's seen. Meanwhile, Christopher Innvar as Dad is about as charismatic as Stephen Lack in SCANNERS.

The black characters consist of the usual types you'd expect. There's Antwon (Kevin Phillips), who's initially hostile toward Josh but warms up to him when they end up on the same Catholic school basketball team. Jas Anderson plays T-Bone, the vile-o-lent tough guy who hates Josh and resents Antwon for betraying their friendship, eventually switching schools and joining the bad guy basketball team. Antwon's deaf sister Keisha (Joanna Hartshorne) provides a momentary bright spot in the story as she and Josh tentatively begin a romantic relationship, but this doesn't really go anywhere.

Most of the story is visually hustled along using montages full of hyperactive editing, spaz-cam, and a nonstop cacophony of songs to clue us in on how to feel each time the scene changes. We know Dad is falling in love with one of his students, a nice Asian lady named Sunny (Karen Tsen Lee), because every once in a while we're shown a few seconds of them holding hands in a cafe or cuddling next to some Chinese dragons. Abrupt transitions lead to scenes with woozy, streaky camera effects to reflect the characters' innermost feelings when they aren't barking awkward dialogue at each other.

Even the big climactic basketball game, presented as a slapdash music-based montage, is drained of any suspense the moment Josh takes the court and his annoying "go white boy" theme starts to play on an endless loop for the rest of the sequence. As expected, the dejected good guy team goes into the locker room down by a huge margin at the halfway point, only to make a miraculous comeback once Josh shows up. The fact that we never see the players and the cheering onlookers in the same shot gives it all a strangely dislocated feeling.

I have to hand it to writer Dallas Brennan for one thing, though--I certainly didn't expect him to end this sequence, and the movie, the way he did. Something totally out of left field happens, and then a couple of brief wrap-up scenes usher us to an unresolved fadeout before we have time to say "Huh?"

The DVD is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, two trailers, and scenes from several festivals, including Tribeca, where the film appears to have been warmly received.

These film festival attendees and various online reviews that I've read express widely-differing reactions to ROCK THE PAINT than mine, so your mileage may vary. For me, though, it was less like rocking the paint and more like watching it dry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

APARTMENT 1303 -- DVD review by porfle

Asian horror has gotten a reputation lately for being the real deal, but that doesn't mean every film in the genre is a total terror-fest. Tartan Asia Extreme's APARTMENT 1303 has many of the familiar elements, but it isn't all that successful in putting them to good use.

As the story opens, a young woman who just scored a great apartment with an ocean view for a paltry sum goes flying off the balcony the day she moves in--SPLAT! A month later, Sayaka moves in and moves out the same way--SPLAT! Turns out she's number five on the hit list, a small detail the landlords conveniently forget to mention to prospective renters. The perplexed police, meanwhile, chalk them all up as suicides.

Sayaka's big sister, Mariko, decides to investigate and discovers that two of the previous tenants were an abused girl and her crazy mother, whose restless spirits still inhabit the apartment and don't take kindly to anyone else moving in. When a group of teens rent the place for the summer and start sailing over the balcony rail--it's a triple-header this time!--Mariko goes in for a face-off against death.

The first half of APARTMENT 1303 is the creepiest. Director Ataru Oikawa does a good job of establishing an eerie, anything-can-happen atmosphere within the claustrophobic confines of the apartment, even making a simple closet seem like a thing of dread. There are a few of the traditional "gotcha!" shots here, and one in particular had me jumping out of my skin about halfway through. Special effects are pretty good without relying much on CGI. The cast does a nice job, particularly Noriko Nakagoshi as Mariko, and there's also a little girl who lives in apartment 1302 who really started to give me the willies after awhile.

After a promising start, however, the film fails to realize its potential. The apparitions that keep popping up now and then aren't that scary, even when one of them starts sprouting yards and yards of knotty black hair for no reason. One of them has so many long closeups that we begin to concentrate on the somewhat unconvincing makeup.

The climactic confrontations between the living and the dead are filled with lots of fog, wind effects, flashing lights, etc., which aren't any more frightening here than they were in POLTERGEIST. There is a pretty chilling moment shortly before the fadeout, but it leads to what I found to be a distinctly less-than-satisfying ending. After all is said and done, in fact, the most effective part of the film is probably the drama between Mariko and her hopelessly grieving mother.

The DVD comes in 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS surround sound. The soundtrack is in Japanese with English and Spanish subtitles. Bonus features consist of a photo gallery plus the trailer for this and six other Tartan Asia Extreme releases.

Not a bad film by any means, APARTMENT 1303 would probably make for a good introduction into Asian horror. But for those who have already shivered in fear at the cream of that genre's crop, this one may seem hardly scarier than an average episode of Rod Serling's "Night Gallery."

INGLORIOUS BASTARDS DVD is Available in Both a 3-Disc and Single Disc Edition

Quentin Tarantino announced in June 2008 his next film is a remake of INGLORIOUS BASTARDS; start filming in September 2008. Directed by famed action auteur Enzo Castellari (STREET LAW, THE BIGRACKET, KEOMA). Stars cult favorites Bo Svenson (WALKING TALL PART 2, NORTH DALLAS FORTY), Peter Hooten (ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE), and Fred Williamson (BLACK CAESAR, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, VIGILANTE)


Label: Severin Films
Sales & Distribution: Ryko Distribution
Street Date: July 29, 2008
Pre-Book: July 4, 2008
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Not Rated: $29.95
UPC: 891635001407
Item: SEV1134
Genre: Action/War
Original Theatrical Release: 1978
In English
Wide Screen 1.85:1 / 16x9
Dolby Digital; In Color

Three Disc Collector's Edition Includes Exclusive New Bonus Features And Never-Before-Released Soundtrack CD

Quentin Tarantino and Enzo Castellari In Conversation - an all-new featurette with the two legendary directors
Train Kept-A-Rollin' - Documentary with Director Enzo Castellari, Stars Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson and Massimo Vanni, Special Effects Artist Gino de Rossi, Producer Roberto Sbarigia, Screenwriter Laura Toscano and Filippo De Masi.
Back To The War Zone - Locations Featurette with Director Enzo Castellari and Special Effects Artist Gino de Rossi
Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary with Director Enzo Castellari
Bonus Soundtrack CD containing the previously unrelease scores of INGLORIOUS BASTARDS

Inglorious Bastards Single Disc Edition

UPC# 891635001391
Item: SEV1133SRP: $19.95
Label: Severin Films
Sales & Distribution: Ryko Distribution
Genre: Action/War
Original Theatrical Release: 1978
In English and In Color
Wide Screen 1.85:1 / 16x9
Extras:Quentin Tarantino and Enzo Castellari In Conversation - an all-new featurette with the two legendary directors
Audio Commentary with Director Enzo Castellari
Theatrical Trailer

Return of the Classics: Another Exclusive HKCFN Interview with Sony's Mike Schlesinger

We had the chance to sit down and talk with Mike about several of Sony's properties that are of great interest to fans of classics and genre films.


1. Mike, It’s been a while since we last spoke. How has the re-introduction of Sony to the classic titles genre been going? Has fan and consumer response been good?

I don’t hear a lot of feedback except what I read myself on the ‘net, but overall reaction seems to have been very positive.

2. How was the reaction to the Sam Kaztman set? I can say that fans I’ve talked to have greatly enjoyed the set?

The same. I must say the Home Entertainment folks were a bit surprised at how positive the reviews were! And I understand it was a major factor in my receiving a Rondo Award this year.

3. Why were not all the films on the Katz set OAR (Open Matte vs WS).

CREATURE being presented full-screen was a simple oversight, but yes, as it was presented open-matte, at least no picture information was missing. (Since it’s an earlier release than the other three, someone may have thought it was pre-WS.) In any event, we’re being more diligent about this now.

4. One thing I was pleasantly surprised at was the very long trailer for Columbia and Sony Westerns that played in the Hammer set, instead of simply being movies made past 1990, it was filled with western greats of the past. This seems like a large step in Sony exploiting its rich catalog of titles by showing consumers ‘recent’ and ‘catalog’ titles at the same time. Can we expect this is in other genres?

That was partly due to my insistence that classic movies should not be accompanied by trailers for current and/or inappropriate films. Can’t promise it’ll be 100% in the future, but they get it now.

5. You recently addressed the Eastman House Graduates, what was the subject of your commencement?

Mostly I spoke about classic films and the need for preservation. It’s actually a good field to get into, because even if movies are shot and projected digitally, they still need to be preserved on film, as we now know that digital media do become corrupted in time.

Hammer Titles

1. What triggered the decision to start releasing some the excellent non-traditional (Horror) Hammer films?

Why not? Good films are good films, regardless of genre. As it happens, the “Adventure” set was originally intended to piggyback on the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3 DVD, but it ended up being delayed. I hope to do a “suspense” box in the future, as well as a stand-alone release for THESE ARE THE DAMNED (next year is Joseph Losey’s centennial, a good marketing hook).

2. Can you explain some of the difficulty in securing uncut prints for these films, especially Stranglers of Bombay.

Generally, they try to remaster from the camera negative, but if cuts were made in it—and they’re aware of it—then the hunt is on for alternate source material. That business about deleted shots of Marie Deveraux in STRANGLERS has been making the rounds. My opinion is that the critics saw the film before the censors, and that the footage was then cut (though there are flashes of it in the trailer). It definitely is not in the camera neg, and there’s no accompanying jump on the soundtrack.

3. There have been some reports that Terror of the Tongs and Stranglers of Bombay may some extra footage, however you worked with the original negative. Can you explain what may explain this extra footage and its non-appearance? (Note: It should be noted that all films on the set are uncut and have all footage contained in all releases around the world).

A lot—but not all—of the Hammer films were trimmed for US release (usually violence and nudity). Previous releases, especially bootlegs, were probably mastered from these sources. I can assure you that Grover is an absolute bear about getting it right; if there’s anything missing, it’s either in private hands or gone for good.

4. How was the decision made to include audio commentaries on these films?

No idea. I was thrilled that they made the decision without my urging. Hell, I didn’t even know Sangster was still alive!

5. Was there any attempt or though of securing Christopher Lee’s participation on the excellent audio commentary tracks?

Not that I know of, but I’ve heard that he thinks he’s said all he wants to say on previous commentaries, so it’s possible he was approached and simply declined.

6. What can you tell us upcoming Hammer titles in October and the extras that they will have?

Alas, no extras. They spent a lot doing the “Adventures” commentaries, plus I just couldn’t find enough suitable shorts to tack on. (Most of the “scary” comedy shorts feature Dudley Dickerson or some other Black comic doing the frightened-bug-eyed routine, and while they can finesse it for the Stooges, they’re more concerned elsewhere.) I ultimately felt that the package was strong enough that it shouldn’t matter as much. After all, there were no extras on Universal’s Hammer box, and I don’t remember anyone complaining! J

7. Can you tell us a little about the star of the wonderful two reeler, Hot Paprika, Andy Clyde?

He was a veteran comedian who started in the silent era and was still working in the ‘60s on TV shows like “The Real McCoys” and “Lassie.” He specialized in playing grumpy old codgers, so as he aged he grew into the role and needed less and less make-up. He made more two-reelers at Columbia than anyone else except the Stooges—close to 100 over two decades. He’s best remembered as California Carlson, Hopalong Cassidy’s comic sidekick, and as the speedy major-domo opposite W.C. Fields in MILLION DOLLAR LEGS. Incidentally, fans of Harold Lloyd will recognize PAPRIKA as a condensed version of his silent classic WHY WORRY—right down to some of the same gags!

8. Why was the term Hammer deleted from the front cover?

Long legal story which I can’t go into, but by the time it was resolved, the covers had already been printed. In any event, it’s front and center on the horror set!

Future titles

1. Is there any word on when the Peter Lorre set will come out and what titles will be part of the set?

Probably 2010. It would contain CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, ISLAND OF DOOMED MEN and FACE BEHIND THE MASK. That’s all we got left!

2. Can you comment any further on the possible release of Scott/Boetticher films

Definitely out this fall. Thrilled beyond words. Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and Taylor Hackford are participating. It’ll also contain the Bruce Ricker documentary that aired on TCM a couple of years ago, A MAN CAN DO THAT, which Eastwood produced and appears in.

3. Also some readers were wondering if Knock on any Door & Human Desire which are out in other DVD regions may be getting a Region 1 release?

The first film noir box set will definitely be out next year. Don’t know the final line-up yet, but they’re both in the mix, so even if they don’t make Volume 1, they’ll surely be on Volume 2.

4. Is the 27th Day and other Columbia Sci-Fi films possibly being considered for release in a set?

Nothing in the immediate future—except for the Toho films, of course—but never say never!

5. Any word of full releases of Columbia Serials that we are often teased with on the Icon’s set?

Again, not soon, but it should happen in time.

6. Has Sony considered digital distribution of any of its titles or the method that was announced with HP (that would allow people to select titles and have it professionally authored and sent to them)? This would allow for great titles like The Shadow on the Window, which being a B-thriller would most likely not appear except on TCM.

The HP deal is in the works, so stay tuned.

7. Besides Ray on Blu-ray, are there any other genre classics being considering for BR release.

Don’t know. I’m just tryin’ to get the stuff out on regular DVD! And let’s be honest: I doubt that CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN would be a big seller on Blu-Ray. Remember, any DVD is only as good as its source material, and most of the older, 1.33:1, mono, B&W movies would not be significantly enhanced by a Blu-Ray presentation.

Toho films

1. So what is the word on releases of dual US/Japanese versions of Mothra, H-Man, and the Battle in Outer Space? The grey market has been filled with wide and subbed copies of the Japanese versions, but the English language version has only appeared on badly duped copies from 16MM, making them a desired inclusion.

The set is penciled in for ’09. It will contain those three plus REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3, which somehow got overlooked for DVD. The intent is to have the uncut versions with Japanese tracks as well as the English dubs. MOTHRA and BIOS are done; H-MAN is proving to be a bit trickier, but it should be completed in time.

2. Many fans have hoped that the actual US versions (in terms of credits and US version has opposed to the dub being placed over the Japanese version) will be released, do you think this will be possible?

Probably not, since it would require twice as many discs. Besides, why would anyone want the cut-up versions? You don’t see people buying ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and then saying, “Aw, crap, I wanted the version that was 90 minutes shorter and re-edited in chronological order by some studio hack.” That’s a rather extreme analogy, but you get my point.

3. The reason I ask about the US versions is that Classic Media, put both the US and Japanese versions on one disc, if that's not possible, will the US credit sequences be included perhaps as an extra.

I'm sure some method will be worked out. We certainly don't expect people to try and read Japanese credits!

4. Since some of the US versions were sequenced different and had different music, how will the dubs sync up with the Japanese tracks (do you have separate Music, FX, and Dialog tracks?

That is an issue, and one that's holding up H-MAN. Again, much of the Toho business might be better posed to Grover [Crisp Head of Sony’s Restoration] [we are working on setting an interview up].


1. The copy that played in WS and remastered quality on TCM last night had the Columbia logo, does Sony still have home video rights or only TV?

No, we still have rights in all media.

2. I take it, its going to take a new Conan movie or big sword and sandal new release to get YOR out, would that be correct?

It's not a great movie by any yardstick, and given the vast number of much better pictures that oughta be released first, I wouldn't hold my breath. But once again, ya never know!


1. Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?

Keep buying this stuff! I know it sounds crass, but that is truly the best way to keep the flow of classic titles coming—by letting them know there is a real demand for them. Part of the problem is that “new” titles make 80% of their sales in the first two weeks, and I have to keep reminding them that library titles roll out much more slowly…especially when there’s a DeepDiscount sale a month or two in the future!

2. The Three Stooges seems to be moving at full speed. I take it that readers should not expect a slowing down anytime soon?

Nope. The idea was to have everything out by the end of ’09, which is the 75th anniversary of the team’s signing with Columbia. They suddenly realized that at the original pace they wouldn’t finish in time, so now they’ve shifted into high gear.

3. Besides voting with ones wallet, how can our readers to Sony of their happiness with these releases and their desire for them to continue?

They can send any notes to me at and I guarantee they’ll be forwarded to the Powers That Be. Even a handful of letters can indeed make an impact.

4. Thank you for taking you time to talk with us today.

You’re welcome. Make the check out to “Cash.”