HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Surveillance" and "Julia"...arriving August 18 from Magnolia Home Entertainment

Julia Ormond And Bill Pullman Uncover A Vicious Tale Of Roadside Rampage In SURVEILLANCE, Arriving On DVD And Blu-ray Disc August 18 From The Magnet Label Of Magnolia Home Entertainment

“A Sinister thriller with a real twist.” – Daily Star
“Heart-stopping horror all the way.” – The Sun
Winner Of The NYC Horror Film Festival For Best Actress And Best Director

When FBI agents Elizabeth Anderson (Julia Ormond) and Sam Hallaway (Bill Pullman) arrive at a local police station to investigate a series of gruesome murders, they have three different stories of the roadside massacre. However as the Feds begin to expose the fragile little details each witness conceals, they discover that uncovering ‘the truth’ comes at a very big cost. Written and directed by Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena) and produced by Oscar®-nominee David Lynch, SURVEILLANCE, stars Julia Ormond, Bill Pullman and Pell James. “An enjoyably dark thriller with weird characters and an intriguing central mystery,” (ViewLondon) the film won the top award at the Sitges International Film Festival.

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Academy Award®-Winner Tilda Swinton Stars In The Extortion Thriller JULIA, Arriving On DVD August 18 From Magnolia Home Entertainment

“‘Julia’ takes you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget.”- ReelzChannel
“…the actress is disturbingly dead-on and the place she takes us is very ugly indeed.”- Los Angeles Times
“Swinton is astounding…”- The Times, UK

Winner of the Evening Standard British Film Awards for Best Actress – Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton stars as Julia, an alcoholic, who between shots of vodka and one-night-stands, gets by on nickel-and-dime jobs. Increasingly lonely, her alcohol-induced daily confusion reinforces her sense that life has dealt her a losing hand. Seeing a financial opportunity after encountering a woman estranged from her son, Julia throws herself into a criminal plot that escalates beyond anything she ever imagined.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

GHOST CAT -- DVD review by porfle

This 2003 Canadian made-for-TV film was originally known as "Mrs. Ashboro's Cat" and has appeared as an Animal Planet original movie. Now, North American Motion Pictures is giving it a Sept. 22 DVD release as the somewhat more intriguingly-titled GHOST CAT, with special emphasis in the ads on Oscar-nominated Ellen Page (HARD CANDY, JUNO, X3) in an early starring role.

At first I thought this was going to be a zany combination of THAT DARN CAT and CASPER, but it's actually a pretty serious movie. Michael Ontkean ("Twin Peaks", "The Rookies") plays Wes Merritt, a recently-widowed writer moving to his deceased wife's New England hometown with his young daughter Natalie (Page). While house-hunting they meet a nice elderly woman named Mrs. Ashboro (Shirley Knight) whose weaselly banker nephew Boyd (Tom Barnett) is trying to get her to sell her house so he can replace the money he's been embezzeling before the bank examiners find out.

Mrs. Ashboro withdraws her savings from the bank with the intention of helping her friend Brenda (Lori Hallier, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, MONTE WALSH) who's being pressured to sell her animal shelter to a crooked land developer named Riker (Nigel Bennett). But soon after stashing the money in her house, Mrs. Ashboro dies suddenly and her loyal cat Margaret expires soon after out of grief. Wes and Natalie move into Mrs. Ashboro's now-vacated house and soon become involved in Brenda's struggle to keep her animal shelter as the increasingly ruthless Boyd and Riker join forces against her. Meanwhile, the good guys discover they have an unexpected ally--the ghost of Mrs. Ashboro's cat, Margaret.

Low-key and thoughtful, GHOST CAT has a subtle charm and warmth that sets it apart from the Disney Channel-type film you might expect. The characters, for the most part, behave in a realistic manner. This is especially true of Wes and Natalie, who still display a wistful melancholy after having lost wife and mother respectively, and Brenda, whose lifelong dream of operating her animal shelter is being wrested away from her. Tom Barnett's "Boyd" comes closest to stepping over the line as the stereotypical villain, but even he has an air of clumsy desperation not unlike that of William H. Macy's "Jerry Lundergaard" in FARGO, which keeps him believable.

I liked Lori Hallier as the "hardware widow" in 2003's MONTE WALSH and her down-to-earth performance here is very good. Ontkean does a nice job as the understanding single dad (who you just know is going to get romantic with Brenda sooner or later), and Ellen Page manages to portray a teenage girl without being flighty or precious or insufferable, which is no small feat. Of course, Shirley Knight is wonderful as Mrs. Ashboro and it's a shame her character disappears so soon. The rest of the cast is up to par, particularly Shawn Roberts as Natalie's budding love interest Kurt, whose troubled past makes him a suspect in some of the vandalism that takes place at the animal shelter.

I can't recall any scenes that are supposed to be out and out funny--in fact, the funniest thing about GHOST CAT is that it could've gotten along as a fairly serious drama without having a ghost cat in it at all. Not that I'd want that, since I'm a cat lover and Margaret is a very sweet and likable character. But she isn't really necessary to the plot at all and exists mainly to either lighten things up or to give the filmmakers an excuse to include some mildly spooky stuff like a seance, or a scene where Natalie is awakened in the middle of the night to find the piano playing itself.

In addition to that, Margaret's other functions are to wake people up when the barn's on fire or to lead them to the hidden stash of money, or to attack the bad guys when they're escaping in their car. And with all of that stuff going on, the last third of the movie manages to build a fair amount of suspense.

Direction by "Road to Avonlea" vet Don McBrearty is good; cinematography has that "Canadian made-for-TV" look. The DVD is 16 x 9 widescreen with 2.0 stereo audio. I watched a screener with no bonus features, but the official disc should include a stills gallery and closed captioning.

GHOST CAT is a fine choice for family viewing since the story is interesting, suspenseful, and heartfelt enough for adults, and since it has a ghost cat in it for the kids. Although they're liable to be disappointed that the movie isn't as kooky or as spooky as they might expect a movie called GHOST CAT to be.

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Below is the new cover art for Rob Zombie Presents THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO, coming to DVD and Blu-ray September 22nd from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

For our coverage of this super cool-looking flick (and a look at the old box art), click HERE!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"SERIOUS MOONLIGHT" -- Magnolia Takes North American Rights to Cheryl Hines' Directorial Debut

New York – July 28, 2009 – The Wagner/Cuban Companies' Magnolia Pictures announced today that it has acquired North American rights to Cheryl Hines’ directorial debut, SERIOUS MOONLIGHT. Warmly received at Tribeca this year, SERIOUS MOONLIGHT stars Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell and Justin Long, and is especially notable for being written by sadly missed writer/director Adrienne Shelly (Waitress).

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT is about a troubled marriage on the precipice, centering on a high-powered female attorney who learns that her husband is about to leave her for a much younger woman, and holds him captive until he promises to stay with her and love her forever. The film is a labor of love for Hines, one of the stars of Shelly’s Waitress. SERIOUS MOONLIGHT will be released through Magnolia’s Ultra VOD program, launching the film this November on VOD platforms in 50-million households one month prior to its theatrical release in early December. The film is produced by Andy Ostroy, Ms. Shelly’s husband, and Michael Roiff, who produced Waitress, through their respective companies: all for A films and Night & Day Pictures.

“Cheryl Hines has done a fine job bringing Adrienne Shelly’s final script to life,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “SERIOUS MOONLIGHT is a fitting tribute to a sorely missed talent and we’re happy to be bringing it to North American audiences.”"We're very impressed with Magnolia's distribution model, their savvy team, and their overall vision for SERIOUS MOONLIGHT," said Ostroy. "I know Adrienne would be proud of this film and thrilled to have another movie of hers in theatres for audiences to see."

"I'm excited about where Magnolia's going to take us," said Hines. "SERIOUS MOONLIGHT is a dark, funny film, which I think audiences are going to really enjoy, especially Meg and Tim's incredible performances."The deal was negotiated by Magnolia’s Senior Vice President Tom Quinn and Head of Business Affairs Chris Matson, with Andrew Herwitz of the Film Sales Company and attorney John Logigian.

About Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures ( is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also include the Landmark Theatres chain, the production company 2929 Productions, and high definition cable networks HDNet and HDNet Movies. Magnolia's 2008 slate included such critically acclaimed films as James Marsh's Man On Wireand Tomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In. Magnolia's 2009 slate includes James Gray's Two Lovers, The Great Buck Howard starring John Malkovich, Guillermo Arriaga's The Burning Plain, documentary and festival favorite Food, Inc with Michael Pollen and Eric Schlosser, Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience, Kirby Dick's Outrage, Anne Fontaine's The Girl From Monaco, Erick Zonca's Julia, Lynn Shelton's Humpday, Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad, The Answer Man starring Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham, Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse and much more.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NIGHT STALKER -- DVD review by porfle

A specialist in serial killer films as of late, prolific director Ulli Lommel adds to his screen bios of Son of Sam, the D.C. Sniper, the B.T.K. Killer, the Zodiac Killer, and others with 2007's NIGHTSTALKER, which is being given a new DVD release on Sept. 8 by North American Motion Pictures (under the slightly different title NIGHT STALKER). This weak and ponderous effort makes the recent serial killer films of director Michael Feifer look like "Masterpiece Theater" by comparison.

After a brief flashback of Richard Ramirez as a child witnessing his crazy war-veteran uncle shooting his crabby aunt in the head, the film is virtually plotless. Just about the only other thing that doesn't involve Ramirez skulking around the streets of Los Angeles looking for his next victim is the part where he follows an attractive young woman to a party and is introduced to drugs and Satan worshipping. Her supposed influence on him is manifested by several flashbacks during the murder scenes, consisting of quick closeups of her eyes as she chants "Hail Satan!"

Ramirez hates women, we're told early on, and is intent on putting them in their place. Thus, several of his victims in the movie are bitchy women in the process of bawling out some mousey guy, which seems to set off his "stalker sense" and lead him straight to the scene where he starts blasting away. This is repeated several times ad nauseum during the movie--scenes of couples arguing intercut with shots of Ramirez shuffling down the sidewalk sucking on his ever-present Charms Blow Pop until he arrives on the scene. Bad acting ensues, squibs go off, and star Adolph Cortez is directed to play around with the fake blood that's all over the place while director Lommel fiddles with artsy camera angles and editing.

I've always considered Richard Ramirez to be one of the scariest and most menacing of the famous serial killers, but Cortez plays him like a weaselly high-school dropout looking to score some weed for the big Phish concert. He does a voiceover with a lot of talk about evil and "darkness" and all that stuff, and keeps telling us "God is dead", etc., but there's no real connection between these ominous words and the smirking Richard Grieco wannabe who skulks around endlessly sucking on Blow Pops. Cortez goes through so many bags of Blow Pops during the course of this movie that his stomach lining must have developed an impenetrable candy shell.

Unfortunately, this is just about the only unique trait the character has, so Cortez works those damn things like he was doing a softcore porn tease. Besides that, all the script gives him to do is one walking-around sequence after another topped by yet another splattery bang-bang. After awhile the film becomes mainly a showcase for some decent head-shot squib effects.

NIGHT STALKER has that shot-on-video look and a wildly-inappropriate synth score that often works against the desired effect. The DVD image is 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen with 2.0 stereo sound. I watched a screener with no extras, but the DVD release is supposed to include a stills gallery and closed captioning.

The film rambles along until the boredom finally ends with Ramirez' capture, which is depicted in a cursory but somewhat accurate manner. Then we're shown the following actual quote: "You don't understand me. You are not expected to. You are not capable of it. I am beyond your experience. I am beyond good and evil." These words are more chilling than anything depicted in NIGHT STALKER. Painting a convincing portrait of Richard Ramirez and giving us an inkling of what it must have been like to live in Los Angeles during his reign of terror or to experience one of his attacks are beyond this film.

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"METEOR" Crashes Onto DVD Sept. 1

The Fight To Save The Human Race From Annihilation Begins On DVD September 1st From Genius Products And RHI Entertainment
Featuring Earth Shattering Performances By Christopher Lloyd, Jason Alexander, Billy Campbell, Stacy Keach And Marla Sokoloff

SANTA MONICA, CA – Life, as it has existed for over 200,000 years, hangs in the balance as two massive rocks collide in space and head for Earth in METEOR, landing on DVD September 1st from Genius Products and RHI Entertainment.

In a remote observatory, a scientist discovers a meteor approximately three times the size of Mount Everest barreling its way towards the Earth, and alerts the military to avert the impending disaster. As showers of smaller meteorites begin to destroy major cities around the globe, local authorities try to calm the growing panic and herd the masses into safety shelters. The fate of millions rests in the hands of a few as the race against time to save the Planet from ultimate destruction begins.

Starring Emmy® winner Christopher Lloyd (“Taxi,” Back to the Future), Golden Globe® nominees Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”), Stacy Keach (“Prison Break”) and Billy Campbell (“Once and Again”), as well as Marla Sokoloff (“The Practice”), Ernie Hudson (Dragonball Evolution) and Michael Rooker (“Criminal Minds”), the two-part NBC mini-series, METEOR, features eye-popping special effects, explosive human drama, and hair-raising action and will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.95.
Following an unparalleled series of meteor fireballs plummeting toward Earth, a renowned scientist, his assistant, and an on-target conspiracy theorist race against time to expose a government cover-up, reveal the truth, and prevent a massive meteor from destroying the planet.

Price: $19.95
Street Date: September 1, 2009
Pre-book Date: July 21, 2009
Catalog Number: 1000839
Language: English 5.1
Running time:188 minutes
Rating: NR


Monday, July 27, 2009

DRIFTER: HENRY LEE LUCAS -- DVD review by porfle

Director Michael Feifer seems intent on chronicling the lives of every vile, lowlife bastard who comes to mind when you think of the term "serial killer." Now, in addition to "B.T.K.", "Boston Strangler: The Untold Story", "Bundy: A Legacy of Evil", "Chicago Massacre: Richard Speck", and "Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield", comes DRIFTER: HENRY LEE LUCAS (2009), a well-made and fairly engaging account of one of the most notorious killers who ever stalked the countryside.

Most of us know at least the basics of Lucas' story--abused physically and mentally by a sadistic mother, he grew up to be a prolific serial killer who traveled with his equally-demented buddy Ottis Toole and Toole's 12-year-old niece Becky, with whom Henry had a romantic affair. After his capture, he confessed to hundreds of murders but later recanted, making it unclear just how many he was actually guilty of.

The screenplay by Feifer and Wood Dickinson generally sticks pretty closely to the facts. The story of Henry's nightmarish childhood proves most affecting, with Ezra Averill as an 8-year-old Henry and Caia Coley giving a frightening performance as his prostitute mother Viola. In addition to making him watch as she has sex with strange men, the monstrous Viola beats Henry brutally, once putting him into a coma with a wooden board, and also abuses her legless husband. When a teenaged Henry (Nicolas Canel) finally kills Viola in what he claims was self-defense, it's pretty much a fist-in-the-air moment.

We see the adult Henry (Antonio Sabato Jr., "The Bold & The Beautiful") commit the first of his serial murders and his fateful meeting with fellow drifter Ottis Toole, played artlessly but with a lot of energy by "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo"'s Kostas Sommer. (The fact that grungy, homely Lucas and Toole are portrayed by a couple of relatively hunky actors is a little disconcerting.) Kelly Curran is good in her debut role as Becky, whose eventual murder by Henry is shown near the beginning of the film and revisited later.

The very familiar John Diehl of such films as "Jurassic Park III" and "Pearl Harbor" plays Sheriff Larabie, a fictionalized version of the actual sheriff who was accused of using Lucas as a "confession machine" in order to clear up hundreds of unsolved murders. Farino, the skeptical D.A. is portrayed by John Burke, whom I know mainly as the co-host of "Personal FX: The Collectibles Show." While there really isn't much of an ending to Lucas' story, the final scenes with him being interviewed by Farino do tie things up rather well and bring the film to a satisfactory conclusion.

Despite several opportunites to do so, director Feifer refrains from filling the screen with excessive blood and gore. One of the more lurid death scenes has Henry forcing his way into a woman's kitchen, knifing her in the back, and then strangling her from behind as she crawls away. Another sequence features the strangulation of a hitchhiker and Henry's subsequent necrophilic violation of her body. A movie theater patron gets his throat cut for daring to "shush" Henry and Ottis, and there are several knifings.

For the most part, however, the violence is quick and Feifer doesn't linger over it, preferring to concentrate on the story. The only drawback to this is that the sheer horror of Lucas' crimes is rarely adequately conveyed by this matter-of-fact approach. Direction and photography are consistently good, displaying a fair amount of style and imagination that helps keep things interesting even though there's not really that much of a plot.

The film is presented in 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo audio. My screener contained no bonus features, but the DVD should include a commentary with Feifer and Sabato, stills gallery, and Spanish subtitles.

DRIFTER: HENRY LEE LUCAS does a pretty good job of showing us, in effect, "How to Make a Monster." The scenes of Lucas' childhood are harrowing and sad, yet Antonio Sabato Jr. manages to convey the idea that there's just something inherently evil about Henry (albeit an infinitely banal evil) regardless of his upbringing. While "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and the lesser-known gem "Confessions of a Serial Killer" remain the last word on the subject as far as I'm concerned, Michael Feifer's version of the story is both visually interesting and perhaps somewhat closer to the real facts than its predecessors.

Buy it at

"THIRST" From Director Park Chan-wook -- Check Out This New Clip!

Winner, Jury Prize, 2009 Cannes International Film Festival
Park Chan-wook is recognized the world over as one of the most creative storytellers in cinema. With his startlingly distinctive plots, violent subject matter, and sensual mise-en-scène, the writer/director has earned accolades from critics and audiences across the globe, presenting his films at the most vital and influential international film festivals.

Among his films are Joint Security Area, the boxoffice smash that marked his first teaming with Thirst star Song Kang-ho; Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, which won the jury prize for Best Picture at the Philadelphia Film Festival; Old Boy, which won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes International Film Festival; the "Never Ending Peace and Love" segment of the omnibus feature If You Were Me and the "Cut" segment of the omnibus feature Three…Extremes; Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, which won two awards at the 2005 Venice International Film Festival; and I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, which earned him the Alfred Bauer Award at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival.
A priest becomes a vampire…another man’s wife is coveted…a deadly seduction triggers murder. Thirst is the new film from director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance). Already a boxoffice smash in Korea, Thirst was honored with the Prix du Jury [Jury Prize] at the 2009 Cannes International Film Festival.
Continuing his explorations of human existence in extreme circumstances, the director spins a tale that he conceived and then developed over several years with co-screenwriter Chung Seo-kyung.

Sang-hyun (played by top Korean star Song Kang-ho, of The Host) is a priest who cherishes life; so much so, that he selflessly volunteers for a secret vaccine development project meant to eradicate a deadly virus. But the virus takes the priest, and a blood transfusion is urgently ordered up for him. The blood he receives is infected, so Sang-hyun lives – but now exists as a vampire. Struggling with his newfound carnal desire for blood, Sang-hyun’s faith is further strained when a childhood friend’s wife, Tae-ju (Kim Ok-vin), comes to him asking for his help in escaping her life. Sang-hyun soon plunges into a world of sensual pleasures, finding himself on intimate terms with the Seven Deadly Sins.
MPAA Rating: R (for graphic bloody violence, disturbing images, strong sexual content, nudity, and language)
Running Time: 133 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2:35/1 [Scope]

OPENING DAY SCHEDULE: Friday, July 31st, 2009:
New York -- Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema ( 143 East Houston Street , near 2nd Avenue )
Los Angeles -- Laemmle’s Sunset 5 (8000 Sunset Boulevard, at Crescent Heights )
San Francisco -- Landmark’s Bridge Theatre ( 3010 Geary Boulevard , near Blake Street )


Sunday, July 26, 2009

THE BUTCHER / THE TERROR PACK -- Palisades Tartan's October Releases

BLAIR WITCH Meets SAW -- Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme’s THE BUTCHER in Stores October 27th

"One of the best - and one of the rawest - films of the year to come out of Korea, or anywhere else." – New York Asian Film Festival (2008)

"Will offend many people but those who embrace the experience will get a serious shock that will linger long after the film is over." –

" of the most disturbing pieces of unrelieved horror I’ve had the pleasure of enduring." - Firefox News

LOS ANGELES — July,16 2009 —Just in time for Halloween, Palisades Tartan is pleased to present THE BUTCHER, our own distinctive and bloody treat. Told entirely from POV camera shots, this film is set to shock and scare audiences October 27th in video stores across the country.

A small group of people lie battered and bound on the floor of a dirty slaughterhouse covered in blood. Scared and confused, they soon learn their captors are snuff film producers and plan to torture them as creatively and heinously as possible before brutally killing them off one–by-one. Each scene is shot from either the killer or victim’s point of view in order to fully capture the emotional torment of the prey and the unspeakable acts that will be perpetrated on their captive bodies.

An Official Selection of The New York Asian Film Festival, THE BUTCHER highlights the creative talents of Lee Chang Man one of the best special make-up artists in Korea. Lee and his team have worked on over 20 features, including Palisades Tartan’s BLOODY REUNION, R-POINT and WHISPERING CORRIDORS.

Korean, with English subtitles, THE BUTCHER is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, with Stereo Sound. Special DVD features include an Alternative Ending, Behind the Scenes Photos and Storyboard Sketches

Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme
Genre: Horror/Foreign
Rating: Not Rated (Special Features Not Rated/Subject to Change)
Language: Korean (English Subtitles)
Format: DVD Only
Running Time: Approx 75 Minutes (Plus Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Pre-Order Date: September 29, 2009
Street Date: October 27, 2009
Catalog #: TVD 3062
UPC Code: # 842498000052
Official Website:

Chills and Kills from Around the World -- Palisades Tartan’s TERROR PACK in Stores October 13th

LOS ANGELES — July,16, 2009 — For Immediate Release —Featuring some of the most twisted and perverse horror films from France, Denmark and Japan, Palisades Tartan’s TERROR PACK contains a brutal collection of spine-chilling thrillers from around the world. This 3-disc box set will be haunting DVD shelf space October 13th just in time for Halloween.

From France we have SHEITAN, starring Vincent Cassel (OCEAN’S TWELVE, IRREVERSIBLE) as Joseph, a creepy and mysterious man whose pregnant wife remains hidden in a large frightening house. When a group of teenagers visit the house, sex, satanic possession, and incest become the dinner topics and what follows is not for the faint of heart…

From Denmark comes the aptly named SLAUGHTER NIGHT. When a teenage girl loses her father in a brutal car accident she brings some friends to an abandoned mine in hopes of retrieving the last manuscript her father ever penned about nineteenth century serial killers. It’s rumored one spirit with a taste for young, pretty flesh and decapitations still hunts the old mine hungering for another Slaughter Night…

Finally from Japan, we have CARVED: THE SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN, a story about a beautiful bride who was grotesquely disfigured by a jealous husband. Pissed off and roaming the streets in a trench coat and surgical mask, her spirit is fond of children and punishing any who fail to find her pretty with fists, knives and one incredibly wicked pair of scissors…

SHEITAN played the Midnight Madness selection at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival and screened at the 2006 Tribeca, Edinburgh and Melbourne Film Festivals. SLAUGHTER NIGHT made its North American premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival and CARVED was dubbed "An instant horror classic" from Screem Magazine. This boxset marks the first in what will a series of Terror Packs from Palisades Tartan, so be sure to look out for our next great mix of horror titles from around the world.

All three films are recorded in their countries original language (French, Danish and Japanese) and have English and Spanish subtitles. Each title is presented in anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and DTS Surround Sound 5.1.

Palisades Tartan Video
Genre: Horror/Foreign
Rating: Not Rated (Special Features Not Rated/Subject to Change)
Language: French, Danish, Japanese (English Subtitles)
Format: DVD Only (Boxset)
Running Time: Approximately 274 minutes (Not Including Special Features)
SHEITAN – 94 min (Not Including Special Features)
SLAUGHTER NIGHT– 90 min (Not Including Special Features)
CARVED – 90 min (Not Including Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Pre-Order Date: September 15, 2009
Street Date: October 13, 2009
Catalog #: TVD
UPC Code: # 842498000069

Tartan Films was originally founded in 1984 in the UK and is credited with bringing Asian Extreme film to the West as well as some of the most compelling art house films of the last quarter century. In May 2008, Palisades Pictures acquired Tartan Films US library assets and two months later, acquired a majority of Tartan Films UK’s 400+ film library assets. The new company Palisades Tartan has operations both nationally and internationally. Palisades Tartan will continue to expand an already distinctive and provocative slate of films by focusing on quality film acquisitions, thus significantly increasing the size of their overall library in both territories. Palisades Pictures and its parent company Palisades Media Corp is a prestigious financier of print & advertising for the independent film market. Together with its affiliate, Palisades Media Asset Fund, Palisades has securitized and financed more than 550 films.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Connect Like Never Before to the World's Greatest Collection of Martial Arts & Asian Action Movies

Fans Get Non-Stop Access, Exclusive Content, and Latest News Via Facebook, MySpace and YouTube
Genius Products and The Weinstein Company enable martial arts fans and film buffs to interact with the lauded Dragon Dynasty label in a whole new way, with the premiere of their branded Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube pages. The three new pages provide a gathering space for the fan community and an inside look at exclusive content, including interactive photo galleries and dozens of videos of the most brilliantly choreographed fight scenes of all-time, all completely free of charge.

Dragon Dynasty brings home the world's greatest martial arts and Asian action films, featuring the groundbreaking work of international superstars and legendary filmmakers, including Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, John Woo, Yuen Woo-ping, and many more. Fans experience the best of classic and contemporary smash hits from the world's most exciting genre, with cutting-edge digital video and audio remastering and exclusive, never-before-seen bonus features.

Current titles featured include THE ENFORCER, THE LEGEND OF FONG SAI-YUK, SUPERCOP, AN EMPRESS AND THE WARRIORS, as well as the upcoming DVD release THE 5 DEADLY VENOMS, arriving August 18.

About Genius Products
"Genius Products, Inc. is the owner of Genius Products, LLC, a leading independent home-entertainment distribution company that produces, licenses and distributes a valuable library of motion pictures, television programming, family, lifestyle and trend entertainment on DVD and other emerging platforms through its expansive network of retailers throughout the United States."

About The Weinstein Company
The Weinstein Company was created by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, the brothers who founded Miramax Films Corp. in 1979. TWC is a multi-media company that officially launched on October 1, 2005. Dimension Films, the genre label that was founded in 1993 by Bob Weinstein, is also included under TWC banner. The Weinsteins are actively working on the production, development and acquisition of projects for TWC.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Elvis Presley: The Ed Sullivan Shows: The Performances" available on DVD August 4th

Share the excitement of Elvis Presley's earth-shattering introduction to the nation in this collection of iconic performances from "The Ed Sullivan Show," and experience for yourself why Elvis became the legendary King of Rock and Roll!

Appearing on the show Sept. 9, 1956, Elvis sent shock waves through a repressed nation with his soulful singing, wild hip gyrations and raw energy, attracting a record-breaking TV audience of more than 60 million people. Presley returned on Oct. 28, 1956, continuing to provoke ecstatic screams with hits such as "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender" and "Hound Dog." In fact, these exhilarating performances were so explosive that Elvis was filmed above the waist during his final Sullivan show appearance on January 6, 1957!

SPECIAL FEATURES: Remembering Ed and Elvis; Why Ed Didn't Host Elvis' First Appearance; Elvis and Ed: Intros and Promos; Caught on Celluloid: The First Moving Pictures of Elvis Presley; Special Elvis Moments; Jerry Shillings Home Movies; Documents from the Graceland Archives; Documents from the Sullivan Archives

Catalog: ID4175XSDVD
UPC: 014381417524
SRP: $14.98
Release Date: 8/4/09
Buy it at

"The Chaos Experiment" On DVD August 4

A madman bargains the lives of six hostages for press coverage of his threatening environmental theory when the Hitchockian thriller The Chaos Experiment debuts on DVD August 4 from Genius Products. Starring Val Kilmer (The Doors, Batman Forever), Emmy® nominee Armand Assante (“Gotti,” ”Jack the Ripper”), Oscar® nominee Eric Roberts (Runaway Train) and Patrick Muldoon (“Melrose Place,” “Days of our Lives”), the film is from director Philippe Martinez (Citizen Verdict, Wake of Death).

Spiraling into a world of delusion and madness after professional disgrace over his outlandish hypotheses, a professor (Kilmer) lures six unwitting participants into an experiment to prove his theory of how global warming will drastically effect civilization, causing aggression, madness and chaos. While his subjects remain locked in a stream room with its temperature rapidly increasing to 130 degrees, he walks into the offices of a local newspaper demanding that his ideas be printed on the front page of the paper or the six victims would die within hours.
Racing against the clock to get to the truth, a detective (Assante) must determine whether or not the experiment is the delusional musings of a disturbed man or the maniacal work of a deadly psychopath. The Chaos Experiment DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.95.

Price: $19.95
Languages: English
Running time: 96 minutes
Rating: R



Recently I've begun to develop a perverse enjoyment of extremely cheesy 70s and 80s television shows that I wouldn't have been caught dead watching during their first run. Curious to test my newfound ability to withstand anything the likes of Aaron Spelling could launch at me, I was eager to take on one of the all-time undisputed champeens of cheese, "The Love Boat." So as soon as I got my mitts on the new four-disc, 12-episode DVD collection THE LOVE BOAT: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO, it was on, baby! DING!

Actually, once you resign yourself to how silly and totally corny it all is, the show isn't that hard to like at all. If you're looking for "Playhouse 90", you're on the wrong boat. And who doesn't want to spend a little time on a cruise ship with a fun-loving crew and dozens of pop culture icons gettin' it on with each other? As one of the first and best of these "Grand Hotel"-style multi-plot, multi-guest star shows, "The Love Boat" is simply a boatload of dumb fun.

The first episode alone features none other than Abe Vigoda and Nancy Walker sharing romantic dialogue on deck with a scenic sunset in the background. Also representing the older set in later episodes are: Ray "Scarecrow" Bolger and Martha "Poli-Grip" Raye as high-school sweethearts who haven't seen each other in forty years; Arthur Godfrey and Minnie Pearl as eloping lovebirds on the run from their overprotective offspring (Elinor Donahue and Warren Berlinger); and Barry Nelson and Nanette Fabray as an empty-nest couple whose plans for a round-the-world vacation are deep-sixed by news of a surprise package.

One of the best of the show's December-December flings takes place when rich widow Celeste Holm winds up on the same cruise with her vacationing chauffeur, John Mills, and they discover that they're in love with each other. The awkward situation builds to a romantic crescendo (with that same sunset in the background) which actually has some pretty decent writing for a change, and a couple of seasoned actors with the talent to turn it into something substantial. The director goes in for some tight closeups in this scene because he knows that old pros Holm and Mills are working this material for all it's worth.

On the flip-side, where things are just plain goofy, we get Ron "Horshack" Palillo as a magician filling in for his brother in the ship's lounge and falling for his pretty assistant (Melinda Naud), who, incredibly, returns his affections. Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara play harried parents who can't get any private time away from their gaggle of brats, including a fledgling Corey Feldman. Roddy McDowell, surely one of the most ubiquitous actors of all time, plays a constantly sneezing dweeb who discovers he's allergic to his demanding bride-to-be Tammy Grimes. We also get to witness the startling sight of "Match Game" stars Gene Rayburn and Fannie Flagg sucking face like there's no tomorrow while her yappy little dog (the specially-billed "Cricket") tries to come between them. And...omigod...Charo. 'Nuff said.

The biggest surprise is that I didn't remember how serious some of these stories could get. We're talking actual soap-opera-level melodrama here. A man (Randy Mantooth) introduces his girlfriend (Cathy Lee Crosby) to his dad (Robert Mandan)...the girlfriend and the dad fall in love...the son blows his top and dad slaps him! Elsewhere, Craig Stevens is a WWII vet wounded on Omaha Beach, suddenly reunited after all these years with the only woman he ever loved (Cyd Charisse), only to find her attached to some young French stud named Francoise. This is classic "women's picture" stuff just like all the studios were churning out back in the 40s and 50s.

Even when Sonny Bono guests as Deacon Dark, a ludicrous cross between Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons, it's played mainly for bathos because Sonny really wants to be a lounge singer (despite resistance from his materialistic manager, Arte Johnson). This is compounded when he meets a cute deaf girl who falls for the real Sonny and "listens" to his sensitive ivory-tinking by feeling the vibrations in his piano. Talk about laying it on with a trowel--you gotta love it!

Gavin McLeod plays Captain Stubing, the distinguished and very proper main man of the Love Boat, and it's nice to see McLeod in a successful starring role after all those years as a second banana on shows like "McHale's Navy" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Too bad he's usually the straight man for his wacky underlings here, since he was always pretty adept at comedy himself. He does get his share of dramatic subplots and sappy love affairs, as evidenced by this hair-curling exchange:

"Hey, hey...eyes as lovely as yours shouldn't be clouded with tears."
"You say the nicest things."
"Only to the nicest people."

Future four-term Iowa congressman Fred Grandy is Yeoman-Purser "Gopher" Smith, easily the biggest idiot on the ship. Gopher takes center stage in some of the silliest stories, as when his supermodel dreamgirl (the always delightful Hayley Mills) comes aboard and he retreats into a Walter Mitty-style fantasy world, or the one in which he overhears a couple of murder-mystery writers (Peter Lawford, Dana Wynter) discussing their next book and thinks they're planning to kill the Captain. Surprisingly, the season finale features Gopher in one of the most dramatic scenes of the whole set when he has an extremely emotional reconciliation with his estranged father (Bob Cummings).

The concept of Bob Cummings and a Godzilla-like Ethel Merman playing Gopher's parents is almost too much to bear, as is the big finale with father and son crooning a comedy version of "Sonny Boy" to each other during the crew's "Talent Night" show. And yet, like everything else that happens on this series, I feel compelled to watch. I guess it's just one of the mysteries of life.

As Isaac, the ship's bartender with the chipper attitude and big kid smile, Ted Lange is one of the brightest performers on the show. Isaac is always there to help the passengers get sloppy drunk and to dole out helpful advice when they unload their sob stories on him. I like the episode where Isaac's old friend Reggie Jackson books passage to get away from all the constant fan adoration, only to have his ego crushed when nobody on board recognizes him. But even Isaac has his serious side, which we see when he tries to help a troubled young girl who's a convicted shoplifter by getting her a job in the gift shop. Sure enough, a pair of expensive pearl earrings turn up missing.

Bernie Kopell as ship's medic "Doc" Bricker is another TV veteran who excels at light comedy while also handling some pretty bleak material, such as the episode in which his old surgeon friend (Richard Anderson) is dealing with the loss of an arm in a car crash while his wife (Diana Muldaur), stricken with guilt for having caused the accident, suffers an addiction to prescription drugs. Less turgid and a lot more fun is the time one of Doc's several ex-wives (Tina Louise) hires narcissistic pretty-boy Lyle Waggoner to pose as her new fiance to make Doc jealous.

Lauren Tewes, who, sadly, would later have to leave the show due to her own real-life drug problems, is all winsome and chipper as cruise director Julie McCoy. Her character comes to the fore in one of the set's two feature-length episodes, in which Julie's high-school graduating class has its ten-year reunion on board the ship. This episode is loaded with guest stars and subplots, including a self-destructing alcoholic teacher (Raymond Burr), a wheelchair-bound Viet Nam vet (Michael Cole), his best friend who is wracked with guilt for evading the draft (John Rubinstein), and a heavy-set gal (Conchata Ferrell) who has a fling with Doc until she suspects him of ridiculing her behind her back. Also appearing in this one are Christopher George as a famous TV star and Bob "Gilligan" Denver as the class dork.

Looking cuter than I've ever seen her in anything else, Kim Darby (TRUE GRIT) plays a classmate trying to uncover the identity of a secret admirer within the group's ranks, which gives her an excuse to get romantic with just about all the male guest stars. Julie, meanwhile, shows her ruthless side as she tries to steal handsome disco instructor Michael Lembeck away from a pre-nosejob Lisa Hartman. Much of the episode's later scenes take place during a big disco party, which is typical of the show's obsession with this much-reviled dance craze. There's nothing like seeing a ballroom full of people with absolutely no sense of rhythm boogeying down like a bunch of brain-damaged storks.

In addition to those already mentioned, this collection's incredible roster of guest stars includes Phyllis Davis, "Hollywood Squares" host Peter Marshall, Barbara Rush, Elaine Joyce, Bobby Van, Carol Lynley, Hans Conried, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Ben Murphy, Donna Pescow, David Hedison, Juliet Mills, Telma Hopkins, Debbie Allen, Maren Jensen, Dennis Cole, Samantha Eggar, Paul Burke, Arlene Dahl, James Dobson, Leslie Nielsen, Jill St. John, and Charlie Callas. Ken Berry and Beth Howland star in one of the show's most moving segments about a woman who is trying in vain to be accepted by the daughters of the widower she's just married. Howland, of TV's "Alice", is particularly good here.

Aside from the opening titles and some of the stock footage used on the show, the picture quality here is pretty good. The DVD image is 4.3 full-screen with Dolby Digital sound. English and Spanish subtitles and closed-captioning are available. Each episode comes with its original promo, which is the set's sole bonus feature.

By the time I got to the final episodes of THE LOVE BOAT: SEASON TWO, VOLUME TWO, I was actually looking forward to the next sappy romantic adventures aboard the Pacific Princess. Not only that, but I caught myself singing along with the theme song! Aaron Spelling strikes again, and another hapless TV junkie winds up with a Gopher on his back.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Parker Lewis Can't Lose DVD Review by Jessica Friedman

Parker Lewis Can’t Lose The Complete First Season DVD Review

By Jessica Friedman

Ah, the 1990s. It was the decade during which Ian and I began to gain a knowledge for and appreciation of pop culture and, as such, we are ‘90s nostalgia freaks. Forget the ‘80s—for us, grunge music and plaid shirts were much more influential than hair bands and spandex.

As children of the ‘90s, Ian and I are always on the lookout for dvd releases for some of our favorite shows of that era. For me, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose was one of those shows. I remember being a young kid who was enthralled by the logistics of the “synchronized Swatches” and was fascinated by Kubiac (the big lug played by E.R.’s Abraham Benrubi) and Miss Musso (played by Melanie Chartoff). As a late twentysomething some years later (wow…that makes me feel old), I wondered if I would still enjoy this show to the extent that I did when I was nine.

Surprisingly, the episodes really do hold up. I still enjoy the camaraderie between the eponymous Parker Lewis (played by Corin Nemec) and his best friend, Mikey (played by Billy Jayne). The hilariously nebbish Jerry (played by Troy W. Slaten) reminds me now of Paul on The Wonder Years and Marcy from Peanuts (since he calls everyone “Sir” all of the time). Even though Parker Lewis is the ridiculously good-looking and popular cool guy in school (think Zach Morris mixed with Ferris Bueller), my favorite character will always be Larry Kubiac. When he told people he was hungry, they would feed him fish into his mouth! That’s just one of the many surreal elements to this show. A predecessor to later programs such as Scrubs and Andy Richter Controls the Universe, PLCL was full of crazy, off-the-wall , and completely cartoonish moments that make viewing the show that much more enjoyable. The DVD set also comes with some fantastic extras, such as audio commentaries on six episodes and a bonus documentary called “The History of Coolness.”

Another feature of the show that I have come to admire while watching the dvds is the artistic quality of the matching opening and closing segments. I do not believe I have ever seen another show that was so inventive in the way it used common everyday objects (inside of the refrigerator, inside of an attic, etc.) to give a different point of view to the events occurring. One example that I thought was very clever was the opening of the third episode, “Power Play,” during which Parker is yelling at his sister, Shelly (played by Maia Brewton), if she knows where his new jeans are while Shelly is throwing said jeans into the washer with bleach. After a final round of questioning (with the lid of the washer opening up to reveal Shelly’s maniacal face), Parker yells, “Are you sure you haven’t seen my jeans, Shelly? Your Depeche Mode tickets were in the pocket.” Upon hearing this, Shelly obviously freaks out and yells while her brother must be smirking somewhere off-camera, having “won” the game of life once again.

Although PLCL can be corny and dated at times (his dad works at a store that carries electronic items that are essentially obsolete now), a lot of the humor still seems fresh. I highly recommend this dvd set for ‘90s nostalgia freaks or people who just like humorous teen comedy shows.

If that doesn’t entice you, this bit of trivia might—the pilot episode features a young Milla Jovovich as the love interest shared by Parker and Mikey. So, if you ever wanted to see the Resident Evil star wearing crazy outfits from the ‘90s, this DVD set is for you!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009


One of the most enjoyable of the Sci-Fi (I refuse to say "SyFy") Channel movies that I've seen, MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS (2009) is a modest but well-crafted continuation of the Arthurian legend that knows its limitations and uses a modest budget to its fullest potential.

After the deaths of King Arthur and his knights, and the rise to power of an evil sorcerer named The Arkadian (Jim Thorburn), darkness has once again descended upon Camelot and the rest of England. All that's left to fight the good fight are an aging Sir Galahad (Donald Adams), his young apprentice Lysanor (Jesse Moss), and the brawny Tristan (Patrick Sabongui), son of Tristan and Isolde. Most importantly, there's the beautiful blonde warrior princess Avlynn Pendragon (Laura Harris), who just happens to be the daughter of Arthur and Guineviere.

After securing the help of an initially reluctant Merlin (James Callis), the brave band makes its way into a ruined Camelot to confront The Arkadian. But he has a terrible weapon at his disposal--a magic book which contains the captured spirits of evil creatures whom he can release from its pages at will to do his bidding. He also has a terrible secret, which King Arthur fans will probably guess pretty darn quick.

The script is fairly good for this type of film. Scriptwriter Brook Durham keeps a pretty even tone most of the time and goes easy on the lowbrow humor. With some awesome Canadian locations to work with, director Warren P. Sonoda is able to manage a hint of big-budget gravitas in some of the sweeping outdoor shots, especially during the pivotal scene in which Avlynn wades into a lake to retrieve Excalibur from a protruding rock and hoist it aloft.

Production values remain modest but decent enough otherwise, although the most the filmmakers manage in the way of interiors are a few rooms in the Arkadian's palace and some tunnels. A small courtyard set with a couple dozen extras is all we see of Camelot's inhabitants. Overall, the production design and cinematography are good and the film, while sparsely populated, has an attractive look.

Callis, better known as Baltar in "Battlestar Galactica", does an okay job as a gruff, growly-voiced, and supremely world-weary Merlin, although his strangely Jamaican-tinged accent had me wondering at times. His quirky interpretation of the character has its ups and downs, one advantage being a very dry sense of humor. Here's an exchange that takes place between a captive Merlin and The Arkadian:

"Where is the sword--the sword in the lake?"
"You'll never find it. I hid it, see?"
"You hid the sword?"
"No, I hid the lake."

The rest of the cast is capable if not quite outstanding. I liked the Avlynn character most of all--it's intriguing to see a female Pendragon fighting to regain her father's throne. Thankfully, Harris doesn't play her as an unrealistic superwoman, but simply as someone who finds herself in a desperate situation in which she must act heroically.

The "beasts" of the title include, strangely enough, a CGI-generated flock of deadly butterflies (well, it's original, anyway), some "Dragon Soldiers" with really ugly makeup jobs, giant "Death Hawks" that capture the good guys and whisk them away to the bad guy's lair (which reminded me of a similar scene with the flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz"), and, best of all, the ever-popular Gorgon sisters. Some of the liveliest moments involve these snake-haired beauties, led by the malevolent Medusa (Maja Stace-Smith), against whom our steadfast heroes must do battle with their eyes closed lest they be turned to stone. The fist and sword fights with more human foes are serviceable although the choreography is a bit on the flabby side.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 Dolby Surround sound. There's an eleven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired.

MERLIN AND THE BOOK OF BEASTS is no epic, to be sure, but simply an entertaining B-movie that manages to rise a bit above the mediocrity of the usual Sci-Fi Channel fare. As a big fan of John Boorman's classic "Excalibur" I found it interesting to watch this fun and fairly involving small-scale continuation of the story, and consider it a worthy effort of its kind.

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Nope, it's Oscar-winning makeup maestro RICK BAKER in a stunning recreation of Bela's famous broken-necked graverobber ("err...they said") from SON OF FRANKENSTEIN!

Not only is this a tribute to the great Lugosi, but also to master monster-makeup pioneer Jack Pierce, one of Rick's main inspirations in the business. Pierce's legendary creations for Universal Pictures in the 30s and 40s also include the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Werewolf of London. His "Ygor" makeup contributed to what is considered to be one of Bela's finest performances.

Rick's work, of course, can be seen in such films as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, MEN IN BLACK, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1996), VIDEODROME, and Michael Jackson's THRILLER, among countless others. He also helped transform Martin Landau into Bela Lugosi for Tim Burton's ED WOOD.

Now, seventy years after SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, Rick Baker uses his skills to bring Ygor back to life to terrorize the countryside again. Or, perhaps--to audition as the new frontman for Jethro Tull!

(Thanks to Rick Baker for the use of the photos and kudos to Ted Newsom for the cool photoshopped background in the second one.)


Monday, July 20, 2009


If you're trying to think of a grandiose name for two dullards trudging around in the wilderness for a couple of hours, then I guess SEVERED WAYS: THE NORSE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA (2007) is about as good as any.

Orn (Tony Stone) is the lead singer for a hair-metal band, and Volnard (Fiore Tedesco) is the bass player. Okay, they aren't, but they certainly resemble that more than the badass Vikings from the year 1007 that they're supposed to be.

After the rest of their party either get wiped out by the Skraelings (Native Americans) or hightail it back to Norse-ylvania, the two stranded scouts ask "Dude, where's my ship?" and decide to try and walk cross-continent until they run into either another expedition or a bunch of polar bears, whichever comes first. After observing these guys in action for awhile, you may start to suspect that it wasn't any accident they were left behind.

Anachronism is sometimes used in an attempt to give the characters a more contemporary appeal. One scene begins with the generously-maned Orn greeting the morning by actually headbanging to Judas Priest outside their makeshift enclosure. Elsewhere, a dialogue exchange around the campfire might've been scripted by the guys from MST3K:

"I caught this f**king fish so don't be trying to hog it all."
"Ah, shut the hell up."
"This fish is really killer."

Lots of wood-chopping and even more trudging are interrupted here and there by a few meager plot points, heralded by chapter titles such as "Stranded", "Camp", "Conquest", "Encounters", "Separation", "Reunion", etc. After stumbling across a couple of Christian monks who have escaped Norse captivity and constructed a humble log chapel in the forest, Orn and Volnard slay the two and burn down their chapel.

Actually, Volnard secretly releases his monk back into the wild, still feeling guilty after once killing a Christian who converted his sister only to witness her suicide leap from a cliff in response. Volnard decides to abandon Orn and travel with the monk (David Perry) instead, intrigued by his new religion.

Devout Odin-worshipper Orn, meanwhile, is followed by one of those unbelievably hot Native American babes that exist only in the movies (Noelle Bailey)--she gazes at him from afar in standard serial-killer POV--until she finally decides to lay him out with some knockout berries, transport him to her dwelling, stake him out, and rape him.  Well, you know those hair-metal groupies.

In an interesting dream sequence, Gaby Hoffman of "Uncle Buck" fame appears as Orn's wife and tells him what a total failure he is, with which most viewers by this time will heartily concur. After a few more random occurrences, including an eventual reunion with Volnar, the rambling storyline finally drops dead of exhaustion.

In tone, SEVERED WAYS seems to be going for a cross between James Fenimore Cooper, "Jeremiah Johnson", and "Quest for Fire." Although at times, it also looks like the result of a collaboration between The Discovery Channel and shock filmmaker John Waters, as demonstrated by a couple of scenes that shoot right to the top of my list of "Things I Really Didn't Need or Want to See."

The runner-up is the sequence in which Orn catches a chicken and then proceeds to behead, pluck, and gut it. I know this happens to chickens all the time, but for some hapless fowl to sacrifice its life in the making of this movie seems above and beyond the call of duty.

But that's nothing compared to what is without a doubt the most memorable scene in the film, in which we get to watch Tony Stone take a dump. Yes, movie fans, you heard right. He takes down his pants, allows his bare butt to precipitously hover just long enough to make us think "Oh, no you're not", and then, sure enough, he does--copiously, in fact--and we're treated to a graphic image that will linger in our minds for the rest of the film, if not our lives. This isn't acting, it's just some doofus heaving a Havana.

Even without such dubious cinematic milestones, Stone's hyperactive directing style is all over the place, and too much of it consists of getting a really tight shot of someone or something and then shaking the hell out of the camera (the film often resembles "The Blair Viking Project"). Stone also has an affinity for lens flares that might have you grabbing for your shades.

Admittedly, there's an awful lot of visual beauty in this film, but considering the consistently gorgeous wilderness locations (in Vermont and Newfoundland) this would seem unavoidable. At times, the camera lingers on certain images for so long that they're obviously meant to have a hypnotic effect on the viewer. Unfortunately, it's the kind in which you hear a guy's voice saying, "You are getting sleepy..." That's where the soundtrack comes in handy, because we never know when the next blast of heavy metal or strident prog-synth is going to jar us out of our stupors.

The DVD's 2.35:1 widescreen image is good, although the film sometimes has that noticeable digital video look. Sound is Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, with the occasional dubbed Old Norse dialogue subtitled in English and Spanish. Bonus features include a couple of deleted snippets, some nice footage shot at an actual Viking settlement in Newfoundland, four brief "video fireplace"-type ambient scenes representing the four elements, and, for some reason, an extended slow-motion look at the burning of that log chapel.

Rounding out the bonus features are two of the film's trailers, which are very well-done and promise an epic entertainment which SEVERED WAYS: THE NORSE DISCOVERY OF AMERICA is unable to deliver. It's an intriguing premise which might have made for an interesting film if actor-writer-producer-director Tony Stone hadn't allowed it to become such a self-indulgent ego trip. Not only that, but he deserves a swift kick for tricking us into watching him pitch a loaf on camera. (Gee, how come Hitchcock or Kubrick never thought of that?) This is the kind of film that's often lauded as an alternative to the usual Hollywood "cookie-cutter" fare, but in this case, I'll have a cookie, thanks.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

BIG MAN JAPAN -- DVD review by porfle

Well, here's something for those with a really big taste for the unusual. Part mockumentary, part giant-Japanese-monsters spoof, BIG MAN JAPAN (2007) is one seriously weird movie. And watching it is like discovering a chest full of really cool toys that were designed by crazy elves on acid.

The mockumentary part follows a reserved, unassuming man named Daisato (director and co-writer Hitoshi Matsumoto) around as he makes his way through a seemingly ordinary life. He lives in a dumpy home with a stray cat and makes pointless conversation about how he likes things (folding umbrellas, dehydrated seaweed) that are small until you need for them to get big.

Sometimes he wistfully talks about his 8-year-old daughter, whom his ex-wife will only let him visit twice a year because that's as often as she can stand to be around him.

Rocks crash through the windows as he speaks. His house is adorned with strewn garbage and graffiti such as "Die!" and "We don't need you!" Why? Because Daisato is Big-Sato, or "Big Man Japan", a widely-reviled superhero who is also small until the government needs for him to get big and fight the giant monsters that constantly invade Japan, and it's no longer the glamour job that it was for his predecessors. In fact, his reality TV show is currently getting lower ratings than the weather channel.

The interview segments, while very funny, are also dry and sometimes seemingly interminable. I couldn't wait for Daisato to get the next call to action from the government, because then, things really get fun. He travels by moped (passing more graffiti such as "You're annoying" and "Fall off a cliff!") to the nearest electrical station to "power up", standing inside his gigantic purple shorts and getting zapped with millions of volts until he grows to colossal proportions.

With his long hair standing straight up and his pudgy body adorned with tattoos and advertising (his avaricious agent sells ad space to various sponsors and pockets most of the profits herself), Big Man Japan is ready to stomp into action again.

Each monster that he encounters is a wonderful and fascinating creation. The first one we see is The Strangling Monster, whose arms form a loop of elastic steel cables that he wraps around skyscrapers before hoisting them up and gleefully piledriving them into the ground. The Leaping Monster is another extremely happy creature with very expressive features--the facial CGI motion-capture on these things is really good.

This is especially true for The Stink Monster, a female monstrosity who engages our hero in a heated verbal exchange filled with withering putdowns while leaning against a building and petulantly nudging automobiles with her foot.

Most of the monsters have some kind of disturbing sexual component that adds an extra layer of strangeness to their activities. Strangling Monster extrudes a pointed metallic shaft from his posterior that deposits slimy eggs into the gaping holes left from uprooted buildings. Evil Stare Monster's telescoping eye-stalk, which he uses as a swinging mace-like weapon, originates from his groin.

Not to be outdone, Stink Monster is actually in heat, which attracts the frantic attentions of yet another grotesque monster who's beside himself with hilariously hyperkinetic lust. "What the hell!?" Daisato cries in horror as she turns around and "presents." What happens next results in tabloid press headlines decrying Big Man Japan as a "Monster Pimp."

Each of these segments is a feast of weirdness for us to gorge ourselves on--irresistible confections of stylized photo-realistic CGI, mind-bending monsters, and cartoonishly surreal situations. When Daisato's senile old grandfather, once the highly-popular Big Man Japan the Fourth, zaps himself with electricity and gets back into the act, he goes on a wonderfully irrational rampage in which he takes on Tokyo Tower and shuts down the local airport by playing with the planes, while headlines scream "Big Man Japan Destroys Japan!!" and "Big Man Japan Salutes the Sun?!"

Even the somewhat melancholy mockumentary sequences start to get more outrageous as Daisato deals with all the various controversies and public outcries while trying to keep his personal life together.

Hitoshi Matsumoto does a good job directing the film while giving a nicely subdued performance as the put-upon Daisato. His supporting players, including several non-professionals, are natural and funny. The more mundane segments look as though they might have been shot for some PBS series, while the monster scenes are so lush and colorful that they're quite visually sumptuous. Adding to the film's appeal is a score by Towa Tei that is often beautiful.

A 68-minute bonus featurette (with commentary), "Making of Big Man Japan", shows the years-long collaborative process in which the story and its characters were developed, and follows the cast and crew to Cannes for the film's successful premiere. Also included on the DVD are several deleted scenes plus trailers for this and the other films in Magnolia/Magnet's "6-Shooter Film Series" (five of which we've reviewed right here at HKCFN, counting this one). The 1.85:1 widescreen image and Dolby Digital sound are good. Soundtrack is in Japanese with English and Spanish subtitles.

With the appearance of a redskinned, seemingly invincible demon-monster that may mean the end of our hero, BIG MAN JAPAN has a final surprise in store for viewers which will either delight or confuse, or both. (At any rate, it should get you to thinking about what the heck it all means, including possible political implications, blah, blah, etc.) Like the rest of the film, it's unexpected and totally off-the-wall. And if you're like me, you may find it hard to believe that somebody actually made a movie that's this much pure, silly, unadulterated fun.

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