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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MEDIUM RAW from Anchor Bay Entertainment -- coming to DVD August 16th


“Every good horror flick needs strong villains, and this one has them in spades!” --
Once upon a time, there was a homicidal maniac who slaughtered 15 little girls and left a question scrawled in the victim’s blood at each crime scene: “Are you The Woodcutter?” Five-year-old Johnny Morgan witnessed his sister’s murder at the hands of this monster. Years later, Johnny became a detective and finally caught the murderer, bringing him to justice. And they all lived happily ever after, right?  Guess again…

Recent winner of the Northern Lights Award at the Alaska International Film Festival, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf on DVD August 16th. With an all-star genre cast including John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark  and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), William B. Davis (“the Cigarette Smoking Man” from “The X-Files,” The Shortcut), Mercedes McNab (Hatchet, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”) and wrestling legends Jay “Christian” Reso and Andrew “Test” Martin (in his final screen appearance), Medium Raw takes the Little Red Riding Hood legend into a new realm of terror and psychological horror. SRP is $22.98, and pre-book is July 20th.

Even though Johnny (writer/director Andrew Cymek) is now an officer of the law, he’s still plagued by nightmares of his sister’s death and the serial killer that’s still out there. When a new murder scene features the same cryptic question, Johnny and his partner (Davies) track down leads until he finally captures Harold Grierson aka “the Wolf.” But when a power outage at Parker’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane, where Harold is interred, and Johnny’s girlfriend Jamie (Brigitte Kingsley) works as a psychiatrist, unleashes all the inmates, Johnny, Jamie along with a handful of civilians become players in a night of survival against the world’s most terrifying inmates…the Night of the Wolf.

Street Date:                  August 16, 2011
Pre-book:                     July 20, 2011
Cat. #:                          DV23146
UPC:                            0 1313 2314609 3
Run Time:                     111 minutes
Rating:                          Not Rated
SRP:                            $22.98
Format:                        Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                          Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                       English
Bonus Features:            Audio commentary with Writer/Director/Actor Andrew Cymek
                                    Alternate ending
                                    Deleted and extended scenes

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Monday, May 30, 2011

MGM Limited Edition Collection for May 2011

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Reveals More Classic Films Coming To DVD For The First Time Ever

During the Month of June--29 Classics Come to DVD Through Online Retailers

LOS ANGELES (May 24, 2011) – Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s “manufacturing on demand” (“MOD”) program continues to expand with the newest selection of films as part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection. These 29 films will be available through major online retailers. This group of releases features classics from 1954 to 1990 including performances by Hollywood’s greats – Bob Hope, Anthony Hopkins and Yul Brynner to name just a few.

Enjoy your favorite movies from across the decades including:


Down Three Dark Streets (1954) - After an FBI agent is shot, his friend must handle the caseload and avenge his death. Stars Broderick Crawford; Ruth Roman; Martha Hyer. Directed by Arnold Laven.
Return To Treasure Island (1954) - A descendant of Jim Hawkins visits Treasure Island with a priceless map. Stars Tab Hunter; Dawn Addams; Porter Hall. Directed by Edwald Andre' Dupont.
Quincannon, Frontier Scout (1956) - An ex-army officer leads a search party into Indian territory to investigate the disappearance of a top-secret shipment of repeating rifles.
Stars Tony Martin; Peggie Castle; John Bromfield. Directed by Lesley Selander.
The Killer Is Loose (1956) - A bank robber's (Wendell Corey) wife is shot during his arrest by a cop (Joseph Cotten). He escapes to kill the cop's wife (Rhonda Fleming) as retribution. Despite the cop's protest, the police decide to use Fleming as a lure. Stars Joseph Cotton; Rhonda Fleming; Wendell Corey. Directed by Budd Boetticher.
Hot Cars (1956) - A likable car salesman, facing a financial crunch involving urgent medical attention for his infant son, is tricked into selling stolen cars. Framed for the murder of a cop, he finds himself in life-or-death combat with the real killer on a zooming rollercoaster. Stars John Bromfield; Carol Shannon; Joi Lansing. Directed by Don McDougall.
The Boss (1956) - Political corruption is vividly depicted as a ruthless WWI veteran takes almost complete control of a state with the help of a crooked lawyer.
The film is enhanced by John Payne's persuasive performance as "The Boss." Stars John Payne; William Bishop; Gloria McGhee and Doe Avedon. Directed by Byron Haskin.
Gun Duel In Durango (1957) - He (Robert Montgomery) is the leader of a notorious gang. He wants to settle down. She (Ann Robinson) says she will marry once he has proved his newfound virtue. His former gang buddies have other ideas and a final showdown gunfight is inevitable. Stars George Montgomery; Ann Robinson; Steve Brodie. Directed by Sidney Salkow.
The Halliday Brand (1957) - Joseph H. Lewis directed this intense Western about a young man's (Joseph Cotten) disillusionment with his father (Ward Bond), a corrupt sheriff. When his dad turns away from the lynching of his sister's lover, the boy rebels and his father declares him an "outlaw." Stars Joseph Cotton; Viveca Lindfors; Betsy Blair. Directed by Joseph H. Lewis.
Curse Of The Faceless Man (1958) - A stone figure unearthed in Pompeii followed by a series of skull crushing murders. Stars Richard Anderson; Elaine Edwards; Adele Mara. Directed by Edward L. Cahn.
Lost Lagoon (1958) - He is an unhappy husband who is a castaway on a Caribbean island and thought dead. He meets a lovely lady and they create a holiday resort. The idyll ends when an insurance investigator tracks him down and takes him back to his wife. Stars Jeffrey Lynn; Leila Barry; Peter Donat. Directed by John Rawlins
Riot In Juvenile Prison (1959) - When the shootings of two juvenile inmates bring public protest, a psychologist is brought in to see if he can do anything to control the problems peacefully. Stars Jerome Thor; Marcia Henderson; Scott Marlowe Directed by Edward L. Cahn.
The Man In The Net (1959) - Alan Ladd portrays a painter with an alcoholic and dissatisfied wife (Carolyn Jones). She disappears-leaving behind his slashed paintings. He is accused of murdering her, and flees to the woods. Among the pursuers: one of her former lovers--a tough cop. Stars Alan Ladd; Carolyn Jones; Diana Brewster. Directed by Michael Curtiz.


Phaedra (1962) - The wife of a Greek shipping tycoon has a love affair with her stepson. Stars Melina Mercouri; Anthony Perkins; Raf Vallone. Directed by Jules Dassin.
Call Me Bwana (1963) - Laugh along with this breezy comedy as Bob Hope heads for the African Jungle where he finds himself on an outrageous safari with elephants, hippos, and...spies? Stars Bob Hope; Anita Ekberg; Edie Adams. Directed by Gordon Douglas
Johnny Cool (1963) - Criminals who betrayed a crime boss are in for a bloody revenge. A Sicilian mobster (Henry Silva) is in town to rub them out. Among those waiting for the bullets are Telly Savalas, Mort Sahl, Jim Backus and Brad Dexter. Stars Henry Silva; Elizabeth Montgomery; Richard Anderson. Directed by William Asher.
Love Is A Ball (1963) - Charles Boyer zestfully portrays a (self-appointed) matchmaker on the French Riviera, conducting a lively cast on a slippery road to romance. Stars Glenn Ford;
Hope Lange; Charles Boyer. Directed by David Swift.
A Rage To Live (1965) - A wealthy, free-swinging young woman tries marriage, only to discover she still needs to have affairs with other men. Stars Suzanne Pleshette; Bradford Dillman; Ben Gazzara. Directed by Walter Grauman.
Riot On Sunset Strip (1967) - A crowd of undisciplined young people gather for kicks on the Sunset Strip. Aldo Ray plays a police lieutenant who is sympathetic to the kids but is pressured by businessmen to clear them out. Stars Aldo Ray; Mimsy farmer; Michael Evans. Directed by Arthur Dreifuss.
Red, White, and Zero (aka The White Bus) (1967) - An impassive young girl is taken from her suicidal London life, back to her home in North England on a bizarre bus trip. Seen through the poetic eye of the camera, this is a commentary of doomed British morbidity, and a prelude to director Lindsay Anderson's much acclaimed "If". Stars Anthony Hopkins; Arthur Lowe and Patricia Healy. Directed by Lindsay Anderson.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1968) - A film adaptation of William Shakespeare's famous play in which four lovers sort out their problems with the help of fairies at midnight in the forest of Athens. Stars Derek Godfrey; Barbara Jefford; Nicholas Selby. Directed by Peter Hall.
The File of the Golden Goose (1969) - A U.S. Treasury agent (Yul Brynner) joins a Scotland Yard detective (Edward Woodward) in going "undercover" to bust a brutal counterfeit gang known as the Golden Goose. But, in a massive double-cross, his British partner defects to the other side.Stars Yul Brynner, Charles Gray; Edward Woodward and John Barrie. Directed by Sam Wanamaker.


Cannon for Cordoba (1970) - George Peppard is a young man who leads a small group to destroy six cannons before the rebel leader (Raf Vallone) and the Mexican army can use them. A rousing, action-filled historical adventure. Starring George Peppard; Giovanna Ralli; Raf Vallone; Peter Duel; Don Gordon and Nico Minardos. Directed by Paul Wendkos. 
Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall (1974) - A fun-loving trumpet player experiences both high jinks and grim realities of war when he trains as a member of a British artillery unit during World War II. Stars Jim Dale; Arthur Lowe; Bill Maynard; Geoffrey Hughes and Windsor Davies. Directed by Norman Cohen.
Hennessy (1975) - After his wife and child are killed during violence in Belfast, an Irishman plots to assassinate the Queen of England in bombing the British Parliament when the Royal Family is in attendance. Stars Rod Steiger; Lee Remick; Richard Johnson. Directed by Don Sharp.
Another Man, Another Chance (1977) - A love story between a French girl and an American doctor, set against the backdrop of France in 1870, after Napoleon III has just lost the war against Prussia. In the wild west, they silently and carefully fall in love for the second time in their lives. Stars James Caan; genevieve Bujold; Francis Huster. Directed by Claude Lelouch.


April Morning (1987) - The "April Morning" here is the famous April 19, 1775 upon which the "Shot heard 'round the world" was fired, signalling the start of the American Revolution. Stars Tommy Lee Jones; Robert Urich; Chad Lowe; Susan Blakely. Directed by Delbert Mann.
Haunted Summer (1988) - Romantic poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, along with Shelly's future wife, Mary, and her beautiful stepsister, Claire, travel blissfully through Switzerland one summer. Both women share Shelley's bed, while the tortured Lord Byron flounder in a secret relationship with his physician. They experiment with opium, "free love", and the nature of good and evil. The events form the foundation for Mary Shelley's famous novel, FRANKSTEIN. This drama is part surreal, part historical - of lust and fantasy, of ecstasy and horror, of the inner strings of creativity. Stars Philip Anglim; Alice Krige; Eric Stoltz. Directed by Ivan Passer.
The Iron Triangle (1989) - A U.S. Army Captain, serving in Vietnam in 1969 is captured by a 17-year old Vietcong solider. The pair end up developing a bond. Stars Beau Bridges;
Haing S. Ngor; Liem Whatley. Directed by Eric Weston.


The Fourth War (1990) - A Cold War thriller in which an American colonel and his Soviet counterpart engage in a private, potentially disastrous war. Stars Roy Scheider; Jurgen Prochnow; Tim Reid. Directed by John Frankenheimer.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

FALL DOWN DEAD -- DVD review by porfle

Here's another slasher flick with a slice of that cheesy 80s vibe, like one of those worn VHS cheapies you might've rented out of curiosity at the local Mom 'n' Pop video store.  But that old nostalgic feeling is fleeting, and for the most part FALL DOWN DEAD (2007) is just a dreary bore.

It begins with your standard parking garage stalk-and-slash as an unfortunate woman fails to elude the Picasso Killer's deadly razor.  Then we meet some uninteresting detectives, the troubled Stefan (Mehmet Günsür) and his happy-go-lucky partner Lawrence (R. Keith Harris), wearily staking out a van on Christmas Eve.  Finally, there's young, blonde Christie (Dominique Swain), who saves the money she makes in a coffee shop so she and her daughter Zoe can move to the country.

Walking home one night, Christie happens upon the Picasso Killer dispatching his latest victim in a dark alley.  When he sees her, he flips out--she's just what he's imagined as the perfect finishing touch to his artistic masterpiece, which we never really learn much about.  In fact, unlike the trash gore classic PIECES in which the killer's crazy agenda actually meant something, the whole "Picasso" angle is so negligible to the plot that it's there merely to give Udo Kier's maniac something to yak about while he's fixating on Christie.

Christie escapes and seeks refuge in a mostly-empty office building, with only old security guard Wade (David Carradine) and a few stragglers as company.  Wade manages to call the police before the power goes off due to a blackout, and Stefan and Lawrence show up to offer their dubious assistance.  With both cell phones and police radios conveniently out of commission, the group is now under attack by Picasso for the rest of the film as he kills anyone who stands between him and Christie.

After this passable start, the padding and dragging out of FALL DOWN DEAD's meager plot begin.  These include the usual false jump scares and the "suspense" sequences with potential victims creeping around for long periods of time as we're pounded by clangy music that's supposed to set our nerves on edge.  The good guys, of course, are incredibly stupid--after locking the front doors of the building, nobody bothers to check the back door, which Picasso strolls through undetected.  Later, Det. Lawrence runs into someone who works in the building, tells her she'll be safe as long as she's with him, and then immediately leaves her alone.  Throughout the film, the contrivances these characters go through in order to keep arbitrarily putting each other in danger are amazing. 

Picasso is never portrayed as cunning or scary enough to make us afraid of him when he's offscreen.  He's barely developed as a character at all--he's just this guy walking around slashing people with a straight razor and babbling to his victims about how they're going to be a part of his masterpiece.  Udo Kier (ANDY WARHOL'S DRACULA, FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN) does give off a naturally creepy vibe, especially when his eyes are lit just right, and there's one genuinely chilling scene in which a woman opens the door expecting to find one of the cops standing there only to confront him instead.  But Picasso isn't really much of a boogeyman--most of the time, he's no more frightening than the usual maniac killer on HAWAII FIVE-O.

Bland direction and murky lighting and photography augment the film's cheap-80s look, along with a few graphic gore makeups, gratuitous nudity, and some really bad dialogue and acting.  Even big-name David Carradine, who's back in EVIL TOONS mode again and not taking a second of it seriously, is pretty awful here.  (The most notable thing about his presence in this flick is the ironic nature of his character's fate.)  Kier seems to be doing his best, but he just isn't stalker material.  As Christie, Dominique Swain goes one-on-one against the dumb script, wrestling with some horrible dramatic dialogue and emoting her head off as though her life depended on it. Only her final confrontation with Picasso generates any excitement, and even this is standard stuff.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in  1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in Engish and Spanish.  The sole extra is a DVD trailer. 

A downbeat and vaguely depressing experience, FALL DOWN DEAD just gets dumber and dumber, and more boring, as it goes along.  Nostalgia aside, sometimes those 80s slasher flicks were best left on the shelf.

Buy it at

MEET MONICA VELOUR starring Kim Cattrall coming August 16th on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Films

"Kim Cattrall gives a bold, courageous, jaw-dropping performance that deserves the attention it's getting” - Rex Reed, New York Observer


Available on Blu-ray™ and DVD August 16th  from Anchor Bay Films

BEVERLY HILLS, CA –   On August 16th, Anchor Bay Films releases Meet Monica Velour, on Blu-ray™ and DVD.  Starring Kim Cattrall (“Sex in the City”) as a former porn star who befriends a young fan, Meet Monica Velour is a showcase for the actress with a gutsy performance that wowed both audiences and critics. Meet Monica Velour arrives on Blu-ray™ and DVD with an SRP of $34.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $29.98 for the DVD, with bonus features including a commentary track by Cattrall (with writer/director Keith Bearden) and hilarious deleted scenes.

In this irreverent comedy, awkward teenager Tobe (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a road trip to meet Monica Velour (Cattrall), his favorite 80s porn star, at a rare live appearance hundreds of miles away. Instead of the glamorous sexpot portrayed on film, he finds a 49-year-old single mom living in a trailer in rural Indiana, performing at seedy strip clubs to make ends meet. But the starry-eyed Tobe, still captivated by his crush, befriends Monica, further complicating her difficult life. Cattrall gives a career-defining performance in this offbeat love story that appeals to the dreamer - and the nerd - in all of us.

Meet Monica Velour also features a feisty turn by Brian Dennehy (Ratatouille), and Keith David (Death at a Funeral). From the producers of The Kids are All Right and Garden State, and written and directed by Keith Bearden, Meet Monica Velour is a sweet, and sly coming-of-age story that’s sure to delight fans of quirky indie films.

Buy it at

TWILIGHT ZONE SEASON 5 Blu-ray coming August 30 from Image Entertainment

It’s time to enter the fifth season of the fifth dimension when The Twilight Zone: Season 5 comes to Blu-ray™ on August 30, 2011 . All 36 episodes from the groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy series’ final season are here, remastered and presented in pristine 1080p high-definition and uncompressed PCM audio. In addition, the 5-disc set includes hours of entertaining bonus features specially created for this Blu-ray™ release, as well as the bonus features from the Definitive Collection DVD release. SRP is $99.98, and pre-book is August 2.

Submitted for your approval, is the wildest and (dare we say) weirdest season of Rod Serling’s iconic series, containing such memorable episodes as "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "A Kind of a Stopwatch," "Living Doll" and the Oscar® nominated short film "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." This season also rolls out some great guest stars including Bill Mumy, George Takei, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Martin Landau, Mickey Rooney, Shelley Fabares and William Shatner.

Season Five Episodes

In Praise of Pip, Steel, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet , A Kind of a Stopwatch, The Last Night of a Jockey, Living Doll, The Old Man in the Cave, Uncle Simon, Probe 7 Over and Out, The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms, Ninety Years Without Slumbering, Ring-A-Ding Girl, You Drive, The Long Morrow, The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross, Number Twelve Looks Just Like You, Black Leather Jackets, Night Call, From Agnes, with Love, Spur of the Moment, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Queen of the Nile, What's in the Box, The Masks, I Am the Night Color Me Black, Sounds and Silences, Caesar and Me, The Jeopardy Room, Stopover in a Quiet Town, The Encounter, Mr. Garrity and the Graves, The Brain Center at Whipple's, Come Wander with Me, The Fear, The Bewitchin' Pool.


--20 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone directors Ted Post, Richard Donner and Robert Butler, writer Earl Hamner, actors George Takei and Peter Mark Richman, author/historian Martin Grams, Jr. (The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic), authors/historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton (Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour), author Bill Warren (Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties), writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline), writer/director Michael Nankin (Battlestar Galactica, CSI) and radio host George Noory (Coast to Coast AM).
--Conversations with Rod Serling
--Vintage Audio Interview with director of photography George T. Clemens
--22 Radio Dramas featuring Louis Gossett, Jr., Adam Baldwin, Peter Mark Richman, Beverly Garland, Adam West, Bill Erwin, Luke Perry, Mariette Hartley, Ed Begley, Jr., Kate Jackson, Mike Starr, Stan Freberg, Jason Alexander, Jane Seymour, James Keach and Karen Black


--Audio Commentaries by Bill Mumy (In Praise of Pip), Mickey Rooney (The Last Night of a Jockey), June Foray (Living Doll), Mariette Hartley (The Long Morrow), Marc Scott Zicree (Number 12 Looks Just Like You), Alan Sues (The Masks) and Martin Landau (The Jeopardy Room)
Video Interviews with Richard Matheson, George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, Bill Mumy, June Foray, Carolyn Kearney, Michael Forest, Nancy Malone and Terry Becker
--Isolated Music Scores featuring the legendary Bernard Herrmann, Van Cleave and Rene Garriguenc
--The Mike Wallace Interview (September 1959)
--Netherlands Sales Pitch
--Excerpt from Rod Serling's Sherwood Oaks Experimental College Lecture
--Alfred Hitchcock Promo
--Rare George Clayton Johnson Home Movies
--Rod Serling Promos for "Next Week's" Show
--Twilight Zone Season 5 Billboards
And much more!

The Twilight Zone Season 5 Blu-ray
Genre:             Sci-Fi. Television, 60s
Rating:            Not Rated
Languages:      English 
Format:            Black and white full-frame (1:33.1)
Audio:             PCM Mono
Subtitles:         English
Year:               1964
SRP:                $99.98
Street Date:     August 30, 2011
Pre-Book:        August 2, 2011
Length:            916 minutes
UPC:               014381642650
Cat#:               ID6426CUBD

Buy it at

Thursday, May 26, 2011

KILL THE IRISHMAN -- DVD review by porfle

It's not every day you get a mob movie as raw and violent as one of Martin Scorcese's gangster epics, but the fact-based KILL THE IRISHMAN (2010) will do until the next one of those comes along.  It's like GOODFELLAS Lite, but with its own vigorous, roughhouse charm. 

The first half of the story recounts burly Irish dock worker Danny Greene's "come-up", beginning with his brash, decisive handling of a sadistic Union boss (SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION'S Bob Gunton), whose position he usurps until corruption lands him in hot water with the Feds.  Danny goes free after agreeing to become an informant, then he and his gang of hardy Irish chums go into business as enforcers for a Jewish loan shark named Shondor Birns (Christopher Walken as his usual creepy-cool self) who has Mafia connections.

A meeting with current mob boss Jack Licavoli (gang-movie legend Tony Lo Bianco) lands him an even more lucrative deal that begins his ill-fated association with the Italians.  Eventually, he rebels against the greedy, controlling mobsters while also clashing with Birns over money, leading to a feud with none other than "Fat Tony" Salerno (an inevitable Paul Sorvino) of New York's Gambino family.  They put out a $25,000 contract on him and for the rest of the film Danny is forced to evade bullets and car bombs at every turn.

Unlike the typical cutthroat Mafia hood embodied by the likes of Joe Pesci or Robert DeNiro, Danny Greene comes off as a guy you could hang out with and not worry about getting whacked for looking at him wrong.  He's admirable (relatively speaking, anyway) because he goes after what he wants and doesn't back down to anybody while remaining loyal to his friends and gaining their undying loyalty in return.

I have to hand it to someone who can tell self-important Mafia kingpins to stuff it to their astonished faces.  In fact, it's pretty exhilarating to watch this two-fisted Irish galoot bustle his way through life and fearlessly take on anyone who wants to "dance", including a Union big shot's hulking bodyguard and a scary Hell's Angel whose rowdy gang is disrupting Danny's backyard barbecue (he thrashes them both within an inch of their lives). 

Director and co-scripter Jonathan Hensleigh has a lean, straightforward storytelling style unhampered by a lot of visual fluff.  He has assembled a hell of a cast here, with Ray Stevenson taking on the role of Danny as though born to it.  In addition to Walken, Lo Bianco, and Sorvino, Val Kilmer plays a Cleveland detective who has a love-hate relationship with Danny and Vinnie Jones appears as one of Danny's tough Irish cohorts.  Familiar faces such as Mike Starr (ED WOOD) and THE SOPRANOS' Steve Schirripa are on hand as well.

The female side of the cast is strong, with Linda Cardellini as Danny's long-suffering wife Joan, Laura Ramsey as his hot young girlfriend Ellie, and the venerable Fionnula Flanagan as a tough old Irishwoman who embodies Danny's Celtic roots and helps bring out his more human side.  Robert Davi (LICENSE TO KILL) plays the cold-blooded hitman hired to kill the Irishman once and for all.  FULL METAL JACKET's Vincent D'Onofrio is great as John Nardi, an Italian mob boss who partners with Danny after being screwed over by the Mafia.

While KILL THE IRISHMAN doesn't revel in violence, things get rough at times and some of the killings are pretty graphic.  The serial bombings that plagued Cleveland in the 70s are excitingly portrayed here--guys on both sides took their lives in their hands every time they started their cars as, in the words of a real-life news report, "the heirarchy of organized crime in Cleveland continues to violently realign."  The attempts on Danny's life keep things hopping in the second half, especially when a bundle of lit dynamite crashes through the window of his house while he's on the phone, building suspense until the film's inevitable conclusion. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  In addition to a trailer, the disc features an hour-long documentary, "Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman", which I found fascinating after viewing the fictionalized account.  Some of the images are quite graphic--car bombings tend to make for messy autopsy photographs.

More than just a succession of violent and depraved setpieces, KILL THE IRISHMAN is involving because its lead character is such a dynamic and complicated figure with enough humanity to make him sympathetic.  Danny Greene must've been a real force of nature, something that this solid film version of his life makes the most of.

Buy it at

New "Poirot" and "Miss Marple" Mysteries From Acorn Media

AGATHA CHRISTIE’S POIROT: The Movie Collection, Set 6

PBS’s most-watched Masterpiece Mystery! series returns in three all-new mysteries;

DVD/Blu-ray debuts coincide with mysteries’ broadcast premiere

Debuts on DVD and Blu-ray July 12, 2011; Starring fan-favorite David Suchet

Silver Spring, MD — Featuring three all-new, star-studded movies starring David Suchet, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Movie Collection, Set 6 debuts on DVD and Blu-ray from Acorn Media on July 12, 2011. The DVD release includes all three lavishly produced mysteries premiering on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! on June 19, June 26, and July 3. ITV Studios’ Poirot has aired on ITV1 in the U.K. since 1989 and on PBS and A&E in the U.S. BAFTA nominee David Suchet returns as Hercule Poirot—Agatha Christie’s elegant Belgian sleuth of unsurpassed deductive powers and peerless viewer appeal— in three baffling new cases based on her classic novels ($49.99/$59.99,

Guest stars include Zoë Wanamaker (My Family), Martin Shaw, (George Gently), Jane Asher (Death at a Funeral, Alfie), Timothy West (Edward the King), Kimberley Nixon (Cranford), Kate Ashfield (Shaun of the Dead), Art Malik (The Jewel in the Crown), and Anna Massey (The Importance of Being Earnest).

THREE ACT TRAGEDY—After guests at successive dinner parties mysteriously drop dead, Poirot teams up with an old friend, retired stage star Sir Charles Cartwright (Martin Shaw), to ferret out the killer. Guest stars include Jane Asher, Art Malik, and Kimberley Nixon.

THE CLOCKS—As Britain readies for war, Poirot journeys to Dover to help the son of an old friend solve a case involving an unidentified corpse and four mysterious timepieces, all stopped at precisely the same time. Anna Massey guest stars.

HALLOWE’EN PARTY—Crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) calls Poirot in to investigate the macabre murder of a young girl at a children’s costume party who claimed to have witnessed a killing. Also stars Sophie Thompson, Deborah Findlay, and Amelia Bullmore.

Street Date: July 12, 2011 - 3 mysteries – Approx. 267 min. – SDH subtitles

DVD 3-Vol. Boxed Set (SRP: $49.99) / Blu-ray 3 Vol. Boxed Set (SRP: $59.99)

Acorn Media has released thirty-six episodes from the classic Poirot series in The Classic Collection, Sets 1-4 (episodes from 1989-1993), and 14 feature-length movies in The Movie Collection, Sets 1-5 (1990-1996, 2009-2010). The DVD 3-volume boxed sets are $49.99 ( Additionally, the recent adaptation of The Murder on the Orient Express was released on Blu-ray in October 2010.


On DVD June 21, 2011

Julia McKenzie returns as Miss Marple in a new, star-studded adaptation;

DVD debut coincides with the mystery’s broadcast on PBS Masterpiece Mystery!

Includes bonus disc with full-length, earlier adaptation co-starring Jean Marsh

“The quintessential Agatha Christie murder mystery”—The Times
“Good fun” —The Mirror

Silver Spring, Md —Agatha Christie’s much-loved heroine is back on the case in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse, debuting on DVD from Acorn Media on June 21, 2011. Premiering on PBS Masterpiece Mystery! on July 10th, ITV Studios’ new adaptation finds Julia McKenzie (Cranford) as the beloved spinster sleuth, taking on a spooky murder case at an inn run by three modern-day witches. Based on Christie’s 1961 novel, The Pale Horse also stars Oscar® nominee Pauline Collins (Shirley Valentine, Upstairs, Downstairs), Sarah Alexander (Coupling), JJ Feild (Northanger Abbey), and Bill Paterson (Traffik). Rich with authentic period atmosphere and pitch-perfect performances, the DVD 2-Disc set includes a bonus disc with a 1996 adaptation of the novel without Miss Marple ($29.99,

BLU-RAY AVAILABLE: June 21st also marks the first Blu-ray Marple with the release of Marple: Complete Series 5 with four mysteries including The Pale Horse (4-vol. boxed set, $69.99).

Miss Marple (Julia McKenzie) receives a mysterious list of names from her friend Father Gorman, who sent it moments before he was brutally murdered on a London street. She soon discovers that people on the list are dying. A clue leads her to the Pale Horse Inn in Hampshire, a spooky establishment run by three modern-day witches. As she closes in on the truth, one of the guests is found dead in his bed, and Miss Marple learns that her own life may be in danger.

BONUS DISC: The Pale Horse (101 min.), a 1996 adaptation of the classic mystery starring Colin Buchanan (Dalziel & Pascoe), Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs), and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings)

Street Date: June 21, 2011                           SRP: $29.99

DVD 2-Disc Set:  Approx. 89 min., plus 110 min. bonus - British mystery - SDH subtitles (main program)

Acorn Media previously released Agatha Christie’s Marple: Series 1-5 as DVD 4-Vol. Boxed Sets ($59.99). The Pale Horse is part of Series 5; however Acorn Media couldn’t release it until near its U.S. broadcast.


Agatha Christie’s beloved spinster sleuth on Blu-ray for the first time; Includes two full-length bonus programs

“Delightful to watch” –Los Angeles Times

Silver Spring, MD — Featuring four beloved feature-length mysteries, Agatha Christie’s Marple: Complete Series 5 debuts on Blu-ray from Acorn Media on June 21, 2011. Julia McKenzie (Cranford, Notes on a Scandal) dons Miss Marple’s trademark tweeds with wit and flair in these lavishly produced adaptations. Each story is shot in gorgeous high definition against the backdrop of grand English estates and post-WWII period detail. The episodes in Series 5 aired on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery! in summer 2010 and 2011. The Blu-ray 4-volume boxed set also includes two full-length bonus programs: an extremely interesting documentary hosted by Pam Farris (Rosemary & Thyme) about Christie’s personal retreat, and a 1996 adaptation of The Pale Horse without Miss Marple ($69.99,

The lavish productions feature stellar supporting casts including Joanna Lumley (Absolutely Fabulous), Lindsay Duncan (Rome), Hugh Bonnevile (Iris), Toby Stephens (Jane Eyre, Wired, NBC’s upcoming Prime Suspect remake), Caroline Quentin (Blue Murder), Edward Fox (Oliver Twist),  and Caroline Catz (Doc Martin).

Eyes sparkling and tweeds impeccable, Julia McKenzie returns as Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth in four new mysteries set in 1950s England. Murder is afoot, and Miss Marple is up to the task of determining whodunit. She may look like a pensioner, but she doesn’t miss a clue on the way to solving heinous crimes, whether the weapon is a gun, a cocktail, or the color blue.


The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side; The Secret of Chimneys; The Blue Geranium; and The Pale Horse

BONUS PROGRAMS: Agatha Christie’s Garden (66 min.): A revealing documentary about Agatha Christie’s personal retreat hosted by Pam Ferris (Rosemary & Thyme), and a 1996 adaptation of The Pale Horse (101 min.) starring Colin Buchanan (Dalziel and Pascoe), Jean Marsh (Upstairs, Downstairs), and Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings).

Street Date: June 21, 2011               SRP: $69.99

Blu-ray 4-Vol. Boxed Set: 4 episodes - Approx. 351 min., plus 167 min. bonus - British mystery - SDH subtitles

Acorn Media previously released Series 1-3 starring Geraldine McEwan, and Series 4-5 starring Julia McKenzie on DVD. The first three episodes of Series 5 aired in summer 2010. Since Acorn Media couldn’t release The Pale Horse until around its U.S. broadcast, it is also being released on June 21st in a separate DVD 2-volume disc set.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"The Red Green Show: The Midlife Crisis Years" On DVD May 31


On DVD May 31, 2011
Seasons 10-12 of Hit PBS Comedy in Value-Priced Collection; includes DVD Debut of 2002 Season

“Rustic and rusty, north-of-the-border deadpan zaniness” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“Merry mix of slapstick, one-liners, and wacky situations” —Toronto Star
“A hip cult classic” —The Detroit Free Press
“A bona fide made-in-Canada classic with universal comic appeal” – The Globe and Mail

“If life gives you lemons, throw 'em into a quart of vodka.”
“Spare the duct tape, spoil the job.”
“When the going gets tough, switch to power tools.”

– Red Green (master of all things Canadian, manly, and duct taped)

Silver Spring, MD —From the cult classic Canadian comedy series and longstanding PBS hit comes The Red Green Show: The Midlife Crisis Years, the collected Seasons 10-12 (2000-2002) and the DVD debut of the 2002 season, arriving to DVD from Acorn Media on May 31, 2011. Hilarious handyman Red and his boys are older—but no wiser—in these three complete season of midlife mischief at Possum Lodge. Showcasing three more years of celebrated chaos and commotion at Possum Lodge, this 9-disc boxed set includes 54 episodes with Red and his crew dreaming up more of the half-baked ideas, crazy contraptions, and unintended consequences that seemed like they would never end, but did, after 15 hilarious years ($79.99,

Creator and star Steve Smith is a mastermind of north-of-the-border handyman humor with widespread appeal. Currently appearing at venues throughout the U.S., Smith’s multi-year tour continues to sell out.  Akin to Home Improvement, which also debuted in 1991, The Red Green Show amassed a devout fan base during the show’s 15-year run for Red Green and his Possum Lodge friends’ adventurous antics, off-kilter advice, preposterous inventions and power tool artillery. Ending in April 2006 with exactly 300 episodes that still run in syndication, the Canadian comedy institution has spawned a feature film, specials, books, and a cult-like following.

These 54 episodes feature series regulars Ranger Gord, Bill Smith, Hap Shaughnessy, and, of course, Red’s beleaguered but beloved nephew, Harold.  The collection finds Red and the gang cruising into middle age—in a van held together by duct tape and twine—and all sorts of mischief.  For more laughs than you can shake a hockey stick at, join these hopeless handymen for three more years of doing what men do when women aren’t around—and some things that are even worse.

The 2002 Season is also available on May 31st as an individual season set (DVD 3-Disc Set, $39.99). Acorn Media previously released the 1997-2001 individual season DVD collections, The Red Green Show: The Infantile Years (Seasons 1991-93), The Red Green Show: The Toddlin’ Years (Seasons 1994–96), The Red Green Show: The Delinquent Years (Seasons 1997-99), as well as several specials.

Street: May 31, 2011                                        
SRP: $79.99

DVD 9-Disc Boxed Set: 54 episodes - Approx. 21 hours - Closed Captioned

EXTRA JUNK: Introduction by star and creator Steve Smith, character profiles, and production notes

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On Blu-ray and DVD July 19th
With Theatrical and Unrated Extended Cut, an Alternate Ending and More

Los Angeles (May 23, 2011) – An intense and gripping adrenaline rush, LIMITLESS, arrives to Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on July 19th with both the theatrical version and an unrated extended cut of the film, an alternate ending, deleted scenes and much more. LIMITLESS features an all-star cast including: Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, The A-Team), Abbie Cornish (Sucker Punch, Bright Star), and Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver).

Bradley Cooper (The A-Team) and two-time Academy-Award® winner Robert De Niro, star in this provocative and action packed-thriller with unlimited surprising twists. Eddie Morra (Cooper), a burnt-out writer, discovers a top-secret pill that unlocks 100% of his brain’s capacity. He instantly acquires mind-bending talents and mesmerizing visions that bring him big money, beautiful women and limitless success. But his dream life soon becomes a waking nightmare, as the drug’s brutal side effects take their toll and Eddie finds himself entangled with a cunning Wall Street power broker (De Niro) who wants everything Eddie has…and more.

LIMITLESS is available on Blu-ray and DVD on July 19th. Pre-book is June 15th. The film was theatrically-released by Relativity Media.

--A Man Without Limits
--Taking it to the Limit: The Making of LIMITLESS
--Alternate Ending
--Unrated Extended Cut

LIMITLESS Blu-ray Disc Features:
All of the DVD features, plus
--Digital Copy “How to”
--Digital Copy

About Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

LIMITLESS Blu-Ray: (Catalog # 2275985 U.S.)
Street Date: July 19, 2011
Pre-book Date:  June 15, 2011
Screen Format: 16:9
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD-MA
 French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, Spanish
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Total Run Time: 4:15:25
Closed Captioned: Yes

LIMITLESS DVD: (Catalog # 2275938 U.S.)
Street Date: July 19, 2011
Pre-book Date:  June 15, 2011
Screen Format: 16:9
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital
 French 2.0 Surround DD
Subtitles: English, Spanish
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Total Run Time: 1:54:40
Closed Captioned: Yes

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"SINEATERS" Wraps Principal Photography

Cthulhu Blues Productions (based in Arkansas) and Crow-Nan Productions (based in New York) have wrapped principle photography on their latest feature film collaboration SINEATERS, a dark action story of violence and redemption. Principle photography occurred in the city of Conway, Arkansas. Sean-Michael Argo directed this Bekah Kelso script, with cinematography by Leo Smith. Post-production is presently underway.

Sineaters is the story of a lone drifter who has come to the end of a violent and bloody journey. He has the power to consume the sins of evil-doers, and the power to heal with his hands, part faith healer and part gun slinger. He loses the spiritual struggle with the Grim, a manifestation of all the evil he has removed from the world, and is turned against his sineater comrades by the cult known as the Vessels of Wrath. Working with a twisted preacher, Brother Aaron, and a darkly alluring woman who seems to guide the preacher's every decision, the sineater hunts down his friends one by one, as the battle for his soul rages on.

The film stars Tim O'Hearn as the lone drifter, with strong support from horror notables Debbie Rochon and Melantha Blackthorne, in addition to a breakout performance from newcomer C.Jason Bolton, who also starred this year in Sean-Michael Argo's mythpunk action film 'Ember Days'. Additional performances from Bekah Kelso, Caleb Shaner, and Kyle Fulbright.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

IF EVER I SEE YOU AGAIN -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared six years ago at  In light of recent events, we're reposting here today.)

Joe Brooks has written some of the most successful and well-known commercial jingles of all time, including "You've got a lot to live, and Pepsi's got a lot to give" and many more that have probably been forever lodged in your memory over the years. At one point back in the 70s, he decided to try his hand as a songwriter-slash-Hollywood film auteur as well, resulting in the wildly successful YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE (both the song and the movie were huge hits).

Joe wrote, scored, produced, and directed the film, and actually won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. With this remarkable debut under his belt, Joe set his sights even higher -- for his next trick, he would not only perform all the duties he had on his first film, but would star in it as well. And that, bad movie fans, is how IF EVER I SEE YOU AGAIN (1978) came to be.

This movie has to be seen to be believed. It fails miserably on every level. Fortunately, since Joe Brooks handled the production, direction, writing, music, and lead acting role himself, there are fewer people to blame for it.

As a romantic lead, he has about as much appeal as a potted plant. His leading lady, Shelley Hack, acts as though she were posing for the picture on front of a box of All Bran. The supporting players include, for some reason, authors Jimmy Breslin and George Plimpton, about whose acting the best thing that can be said is that they are good authors. It's pretty bad when the most professional acting performance in a movie is delivered by a little girl (Danielle Brisebois).

Joe plays a jingle writer named "Bob Morrison" who dreams of being a serious musician, even though all of his "serious" songs still sound like extended commercial jingles, and the classical piece he composes to show off his true talent later in the film would be better suited for a group of musical saw players than an actual orchestra. Watching his dramatic gestures as he conducts this ear-splitting opus in the recording studio, as the dazzled Shelley Hack grins at him like a stuffed loon, is one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes ever filmed.

If this movie is indeed as autobiographical as we suspect it is, then this scene must be the realization of one of Joe Brooks' fondest fantasies -- having the girl of his dreams gaze at him with naked, worshipful awe as he lurches about among the musicians, grandly flailing his arms as if to literally mold the wafting notes into an aural work of art. Unfortunately, this piece of music is so badly arranged that it could make even the London Symphony Orchestra sound like a high school band at a pep rally.

And then, of course, there's the romance. When "Bob Morrison" makes the trip from New York to L.A. to pursue his musical ambitions, he also decides to look up his old college girlfriend (Shelley Hack's "Jennifer Corly") for whom he still carries a torch. When they are reunited, their scenes together generate all the excitement of sitting in a dentist's waiting room with nothing to read but a year-old copy of "Field And Stream." Shelley Hack, who proved later on to be a pretty good actress in certain roles, seems here to be hovering in and out of a coma. But it would be difficult even for a great actress to pretend that she was falling back in love with Joe Brooks' incredibly bland character, especially with the brain-numbing dialogue she must recite.

Music-wise, Joe was obviously hoping for another big chart-topper like "You Light Up My Life", but its inexplicable success was not to be matched by the cringe-inducing dirge that is this film's theme song. I don't know who performed it, but he doesn't sing it as much as he suffers through it. He seems to be battling his way through a particularly intense bout of constipation as he strains to expel the stomach-churning lyrics, though I doubt if even Debby Boone could've made this song any more tolerable.

The same singer also gets to croak the other big tune in the movie, "California", which is Joe's musical tribute to the state of the same name, but after hearing it you might get the impression that California is the most horrible place on Earth. A more upbeat version performed by a group of singers accompanies a scene of Joe traveling by plane, and sure enough, it looks and sounds just like an airline commercial. We see the plane banking off over the sunlit clouds as the song informs us: "Caaa-lifornia! Wherever you may roam! caaaa-lling you hoooome!" You almost expect to see the TWA logo pop onto the screen.

When I saw this movie on HBO several years ago, I just had to have it. I still watch my old tape every so often just to gape in wide-eyed amazement at how truly awful a movie can be. As a bad-movie lover, I hold this perversely-entertaining cinematic messterpiece in high esteem -- it's the PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE of romantic movies. Still, you gotta hand it to Joe Brooks -- he decided he wanted to make movies in the worst way, and he sure enough went out and done it.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

THE COMPANY MEN -- DVD review by porfle

If you've ever been laid off from your $130,000-a-year job and had to sell your Porsche just to pay your golf club dues, you'll really identify with Ben Affleck's character in THE COMPANY MEN (2010).  If, however, you don't quite fall within that particular poverty bracket, then this film serves as a mildly entertaining look at how the other half fails.

Hot-shot young exec Bobby Walker (Affleck) gets pink-slipped along with hundreds of other chumps when his high-profile company GTX downsizes in order to make greedy CEO James Salinger (old fave Craig T. Nelson, POLTERGEIST) even richer.  Trouble is, Bobby's having trouble gearing down his extravagant lifestyle (big house, sports car, etc.) even though it's suddenly sucking him dry of every last precious cent. 

His loyal wife Maggie (Rosemarie DeWitt) and sensitive son Drew try to help him learn to be more frugal while he searches fruitlessly for another job, but Bobby's pride is at stake.  It's actually a bit hard to feel sorry for him since he's such a dope, an aspect of the character which Affleck plays very well.  (Okay, that was a cheap shot.)

Also kicked off the gravy train is 30-year company vet Phil, whom we do feel sorry for because Chris Cooper is just so darn good, and because it's even harder for him to find another job because of his age (in a deleted scene that recalls Albert Brooks' LOST IN AMERICA, he's reduced to applying as a pizza delivery man).  Cooper's fun to watch and THE COMPANY MEN is most effective when his character is onscreen being heartrendingly pathetic.

Rounding out this roster of rejects is Tommy Lee Jones as Gene McClary, Salinger's long-time partner, whose main failing is that he has a heart.  Yearning for the old days when employees were treated with respect, Gene's vocal opposition to rampant downsizing gets him into hot water with the big cheese and finally lands him on the street as well.  Jones brings his usual hang-dog style to the role and is even more laidback here than in the MEN IN BLACK flicks.  MILF-tastic Maria Bello plays GTX's hatchet woman who is also having an affair with Gene, which places his sense of values in even further conflict. 

The story, which ambles along in a rather dry style that rarely hits any really interesting peaks, is a steady succession of "fail" for its main characters as their once-lofty station in life sinks into a morass of chronic unemployment and reality-check job interviews.  Bobby's desperation finally leads him to accept a job helping his blue-collar brother-in-law Jack (a laconic Kevin Coster) install drywall, giving me a chance to identify with him for once as he gets his first taste of manual labor.  Wait, did I say "identify with"?  I meant "laugh at."

From glancing at the trailer, I got the impression that these guys were going to start their own upstart company and take on the big boys at their own game, but nothing this upbeat or fanciful occurs.  Which, to writer-director John Wells' credit, makes for a more realistic story. Nevertheless, it isn't a lot of fun to watch unless you enjoy seeing some once-successful shlubs scraping bottom.

The DVD from Anchor Bay and the Weinstein Company is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.  Subtitles are in English and Spanish.  Extras include a director's commentary, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, and the featurette "Making 'The Company Men.'"

Affleck is well-cast as a shallow jerk who must learn that there's no shame in not being a gold-plated success.  Cooper, as the film's most hopeless casualty, and DeWitt, as Bobby's wise, supportive wife, give the story most of its heart.  Jones, with his comfortable-old-shoe persona, gives us hope that not every corporate executive is a misanthropic creep.  THE COMPANY MEN offers us a dispiriting (save for a final dash of optimism), intermittently interesting, but rarely all that involving look at some guys who get knocked off their perch and tumble downhill reaching for something to grab onto, lest they end up way down here with the rest of us. 

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TO -- DVD review by porfle

Japanese director Fumihiko Sori (APPLESEED, VEXILLE) brings two futuristic tales from Yukinobu Hoshino’s "2001 Nights" manga to vivid life in TO (2011), giving us sci-fi and anime fans enough brain candy to gorge ourselves on.

Impeccably rendered spaceships and settings serve as a backdrop for the CG motion-capture characters.  Neither too cartoony nor too realistic (and deftly avoiding the dreaded "uncanny valley" effect) this cross between 2D and 3D character animation blends the best elements of both to create what Sori calls "3D live anime, Japanese-style full CG animation with the feeling of cel images."  The result is a strongly appealing hyper-anime aesthetic with the subtle facial nuances and body language of live actors.

"Elliptical Orbit" opens with the enormous space station Midnight Bazooka, which propels containers of supplies toward a moonbase via a long firing chamber, doing a slow fly-by right out of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and STAR WARS as it orbits Earth.  Captain Dan and his crew are visited by the starship Flying Dutchman on its return from a 15-year mission to bring a cargo of liquid protons from a faraway mining planet.  The ship's captain, Maria, has remained her young, beautiful self during periods of extended hypersleep while Dan has aged, yet their deep emotional bond clearly remains strong.

As they catch up on old times, the Bazooka is invaded by a force of armor-suited terrorists bent on firing the Dutchman's cargo of liquid protons at the distant moonbase and destroying it.  Dan, Maria, and their respective crewmembers join to fight the invaders in a fierce space battle that takes a heavy toll on the outnumbered and outgunned good guys.  While the spectacular SPFX and dazzling sci-fi trappings are consistently impressive, equal attention is given to the thoughtful and adult-oriented human story, ultimately revealing an added dimension to Dan and Maria's relationship that is hauntingly resonant.

The second story, "Symbiotic Planet", is a Romeo and Juliet tale of two lovers from different bases on the same alien world.  Ion, a member of the American-European outpost, and his sweetheart Alena of the Eurasian contingent, meet secretly every night until forbidden to do so by their superiors.  The opposing camps are at such a hostile impasse over territorial rights that even a visiting UN delegation fails to avert impending military conflict between the two.

As hostilities reach their peak, Ion is exposed to alien spores in the research lab and must seal himself in as his body begins to change.  Eventually the entire compound is infected by the unknown organism, disabling its occupants as enemy fighters arrive bearing missiles of destruction.  Their only hope for survival is a strangely transformed Ion, whose pacifism may prevent him from pressing the button which activates the base's lethal defense system.  Beautiful visuals and gripping suspense highlight this sensitive cautionary tale.

Both stories are a pleasing blend of action and emotionally compelling character interplay.  "Elliptical Orbit" delivers more in the way of nuts and bolts sci-fi and shoot-'em-up space opera along with its moving story, while the more esoteric "Symbiotic Planet" explores the contrast between an ethereally peaceful planet and the inherently warlike humans who infect it with the same hatred that has ravaged their own homeworld.

The 3-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Funimation is in 1.78:1 widescreen with English (dubbed) and Japanese Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  Subtitles are in English.  Each episode (combined running time: approx. 86 minutes) comes with an interview with Sori and his main voice actors, promos, trailers, teasers, and TV spots. 

Sharply written and "performed" by wonderfully lifelike CG characters, and set in a virtual world that's a constant pleasure to behold, TO is superb sci-fi that is both thought-provoking and visually dazzling.  If "2001 Nights" contains more stories of this caliber, I can only hope that Fumihiko Sori will continue to tell them.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL -- movie review by porfle

If you ever got off to playing war with army men and action figures, JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL (2010) may send you right into a geeky swoon. If not, you'll either enjoy this loud, manic, corny spoof of British WWII flicks and boys' adventure stories, or wonder just what the hell you're looking at and why.

The film opens with some spectacular aerial action during the Battle of Britain.  This gives us an idea of how well co-directors Edward and Rory McHenry can stage action using puppets and some exquisitely crafted models and settings--you might swear some of it is done with stop-motion animation.  It also lets us know that the McHenrys are going to have a field day comically indulging in all the hoariest WWII cliches and caricatures they can muster.  "Rotters!  You filthy rotters!" cries one pilot as his buddy is shot down.

Things look bleak for England as the Nazis begin burrowing under the English Channel in order to strike at the heart of London.  Meanwhile, burly farm boy Chris (voiced by Ewan McGregor), who was denied admission to the military because his hands are too big, dreams of going into battle as he works the farm with his dad.

When the Nazis arrive in London and conquer the city, Chris musters the local townspeople to defend the homefront but is forced to flee to Scotland along with Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall repeating the role he played in THE KING'S SPEECH).  There, the ragtag group of Brits take cover behind Hadrian's Wall and prepare to fend off the advancing hordes. 

Very little of this is actually funny, but it's so raucous and audaciously executed that I found it rather fascinating to watch.  The battle sequences are particularly impressive, with tanks blowing the crap out of 10 Downing Street and other London landmarks while the Hindenberg looms menacingly overhead.  There's just as much violence as in a live-action war flick, with puppets machine-gunning each other and engaging in bloody hand-to-hand combat. 

Characters include many of the old stand-bys--the hero's beautiful heartthrob, Daisy (DIE ANOTHER DAY'S Rosamund Pike), the fiesty Vicar (Richard E. Grant), homely-but-stalwart Rutty, who leads the women's volunteer force (Pam Ferris), the rip-snortin' American flyboy Billy (Dominic West), and various other familiar character types.  Some of the voice talent perform several different roles.

The acting, as you might guess, is a little stiff.  Still, the figures are fairly well manipulated to suggest motion and their faces are articulate enough to simulate speech, eye-blinking, and the occasional change of expression (with a little help from CGI).  Chris sports the same placid, lantern-jawed look on his face throughout, while Daisy and the rest of the female characters are lovely but as blank as Barbie dolls.

The Nazis, on the other hand, are a flamboyant bunch.  Setting up residence in Churchill's former digs are a transvestite Hitler (Alan Cumming), bloated oaf Goering (Richard Griffiths), reptilian Himmler (Richard O'Brien), and a skeletal Goebbels (Tom Wilkinson) with a face right out of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" by way of the Addams Family.  Their scenes together are pure, lowbrow burlesque.

After Churchill and the gang go through the standard morale-boosting and mock-meaningful banter for awhile, the Third Reich shows up in full force and begins their attack.  Meanwhile, Chris has journeyed north to seek help from none other than Braveheart himself (who is modeled after, but isn't, Mel Gibson).  Some of their dialogue gives an indication of the film's wit:

"Braveheart!  We need your help...and your lethal weapons!"
"Would that be lethal weapon one, two, three, or four?"

Yes, I groaned, but the battle royale that follows is enough to make up for the corniest dialogue.  If anything, this carnage-packed melee is even more violent than the real BRAVEHEART, filled with enough graphic puppet gore to shock even G.I. Joe, plus a gaggle of gorgeous Nazi she-devils who unnaturally excited me in a Real Doll kind of way.  The climax of the battle is right out of INDEPENDENCE DAY, although I was absolutely aghast that the filmmakers failed to come through with the most obvious and keenly-anticipated Hindenberg gag you could imagine.

I watched a screener so I can't comment on bonus features, but the following are listed as DVD extras: behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the creators, "Bad Day to be a Nazi", "Hitler's Rat Pack", "The Nazi Hotties", "Explosions", "Voiceovers", and a trailer. 

If you're not really buying any of this puppet stuff, then much if not all of JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL will likely seem draggy, pointless, even utterly ridiculous.  But I liked it.  With its fine artistic detail, creative camerawork, amusingly stupid humor, and nostalgic yet irreverent attitude, it's one puppet show that pretty much deserves to be billed above Spinal Tap.

Buy it at

Friday, May 20, 2011

BLACK DEATH -- DVD review by porfle

One of the most frightening periods ever--medieval Europe's Black Plague--is given a workout in BLACK DEATH (2010), a dark tale of the Dark Ages with plenty of oppressive atmosphere and grimy period detail.

With half of Europe's population dying off from what is widely perceived as a punishment from God, the church's attention is drawn to a remote village that seems untouched by the plague.  The knight Ulric (Sean Bean) and his men are dispatched by the Bishop to find out why, and to preempt any rumors of a secular salvation from the pestilence.  On their way, they pick up a young monk named Osmund (Eddie Redmayne) who knows the way and was already planning to flee the monastery in order to meet up with his childhood love Averill (Kimberly Nixon).

Early on, we see horrors that are the grim flipside of similar scenes done for laughs in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, as people "bring out their dead" to be carted away and a suspected witch is lashed to a stake to be burned by a frenzied mob.  Then we follow Ulric's group as they trudge downriver to the mysterious village, encountering some self-flagellating, cross-bearing refugees and a band of forest outlaws who engage them in a grungy, gory battle to the death.  Director Christopher Smith gets the look and feel of this stuff just right, as everything we see seems to have a veneer of filth and despair.

Osmund finds himself amongst a group of Christian soldiers who are hardened by killing.  Some of them, like Ulric and his stalwart lieutenant Wolfstan (John Lynch), suffer deep moral conflicts that mirror Osmund's own spiritual uncertainty.  Knowing that these guys are about to go up against an unknown evil that will test their wavering faith in God doesn't bode well for the outcome. 

Reaching the village, they discover it to be a seemingly idyllic plague-free zone presided over by a beautiful blonde woman named Langiva (Carice van Houten) and a large, vaguely friendly man (Tim McInnerny) whose name, "Hob", should set off a warning bell or two.  This is when the suspenseful slow burn of this leisurely-paced film starts to pay off, as the horrible secret of the village is revealed and our heroes face agonizing death. 

Ulric and the rest are severely tested as they are given the choice to deny God or die.  This begins a harrowing sequence which involves a number of nasty demises including hanging and being pulled apart by horses.  The most wrenching decision is faced by Osmund when his love for Averill is used against him in diabolical fashion, setting the stage for a downbeat ending that won't exactly have viewers whistling a happy tune during the closing credits.

Director Smith renders all this in an earthy, matter-of-fact style with lots of handheld camera and very little flash.  The cast play their roles with conviction, with Sean Bean his usual lovable self and Eddie Redmayne doing a good job portraying a young monk in the middle of a spiritual crisis he's hardly ready to endure.  As Langiva, Carice van Houten embodies the silkily seductive evil that holds the village in its grip.  Old fave David Warner shows up in a few brief scenes as the abbott of Osmund's monastery. 

The DVD from Magnolia's Magnet label is in 2.40:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and Spanish subtitles.  A "making of" featurette and cast and crew interviews consist mainly of everyone gushing about how wonderful everyone else is.  Also included are some deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, an HDNet short, a trailer, and an authorization code for obtaining a digital copy of the film.

While I didn't find BLACK DEATH particularly stunning or emotionally effecting, it is a worthy and well-made Gothic horror tale that kept me involved right up to the bleak ending.  Best of all, it gives Sean Bean a chance to be Sean Bean, and that alone makes it worth checking out.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

THE BIG BANG -- DVD review by porfle

A movie that definitely gets better as it goes along, THE BIG BANG (2011) starts out like a shallow film noir imitation and ends up pretty much living up to its title, especially after the science-fiction elements kick in.

Antonio Banderas is private eye Ned Cruz, a world-weary denizen of L.A.'s sleazy underbelly who doesn't especially like his job.  One night a human gorilla named Anton (Robert Maillet) enters Ned's office and hires him to find a stripper named Lexie Persimmon.  Anton's been exchanging torrid love letters with Lexie while serving a life sentence for murder, and now that he inexplicably finds himself a free man, he's determined to hook up with his dream girl.  But what seems like a routine missing person case leads Ned into a tangled web of murder, deceit, and nuclear physics.

The look of THE BIG BANG is an uneasy combination of real settings and SIN CITY-style green screen.  This gives much of the film an artificial veneer that detracts from the grittiness and sometimes resembles a chic modeling shoot lit with various shades of neon.  Director Tony Krantz also uses Dutch angles in roughly every other shot, which, along with the candy-coated visuals, gives it even more of an unreal comic-book look.  Cruz's road trip through the desert to New Mexico, where Lexie Persimmon's trail seems to lead, is an eye-pleasing sequence which features one of those classic Burma Shave advertisements as a nice retro touch.

Once we arrive in New Mexico and meet Sam Elliott's character, former surf bum turned billionaire Simon Kestral, the plot takes a more fanciful turn that's more in line with the film's graphic-novel design.  Here, we find that Kestral is obsessed with finding the "God particle" via an immense super-collider constructed beneath his desert estate, with which he hopes to recreate the Big Bang itself. 

The less "fantastical" interrogation room scenes, which frame the flashbacks with Cruz's standard noir-style voiceover, are some of the best.  You really can't go too wrong putting Banderas in a room with the likes of Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, and Delroy Lindo playing hardnosed cops, and giving them plenty of tough-guy dialogue to chew on as Cruz is mercilessly grilled for information.  Fichtner especially enjoys his role as the violent Poley, who hates Cruz with a passion.  Cruz, meanwhile, bides his time and waits for an opening, keeping his story interesting enough to string the crooked cops along while he figures out what they're really up to.

Banderas is solid as Cruz, not too broad or too subtle, and his modern-day private eye has all the prerequisite wary cynicism and cool of his classic counterparts.  Many of his offhand jokes are groan-worthy, but his constant putdowns of the volatile Poley make up for it.  Elliot is well-cast as Kestral, whose unlimited wealth enables him to make his most far-out acid fantasies a reality.

Sienna Guillory plays his gorgeous-but-neglected wife Julie and Jimmi Simpson is his flaky chief physicist Niels Geck, both of whom harbor deep secrets crucial to the case.  Autumn Reeser is appealing as perky waitress Fay Neman, a space-case whose passion for physics adds unexpected zest to her sexual encounter with Cruz.  Snoop Dogg and the venerable Bill Duke turn up along the way as a porn filmmaker and a jazz drummer, respectively.

The secret of Lexie Persimmon is revealed in a slickly-photographed suspense sequence involving Cruz, Julie, Geck, and an out-of-control Anton when the smitten gorilla bursts onto the scene looking for his soulmate.  Finally, Kestral's experiment reaches its zenith just as the business between Cruz and the three cops comes to a head, resulting in a wild CGI-laden finale that I found fairly exhilarating.  Strangely enough, the story would've worked even if the sci-fi elements had been omitted altogether, but it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a "making of" featurette, a commentary with Krantz and co-producer Reece Pearson, and some extended scenes.  The original score by Johnny Marr is very good.

If you don't get into the "neon-noir" look and feel of THE BIG BANG you'll probably never take the story seriously enough to care about any of it.  But as a light, often amusing and sometimes exciting action-fantasy with an occasional touch of the old private eye flicks, it definitely has its moments.

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