HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Sunday, July 31, 2011


When not treading the boards spouting Shakespeare or playing Middle Eastern terrorists as he did in 1996's EXECUTIVE DECISION, David Suchet spends much of his time portraying Agatha Christie's immortal Belgian detective Hercule Poirot on British television.  Since 1989 he has appeared in dozens of such adaptations, and we get to see three of the latest ones in the DVD collection POIROT: THE MOVIE COLLECTION SET 6.

Suchet's portly Poirot is a fussy, fastidious, and very proper little Belgian gentleman with a meticulously waxed moustache and impeccable taste.  He patiently suffers the crudeness of those around him with a pained look or a clipped remark, but as soon as his deductive skills have pinpointed a killer in their midst his manner becomes sharp and accusatory. 

Murder, to this obsessive-compulsive perfectionist, disrupts the proper order of things, which he must set right just as he is compelled to rearrange random objects around him in a more orderly fashion.  Suchet is a delight in the role and it's a treat to watch him inhabit Agatha Christie's classic character with such understated finesse.

"Hallowe'en Party" begins at a costume party during which a little girl boasts that she once witnessed a murder.  When she ends up drowned in the apple-bobbing tub, Hercule Poirot is summoned to discern which of the party guests is a killer covering up a past crime.  Delving into the village's recent unsolved murders, he finds there are three to choose from.  This one is spooky fun with some pitch-black humor--a shot of the bee-costumed victim dunked in the tub includes a closeup of her dripping antennae dangling over the side--and a wealth of suspects, motives, and eccentric characters.  Zoë Wanamaker guest-stars as Poirot's friend, pulp mystery writer Ariadne Oliver, in a screenplay by Mark Gatiss ("Sherlock").

In "The Clocks", Jaime Winstone plays Sheila Webb, a temp secretary who arrives at the address to which she's been summoned only to stumble over a dead body and become a murder suspect.  Although this occurs at three o'clock, there are four clocks in the room which all read 4:13 for some unknown reason.  When Poirot is asked to look into the matter by young MI6 agent Lt. Colin Race (Tom Burke), who has taken an interest in Miss Webb, he finds that the murder is linked to the theft of secret government documents that may aid Hitler in his upcoming invasion of England.  But settling that case leaves yet another equally perplexing one still unsolved.

As usual, Poirot's interrogation of various witnesses and suspects uncovers even more questions.  Yet he calmly collects and processes the information until it's time for him to sit down and think it all through.  The more convoluted the plot, the more fun it is to watch Poirot methodically sort it all out, often chiding himself for not seeing the solution sooner.  His odd methods are often rebuffed at first by the local constabulary, who end up humbly seeking his help after their feeble efforts reach a dead end.

Each case reaches its climax with the formal revelation scene, with all suspects present and Poirot theatrically explaining his cogitations of the facts in the case which point him to the guilty party.  This, of course, is one of the hoariest murder-mystery cliches ever, but when done right it can be exquisite fun.  And the more tangled the mystery, the more pleasure we get from Poirot neatly sorting it all out in the end.

"Three Act Tragedy" ends, literally, on a theater stage with Poirot presiding over the indictment of a murderer who has poisoned three people at three different social gatherings, all with the same cast of characters.  Martin Shaw ("George Gently") is Poirot's actor friend Sir Charles Cartwright, who plays a detective onstage and fancies himself one in real life as he joins Poirot in his investigation.  Art Malik and Jane Asher also guest in this intriguing mystery.

There's a deliberately old-fashioned air to these pre-WWII tales that gives them a feeling of authenticity.  A bit dry at times, each of the three feature-length stories is finely-rendered and atmospheric, with rich period detail and the look of faded old color photographs or picture postcards.  Clever directorial touches help keep the exposition-heavy scenes interesting as the plots slowly unfold.
The three-disc boxed set from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound and English subtitles.  Each disc comes in its own slimline case.  There are no extras.

Viewers unaccustomed to such slow-paced fare may find themselves growing restless during Poirot's painstaking investigations.  But if you're willing to settle in and immerse yourself in these lush, absorbing murder mysteries, you should find POIROT: THE MOVIE COLLECTION SET 6 to be quite rewarding.

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Other "Poirot" DVD reviews from HK and Cult Film News:


WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY -- movie review by porfle

WRISTCUTTERS (2006) is quirky as hell but doesn't make a big deal about it, and it's this deadpan, matter-of-fact attitude that makes it so irresistible.  Wonderful characters, situations, and bits of business just keep emerging from this low-key comedy as it unwinds. 

As the story begins, Zia (Patrick Fugit, ALMOST FAMOUS, DEAD BIRDS) is slitting his wrists over a girl named Desiree (Leslie Bibb).  The next time we see him he's working in a crappy pizza place called Kamikazee's and sharing a dingy apartment with a foul-tempered Austrian guy.  It turns out that people who commit suicide end up in a world just like this one, except it's even worse.  Everything's falling apart, most of the people are listless and depressed (no surprise there), and it's physically impossible for anyone to smile.  Furthermore, everyone still retains the bodily damage resulting from their chosen methods of suicide. 

When Zia discovers that Desiree also "offed" (the local term for killing oneself) shortly after he did, he sets out to find her along with his new friend Eugene (Shea Whigham, FIRST SNOW, LORDS OF DOGTOWN). Eugene's a Russian guy who lives with his family, who all committed suicide at different times.  Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon, A KNIGHT'S TALE), who is searching for the people in charge because she believes she's there by mistake due to an unintentional drug overdose.

For awhile, WRISTCUTTERS is a fun road picture with the three of them traveling through the hot, desolate landscape in Eugene's crummy little car.  When they break down, there's a nice scene in a roadside garage where Mark Boone, Jr. (MEMENTO, SE7EN) plays a psychic auto mechanic who diagnoses their trouble by laying hands upon the car.  At one point Zia drops something under the passenger seat and finds that there's a black hole under it, which sucks in all the cassette tapes, sunglasses, and other items that he's continuously fumbling to Eugene's irritation.

Later Mikal almost gets arrested for vandalism--she has a tendency to deface signs that she disagrees with, such as scrawling "unless you want to" under a "No Smoking" sign--until Zia talks the cop out of it.  In this world, the cops all look like bums, restaurants are rundown shacks with the word "FOOD" crudely painted over the door, and there's junk scattered everywhere.  It's an interesting, well-realized environment, and it makes us wonder what the next level of existence must look like to anyone driven to off themselves on this one.

Eventually they encounter a strange man named Kneller (Tom Waits), who presides over a shantytown by the tracks.  Kneller takes in all the aimless wanderers who pass by and offers them a chance to live together in relative happiness (Etger Keret's short story upon which the screenplay is based is entitled "Kneller's Happy Campers").  But just as Zia and Mikal begin to settle in and develop romantic feelings for each other, they discover the presence of a nearby cult led by a would-be messiah (Will Arnett) who promises his fervent followers deliverance from their purgatory.  And his devoted consort is none other than Zia's ex-girlfriend, Desiree.

In a bold move, director Goran Dukic actually keeps his camera still and allows things to happen in front of it without instructing his cinematographer to hop around like his pants were on fire.  Hopefully this revolutionary technique will catch on.  The washed-out hues convey the dreary atmosphere of the present while flashbacks of the real world, where we get to see how various characters happened to snuff themselves, are shot in vivid color. 

The very likable leads compliment the dry tone of the script by giving restrained, semi-realistic performances and not trying to funny things up too much.  Tom Waits is just right as Kneller, proving once again that he's an outstanding character actor.  John Hawkes, the liquor store clerk in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, pops up as one of Kneller's "happy campers", and early on there's a cameo by Jake Busey, an old friend of Zia's who still wants the 200 bucks he owes him even if they're both dead.

It's rare that you see a movie with a premise this odd that doesn't screw it up before it's over.  But WRISTCUTTERS stays the course without once getting too cute or trying too hard to bowl us over with how clever it is.  It feels almost like Tim Burton's BIG FISH with the fairytale cream filling sucked out of it.  And when two of the characters smile at each other right before the fadeout--which, in the context of this story, is a pretty big deal--they had me doing it, too.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

DEXTER: THE FIFTH SEASON -- DVD review by porfle

As I may have mentioned before, I'm one of those neanderthals who not only don't have cable-TV, but don't get TV of any kind.  So I've missed out on seasons 1, 2, and 4 of one of my favorite shows, "Dexter."  While other fans argue the comparative merits of each season, I can only say that I thought the season three DVD set was pretty awesome, and now that I've watched DEXTER: THE FIFTH SEASON (which I scarfed down in a single day) I like it even more.

Apparently I missed some big events in Dexter's personal life during the previous season, chief among them being a drastic change in his marital status.  Now our favorite well-meaning serial killer is struggling with the problems of being a single dad dealing with stepkids Astor and Cody and baby Harrison (whom he fears may turn out like him) while trying to maintain his secret lifestyle. 

Twelve-year-old Astor (Christina Robinson) deeply resents him for not being there for his new family when they needed him, and their relationship undergoes some interesting changes.  Likewise with Harrison's kindly new nanny Sonya (Maria Doyle Kennedy), whose saintly demeanor helps to spark Dexter's capacity for fatherly love.

As always, Dexter only kills people who deserve it, thus quenching his dark impulses in a positive way as taught to him by his stepdad Harry (James Remar), a former cop who recognized the potential monster within him and sought to control it.  Michael C. Hall manages to attract and repel at the same time as Dexter, whose victims are such scum that it's hard not to feel the same satisfaction he gets when stalking and killing them. 

This time his job as a blood splatter analyst for the Miami police force (where he works alongside his sister Debra, a homicide detective) involves him in the case of a group of sexual deviants who have kidnapped, tortured, and murdered a dozen women over the years.  While eliminating one of them in his usual ritualistic manner, Dexter stumbles across the thirteenth victim still alive and desperate for revenge.

Julia Stiles gives a moving performance as the physically and emotionally scarred Lumen, who becomes Dexter's new partner in crime.  As the season progresses they form a fascinating bond which both empowers her and gives Dexter his first truly sympathetic soulmate.  Their ongoing story gains increasing momentum as the two race to track down and eliminate each of the killers before Dexter's coworkers beat them to it. 

The chief suspect, a popular self-help guru named Jordan Chase, is played with sinister smarm by British actor Jonny Lee Miller (DEAD MAN'S WALK, PRIME SUSPECT).  Harvey Keitel-lookalike Chris Vance ("Mental") plays his bodyguard Cole, another suspect in the heinous crimes, and fan fave Angela Bettis (MAY, CARRIE) turns up along the way as a mousy woman who may be the secret link between all of the culprits.

There's character conflict galore back at the station as the fiery on-again off-again romance between Dexter's sister Debra (Hall's real-life wife Jennifer Carpenter) and her partner Quinn (Desmond Harrington, WRONG TURN) is further complicated when Quinn begins to suspect Dexter and hires crusty ex-cop Liddy (Peter Weller, aging into a terrific character actor) to spy on him. 

Meanwhile, the marriage of their boss Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) and Sgt. Angel Batista (David Zayas) gets pretty rocky when they lock horns over her questionable handling of some current cases.  Sexy Latina actress April Hernandez Castillo (who looks fetish-tastic in uniform) stirs up trouble of her own as an ambitious young policewoman who helps solve a gruesome murder case and ends up trying to squeeze Debra out of her job. 

The four-disc, 12-episode DVD set from Showtime and CBS DVD is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound (English 5.1 surround, English and French 2.0 stereo, Spanish mono) and closed-captions.  Extras include cast biographies, a photo gallery, and sample episodes of other Showtime series.

DEXTER: THE FIFTH SEASON finds the strangely-heroic Dexter searching for his soul as he tries, like so many characters before him, to learn how to become human.  But more than ever, having to juggle the various elements of his persona--family man, respected co-worker, bloodthirsty creature of the night--keeps him up to his neck in precarious, suspenseful, and highly entertaining predicaments in which, lucky for us, everything seems to go wrong.

Buy it at

Third Season Review

Sixth Season Review

Pilot Episode Review


Thursday, July 28, 2011

CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 on Unrated Blu-ray and DVD September 20th from Image Entertainment



Looking Sharp on Unrated Blu-ray™ and DVD September 20th

Chatsworth, CA – There’s a saying among horror fans: “You can’t keep a good slasher down!” And for fans of the 2009 cult hit Laid To Rest, the wait is over! On September 20, ChromeSkull – the chrome face-plated, technologically saavy homicidal maniac – returns in ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Image Entertainment. Starring Brian Austin Green (“Desperate Housewives”), Johnathon Schaech (That Thing You Do, The Poker Club), LTR 1 alum Thomas Dekker (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Danielle Harris (Halloween), Owain Yeoman (“The Mentalist”) and Gail O’Grady (“NYPD Blue,” “Hellcats”), with Nick Principe returning as ChromeSkull, the sequel is once again directed by award-winning director Robert Hall (Laid To Rest, “Fear Clinic,” Lightning Bug). ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 will be available in unrated DVD and Blu-ray versions, as well as a rated DVD. SRP is a razor-thin $27.97 for the unrated and rated DVDs, and a sheer $29.97 for the Blu-ray™. Pre-book is August 23rd.

Following his triumphant premiere at the world famous Comic-Con show in San Diego last week, the maniac in the metal mask returns-and this time he's not alone. After his gruesome encounter with the girl with no name, ChromeSkull has to rely on his assistant Preston, (Green) to take care of business. With a growing taste for bloodlust, Preston slashes his way from one gory mess to another. Not to be outdone, ChromeSkull resurges with a massacre of his own that is nothing short of "jaw dropping insanity!" -Dread Central.

Mimi Michaels (The Ugly Truth, Gamer), Christopher Allen Nelson (Sin City, Star Trek) and Angelina Armani (Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star) also star in the bloodiest sequel you'll ever see. ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 is directed by Robert Hall, who also co-wrote and executive produced, and produced by Chang Tseng and Kevin Bocarde. Brian Austin Green and Stephen Niver are co-producers.

Bonus features on ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 Blu-ray and DVD include audio commentary with director Robert Hall, co-writer Kevin Bocarde, and star Brian Austin Green, “A Cut Above: Creating ChromeSkull” behind the scenes featurette, the “Jump To A Kill” function (available exclusively on the unrated Blu-ray™ and DVD) where viewers can jump directly to one of eight “kills,” deleted scenes, bloopers and the theatrical trailer.

About Image Entertainment:
Image Entertainment, Inc. (OTCQB: DISK ) is a leading independent licensee and distributor of entertainment programming in North America, with approximately 3,200 exclusive DVD titles and approximately 340 exclusive CD titles in domestic release and more than 450 programs internationally via sublicense agreements. For many of its titles, the Company has exclusive audio and broadcast rights, as well as digital download rights to over 2,100 video programs and approximately 400 audio titles containing more than 6,000 individual tracks. The Company is headquartered in Chatsworth , California . For more information about Image Entertainment, Inc., please go to

ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 Unrated Blu-ray
Genre:                        Horror, Feature Film
Rating:                        Unrated
Languages:                  English 
Format:                       1.78:1
Audio:                         DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles:                     English, Spanish
Year:                           2011
SRP :                           $27.97
Street Date:                 September 20, 2011
Pre-Book:                   August 23, 2011
Length:                        93 minutes
UPC :                           014381703450
Cat#:                           CRM7034BD

ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 Unrated DVD
Genre:                        Horror, Feature Film
Rating:                        Unrated
Languages:                 English 
Format:                      Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                        Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                     English, Spanish
Year:                          2011
SRP :                           $27.97
Street Date:                 September 20, 2011
Pre-Book:                   August 23, 2011
Length:                        93 minutes
UPC:                           014381703221
Cat#:                          CRM7032DVD

ChromeSkull: Laid To Rest 2 DVD
Genre:                        Horror, Feature Film
Rating:                        R for strong bloody violence, language and some nudity
Languages:                  English 
Format:                       Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                         Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                     English, Spanish
Year:                          2011
SRP :                           $27.97
Street Date:                September 20, 2011
Pre-Book:                  August 23, 2011
Length:                       91 minutes (approx.)
UPC#:                        014381732528
Cat#:                          CRM7325DVD

Buy it at
Unrated DVD
Unrated Blu-Ray

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


What starts out as a not-particularly-great little cop show suddenly evolves into one of the most hard-hitting, hypnotically watchable police dramas ever as you make your way through the 23 episodes of MURPHY'S LAW: COMPLETE COLLECTION, a nine-disc DVD set from Acorn Media. 

James Nesbitt stars as Thomas Murphy, an Irishman working as an undercover cop for the London police force.  Plagued by guilt over the death of his daughter and languishing on leave after a negative psyche evaluation, he's pulled back into service to help stop a gang of diamond smugglers operating out of a funeral home.  Murphy solves the case, meets a cute babe named Annie Guthrie (Claudia Harrison) who's also working undercover, and they team up to fight crime together.

This pilot episode is okay but nothing special, as are subsequent Series One episodes "Electric Bill", "Manic Munday", "Reunion", and "Kiss and Tell."  Murphy goes undercover in various locations (prison, health club, nightclub, snooker tournament), uses his sharp wits and irreverent attitude to get the goods on the bad guys, and has one of those coy budding-romance relationships with his female partner.

Series Two changes all of that in the first five minutes of episode one, "Jack's Back", with a shocking event which heralds a dark new direction for the show.  Murphy takes on the persona of a homeless man to track down a killer who's emulating Jack the Ripper in a violent, downbeat story, beginning a transformation of his quirky, wisecracking character into an intense, no-nonsense badass with nerves of steel.  Still, Murphy never loses his humanity and is often deeply affected by what he experiences. 

The writing and technical aspects of the show keep getting better as well, with the rest of Series Two serving up some outstanding stories such as "Convent" (Murphy as priest) and "Go Ask Alice" (Murphy as janitor in a biotech laboratory).  Things aren't always wrapped up nicely at the fadeout--one episode ends with a horrific freeze-frame of an innocent victim's death scream. 

But the best is yet to come as the show finally hits its stride in Series 3.  Here, the episodic nature of the previous seasons is jettisoned in favor of long-form stories which continue over several episodes and allow Murphy to immerse himself in prolonged and highly dangerous undercover assignments.  Over the next six episodes, he'll manage to gain the trust of a ruthless crime boss named Callard (Mark Womack) who hires him as a hitman.  As he sinks deeper into a maelstrom of murder, heroin smuggling, counterfeiting--among other things--Murphy must deal with the death of his partner while trying to stay alive on a day-to-day basis. 

This series of episodes is non-stop excitement and suspense, filled with brutal action and unpredictable plot twists that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.  One of the best things about it is a delightfully sinister performance by Michael Fassbender (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, EDEN LAKE) as Callard's smirkingly sadistic henchman, Caz.  The entire supporting cast is excellent as well, but it's Nesbitt who continues to impress more and more. 

His "Murphy" character is the ultimate adrenaline-stoked hardass, plunging into dangerous situations and either fighting or thinking his way out, yet always on the edge of burning out or breaking down (not to mention losing an appendage or two) from the non-stop pressure of his job.  Going for broke in virtually every scene, Nesbitt is fascinating to watch.

Series 4 and 5 keep the momentum going with two more three-episode stories.  The first finds Murphy infiltrating an Irish gang run by the infamous Johnstone brothers.  Drew (Liam Cunningham) appears to have been converted to the Muslim faith and is about to wed a Pakistani bride, while his volatile brother Billy (Brian McCardie) rebels against Drew's newfound pacifism by becoming even more violent and unstable. 

McCardie's incredibly intense performance is absolutely thrilling and his scenes with Nesbitt give the series some of its most riveting moments yet.  Murphy eventually discovers Drew's true intentions and manages to set the brothers against each other, leading to an explosively exciting finale.  Adding weight to Murphy's character here is his ongoing emotional anguish over having to place his aging mother in an institution after his father can no longer cope with her deteriorating mental state. 

Series 5 wraps things up with a gritty tale of illegal immigrants being marketed not only as manual laborers but also as sex slaves in a sadistic pornography ring.  Two of Murphy's fellow undercover officers, Mitch and Kim (a superb Andrea Lowe), disappear while on the job, forcing him to delve into this wretched den of scum and villainy by gaining the trust of the top man and going to work for him.  More than ever, Murphy's efforts are complicated by feckless police superiors interested only in covering their own asses--some of the confrontational scenes between them here are positively cathartic in their dramatic intensity.  The story builds to a shattering conclusion, leaving Murphy at his most desperate point yet and the viewer dazed and disoriented.

The boxed set from Acorn Media contains nine discs in four keepcases (approx. 23 1/2 hours).  All are in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital stereo and English subtitles.  Text-based extras consist of a James Nesbitt biography and production notes.

If you decide to give this show a whirl, don't be put off by the lightweight nature of the first few episodes.  Not only does "Murphy's Law" eventually become one of the best series about undercover police work that I've ever seen, but Murphy himself goes from quirky, seriocomic oddball to a complex and supercool character who keeps us constantly fascinated by what he's going to do next.  For fast-paced, adult, wildly dynamic entertainment, MURPHY'S LAW: COMPLETE COLLECTION is almost too good to be legal.   

Buy it at

Monday, July 25, 2011

THE WALKING DEAD Special Edition on DVD, Blu-ray and Limited Edition Blu-ray Tin October 4th from Anchor Bay Entertainment


Three Versions Available Oozing with Extras Including a Limited Edition Blu-Ray ™ Collector’s Tin!

Beverly Hills, CA – “The Walking Dead, AMC’s hit original series that Entertainment Weekly hailed as the “best new show on TV”, gets a new release on Blu-ray™ and DVD this fall that’s sure to wake the dead!  Anchor Bay Entertainment proudly releases the AMC® original series “THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON 1 – SPECIAL EDITION” on October 4, 2011.  Available in three versions (Special Edition DVD, Special Edition Blu-ray and Limited Edition Blu-ray Collector’s Tin), each set contains all six episodes of the first season and is loaded with NEW behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentaries, extra footage and the fan-requested black and white version of the pilot episode.  In addition to the Blu-ray special edition, a limited edition collector’s tin contains an exclusive wearable zombie mask from NECA designed by the series own make-up artist, Greg Nicotero.  The first 100,000 units of the Blu-ray and Limited Edition Collector’s Tin together includes an EXCLUSIVE Cryptozoic “The Walking Dead” trading card.

In each version, all six episodes contain audio commentaries including award-winning Producer/Writer/Director Frank Darabont, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer/Writer Robert Kirkman, Producer Denise Huth, Actor Andrew Lincoln, Special Effects Make-Up Artist/Consulting Producer Greg Nicotero and many more!  A breakdown of each release follows:

All three versions include the following NEW extras:

Pilot Episode:  The B&W Version
Audio Commentaries On All 6 episodes
We Are The Walking Dead
Bring Out The Dead:  KNB And The Art of Making Zombies
Digital Decay:  The VFX of The Walking Dead
No More Room in Hell:  The Walking Dead Phenomenon
Adapting The Dead
Killer Conversations:  Frank Darabont & Greg Nicotero
Each version includes bonus features from the previous release of “The Walking Dead: Season 1” on DVD that contained the following:

The Making of The Walking Dead
Inside The Walking Dead:  Episodes 1 – 6
A Sneak Peek with Robert Kirkman
Behind The Scenes Zombie Make-Up Tips
Convention Panel with the Producers
The Walking Dead Trailer

Extra Footage includes:

Zombie School
Bicycle Girl
On Set with Robert Kirkman
Hanging with Steven Yeun
Inside Dale’s RV
On Set with Andrew Lincoln

AMC's hit "The Walking Dead," which broke ratings records in its first season reaching more Adults 18-49 than any other drama series in the history of basic cable television,* returns for its second season this Fall. The series is based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman and tells the story of the months and years that follow after a zombie apocalypse. It follows a group of survivors, led by police officer Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln ("Teachers," Love Actually), who travel in search of a safe and secure home. Shot on location in Atlanta, the series also stars Jon Bernthal ("The Pacific," The Ghost Writer) as Shane Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies ("Prison Break") as Lori Grimes, Laurie Holden ("The Shield," Stephen King's The Mist) as Andrea, Jeffrey DeMunn (Stephen King's The Mist, The Green Mile) as Dale, Norman Reedus (“The Conspirator”) as Daryl, Steven Yeun ("The Big Bang Theory") as Glen, Emma Bell (The Bedford Diaries) as Amy and Chandler Riggs (Get Low) as Carl Grimes. Season two of "The Walking Dead" is executive produced by three-time Academy™ Award nominee Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, Kirkman, David Alpert, and Glen Mazzara and AMC Studios. Greg Nicotero

*Source: The Nielsen Company.  Live+SD. 1/1/93-12/5/10.  A18-49, AA(000).  M-Sa 8P-11P, Su 7P-12A.  General Drama.  Ad Supported Cable.  Entire Series Original Premiere Series Airings Only.

Based on the popular Image Comics’ comic book written by Robert Kirkman, the series premiered on AMC Fearfest Halloween night and immediately became the most watched drama series in cable’s history with 3.5 million viewers. It has thrilled (and chilled) both critics and audiences with its groundbreaking take on the living dead lore.  Season 2 of “The Walking Dead” premieres on AMC this fall. 

About AMC
AMC reigns as the only cable network in history to ever win the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Drama Series three years in a row, as well as the Golden Globe® Award for Best Television Series - Drama for three consecutive years.  Whether commemorating favorite films from every genre and decade or creating acclaimed original programming, the AMC experience is an uncompromising celebration of great stories.  AMC's original stories include “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Killing” and “Hell on Wheels.”  AMC further demonstrates its commitment to the art of storytelling with AMC’s Docu-Stories, a slate of unscripted original series, as well as curated movie franchises like AMC’s Can’t Get Enough and AMC’s Crazy About.  Available in more than 97 million homes (Source: Nielsen Media Research), AMC is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. and its sister networks include IFC, Sundance Channel and WE tv.  AMC is available across all platforms, including on-air, online, on demand and mobile.  AMC: Story Matters HereSM.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is the home entertainment division of Starz Media, LLC. It includes the Anchor Bay Films and Manga Entertainment brands. It distributes feature films, children’s entertainment, fitness, TV series, documentaries, anime and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Starz Media ( is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Starz tracking stock group.

Street Date:                 October 4, 2011         
Pre-book:                   September 7, 2011
Cat. #:                         BD23097
UPC:                           0 1313 23097-9 8
Run Time:                    292 Minutes
Rating:                         Not Rated
SRP:                            $59.99
Format:                       Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 5.1/French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:                     English and Spanish

Street Date:                October 4, 2011         
Pre-book:                  September 7, 2011
Cat. #:                        DV23096
UPC:                          1313 23096-9 9
Run Time:                   292 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                           $49.98
Format:                       Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1/French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:                     English and Spanish

Street Date:                 October 4, 2011         
Pre-book:                   September 7, 2011
Cat. #:                        BD23505
UPC:                          0 1313 23505-9 2
Run Time:                   292 Minutes
Rating:                        Not Rated
SRP:                           $89.99
Format:                       Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 5.1/French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:                     English and Spanish

Saturday, July 23, 2011

REGGIE PERRIN: SET 1 -- DVD review by porfle

Back in the 70s, my local PBS station (KERA Dallas-Ft. Worth) had what they called the "British Comedy Block" on Sunday nights.  It was anchored by "Monty Python's Flying Circus", followed by a selection of some of the best Brit comedy shows available at the time.  One of them, "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin" starring the great Leonard Rossiter as a middle-class office drone going through a mid-life crisis, became one of my favorite TV shows of all time. 

Fast-forward to the next century, and along comes a remake simply titled "Reggie Perrin" to give the old serial another go with a new cast and an altered storyline.  But while the twelve episodes contained in the DVD set REGGIE PERRIN: SET 1 struggle desperately to reach the same level of silly, yet delightfully witty humor that made the original so much fun, the result is a dull, dense, and sometimes dreary affair that only a laugh track could find truly amusing.

In Rossiter's hands, Reggie was an ordinary man slowly worn down by the repetitive tedium of everyday life, his haggard hopelessness gradually turning to bitter cynicism and a revolt against conformity.  Martin Clunes ("Men Behaving Badly", "Doc Martin") comes off more like a classroom malcontent from the start, already cynical and misanthropic before indignity upon indignity turns him into a different person.

It's such a one-note interpretation of the character that when Reggie finally does that thing that he does after reaching what's supposed to be his breaking point (as immortalized in the original series' opening titles), it comes and goes with barely any meaning at all.  Clunes does what he can, but the storyline is unfocused and the writers don't seem to have a clear direction for the character.  Aside from touching a few key bases from the old series, what we get here is hardly more than a low-level serial sitcom that gets a laugh now and then by buffeting the viewer with a hail of cheap gags. 

Longtime Perrin fans will no doubt appreciate the more literal nods to the old series, as when Reggie pauses in front of Sunshine Desserts before proceeding to his current workplace, Groomtech.  His manically overbearing boss, Chris Jackson (Neil Stuke), picks up a business magazine with the glaring face of the original C.J. (John Barron) on the cover, reminding us of how much funnier the original C.J. was. 

The two share a common catchphrase ("I didn't get where I am today without...") while Reggie continues the tradition of explaining his daily tardiness to his secretary ("27 minutes late--shrubbery on the line near Peckham") and responding to his wife's cheery "Have a nice day at the office" with "I won't."

At work, Reggie still has two young marketing toadies gushing their own catchphrases over his every utterance ("I'm almost physically excited!" Steve enthuses about the new ten-blade shaving razor that squirts lotion) and a beautiful co-worker who tempts him with thoughts of adultery (Lucy Liemann as "Jasmine").  This time his secretary is the sublimely stupid Vicky (Kerry Howard), my favorite new character.  Reggie's wife, Nicola, is now a school teacher who has little time for him between work and social causes.  Fay Ripley lacks the comic timing to liven up her not-that-funny lines and seems somewhat miscast in the role.

While season one ends with Reggie's mock suicide, it's never the "through the looking glass" experience it was in the original series--not only does a changed Reggie fail to return in another guise at the start of season two, he doesn't seem to have changed much at all.  Still, the storyline plods on with his subsequent takeover of Groomtech and creation of the intentionally-useless line of Grot products. 

By this point, the new series is an exercise in labored whimsy, joylessly rehashing things by rote without bringing anything new and imaginative into play.  Even Reggie's frequent revenge fantasies (such as killing his bosses in various ways) become monotonous.

The two-disc DVD from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and English subtitles.  The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.

REGGIE PERRIN: SET 1 may provide some laughs to viewers unfamiliar with "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin", but I can't imagine it being a very memorable experience on its own.  The show seems to get tired of itself long before the final episode.

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Friday, July 22, 2011


Sometimes a TV series comes along which transcends the "cop show" genre, and in fact just about anything else you could classify it as, reaching a level of excellence that makes it more of a life experience than a simple entertainment.  "Prime Suspect" with Helen Mirren is just such a show.  Like a glutton wolfing down a seven-course meal, I went through Acorn Media's PRIME SUSPECT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION with voracious speed while not wanting it to end.

Mirren's "Jane Tennison" is a fascinating, complex character whom we follow from her early days as a Detective Chief Inspector for London's Metropolitan Police, through her promotion to Detective Superintendent in charge of multiple units, and finally to her final turbulent days on the force.  Brilliant and strong-willed, Tennison is also subject to various foibles and human weaknesses that complicate both her personal and professional lives.  Often she wonders if she's chosen the right path, especially when plagued by loneliness, self-doubt, and regret. 

Series 1, which debuted in 1991 and consists of two feature-length parts, finds Tennison knee-deep in sexist resentment and derision while heading her first major murder investigation.  Scripter Lynda La Plante based much of the character's difficulty in winning over her skeptical male team members on the real-life experiences of technical advisor Jackie Malton, one of the first female DCIs, and the dramatic tension never fails to ring true.  Only after proving herself worthy does Tennison begin to gradually gain the respect of her male colleagues.

This story sets the dark, gritty tone for the series and raises the bar for all the other forensics-based cop shows to follow.  Character conflicts crackle with tension, as when Tennison butts heads with patronizing superiors who hamper her efforts or old-school detectives such as DS Bill Otley (Tom Bell).  The pressure of trying to track down a brutal serial killer devastates her home life with both her live-in fiance' (Tom Wilkinson) and her immediate family.  Time after time Tennison is forced to question her decision to sacrifice everything for her career. 

The camera stays close to the actors' faces and keeps up right in the middle of things at all times.  Without the usual quick editing, throbbing music, or adrenaline-charged action, the sober and languidly-paced story is given plenty of room to stretch out and develop its dramatic potential to the fullest.  Just when you think the plot is headed for the most likely conclusion, the script explores unexpected avenues that are consistently surprising and often shocking. 

Series 2 is another two-parter with racial overtones stemming from the discovery of a body buried in the garden of a house in a neighborhood filled with Jamaican immigrants.  Colin Salmon ("Tanner" of the Brosnan 007 films) guest stars as a black detective placed on Tennison's team after an unfortunate sexual encounter between the two.  Tensions rise when a teenage boy held in custody commits suicide in his cell and Tennison is blamed. 

Series 3 delves into the world of child prostitution with the murder of a "rent boy" and charges of long-term sexual abuse by a trusted social services director (Ciaran Hinds).  Tom Bell returns as Otley, and Jonny Lee Miller guests as one of the young victims.  Series 4 consists of three shorter episodes, and while the first two are more conventional stories that lack the depth of the previous shows, the third, "Scent of Darkness", is one of the series' finest.  Here, a new rash of serial murders similar to those in the first episode raise the question of whether or not Tennison may have imprisoned the wrong man in the original investigation. 

Series 5, "Errors of Judgment", finds Tennison locking horns with a cocky young drug dealer who rules the streets through terror and may have a powerful ally on the police force.  Of particular interest here is her prickly relationship with a new team dubious of her abilities, including a nice turn by David O'Hara (BRAVEHEART) as a seemingly slow-witted detective who turns out to be smarter than he looks.

After a six-year production gap (1997-2003), Series 6 finds Mirren playing an older and increasingly disillusioned character under pressure to retire.  The murder of a Bosnian woman thrusts Tennison into one of her most emotionally trying cases yet, as victims of war hiding out in London are stalked by a devilish figure from the past. This later episode is just as effective as earlier ones, but looks slicker and more streamlined.  With a faster pace and more emphasis on thriller elements, some sequences bristle with nerve-wracking suspense.

"The Final Act", which aired in 2006, brings "Prime Suspect" and the career of Jane Tennison to a close with the murder of a 14-year-old girl, the impending death of Jane's father (Frank Finlay), and the aging detective's battle with alcoholism.  Mirren is at peak form here as her character struggles to solve one last murder while her life is falling apart.  Tom Bell makes his final appearance as DS Otley, re-entering Jane's life in a surprising way.  Young actress Laura Greenwood gives an amazingly good performance as the murdered girl's troubled friend. 

The boxed set from Acorn Media contains nine discs in seven keepcases.  Series 1-5 are in 4:3 full screen while 6-7 are in 16:9 widescreen, all with Dolby Digital sound.  Each episode is subtitled except for Series 7, which is closed-captioned.  Series 6 contains a 23-minute featurette, while Series 7 extras include a 50-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, photo gallery, and cast filmographies.  Beside the actors already mentioned, familiar faces such as Ralph Fiennes and Kelly Reilly (EDEN LAKE) can be seen making early guest appearances in various episodes.

The great Helen Mirren is a neverending fount of awesome as Jane Tennison, always riveting to watch whenever she's onscreen.  Her character's arc binds this collection of engrossing police procedurals together.  Tennison is a great cop but hardly perfect, and we're not even sure she'll get through her last case without self-destructing.  A small grace note from an unexpected source comes at the very end, and we're left to wonder whether or not it makes her feel as though her life on the force has been worth the sacrifice.  One thing's for sure--PRIME SUSPECT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION is some of the most worthwhile viewing that cop show fans could possibly hope for. 

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Acorn Media Unveils Acorn TV - First British TV Focused Streaming Service


First British TV Focused Streaming Service Offers Critically Acclaimed Series including Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited and Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Silver Spring, MD; July 18, 2011 – Acorn Media Group today announced the launch of Acorn TV, a new streaming service that makes the company’s award-winning British mysteries and dramas available online to American audiences.

Available at, the launch line-up includes such bestselling classics and contemporary titles as Upstairs Downstairs, Brideshead Revisited, The Far Pavilions, Foyle’s War, Agatha Christie’s Poirot and The Forsyte Saga. Acorn TV will mark the first time many of these programs are available for streaming.

Acorn Media, a leading independent media company that Time magazine has called the “chief curators of the best Brit TV,” holds exclusive North American distribution rights to the most critically acclaimed programs, all of which are available from Acorn Media on lavishly packaged DVDs. Most are also available from Acorn Media as digital copies that can be purchased and downloaded. Now, Acorn TV offers U.S. fans of British TV the opportunity to stream many of their favorite series, as well as discover programs such as Vera starring Brenda Blethyn and Reggie Perrin starring Martin Clunes. These programs and many others offered by Acorn are beloved by U.K. viewers but haven’t been available to U.S. audiences.

“Acorn Media Group has found incredible success building a media company focused on audiences passionate for distinctive programming, in particular, British programming,” said Miguel Penella, CEO of Acorn Media Group. “Through our long-term relationship with our target audience, Acorn Media has helped introduce British dramas and mystery programs in North America. With Acorn TV, we can offer these programs on an anytime and, ultimately, anywhere basis. We look forward to streaming our incredible program library to U.S. audiences.”

At launch Acorn TV is offering a full season of six different series with the first episode of each season featured online for free. For only $24.99 a year, Acorn Premium subscribers get unlimited access to all of the episodes in each selected season. In addition, Premium members receive free shipping on all orders from Acorn’s distinctive merchandise catalog and website,

A free trial of Acorn TV is being offered to viewers through August 31 at

Programming for Acorn TV is refreshed weekly, with each season available for six weeks. There are six seasons and more than 40 hours of programming offered at any given time. Each week one season will be added and the oldest season will be removed. As Acorn TV develops the programming offering will evolve based on audience preferences.

Acorn TV is accessible at launch on computers, iPhones, iPads, and any portable device with a browser that runs Flash 10 or higher, Apple TV, and Google TV. Additional devices and applications will follow over the next 12 months. 

To access Acorn TV:

1.    Visit and click on the big red button at the top right of the page that says “Register now to try Acorn TV Premium Access for free until 8/31/11”

2.    Enter registration information (just email, no credit card required) and then sit back and enjoy some fine British television!

About Acorn Media Group:
Based in suburban Washington, D.C. and founded by Chairman Peter Edwards, Acorn Media Group has grown from a one-man basement documentary production and distribution operation in the mid-1980s into a leading independent media company operating on three continents. The Acorn Media Group consists of four divisions. With its Acorn DVD label, Acorn Media U.S. is the leading distributor of British television programming to consumers in North America. Its Acacia DVD label offers a line of original health & wellness programming. Appealing to the growing lifelong learning audience, Acorn U.S. also offers acclaimed documentaries on the Athena DVD label. Acorn Direct is a direct-to-consumer division offering DVDs, digital downloads, and other high quality products in North America through its Acorn and Acacia catalogs and e-commerce websites. Acorn Media U.K. and Acorn Media Australia distribute comparable lines of DVD titles to consumers in the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Hills Have Eyes" and "Saw" Actors Battle It Out In... "THE TENANT"

Your next breath will be your last…

An obsessed Scientist tries to cure human deformities through DNA splicing, an obsession drawing him into a dark world where he experiments on the patients at Edgewood Asylum. Ignoring his pregnant wife Olivia, she comes to see him one night, but everything goes horribly wrong as Dr. Newman watches in horror as Olivia deliver their twins - One twin is a beautiful baby girl, the other a deformed creature that defies nature. 

25 years later, on a dark road, a van breaks down. Young, beautiful Liz Holliman of the Roslyn Center for the Deaf is traveling with a group of young teens and her driver, ex-con, Jeff Thomas.  With a flat tire, a storm and freezing temperatures, they must seek shelter. The group makes their way to an old abandoned building -- the Edgewood Asylum. Little do they know - evil awaits them…

Michael Berryman (The Devils Rejects, Hills Have Eyes, Weird Science, Star Trek IV)

Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum, The Body Guard, Hudsucker Proxy, Star Trek)

Ashley Totin (America’s Next Top Model, Bachelor Party 2, All My Children, Kidnapped)

J. LaRose (Insidious, Repo Genetic Opera, Saw III, Saw IV, Mothers Day, Sheena)

Randy Molnar (Contract Killers, Larry the Cable Guy, This Man’s Life)

Jenn Sterger (of “Brett Favre Fame” – NY Jets Reporter, Attack of the Show, Z Rock)


RELEASE DATE: Aug. 16, 2011

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"X-MEN: FIRST CLASS" arrives on First Class Friday, 9/9

The Ultimate Blu-ray and DVD Experience Arrives on First Class Friday, September 9th

BONUS OFFER: First 1,000 Fans to Pre-Order A Blu-ray or DVD During San Diego Comic-Con Receive a Limited Edition X-MEN: FIRST CLASS T-Shirt!

LOS ANGELES (July 19, 2011) – Before they were superheroes, the fate of humanity depended on an extraordinary group of youngsters who went on to become X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Based on the international bestselling Marvel Comics franchise, this box office hit bursts onto Blu-ray and DVD Friday, September 9 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. For the first time ever, “X-Men” fans will have the power to choose a side between Professor X and Magneto with two versions of premium collectible Blu-ray packaging. Also exclusively on Blu-ray, fans receive access to over two hours of special interactive features PLUS ten Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics including a never-before-seen “X-Men: First Class” backstory— redeemable through each Blu-ray’s unique packaging code. 

Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Kick Ass) tells the true origins of the multi-billion dollar film franchise, guiding exceptional performances by Golden Globe®-nominee James McAvoy (Atonement), Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), and Golden Globe®-winner Kevin Bacon (“Taking Chance,” Mystic River). A “rare movie event that balances an intelligent story with solid performances, first-rate action and top-of-the-line special effects” (Ben Lyons, E!), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS has drawn an impressive $150 million at the domestic box office and nearly $350 million worldwide.

Before Charles Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender) took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time, working together to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. The film features a star-studded supporting cast, including Academy Award®-nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), January Jones (“Mad Men”), Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later), Zoë Kravitz (“Californication”), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man), Lucas Till (Walk the Line), and Emmy Award®-nominee Oliver Platt (“The West Wing”).

The first 1,000 fans to pre-order their Blu-ray or DVD copy of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS during San Diego Comic-Con (July 21 – 24) will receive a free limited edition T-shirt, showing their support for either “Team Charles” or “Team Erik.” Fans can pre-order their copy in person at the Fox booth #4313 or online at During this time, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS will be available on Blu-ray and DVD at the exclusive price of $25.00 for Blu-ray and $18.00 for DVD.

Special features on the X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Blu-ray include:
--10 Marvel “X-Men” Digital Comics with exclusive “X-Men: First Class” Backstory Comic 
--More than two hours of never-before-seen extras, including: 
--Cerebro Mutant Tracker: The complete interactive Mutant Database with interactive videos giving fans the ability to learn about their favorite mutants in the X-Men film franchise
-Children of the Atom: An eight-part behind-the-scenes featurette, charting the film from pre-production through post-production, including visual effects techniques and cataloguing “X-Men” transformations through prosthetic make up and costume design
-“X” Marks the Spot: An interactive feature allowing viewers the opportunity to learn more about specific scenes with talent interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
--Extended and Deleted Scenes
--BD-Live Portal with additional Cerebro Mutant Tracker profiles 
--Composer’s Isolated Score
--Theatrical Trailer

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.

Follow Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on Twitter @FoxHomeEnt

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Blu-ray (Catalog # 2275094)
Street Date: September 9, 2011
Pre-book Date: August 10, 2011
Screen Format: 2.40:1 (16:9)
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (some special features in 5.1 DD or 2.0 DD)
 Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Total Run Time: 4 hours, 55 minutes
Closed Captioned: Yes

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS DVD (Catalog #2275087) 
Street Date: September 9, 2011
Pre-book Date: August 10, 2011
Screen Format: 2.35:1 (16:9)
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital (some special features in 2.0 Dolby Stereo)
 Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround, French 2.0 Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
U.S. Rating: PG-13
Total Run Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Closed Captioned: Yes

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SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA with 3D Bonus Feature coming to Blu-ray and DVD September 13 from Anchor Bay Entertainment

“Epic and freakishly compelling.” – TV GUIDE


Two-Disc Set Contains All Six Episodes and An Amazing Array Of Bonus Features!

Beverly Hills, CA – “SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA,” the exciting STARZ Original series, is ready for battle when Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the prequel to the acclaimed “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” on Blu-ray™ and DVD September 13, 2011.  The two-disc collection contains a muscular amount of bonus features including never-before-seen featurettes, bloopers and behind-the-scenes footage (including a set tour with star Lucy Lawless). The Blu-ray is even mightier with extended episodes, audio commentary on all six episodes and a mind-blowing battle sequence in 3D - a first for a TV on Blu-Ray™ release! A sneak peek of the 3D bonus feature will happen at the STARZ booth at Comic-Con 2011 in San Diego. 

“SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA” premiered January 21, 2011 on STARZ and delivered record ratings for the network.  With each new episode, the series continued to gain devoted viewers.  Executive produced by Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Joshua Donen and Steven S. DeKnight, this exhilarating season follows Gannicus, the charismatic gladiator aspiring to become Champion of Capua and of the House of Batiatus.  With political ambitions and poised to overthrow his father and take control of the House, a young Batiatus will freely betray anyone to ensure his gladiators are in the highest demand.  With his loyal and calculating wife Lucretia by his side, they will stop at nothing to deceive the masses.

Joining returning stars, John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and A Funeral) as Batiatus, Peter Mensah (300, The Incredible Hulk) as Oenomaus and Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) as Lucretia, are new cast members Dustin Clare (“Underbelly”) as Gannicus, Jaime Murray (“Hu$tle”) as Gaia and Marisa Ramirez (“General Hospital”) as Melitta.

With content too hot for cable TV, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deluxe packaging and an amazing 3D battle scene from the final episode, “SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA” is sure to have fans of the show cheering, while capturing the attention of all those uninitiated into the world of Spartacus - thumbs up, indeed!

Blu-ray and DVD bonus features include:

STARZ Studios: GODS OF THE ARENA              
Weapons Of Mass Disruption            
Battle Royale: Anatomy Of A Scene            
On Set With Lucy Lawless                
10 Easy Steps To Dismemberment                
Post Production: The Final Execution                       
Enter The Arena: Production Design             
Dressed To Kill                      
Convention Panel                   
Arena Bloopers
Exclusive Blu-ray bonus features include:

3D "Ring Of Fire" Battle Sequence
Extended Episodes
Audio Commentaries On All Episodes (including: Writer/Creator/Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and actors John Hannah, Lucy Lawless, Dustin Clare, Jaime Murray, Peter Mensah – and more

Street Date:                 September 13, 2011   
Pre-book:                    August 17, 2011
Cat. #:                         BD23094
UPC:                           0 1313 23094-9 1
Run Time:                    347 Minutes
Rating:                         Not Rated
SRP:                            $49.99
Format:                       Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio:                         English Dolby TrueHD 5.1/Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                      English, Spanish

Street Date:                 September 13, 2011   
Pre-book:                    August 17, 2011
Cat. #:                         ST23093
UPC:                           0 1313 23093-9 2
Run Time:                    335 Minutes
Rating:                         Not Rated
SRP:                            $39.98
Format:                        Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio:                         English Dolby Digital 5.1/Spanish Mono
Subtitles:                     English, Spanish

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Monday, July 18, 2011


The original British version of the TV series "Top Gear" was so popular that the BBC decided to create different incarnations of it for different countries, a la "Wheel of Fortune."  Getting an American copy off the ground proved a bit difficult, though, but after a couple of false starts, the History Channel aired the first episode of the Yank-based "Top Gear" on November 21, 2010.  The first ten installments are now available from BBC Worldwide Productions in the 3-disc DVD set, TOP GEAR: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, and if you already like the British show then there's no reason why this one shouldn't pop your clutch as well.

While I missed original hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, the new guys are a likable bunch who get better as they grow more comfortable on the show.  Their studio segments are a bit stiff at first, with the audience reacting to their lame one-liners with mercy laughter.  But as they start getting used to each other and working more smoothly as a comedy team, things get more lighthearted and fun.  By the second or third episode, the trio of racing champion Tanner Foust, auto racing analyst Rutledge Wood, and actor-comedian Adam Ferrara are firing on all cylinders.

The chief trait shared by all three of these disparate personalities, of course, is an undying love of cars.  The show features a stunning array of the world's most incredible supercars by manufacturers such as Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston-Martin, Porsche, and many others, and the giddy hosts can't wait to get behind the wheels of these dream machines and take them out for some intensive test drives.  It's easy to share their excitement as they careen around spacious airfields or go for top speeds in places like the Mojave Desert.  These guys know cars, and are able to evaluate the pros and cons of each model even as they lose themselves in the abandon of auto ecstasy in machines that cost up to $250,000.

As in the British version, each episode features regular segments such as "Big Star, Small Car."  Here, celebrity guests are interviewed before the studio audience gets to see video of their lap around the Top Gear track in a Suzuki SX4 Sportback.  Season one's guests include Tony Hawk, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Kid Rock, Tim Allen, Michelle Rodriguez, Ty Burrell, Bret Michaels, and LORD OF THE RINGS' Dominic Monaghan, all vying to see who can get the fastest time.  The show's enigmatic resident race car driver The Stig, whose face is never shown, also takes some of the show's supercars for a spin around the track. 

My favorite part of "Top Gear", without a doubt, is the challenges.  The first episode gets things off to an exciting start with "Cobra Attack", in which two of the hosts race from Point A to Point B in a Dodge Viper SRT-10 while being stalked from the air by a Cobra attack helicopter.  In another segment, co-host Tanner Roust has to give lessons in "drifting" (letting the back wheels slide from side to side during turns) to a blind man until he's ready to undertake a series of tests that had me on the edge of my seat.  Roust also gets to drive the Ford F-150 SVT VelociRaptor in a cross-country race across the desert against a HALO parachutist as he plummets downward toward the same destination. 

The show gets down to some serious fun when the hosts are tasked to take the wheel of some not-so-cherry used cars and put them through a series of punishing tests.  Each host invariably chooses a car that reflects his personality while often serving as an object of derision by the others, as in Rutledge Wood's selection of the Buick Roadmaster in the "Beater Boot Camp" episode.

Adam Ferrara's massive Cadillac Coupe DeVille also comes in for some jibes in "Flying Coupe DeVille", in which the boys make like old-time moonshiners evading the law.  This segment climaxes with a lap around a moto-cross track for each car, with Ferrara's land yacht executing a thrillingly ill-advised ramp jump that turns it into a canoe.  This was one of the moments that had me laughing out loud and rewinding the DVD.  Another such moment is when Tanner literally bails out of his car during a failed emergency-brake test and it rolls backward down the hill, making a couple of perfect turns on its own that cause it to plow right into Ferrara's Caddy.

Some of the more frenetic challenges have an "Amazing Race" quality to them and are intensely fun, even when some of the action seems staged.  By the later episodes the guys have a casual interplay going on that includes plenty of practical jokes and some ruthless competitiveness.  The penultimate show of the season (episode ten is a clip show) takes them to Alaska for a real cross-country automotive ordeal in some breathtakingly beautiful locations, with each host driving a used truck purchased sight-unseen online.  When Rutledge's snug little log-cabin camper (which he loves) bounces out of his truck during some rough going, Tanner is only too happy to plow right through it and reduce it to firewood.  All in good fun, of course.

The 3-disc, 10-episode DVD set from BBC is in 16:9 with Dolby stereo and English subtitles.  The episode "Alaska Special - America's Toughest Truck" features a breezy commentary track with the guys.  Disc three also includes several behind-the-scenes webisodes and an informal poolside chat in which our hosts just yak about whatever enters their pointy little heads for about half an hour.

After watching season 13 of the British show and enjoying it very much, I have to say that for me the USA version of "Top Gear" is just as much fun.  Foust, Wood, and Ferrara may not have had thirteen seasons to hone their act, but they're on the right track.  You don't even have to be all that into cars to like TOP GEAR: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON--the automotive love shared by everyone involved with the show is infectious. 

Release date: July 19

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

CROOKED -- movie review by porfle

Why do I like Gary Busey? I don't know--I guess it's because you never know if he's going to give a really good, lucid performance (as in THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY or SOLDIER), or if he's going to look like the police just got through dragging a lake and found him.

In CROOKED, aka SOFT TARGET (2006), he assumes the role of cop boss Rouse as though he's been jarred awake from a coma and told to audition for the role of "The Swamp Thing." His hair looks like it was combed with a tennis racket, and his wire-framed glasses are noticeably askew in every shot--I mean, like, at a 45-degree angle--as though he were one of those funny-because-he's-acting-serious characters in a Zucker brothers comedy.

Gary doesn't do all that much in the film, but there are several scenes with him stuck in here and there as though the filmmakers are making the most of the day or so they could afford to pay him to wander onto the set. On the other hand, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, another comparatively big name looming large in the credits, doesn't even survive the first ten minutes or so.

Fred plays Paxton, one of several cops killed in a motel shoot-out while trying to protect a witness whose testimony could sink a major mob boss named Nugentti. Right before the wounded Paxton is delivered the coup de grace, he recognizes his killer and mutters, "You too, Brutus?" Which lets all us viewers who had to read Shakespeare in high school know that someone on the force is a traitor working for Nugentti.

We also know that while the witness himself was being whacked, there was a hooker named Eve (Lorraine Farris) hiding in the bathroom, and now she knows that it was Nugentti, Jr. (Michael Cavalieri), acting head of the "family" while his dad awaits trial, who performed the hit personally. It doesn't take Junior long to find out about her, so she becomes a highly sought-after individual in need of police protection herself.

The two guys Gary "Rouse" Busey assigns to the job are non-buddy cops Danny Tyler (Don "The Dragon" Wilson) and Phil Yordan (Olivier Gruner), who really hate each other, especially since Phil keeps defaming the memory of the late officer Paxton, which makes Danny mad, and is always riding Danny about how his late father was a crooked cop, which makes Danny really mad.

Since hunky Phil is such a ladies' man, he has full access to a succession of empty houses and apartments belonging to out-of-town stewardesses, which the cops can use to hide their reluctant witness. Trouble is, the bad guys somehow keep finding out where they are, resulting in a series of sudden ambushes and shoot-outs. Who keeps tipping them off? Is Eve somehow connected with the mob? Or could Danny or Phil be the mysterious traitor?

Along the way, each of the three gets to have a tender, introspective "moment" where they open up and reveal intimate details about their pasts in order to enrich their characterizations. Danny tells Eve about his dad, Eve tells Danny about her little boy who lives with his grandma in Arizona, and Phil tells Danny about his dad. Trouble is, asking these actors to do "tender and introspective" is like hiring Vin Diesel to portray Oscar Wilde.

Lorraine Farris plays Eve as though she's acting out a particularly eventful bedtime story for her kids.  Don and Olivier fare a bit better, but I think this is mainly because I like them. Don has an earnest and somewhat vulnerable quality that offsets his "action guy" persona in a nice way, while I've always found Olivier to be a likable actor, especially in Albert Pyun's overlooked 1993 schlock sci-fi epic NEMESIS.

Things get even more dramatic when one of Phil's flight attendant girlfriends comes home unexpectedly. While these two lovebirds git down to some serious lovin' in a bubble bath upstairs, Danny and Eve find their increasingly simpatico relationship blooming into a shirts-off roll on the couch. Thus, with the appearance of some gratuitous nakidity, for a few minutes CROOKED looks like one of those cheap softcore skin flicks you'd run across on Cinemax while channel surfing after midnight.

But it doesn't take long for the action to re-heat up when the bad guys discover their whereabouts yet again, and soon there's a slam-bang shoot-em-up finale at an airport. Like all the other action sequences in the film, this one features some of the worst Shaky-Cam ever, which, as in this case, is often used to disguise poor direction and fight choreography. Every punch, kick, or gunshot is composed of two or three shots haphazardly edited together to make them look more kinetic, but the result is a jumbled mess that makes the action hard to follow.

The budget did allow for a pretty cool car explosion (or is that stock footage?), and we see a helicopter taken out with a bazooka. But there's little else here that you can't see done better on any episode of a typical cop show on TV.

The flick does have its good points--Don Wilson and Olivier Gruner are passable good guys, Gary Busey is "interesting", and Fred Williamson is always fun to watch. Familiar character actor Martin Kove, as a fellow cop who may or may not be the turncoat, does the best he can with his clunky dialogue, while Suzanne von Schaack does a good job as a female cop named "Buzz." Michael Cavalieri is particularly effective as Nugentti, Jr., giving his character an appropriately scary edge.

However, the rest of the cast is pretty forgettable, and CROOKED as a whole is hardly worth going out of your way to see. I tried to think of a punny way to work the title into my closing line, but it really isn't worth the effort.

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