HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, September 30, 2011

"CARJACKED" with Maria Bello and Stephen Dorff -- Gun It on Blu-ray and DVD November 22nd from Anchor Bay Films

He took her car. He took her son.  Bad idea.


Drive For Your Life November 22nd

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Maria Bello (the upcoming “Prime Suspect,” Abduction) and Stephen Dorff (the upcoming November 11th release of Immortals, Blade) headline the Anchor Bay Films thriller Carjacked, premiering November 22nd on Blu-ray™ and DVD. Co-starring Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, “Six Feet Under”), Catherine Dent (“The Shield,” 21 Grams) and Gary Grubbs (JFK, Ray), Carjacked is an unforgettable ride into suspense and terror! SRP is $26.98 for the DVD, and $29.99 for the Blu-ray™. Pre-book is October 26.

During a routine stop at a gas station, Lorraine (Bello), a vulnerable single mom, and her 5 year-old son (Connor Hill) are overtaken by Roy (Dorff), a vicious bank robber on the run. He forces her to drive to meet up with his accomplice who still has money from the heist.  Possibly facing not only her death, but her son’s, Lorraine’s fight for survival summons up an inner strength and courage that she never thought she had.

Bonus features on both the Blu-ray™ and DVD include a behind-the-scenes featurette.

The film is produced by Daniel Grodnik (Powder, Bobby) and Eric Gozlan (Beautiful Boy) and directed by John Bonito. Written by Michael and Sherry Compton, who also are Executive Producers. Composer is Bennett Salvay, and Theo Van De Sande is Director of Photography. Executive Producers are Murray Rosenthal, Jonathan Rosenthal, Richard Iott and Michael Greenfield.

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THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE -- DVD review by porfle

Man hates Japan, goes to Japan, learns to love Japan.  That's the basic plotline but there's more to this story in THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE (2009), writer-director Aaron Woolfolk's semi-autobiographical tale that's slow and predictable but ultimately as warm and comfortable as a pair of old shoes.

Retired photographer Daniel Holder (Bennet Guillory), still bitter about the way his father was tortured to death in a Japanese POW camp during WWII, disowns his artist son Mickey (Victor Grant) for hooking up with Noriko (Saki Takaoka) and leaving San Francisco to teach English in Japan.  When Mickey is killed in a motorcycle accident, guilt-ridden Daniel travels there to take back all of Mickey's paintings from the people he's given them to, alienating and offending everyone he meets. 

I've never been to Japan, but if all its citizens are this impossibly nice and polite then everyone should move there.  By contrast, Daniel, who's at least a head taller than everyone else, is unbearably rude and intimidating, and I felt embarrassed by his crass behavior toward his hosts from the local Education Office out of which Mickey worked.  Kindly Ms. Hara (Misa Shimizu) takes him to the school where the students have put up a photo memorial to Mickey, and Daniel, while moved, nevertheless plucks his son's centerpiece painting (a gift to the school) from the wall and makes off with it.

We know, of course, that Daniel will eventually make a one-eighty in his surly, unforgiving attitude--especially when he finally starts to see the negative effects his actions are having on other people, and how he, as a black man, is acting out some of the same prejudices he's suffered himself--but getting there is a long and very deliberately paced process.  A major breakthrough comes when he tracks down the widowed Noriko and shares her grief over the loss of his son while making a discovery that is probably the film's one plot point which qualifies as a surprise. 

The gradual softening of Daniel's demeanor makes the film more enjoyable to watch from that point forward, with some poignant emotional moments that are subtly evoked by director Woolfolk despite the sometimes overly-insistent musical score.  A major asset is Bennet Guillory's refusal to overact or try too hard to sell his character's anger and grief, making it all the more effective when he does go for those heartfelt moments. 

Misa Shimizu as Ms. Hara and Saki Takaoka as Noriku also give depth and nuance to their performances.  In a smaller role as Daniel's brother Joseph, executive producer Danny Glover adds his own venerable presence to the film (although much less so than the ads would have us believe--this show belongs to Guillory and his female co-stars all the way).   

Woolfolk, who based much of Mickey's character on his own experiences as an African-American teacher in Japan, was inspired by that country's slow-paced, pastoral films of the 50s and gives THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE a simple, often elegant look with good use of both city and rural locations.  Some humor is derived from Daniel's culture-shock reaction to various foods and customs and the way he seems shoehorned into his tiny apartment.  Saita Nakayama (pop singer Misono), a hyperkinetic young secretary who loves American culture, is the one overtly comedic aspect of the film and, although cute, is best appreciated when not onscreen.

The Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack from Funimation and Eleven Arts is in 16:9 widescreen with an English/Japanese soundtrack in Dolby 5.1 surround (Japanese dialogue is subtitled in English).  Extras include a making-of featurette, cast and staff interviews, and trailers of other Funimation releases.  Woolfolk's commentary is in-depth and very personal.

One of the film's more effective scenes comes when Daniel visits a small art gallery proudly displaying Mickey's work in a show called "Japan Through the Eyes of Foreigners."  That title aptly describes THE HARIMAYA BRIDGE, with Woolfolk offering a fresh perspective that's an aesthetically-pleasing synthesis of both Japanese and American films.  The languid pace and lack of sledgehammer dramatics will put off some viewers, while others will find the low-key storytelling and lush visuals as enticing as a lazy stroll through the Japanese countryside.

Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"FREERUNNER" from Image Entertainment -- coming to Blu-ray and DVD October 18th

"FREERUNNER" FROM IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT Racing onto DVD and Blu-ray™ October 18

Prepare for a pulse-pounding ride that will leave you breathless! 

Chatsworth, CA – Demanding, dangerous and daring, urban acrobatic freerunning combines athleticism with audacity with imagination.  Inspired by the stunts of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Buster Keaton and more recently the exciting opening chase sequence of Casino Royale, modern free runners weave through their environment by vaulting, running, climbing and jumping. On October 18, Image Entertainment will release Freerunner a story of high spirits, high stakes and high speeds.  Freerunner, with special features, will be available on DVD for an MSRP of $27.97 and on Blu-ray™ for $29.97. 

Sean Faris (Never Back Down) stars as Ryan, a freerunner desperately trying to break free from Reese (Tamer Hassan, Kick-Ass), a mobster who controls a stable of street runners. They got into the sport for the rush and for the money:  but now they’re running for their lives! With exploding collars locked around their necks, they have one hour to make it across town:  all for the amusement of Mr. Frank (Danny Dyer, “Foyle’s War”) and a gambling organization betting on who will win…there is no second place.  World Champion Freerunner Ryan Doyle costars with Seymour Cassel (“The Flight of the Conchords”) in this exhilarating film filled with explosive action and mind-blowing stunts!    

Pushing their bodies to the limit, freerunners rely on muscle, heart and mind to complete their outrageous marathons.  Time is short as Sean faces long odds when he starts his next – and maybe final – contest.   Will he make it to the end, or is he facing the ultimate death race?

Freerunner Blu-ray™ and DVD bonus features include:
Behind the Scenes, Outtakes and Bloopers
Over The Rooftops and Behind The Scenes
Freerunner Stunts, Fights and Effects
Playing Ninja
Freerunner 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

Freerunner Blu-ray
Genre:                          Action/Adventure, Feature Film 
Rating:                          R for some bloody violence, language and sexual/nudity
Language:                     English 
Format:                        2.35:1
Audio:                          DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles:                       English, Spanish
Year:                            2011
SRP :                            $29.97
Street Date:                  October 18, 2011
Length:                         88 minutes
UPC :                            014381747751
Cat#:                            FRM7477BD

Freerunner DVD
Genre:                          Action/Adventure, Feature Film 
Rating:                          R for some bloody violence, language and sexual/nudity
Language:                     English 
Format:                        2.35:1
Audio:                          Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:                       English, Spanish
Year:                            2011
SRP :                            $27.97
Street Date:                  October 18, 2011
Length:                         88 minutes
UPC :                            014381674422
Cat#:                            FRM6744DVD

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Taped at New York's Stephen Sondheim Theater after its successful Broadway run, THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW ON BROADWAY (2011) proves that fans of Paul Reubens' iconic comedy character really can go home again.  Or at least back to the playhouse.

The audience is filled with people who weren't even born when the original "The Pee Wee Herman Show" premiered on HBO back in 1981, and some of them are barely old enough to have grown up with "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" on Saturday mornings from 1986 to 1991.  But they're an enthusiastic bunch and respond to Pee-Wee's kids' show antics as though they were sitting in Howdy Doody's Peanut Gallery.  Reubens' appearance alone onstage at the beginning of the show, leading them all in a solemn Pledge of Allegiance, elicits a wild ovation.

After the unveiling of the beautiful playhouse set, based mainly on the design of the TV show, Pee-Wee and his usual cast of playmates delve into their familiar antics almost as though thirty years hadn't passed.  The returning members of the cast, of course, are noticably older (Reubens' no-longer-quite-boyish appearance takes a little getting used to) but they bring their characters to life again just as before.  These include Lynne Marie Stewart as Miss Yvonne, "the most beautiful woman in Puppet Land", John Moody as the mischievous Mailman Mike, and John Paragon as mystical, magical swami Jambi, a head who lives in a box.

Also returning is the King of Cartoons, with Lance Roberts replacing the late William Marshall and showing a "Penny" cartoon first aired on the TV show.  (Fans of the 1981 show will be happy to see a reprise of the legendary "Mr. Bungle" educational short.)  Besides a man in a bear suit whom Pee-Wee finds unbearably annoying, the best new character is an energetic Jesse Garcia as Latino handyman Sergio, who installs Pee-Wee's new computer to the consternation of his mechanical pals Clocky, Conky, and Magic Screen.  Lexy Fridell performs the voice of probably the most beloved inanimate playhouse character, Chairry, who actually joins Pee-Wee in a charming song-and-dance number.  Pterri, Randy, and most of the other familiar puppet characters return as well.

"MadTV" alumnus Phil LaMarr does a wonderful job taking over for Lawrence Fishburne as Cowboy Curtis, while also standing in for the late, great Phil Hartman in material originally written for his Kap'n Karl character.  The entire subplot concerning Kap'n Karl's secret love for Miss Yvonne is re-enacted along with most of the other material from the 1981 production, including Pee-Wee's desperate yearning to be able to fly.  LaMarr even seems to be channeling Hartman as he delivers certain lines ("It's the sea, Pee, the sea!").  Missing, and missed, are Edie McClurg as "Hermit Hattie" and Robert Rodriguez regular Tito Larriva as "Hammy."

Also missing, unfortunately, are the snappy pacing and pitch-perfect timing and delivery of the 1981 version, although some of this can be attributed to the fact that the cast are performing a sometimes patchwork blend of both it and the Saturday morning TV show and projecting it all for a much bigger audience.  Comparing the differences between the old and new interpretations of the material distracted from my enjoyment during my initial viewing and I even found myself becoming rather disappointed with it.  With subsequent viewings, however, this problem faded as I began to better appreciate the newer show as its own entity while the nostalgia factor started to kick in more and more. 

The DVD from Image Entertainment and HBO is in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital stereo.  No subtitles, although closed-captions are available.  The sole extra is a delightful commentary track featuring Reubens and most of the cast, which continues for almost four minutes after the show has ended (so keep it running after the closing credits). 

Though not as sharp and fresh as the 1981 show or as exhilaratingly off-kilter as the TV series, THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW ON BROADWAY should be a delight for Pee-Wee Herman fans old and new.  Lush, colorful, and vigorously performed to a joyfully receptive audience, it's a welcome return to a unique character and a magical time and place that you may have thought was lost forever.

Buy it at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

SCREAM 4 -- DVD review by porfle

I really don't remember all that much about the first three movies in the "SCREAM" franchise except that they were pretty fun and, at times, pretty scary.  Now that I've seen SCREAM 4 (2011), I think that it may be my favorite one in the entire series.  Of course, this may simply be due to the fact that it's the freshest in my mind at the moment, but it's still a whole lot of scary fun.

Wes Craven (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, THE HILLS HAVE EYES) directs with his usual sure hand, and most of the surviving cast are back along with several key crewmembers, giving this new installment the feeling of a genuine homecoming.  Neve Campbell's Sidney Prescott, the series' perennial "final girl", also returns home to the town of Woodsboro to promote a book she's written about her experiences, setting off a whole new series of bloody murders by the most recent psycho (or psychos) to don the Ghostface mask.

Things start off with a bang as a pretitles scare-a-thon teases us with a string of movie-within-a-movie fakeouts (complete with the usual surprise guest stars) before ending with an actual double-murder.  This gets Sheriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and his wife Gale Weathers-Riley (Courtney Cox) back into their old form as bumbling cop and abrasive newshound.  Sidney, meanwhile, is staying with relatives Kate Roberts (Mary McDonnell) and teenaged cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), who becomes Ghostface's new main target.

SCREAM creator Kevin Williamson's script deftly balances generous amounts of humor with several well-crafted suspense sequences that create sustained tension before erupting into panic, screaming, and death.  The fact that the killer could be anyone--Jill's stalkerish ex-boyfriend Trevor (Nico Tortorella), Dewey's smitten deputy Judy (a lovable Marley Shelton), or even the school's resident Cinema Club nerds Robbie and Charlie (Eric Knudsen, Rory Culkin)--keeps us guessing as sudden attack can come anytime or anywhere.  The fact that everyone in town is aware of what's going on, and practically know that they're in a horror movie, gives the whole thing a fun, edgy Halloween feeling.

The first SCREAM established the series' self-referential attitude (an influence still being felt in slasher-flick land) and this sequel continues that coy wink-wink stuff to the point of being aware of its own self-awareness.  Robbie and Charlie reintroduce "the rules" that dictate basic slasher film behavior during a Cinema Club meeting, but it turns out that they've changed with the times and are less rigid and predictable--hinting that anything can happen here as well.  Still, when Sidney's flaky press agent finds herself alone in a dark parking garage at night, and when two cops guarding Sidney's house start talking about how cops guarding houses in movies always get killed, we know exactly what's going to happen and the movie knows we know.

The two film geeks also make some funny-but-true comments about "shriekquels" and "scream-makes" while observing that "the unexpected is the new cliche'."  Horror film fans should appreciate all this while also noting the ton of references to classic genre titles throughout the movie.  Even Hayden Panettiere's petite good-girl character Kirby (one of the few who eluded my suspicion during the movie) reels off trivia about yesterday's splatter flicks like a true-blue gorehound.

Admittedly, the first half of SCREAM 4 was breezy and enjoyable but not all that noteworthy, and I found myself thinking it would be yet another case of a sequel too far.  Things begin to pick up, however, as the mystery deepens and Ghostface's attacks get more brazen and hair-raisingly suspenseful.  The final act is riveting, containing a pretty startling reveal and lots of action that kept me on the edge of my seat during both the first climax and the surprising epilogue. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay and Dimension Films is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include a ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted and alternate scenes (including an alternate opening and extended ending), a gag reel, and a chummy commentary with Wes Craven, Hayden Panettiere, Emma Roberts, and (via telephone) Neve Campbell.

I thought the third film would be the last word in the series and was, in fact, stretching the premise a bit thin.  But SCREAM 4 is a solid, satisfying, entertaining new chapter, one of the best films of its kind I've seen in years.  Is it the saga's final capper, or will Craven and Williamson scream again?

Buy it at
Blu-Ray/DVD combo

Saturday, September 24, 2011

LUNOPOLIS -- DVD review by porfle

"Blair Witch"-style mockumentaries...conspiracy theories...UFOs..."The X-Files"...various other paranormal stuff...if any or all of these things spark your interest, then chances are LUNOPOLIS (2009) will really pop your cork. 

It also helps if you get into stuff like The History Channel, too--much of the middle section of the film looks like it might have been produced for it, with its various "expert" talking heads and illustrative graphics--but if you don't, then this film is equally likely to act as an effective cure for insomnia.  Me, I bought into it hook, line, and sinker and thus found it uniquely fascinating from start to finish.

The premise is that a documentary film crew led by Matt (writer-director Matthew Avant) and Sonny (Hal Maynor)  has gotten ahold of a weird photograph, supposedly smuggled out of Area 51, that leads them to an underground facility beneath a Louisiana swamp.  Their cinema verite' exploration of this dark, dungeon-like space is claustrophobic and creepy, leading to the discovery of a strange device that looks a bit like a makeshift jet pack.

After shadowy figures chase them back to the surface, they take the device back to the lab and activate it.  Its wearer disappears for almost five seconds, then everyone in the room is zapped unconscious.  Further investigation brings them into rough contact with the Church of Lunology, whose scary, threatening followers make Tom Cruise look normal.  Deeper into the rabbit hole they go, uncovering a plot involving a secret city on the moon (whose inhabitants are already among us) and a mission to send time travelers into the past to tweak our history, thus creating an overlapping jumble of parallel dimensions. 

What makes LUNOPOLIS so convincing is the realistic acting of its leads, who are excellent at seeming spontaneous and unrehearsed (something even the greatest actors can be incapable of).  Most of the camcorder sequences really do look like actual found footage (albeit very nicely shot and edited), making it even more disconcerting when a black car that the film crew are following suddenly takes off like a rocket. 

Most impressive is Dave Potter as purported moon escapee David James, whose folksy demeanor is a stark contrast to the mindbending personal account he gives to Matt and Sonny. This includes his knowledge of an upcoming "paradox date"--December 21, 2012, unsurprisingly--upon which something referred to throughout the film as "The Event" will take place.  Once you get an idea of what this entails, the suspense begins to build with the impending revelation of what will happen on that date.

Like "Blair Witch", LUNOPOLIS is supposedly assembled from found footage taken by participants who have gone missing, which becomes more and more intriguing as their discoveries lead them deeper into some really juicy, dangerous, hardcore conspiracy stuff.  Halfway through the film comes the History Channel-type material, which, if you've gone along with it all up to that point, will continue to fascinate with its dizzying explorations of time travel, multiple dimension overlap, the Roswell incident, the secret origins of not only Lunopolis but Atlantis as well, and other scintillating ideas which not only sound as convincing as any of those shows you see on TV but also increase our unease about that impending paradox date. 

By the time we return to the camcorder footage and the story proper, Matt and Sonny are on the run from a host of scary people while becoming inextricably involved in the events they're investigating.  The pace never lets up until the exciting finale, which brings the story full circle with an event--"the" event, that is--bristling with surprises and startling revelations. 

The DVD from Walking Shadows and Virgil Films is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and both subtitles and closed captions.  Extras include a trailer and an entertaining commentary by Avant and associate producer Michael David Weis.

Even freakier in its own low-budget way than THE MATRIX but without the need for flashy SPFX, LUNOPOLIS is a greatest-hits package of conspiracy theory goodness that would have Fox Mulder thinking he'd died and gone to heaven.  According to the commentary, some people are coming out of screenings thinking they've just watched the real thing, and it's not hard to imagine why.  It's a science-fiction film that presents some truly mindboggling concepts in a realistic and believable way, and the result is so satisfying that you might want to believe, too.

Buy it at

"The Last Circus" Coming To Blu-ray and DVD October 18


The 2010 Venice Film Festival Winner For Best Director And Best Screenplay Makes Its DVD and Blu-ray™ Debut October 18 From Magnolia Home Entertainment Under The Magnet Label

Brilliant.” - Ain’t It Cool News
"If the idea of an unholy collaboration between Guillermo del Toro, Federico Fellini and William Castle appeals to you, put near- masterpiece The Last Circus on your must-see list right now.” - Salon
Cult status is assured.” - Variety

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. – Called “brilliant, bizarre, dazzling and utterly demented” (New York Times), the shocking tale of two murderous clowns in a twisted tale of love and vengeance, The Last Circus steps right up to Blu-ray and DVD October 18 from Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet label. From cult director Álex de la Iglesia (The Oxford Murders, The Day of the Beast) and starring Antonio de la Torre (Volver, Che: Part Two), the “insane,” (Chud) “sinister and grotesquely funny” (Village Voice) film follows two clowns – one sad and one happy – as they enter into a peculiar and unforgettable love triangle.

The film follows Javier, a second generation clown who dreams to follow in his father’s footsteps as a Happy Clown but has seen too much tragedy and suffering in his life to be anything but its counterpart. He finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, but as the Sad Clown, he must take the abuse of the brutish Happy Clown, Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment. Included in the ménage is Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat and the abused wife of Sergio. Javier quickly falls deeply in love with her and attempts to rescue her from her tyrannical Happy Clown husband, however, Natalia is torn between her affection for Javier and her violent lust for Sergio.

Set in both the brutal Spanish Civil War and the tail end of the Franco regime, The Last Circus is a “a searing, intimate work riffing on Hitchcock, DePalma, Fellini, the Universal Monster films and German Expressionism” (Ain’t It Cool News). The DVD and Blu-ray contain bonus features including deleted scenes and the international trailer, and will be available for the suggested retail prices of $26.98 and $29.98 respectively.

Javier, a Sad Clown, finds work in a circus where he befriends an outlandish cast of characters, including the brutish Happy Clown, Sergio, who humiliates Javier daily in the name of entertainment. It is here that he meets Natalia, a gorgeous acrobat and abused wife of Sergio. Javier falls deeply in love with Natalia and tries to rescue her from her cruel and violent husband, unleashing Sergio’s jealousy. With neither man willing to back down, this twisted love triangle evolves into a ferocious battle between Sad Clown and Happy Clown, escalating to unbelievable heights in this shocking, irreverent and unforgettable film.

Bonus Features
Making of The Last Circus
Behind the Scenes Segments
Visual Effects
U.S. Trailer
International Teaser
International Trailer

Buy it at

Friday, September 23, 2011

Anchor Bay Films spins "13" with Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Michael Shannon -- coming in November

Millions of dollars can be yours. All you have to do is spin, aim, and survive...


Pull The Trigger November 8th; Theatrical Engagement October 28th

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – A chilling and unnerving exploration of the relationship between power and money, Anchor Bay Films presents 13 on Blu-ray™ and DVD November 8th. A remake of the award-winning 2005 international sensation 13 Tzameti, 13 is written and directed by Gela Babluani, the original film’s writer/director, and boasts an all-star cast including Sam Riley (Control, Brighton Rock), Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson (Get Rich or Die Tryin’), Ray Winstone (The Departed, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Alexander Skarsgård (“True Blood”), Oscar® nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, “Boardwalk Empire,” the upcoming Superman film Man of Steel), Ben Gazzara (Saint Jack, They All Laughed), Emmanuelle Chriqui (You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, “Entourage”) with Oscar® nominee Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler, Iron Man 2) and Jason Statham (The Expendables, The Mechanic). 13 will also have an exclusive theatrical engagement starting October 28th.

The original 13 Tzameti (the Georgian word for “13”) won the 2006 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Babluani won best director at the Venice Film Festival.

In the film, Vince Ferro is a man in desperate circumstances. While on a quick fix-it job, he steals an envelope containing instructions for a mysterious job that promises a potential fortune. He assumes a false identity and follows the instructions, only to find himself a numbered participant in an underworld Russian roulette competition, where gamblers place bets on who’ll survive when the trigger is pulled.  The stakes are high, but the payout is more than he can resist. Many are competing for the first time, and a precious few have even returned to play again, but are his odds any better than other players in this most deadly game? What will it take to be the last man standing?

Bonus features on 13 Blu-ray™ and DVD will include a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the theatrical trailer. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

COLD FISH -- DVD review by porfle

The horrifically graphic gore and extreme perversion of COLD FISH (2010) is presented in such an offhand, matter-of-fact way that it's interesting to see what the next outrage will be and how the main character, a timid milquetoast named Mr. Shamoto, will react to it.  My own reaction was to gaze intently for almost two-and-a-half hours and marvel at what a delightfully whacked-out movie I was looking at. 

Nobuyuki Shamoto is a humble fish store owner with an unhappy wife, Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka), and a violently bratty daughter, Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara), who despises both him and her stepmother.  He yearns for the ordered tranquility to be found at the local planetarium, but instead is cast into a living hell when he meets the charming and wildly gregarious Mr. Murata, owner of a vastly superior fish store.  Murata rescues Nobuyuki's daughter from a shoplifting charge and puts her to work in his own fish store, offering Nobuyuki a lucrative partnership as well.  But the gratitude Nobuyuki initially feels turns to horror when he discovers what kind of man Murata really is.

Murata and his sexually voracious wife Aiko turn out to be a gleefully sociopathic pair of serial killers who bilk people out of money, murder them, and make them "invisible" by disassembling their bodies in a mountaintop shack.  Shamoto gets sucked into all of this as a lackey and "apprentice", with Murata threatening to kill his family if he doesn't comply.  The "invisibility" process boasts some of the most graphic gore I've ever seen in a movie, but the two giggling psychos perform this grisly task with such lighthearted enthusiasm that the effect is strangely comedic.

Mitsuru Fukikoshi does a great job portraying Shamoto's growing fear and mortification as his association with Murata spirals ever downward.  As Aiko, Asuka Kurosawa deftly switches between playful sex kitten and intimidating killer and is the ideal companion in crime for Murata.  But it's (the singularly-named) Denden as Mr. Murata whose energetic, inventive, and wholly fascinating performance makes COLD FISH such a riveting film.  At times almost a fatherly mentor to Shamoto, Murata is also dangerously unstable and unpredictable, and we never know what the hell he's going to do, or who he's going to kill, next. 

Japanese director Shion Sono (LOVE EXPOSURE, SUICIDE CLUB) shows his sense of humor in the opening sequence by shooting, editing, and scoring Taeko's disinterested shopping and microwave dinner preparation as though it were a suspense scene, then jarringly cutting to the family eating in joyless silence and ignoring each other.  When Murata's initially clownish behavior turns to shocking acts of violence and debauchery, his utter brazenness has a comic edge to it.  And his tutoring of a nervous Shamoto on how to lie to some gangsters who come looking for a missing family member also elicits giddy laughs despite our sympathy for the terrified Shamoto. 

The story rushes headlong into a whirlwind of scary and over-the-top incidents until Shamoto finally reaches his breaking point, with Mitsuru Fukikoshi's performance taking on an unnervingly realistic tone even as Shamoto's actions become more wildly deranged.  While many viewers will have become numbed to the violence and gore by this point, some of the blood-soaked final encounters between the main characters are simply mindboggling.  Shion Sono catches it all with a fluid handheld camera, with some impressive long takes that allow the actors to play out certain scenes to the hilt.

The DVD from Vivendi and Bloody Disgusting is in 1.85:1 widescreen with 5.1 Japanese stereo and English subtitles.  The sole extra is a brief interview with director Shion Sono.

A frenetic, exhilarating experience for those in search of something completely different, COLD FISH is both realistic and just plain balls-out nuts.  It claims to be based on true events, and, while that doesn't mean much these days, I pity anyone who ever experienced anything even remotely resembling what happens in this movie.

Buy it at

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Horror DVDs from Pacific Entertainment


Movies Featuring the Dead, the Undead and the Deadly Bring Thrills and Chills with Special DVD Features That Make These Films Even More Entertaining

SAN DIEGO – (September 9, 2011) – Creeping into the ever popular marketplace for horror films on DVD and Blu-ray, Pacific Entertainment Corporation (OTCQB: PENT) today announced a slate of three terrifying titles for release in September and October 2011. Silent Night, Zombie Night will be released October 4, The Hagstone Demon will be released September 27, and Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption will be released October 18, 2011

“Horror is an evergreen genre that has historically held mass appeal among adult male audiences,” said Pacific Entertainment President Mike Meader. “We believe these three films are prime examples of what appeals to this loyal audience and anticipate strong interest in the genre to bring us success on DVD and Blu-ray.”


Just in time for Halloween – and positioned for sale throughout the entire 2011 holiday season – is the DVD debut of Silent Night, Zombie Night, the film that proclaims, “This Christmas, you are the holiday feast!”

Written, produced and directed by Sean Cain (Naked Beneath the Water, Breath of Hate), Silent Night, Zombie Night chronicles a viral outbreak the week before Christmas that turns the citizens of Los Angeles into the walking dead. On the brink of severing ties with both his wife and longtime partner, L.A.P.D. officer Frank Talbot finds himself trapped with them. As death closes in, their survival is further threatened by the fact that both men love the same woman.  

[Director] Cain has out-Romeroed George Romero …” – Robin Pierce, GoreZone Magazine

This tops Zombieland!” –  Gruesome Hertzogg, Horror Movie Review

Silent Night, Zombie Night special features include:
--Commentary with Director Sean Cain, Producer Wes Laurie and Director of Photography Jim Wright
--Blooper Reel
--Deleted Scenes
--Easter Egg with footage of Silent Night, Zombie Night star Vernon Wells.


Director Jon Springer combines horror and noir in The Hagstone Demon, a film about drunken ex-reporter Douglas Elmore, played by Mark Borchardt (American Movie), who finds himself entangled in a hyper gothic web of taciturn ghosts, naked Satanists and hairless cats in this moody send up of 60’s Hammer films. Deep within the dilapidated brownstone under Douglas’s care lurks a blonde succubus whose sexual overtures provide a welcome distraction from the spectral visitations of his deceased spouse, and from the dead bodies piling up in the hallways.

Instant. Horror. Classic. … The Hagstone Demon brings something totally fresh to the horror canon.” – Don Neuman, Quiet Earth

The Hagstone Demon has a great quirkiness and energy that makes the film worth a watch …” -- Fangoria

The Hagstone Demon special features include:
--Dollface, a short film by Jon Springer
--Commentary Track with Mark Borchardt and Jon Springer
--Video Interview with Mark Borchardt
--Behind-the-scenes Photos and Original Artwork
--Deleted Scenes and Alternate Opening
--Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound


Horror, adventure and over-the-top, post-nuke comic realism converge in Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption, a film that provides huge must-see appeal among adult male audiences. At the end of civilization, zombies greatly outnumber people and every day is a fight to see tomorrow. Rugged wanderer John Knox is saved by a ragtag group of survivors. As he settles in with his new family, maniacal raiders assault the camp and kidnap Sarah – Knox’s love interest. Knox and the few who escaped the attack join up with zombies and launch an all-or-nothing rescue mission on the raiders’ home fortress.

Zombie Apocalypse: Redemption special features include:
--Commentary track with Johnny Gel, Screenwriter Matthew O’Day and Director Ryan Thompson
--“The Road to Redemption” – The Making of ZA:R
--Deleted Scenes
--Still Image Gallery
--5.1 Surround Sound

RUN TIME: Approximately 83 minutes
SRP DVD: $14.98
SRP BLU-RAY: $16.98

RUN TIME: Approximately 107 minutes
SRP DVD: $14.98
SRP BLU-RAY: $16.98

RUN TIME: Approximately 101 minutes
SRP DVD: $14.98
SRP BLU-RAY: $16.98

About Pacific Entertainment Corporation
Pacific Entertainment Corporation (OTCQB: PENT) is an entertainment content and brand management company that produces, manages and distributes affordable entertainment products worldwide. DVDs, Blue-ray and CDs are distributed through the company’s distribution network that extends throughout the U.S. to mass, drugstore, supermarket and specialty retailers. Multi-media products are distributed in the U.S. and internationally for television, cable, streaming, mobile, game platforms, iOS and other emerging tablet devices.

On DVD Oct. 4 - Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Top 10, Fresh Fields 2, and Rosemary & Thyme from Acorn Media


John Nettles presents some of his favorite episodes of Acorn’s top-selling series

Each of his choices is a gem.” —The Guardian
Spectacularly entertaining as always” —
Superbly acted and filmed, and a great joy to watch” —British Heritage

Silver Spring, MD — Delighting fans with its distinctive mix of dazzling scenery, depraved crimes, and charming detectives, Midsomer Murders: Barnaby’s Top 10 arrives to DVD from Acorn Media on October 4, 2011. In this set, affable star John Nettles introduces 10 of his favorite mysteries with witty and revealing production anecdotes from the first six seasons of the bestselling series. Co-starring his original sidekick Daniel Casey (Marchlands), Nettles shares why each mystery holds a special place in his heart. The DVD 10-Disc Collector’s Edition includes ten full-length standalone mysteries set in England’s picture-perfect but perilous Midsomer County ($99.99,


How It All Began: The Killings at Badger's Drift
Favorite Story Line: Blue Herrings
Favorite Leading Lady: A Worm in the Bud
Best Location: Dark Autumn
Funniest Moments: Dead Man's Eleven
Most Intriguing Crime: Death of a Hollow Man
Most Difficult to Film: The Electric Vendetta
Most Dramatic Episode: Murder on St. Malley’s Day
Most Bizarre Episode: A Talent for Life
Favorite Episode: Strangler’s Wood

Midsomer Murders premiered in the United Kingdom in March 1997. Since then, more than eighty feature-length episodes have aired with new episodes still in production. In the U.S., the series has been seen on A&E and The Biography Channel. The mysteries in Barnaby’s Top 10 were previously released on DVD in Sets 1-6. 

Street: October 4, 2011                                                 SRP: $99.99

DVD 10-Disc Collector’s Edition: Ten mysteries – Approx. 16 ½ hours - SDH subtitles

Acorn Media previously released Sets 1-18 with three to five mysteries per set ($39.99 to $59.99) as well as The Early Cases Collection (19-vol. collector’s set which includes Sets 1-3, 5), Barnaby’s Casebook (19-vol. collector’s set which includes Sets 4, 6-8) and Village Case Files (16-vol. collector’s set which includes Sets 9-12). Each set ranked in Acorn’s top 10 best-sellers for its year and sales of each new set consistently gain momentum.

FRESH FIELDS -- Set 2 Debuts on DVD October 4, 2011

Return of the International Emmy®-winning comedy seen on PBS; Starring Julia McKenzie (Marple) and Anton Rodgers

Wonderful” – Los Angeles Times
Full of sly, sharp, warm humor” – Los Angeles Times
Charming” – The Star-Ledger

Silver Spring, MD — A warm and witty empty-nester comedy, Fresh Fields, Set 2 debuts on DVD from Acorn Media on October 4, 2011. Broadcast continually on PBS since the mid-1980s, this International Emmy®-winning series stars fan favorite, BAFTA-nominee Julia McKenzie (Agatha Christie’s Marple) and Anton Rodgers (Lillie, May to December) as a happily married couple adjusting to middle age. Sharply written and brilliantly acted, the DVD 2-Disc Set includes series three and four of the charmingly domestic Brit-com celebrated by critics and fans alike ($49.99, Fresh Fields aired for four series (1984-86), and the leads returned in French Fields (1989-91) for three more seasons set in France.

Anton Rodgers and Julia McKenzie return as William and Hester Fields, a middle-aged couple whose grown children have left home to start lives of their own. Hester is ready for a new life, too—and takes on everything from redecorating to catering. Staid William would much prefer that his life—and his wife—remain unchanged. Inevitably, he finds himself drawn into Hester’s self-improvement schemes, usually reluctantly but always with hilarious results.

Episodes: Do It Yourself, A Waiting Game, Moveable Feasts, Tipping the Scales, Crossed Lines, Alarums and Excursions, A Nose for Trouble, The Old Folks at Home, One Damned Ming after Another, Life Is Full of Ups and Downs, Takes Two to Tango, Caught in the Act, Brighton or Bust, and Happy Returns

Acorn Media previously released Fresh Fields, Set 1 (Series 1 & 2) as a DVD 2-Disc Set ($49.99) in February 2011.

Street: October 4, 2011                    SRP: $49.99

DVD 2-Disc Set: 14 episodes - Approx. 342 min. - British comedy - SDH subtitles


New edition of the hit British mystery series, now with subtitles; As seen on public television

A winner” —Deseret News

SILVER SPRING, MD—Combining glorious gardens with classic whodunits, Rosemary & Thyme: The Complete Collection arrives to DVD from Acorn Media on October 4, 2011 in a newly re-authored 7-volume collector’s edition, now with subtitles. Felicity Kendal (Good Neighbors, The Camomile Lawn) and Pam Ferris (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Matilda) star in this popular British mystery series broadcast on public television and from the producer of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Filmed on location in some of Europe’s most spectacular gardens, the release features all 22 episodes, brimming with top-notch guest stars, eccentric characters, and great chemistry from its gardening detectives–-plus bonus interviews, production notes, and much more ($79.99,

Stunning gardens provide the backdrop for this hit British mystery series starring Felicity Kendal as Rosemary Boxer and Pam Ferris as Laura Thyme, professional gardeners and amateur sleuths. From their former careers as a university plant biologist and a police officer, Rosemary and Laura bring unique investigative talents to their horticultural and human mysteries.

Locations featured in the series include manor houses in the English countryside; London’s Kew Gardens and Regent’s Park; the French Riviera; Italy’s Ligurian coast; a Surrey vineyard; and the hills of Málaga, Spain. Guest stars include Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited), Oliver Ford Davies (Star Wars), Phyllida Law (The Time Machine), Juilan Wadham (The English Patient), Gareth David-Lloyd (Torchwood), Margaret Tyzack (A Clockwork Orange), and Michael Maloney (The Forsyte Saga).

Rosemary & Thyme aired for three seasons (2003-2005) in the U.K. and was syndicated nationally on public television in the United States. The title music is performed by John Williams.

Special Features:  An interview with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris (8 min.), production notes, location notes, photo galleries, cast filmographies, and a trivia quiz.

Street Date: October 4, 2011                                               SRP: $79.99

DVD 7-Disc Set: 22 episodes – Approx. 18 ½ hrs. – British mystery – SDH subtitles

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode" Takes a Bite Out of DVD Oct. 4

Walking Shadows and Virgil Films & Entertainment Proudly Present "Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode"

Documentary Unearths the Never-Before-Told True Story of Bram Stoker and His Legendary Novel

Taking a Bite Out of DVD Oct. 4th

"This is a fascinating and most enjoyable documentary … few viewers will not learn some new from it." - Voices from the Vaults, The Dracula Society

LOS ANGELES - Oct. 1, 2011 - For Immediate Release - In the first documentary to unearth the never-before-told true story of Bram Stoker and his legendary 1897 gothic novel, Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode takes a bite out of DVD Oct. 4, from Walking Shadows (distributed by Virgil Films & Entertainment).

Few mythic figures have ever captured the imagination, nor been as enduringly popular, as Dracula, made famous in Irishman Bram Stoker's 1897 gothic novel and sparking the earliest pop culture fascination with vampire folklore.

But much confusion surrounds Count Dracula, the fictional vampire, and Vlad "Tepes (The Impaler)" Draculea III (1431-1476), the voivode, Old Slavonic, meaning "one who leads warriors." A real-life royal, many believe that Vlad III's violent, six-year rule of Romania and now-familiar surname inspired the famed, fanged figure.

Separating fact from fiction, Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode - filmed in Transylvania, Whitby, London and Dublin - was produced in association with the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and features interviews with the leading experts on the subject.

Sink your teeth into this intriguing examination of one of the world's most infamous legends with an unprecedented look at: visits to Stoker's hometown of Dublin and his (and Dracula's) London haunts; a vivid account of the real-life count's arrival in the seaside town of Yorkshire; Vlad III's reign of terror; debunking the association between any Dracula (a common surname in the former countries of Yugoslavia) and the iconic Castle Bran; retracing Vlad III and Count Dracula's footsteps through Romania; and a look at how Stoker (who never visited Transylvania) left an indelible impression of Romania on the world.

Directed by Michael Bayley Hughes and narrated by Jason Walford Davies.

Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode is presented in full frame with an aspect ratio of 4x3 (1.33:1) and 2.0 Stereo Sound.

Dracula: The Vampire and the Voivode
Virgil Films & Entertainment
Genre: Documentary
Not Rated
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 84 Minutes
Suggested Retail Price:  $19.99
Pre-Order Date:  August 30, 2011
Street Date:  October 4, 2011
Catalog #:  670779
UPC Code:  #829567077924

Buy it at
See it now with Amazon Instant Video

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Horror Reigns Supreme with "Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings" on Blu-ray and DVD October 25


Witness The UNRATED Bloody Beginnings of Three Finger and His Family of Hillbilly Cannibals on Blu-ray and DVD October 25

Los Angeles (September 14, 2011) – Before their victims ever hit a “Dead End,” one family took terror to a gruesome new level. Discover the disturbing origins and bloody beginnings when WRONG TURN 4: Bloody Beginnings debuts on unrated Blu-ray and DVD October 25 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

In 1974, Glenville Sanatorium was the site of a brutal and horrific crime, as three hideously deformed cannibals went on a merciless killing spree. Now, years later, a group of college kids having the time of their life make a fateful wrong turn, giving this family of blood-thirsty cannibals new prey to stalk. The abandoned medical wards within the sanatorium soon become killing fields as the panicked victims come face to face with a chilling choice: fight back or die.

With bonus footage too graphic for theaters including behind-the-scenes featurettes and commentary from director Declan O’Brien (Wrong Turn 3, Sharktopus), WRONG TURN 4: Bloody Beginnings takes audiences back to the most terrifying place of all… the beginning. Available on Blu-ray and DVD October 25, prebook is September 28.

WRONG TURN 4: Bloody Beginnings Special Features
--Feature Commentary from Director Declan O’Brien
--Director’s Die-aries
--Making Another Wrong Turn
--Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous
--Music Video Featuring The Black Out City Kids

Follow Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on Twitter @FoxHomeEnt

WRONG TURN 4: Bloody Beginnings Blu-Ray: (Catalog # 2274743)
Street Date: October 25, 2011
Pre-book Date: September 28, 2011
Screen Format: Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: 5.1 DTS HD-MA
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
U.S. Rating: Unrated
Total Run Time: 93 minutes (not including 35 minutes of special features)
Closed Captioned: Yes

WRONG TURN 4: Bloody Beginnings DVD: (Catalog # 2274736)
Street Date: October 25, 2011
Pre-book Date: September 28, 2011
Screen Format: Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
U.S. Rating: Unrated
Total Run Time: 93 minutes (not including 35 minutes of special features)
Closed Captioned: Yes

Saturday, September 17, 2011

HIGANJIMA (EQUINOX ISLAND) -- Movie Review by Porfle

You know how a fruitcake is colorful and tastes pretty good, but you don't really enjoy eating it that much?  That's kind of what it's like to watch HIGANJIMA (EQUINOX ISLAND)  (2009), a Japanese manga-based horror film by Korean director Tae-gyun Kim. 

At first I thought this might be a kids' movie because the alternate English title, "Escape From Vampire Island", reminded me of ESCAPE FROM WITCH MOUNTAIN.  And at times it does seem a little on the juvenile side, albeit with a lot more geysers of blood than Uncle Walt was known to use.  It's more action-fantasy than scare flick--in fact, it isn't scary at all, with the island's drone vampires resembling a bunch of hunched-over geezers with red eyes and fangs and behaving a bit like the winged monkeys in THE WIZARD OF OZ

The creepiest scene is the pretitles one, in which some poor shlub in a blood-splattered business suit is terrorized by vampires in an abandoned building on the island until a mysterious swordsman named Atsushi (Dai Watanabe) steps in and kills them.  It's an atmospheric sequence with effective gore (Atsushi smashes the vampires' heads in with a log) and some nice CGI-rendered settings.

After that, we're transported to the city where Atsushi's younger brother Akira (Hideo Ishiguro) runs with his gang of high-spirited urban pals.  They're the usual types: Ken, the older leader; Yuki, the girl Akira loves but who has a crush on Ken; Pon, the simpleminded misfit; Nishiyama, the nerdy brainiac; and Kato, the overweight clown (played by stand-up comic Masaya Handa).  The early scenes of them knocking around in the streets are mercifully brief.

One day, a beautiful and mysterious woman named Rei (Asami Mizukawa) appears and tells Akira she knows the location of his long-missing brother Atsushi, arranging for him and his friends to travel to the island.  As it turns out, even Rei's ulterior motives have ulterior motives, and the kids find themselves surrounded by vampires.  The vamps prove pretty ineffectual here, easily beaten back by a bunch of gangly inner-city kids despite all their scary grimacing and hopping around. 

The real menace turns out to be vampire king Miyabi (Kôji Yamamoto), although he isn't scary either.  He's more of a white-faced, nattily-dressed dandy who seems terminally pleased with himself than an object of fear.  He is pretty unbeatable, though, as reunited brothers Akira and Atsushi discover in their bloody clashes with him.  Atsushi's band of underground freedom fighters get into the act, with Akira getting a crash "anti-vampire" course and being transformed into a sword-slingin' warrior in about two hours.  This sets up their climactic assault on Miyabi's lair (an actual Japanese army fortress from WWII) to rescue a captive Yuki.

The action scenes are fairly exciting for the most part although a little repetitive.  About midway through the film the shaky-cam gets progressively worse for some reason, to the point of noticeable annoyance.  By the final minutes, however, this problem seems to give way to some nicely-staged action with Akira and the vampire fighters taking on a giant reptilian beast which guards Miyabi's inner sanctum.  This creature is a direct descendant of both the dragon in DRAGONSLAYER and the queen alien in ALIENS, and the CGI effects here run from good to sketchy. 

The best thing about the movie for me is Genki, an albino bat-girl who swoops around causing trouble while giggling girlishly through it all.  The makeup and SPFX used to create her, along with Kazuko Sakagami's quirky performance, make her a fun character whose demise comes all too soon.  Later, the final clash between Miyabi and brothers Akira and Atsushi in the vampire king's exploding fortress provides the film's bloodiest and most suspenseful action setpiece. 

HIGANJIMA (EQUINOX ISLAND) is fairly well-made and has a reasonable amount of entertaining action and carnage, but it lags in spots and just doesn't come together nearly as well as it should have.  With these ingredients, it could've been as much pure, exhilarating fun as BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA or as scary as any number of Asian horror flicks, but as it is, it's a fruitcake.


Friday, September 16, 2011

TAJOMARU: AVENGING BLADE -- DVD review by porfle

In director Hiroyuki Nakano's action-drama TAJOMARU: AVENGING BLADE (2009), which takes place in Japan of 500 years ago, the plot isn't simply the glue that holds a succession of swordfights together.  You might even call it slow, but the story is more than compelling enough to make the wait between clashing blades worthwhile.

The pretitles sequence introduces us to the main characters as children, with older brother Nobutsuna the impending heir to the house of Hatakeyama--thus future deputy to the Shogun--and his younger brother Naomitsu existing merely to serve them.  Naomitsu's good fortune is the love of Ako, daughter to the Shogun' counsellor, which makes Nobutsuna jealous.  When their family retainers catch a starving young thief stealing a potato one day, kindhearted Naomitsu adopts him as a servant and friend and names him Sakuramaru. 

At first, this sequence comes off as a bit overly charming, but it lays the groundwork for future resentments and betrayals among the characters and ends on a dark note, with the randy old Shogun taking an unhealthy interest in Sakuramaru.  Years later, Nobutsuna's (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi) jealousy and desire for a fortune in gold soon to be inherited by Ako will result in Naomitsu (Shun Oguri) and Ako (Yuki Shibamoto) fleeing into the wilderness with Sakuramaru (Kei Tanaka) hot on their heels.  This is just the beginning of Naomitsu's long and winding odyssey through a series of tragic events.

A key sequence involves the young lovers' encounter in the woods with an eccentric bandit named Tajomaru.  Those who have seen Akira Kurosawa's RASHOMON will probably recognize the name, as that film featured Toshiro Mifune in the same role.  Here, he captures the two and manages to cause a rift between them which results in Ako abandoning Naomitsu to his fate.  When Naomitsu defeats Tajomaru in battle, the old bandit bestows upon him both his legendary name and his sword.  Taking up with a comical band of thieves and becoming their leader, his new life offers him freedom while giving the film its only lighthearted moments. 

Later, when Naomitsu is captured attempting to return home in search of Ako, a lengthy trial to establish his true identity allows various characters to relate their conflicting versions of events in another nod to RASHOMON.  As is most of the film, this sequence is absorbing and dramatic (some might say melodramatic, especially when Shun Oguri displays a remarkable ability to turn on the waterworks) with several surprising twists and turns. 

This leads to yet another potentially tragic development for our hero as he and Ako are cast into something called the Pit of Hell, which is pretty much as bad as it sounds.  Needless to say, Naomitsu eventually fights his way back for an opportunity to take on the film's main villain (who shall remain nameless here) and get his revenge in an all-or-nothing battle that reminded me of the long-awaited climactic brawl in THE SPOILERS.  As with the other swordfights which punctuate the story, it's furious and hard-hitting in addition to being realistically and rather elegantly staged, with several shots resembling dynamically-drawn panels from a manga.

Hiroyuki Nakano's direction is solid and the film is filled with beautiful imagery.  Performances are good, with Naomitsu-as-Tajomaru's fiercely loyal band of thieves being among my favorite characters.  The musical score is an odd mix of the traditional with occasional rock songs, which works pretty well for the most part.

The DVD from Funimation is in 16x9 widescreen with Japanese 5.1 and English surround soundtracks.  Subtitles are in English.  In addition to some Funimation trailers, the bonus feature is a Japanese promo for the film which is wonderfully breathless and hyperbole-packed.  The combo pack contains both the DVD and Blu-Ray versions. 

The story of TAJOMARU: AVENGING BLADE unfolds at a leisurely pace but rewards patient viewers with plenty of soulful drama along with some rousing battle action.  While hardly epic in scale, it doesn't need hundreds of extras or a lot of CGI effects to be entertaining.

Buy the Blu-Ray/DVD combo at

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) -- DVD review by porfle

Back in the 80s when I was compulsively renting more videos than I would ever be able to remember, two of Wes Craven's more notorious horror classics passed through my VCR and then went swirling off into the recesses of my mental abyss.  A while back I revisited one of them, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and found it to be a disappointment.  Now comes the other one, THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977), also enjoying a new DVD release, and this time the revisit is a welcome experience. 

Craven seems to have improved as a filmmaker between these two flicks, and so has his choice of actors.  The look of the film still betrays the low budget and Craven's inexperience, yet there is some style and he does a good job of staging scenes within cramped confines (car, camper trailer) while also taking good advantage of the Mojave desert's wide open spaces.  His cast is better here, too--while their thespian skills aren't always up to par, they handle the more hotly emotional material with abandon. 

Naturally, the older cast members are the most skilled.  Veteran actor John Steadman, best remembered by me as "Pop" in the original THE LONGEST YARD, plays Fred, proprietor of a "last chance" gas station in the middle of nowhere.  Russ Grieve and Virginia Vincent (I WANT TO LIVE!, THE RETURN OF DRACULA) are Bob and Ethel Carter, who stop by for a fill-up before taking their family into the desert while vacationing after Bob's retirement.

Old Fred tries to warn them to stay clear of the area, knowing that there's a family of vicious cannibals out there led by his own son, Jupiter (James Whitworth, TERMINAL ISLAND), a misshapen, split-nosed giant with a mean streak a mile wide.  The Carters, of course, disregard Fred's warnings and are subsequently terrorized by the murderous savages until forced to throw off their veneer of civilization and fight back in kind.

Craven takes his time introducing us to the family, gradually allowing a sense of dread to creep in after they break down in the desert.  While not entirely realistic, they're more three-dimensional and less cartoonish than most of the characters in LAST HOUSE, and the awful comic relief that marred the earlier film is mercifully lacking here. 

The hill people are barely glimpsed at first but their presence is felt as their actions become more overt.  When Bob takes a nocturnal hike to Fred's gas station for help, Jupiter's sudden entrance is a shocker that would be imitated in "Friday the 13th Part 2."  What happens after that is a starkly violent descent into nightmare that keeps the story gripping and fast-paced until the very end.

Future fan fave Dee Wallace makes her third film appearance as Lynne, whose husband Doug (Martin Speer, who resembles a "Simpsons" character) is along for the trip.  Robert Houston plays her brother Bobby Carter, an insecure teen trying to prove himself to a domineering father.  Susan Lanier doesn't make much of an impression at first as flighty younger sister Brenda, but when the action starts and she goes into screaming panic mode, her ability to totally freak out is striking. 

On the other side, James Whitworth is an imposing Jupiter, especially when he's berating a "civilized" captive while munching on his barbecued arm.  Legendary actor Michael Berryman, whose career has spanned everything from ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME to the more recent THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, lends his eerie Boris Karloff-like countenance to the film and its poster as Pluto.

The attack on the Carters' camper by Pluto and his equally animalistic brother Mars (Lance Gordon) is one of the film's most harrowing setpieces and demonstrates to the viewer that no character is safe from brutal death.  The unnerving capper to the scene is the kidnapping of Lynne's infant daughter as a future feast for the cannibals.

HILLS kicks into high gear when the surviving Carters decide to fight such savagery with a little savagery of their own, proving surprisingly adept and creative at the task even as certain aspects of it are a terrible affront to their humanity.  They're aided in this by Jupiter's daughter, Ruby (Janus Blythe in a fine performance), who rebels against the brutality of her family and puts her own life in danger by helping the strangers. 

Jupiter's final assault on the campers is a thrilling sequence in which they counterattack with amazing ingenuity, but it's the grueling hand-to-hand fight between Doug and Mars which really punctuates all that's gone before (the very last shot is stunningly good).  Here, Craven gives the film one of the most effective abrupt endings I've seen, akin to a writer dotting his last sentence with a sharp jab of the pen.   

The DVD from Image Entertainment's "Midnight Madness" series is in 1.85:1 widescreen with both Dolby 5.1 and original mono sound, and the film looks pretty good for its age.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of a trailer and a chummy commentary with Craven and producer Peter Locke, which appears to be from an earlier release since they thank Anchor Bay at the end.  The two offer lots of good behind-the-scenes info including how difficult it was to secure an "R" rating due to the film's graphic violence and disturbing themes.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked THE HILLS HAVE EYES upon seeing it again after so many years.  What Craven and Locke accomplished on this trip into the desert with their low budget, small crew, and limited resources remains an impressive achievement that rises above other films of its ilk to provide chilling, suspenseful, and freaky fun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MAKE BELIEVE -- DVD review by porfle

Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by magicians.  When they're good, it's amazing.  When they're bad, it's funny--and you can see how the tricks are done when they fumble them.  The documentary MAKE BELIEVE (2010) doesn't fumble, and neither do the magicians it introduces us to, because the emphasis here is excellence.  Or rather, the beginning of excellence, since the subjects here are teens still aspiring to win their first major magic competition.

Each of these fiercely ambitious kids has a dream of performing magic for a living and have dedicated their lives to this.  Before we've even gotten a look at their stage acts, we see them doing close-up sleight-of-hand that is near flawless, particularly the stuff Hiroki Hara does with playing cards.  A humble and sensitive boy from the Japanese countryside, Hiroki is such a master of the two-handed circle fan and other difficult tricks that other magicians look on in awe.

Blonde California girl Krystyn Lambert, the quintessential Malibu Barbie type, is a control freak who excels in school while aspiring to be the Britney Spears of magic.  Not quite as driven but equally talented, 14-year-old Derek McKee works in a magic shop in Colorado where his mentors tutor him and try to hone his will to succeed along with some of the weaker points in his presentation.

South African friends Siphiwe Fangase and Nkumbozo Nkonyana incorporate their love of soccer into their comedic two-man act along with their endearingly boyish personalities.  And Chicago's Bill Koch, at 19 making his last try for the title of teen champ, is a husky, energetic go-getter who charges toward this goal with the giddy physicality of an athlete.  During the course of the film, we also get to see the effect of all this on the subjects' families and how, in most cases, an interest in magic has proven to be a decidedly positive influence in a number of ways.

Much of MAKE BELIEVE follows these six teens as they go about their daily lives, which for them includes hour after hour of intense training and practice.  Each credits magic with granting them easy entry into social situations--their almost impeccable sleight-of-hand skills make them instantly popular--yet much of their time is filled with solitary pursuits that isolate them from their peers.  Only when they get together with other young magicians do they feel like they really belong and are truly happy.  

When they and many other young hopefuls congregate in Las Vegas for master magician Lance Burton's World Magic Seminar and vie for the crown, they seem practically blissful in the presence of like company and starstruck at having Burton and other master magicians in their midst.  (This is especially true during a side trip to the Hollywood Hills' fabled Magic Castle.)  When the competition begins, we finally get to see them fully in their element--onstage, performing their long-practiced moves for an appreciative audience and going for the glory.  Most of them do well, some exceed even their own expectations, but one falters at a key moment during a relatively easy trick and faces crushing defeat.

The suspense is gripping but director J. Clay Tweel and writer Cleven S. Loham don't try to manipulate us in the way that a reality TV show would by manufacturing dramatic situations and pitting contestants against each other.  We simply watch events unfold in a realistic way that generates its own subtle drama and is inspirational without being cloying or overly sentimental.  Each of the film's six subjects is allowed to be him/herself and we feel as though we're getting a genuine look at who they are as we root for them to succeed.  And when the winner is announced, it's an engagingly heartfelt moment. 

The DVD From Firefly: Theater & Films and Level 22 is 16x9 with English 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Over an hour's worth of extras includes profiles of the six teen magicians, a "Masters of Magic" short featuring Lance Burton, Neil Patrick Harris, and other magicians, and an entertaining tutorial that teaches viewers how to perform ten magic tricks of varying difficulty. 

MAKE BELIEVE does a good job of helping us understand what's so magical about magic to those who practice it, while amazing us with some dazzling examples of the art by those who aspire to be tomorrow's stars.  Even when we know exactly how a trick is done, the inventiveness, skill, and audacity with which it's performed make it no less impressive.  And in this low-key, insightful, uplifting documentary, we get an idea of what drives certain people to dedicate their lives to creating illusions. 

"LUNOPOLIS" Lands on DVD Oct. 11

Walking Shadows and Virgil Films & Entertainment Proudly Present

What if You Found Something That History Wanted to Forget?

Award-Winning Sci-Fi Thriller Lands on DVD Oct. 11th 

"Brilliant!  The best conspiracy movie I've seen.  This is like The Blair Witch Project meets The X-Files." - Viewpoint Media
"A ripping good story, well told. Winningly males sense out of modern-day conspiracy theories
and a potpourri of unexplained phenomena
." - KATC-TV (Louisiana)
"The most novel lunar conspiracy theory since Capricorn One." - Nashville Scene
"With the wildly inventive Lunopolis, debut filmmaker Matthew Avant has crafted a work of canny, no-budget brilliance. Mannah from heaven for the conspiracy theorist." - Film Ink Magazine
"Intelligent and thought provoking." -
"This is science fiction for the big boys … can and does stand up to the best-of-the-best in both sci-fi literature and cinema." - Maverick Movie Awards

LOS ANGELES - Oct. 1, 2011 - Two documentarians accidentally uncover proof of a hidden city on the moon and the secret society determined to keep it hidden in Lunopolis, landing on DVD Oct. 11 from Walking Shadows (distributed by Virgil Films & Entertainment).

During a late night radio conspiracy show, a frantic caller claims human beings from the future are living on the moon, controlling our every action. The call is cut short … But when a mysterious box arrives at the station days later, documentary filmmakers Matt (writer/director Matthew Avant) and Sonny (co-producer Hal Maynor) pursue the story, tracking a set of hidden coordinates deep into Louisiana's swamps.

Discovering an enormous, underground facility, the duo finds there may actually be truth to the caller's story.
Entangled in something meant forgotten, they narrowly escape but soon find themselves threatened by the bizarre and reclusive Church of Lunology, a dangerous group dedicated to safeguarding mysterious secrets and silencing those who interfere.

Hunted and on the run, the men keep the cameras rolling as they fight to survive, discover earth's secret history and reach a makeshift time machine that could unlock the very gateway to eternal life. A mind-bending experience, Lunopolis offers a surprisingly compelling explanation for … well, everything.

Lunopolis has won numerous awards including: Best Director, 2010 Fantastic Planet Film Festival, Sydney; Best Feature Audience Award, 2010 Big Easy Film Fest; Best Sci-Fi Screenplay, 2010 International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival; Best Screenplay, 2009 Maverick Movie Awards; Future Vision Award, 2010 Glen Rose Neo-Relix Film Festival; and in 2010 was an Official Selection of the Nashville Film Festival, Orlando Film Festival, Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, Roswell UFO Festival, Shockerfest Film Festival, Acadiana Film Festival, Sci-Fi-London and Fantaspoa International Porto Alegre.

Lunopolis is LUNOPOLIS is presented in widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound.  Special features include the theatrical trailer and audio commentary by Director Matthew Avant and Associate Producer Michael David Weis.

Virgil Films & Entertainment
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror
Not Rated
Format:  DVD Only
Running Time:  Approx. 98 Minutes (Plus Special Features)
Suggested Retail Price:  $24.99
Pre-Order Date:  September 6, 2011
Street Date:  October 11, 2011
Catalog #:  670777
UPC Code:  #829567077726

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LEGO and LucasFilms Present "LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace"

LEGO® STAR WARS®: The Padawan Menace™
Animated Special Arrives on Blu-ray and DVD September 16

Features Signature Family-Friendly Fun, Spirited Action and Irreverent Humor
– Along with Two Bonus Shorts and an Exclusive Minifigure!

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (September 12, 2011) – After the Cartoon Network debut of their first-ever original television special, The LEGO Group and Lucasfilm will join forces once again to bring LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace to Blu-ray Disc and DVD. Launching on September 16, the 22-minute original standalone special will feature the charm, action and irreverent humor that have become the signature style of LEGO Star Wars animation collaborations and will include five LEGO Star Wars shorts, as well as an exclusive, collectible minifigure.

LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace BD/DVD combo pack is available now for pre-order exclusively at

Featuring situations, characters and locations from throughout the entire Star Wars Saga, the original adventure is written by Emmy Award winner Michael Price (The Simpsons) and produced by Oscar-winning Animal Logic, the production company behind Happy Feet.

To date, Star Wars is the first and most successful LEGO licensed product collection in the company’s history, generating more than 200 LEGO models and approximately 275 LEGO minifigures inspired by the Saga, which has also spurred a blockbuster collection of videogames, selling 25 million units to date worldwide. In addition to its popularity among younger fans, a significant portion of the LEGO Star Wars consumer fan base is made up of adult fans and franchise collectors.

--Hunt for R2D2
--Bombad Bounty
--Star Wars in Two Minutes (Part 1)
--Star Wars in 2 Minutes (Part 2)
--Star Wars Clone Wars In Cinema

A routine Jedi Academy field trip is turned into a rip-roaring comic adventure in LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. Tour guide Master Yoda leads a group of rambunctious Jedi Younglings through Senate chambers when he senses a disturbance in the Force. Summoned to help save the Republic, he discovers that one of the Younglings secretly boarded his ship…and has a taste for adventure! Meanwhile, C-3PO and R2-D2 are put in charge of the boisterous group and find themselves in over their heads. As the evil Sith prepare to wreak havoc, it’s up to Yoda and the Droids to ensure that their young charges aren’t torn to bricks!

Lucasfilm, Star Wars and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd.  All rights reserved.  All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

LEGO, the LEGO logo, the Brick & Knob configurations and the Minifigure are trademarks of The LEGO Group. ©2011 The LEGO Group. All rights reserved.

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