DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Blue Vengeance

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1989's "Blue Vengeance" is a cop movie with horror interests, though co-writer/co-director J. Christian Ingvordsen does a lot more than simply blend genres. The picture is more of a sandbox where the production plays with different ideas of suspense and action, using the wilds of New York City in a rather exciting way, keeping the low-budget endeavor on the move as it tries to make a manhunt feature with limited resources. "Blue Vengeance" has obvious technical and filmmaking limitations, leaving it best suited for low expectations, which permits its askew vision for procedure and gore to shine brightest, watching Ingvordsen have a ball cooking up strange events in his home city, giving the effort a compelling B-movie spin. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Humor Me

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Writer/director Sam Hoffman plays it safe with the plot of "Humor Me," his directorial debut, making a movie about the arrested development of a man facing substantial responsibilities, moving in with his father for a free room and to find some clarity. However, formula is thinned out by personality, with Hoffman generating appealing characterizations, putting the players through amusing challenges as he hunts for significance in the dramedy. As the title suggests, there's plenty of levity and passive-aggressive behavior to enjoy, and Hoffman secures success with the pairing of leads Jemaine Clement and Elliot Gould, who pull off an itchy family dynamic with terrific timing, bringing heart and laughs to "Humor Me," which benefits greatly from their unique talents. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Doctor Detroit

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While the summer of 1983 was always going to be dominated by the release of "Return of the Jedi," it's fascinating to note that Universal Pictures really thought they had something special with "Doctor Detroit," which was issued a few weeks before the "Star Wars" sequel. Strange comedies were certainly welcomed by adventurous audiences, but here was a movie that offered a lighthearted take on prostitution and, in a way, gang violence, putting emphasis entirely on star Dan Aykroyd, who was making his debut as a leading man after teaming with friend John Belushi on numerous projects. No matter how one considers the endeavor, "Doctor Detroit" is a very weird feature, and while it didn't end up doing much business during its initial theatrical release, the film remains an amusing curiosity, recalling a time when a major movie studio though they had R-rated gold with difficult material, trying to bypass inherent darkness with musical numbers, cartoon-style silliness, and Aykroyd's natural comedic extremity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Terror

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As the story goes, director Norman J. Warren caught a showing of "Suspiria" and was greatly impressed with the stylistic choices made by filmmaker Dario Argento, also respecting his general disregard of a traditional narrative to live in the moment with abstract wonders. Warren, born and bred in the U.K., decided to try to replicate a slice of Italian cinema in his homeland, with 1978's "Terror" a hodgepodge of giallo craftsmanship and horror freak-out obsessions. The helmer of "Prey" and "Satan's Slave," Warren already knew a thing or two about freaking out audiences, but with "Terror," he strives for mimicry, and as plenty of other challengers already understand, it's hard to do what Argento does, especially during the "Suspiria" years. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Seven

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The title "Seven" is most associated with the chilling 1995 David Fincher hit, which provided a depressing reminder of the world's cruelties and capacity for evil. Director Andy Sidaris actually used the title earlier, and I think most people would rather live in his world. 1979's "Seven" is a secret agent actioner from Sidaris, who's best known for movies such as "Hard Ticket to Hawaii," "Savage Beach," and "Malibu Express," creating a career that often highlights pretty people engaging in ultraviolence, always in a warm, tropical setting. He's a master in the "girls with guns" subgenre, and "Seven" is his second pass at establishing exploitation career interests, this time taking the mayhem to Hawaii, where the battle begins between wicked men and the select few hired by the government to assassinate them. Sidaris is known for one thing, and he does it relatively well in the picture, which understands ridiculousness, but remains focused enough to supply a fun ride of chases, bikinis, and extreme concentration on villain routines. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Blood Hook

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Horror hits the bait shop in 1987's "Blood Hook," which provides a most unusual setting for its unfolding nightmare: the North Woods of Wisconsin. The contrast of nature's serenity and sliced and dice gore is the driving force behind the picture, which is something of a spoof of slasher cinema, but not really, with director Jim Mallon playing most of this cheerily but not jokingly. It's not a movie that's concerned with providing scares, having more fun working out the details of the kills and it remains utterly devoted to characterization, with a host of personalities competing for screen time. In fact, the most chilling aspect of the effort is its run time of 111 minutes, which is far too long for something this light, but the trade-off is vivid comprehension of emotional concerns and regional oddity, with Mallon making sure everyone who shows up for the slaughter gets a moment or five to detail their troubled existence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

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As an actress, Hedy Lamarr was defined by her beauty, using good looks to support a Hollywood career that included turns in films such as "White Cargo," "The Conspirators," and "Her Highness and the Bellboy." During her heyday, she created a stir wherever she went, wowing the public with extraordinary glamour. "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story" endeavors to find the woman underneath the attractiveness, identifying the star as a brilliant mind interested in the mastering of inventions, with a strong pull toward science, reaching a specific breakthrough during World War II that's largely responsible for the world of wi-fi that we know today. "Bombshell" has the benefit of shock value, with director Alexandra Dean selecting an extraordinary topic for documentary dissection, working to redefine Lamarr's legacy as a figure of allure to one of unheralded brilliance. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Misterjaw

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Following their work on "The Dogfather," DePatie-Freleng elected to try their luck again in the world of movie parodies, unleashing 1976's "Misterjaw" on audiences still fired up over "Jaws" mania from the previous summer. There's not much here that delivers on Spielbergian monkey business, with the production keeping to the basics with this mild Looney Tunes riff, creating a Road Runner vs. Coyote dynamic for the titular character and a tiny fish he's determined to consume, despite getting smashed, crashed, and humiliated along the way. In the overall DePatie-Freleng oeuvre, "Misterjaw" ranks fairly low, as repetition and a general absence of thought over to what to do with a comedic shark makes 34 episodes of this series wearying at times. There's a sound-alike "Jaws" theme that opens every short, but overall, the material tends to be more about physical comedy and chases than a robust pantsing of a movie phenomenon.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Dogfather

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Hunting for material to keep their empire of animation rumbling along, DePatie-Freleng elected to take inspiration from the movies during the 1970s, adding to their cinema-inspired arsenal that began with work on the "The Pink Panther" films. While Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" seems like an unlikely influence for any family-friendly cartoon endeavor, the creative forces at DePatie-Freleng weren't intimidated by the feature's R-rated interests, creating 1974's "The Dogfather," a canine-led spoof that largely did away with sex and violence, replacing the raw stuff with silliness. Exploring the daily life of the titular don and his league of nitwit enforcers, "The Dogfather" is largely traditional mischief from the company, who enjoy the challenge of creating wild antics for as cheaply as possible, giving the material some appealing speed and absurdity as it tries to make something as heavy as "The Godfather" into 17 shorts of extreme goofiness.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Two Much

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By the mid-1990s, Antonio Banderas was a highly respected actor in his native Spain, having built his reputation working with esteemed directors such as Pedro Almodovar. However, an itch to join the Hollywood elite proved impossible to ignore, with Banderas trying to make his mark on bigger projects, including "The Mambo Kings," "Philadelphia," and "Interview with the Vampire." 1995's "Two Much" represents a bridge built between his previous achievements in European cinema and his California dreaming, putting the actor in the middle of a semi-farce with two actresses clearly unfit for the thespian challenge. Banderas isn't to blame for the general lethargy of "Two Much," as he gives an engaged performance. However, director Fernando Trueba doesn't know exactly what he wants from the PG-13 picture, which doesn't offer much more than tedious antics, dreary line-readings, and a distinct lack of heat between the star and his leading ladies. It's all meant to be a rollicking good time, but the feature doesn't have the refinement to become anything more than a chore to watch. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Offerings

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Slasher cinema comes to a screeching halt with 1989's "Offerings," which has all the ingredients to bake a perfectly acceptable nightmare, but writer/director Christopher Reynolds becomes a little too caught up in his desire to remake "Halloween" to notice that general momentum is lacking. It's a no-budget affair, putting a shadowy madman on a quest to murder those who made his already problematic childhood hell, and Reynolds has trouble coming up with reasons to remain with it to the very end, which, at times, feels like it may never arrive. While trying to keep in step with genre trends of the day, Reynolds doesn't summon enough originality to inspire thrills, sticking to a basic stalk-and-kill formula that's not boosted by bright characters or any discernable suspense. "Offerings" is assembly line moviemaking, and while it might provide a nostalgic kick for a simpler time in horror entertainment, the picture just doesn't get the job done, watching Reynolds spin his wheels with dull scenes, bland personalities, and distracting technical limitations, ultimately hoping enough John Carpenter references might be enough to cover for a distinct lack of his own ideas. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The 6th Man

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There was a moment in the mid-1990s where basketball pictures were all the rage (likely ignited by the sleeper success of 1992's "White Men Can't Jump"), with Disney especially determined to create their own comedy blockbuster with help from college and professional basketball. There was "Eddie" and "Celtic Pride," but the worst of the bunch was 1997's "The 6th Man," a film that has the bright idea to merge comedy and death, trying to create laughs in the shadow of some rather mean-spirited behavior and brutal reminders of mortality. "The 6th Man" is clueless, but it does have confidence, with director Randall Miller (who recently served time in prison due to his participation in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones) committing to everything the screenplay by Christopher Reed and Cynthia Carle dreams up, failing to recognize that the material is largely devoid of appeal, sensitivity, and laughs. But there's plenty of basketball and NCAA atmosphere, with the production trying to work itself into a sports movie lather as it deals with DOA material.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Celtic Pride

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Full disclosure: I've never read Judd Apatow's original screenplay for "Celtic Pride." However, I choose to believe that whatever he was able to come up with in the initial planning stages for the film has to be funnier than what ended up in theaters in the spring of 1996. Here's a movie about fandom, taking a look at the lengths sports nuts will go to protect the good fortunes of their favorite teams, using the idea to inspire a comedy about extremes and mishaps, while saving a little space to pants the NBA and its collection of arrogant athletes. And yet, "Celtic Pride" doesn't work, missing a sharp sense of humor and fondness for farce that could elevate some good ideas into an uproarious picture. Perhaps Apatow is to blame for whiffing with a surefire premise, but, more often than not, director Tom DeCerchio is lost, preferring to have his cast scream into the camera than craft a slightly more devilish understanding of the deceptively bitter relationship between fan and player. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Like Me

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With the release of "Ingrid Goes West" last summer, there's already been a fairly accurate summary of social media and its capacity to distort lives, exposing dangerous levels of need and delusion. "Like Me" has the same interest in the potency of stranger celebration and condemnation, but writer/director Robert Mockler isn't interested in playing straight with what little drama he offers here. "Like Me" is more of a modern art installation, going the abstract route with wild visuals and anxious editing, keeping Mockler busy orchestrating a 79-minute-long freak out. Your mileage may vary with the picture, as those particularly interested in an artful summary of personal ruin while find something to embrace here. It's not for everyone, but what's disappointing about the movie is that, at times, it's only really for Mockler.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Babyface 2

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"Babyface 2" offers the suggestion of a sequel to Alex de Renzy's 1977 original, but the features are miles apart in story and tone. While the previous picture carried a bit more severity when it came to the sexual gamesmanship between men and women, the follow-up is more of a stand-alone endeavor, finding the writer/director in a particularly scattered mood as he hires half of the adult films stars from the 1980s to join what's essentially a filmed party. Imagine if Robert Altman helmed a teen horndog comedy from the era, and that's kinda, sorta how "Babyface 2" plays, putting in a group effort to detail a network of young(?) characters finding excuses to experience carnal pleasures in random locations. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Welcome Home, Brother Charles

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Best known as the creator of the "Penitentiary" saga, writer/director Jamaa Fanaka began his career with student features, crafting dissections of black life in America while receiving his education from UCLA. Keeping up with the cinematic movements of the day, Fanaka hoped to twist the Blaxploitation trend by focusing more on the human element of the black community while still delivering all the violence and sleaze this type of entertainment normally requires to attract audience attention. "Welcome Home, Brother Charles" is a 1975 effort from Fanaka, and it showcases a raw desire to be provocative with unreal plot developments and empathetic to the financially and spiritually unstable locations the production utilizes. "Welcome Home, Brother Charles" takes a considerable amount of time before it reveals its reason to be, and along the way, Fanaka delivers a passionate study of poverty and desperation, doing his best to fit in his perspective on life while tending to levels of outrageousness the picture eventually indulges in. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Gate II

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An inventive and semi-wild overview of backyard hellraising, heavy metal, and suburban survival, 1987's "The Gate" scored big with a limited budget. It featured engaged performances from its young cast and memorable special effects, with director Tibor Takacs handling a PG-13 horror movie with confidence, making sure to maintain creepiness while selling the fun factor of true minion mayhem. 1992's "Gate II" (which was completed in 1989, but suffered a distribution delay) does what it can to replicate the inherent appeal of kids fighting miniature demons, but Takacs and returning screenwriter Michael Nankin attempt to age-up the viewing experience, heading in an R-rated direction with even less money to help bring an apocalyptic vision to life. "Gate II" isn't nearly as wily as the original picture, but the production manages to score with what little they have to work with, offering neat special effects and a renewed focus on wish fulfillment to help reheat the formula.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Star Time

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Writer/director Alexander Cassini takes an experimental route when conjuring the ravages of mental illness in 1991's "Star Time." To describe the picture as strange is an understatement, with the helmer embarking on a Lynchian tour of psychological decay, clinging to a few horror traditions to preserve some sense of movement for a production that doesn't always prize forward momentum. It's not a slasher movie, but there's a body count and masked killer brandishing an ax, delivering a sense of threat to a feature that's interested in deconstructing the ways of serial killing. "Star Time" has moments of abstraction, but it works as a swan dive into madness spotlighting a truly unhinged individual coming to terms with the expanse of his treasured media-worshiping delusions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Soldier

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After trying his luck with a "Death Wish" knock-off in 1980's "The Exterminator," writer/director James Glickenhaus ups his game to the international level, trying on the world of 007 in 1982's "The Soldier," which positions Ken Wahl as a James Bond-style superspy trying to prevent the end of the world, or at least the end of affordable gas and peace in the Middle East. Obviously, Glickenhaus doesn't have the money to bring an expansive thriller to life, but he does have a few scrappy ideas for chases and confrontations. "The Soldier" is clunky, teeming with filler and drowsy acting, but when it makes the effort to lock into excitement and supply some crazy stunt work and multiple explosions, it remains passable entertainment, rarely working overtime to become something special. Wahl isn't easy to buy as a world-class master of assassination and political relationships, but he's much more appealing in panic mode, adding his special, slightly sluggish charms to Glickenhaus's vision for big screen adventuring. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

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To pull off a disaster movie set inside a high school, animation is the only art form left to handle the enormity and fantasy of the event. Death and destruction are contained within "My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea," a darkly comedic take on adolescent survival (both literal and social) from writer/director Dash Shaw, who examines the plight of a crumbling school with emphasis on quirky, psychedelic visuals and distinctive voice work. "My High School Sinking Into the Sea" isn't a major offering of animation, but it's wonderfully creative in its approach to doomsday, with Shaw arranging an idiosyncratic tour of behavior and physical challenges that permit him time to conjure a charmingly low-fi world of teen neuroses. It's strange work, but accomplished and quite funny when it wants to be. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com