DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Sleeping Giant

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Comparisons to 2013's "The Kings of Summer" are valid, but 2015's "Sleeping Giant" is really its own thing, heading to Canada to explore the savage hearts of teenage boys as they're set free for the season. Co-writer/director Andrew Cividino adapts his own 2014 short film, working hard to extend the behavioral investigation, filling the movie with small battles of conscience, love, and trust, all the while indulging all the verite inspiration he's absorbed over the years. "Sleeping Giant" gets mostly there, and while the stress to fill a feature shows throughout the effort, there are periodic moments of enlightenment and combativeness that demand full attention. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Dolores

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In the montage that opens "Dolores," there are shots of triumph featuring the documentary's subject, Dolores Huerta, and a few shots of media types and other folk wondering just who Huerta is. Director Peter Bratt understands her lack of fame, at least in this day and age, creating a cinematic inspection of the labor leader and civil rights activist that's meant to be a celebration and something of an introduction. It's a smart way to approach Huerta's arc of defiance and organization, transforming "Dolores" into a valuable educational tool and an engrossing feature, supported by impressively varied footage of Huerta in action and a slew of interviewees who've come together to recount amazing resilience and focus during turbulent decades of injustice and prejudice for Mexican laborers. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Way West

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If the famous computer game "The Oregon Trail" was based on the events depicted in 1967's "The Way West," there would be an entire generation forever scarred by the stark realities on life on the migratory trip west. A lot more than dysentery rises up to challenge the settlers gathered in Andrew V. McLaglen's picture, which takes a hard look at the mistakes made and sacrifices required to find a fresh start in Oregon. It certainly helps to have a talented cast along to boost the dramatic potential of the material, but the basics of betrayal and loss are communicated vividly in the movie, which maintains an epic widescreen posture but stays amazingly pitiless when to comes to the fates of many of the characters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Blade of the Immortal

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The celebratory aspect of the "Blade of the Immortal" release is the picture's status as the 100th film from director Takeshi Miike, which is no small feat when considering the man began his career ascent in 1991. He's an extremely prolific creator of violent entertainment, hitting some potent cult movie highs over the years ("Ichi the Killer," "13 Assassins"), but he's always swinging at the first pitch, keeping himself busy behind the camera dreaming up new ways to brutalize human beings. "Blade of the Immortal" is not a significant creative departure for Miike, but it does utilize his gifts for blunt aggression and screen style well, adding touches of the unreal to a samurai extravaganza adapted from a popular manga, which permits the story to generally disregard Japanese history and charge ahead as a lengthy, funky bloodbath.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Boys

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1996's "Boys" was probably never destined to be a quality movie. Writer/director Stacy Cochran takes on the impossible task of filling 87 minutes of screen time with her adaptation of a James Salter short story that was only eight pages long. In terms of screenwriting endeavors, that's a Hail Mary pass, and one Cochran is unable to complete despite her best intentions to taffy-pull anything from Salter's work to help beef up the dramatic potential of the project. "Boys" is the rare feature where nothing really happens during the run time, watching Cochran quickly lose interest in character arcs and mysteries, leaving the film to gradually fall asleep. There's a cast of young talent who seem eager to make something interesting out of all this filler, and while the effort is appreciated, the viewing experience is a complete drag. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Crossing the Bridge

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1992's "Crossing the Bridge" is a personal film for writer/director Mike Binder, collecting tales from his youth in Michigan to make a coming-of-age movie about the painful years that arrive post-high school, where the world opens up to some and swallows the rest. It's a nostalgia piece, but the helmer adds a suspense element to the screenplay to keep it focused, finding tension between moments of reflection. Binder's fingerprints are evident throughout the feature (he even narrates), and that special touch keeps "Crossing the Bridge" together when editorial slackness rises to ruin the effort, which suffers from a nasty case of repetition. It's not an especially warm endeavor, but Binder has an eye for emotional and period details, capturing uncertainty with care.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Indian Summer

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After mining his youth for his directorial debut, 1992's "Crossing the Bridge," Mike Binder quickly returns to the creative well with 1993's "Indian Summer," which also details experiences from the helmer's formative years, only instead of drug-running troublemaking, the picture returns to summer camp. Binder stages a class reunion of sorts for his characters, who represent all types of thirtysomething blues, reawakening their spirits in the location that permitted them the most freedom in life and love. The director clearly has affection for his experience at Camp Tamakwa (a real camp, still in business today), and this enthusiasm helps to power "Indian Summer" though some iffy scripting, finding Binder excited about the stay in a woodsy paradise, but less interested in maintaining the cat's cradle of characterization the opening act of the movie promises to explore in full.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Devil Within Her

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1975's "The Devil Within Her" was promoted as the next "Rosemary's Baby," but the production is actually more consumed with replicating "The Exorcist." However, the picture's competitive streak is a little odd, trying to dial back the horror of a possessed child from a little girl to a newborn, which is perhaps too much of a stretch when taking in a feature that showcases the baby terrorizing multiple adults. "The Devil Within Her" is a tremendously absurd endeavor, absolute catnip for B-movie fans, but for the casual viewer, such extremity when it comes to the conjuring of a teensy-weensy menace generally destroys whatever suspense director Peter Sasdy is hoping to achieve. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Tragedy Girls

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There's going to be a generational divide when it comes to the audience for "Tragedy Girls." There will be those who understand, possibly even relate to the modern depiction of teenagedom, which is showcased here as a marathon of social media anxiety, bullying, and insincerity. Older audiences will likely spend the viewing experience being grateful they are no longer adolescents, forced to compete in a ferociously connected world. Thankfully, "Tragedy Girls" isn't a documentary, but a horror comedy, offering satiric touches and exaggerated performances to help viewers ease into the challenges of juvenile life, which, for this endeavor, include murder. Co-writer/director Tyler MacIntyre pulls off a bit of a miracle here, finding ways to connect to unpleasant characters, while the rest of the movie speeds ahead with macabre twists and turns, and shares a love for bloody mischief.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Kills on Wheels

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A Hungarian production, "Kills on Wheels" makes an effort to depict the physically disabled in a unique way. Writer/director Attlia Till takes a creative route while showcasing a story of crime and emotional dysfunction, using the conventions of gangster cinema to shake up the norm when it comes to tales that feature wheelchair-bound characters. "Kills on Wheels" has its share of dark comedy, also highlighting blasts of violence, but there's an emotional foundation poured by Till that gives the material a little more to do than simply tend to formula, trying to form living, breathing characters to go with modest exploitation interests. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Return

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It's hard to imagine director Greydon Clark didn't have Steven Spielberg's 1977 masterpiece, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," in mind when made 1980's "The Return." The film opens with a similar mood and visual style, watching a mysterious, glowing alien ship emerge from the sky to dazzle a few Earthlings before rocketing away. However, the production stops trying to manufacture awe soon after, switching to a more affordable invasion story, and one that favors chills over curiosity, with Clark more interested in breaking glass and shooting guns.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 68 Kill

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Shock value is easy, and it seems to work the best when there's thought put into it, with clever filmmakers managing to create a big screen mess and keep their effort somewhat approachable, either through dark comedy or dimensional characterization. "68 Kill" brings a cannon to a knife fight, with writer/director Trent Haaga trying his best to make the most repellent feature imaginable, focusing on pure ugliness as a way to achieve irreverence, making an exploitation movie for an age when such juvenile aggression is no longer a special event. Adapting a novel by Bryan Smith, Haaga is looking to master an atmosphere that showcases gruesome events and toxic behavior, yet somehow remains humorous enough for the endeavor to qualify as a comedy. "68 Kill" is specialized product for a certain type of genre fan, but boy howdy, does it ever test patience as Haaga stumbles blindly from one scene to the next.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Lucifer's Women

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In 1978, director Al Adamson was tasked with turning 1974's "Lucifer's Women" into a different picture, effectively burying the earlier production (directed by Paul Aratow), which, apparently, never saw the light of day. The restoration efforts of Vinegar Syndrome have returned "Lucifer's Women" to life, bringing the "lost" feature to Blu-ray along with Adamson's "Doctor Dracula," offering cult film fans their first opportunity to watch both incarnations of the Aratow endeavor, with the first pass more of a softcore satanic panic chiller, while the second pass goes goofball with a patchwork quilt of exposition and additional characters, with Adamson laboring to leave his fingerprints on another helmer's work. It's not exactly a thrilling cinematic discovery, but for those who live for B-movie archaeology, this is a suitably strange viewing experience.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Penitentiary

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Instead of taking the usual exploitation route, writer/director Jamaa Fanaka attempts something slightly different with 1979's "Penitentiary," using his screen time to orchestrate sporting and tough guy excitement and approach some interesting social and judicial problems, helping the feature achieve a bit more dramatic texture than the average slug-fest. "Penitentiary" has many issues with tone, taste, and fight choreography, but it's also commanding when it needs to be, with Fanaka conjuring interesting characters and a vividly hostile setting, getting the boxing picture all worked up when necessary to keep viewers interested in the fates of hard men locked inside a concrete cage. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Fugitive Girls

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Director Stephen C. Apostolof (credited here as A.C. Stephen) and screenwriter Ed Wood collaborated on multiple occasions, with the "Plan 9 from Outer Space" helmer churning out scripts that embraced low-budget possibilities, with exploitation highlights employed to create marketplace demand for the pictures. Their partnership began with 1965's "Orgy of the Dead" and eventually made its way to 1974's "Fugitive Girls" (a.k.a. "Five Loose Women"), and, much like "Dead," the feature does away with most dramatic necessities to charge ahead as a women-on-the-run endeavor, complete with broad characterizations and frequent nudity. It's nonsense, but as B-movie entertainment, Apostolof and Wood rarely pretend that they have anything but sleazy weirdness to share, and the filmmaking honesty is refreshing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sinbad of the Seven Seas

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Rarely have I seen a movie work as hard to tell a story as 1989's "Sinbad of the Seven Seas." The Italian production has a lot of sequences to get through, but no real way to tie everything together, offering intrusive narration to act as the illuminated lamp working through the editorial darkness, while the picture opens with an extended explanation that it's an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade," despite having almost nothing in common with the short story. "Sinbad of the Seven Seas" is a great many things, which immediately confuses the production, watching star Lou Ferrigno flex, bend, and smash enemies as Sinbad, but he's no match for a feature that plays like a trailer, jumping from one adventure to the next without interest in establishing any connective tissue.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Cemetery Club

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It's hard to argue with the thespian skill on display in 1993's "The Cemetery Club." The combination of Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, and Diane Ladd offers a level of professionalism that would aid any production, and it just so happens that this picture needs all the help it can get. Writer Ivan Menchell brings his play to the screen, but there's not much of a translation, finding the staginess of the material creating a stiff, dry feature. Director Bill Duke takes a breather from violent escapades (including "A Rage in Harlem" and "Deep Cover") to helm this soft take on grief and friendship, but he's not interested in challenging Menchell's work, preserving the theatrical experience for the movie. "The Cemetery Club" is notable for its casting and attention to the needs of fiftysomething women, but it's rarely amusing and seldom profound, providing flavorless conflicts for its intended demographic, who deserve a little more intensity when dealing with matters of a broken heart.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Angie

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1994 represents a period of stumbling in the career of Geena Davis. After reaching critical and box office highs with "Thelma and Louise" and "A League of Their Own" in the early 1990s, Davis had trouble keeping up the pace, with 1994 hurting her momentum with the release of "Speechless" and "Angie," a feature which offers a leading role most actresses would kill for, tasked with portraying a complicated woman who quests for independence while smothered by tradition. Davis is up for the task, taking the part seriously with a strong lead performance that hits all the emotional bullet points, but "Angie" has problems with focus, with director Martha Coolidge struggling like mad to keep the titular character on a defined journey of self as dozens of subplots and supporting characters compete for attention. It's a dramatic juggling act Coolidge has difficulty mastering, sending the final cut smashing across melodramatic extremes that dilute the intense character odyssey promised in the opening act. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Aviator

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After experiencing the critical and commercial disappointment of 1983's "Superman III," Christopher Reeve returns to the skies in 1985's "The Aviator," though he's no longer in superhero mode. Trading blue and red tights for a leather jumpsuit, Reeve plays an emotionally and physically wounded pilot for the burgeoning air mail industry in this period piece, which pairs the star with Rosanna Arquette for maximum discomfort. The novelty of seeing Reeve in the air again wears off fairly fast, as "The Aviator" quickly reveals itself to be a leaden melodrama with mismatched stars and clunky screenwriting trying to marry mountainside survival activity with a postmortem analysis on wounded war pilots. The movie goes everywhere but up, failing to generate interest in the longevity of two annoying characters who insist on making a bad situation worse for themselves, with the production insisting it's creating something of a romance when it's actually inspiring a headache with this achingly insipid effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend

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For their third release, Touchstone Pictures (Disney's PG-and-over distribution label) elected to make a movie about a baby dinosaur that wasn't appropriate for little kids to see. 1985's "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" makes a lot of odd creative and tonal choices as it assembles a jungle adventure, caught somewhere between trying to be cute and cuddly for family audiences and remaining surprisingly violent to keep adults interested in the survival of animatronic creatures (the tale open with a character getting knifed in the gut). Director B.W.L. Norton (who previously helmed the fascinating failure, "More American Graffiti") finds himself overwhelmed with the job at hand throughout the feature, struggling to find storytelling clarity. "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" has a retro appeal to it, especially for those who enjoy displays of rubber suit-based antics, along with miniature work and puppetry, but the film as a whole spends so much time juggling light and dark material, it never has a chance to enjoy itself, becoming laborious and behaviorally confusion rather than engrossing, with touches of awkward Disneyfied adorableness.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com