DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The General

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Trying to achieve bigger and brighter screen events, 1926's "The General" finds director/star Buster Keaton embarking on a herculean task, attempting to craft a slapstick comedy about the Civil War that makes extensive use of full-sized trains. It's the picture that almost torpedoed his career, but Keaton's folly has developed an appreciative audience over the last 90 years, becoming not only a beloved feature, but one largely considered to be his finest endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Three Ages

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For 1923's "Three Ages," Buster Keaton wanted to prove himself as a feature-length helmer after a career crafting shorts. However, to achieve such box office dependability, he returned to the process of making shorts, transforming "Three Ages" into a study of time and comedy, capturing the wilds of human behavior in Prehistoric Times, the Roman Age, and Modern Times, identifying the evolution of society and the enduring insanity and determination of a man in love. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Babyface

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1977's "Babyface" is an adult film that pulls a bit of a switcheroo with gender roles. The tale of an all-male brothel, the story puts women in positions of power, with director Alex de Renzy trying to acquire a slightly different sense of sexual gamesmanship, turning men into objects while exploring the ferocious bedroom appetites of paying customers simply looking for a warm body to an hour or two. "Babyface" isn't consistently progressive, prone to period obsessions with sexual assault, but little efforts count in John Mulligan's screenplay, which strives to make a hot movie turn in unique directions, keeping viewers interested in oddball encounters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Honky Holocaust

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One has to be careful when approaching a movie titled "Honky Holocaust." It's a Troma Production, which is as brief a review as I can provide, and one that's filled with racial hostilities, epithets, and stereotypes, with writer/director Paul M. McAlarney trying his hardest to make an offensive, hyper-violent exploitation picture that pushes every button imaginable. It's a shame the helmer doesn't have the budget to do something more inventive with his faintly subversive premise, instead spending pennies to achieve his vision for excess, somehow believing that creating a mess is the best way to reach closed minds. "Honky Holocaust" is expectedly awful, but not in an ideal Troma-esque way. It's just an icky, fetishistic take on an alt-history disaster, with McAlarney flexing his anger issues instead of making a legitimate film. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Slaughterhouse

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Hoping to launch his own horror icon in Buddy, the beefy, snorting, cleaver-wielding, pig-loving madman, writer/director Rick Roessler submits 1987's "Slaughterhouse," his take on "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre," only with more consumption of Diet Pepsi. The slasher picture lives up to its blunt title, trying to creep out the room with happenings at southern slaughterhouses, pitting a group of fun-loving kids against dear old Buddy, who isn't about to be stopped by puny youth only interested in sex, dares, and amateur filmmaking. What separates "Slaughterhouse" from the pack is production polish, with Roessler backed by a talented crew who give the horror antics touches of artistry, making what becomes a routine display of killing somewhat memorable. And there's Buddy, who's a prototypical backwoods creep with atypical strength, with Roessler finding plenty of awful business for the monster to participate in. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Point of Terror

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Much like "Blood Mania," "Point of Terror" isn't a movie that lives up to its title. Instead of embarking on a series of murders or macabre events, it's more of a psychodrama about ambitious, overly sexual people trying to use one another for various reasons. Part of it is music industry melodrama, the rest is a weirdly slack domestic drama, and it's only interrupted by a few deaths along the way. Star Peter Carpenter (who also receives a story credit) imagines a chance to go full Brando with his take on the loser trying to make something of himself in the worst way possible, and his thespian commitment helps "Point of Murder" reach a few of its dramatic goals. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blood Mania

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With a title like "Blood Mania," certain expectations are put in place, goosed some by the feature's animated title sequence, which highlights a pair of hands tearing at the title while a woman screams on the soundtrack. It's quite the introduction, but it doesn't represent the movie. "Blood Mania" isn't a slasher film, it's more of a chiller featuring a collection of corrupt people spending their every waking moment either trying to kill or sleep with one another. Director Robert Vincent O'Neill knows exactly what's expected of him, and he keeps up with demands for sex and violence, making sure the picture is all stocked up on nudity. Suspense is harder to conjure, with O'Neill struggling with a limited budget, working overtime to make casual encounters vibrate with intensity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dr. Orloff's Monster

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Jess Franco is an acquired taste. The genre filmmaker has his devoted fans, most drawn to his most popular offerings of horror, conveniently forgetting just how insanely prolific the helmer was, diluting whatever creative drive was there to begin with. Franco is a difficult director to place, as he clearly has love for chillers, spending most of his career on eerie endeavors that toyed with classic monsters and often veered unsteadily into sexploitation territory. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - What a Way to Go!

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When one considers the possibilities of a Marilyn Monroe replacement, Shirley MacLaine doesn't immediately spring to mind. However, 1964's "What a Way to Go" endeavors to transform the actress into something of a glamour icon and sex symbol, weighing her down with Harry Winston jewels and keeping her spinning in Edith Head-designed costumes. Mercifully, she's game to go wherever the picture leads, but unfortunately, "What a Way to Go" heads in multiple directions, often at the same time. It's a farce from director J. Lee Thompson, and not always an amusing one, always playing loudly to the back row when a nice hit of subtlety would do just fine. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Vessel

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The mysteries of faith and God are explored in "The Vessel," but such questioning is never direct. Co-producing the picture is Terrence Malick, and writer/director Julio Quintana is a major fan of the helmer's work, going out of his way to mimic a Malickian storytelling ebb and flow that's intended to become some sort of screen poetry. It's a valiant effort, but there's no reason for such artistic replication when Quintana has passable puzzling to work on and a co-star in Martin Sheen to bring ideas to life. "The Vessel" isn't as ambitious as one might think with such a provocative premise, often pretending to be other movies when it should really be its own. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Loving

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Writer/director Jeff Nichols is enjoying an amazing creative streak, crafting thought-provoking, atmospheric features that highlight outstanding performances and intimate emotions, exploring soft-spoken types experiencing tremendous psychological turmoil. There's been "Mud" and "Take Shelter," and Nichols even sampled sci-fi with last spring's "Midnight Special," a fascinating movie that few people saw, as major studios tend not to know what to do with sophisticated, unusual deviations from the norm. "Loving" is perhaps his most human picture, inspecting real-world turmoil born from a legal fight for civil rights, but the helmer's tempo and attention to detail remain, treating the corners of this tale as importantly as everything else. "Loving" has its missteps, but it's a typically strong effort from an increasingly reliable filmmaker. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Frank and Lola

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Michael Shannon is an intense actor, and he's maintained a career interest in playing intimidating or fried men, using his natural way with darkness to create often memorable characters that have complete contempt for humanity in common. Perhaps one day Shannon will stun the world with his portrayal of the Easter Bunny, or perhaps he'll star in a music bio-pic about Raffi, but for now, he's trying to corner the market on hard men, and he's doing a wonderful job. "Frank & Lola" isn't a professional detour for Shannon, but it does manage to harness his gift for threatening behavior, with writer/director Matthew Ross (making his helming debut) capturing raw nerve work from the actor, allowing him to define the unsettling tone of this burning, disquieting drama. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - One Million Years B.C.

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Taking a chance on the creation of the universe, Hammer Films goes way back in time for 1966's "One Million Years B.C." It's no documentary, showing little regard for natural science and history, instead plowing ahead as a fantasy where more attention is paid to the precision of push-up bras than the true stats of prehistoric creatures. It's a remake of a 1940 effort, but director Don Chaffey doesn't seem inhibited by the recycling job ahead of him, bringing in special effects deity Ray Harryhausen to deliver some bang for the buck, imagining and animating all type of monstrous foes for the characters to battle. And when all else fails, there's Raquel Welch, who, in her own way, is an even more dynamic special effect, taking top billing as the pivotal tribal woman running around the cooling Earth clad in little more than a loincloth. There are half-naked actors, rampaging dinosaurs, volcanic disasters, and very little dialogue. What's not to love here? Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - B.C. Butcher

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While most teenagers are lost in concern about social standing, personal appearance, and educational performance, Kansas Bowling decided to pour her energy into making a movie. Well, at least half of one, hiring a cast and crew to make the "B.C. Butcher," a 52-minute-long ode to juvenile and monster cinema of the 1950s and '60s. Bowling is a child and she's made a childish picture, lacking a great deal of polish more seasoned talent would be able to conjure. However, with a tight squint and careful control of the fast-forward button, there's a moderate amount of entertainment value to be found in "B.C. Butcher," showcasing Bowling's interest in silly business and grisly encounters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Don't Answer the Phone

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Many questions arise after a viewing of 1980's "Don't Answer the Phone," including the very meaning of the title. Phones are answered during the course of the picture, but there doesn't seem to be any malicious intent attached to the act. In fact, phone answering is almost campy, with the film's introduction detailing a conversation between nurse in her apartment settling in for the night and her mother, who's clearly being voiced by a man. Perhaps a better title for the production would be "Don't Aspire To Be a Model" or "L.A. Looked Fun in the 1970s." Despite a nonsensical title, "Don't Answer the Phone" has a pretty clear idea of what it wants to be, going full steam ahead as a sexploitation event that's very comfortable separating actresses from their clothing, while violence is favored over actual screenwriting. Director Robert Hammer keeps the basics of cops and criminals here, using formula to support more particular interests in sleazy murder sequences and a heaping helping of psychological disease. It's not a particularly pleasant endeavor, but there are select moments where the effort becomes so unhinged, it achieves a level of absurdity that makes it hard to resist. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blue Money

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1971's "Blue Money" is a domestic drama and a procedural feature about the production of pornography, mixing some soulfulness into an effort that's primarily about sneaking in as much skin as possible. Director Alain Patrick funnels his experience in adult entertainment into this movie, hope to bring to the screen an authentic recreation of life as a porno producer, with all the flakes, crooks, and fear involved, often preventing a smooth assembly of sex. As a semi-documentary, "Blue Money" is actually quite interesting, capturing corners of the skin business that aren't normally addressed, going a long way to demystify how the industry works. The rest of the film isn't nearly as compelling, finding Patrick too enamored with himself to honestly attack his woeful lead performance and uninspired screenplay. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Little Sister

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Director Zach Clark's last picture was 2013's "White Reindeer," a fascinating dive into holiday depression and substance abuse, sold with a darkly comic attitude that gifted the effort a charmingly askew perspective. He returns with "Little Sister," adding to his growing interest in unusual behavior and personal problems, trading Christmas gloom for religious questioning. Clark's a compelling helmer, showcasing interests in characters struggling mightily to define themselves and deal with harsh observations from the outside world. "Little Sister" has a frustrating tendency to forgo resolution, but the journey is fascinating, picking up on the particulars of itchy personalities faced with an impossible challenge of self-awareness, forced to confront questionable decisions and commitments that threaten to take their lives in unwanted directions. Clark doesn't enjoy endings, but he's good with introductions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - No Highway in the Sky

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Based on a novel by Nevil Schute, 1951's "No Highway in the Sky" is a bizarre combination of drama and disaster movie, enjoying the tension of potential airplane disasters and long debates on the science of airplane design. It's not easy to figure out what this effort is trying to be, but it does enjoy the services of stars James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, who act up a storm trying to make the milder moments of "No Highway in the Sky" feel significant. The feature isn't quite the roller coaster ride it initially promises to be, but the performances are terrific, communicating intensity the rest of the film often lacks. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Taboo IV: The Younger Generation

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Going about as far as they could with the Barbara Scott saga, helmer Kirdy Stevens and writer/producer Helene Terrie take a different tonal direction for 1985's "Taboo IV: The Younger Generation." While soap opera-esque exchanges remain, the sequel actually attempts to take this entire universe of rampant incestual activity seriously, playing it unnervingly straight as the screenplay moves from cheap titillation to abyssal psychological exploration, doubling down on perverse activities and blood relation couplings. It takes a few moments for the severity of "Taboo IV" to sink in. However, this dramatic concentration is actually fascinating to watch, with Kirdy and Terrie pushing the envelope instead of merely licking it.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Sicilian Clan

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At the time of its release, "The Sicilian Clan" was a fairly big deal. The 1969 endeavor is not only a crime thriller looking to bring an action cinema aesthetic to a subgenre normally reserved for heated conversations, but it features top-tier European talent, inviting Alain Delon, Jean Gabin, and Lino Ventura to star in this epic saga of mafia antagonism. "The Sicilian Clan" has all the thespian power it needs, but it's the story that tends to wear down the viewing experience, with director Henri Verneuil out to make something sophisticated and smashmouth, but has difficulty juggling the plethora of names and faces the screenplay introduces. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com