DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Deadtime Stories

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One can appreciate what co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman is trying to do in 1986's "Deadtime Stories," looking to fairy tales to inspire a horror anthology that hunts for the thin line between frights and silliness. The vision is there, but the execution leaves much to be desired, confronted with three tales of various tonalities and production polish, with the worst one oddly chosen to close out the picture. "Deadtime Stories" is meant to be a thrill ride of genre surprises, with plenty of gore, some nudity, and broad antics out to entertain its intended audience. However, Delman is hanging on by his fingernails with this endeavor, never establishing consistency between the segments, losing concentration on the essentials of storytelling to play as messy as possible with dismal ideas that fail to tickle or terrify. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Apple

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The one-two punch of "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" gave birth to a host of productions aiming to achieve a similar level of box office success with the same moviemaking ingredients. It was a surge in the late 1970s that created the likes of "Xanadu," "Can't Stop the Music," and, of course, "The Apple," a particularly absurd attempt to mount a Hollywood-style rock musical, written and directed by Menahem Golan, also known as the co-founder of the infamous schlock studio, Cannon Films. "The Apple" was meant to be Golan's ticket to the big time, remaining on trend with disco-inspire production values and big musical ambition, but it didn't find an audience. Actually, it found an audience, but one that reacted violently to the feature's semi-camp/semi-sincere take on biblical temptation, requiring a period of obscurity for the effort before it was reassessed in the early 2000s, rechristened as a Midnight Movie experience and deservedly so, with its general lunacy and earnestness best appreciated fully fatigued and/or drunk.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 1492: Conquest of Paradise

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The thought of making a movie about Christopher Columbus in 2017 is absurd, with any possible production sure to be swiftly blasted by condemnation from various concerned parties. However, back in 1992, there was a race to put as many Christopher Columbus features on screen as possible, offered during a pre-social media era when those acutely aware of the famous explorer's true achievements had no place to protest. Four tales of Columbus's journey across the world were delivered for the 500th anniversary of his "discovery" of America, with one, "Christopher Columbus: The Discovery," a bloated, moronic bomb from Alexander and Ilya Salkind, while director Ridley Scott was gifted a premiere creative opportunity with "1492: Conquest of Paradise," endeavoring to craft a more realistic take on the story, but still paying tribute to the spirit of exploring and the savagery of man.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - A Fantastic Fear of Everything

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"A Fantastic Fear of Everything" is an acquired taste, submitting such an itchy, darkly comic atmosphere that's utterly guaranteed to energize those in step with its madness, while others will find the enterprise an overly mannered grind to get through. It's polarizing work that carries immense creativity and sharp sense of humor, burrowing into the spinning mind of a destructively phobic man during an intense period of suspicion. Thankfully, star Simon Pegg is up for the challenge, bringing to the screen a truly scattered character who's hilariously bound by his fears, articulated with all the spasms and pauses the actor is particularly skilled at delivering.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Ben

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1971's "Willard" is a fairly gentle horror movie, only paying attention to genre demands on occasion, using its tale of killer rats and their human leader as a way to explore a damaged mind finally getting a taste of power. It was a curious revenge picture, but effective, preserving the inherent weirdness of the plot while staging a few murderous encounters between man and rodent. The feature was a hit, thrilling audiences looking for a squirmy good time, making the possibility of a sequel a no-brainer. However, 1972's "Ben" doesn't seem to understand what made "Willard" a smash, taking a far more sedate approach to detailing a pest infestation, almost transforming the concept of a homicidal rat into a family film, stripping away frights to make a modest tearjerker about a dying boy and his beloved pet. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Willard

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Take a look at the marketing for 1971's "Willard," and one could come away with the impression that the releasing company was offering a snuff film for sale, reserved only for the most practiced moviegoer. Watch "Willard," and it's a relatively cheery PG-rated chiller about a man and his relationship with a colony of rats. So much for the "This is one movie you should not see alone" tagline. I can't image what director Daniel Mann had to do to maintain order on his set, but his efforts result in an entertaining horror picture, but one that plays rather peacefully between acts of rat-based savagery, leaning on star Bruce Davison to conjure some unnerving behavior and cuddle time with his tiny co-stars to help the feature sustain what little unease it provides.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Twisted Nightmare

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To be fair to 1987's "Twisted Nightmare," slasher cinema rarely makes sense. It's a genre that often employs irrational characters acting as stupidly as possible, while filmmakers barely hang on with snoozy plots that only service the needs of the almighty Kills. "Twisted Nightmare" initially appears to have a narrative direction worth following, introducing a Native American curse established long ago that's revived for a fresh round of big screen slaughter. However, something went seriously wrong under the care of director Paul Hunt, who abandons plot, personality, and continuity as his movie struggles to make it to the 90 minute mark. People certainly die, and in horrible ways, but the rest of the endeavor is a bewildering assembly of editorial apathy and awful performances, sure to tax even the most forgiving slasher fan.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Three Sisters

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Put celebrated actor Laurence Olivier in charge of directing an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's "Three Sisters," and there's a guarantee of quality seldom seen in the stage-to-screen tradition. Preserving his work on the material for the Royal National Theater, Olivier shows immense respect for Chekhov's writing and the needs of cinema with this endeavor, part of the American Film Theater's efforts during the 1970s to bring theater to the masses.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Julie Darling

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Writer/director Paul Nicholas had quite a year in 1983. He's most famous as the helmer of "Chained Heat," the controversial women-in-prison picture that starred Linda Blair and Sybil Danning. Lesser known is his other contribution to the film year: "Julie Darling," which maintains the collaborative process with Danning. Ignoring good taste to run full steam ahead as an exploitation distraction, Nicholas cooks up a somewhat icky premise to play with for 90 minutes of suspicion, murder, and sex, toying with concepts of innocence and jealousy which, because this is a B-movie with little interest in morality, leads directly to incest, or at least the fantasy of it. "Julie Darling" isn't polished work, and it certainly isn't lovable, but for those with the ability to free themselves of expectation are likely to find a compelling offering of illness, and one that gleefully merges moves from "The Bad Seed" and softcore pornography to create a strange chiller that never bores. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Man in the Glass Booth

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The American Film Theater was a production company dedicated to the creation of movies based on stage plays and musicals, using a subscription- based releasing strategy to bring theater to the masses, not unlike today's multiplexes, which host monthly opera offerings to packed houses. The idea was the preserve the source material, keeping the efforts spare and cheap, but also sustaining their artistic voice. Perhaps the most notable of the 13 endeavors was 1975's "The Man in the Glass Booth," which managed to secure a theatrical run that resulted in an Academy Award nomination for star Maximilian Schell, who pours his blood, sweat, and tears into his portrayal of an Adolf Eichmann-type put on trial in Israel for war crimes.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hoot Kloot

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For "Hoot Kloot," the DePatie/Freleng animation machine turns their attention to the Wild West, creating shorts (which ran between 1973 and 1974) that poke fun at the genre's conventions and characters, doing so with aggressive cartoon sensibilities. Going full steam ahead with wordplay, "Hoot Kloot" manages to be a little more than a basic offering of cowboy slapstick, finding the writers having fun with the possibilities of the series, which grows wackier as it rolls along. There's always a primary visual of Hoot Kloot and his limping horse, Fester, but when the production really winds up, there are amusing supporting characters and engaging animated realms to explore. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Blue Racer

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While productions from the DePatie-Freleng animation company were never known for their cultural sensitivities, some caution is advised before sitting down with "The Blue Racer." While ostensibly an ongoing tale about a blue snake and his never-ending quest to find a meal, the cartoon series (released in theaters between 1972 and 1974) is perhaps best known for the character of Japanese Beetle, who's depicted as a buck-toothed, English-bending insect, fulfilling most, if not all Asian stereotypes. It's a lengthy examination of bad taste comedy that would make Mickey Rooney wince, but the DePatie-Freleng production team isn't necessarily mean-spirited about it, following comedy targets of the day to help provide clarity of character. It's ugly, no doubt, and perhaps the whole series is best left tucked inside the folds of animation history, but for those willing to look beyond a bad idea, "The Blue Racer" provides manic chases and disasters, sold with customary cartoon fury and, mercifully, some brevity.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Paradine Case

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1947's "The Paradine Case" is a rest stop during an incredibly fertile time in Alfred Hitchcock's creativity, arriving after "Spellbound," "Notorious," and "Lifeboat," while preceding 1948's "Rope," which this picture feels like a test run for. Far from his greatest work, "The Paradine Case" still offers a few premiere Hitchcock moments, attempting to jazz up a murder mystery/courtroom drama with visual control and a few fine performances, working to make something passably meaty out of a dry run of suspicion and obsession (a Hitchcock specialty). Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Zaza

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"Zaza" was originally a 19th century French play concerning the relationship between the titular musical hall entertainer and a married man. The material caught on in a big way, adapted for stage and screen multiple times over the decades, with one of those efforts a 1923 feature from director Allan Dwan, who cast Gloria Swanson in the lead role. Granted, the idea of a play with a certain level of timing transformed into a silent movie is very strange, but this "Zaza" has plenty of spirit thanks to Swanson, who delivers a full-body performance to make sure the camera picks up her emotional range and comedic abilities, sold without the use of verbal wit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - One, Two, Three

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1961's "One, Two, Three" isn't just a Billy Wilder movie, it's the helmer's follow-up to "The Apartment," which is largely considered to be one of the maestro's finest achievements during his long directorial career. However, instead of aping his success, Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond decide to head in the opposite direction, arranging a farce with "One, Two, Three," which takes place in Cold War-era Germany, right before the construction of the Berlin Wall. The men also invest in speed, keeping the feature moving along at an incredible pace, preserving the material's theatrical origins with an endeavor that's loud and broad, treating the widescreen frame as a stage.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - VHS Massacre

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There's been much debate on the possibly of physical media coming to an end, replaced by the rise in downloading and streaming offerings that utilize faster internet speeds, playing directly to an audience that doesn't feel the need to own movies or visit a theater. It's a sad state of affairs, and demands a documentary that carefully examines both sides of the argument, inspecting the history of physical media and its evolution over the years to its current position of perceived extinction. Sadly, "VHS Massacre" is not the production prepared to dissect the essentials in education and example to make a strong argument for either side. Instead of an insightful endeavor that makes an effort to encompass a wide range of topics, the documentary is more of a grab bag of ideas, pinballing around discussions and interviewees with little to no focus, failing to achieve a greater presentation of theme and nostalgia.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Son of the Sheik

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Facing a dip in his career after the massive success of 1921's "The Sheik," star Rudolph Valentino returns to the well with 1926's "The Son of the Sheik," which attempts to revive the actor's "Latin Lover" image with a second helping of Middle Eastern obsession and romance. However, Valentino doesn't take the challenge lying down, electing to play two roles, father and son, in the feature, which provides a vigorous enough thespian experience to help liven up an otherwise agreeable but unremarkable sequel.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tough Guys

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I'm sure they never intended to become a team, but audiences were certainly interested in the on-screen pairing of acting legends Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. They collaborated on several pictures, including "Seven Days in May," "The Devil's Disciple," and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," merging their meaty sense of performance and tremendous charisma, forming an unusual but successful partnership, and one that faded away for a few decades while both actors had to figure out how to age in Hollywood, finding their position in a rapidly changing industry. Their reunion of sorts is "Tough Guys," a 1986 comedy from director Jeff Kanew ("Revenge of the Nerds," "Troop Beverly Hills"), which deals directly with the autumnal years for Douglas and Lancaster, using their senior status to participate in the "old people still got heart" movement of the mid-'80s, coming a year after the release of Ron Howard's "Cocoon." "Tough Guys" isn't a thrill-a-minute effort, but it does know what to do with its leading men, staying out of their way as Douglas and Lancaster revive their practiced dynamic for one last go-around, out to prove to the audience that they still pack quite a punch, often quite literally. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy

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For their final Universal production, the comedy team Abbott and Costello were paired up with another studio legend, the Mummy. Absent from screens for some time, the Mummy, or Klaris (changed from Kharis), returns to duty in 1955's "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy," which is supposed to be a funny feature, as opposed to "Mummy" sequels, which brought on unintended laughter. The picture is also the last of the Abbott and Costello monster team-up movies, sending the pair off with one more opportunity to inspire laughs through horror, this time taking on a particularly slow threat.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Mummy's Curse

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While there have been many "Mummy" movies, 1944's "The Mummy's Curse" represents the end of a cycle for the brand name, winding down the saga of Kharis and the monster's longstanding drive to reclaim the bride he lost centuries ago. The second of two "Mummy" efforts in 1944, "The Mummy's Curse" makes a few puzzling storytelling choices as it tries to find a way out of the narrative mess it's made, but it all feels a bit anticlimactic, gradually running out of energy instead of concluding with pure horror.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com