DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - More American Graffiti

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1973's "American Graffiti" is a masterpiece. While writer/director George Lucas would go on to become a filmmaking legend with "Star Wars," his second film is just as enchanting, detailing a special night, the last of adolescence for a group of teenagers, in 1962. It's an evocative, charming, painfully relatable endeavor that showcased Lucas's skills with performance and atmosphere, pouring his heart into a semi-autobiographical picture that was boosted by a killer soundtrack and gauzy, engaging cinematography. "American Graffiti" ended with a sobering epilogue revealing the fates of the participants, but the movie was a smash hit, and with "Star Wars" securing its position as one of the most famous features of all time, Lucas elected to return to the creamy nostalgia of his earlier success, concocting "More American Graffiti" in 1979 with writer/director Bill L. Norton, looking to create the next logical step for characters experiencing the pure potential of tomorrow in the comfort of their hometown: complete disillusionment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Late Great Planet Earth

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Perhaps it's difficult to imagine a world without the internet connecting lives and creating immediacy, but for the 1970s, a non-wired world permitted many to make their move, cashing in with wild claims of apocalyptic fury to frighten those without the instant ability to research and rebuke such grim claims. Author Hal Lindsey struck gold with his 1970 book, "The Late Great Planet Earth," which merged biblical interpretation with end of the world fears. Lindsey tried to match up details from the Book of Revelations with modern political and environmental events, creating his "evidence" that something major was brewing on the horizon, suggesting the path was being paved for God's return to mankind. It was a hit book, beguiling readers with examples of current woes matching ancient dreams, and with all the money being made, there was no way Lindsey's work was going to skip a cinematic adaptation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Jericho Mile

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The Michael Mann we know today is a beloved craftsman of sleek, violent tales of masculinity and world disorder. His reputation is monolithic, amassing a passionate fanbase that's been willing to forgive his recent career missteps. It's hard to image a helming legacy that's grown into event movie status started off so small, but 1979's "The Jericho Mile" is the first feature-length endeavor from Mann, who made his debut with a modest but potent television movie that was created for ABC, but often plays like something prepared for PBS. Early obsessions with imprisonment and boiling points are present here, but Mann is working on a much smaller scale, confined to a single prison location, challenging him to get into the heads of his characters, using such intensity of thought to propel the effort, keeping a film about running as claustrophobic as possible for network television. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2

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Last January, Kino Lorber released "The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966), which explored the debut of the titular character, showcasing how he was developed and his antics refined by the creative forces at Depatie-Freleng. In "Volume 2 (1966-1968)," focus remains on the Pink Panther and his extreme habit of pursuing trouble whenever he can find it. While Depatie-Freleng (and director Hawley Pratt) mostly stay true to the proven animated formula of bop-bang-boom cartoonery, this round of "Pink Panther" shorts takes some time to swim around in the warm waters of the counterculture, with a few selections trying out psychedelic visuals and stories that concern the Pink Panther battling the limits of reality, giving the mischievous cat a few acid trips to go with his daily diet of destruction and easily triggered irritability. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Night of the Lepus

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1972's "Night of the Lepus" is best described as the "Killer Rabbit Movie," and that's pretty much the viewing experience director William F. Claxton provides. While based on a novel by Russell Braddon, the picture generally goes its own way with an animal attack premise, playing into ecological fears and cinematic history by pitting runaway rabbits against a small town of understandably panicked people. "Night of the Lepus" isn't refined entertainment, and once it sets up the central crisis, drama fades away, with Claxton clearing the way for lengthy rampage sequences that utilize crude special effects and bizarre creative choices, watching the production work to make rabbits the most fearsome villains of the film year. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - On the Beach at Night Alone

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Sang-soo Hong is a celebrated and prolific South Korean filmmaker, creator of pictures such as "The Day He Arrives" and "Right Now, Wrong Then." For South Korean audiences and international film enthusiasts, Hong is a fixture of tabloid journalism, having embarked on an affair with frequent collaborator Min-hee Kim, finding love with the actress while still married to his wife. The situation has fueled headlines, and now finds a place in Hong's work, with "On the Beach at Night Alone" an insular, confessional look at the touchy situation, with Hong analyzing his life choices with help from Kim, who claims the lead role. It's couple's therapy in a way, but "On the Beach at Night Alone" doesn't become a joint effort, finding Hong focusing on Kim's journey through the wilds of regret, loneliness, and longing, speaking for the situation, not herself.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Body of Evidence

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The influence of European cinema crept into Hollywood during the 1980s, emerging in the form of the erotic thriller, which blended harsher elements of violence with softer bedroom appetites, giving audiences a sampling of chills and titillation. A good portion of these productions were built for the burgeoning VHS rental market and late night cable programming, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the product without the discomfort of sitting in a theater with strangers. Theatrical forays were rare, but they managed to burst forth on occasion, and certainly 1992's "Basic Instinct" turned the subgenre into a potential gold mine, giving producers the foolhardy idea that they could replicate Paul Verhoeven's specialized, Euro-stained madness. While 1993's "Body of Evidence" isn't a direct response to "Basic Instinct," it certainly aspires to find the same audience, offering its own take on murder, kink, and suspicion with decidedly lower voltage. While helmer Uli Edel is no stranger to the ways of lustful behavior, previously guiding 1989's "Last Exit to Brooklyn," his vision isn't as distinct for this studio assignment, unable to rise above the crummy raw materials he's been handed and transform painful mediocrity into riveting cinema.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Under Capricorn

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While a master of filmmaking, one of the all-time greats of the form, Alfred Hitchcock wasn't immune to a few failures during his reign. 1949's "Under Capricorn" arrived a year after his imaginative dramatic construction on "Rope," working to sustain such extended theatricality for a costume drama, and one that's largely missing conflict and certainly lacking pace. Hitchcock tries to find his way around the picture, delivering all the craft he can muster, only to find the general lethargy of the material smothering style at every turn. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Grave Robbers

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The screenplay for 1988's "Grave Robbers" makes several references to the work of Stephen King. Writer/director Straw Weisman is clearly a fan, basically recycling King's formula of strangeness happening to an innocent while trapped in a deceptively cheery small town. These ingredients have worked for King on multiple occasions, and they help Weisman as well, giving his odd little movie a nice boost of atmosphere and illness. "Grave Robbers" is a dark comedy with horror interests that never completely gel, but the production is certainly focused on achieving something with the material, which adds pinches of zombies and necrophilia into its genre stew, watching Weisman work earnestly to make a strange feature that's impossible to predict and even harder to comprehend at times, but maintains a lively sense of madness and era-specific sexual concerns. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Ninja III: The Domination

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Still trusting the power of ninja mania during the 1980s, Cannon Films wasn't about to let a good idea die peacefully. Instead of rehashing work found in "Enter the Ninja" and "Revenge of the Ninja," Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan push the series into a far stranger direction (with help from screenwriter James R. Silke) for 1984's "Ninja III: The Domination," which is, true to its title, a martial arts picture, but one that's incredibly mindful of trends, trying to be the most '80s movie of the 1980s by combining aerobics, video games, and demonic possession into a feature about a war between ninjas. "Ninja III" is nuts but, strangely, it's also lovingly made by director Sam Firstenberg, who doesn't take the helming assignment lightly. While faced with utter ridiculousness and a limited Cannon budget, Firstenberg tries to pack in as much violence and movement as possible, wisely choosing to hypnotize viewers with exploitation instead of winning them over with craft.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Disorganized Crime

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For his second directorial effort, Jim Kouf returns to the tonal issues that plagued his previous endeavor, 1986's 'Miracles." The screenwriter of "Stakeout," Kouf isn't sure what kind of movie his wants to make with 1989's "Disorganized Crime," so he samples a little of everything, initially starting with a crime caper before segueing into broader acts of comedy and strangely intense moments of robbery. It's not a triumphant feature, though it does contain an impressive cast, with the actors trying to figure out their place in the story as Kouf wanders about, unable to master much suspense or laughs.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 5 Films 5 Years Volume #1 - Golden Age Erotica

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Vinegar Syndrome is having a birthday party, and they've invited the HD-loving public to join the festivities. After working through exploitation and horror movies with "5 Years 5 Films – Volume #2," Vinegar Syndrome turns their attention to the hotter side of life with "Volume #1," which focuses on adult cinema, sharing five pictures previously available only on DVD. Included on this collection are 1985's "Too Naughty to Say No," 1978's "Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls," 1985's "Ribald Tales of Canterbury," 1980's "Prisoner of Passion," and 1983's "Dixie Ray Hollywood Star." All the essentials are provided here, with sex, strangeness, comedy, and some mild genre hopping. And, if star power is your thing, the pictures welcome thespian efforts from John Holmes, Lisa De Leeuw, Ginger Lynn, Desiree Cousteau, and Seka. It's a buffet of writhing bodies and graphic close-ups, giving viewers an opportunity to watch selections from the golden age of adult cinema with evocative Blu-ray presentations. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Miracles

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Screenwriter Jim Kouf ("Class," "Secret Admirer," "Up the Creek") makes his directorial debut with 1986's "Miracles," bringing with him dreams of establishing a rich farce filled with chases, near-misses, strange luck, and combative characters. He would go on to write "Stakeout," one of the best films of 1987, but such a creative triumph was still a year away, leaving him stuck with a frustratingly inert, unfunny comedy that would normally kill a helming career before it had a chance to fully develop. So, thank goodness for "Stakeout" and god help us all with "Miracles," which emerges as a kitchen sink idea from Kouf, who's desperate to make this manic endeavor work despite dreadful miscastings, a thin premise, and dialogue that's primarily interested in detailing how two people hate each other. It's unpleasant and worse, unadventurous, testing patience as a brief run time is wasted on uninspired shenanigans and a half-realized gimmick.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Rock-a-Doodle

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In the 1980s, everything was golden for director Don Bluth. Sure, a few creative setbacks, compromises, and challenges were encountered by the animation helmer, but he enjoyed a string of box office successes and industry triumphs along the way. Commanding "An American Tail," "The Land Before Time" (a picture that inspired 13 sequels), "The Secret of NIMH," and the "Dragon's Lair" saga, Bluth certainly found his particular corner of artistry and worked like crazy to maintain some momentum to a career that, at one point, threatened Disney's animated film dominance. The 1990s, however, were not very kind to Bluth and his vision, with 1991's "Rock-A-Doodle" providing a taste of disasters and disappointments to come. While Bluth has some vision for this loose adaption of a turn-of-the-century play by Edmond Rostand, the production quickly slips out of his control, showcasing rather extreme storytelling disruptions and choppy editing, which overwhelms was appears to have been a fully conceived animation adventure with interesting live-action elements at one point during its development. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Jack the Giant Killer

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1962's "Jack the Giant Killer" was apparently created to cash-in on a monster movie trend, utilizing the rise of stop-motion animation to help create a storybook vision of a princess in peril, a young man becoming a hero, and the monsters conjured to stop him. Directed by Nathan Juran, "Jack the Giant Killer" doesn't pretend to be anything besides spirited matinee entertainment, offering family audiences a series of exciting beastly encounters, pronounced performances, and bold acts of courage, summoning the fantasy film vibe with relative ease. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - How Do I Love Thee?

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Jackie Gleeson made his fair share of duds, but as he aged, he lost his star power, growing increasingly reliant on his established persona to connect with potential audiences. 1970's "How Do I Love Thee?" finds Gleeson navigating the changing tides of American society and entertainment interests, starring in a dramedy that's meant to play to both older and younger audiences, trying to build a bridge between the counterculture and senior citizens. It's a big time whiff from the icon, who looks lost (and quite inebriated) during his performance, unsure how seriously he should take a movie where Shelly Winters is cast as a sex object. "How Do I Love Thee?" is a brutal sit at times, with nobody in the production particularly confident in the film they want to make, going soft in every direction. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Spetters

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Paul Verhoeven is known as a cinematic provocateur. He's a filmmaker with a defined taste for the extreme, using sex and violence as mere building blocks in his features, which typically amplify the human experience into big screen opera, making a mess of emotions and body parts. 1980's "Spetters" comes before Verhoeven's incredible American run of "RoboCop," "Total Recall," and "Basic Instinct," returning to a time when he was a burgeoning Dutch helmer with plenty of spunk to spray on audiences, funneling his enthusiasm for untamed characters into a story of youthful energy, tragedy, and bad behavior. Imagine if Verhoeven directed "Porky's," and that's close to the viewing experience of "Spetters," which highlights the youth of Rotterdam as they try to make their way in the world, landing on the worst possible personal decisions imaginable along the way. Overkill is a big deal to Verhoeven, and the feature tries to inflate common problems into major incidents of horror, retaining the unmistakable vision of a helmer who excels at creating screen danger, but often doesn't know when to quit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Josie

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"Josie" emerges from the mind of screenwriter Anthony Ragnone, who makes his feature-length debut with the movie. Apparently, the writing attracted a lot of attention on the screenplay scene a few years ago, even reaching the dubious "Black List," a self-congratulatory Hollywood system that's helped many projects reach the screen, while only a few of them have been as extraordinary as their reputations. "Josie" has the seductive curves of the picture that plays terrific on paper, but as a film, limitations are highlighted in a major way, with the plot more suited for a short story than a big screen endeavor, finding Ragnone working on a puzzle that's not particularly worth solving, while director Eric England doesn't provide much of a reason to remain with the unfolding drama, forgoing narrative drive to linger on lukewarm encounters between banal characters.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Reincarnation of Peter Proud

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"The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" is based on a 1973 book by Max Ehrlich (who also scripts), which became a best seller during a decade that freely experimented with the other side, with numerous productions trying to stimulate ticket sales by visiting the unknown, almost as a way to prove the unbelievable exists. While the movies are miles apart, it's hard to think that the massive success of "The Exorcist" didn't play a part in the feature's creation, as both tales concern a seemingly innocent person slowly exposed to something wicked that resides inside. "The Reincarnation of Peter Proud" doesn't dance with the Devil, but it does investigate a certain level of evil, with director J. Lee Thompson ("The Guns of Navarone," "Happy Birthday to Me," "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes") committed to inspecting every square foot of the developing intrigue, even if it means bringing the picture to a full stop, which he does on multiple occasions.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Little Women

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There has been no shortage of media adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 novel, "Little Women," which has been brought to the stage, radio, and screens big and small. It's a timeless tale of sisterhood and maturity, and it makes sense that every few years there seems to be a production taking a stab at bringing Alcott's vivid characters to life in one way or another. There have been a few masterpieces along the way (the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder is a particular triumph), giving this take on "Little Women" from writer Heidi Thomas some sense of perspective as it strives to respect the source material but ultimately become its own thing, emerging as an inspection of empowerment and individual evolution while still sustaining Alcott's way with tragedies of all shapes and sizes. This BBC production ultimately paints itself into a corner, but the three episodes that make up the series (Run times: Ep #1 - 61:23, Ep #2 - 60:23, Ep #3 - 62:02) offers periodic clarity of spirit, giving Alcott's world a brightness of personality that carries the best of what the original book has to offer.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com