DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Little Sister

00000.m2ts_snapshot_00.44.20_[2017.01.25_14.32.07]

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

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.03.30_[2017.01.28_06.23.45]

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

00000.m2ts_snapshot_01.17.45_[2017.01.28_06.14.20]

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

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.36.49_[2017.01.28_06.43.14]

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


Blu-ray Review - The Unholy Four

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.34.57_[2017.01.24_09.15.17]

While it details strong violence at times, 1970's "The Unholy Four" remains a jaunty spaghetti western, keeping the cowboy routine lubricated by a wonderful score from Riz Ortolani, who's the real white hat of this production. Music helps to point the picture in the right direction, as helmer Enzo Barboni makes a stylish, short-tempered effort, but also one with bizarre pit stops, including a full minute of screen time devoted to watching four characters eat in extreme close-up. Barboni has a firm handle on the basics of the genre, but his ideas for dramatic grit are occasionally bewildering. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Who?

00004.m2ts_snapshot_01.14.24_[2017.01.18_05.57.17]

There was no shortage of strange sci-fi and fantasy tales from the 1970s, a decade that was wallpapered with outrage and paranoia, fueling such endeavors. It was a way to provide global commentary to those perhaps unwilling to listen, or identify trouble when it wasn't allowed. 1974's "Who?" is one of the stranger offerings from the era, merging the oddity of cyborg construction with the gamesmanship of Cold War spy missions, wrapped up in a detective story of sorts that takes everything presented onscreen with the utmost seriousness. It's an adaptation of an Algis Budrys novel, which keeps it away from B-movie shenanigans. Instead, "Who?" questions the nature of identity and the price of national security, all the while featuring actor Joseph Bova dressed up as a robot, and there's not a single character who's disturbed by the sight. While hardly outrageous, the picture is strange enough to hold attention, using the oddity of the robot visual to sneak in some interesting thoughts on the nature of humanity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Scavenger Hunt

00004.m2ts_snapshot_01.48.21_[2017.01.24_09.09.35]

Released during the 1963 holiday season, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" broke several comedy rules, making it a filmgoing event. Besides achieving an absurd length, the feature collected a wealth of funny people to participate in a madcap adventure, making it a must-see during its theatrical release, triggering the envy of producers around town. Knock-offs weren't immediate, but they eventually arrived, including 1979's "Scavenger Hunt," which is a rather bold photocopy of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," only without the sterling cast and widescreen expanse. While it retains a lack of editorial control, "Scavenger Hunt" attempts the same manic energy, boosted here with pronounced "Looney Tunes" inspiration, finding director Michael Schultz more of a manager than a director, trying to juggle groups of actors who are here to play, delivering extremely broad performances in a movie that welcomes any and all forms of goofballery. It's a silly endeavor, but it's also exhausting to watch, with its inherent harmlessness evolving into a threat as the one-dimensional picture is stretched over nearly two hours of screen time. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - David and Bathsheba

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.26.23_[2017.01.12_16.41.50]

The 1950s were an amazing time for biblical epics. Studios were attempting to best one another with different tales of Heavenly might, and they were spending serious coin to produce these varied tales, keeping productions immense, with thousands of extras, towering sets, and ornate costuming. The bible provides plenty of opportunity for flashy extravaganza, and a major player in the race was 1951's "David and Bathsheba," which turned to a particularly dark section of scripture to fuel a big screen journey that takes on life and death, sex and temptation, and giants and sin. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Steaming

00002.m2ts_snapshot_01.03.23_[2017.01.12_17.20.12]

Based on the play by Nell Dunn, 1985's "Steaming" is the last feature film for director Joseph Losey, the helmer of "Modesty Blaise," "The Trout," and "The Romantic Englishwoman." Losey's career ends on a confident note with this production, which preserves the movements of the source material, maintaining concentration on the lives of women who frequent a Turkish bath, sharing their stories, hopes, and fears with one another as the business becomes a center of therapy for the customers. Although it isn't a sophisticated transfer from stage to screen, Losey wisely preserves the flat look of the production, keeping concentration on the characters and the drama they encounter and periodically invent. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Revenge of the Blood Beast

00000.m2ts_snapshot_00.45.43_[2017.01.13_09.53.00]

An Italian chiller, 1966's "Revenge of the Blood Beast" (aka "She Beast") is a peculiar endeavor to merge horror with broad comedy, using extremes to give the picture a level of liveliness other productions tend to avoid. Director Michael Reeves barely holds the feature together, but he's rather good with macabre details, putting time and effort into gruesome encounters and fiendish turns of plot. But for every bizarre, demonic scene in the movie, there's a slapstick counterpart, including a conclusion that appears to be a tribute to the Keystone Cops brand of mischief -- an unexpected addition when dealing with a film that's primarily about a witch's rampage. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Ixcanul

00000.m2ts_snapshot_00.51.12_[2017.01.12_17.05.57]

Slow burn doesn't even begin to describe the "Ixcanul" viewing experience. It's a film of complete stasis at times, but the fact that writer/director Jayro Bustamante is able to find a mesmerizing creep to the picture is a major achievement. A full immersion into culture, poor decisions, and responsibility, "Ixcanul" is not a feature that exits the system quickly, gradually locating outstanding character detail and, surprisingly, potent social and political commentary, making it much more than an admittedly hypnotic series of thousand yard stares. Bustamante doesn't have much here besides his evocative vision, but he makes his moments count, following a plot that's filled with common adolescent blues and disasters, yet arrives at a completely unpredictable destination. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Doomwatch

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.24.30_[2017.01.12_16.53.57]

While it began life as a BBC show in 1970, 1972's "Doomwatch" hopes to bring its message of global health to a larger audience with a feature-film continuation. Mindful of repetition, the production alters a few elements from the television program, attempting to make the movie its own thing, which generally involves isolating the lead character from the comforts of big city science as the story plays out inside a coastal Scottish village. Perhaps this attempt to revive "Doomwatch" is best left for longtime fans of the series, who already have an appreciation for its blend of genre pursuits and procedural might, though newcomers to the concept aren't left hanging, as director Peter Sasdy tries to infuse the picture with a sense of environmental urgency, even if the overall effort has trouble unearthing chills and thrills. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Neptune Factor

00004.m2ts_snapshot_01.11.41_[2017.01.10_07.23.14]

1973's "The Neptune Factor" takes viewers into the depths of the ocean on a rescue mission that encounters its share of fantasy challenges and enormous amounts of exploration. It's meant to be engrossing escapism, showcasing actors concentrating on the moment, attempting to turn some crude filmmaking magic into a pulse-pounding ride of bizarre discoveries. Intention is there on the screen, often carried along single-handedly by co-star Ernest Borgnine, but "The Neptune Factor" can be quite ridiculous if one doesn't buy into the special effects wizardry on display. Its cheesiness is pronounced, making any viewing of the effort a game of stifling laughs and battling yawns, as director Daniel Petrie is so enamored with his submersibles, he forgets to build an engaging thriller, with long stretches of the feature devoted to characters staring out of windows, trying to project a feeling of awe the picture doesn't inspire. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Loophole

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.18.38_[2017.01.10_07.05.27]

American bank heist movies typically take care of business in a more stylish, swift manner, playing up the inherent thrill of theft with pulse-pounding turns of fate and broad personalities to match the mission at hand. The British tend to take it easy on excitement, leaving 1981's "Loophole" more of a picture to accept than enjoy. An adaptation of a novel by Robert Pollack and directed by John Quested, "Loophole" is pretty much the opposite of suspenseful, taking a leisurely stroll through moral choices, near-misses, and the execution of criminal endeavors. It's not without merit, but the feature doesn't appreciate the value of pace, finding more to enjoy about the set-up than the payoff. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Biggles: Adventures in Time

00004.m2ts_snapshot_01.13.17_[2017.01.07_13.45.51]

Looking to compete with the sci-fi blockbusters of the 1980s, "Biggles: Adventures in Time" perverts its source material to transform itself into a high-flying, year-hopping adventure. The 1986 picture doesn't truly adapt the series of novels it's based on, which details the heroism of an ace WWI British pilot. Instead, the production merges the character of Biggles with a time-travel plot that allows the feature a chance to appeal to younger audiences who might pass on the idea of spending time with a stuffy character. It's a strange creative reach that doesn't make much sense as the movie unfolds, but small pockets of spirit remain in "Biggles," which takes time to find its groove, but eventually secures some thrills and spills once the screenplay focuses on wartime suspense. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Stryker

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.51.41_[2017.01.07_13.56.17]

While "Mad Max" and "The Road Warrior" weren't dominating blockbusters, their influence was felt throughout the 1980s, inspiring producers to assemble knockoffs that required very little production effort. The formula is easy to master, only requiring a desert location, shredded costuming, and vehicles. 1983's "Stryker" doesn't even try to pretend that it's not a "Road Warrior" reheat, taking familiar plot, design, and character elements to help support an actioner that's big on explosions and gunfire, but limited when it comes to dramatic pursuits. It's the end of the world, once again, but for director Cirio H. Santiago, "Stryker" provides a chance to raise a little hell in the wild, always keeping the silly picture explosive to help distract from its severe storytelling deficiencies. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Undertaker

00000.m2ts_snapshot_00.13.48_[2017.01.05_19.02.24]

Joe Spinell is a character actor with, as they say in the business, a "face for radio." During his career, he's managed to play all kinds of tough guys, mob guys, and cops (appearing in classics like "Rocky" and "The Godfather: Part II"), but he's best remembered for his work portraying psychopaths, vividly conjuring screen insanity in pictures like "Maniac" and "The Last Horror Film." He's a passionate performer despite some thespian limitations, always trying to make an impression with roles of any size. He passed away in 1989, leaving 1988's "The Undertaker" his final lead role, tasked with embodying a seemingly mild-mannered mortician who happens to embrace the romance of necrophilia, collecting victims to create a basement family for himself. It's not exactly a stretch for Spinell and his impressive creep factor, but he's the best thing about "The Undertaker," which is clumsy and periodically goofy, but always makes time for Spinell to shape his interpretation of insanity, which is incredibly entertaining to watch. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Park is Mine

00004.m2ts_snapshot_00.38.03_[2017.01.05_17.56.26]

1982's "First Blood" was influential for a variety of reasons, though it's mostly remembered as the least exaggerated of the Rambo series, launching the franchise on a mournful note of military veteran issues before indulging all the outdoorsy adventure the brand name is known for. 1985's "The Park is Mine" is clearly angled to take part in the Rambo tradition, with star Tommy Lee Jones carrying the weight of this dim-witted take on vet affairs and public submission. It's not a graceful picture despite a potentially heavy subject matter, and while it's based on a novel (by Stephen Peters), the feature doesn't convey any literary depth. Director Steven Hillard Stern is much more interested in fireballs and shootouts to keep the effort on the move, caught making an action film when the story seems more concerned with profound psychological issues. While it strains to be popcorn entertainment, "The Park is Mine" ends up a pile of clich├ęs, sawed off subplots, and violence without meaning, robbing the movie of the significance it seldom tries to convey. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Man Facing Southeast

00000.m2ts_snapshot_00.07.45_[2016.12.31_10.45.57]

Questions of insanity are analyzed throughout 1986's "Man Facing Southeast," which takes a borderline sci-fi concept and gives it a decidedly human perspective. It's thoughtful work from writer/director Eliseo Subiela, who examines difficult psychological spaces and personalities, building rich characterization along the way, which defines the viewing experience. "Man Facing Southeast" is an odd picture at first, but Subiela enjoys bits of misdirection to help introduce philosophical and emotional ideas, focusing on a burgeoning relationship that battles with issues of stability.


Blu-ray Review - The Dressmaker

00204.m2ts_snapshot_00.18.05_[2017.01.02_16.21.36]

While westerns were surprisingly active during the 2016 film year, welcoming the releases of "The Magnificent Seven" and "In a Valley of Violence," "The Dressmaker" proves itself to be a superior genre effort without even encountering a single cowboy. It's a clever picture (an adaptation of a Rosalie Ham novel) that imagines small town hostilities as western entanglements, with Kate Winslet starring as most unusual gunslinger, wielding thread and fabric instead of cold steel. While "The Dressmaker" contains a restless, borderline crazed Australian energy, director Jocelyn Moorhouse manages the insanity with skill, conjuring a beguiling mystery with rich characterization, dark humor, and a cheeky love for Leone-esque theatrics while sorting through domestic problems. It's a strange film, but memorably so. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com