DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Dressmaker

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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


Blu-ray Review - The Lodger

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1944's "The Lodger" is often regarded as one of the greatest takes on the Jack the Ripper case, exploring the wrath of a famous serial killer with a semi-compassionate look at mental illness. Granted, the competition isn't all that impressive (including 2001's "From Hell"), but "The Lodger" taps into a psychological stream that's often riveting to watch, backed beautifully by director John Brahm's atmospheric take on 19th century London and its tight-jawed slide into chaos. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dracula vs. Frankenstein

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It's a horror showdown that should've snapped fandom to complete attention, but 1971's "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" isn't anything to get excited for. It's schlock, directed by Al Adamson ("The Naughty Stewardesses," "Blazing Stewardesses"), and it wasn't even originally intended to be an epic genre beat down, beginning life in 1969 as a creature feature and biker movie before someone had the bright idea to pit public domain icons against each other while disparate subplots wander aimlessly around. The title sounds tempting, and poster art promises a violent throwdown between dark forces, but this is not a production that values the rare opportunity to see monsters brawl. Instead, Adamson barely commands a confusing mix of sleuthing, countercultural commentary, and B-movie grotesqueries, only interrupting the action periodically to allow the titular threats to go about their evil business. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Closet Monster

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"Closet Monster" embarks on a coming-of-age journey that includes pit stops at parental frustration, sexuality, and friendship. Writer/director Stephen Dunn strives to transform the woes of teendom into a surreal odyssey of personal awakening, and the feature achieves a level of understanding that keeps it involving, but never illuminating. Dunn makes an effort to avoid routine, but as "Closet Monster" labors to retain an intimate perspective, it's easy to see that many filmmakers have covered the same dramatic ground, only here there's the addition of a talking hamster and a few moments of white-hot rage to give the material a boost in originality. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Concrete Night

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Most American productions concerning teenagers and their personal problems tend to turn to comedy to help sort through aches and pain, making it easier to process the blueness of adolescence. The Finnish production "Concrete Night" dives straight into the abyss, approaching juvenile years as a time of doom, with the lead character a sponge soaking up every drop of depression he can find. This isn't an uplifting film, but it's not an unrewarding sit, as "Concrete Night" is exceptionally made, with technical achievements to focus on as the story sets out to depict life as a slow walk into Hell. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Internecine Project

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"The Internecine Project" offers a great premise that's trapped inside an underwhelming film. The curiously titled 1974 thriller endeavors to arrange an evening of multiple murders overseen by a single, grandly manipulative man, but director Ken Hughes (working from a script co-written by Barry Levinson and Jonathan Lynn) generally downplays tension in a futile quest to transform simplicity into a labyrinth of motivations and second thoughts. "The Internecine Project" isn't without effective scenes, but when one considers how bizarre the plot is, the effort should really be livelier. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Bad Girl

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1931's "Bad Girl" is all about wit and speed, approaching the battle of the sexes with an acidic take on relationship woes. An adaptation of a Brian Marlow play, the feature preserves all theatrical interests, but, cinematically, it trusts in the power of timing and performance, delivering an electric jolt of a picture that largely does away with precious displays of romance, and there's certainly no meet cute in this biting domestic drama. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Man Called Noon

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It's never easy to deal with amnesia as a plot device, with many thrillers going the wrong direction when managing the loss of memory. "The Man Called Noon" brings brain trauma to the old west, taking inspiration from a Louis L'Amour novel, which immediately inspires unusual depth of character and a few twists and turns along the way. The 1973 production doesn't bother reinventing the wheel in terms of screen violence and antagonism, but it captures confusion rather well, embarking on a story where the hero may be a villain, dealing with questions of self while being shot at from all sides. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Finders Keepers

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Director Richard Lester has a sense of humor, and he's determined to share it with the world. The helmer of "A Hard Day's Night," "The Three Musketeers," and "Robin and Marian," Lester rode waves of box office glory and failure throughout his career, but he reached a particularly questionable time of personal success when he was asked to take over production duties on "Superman II," working to change original director Richard Donner's regality into camp, transforming such suggestion into hard evidence with his questionable handling of "Superman III," which merged the fantasy of comic heroism and the comic timing of an Old Hollywood two-reeler. Perhaps intending to reset his creative vision after dealing in blockbusters for years, Lester masterminds "Finders Keepers," a 1984 production that plays like a farce, but actually has literary roots, adapted from a novel by Charles Dennis (who co-scripts). Lester has always been an acquired taste, and those tuned into his particular way with funny business might respond favorably to "Finders Keepers." However, like everything he does, a little of Lester's cheekiness goes a long way, tiring out this train ride of mishaps and mistaken identities before it leaves the station. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Taboo III

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Perhaps sensing that a lack of Kay Parker was probably not the brightest creative decision, director Kirdy Stevens and screenwriter Helene Terrie return to the saga of Barbara Scott for "Taboo III," which gently moves on from the family antics of "Taboo II," returning focus to the impulsive, semi-tortured mother who kicked off the incest revolution. More Parker is a good thing, as her commitment to the weirdness of the "Taboo" series is a highlight, but with the course correction comes a slight drop in urgency, finding the production strangely selling music with the same concentration as it does sex. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Taboo II

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After testing the waters with "Taboo," which followed the adventures of Barbara Scott (Kay Parker) as she debated whether or not to sleep with her son (spoiler alert: she did), director Kirdy Stevens and screenwriter Helene Terrie return to intensify the situation with "Taboo II," which keeps up the incest quest by visiting a family on the verge of sexual explosion. As sequels go, the production does a fine job of escalation, working to top previous perverse achievements by doubling down on the titular temptation, making for a far stranger but amazingly coherent follow-up. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Greasy Strangler

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For fans of Adult Swim and finer examples of "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" craziness, "The Greasy Strangler" is probably going to seem familiar. It's the latest offering of anti-comedy, where the jokes don't necessarily come from punchlines or situations, but the silences between absurdities, which are cranked up to 11. Co-writer/director Jim Hosking aims to weird out the world with this offering, which ladles on grossness and embraces awkwardness, working to find laughs in the middle of ugliness. And it works with certain expectations and permissiveness. The world of "The Greasy Strangler" is hilarious for stretches of screentime, but the film is also determined to frustrate viewers, succeeding more often than not. It's a bizarre movie, and not one to be watched casually, targeting a special demographic used to repulsive imagery and grotesque characterization. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Porky's Revenge

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While 1983's "Porky's II: The Next Day" was banged out in a hurry to capitalize on the success of 1982's "Porky's," the box office results weren't worth the rush, with the sequel grossing less than half of the original's take. Profitable, sure, but hardly the type of audience response that supports a longstanding franchise. In an effort to lick the plate clean before moving on, the producers elected to give the series one last shot, waiting two years before creating "Porky's Revenge," which, tonally and dramatically, has more in common with the first picture than the dreadful second one. The Angel Beach High gang returns to duty for their third go-around, but the years haven't been kind to the kids, finding the whole production running on fumes as it halfheartedly arranges speeds of silliness and juvenile behavior, working to restore the impish highlights of the brand name without creator Bob Clark around to dilute shenanigans. "Porky's Revenge" isn't a good movie, but it manages to improve on the second chapter simply by respecting what audiences responded to in the first place. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Porky's II: The Next Day

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Every film year, there are a few movies that emerge from out of nowhere to become not only top-grossing hits, but miniature phenomenons as well, commanding attention from a public that's responding to something primal about the pictures, while entertainment press spends countless hours trying to decode impossible allure. In 1982, "Porky's" was one of the chosen few, emerging as a tiny production only interested in bawdy behavior and a few moral lessons, and ending up one of the biggest successes of the year. No one saw it coming, and many wished it never happened, but "Porky's" managed to capture the imagination of its audience, using a blend of nostalgia and lewd behavior to entice ticket-buyers into return trips, essentially legitimizing the teen hornball subgenre that eventually plagued the moviegoing decade. Bare breasts and bad pranks made up writer/director Bob Clark's formula, and he wasn't about to let a good thing go unmolested, getting the band back together in quick fashion for the 1983 sequel, "Porky's II: The Next Day," which isn't truly a continuation of the Angel Beach High saga, but more of a remake, only with more sermonizing and less nudity. Apparently Clark wasn't paying attention to his initial achievement. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Moving Violations

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I suppose 1984's "Police Academy" is the gift that keeps on giving. While offering its own legion of sequels and television shows, the unexpected hit also spawned a series of imitators. And who better to rip off "Police Academy" than the men that co-wrote it. Enter Neal Israel and Pat Proft, who collaborate once again on 1985's "Moving Violations," reviving formula that pits the smart alecks versus police department squares, only here the emphasis is on the ways of driving school, with its tests of skill and memorization. After experiencing a degree of success with 1984's raunchy "Bachelor Party," Proft and Israel (who directs) go the PG-13 route, trying to find a balance between the comic architecture of their youth and the needs of a modern audience used to bawdy humor and dumb guy antics. To its credit, "Moving Violations" is never boring, always on the prowl for a sight gag or a one-liner, but the screenplay doesn't reach very far, remaining weirdly conventional when their previous efforts enjoyed a wilder sense of humor to help attract attention. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Death Machines

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There are many odd details and turns to 1976's "Death Machines," but the fact that it was marketed as a futuristic thriller is perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the feature. It's simply not one, arriving as a thoroughly 1970s-styled martial arts demonstration with unstoppable killer motivation. Director Paul Kyriazi has a vision for his picture, which is a nice change of pace from the fight film norm, giving "Death Machines" some real teeth for 1976, managing an orgy of violence that includes bar brawls, bazooka attacks, and mass murder, sold with a certain style of stunt-heavy gusto that makes the effort enjoyable, even when it doesn't exactly make sense. Kyriazi is out to give audiences a joy ride of nonsense, and he accomplishes his goal, delivering screen aggression that keeps on coming, while the cast is filled with all types of bruisers and cowards, making conflicts highly amusing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

 


Blu-ray Review - Jack Frost

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1997's "Jack Frost" is a monster movie, though one that doesn't always follow the genre routine. Instead of a truly ghoulish creation terrorizing innocents, there's a killer snowman, which doesn't inspire any particular level of fear, ever during its most intimidating attack sequences. Writer/director Michael Cooney understands the tonal challenge ahead of him, eventually turning into the skid, transforming "Jack Frost" into a cheeky, self-aware chiller with pronounced elements of comedy. However, without a budget to successfully launch the visual of a snowman on a homicidal tear around a small town, Cooney gets creative, using interesting low-fi special effects and an agreeable script to make something memorable out of a potential disaster. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Luna

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After stunning the world with 1972's "Last Tango in Paris," and exhausting himself with the botched release of 1976's "1900," writer/director Bernardo Bertolucci changes pace with the intimate ways of 1979's "Luna," which intends to return the helmer to his softer, more observant side. Of course, there's a return of controversy as well, as the picture is primarily about the ravages of grief, but also indulges a certain amount of incestuous thoughts and deeds, with the screenplay approaching themes of love and control with a plan of extremity to snap the material to attention. Bertolucci is never one to turn down a chance to attract attention to his work, and "Luna" certainly does a fine job of flailing to maintain eyes on the screen. However, the movie is also something of a mess, albeit a highly artistic one with committed performances. As much as Bertolucci believes in the power of such raw emotions, he fails to make a cohesive effort, with nearly every scene a random assortment of volatile emotions and blurry storytelling. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 100 Rifles

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Bringing the lively Spaghetti Western mood to Hollywood, 1969's "100 Rifles" doesn't follow through with its initial Sergio Leone admiration, soon settling into a story about passion and political defiance that tends to drain away the pure escapism the feature initially seems intent on delivering. Co-writer/director Tom Gries doesn't have an easy job, managing three intense personalities in lead actors Burt Reynolds, Jim Brown, and Raquel Welch, but he periodically commits to large-scale action and cultural interests, keeping "100 Rifles" a stylish, spur-jangling cartoon. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Undying Monster

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While it boasts the presence of a shadowy wolfman, 1942's "The Undying Monster" isn't truly a horror picture. Adapted from a novel by Jessie Douglas Kerruish and directed by John Brahm (1944's "The Lodger"), "The Undying Monster" is more of a murder mystery, preferring acts of sleuthing to shock value. It's a talky effort, but wonderfully constructed by Brahm, who works overtime to make what ends up becoming a series of conversations and tasteful confrontations somewhat unsettling, bathing the feature in gothic mood. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com