Blu-ray Review - Certain Fury


The theatrical trailer for 1985's "Certain Fury" is quick to remind viewers that the film stars two Academy Award winners, clawing for any morsel of dignity it can find to build the feature up as something more respectable than it actually is. It's true, Irene Cara (who collected an Oscar in 1984 for Best Original Song) and Tatum O'Neal (who brought home a little gold man in 1974 at the age of ten for her supporting turn in "Paper Moon") have reached the pinnacle of peer reward in Hollywood, but they're not exactly two forces of thespian power. "Certain Fury" is an exercise in B-moviemaking from director Stephen Gyllenhaal (father to Jake and Maggie), who makes his helming debut here, tasked with butching up Cara and O'Neal for a chase picture that resembles "The Defiant Ones," but mostly plays out like a television show from the mid-1980s, likely airing after "The A-Team." Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Man Who Could Cheat Death


Weird science is discussed at length in 1959's "The Man Who Could Cheat Death," which adapts a stage play for the screen, hoping a little oddity with a "The Picture of Dorian Gray"-style premise might be enough to satisfy horror fans. Frights aren't important to director Terence Fisher, and while he tries to summon a spooky mood of strange events and medical urgency, he can't avoid the reality that this is one talky endeavor. "The Man Who Could Cheat Death" isn't a whiff for Hammer Films, but it's far from their most suspenseful effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Film Review - Everything, Everything


While there’s an extensive history of teen-centric tearjerkers conquering the box office, the raging success of 2014’s “The Fault in Our Stars” has revived the art of tender manipulation, paving the way for “Everything, Everything,” which plays a similar game of grave illness and romantic liberation shared by young characters. An adaptation of a 2015 novel by Nicola Yoon, the picture doesn’t have the severity of “The Fault in Our Stars,” electing more of a grounded, tech-minded understanding of modern love, keeping its dramatic aspirations in check, investing in character as it explores an impossible connection between two lonely people. While pieces seem to be missing from the narrative, director Stella Meghie knows what she’s doing with “Everything, Everything,” creating a visual language for the feature that merges fantasy and reality without bumpy points of entry. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Compulsion


1959's "Compulsion" goes out of its way to avoid naming Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb as its inspiration for a tale of murder and intellectualism, but this adaptation of Meyer Levin book dramatizes most details from the heinous crime committed by the frightfully rational duo. It's a story that was already worked over in Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope," but "Compulsion" has a more direct link to the Leopold and Loeb case, with director Richard Fleischer going the "Law and Order" route as the details of a crime are examined in full before the tale turns into a courtroom showdown where punishment is debated, not innocence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - 23 Paces to Baker Street


1956's "23 Paces to Baker Street" has often been compared to Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window," and the similarities are there, studying the increasing agitation of a murder witness who can't convince the world of his valid observations, soon embarking on his own investigation to help avoid a future disaster. Director Henry Hathaway does a passable job with mild escalation and characterization, but he's no Hitchcock, and "23 Paces to Baker Street" often struggles to sustain a rhythm of suspense that takes it from discovery to payoff with engaging speed. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Teen Witch


The "Teen Witch" that exists today is a major cult film, beloved by a certain audience raised on the movie through cable and VHS repetition, bending to the effort's strange magic through extensive study of its earnest details. The picture wasn't always appreciated like that, with its 1989 theatrical release disastrous, offered to audiences unwilling to accept the endeavor's eye-crossing mixture of musical numbers, teen anxiety, and dark arts, making it more of a fit for sleepover party analysis and lazy afternoon viewings. It's difficult to peel the reputation of "Teen Witch" away from its actual creative accomplishments, but director Dorian Walker provides something familiar that's appealing to those hungering for a surprisingly pure shot of sincerity, keeping the picture cheeky and bizarre, but also universal with its themes of social acceptance and displays of fantasy power. It's not impossible to comprehend why the feature is so popular these days, it's just more difficult to digest some of effort's broader scenes of personal expression and romantic intent. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Being 17


Love and desire hit normal adolescent roadblocks in "Being 17," the latest from co-writer/director Andre Techine ("Thieves," "Wild Reeds"). The 73-year-old helmer is an unlikely source for adolescent woes, but Techine taps into something very personal and primal with the picture, which attacks displays of universal dysfunction with raw passion, gifting the feature real spirit as it inspects teenagers and their personal battles. "Being 17" isn't the sharpest work from Techine -- it actually doesn't even have an ending. What the director gets absolutely right here are those abyssal feelings and paralyzing concerns that touch everyone's life, treating arcs of attraction and friendship with the concentration and realism they deserve. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Schoolgirls in Chains


Granted, no one expects spectacular, meaningful things from a movie titled "Schoolgirls in Chains," but what's wrong with a little pace? The 1973 effort from writer/director Don Jones isn't short on salacious material, but basic screen energy is sorely lacking from this tepid sexploitation endeavor. Merging gratuitous nudity with profound mental illness, "Schoolgirls in Chains" is slow to boil, taking pleasure in exposing kinky business and violence, while its overall thrust as a chiller of sorts is underwhelming as Jones tries to make shock value meaningful with a psychological study that's poorly conceived. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Saint Jack


Before 1979's "Saint Jack" was put into production, director Peter Bogdanovich was in a difficult position career-wise. After breaking through with "The Last Picture Show" and "Paper Moon," the helmer harpooned his popularity with the flops "Nickelodeon" and "At Long Last Love." Requiring a centering of his moviemaking chakras, Bogdanovich ran away to Singapore for "Saint Jack," which erases any hope for Old Hollywood glamour and Americana to deliver a complex tale of a pimp inching closer to trouble, keeping star Ben Gazzara on the move as the locations are explored in tremendous detail. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Framed


After 1973's "Walking Tall," actor Joe Don Baker became the king of the drive-ins, finding his natural way with intimidation a perfect fit with audiences looking for something more American in their big screen heroes. Reuniting with director Phil Karlson, Baker tries a similar approach for 1975's "Framed," which once again pits the beefy performer against the worst enemies Tennessee has to offer, taking control of a revenge story that tries to inflate itself up as some type of grand mystery, but it really exists as B-movie entertainment, sticking with a steady diet of chases and brawling to please viewers. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - In the Aftermath


1988's "In the Aftermath" is a curious mix of live-action and animation, with the production bending chunks of the 1985 anime feature, "Angel's Egg," to fit a post-apocalyptic tale of exploration and human connection. It's not an ideal marriage, as the feature often doesn't know what to do with itself, rarely putting in the effort to connect the disparate displays of artistry, settling on a muddled whole. I extend a hearty congratulations to anyone who can follow this loose stitching of visuals, as "In the Aftermath" doesn't make any sense, and that seems to be the intent, trusting that those sitting down to watch it are probably high as kites, absorbing this sci-fi/fantasy/doomsday tale with the least amount of resistance. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Cocaine Wars


1985's "Cocaine Wars" falls somewhere between an Oliver Stone-style study of international distress and a brawny Chuck Norris actioner, never quite showing comfort with either extreme. It's a Roger Corman production that attempts to turn star John Schneider into a big screen bad ass, gifting the "Dukes of Hazzard" star a beret, sassy comebacks, and guns to raise hell in South America. "Cocaine Wars" attempts to tap into zeitgeist of the era with its story of drug shipments, cartel kings, and volatile political gamesmanship, but it's really just a blow-em-up experience at heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Hands of Steel


After "The Terminator" and before "Universal Soldier" and "Over the Top," there was 1986's "Hands of Steel," which dared to deliver a tortured screen hero incapable of being killed and in touch with his feelings, also showing skill with amateur arm wrestling. Of course this is an Italian production, with director Sergio Martino summoning all his Euro energy to create a sci-fi actioner meant to compete with Hollywood's loudest offerings. Bullets fly, hands are pinned, and a cyborg wrestles with existentialism is this dumb but appealing B-movie, which shows a little more pep than the average genre knockoff, working up the hustle to give viewers a smashmouth ride of near-misses and brawling. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - No Retreat, No Surrender


1986's "No Retreat, No Surrender" was supposed to be a calling card for director Corey Yuen, helping him break into the international marketplace with an Americanized martial arts extravaganza boasting a bright, handsome leading man in Kurt McKinney. Instead of making a name for himself, audiences and investors were drawn to a supporting turn from Jean-Claude Van Damme, who finally found a place to showcase his brute force, famed grimace, and amazing flexibility (two year prior, he was an extra in "Breakin'"). It was the start of something major for Van Damme, and while he's not the focus of the endeavor, he's the highlight of it, delivering Yuen's impressively non-stop choreography with real fury, also embodying the feature's cartoon antics with style and stone-faced menace. This certainly isn't a strong effort, frequently crippled by cornball antics, but "No Retreat, No Surrender" has scenes of cartoon hostility that keep it rolling along, peppered with engaging displays of physical strength. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Deluge


Disaster films usually save their big moments of mayhem for later, using destruction to motivate characters through the second act. Sometimes, massive visuals are reserved for finales, hoping to leave audiences woozy from all the spectacle. 1933's "Deluge" doesn't feel the need to wait, establishing global destruction soon after the main titles, securing screen interest with an opening earthquake and tsunami sequence that promises bigger and crazier events to come. A pre-code production, "Deluge" doesn't massage initial momentum, but it contains enough oddity and tonal bravery to last, working to upset crowds with mass destruction, only to come back around with an askew tale of love and survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Prince of Foxes


Regality is the goal of 1949's "Prince of Foxes," which endeavors to play a royal game of loyalties and intimidation, adapting a 1947 book by Samuel Shellabarger, which took a close look at the reign of Cesare Borgia (played by Orson Welles) through the eyes of Andrea Orsini (Tyrone Power), a determined but conflicted soldier for the cause. Director Henry King goes for bigness with "Prince of Foxes," which was proudly shot around actual Borgia locations, giving the effort historical authenticity. The dramatic grip of the material is debatable, as initial intimacies and scheming give way to a wider canvas of deception and collaborations, transforming the picture into an iffy puzzle of last names and motivations. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Desire Will Set You Free


Art and individuality collide in "Desire Will Set You Free," which presents a charged snapshot of Berlin's underground scene, with its performance art, musical acts, and flavorful gay community. Co-writer/director/star Yony Leyser aims to braid his experiences in Germany with a story of personal awakening, supporting the journey with cameos from creative forces, a thumpy soundtrack, and a point of view that gives "Desire Will Set You Free" a distinct fingerprint other picture of this ilk lack. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The General


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


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


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