DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - No Man's Land

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The Charlie Sheen that existed before "Platoon" was a very different Charlie Sheen than what we have today. Once a hungry actor trying to make something of himself while stuck in the shadow of his thespian father, Martin, Charlie jumped from role to role, trying his hand at comedy ("Ferris Bueller's Day Off"), action ("Red Dawn"), and…whatever ("The Wraith"). 1987's "No Man's Land" was in production when "Platoon" dominated pop culture after its late 1986 release, and it showcases a growing confidence within the actor, who floated along for another year ("Three for the Road") before ascending to larger industry opportunities, such as "Wall Street," "Eight Men Out," and "Major League." Sheen's magnetism is undeniable in "No Man's Land," and he's a good reason to remain with the feature, which offers a routine but stylish take on an undercover cop saga, with director Peter Werner doing what he can to jazz up the effort with smash-em-up car chases, shootouts, and assorted criminal activity. It's not the freshest endeavor, but it does provide a look at the birth of Prime Sheen, smoking and wisecracking his way through a fairly unchallenging part.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Night People

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It takes someone as commanding as Gregory Peck to keep 1954's "Night People" as compelling as it can be. It's a story of political and military maneuvering, but doesn't inspire a level of suspense normally associated with post-war troubles, with writer/director Nunnally Johnson electing a more theatrical approach for his directorial debut. "Night People" isn't gripping, but it holds attention thanks to Peck and co-star Broderick Crawford, who deliver pained, agitated work to keep a weirdly knotted tale moving along. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Variete

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The story of "Variete" offers broad swings of drama and disaster, and it's only fitting that the filmmaking follows suit. The 1925 silent picture is directed by Ewald Andre Dupont, and he puts in an energetic effort to help articulate the moods of the feature, with his camera playing a key role in the tale. However, there's more than cinematographic tricks in play here, with "Variete" also making room for star Emil Jannings, who delivers powerful work as a haunted man sabotaged by his own impulses.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Shalako

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1968 was a very special year for Sean Connery. After the release of "You Only Live Twice," he quit the James Bond franchise, freeing himself from the role that was already defining his career. And what better way to shed the 007 skin than to star in "Shalako," an adaptation of a Louis L'Amour novel, allowing Connery to trade suits and gadgets for a horse and the open range, continuing work on the construction of a varied career that would allow him the chance to play different types of roles. The feature explains his European flair (opening with a crawl that lists global influences on the American west), but classic Connery remains, giving a hearty performance in an engaging western, and one that feasts on a meat and potatoes genre experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Silkwood

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Fear of all things nuclear dominated the late 1970s and early 1980s, inspired by global hostilities and the success of 1979's "The China Syndrome," with its theatrical release eerily occurring mere weeks before the Three Mile Island meltdown, inspiring greater skepticism over the benefits of nuclear power. Many productions jumped at the chance to cash-in on the movie's unexpected success, but few productions could reach the same raw nerve of suspense and horror. 1983's "Silkwood" isn't interested in winding viewers up, but it traffics in the same big business vs. the world mentality, this time bringing fears and suspicions down to a more human scale, recounting a short amount of time in the life of Karen Silkwood, who died in the midst of exposing suspicious business and safety practices at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site in Oklahoma. While it's based on a true story, writers Nora Ephron and Alice Arden, and director Mike Nichols, are tasked with finding the drama and heart underneath the headlines, giving the endeavor the tension of a proper nuclear intimidation chiller while keeping the caution of a newly-awakened life spinning out of control.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - My Chauffeur

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Following up her starring role in 1983's "Valley Girl," actress Deborah Foreman makes more of a lateral move with 1986's "My Chauffeur." Keeping the Southern California quirkiness, Foreman ups her bubbly personality for the romantic comedy, remaining alert and attentive to the needs of the screenplay, which attempts to summon a screwball mood with broad antics and finger-snap timing. Writer/director David Beaird has a vision for "My Chauffeur," just not the clearest idea on narrative progression, often stopping the feature to highlight shenanigans that have little to do with the plot. However, he does have Foreman and co-star Sam J. Jones, who create passable chemistry and play off each other well, giving the movie a nice boost of brightness when it comes to character interactions, supporting the endeavor whenever Beaird has an idea that pulls his attention away from the rest of the picture.   Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Star Crystal

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Released in 1986, "Star Crystal" is caught between two worlds. Perhaps conceived as an "Alien" rip-off, the production makes familiar genre moves, building up a mysterious threat from another world, and the film is set on a spaceship, highlighting crew panic with a strange invader. But there's also an "E.T." aspect to the picture, moving from mean and nasty to cute and cuddly, taking a strange tonal turn that suggests writer/director Lance Lindsay's original plan for terror was drastically reworked when moviegoing trends changed after the release of the Steven Spielberg masterpiece. Caught in the middle of confusing creative choices, it doesn't help that "Star Crystal" is also one of the most crushingly boring features I've viewed in recent memory. If Lindsay had a vision for the effort, it doesn't come through here, throttled by an extremely limited budget and lust for padding that simply kills what passes for pace.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Matinee Idol

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Directed by Henri Pachard, 1984's "Matinee Idol" imagines a Hollywood where the adult film industry possesses enough regality to own studio space in town, along with an active backlot. Perhaps it's not such a fantasy when one considers the popularity of the industry and the recognition factor of its stars, but "Matinee Idol" attempts to sweeten the world with classic Hollywood glamour and humor, offering a light-ish comedy about thespian relationships and traditional sinful fantasies. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Freeway

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In the summer of 1987, there was a series of freeway shootings in Los Angeles, rattling a city already accustomed to everyday violence. Co- writer/director Francis Delia doesn't dramatize the event and its aftermath, instead using the hysteria to inspire 1988's "Freeway," which details a madman prowling the streets on the hunt for new victims to blast away at close range. It's a B-movie take on real-world fears, but Delia makes it clear he's out for exploitation purposes, fashioning a detective tale of sorts to support sequences of roadway massacres. "Freeway" isn't a finely knitted offering of escapism, but Delia captures a certain sense of panic and frustration, teasing a graduation to broad car-fu antics. It's not consistent in its recklessness and features plenty of '80s-style leaps in characterization, but the core viewing experience is preserved, providing a reasonably compelling cat and mouse game at high speeds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Star Slammer

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A B-movie director who shows a bit more interest in genre potential than most, Fred Olen Ray returns with 1986's "Star Slammer," which is actually titled "The Adventures of Taura: Prison Ship Star Slammer" at the start of the film. This is Ray attempting to fashion a valentine to serial filmmaking of old, positioning his heroine, Taura, as a new force of futureworld justice, putting her through survival challenges half-naked and full of pluck. While the ambition of the production is interesting, the actual execution of "Star Slammer" leaves much to be desired, depicting an intergalactic battle between warriors and villains on maybe three sets, with space opera visuals recycled from other productions. Ray does what he can to preserve his vision, maintaining interest in the multi-chapter format to the end, but the majority of the feature feels unnecessarily claustrophobic and overwritten, trying to assume the position of a sci-fi blockbuster without earning it.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Hunting Party

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Assembled in the shadow of "The Wild Bunch," 1971's "The Hunting Party" plays with industry trends, merging the strangeness of spaghetti westerns with more direct offerings of punishment. It's an unappetizing feature, but it certainly isn't lazy, watching director Don Medford work diligently to make characters suffer or torment one another during every frame of the picture, practically getting off on the agony "The Hunting Party" provides. Perhaps to some, all this aggression carries meaning or reflects genre study, but in the actual endeavor, it's pure excess without the narrative substance to support its obsession with the grotesque.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Lemon Drop Kid

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Perhaps the most fascinating bit of trivia associated with 1951's "The Lemon Drop Kid" (adapted from the short story by Damon Runyon) is the debut of "Silver Bells," a Christmas song that started here and grew to become a holiday perennial, covered by a multitude of artists, most famously conquered by star Bob Hope's frequent screen partner, Bing Crosby. Of course, there's an entire movie here as well, with seasonal cheer put into hands of Hope, who tries on a thin layer of Capra for this con man tale of semi-redemption, with the production making the most of his special brand of comedy. "Silver Bells" is merely icing on the cake.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Humongous

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After scoring a hit with the 1980 disco-infused slasher film, "Prom Night," director Paul Lynch remains with the genre that gave him a career, returning to scary business with 1982's "Humongous." While formula remains, putting young people against a shadowy evil, the setting has changed radically, with Lynch moving to a remote island to stage his chiller, using empty forests and houses to help with ambiance has he works to communicate a slightly more sophisticated motivation for a massacre. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Who's Crazy?

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1966's "Who's Crazy?" is a filmed project for The Living Theater, an experimental theater group co-founded by Julian Beck, who starred as Kane in "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (surely not his finest hour, but his most recognizable turn). Keeping up with the group's mission to explore the inner and outer space of life through performance, "Who's Crazy?" is an explosion of imagery, symbolism, and musical performance, offering a buzzing, swirling, swooping jazz soundtrack to support the endeavor, created by Ornette Coleman, David Izenzon, and Charles Moffett (with vocals by Marianne Faithfull).  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - My Favorite Brunette

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Bob Hope is generally known as a rascal, often employing a sardonic wit to best his challengers on television, film, and radio. Always armed with an ace one-liner and complete comfort with any situation, it's somewhat bizarre to watch Hope in 1947's "My Favorite Brunette," which asks the comedy legend to play unhinged for 90 minutes, always stuck in losing situations, caught in the middle of complicated problems. While it's far from fresh ground for the performer, it's a nice change of pace, working to bend his big screen persona in unusual directions with "My Favorite Brunette," which keeps him busy for nearly every frame of the feature. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Road to Bali

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Taking an extended break from collaboration after 1947's "Road to Rio," Bob Hope and Bing Crosby return to franchise duty with 1952's "Road to Bali," which marks a Technicolor debut for the series. Director Hal Walker takes the visual challenge seriously, working to pack in as many dazzling views as possible for the sixth installment of the comedy travelogue, giving his stars a brighter big screen playground to work with. "Road to Bali" also introduces a more manic approach to humor, with the production working in gags whenever they possibly can, turning what was once simple jesting into an occasionally bizarre farce that's guided by well-rehearsed shenanigans from Hope and Crosby.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Road to Rio

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For their fifth "Road" picture, 1947's "Road to Rio" doesn't actually make much time for terra firma, keeping stars Bob Hope (playing trumpeter Hot Lips Barton) and Bing Crosby (as nightclub singer Scat Sweeney) on a boat, with Rio more of a destination than a playground for their latest adventure. Keeping up with their customary charms and wit, along with plenty of musical numbers to help win over audiences, "Road to Rio" is a largely successful installment of the comedy series, keeping Hope and Crosby busy with shenanigans that make the most of their individual gifts, while keeping things relatively casual to encourage the franchise's cocktail hour ambiance. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Kingdom of the Spiders

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1977's "Kingdom of the Spiders" is not a particularly original film, but it does have specificity of threat, selecting one of the more powerful phobias shared by millions. Sure, sharks and birds don't provide the most peaceful imagery, but there's something about spiders that hits right at the heart of horror. Director John Cardos doesn't have much of a budget to do something epic with "Kingdom of the Spiders," but he values his tiny stars, keeping crawly things motoring along as the cast and a substantial number of extras explore levels of panic. It's not polished work, but it's mostly fun and filled with cheap thrills.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hell in the Pacific

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Returning for duty with his "Point Blank" star Lee Marvin, director John Boorman cuts to the heart of war in 1968's "Hell in the Pacific," which boils down World War II conflict to the adventures of two soldiers (one American, one Japanese) stranded on a remote island. Boorman ditches dialogue and throttles incident with "Hell in the Pacific," wisely investing in pure physicality to communicate ideas both large and small, allowing Marvin and co-star Toshiro Mifune to play out their scenes in a feral manner, which makes for riveting cinema. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary

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Director Gay Dillingham wants to accomplish a few goals with the documentary "Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary." Part of the picture delivers a biography of its subjects, tracking their life experiences, especially the ones that helped to shape their future as gurus of sort, with both men taking command of the psychedelics movement of the 1960s, finding Leary's more radical vision for brain-altering odysseys matching well with Dass's spiritual hug. "Dying to Know" also explores the mystery of death, asking fascinating questions about the journey to the other side, with both men seeking out ways to comfort those who refuse to embrace the finality of life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com