DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Return

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It's hard to imagine director Greydon Clark didn't have Steven Spielberg's 1977 masterpiece, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," in mind when made 1980's "The Return." The film opens with a similar mood and visual style, watching a mysterious, glowing alien ship emerge from the sky to dazzle a few Earthlings before rocketing away. However, the production stops trying to manufacture awe soon after, switching to a more affordable invasion story, and one that favors chills over curiosity, with Clark more interested in breaking glass and shooting guns.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 68 Kill

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Shock value is easy, and it seems to work the best when there's thought put into it, with clever filmmakers managing to create a big screen mess and keep their effort somewhat approachable, either through dark comedy or dimensional characterization. "68 Kill" brings a cannon to a knife fight, with writer/director Trent Haaga trying his best to make the most repellent feature imaginable, focusing on pure ugliness as a way to achieve irreverence, making an exploitation movie for an age when such juvenile aggression is no longer a special event. Adapting a novel by Bryan Smith, Haaga is looking to master an atmosphere that showcases gruesome events and toxic behavior, yet somehow remains humorous enough for the endeavor to qualify as a comedy. "68 Kill" is specialized product for a certain type of genre fan, but boy howdy, does it ever test patience as Haaga stumbles blindly from one scene to the next.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Lucifer's Women

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In 1978, director Al Adamson was tasked with turning 1974's "Lucifer's Women" into a different picture, effectively burying the earlier production (directed by Paul Aratow), which, apparently, never saw the light of day. The restoration efforts of Vinegar Syndrome have returned "Lucifer's Women" to life, bringing the "lost" feature to Blu-ray along with Adamson's "Doctor Dracula," offering cult film fans their first opportunity to watch both incarnations of the Aratow endeavor, with the first pass more of a softcore satanic panic chiller, while the second pass goes goofball with a patchwork quilt of exposition and additional characters, with Adamson laboring to leave his fingerprints on another helmer's work. It's not exactly a thrilling cinematic discovery, but for those who live for B-movie archaeology, this is a suitably strange viewing experience.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Penitentiary

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Instead of taking the usual exploitation route, writer/director Jamaa Fanaka attempts something slightly different with 1979's "Penitentiary," using his screen time to orchestrate sporting and tough guy excitement and approach some interesting social and judicial problems, helping the feature achieve a bit more dramatic texture than the average slug-fest. "Penitentiary" has many issues with tone, taste, and fight choreography, but it's also commanding when it needs to be, with Fanaka conjuring interesting characters and a vividly hostile setting, getting the boxing picture all worked up when necessary to keep viewers interested in the fates of hard men locked inside a concrete cage. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Fugitive Girls

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Director Stephen C. Apostolof (credited here as A.C. Stephen) and screenwriter Ed Wood collaborated on multiple occasions, with the "Plan 9 from Outer Space" helmer churning out scripts that embraced low-budget possibilities, with exploitation highlights employed to create marketplace demand for the pictures. Their partnership began with 1965's "Orgy of the Dead" and eventually made its way to 1974's "Fugitive Girls" (a.k.a. "Five Loose Women"), and, much like "Dead," the feature does away with most dramatic necessities to charge ahead as a women-on-the-run endeavor, complete with broad characterizations and frequent nudity. It's nonsense, but as B-movie entertainment, Apostolof and Wood rarely pretend that they have anything but sleazy weirdness to share, and the filmmaking honesty is refreshing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sinbad of the Seven Seas

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Rarely have I seen a movie work as hard to tell a story as 1989's "Sinbad of the Seven Seas." The Italian production has a lot of sequences to get through, but no real way to tie everything together, offering intrusive narration to act as the illuminated lamp working through the editorial darkness, while the picture opens with an extended explanation that it's an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade," despite having almost nothing in common with the short story. "Sinbad of the Seven Seas" is a great many things, which immediately confuses the production, watching star Lou Ferrigno flex, bend, and smash enemies as Sinbad, but he's no match for a feature that plays like a trailer, jumping from one adventure to the next without interest in establishing any connective tissue.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Cemetery Club

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It's hard to argue with the thespian skill on display in 1993's "The Cemetery Club." The combination of Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, and Diane Ladd offers a level of professionalism that would aid any production, and it just so happens that this picture needs all the help it can get. Writer Ivan Menchell brings his play to the screen, but there's not much of a translation, finding the staginess of the material creating a stiff, dry feature. Director Bill Duke takes a breather from violent escapades (including "A Rage in Harlem" and "Deep Cover") to helm this soft take on grief and friendship, but he's not interested in challenging Menchell's work, preserving the theatrical experience for the movie. "The Cemetery Club" is notable for its casting and attention to the needs of fiftysomething women, but it's rarely amusing and seldom profound, providing flavorless conflicts for its intended demographic, who deserve a little more intensity when dealing with matters of a broken heart.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Angie

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1994 represents a period of stumbling in the career of Geena Davis. After reaching critical and box office highs with "Thelma and Louise" and "A League of Their Own" in the early 1990s, Davis had trouble keeping up the pace, with 1994 hurting her momentum with the release of "Speechless" and "Angie," a feature which offers a leading role most actresses would kill for, tasked with portraying a complicated woman who quests for independence while smothered by tradition. Davis is up for the task, taking the part seriously with a strong lead performance that hits all the emotional bullet points, but "Angie" has problems with focus, with director Martha Coolidge struggling like mad to keep the titular character on a defined journey of self as dozens of subplots and supporting characters compete for attention. It's a dramatic juggling act Coolidge has difficulty mastering, sending the final cut smashing across melodramatic extremes that dilute the intense character odyssey promised in the opening act. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Aviator

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After experiencing the critical and commercial disappointment of 1983's "Superman III," Christopher Reeve returns to the skies in 1985's "The Aviator," though he's no longer in superhero mode. Trading blue and red tights for a leather jumpsuit, Reeve plays an emotionally and physically wounded pilot for the burgeoning air mail industry in this period piece, which pairs the star with Rosanna Arquette for maximum discomfort. The novelty of seeing Reeve in the air again wears off fairly fast, as "The Aviator" quickly reveals itself to be a leaden melodrama with mismatched stars and clunky screenwriting trying to marry mountainside survival activity with a postmortem analysis on wounded war pilots. The movie goes everywhere but up, failing to generate interest in the longevity of two annoying characters who insist on making a bad situation worse for themselves, with the production insisting it's creating something of a romance when it's actually inspiring a headache with this achingly insipid effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend

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For their third release, Touchstone Pictures (Disney's PG-and-over distribution label) elected to make a movie about a baby dinosaur that wasn't appropriate for little kids to see. 1985's "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" makes a lot of odd creative and tonal choices as it assembles a jungle adventure, caught somewhere between trying to be cute and cuddly for family audiences and remaining surprisingly violent to keep adults interested in the survival of animatronic creatures (the tale open with a character getting knifed in the gut). Director B.W.L. Norton (who previously helmed the fascinating failure, "More American Graffiti") finds himself overwhelmed with the job at hand throughout the feature, struggling to find storytelling clarity. "Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend" has a retro appeal to it, especially for those who enjoy displays of rubber suit-based antics, along with miniature work and puppetry, but the film as a whole spends so much time juggling light and dark material, it never has a chance to enjoy itself, becoming laborious and behaviorally confusion rather than engrossing, with touches of awkward Disneyfied adorableness.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Wilby Conspiracy

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Reuniting with his "Lilies of the Field" and "Duel at Diablo" director, Ralph Nelson, Sidney Poitier attempts to revive one of his major successes with "The Wilby Conspiracy," which plays like a minor version of "The Defiant Ones," only with political and racial chains keeping the main characters bound together, not literal metal. Joined by Michael Caine, Poitier delves into the heart of South African hatred with this thriller, which is interested in providing excitement for viewers, but also ready to deliver a potent message on apartheid, hoping to give those who've arrived to watch an extended chase some time with real-world ills, opening their eyes to the destruction of spirit in a remote land. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966)

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The character of The Pink Panther was created to give the Inspector Clouseau movies a special lift during the main titles, establishing a silly, cartoon mood to help the audience get settled into the viewing experience to come. The big cat's popularity was noted by the suits in charge, soon featured in a series of theatrical shorts that attempted to turn a lark into a legend. It worked, with director Friz Freleng and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises masterminding 124 shorts over a 14-year-long period, with the first 20 selections collected on "The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966)," detailing the producers attempt to establish the mood of the endeavors and The Pink Panther's endless appetite for mischief.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Seven Blood-Stained Orchids

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Umberto Lenzi managed a varied career for himself, achieving notoriety with his jungle adventures, such as "Man from Deep River" and "Cannibal Ferox." His forays into giallo-style chillers are less celebrated, but he managed to make his mark with select crime thrillers, finding 1972's "Seven Blood-Stained Orchids" one of his more successful efforts. However, the picture isn't exactly big on shock value, taking its sleuthing seriously, leaving extremity to select moments of punishment. "Seven Blood-Stained Orchids" is an atmospheric feature with occasional inspiration, but it's also surprisingly talky for the genre, with Lenzi strangely sensitive to dramatic needs, dialing down most potential for chaos. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Opera

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Dario Argento certainly doesn't have the career today that he once had in the past, and the line of quality tends to be drawn at 1987's "Opera," which represents a final push of youthful exuberance when it comes to staging ghastly acts of violence as stylishly and surreal-like as possible. "Opera" is one of Argento's better pictures, partially because it plays directly to his artistic interests, mixing the theatricality of stage performance with the grim appetites of giallo filmmaking, coming up with a slightly deflated but fascinating horror endeavor that comes alive whenever the helmer frees himself from narrative rule and explodes with evil and animal wrangling. Perhaps in the grand scheme of a career that produced "Suspiria," "Deep Red," and "Tenebrae," Argento's push to make a winded tale of insanity isn't going to penetrate deep enough, but visual delights remain, with Argento working up the energy to supply a proper jolt of the macabre and the exaggerated. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Hell Night

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She became an instant genre legend with her turn in 1973's "The Exorcist," but Linda Blair didn't have much interest in returning to horror, delivering detached work in 1977's "Exorcist II: The Heretic." Blair was happier making movies about riding horses and roller skating, making 1981's "Hell Night" something special, luring Blair back to the land of scary business with a trendy slasher that provides a little more visual oomph than the competition, supplying a near-regality as it goes about the business of hacking up teenagers. Blair is the big draw here, but she's not the highlight of "Hell Night," with director Tom DeSimone giving the endeavor a uniquely atmospheric presence to help the shock and terror along. Pacing issues are common, but the production creates an engrossing haunted house experience, using the location effectively while character panic registers with appealing urgency.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Executioner's Song

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Tommy Lee Jones has a history of playing intense characters. It's his bread and butter, often going out of his way to play men of limited emotion and short tempers. His gravitational pull to 1982's "The Executioner's Song" isn't surprising, taking on the considerable challenge of portraying murder Gary Gilmore and his bizarre behavioral habits. It's an easy lay-up role that Jones doesn't take lightly, able to find the nuance and burgeoning volatility in the part, consistently making himself the most interesting aspect of this adaptation of a Norman Mailer novel. Without Jones, "The Executioner's Song" wouldn't have much dramatic vigor, often caught leaning on the star to juice up dry scenes.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Disconnected

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Before he made a name for himself with 1988's "Psychos in Love," writer/director Gorman Bechard launched his helming career with 1984's "Disconnected," bringing one of his own short stories to the big screen. Ambition runs high in this production, with locations wallpapered with images of classic actors and filmmakers, finding Bechard trying to pay tribute to beloved cinema with this genre freak-out, which combines a serial killer story with mild Lynch-ian abstraction, hoping to generate a modicum of mystery with brief visits to the unknown. What Bechard lacks is skill, finding his introductory production struggling to connect the technical and narrative dots, ultimately offering an amateurish tour of sex and violence, and one that struggles with the basics in cinematography and sound recording. "Disconnected" isn't entirely unappealing, as some scenes do manage to hit their intended mark of insanity, but Bechard struggles to put together simple ideas, rendering the effort almost incomplete at critical moments. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Ice Cream Man

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Clint Howard has appeared in a great number of movies, but he was born to play the titular monster in 1994's "Ice Cream Man." It's the perfect marriage of actor and part, requiring Howard to go wild as a cartoonish creeper, flaring up his looks and bottoming out his voice to join horror history as serial murderer who spends as much time killing as he does crafting frozen treats. "Ice Cream Man" isn't an entirely successful endeavor from screenwriters David Dobkin (who would go on to direct "Wedding Crashers") and Sven Davison, who engage in a battle of tone, working to craft something scary that also plays like a "Goonies" sequel, unsure if they want to unnerve viewer or delight them with an adolescent adventure. "Ice Cream Man" struggles to find stable ground, but when it focuses on Howard and his grand commitment to the role, it delivers the genre goods, as wild-eyed and raspy as hoped for.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Cadillac Man

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The cruel reality is that while Robin Williams was a brilliant performer, arguably one of the funniest men around, his taste in film scripts left much to be desired. We all have fond memories of "Aladdin," "Good Will Hunting," and "Good Morning, Vietnam," but 1990's "Cadillac Man" is an excellent reminder that Williams couldn't always spin gold from lackluster writing, starring in what seems to be some type of madcap hostage comedy, but mostly emerges as an unfunny, unfocused mess, and one that's depending on the lead actor to do some heavy lifting in the joke department. Perhaps director Roger Donaldson was looking for a change of pace after achieving more sobering box office hits with "No Way Out" and "Cocktail," but he's not the guy for levity, keeping "Cadillac Man" frustratingly muted when it comes to punchlines and inspired insanity, gifting the feature a sense of darkness that's all wrong for the manic mischief it's hoping to communicate. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Taking of Beverly Hills

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While an anticipated release during the summer of 1988, few expected "Die Hard" to do much business, with industry coverage focused on the size of Bruce Willis's paycheck, not the masterpiece he was starring in. When "Die Hard" became one of the biggest moneymakers of the year, rival studios wanted their own version of the "Die Hard on a blank" formula, which began to take shape during the 1990s. Sure, we all have fond memories of "Speed" and "Under Siege," but there are countless forgotten rip-offs, including 1991's "The Taking of Beverly Hills." The picture was meant to entertain with rampant violence and make a big screen hero out of star Ken Wahl, and it's certainly a loud distraction, with plenty of mindlessness orchestrated by director Sidney J. Furie. "The Taking of Beverly Hills" is ultimately too one-note to compete in the subgenre, but it certainly has its heart (or fist) in the right place, with the production trying to generate as much mayhem as possible with the one-man-army premise.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com