DVD/BLU-RAY

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


Blu-ray Review - The Frontier

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On co-writer/director Oren Shai's IMDB page, there's a picture of him engrossed in a pulp novel. It's unlike most photos on the website, highlighting his literary interests, which have been funneled into his feature-length directorial debut, "The Frontier." Playing around with time and motivation, Shai constructs a criminal chess game in the middle of the Arizona desert, using broad characters and secret pasts to manufacture a mild mystery with noir-ish flavorings. "The Frontier" doesn't have a big enough budget to completely erase signs of production limitation, but Shai gets an impressive amount accomplished with the resources he has, finding enough tension to preserve interest in this saga of bad people involved in dirty deeds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Cosmos

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Writer/director Andrzej Zulawski is perhaps best known for his 1981 endeavor, "Possession," an authentically bonkers feature that's breathtakingly nightmarish and unhinged. "Cosmos" welcomes the helmer back to a similar playground of madness, making a return to filmmaking after a 15 year absence. "Cosmos" is also Zulawski's final movie (he passed away earlier this year), but it's another doozy. Replacing horror with a macabre mystery, the effort successfully braids the unexplainable with the unknowable, transforming a simple visit to a country house into a carnival of warped behavior. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four

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The saga of 1994's "The Fantastic Four" is no Hollywood secret. Over the last two decades, details have leaked about the film's quickie production and aborted release, with the picture eventually discarded altogether after some promotional work was already underway. It's one of those industry black eyes, and while journalistic endeavors have explored the creation and disintegration of "The Fantastic Four," director Marty Langford looks to dig deeper with "Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four," constructing a documentary that collects stories from those on the front lines. It's not a cheery tale of creative and financial success, but it delivers a wider appreciation of what was attempted in the 1990s, with B-movie imagination eclipsing the blockbuster intentions later iterations of the property attempted. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Man on Fire

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A 1980 novel by Philip Nicholson, "Man on Fire" has inspired three cinematic adaptations, the most financially successful being a 2004 Tony Scott film starring Denzel Washington. However, it's the first attempt that's perhaps the most interesting, with 1987's "Man on Fire" attempting to turn a heartwarming tale of an unlikely friendship into the action event of the year. Director Elie Chouraqui doesn't possess the same visual ambition as Scott, keeping matters relatively straightforward for this endeavor, which strives to be more about characterization than orgasmic explosions of violence. Scott Glenn takes on the titular role, and while he's a credible avenging force, he's trapped in a picture that doesn't always know what it wants to be, trying to keep up with the helmer's often hazy concept of suspense. "Man on Fire" is the most tasteful of the adaptations, and it's certainly eventful. It's the overall thrust of urgency that's lacking from the feature, which spends more time with setup than it does with payoff, forcing viewers to retain the utmost patience with the production as it struggles to prioritize escalation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com