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January 2014

Blu-ray Review - Twins of Evil

TWINS OF EVIL Collinson Twins

What happens when the scary stuff no longer terrifies? Time to bring in the cleavage. 1971's "Twins of Evil" is a selection from the sexploitation era of Hammer Horror, where the studio, slowly running out of ideas, decided to follow cultural trends and emphasize sexuality as a way to attract attention to their releases. It's a smart play, as the fusion of lust and death has proven itself to be an irresistible combination, a fact extending to this picture. While short-sheeted in the story department, "Twins of Evil" is an evocative vampire story with a fascinating focal point, trotting out identical twins (and Playboy models) Mary and Madeline Collinson to portray the yin and yang of virginal susceptibility, with the production using their good looks and, ahem, other attributes to create a sensual suspense feature that's supported in the acting department by the great Peter Cushing. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Beach Girls

The Beach Girls Jeana Keough

How does one approach a film like "The Beach Girls," with all its questionable material and fixation on titillation? It's not an especially good movie, with fumbling performances, on-camera mistakes, and a screenplay dripping with goofy stereotypes. At times, it's downright horrible. However, this 1982 production carries a weird aura of innocent fun, with silly shenanigans its only real concern, generating a party atmosphere of dancing, sexin', and imbibing while it shares copious amounts of nudity to guarantee screen interest. A major force in the beach picture revival of the 1980s (1984's "Hardbodies" being its crowning achievement), the feature sets out small goals for itself and accomplishes them without much of a fuss. "The Beach Girls" is just amiable enough to entertain, though a steady finger on the fast-forward button is recommended to slip past the moldy vaudeville routines that pass for a sense of humor here. Read the rest at

Film Review - Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones


The “Paranormal Activity” film series has made its producers and distributor a massive amount of money, a fact especially disconcerting when one factors in the limited effort put into these pictures. With all installments revolving around the exploits of characters who willingly put themselves into dangerous situations while refusing to put their camera down, “Paranormal Activity” has becomes a brand name for cheap scares and unsteady acting. It’s a haunted house experience that once dominated the Halloween season. For “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” the frightfest has been bumped to January, moving scares from autumn to winter with hopes a change of date will recharge the franchise as it enters the second stage of its longevity. Perhaps the moneymen also hope all the cold and snow might distract from the fact that “The Marked Ones” doesn’t bring anything new to the series, only triggering memories of the previous chapters. Read the rest at

Film Review - Beyond Outrage


With 2010’s “Outrage,” writer/director/star Takeshi Kitano set out to manufacture a Japanese crime saga that was authentic in its observance of yakuza methodology and ritual while indulging in a plot of tarnished loyalty and cold-blooded control. It was his “Godfather” in many respects, and in an effort to keep up with the Coppola achievement, Kitano has created another chapter in what appears to be something of a trilogy for the gifted filmmaker. Much like the first feature, “Beyond Outrage” is a byzantine creation that’s primarily made up of names and faces, with the occasional burst of viciousness arriving to remind the viewer that Kitano still packs a punch these days, deftly blending extended dialogue sequences with harrowing moments of hostility, crafting a worthy follow-up to an unexpectedly engrossing picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Interior. Leather Bar.


Although it was never a success, William Friedkin’s 1980 effort, “Cruising” (starring Al Pacino), has inspired a cult following over the last three decades. A deeply flawed but fascinating vision of the gay club scene in New York City, “Cruising” was reportedly shredded by the MPAA to achieve its release, shorn of 40 sexually explicit minutes that have never seen the light of day. Enter James Franco and Travis Matthews, two filmmakers out to flex their creative muscles by restaging this lost footage with an eager cast of background players and a hesitant star in Val Lauren, spending a few days in a Los Angeles theater dissecting the motivations of the moment, using the shoot as a way to challenge personal fears. Read the rest at

Film Review - Open Grave


“Open Grave” has a nasty exposition habit. A horror film with some mystery on its menu, the picture is terrified to leave any viewer behind, always explaining itself, underlining relationships and spelling out tension. It’s an irritating routine, making the movie feel more diluted than it already is, with director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (“Apollo 18”) incapable of quieting down the effort, showing respect for intelligence and natural screen suspense. There’s a germ of an idea within “Open Grave” that deserves development, but what’s ultimately made it to the screen is simplified and stripped of feeling, scratching out the level of anxiety screenwriters Chris and Eddie Borey are aiming to summon with this end of the world endeavor. Read the rest at