DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Alphabet City

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The director of "Unmade Beds" and "Frogs for Snakes," Amos Poe tries to summon the real New York City as it was in the mid-1980s for "Alphabet City." The 1984 release takes audiences into a dangerous area populated with drug dealers, addicts, and prostitutes, endeavoring to explore a survival story involving a young hoodlum who's has enough of crime. Poe does better with atmosphere than storytelling with the feature, as "Alphabet City" does just fine as a tour of community devastation and troubling individuals, with the central character trying to manage a typical evening while an unusual problem grows in urgency over the course of the night. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Caller

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1987's "The Caller" is a movie that's not easy to describe. Doing so in any meaningful way might slip into spoiler territory, as the screenplay by Michael Sloan loves its slow build to a surprise. Think of it as an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone," with Sloan trying to find his way through a tale of confrontation and paranoia without unleashing the weirdness of it all too soon, keeping director Arthur Allan Seidelman on his toes dreaming up ways to turn mysterious antagonisms between two characters into a feature-length story. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Heavenly Kid

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What makes 1985's "The Heavenly Kid" at least passably interesting is the way it tries to play into the teen horndog cinema trend of the day while also questing to be a bit sweeter than the usual routine. Co-writer/director Cary Medoway attempts to remain above the nonsense that usually emerges with lustful ways, bending the tale to be more about characters than basic adolescent gratification. It doesn't make the movie a classic, but it doesn't push the effort along with a compelling level of gentleness, even when it deals with leering camerawork and, well, lots of death. Medoway provides a pleasant ride with a strange situation of angelic protection and leadership, landing the essentials of the endeavor thanks to a capable cast and screenwriting (sharing duties with Martin Copeland) that's aiming a bit higher to connect with viewers, going for the heart instead of just the crotch. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Death Before Dishonor

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In the post-Rambo haze of the mid-1980s, Cannon Films was hunting for heroes, and ones who could believably mow down enemy forces and still pay tribute to American patriotism. For 1987's "Death Before Dishonor," the production talked Fred Dryer into making the leap from his small screen success on the T.V. show "Hunter" to a big screen actioner where he was the main attraction. Suiting up to play a Marine on the warpath, Dryer singlehandedly keeps the feature together, offering full commitment to the militaristic elements of the production, and he's an ideal tough guy for Terry Leonard, a stunt man (most famous for his work on "Raiders of the Lost Ark") making his directorial debut. "Death Before Dishonor" is crude entertainment, but as these one-man-army efforts go, Dryer is capable of summoning the right amount of fury to help the feature find its way to a satisfying conclusion. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Suckers

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The world of used cars has been explored before in film, with 1980's aptly titled "Used Cars" using the unscrupulous behavior of salesman and their lust for money to inspire a farce about the business and all the crooks involved in it. The Robert Zemeckis feature had a lot of fun using exaggeration to manage unpleasant business, with star Kurt Russell delivering one of his best performances as an auto lot hustler who can't help himself when it comes to opportunity. For 1999's "Suckers," co-writer Joe Yannetty offers a more realistic take on the car sales game, putting years of experience on the page for co-writer/director Roger Nygard, who tries to transform the awfulness of the industry into an approachable picture highlighting a collection of reprehensible characters. It's a tonal tightrope walk Nygard can't complete, but "Suckers" does have a lived-in feel that keeps it compelling for its first half, presenting an insider look at the gamesmanship of being a salesman, where nothing is off the table when comes to completing a deal. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Attack of the Crab Monsters

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These days, directors are lucky to put out a picture every two or three years, taking a significant amount of time to perfect their endeavors, slowly adding to filmographies. In 1957, Roger Corman put in the work, overseeing the release of eight movies, refusing to slow down while in the midst of creative and financial opportunities. "Attack of the Crab Monsters" is one of these offerings, with Corman and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith attempting an atomic age creature feature, looking to the sea for inspiration as automobile-sized crabs become the source of all agony. However, "Attack of the Crab Monsters" isn't entirely consumed with destruction, with the production trying to introduce a little sci-fi to help with the oddness of a short but punchy effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Pandemonium

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Film historians often celebrate the rise of fantasy moviemaking in the 1980s, with many productions chasing the success of "Star Wars," feeding an audience hungry for space opera escapism. Less emphasized is the rise of slasher cinema, thanks to the unexpected domination of "Friday the 13th," and many producers were also looking to replicate the comedic formula of "Airplane!" Horror and broad comedy were subjected to a mass milking by the industry, with some going a step further and combining the two genres, hoping to appeal to more ticket-buyers. 1981 presented "Saturday the 14th" and "Student Bodies," and 1982 delivers "Pandemonium," which offers a take on a serial killer with a taste for young victims, but also includes pie-in-the-face jokes. Screenwriters Jamie Klein and Richard Whitley try to create something of a story to support all the slapstick, but the general velocity of "Pandemonium" is managed by director Alfred Sole ("Alice, Sweet Alice"), and he's not afraid to try anything for a laugh, hoping the feature will magically fall into place by sheer will alone. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Indecent Exposure

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1981's "Indecent Exposure" has the right idea for adult entertainment, at least for the first two acts. It's a production from director Gary Graver that's trying to break out of cheap sets and bedrooms, with writers C.W. O'Hara and Harold Lime concocting a road trip for their characters, permitting some sense of freedom as the production visits a few corners of California to have a little fun with predatory personalities. There's enough forward momentum and location variation to carry the viewing experience, which goes from light, silly escapism with sexual encounters to a darker probing of psychology in its last act. Why? Even after watching the entire film, it's difficult to understand the dramatic intent. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Children of the Sea

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While "Children of the Sea" initially promises to be a coming-of-age adventure for a young girl introduced to magical oceanic elements, the picture gradually takes the story in a different direction, aiming to offer a "2001"-style viewing experience instead of something more grounded. An adaptation of Daisuke Igarashi's manga, "Children of the Sea" is an incredibly ambitious tale of human connection to earthly wonders and life, with director Ayumu Watanabe aiming to respect what the author is trying to communicate and give the feature a cosmic life of its own. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Jackson County Jail

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Drive-in sleaze from the 1970s gets a cold slap across the face in 1976's "Jackson County Jail," which presents a more sobering understanding of injustice in America's southland. Director Michael Miller ("Silent Rage," "National Lampoon's Class Reunion") and screenwriter Donald E. Stewart are faced with the demands of exploitation cinema, and try to deliver some awfulness to sufficiently rile up viewers. However, the ultimate aim of "Jackson County Jail" is to manufacture a more character-based survival story, delving into broken people as they come up against an unthinkable future while on the run from the law. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Caged Heat

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Every career has a beginning, and for the late Jonathan Demme, his start arrived with 1974's "Caged Heat." While producer Roger Corman had already exhausted his interests in women-in-prison pictures, Demme attempts to do something a little different with his take on bad ladies behind bars. Exploitation interests are met, but "Caged Heat" comes at the audience in a slightly different manner, with Demme upping some sense of humor and horror while introducing semi-documentary technique to the endeavor, making it far more interesting than it has any right to be. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell

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Feeling the need to squeeze out one more horror adventure with Victor Frankenstein, Hammer Films offers "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" to the mid-1970s, with audiences largely interested in more demonic happenings at the local theater. A sequel to 1970's "The Horror of Frankenstein," "Monster from Hell" doesn't stray far from the "Frankenstein" formula, once again putting Victor in contact with scientific evildoing, only here he's joined by a fan and the monster is an ape-like creation who, true to the brand name, doesn't take kindly to the pains of life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - A Different Story

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"A Different Story" was originally released in 1978, a much different time in entertainment, with Hollywood trying to get their minds around the selling of stories about gay characters to the general public. Instead of aiming higher with ambition and respectfulness, writer Henry Olek and director Paul Aaron (who would go on to take his name off "Morgan Stewart's Coming Home") elect to make a drippy dramedy with "A Different Story," turning human emotion and sexuality into a pliable thing to fit the needs of a failed sitcom. It's not a hateful feature, just overly careful not to offend a largely heterosexual audience by changing the homosexual experience as the production sees fit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Streetwalkin'

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All actors have to start somewhere, and before Melissa Leo grew into an in-demand performer, nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 and collecting Oscar gold in 2011 for her work in "The Fighter," she was eager to make her screen debut. Like many before her, Leo found her way to the Roger Corman factory, handed the starring role in 1985's "Streetwalkin'," which has her playing a teenage prostitute caught between the demands of life and the protection of her little brother as her raging pimp seeks revenge. As first movies go, it's not the classiest endeavor, playing into the trends of the day as certain audiences craved tales of bruised innocence and streetwise antagonisms. "Streetwalkin'" isn't a refined dramatic event, it's exploitation, with Leo doing what she can to provide some personality and emotional urgency in the midst of cliché, giving the grungy endeavor bits of life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Prevenge

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Alice Lowe has amassed a substantial amount of credits as a character actress, making brief appearances in "The World's End," "Locke," and "Paddington." Her most substantial screen role was found in "Sightseers," a wonderful dark comedy from director Ben Wheatley, who showed uncharacteristic focus and made the most of Lowe's screen presence. Taking command of her professional future, Lowe makes her directorial debut with "Prevenge," also scripting herself a prime role in a slasher film that's more about the anxieties of motherhood than the piling of dead bodies. Crafted with wit, terrific performances, and some unexpected trips into the gore zone, "Prevenge" is striking work from Lowe, who not only understands the constant concerns that swirl around the journey of pregnancy, but she's good with violence as well, keeping the feature suspenseful when it isn't refreshingly insightful. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Buffaloed

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Zoey Deutch deserves a lot of credit for trying to do something with her acting career in recent years. She's worked in teen cinema and romantic comedies, but with last year's "Zombieland: Double Tap," Deutch went full-tilt silly, exposing impressive timing and a sense of adventure when it came time to bring weirdness to a somewhat stale feature. She's back in "Buffaloed," which supplies her with a true acting challenge, tasked with portraying an absolutely manic human being while also being attentive to the quirks of Brian Sacca's screenplay, which plays around in the sobering world of debt collection. "Buffaloed" is amusing, and director Tanya Wexler gives it an appealing velocity, rarely slowing down with skin-crawling displays of predatory criminal behavior. And she has Deutch, who gives the part her all, submitting her finest performance to date, keeping characterization compelling and mischief spinning at top speed as she endeavors to embody a modern take on the American Dream. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - True History of the Kelly Gang

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Filmmakers love to make movies about the history of the Bushrangers, and the saga of Ned Kelly is a particular favorite, with his story repeatedly brought to screens of all sizes, presenting different creative visions a chance to get to the core of Kelly's propensity for violence and bruised sense of honor. Talents from Mick Jagger (in 1970) to Heath Ledger (in 2003) have played the man, offering different takes on dangerous behavior, but it's George McKay (recently seen in "1917") who's permitted to go absolutely bonkers with the part. "True History of the Kelly Gang" isn't your average period outlaw experience, with director Justin Kurzel (2015's "Macbeth," "Assassin's Creed") looking to shake things up with his take on the Kelly Gang and their legendary days, blending in brash cinematic style and sneering punk rock attitude to fully realize the primal instinct found within the screenplay by Shaun Grant, who adapts a 2001 novel by Peter Carey. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tales from the Darkside: The Movie

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Hoping to build on their success with 1982's "Creepshow," co-writer/producer George A. Romero and producer Richard Rubinstein brought their interests in small bites of horror to the small screen in "Tales from the Darkside," a syndicated series that began its four year run in 1984. The show was a minor hit with a loyal audience, and some willing to stay up very late to catch the program, where its twisted sense of terror was best appreciated. 90 episodes were completed before the itch to take the brand name to the big screen was scratched, resulting in the creation of 1990's "Tales from the Darkside: The Movie," an anthology feature that doesn't stray far from the essentials of the original show, offering more in the way of style and gore to help it compete with other cinematic nightmares filling the multiplex. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Eleventh Commandment

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The director of "I Dismember Mama" and "Ape," Paul Leder tries to make something of a statement with 1986's "The Eleventh Commandment." It's a story that doesn't feature a protagonist, tracking two characters engaged in their own levels of evil. One is a ruthless businessman who's not shy when it comes to lying, cheating, and stealing. Murder isn't an issue either. The other personality is a mentally ill man who's channeled his clouded ways into the priesthood, setting out to protect innocence by going on a killing spree. Leder is challenging viewers to take sides with the screenplay, but those who sit down with "The Eleventh Commandment" may start to wonder why the movie isn't more extreme after the first 30 minutes, with Leder settling into a strangely tasteful assessment of bodily harm and sexual gamesmanship. There's a welcome mat laid down for exploitation elements, but the production plays it relatively calm, refusing to indulge wild antics with deranged people, which results in a frustratingly tepid viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Black Castle

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Sir Burton (Richard Greene) is a man concerned for two friends who've disappeared, electing to travel to the castle of Count Von Bruno (Stephen McNally) to investigate what happened. Encountering the villainous Von Bruno, Sir Burton focuses on the man's wife, Countess Elga (Rita Corday), looking to protect her when she begins to expose her husband's dangerous ways, also encountering Dr. Meissen (Boris Karloff), who's sympathetic to Sir Burton's cause, and Gargon (Lon Chaney, Jr.), the master's top brute. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com