Blu-ray Review - Highwaymen


It's easy to see how a film like 2004's "Highwaymen" made it through the development stage. The screenplay by Craig Mitchell and Hans Bauer offers a serial killer story in a post-"Seven" industry, and one with ghastly details and a mood of dread, dealing with an unusual murderer and his highly specific interest in making victims suffer. It's also car-based action from director Robert Harmon, who delighted many with his initial take on vehicular mayhem in 1986's "The Hitcher," returning to the world of revving engines and evildoing on the open road. The package is promising, but something went wrong in the execution. "Highwaymen" offers a premise that takes some effort to accept, following the mission of one man trying to stop a crazed, mangled individual using his car to slaughter innocents. It's pure ridiculousness sold with complete seriousness by Harmon, with the feature stuck between absurdity and solemnity, lacking a cast capable of selling the odd tonality of it all. The helmer delivers some car-smashing action and tries to make sense of screwy predators and prey, but the endeavor doesn't rage hard enough to provide a B-movie ride, stuck with heavy amounts of exposition to deliver and a cartoony antagonist to sell as an actual threat. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Wicked Die Slow


During his interview on this Blu-ray release, co-writer/actor Jeff Kanew (who directed "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Troop Beverly Hills") credits his absolute love for Sergio Leone's 1966 epic, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," as the prime inspiration behind 1968's "The Wicked Die Slow." However, Kanew had no access to a budget and limited filmmaking experience, trying to replicate the ways of the sun-baked, Italian-born spaghetti western in rural New Jersey during the autumn season. It's a bad idea from conception, but co-writers Kanew and Gary Allen have their motivation, working with director William K. Hennigar to stumble through this patience-testing collection of real-time events and gratuitous violence, sold without a moment of style or tension. It's meant to celebrate the western genre, but nobody seems to have a clue what they're doing, making a backyard production that's unusually hostile to female characters and genuinely seems to hate viewers. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Christmas with the Campbells


In the onslaught of holiday-themed entertainment that arrives every year, there's now "Christmas with the Campbells," which has the appearance of a typical Hallmark Channel distraction for viewers who can't get enough of the yuletide spirit or remain incapacitated in front of a television due to the consumption of too much egg nog. However, it's not just another anodyne offering of cheer and romance, but something approaching a mild parody of such small screen comfort food. Screenwriters Barbara Kymlicka, Dan Lagana, and Vince Vaughn (who co-produces with Peter Billingsley) hope to add a streak of naughtiness to the proceedings, getting rascally with this take on small town Christmas experiences and relationship tentativeness. "Christmas with the Campbells" is a little too permissive with improvisation and crudeness, but there are laughs to be found in this bizarre mix of earnestness and silliness, and the cast comes ready to play. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

UHD 4K Review - Midnight Run


Few filmmakers enjoyed a wilder career ride in the 1980s than Martin Brest. In 1982, the helmer was set to follow-up his 1979 offering, "Going in Style," with "WarGames," guiding the project through development and the beginning of principal photography. A few weeks into the shoot, Brest was fired, with his vision for the picture not matching up with producer and studio expectations. This would be a career-ending situation for most, but Brest endured such public humiliation, eventually securing work on "Beverly Hills Cop," which already went through pre-production woes and tonal hesitation. Under Brest's command, "Beverly Hills Cop" found its creative footing, becoming the highest-grossing movie of 1984, a year with an insane amount of hits. Brest went from being canned to becoming king in a matter of years, with all eyes on his follow-up project. 1988's "Midnight Run" wasn't nearly the hot release many expected it to become, but it capably sustained Brest's ability to manage action and comedy, aiming to do something dense yet approachable with the screenplay by George Gallo (who's been milking this credit for the last 35 years). There are hearty laughs and some thrills and chills in the effort, and Brest certainly has an advantage with his cast, with Robert De Niro refreshingly itchy and Charles Grodin capably dry as they take the lead roles, offering an appealingly strange take on buddy comedy chemistry while supporting players all find their grooves in this assembly of angry people and road trip antagonisms. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Hung Jury


1994's "Hung Jury" takes a long time to reach whatever passes for a plot here, and there's some hope that writer/director Gary Whitson is going to try for an Agatha Christie-type of viewing experience involving a collection of characters and a murderer on the loose. Or perhaps a game of "Clue," with personalities colliding as danger draws near. The man behind W.A.V.E. Productions, Whitson doesn't really go for anything distinct with the endeavor, which asks a lot of viewers with an extended run time and only a marginal interest in story. Instead, the W.A.V.E.-iness of the picture dominates, as the helmer is less concerned about building suspenseful points of pressure, instead more interested in the fetish potential of the shot-on-video effort, which is loaded with extended scenes of bondage, suffering, and weirdly tame sexploitation additions, making the 114-minute-long journey punishing for those who aren't watching this feature for highly specific thrills. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Debbie Does Demons


Writer/director Donald Farmer has been making movies for quite some time (including "Red Lips," "Catnado," and "Chainsaw Cheerleader"), but practice doesn't always make perfect. He's a filmmaker aiming to deliver no-budget exploitation fare, and he successfully achieves his goal with "Debbie Does Demons," but actual creative effort isn't present here. Instead of polish and pace, the endeavor is a low-tech exercise in horror comedy, with amateur actors and dire technical achievements working together to make a screen mess for Farmer, who seems to be delighted with the results. I doubt most viewers will share his enthusiasm, with the backyard production a difficult sit, as the helmer doesn't have any grasp of storytelling or editing, while padding is an unofficial star of the effort, finding Farmer clawing his way to a 74-minute-long run time. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Young Bodies Heal Quickly


2014's "Young Bodies Heal Quickly" is meant to be a cinematic experience from writer/director Andrew T. Betzer, who blends elements of Terrence Malick, Harmony Korine, and many more artful filmmakers for this study of human behavior and low impulse control. There's a thin slice of story to snack on, with the rest of the picture devoted to Betzer's interests in imagery and exaggeration, offering a wandering endeavor that's occasionally stimulated by oddity and carried by lovely cinematography from Sean Price Williams ("Good Time," "Her Smell," "Tesla"). Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Endangered Species


Robert Urich was primarily known as a television personality, with Hollywood working very hard to make him a household name, keeping him employed as much as possible during the 1970s and '80s. There were hit shows such as "Vega$" and "Spenser: For Hire," with Urich showcasing a rugged screen presence that helped to define masculine characters for the small screen during this era of T.V. entertainment. The actor attempted to jump to the big screen along the way, with 1982's "Endangered Species" one of his earliest leading roles, bringing his leathery ways to a film co- written and directed by Alan Rudolph, a helmer known for more nuanced offerings of character and tone. The pair go to work with something of a character actor convention in the picture, which strives to set an eerie tone concerning cattle death, shadowy military plans, and small-town tensions. "Endangered Species" is a paranoid thriller from the 1970s trying to find an audience in the 1980s, with Rudolph attempting to make as strange a movie as possible while still dealing with storytelling formula. It works for most of the run time, with the production generally capable when it comes to providing an unusual viewing experience that's also quite cliched, making heads spin while eyes roll. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Attack of the Demons


2019's "Attack of the Demons" is an animated production, with director Eric Power using cardstock art to create a loving ode to monster movies. The picture resembles "South Park," but it carries a much different energy, with Power endeavoring to transfer the concerns and attitudes of twentysomethings to genre entertainment, joined by screenwriter Andreas Petersen. "Attack of the Demons" looks great, with a wonderful homegrown vibe to the effort, which keeps Power busy cooking up terrific visuals for the feature. As a monster-killing genre exercise, there's not much momentum to the film, which isn't the most pulse-pounding or humorous offering of horror. Still, there's fun to be had with all of the art and carnage, as Power and Petersen clearly have great affection for the premise, working to build up some insanity while retaining a drier sense of humor and heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Gina (1975)


1975's "Gina" offers marketing that suggests the feature is a hard-edged crime story featuring brutal acts of violence and cool-blooded characters. There's more to the picture than grindhouse interests, with respected director Denys Arcand ("Jesus of Montreal," "The Decline of the American Empire") trying to mix together various moods with the work, tempting viewers with rough business while actually delivering a fascinating study of corporate exploitation and working-class misery, also taking a long look at the strange ways of rural Canada. "Gina" isn't forceful, but it's a wild sit, with Arcand taking the material in all sorts of directions, occasionally finding his way back to criminal dealings. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Tale of Tsar Saltan


Co-writer/director Aleksandr Ptushko continues his exploration of fairy tales with 1966's "The Tale of Tsar Saltan," which is an adaptation of a poem by Alexander Pushkin. Once again, the helmer puts on a wholly impressive show of filmmaking force, creating a fantasy realm that deals with the demands of love, family, and heroism, with the Russian epic taking time to build a wild vision of unreality as the details of such cinematic embellishment are carefully handled by Ptushko and his marvelous adoration for moviemaking imagination. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - At the Video Store


2019's "At the Video Store" is a valentine to the way things were in the home video business, with director James Westby taking a nostalgic look at the experience of being inside a building dedicated to movie rentals, exploring walls covered with posters, aisles filled with different selections, and meeting patrons and employees who share a love of cinema, with this intensity varying greatly. It's a snapshot of an era when homegrown businesses could thrive, creating a deep connection between the owner and the customer, establishing a relationship that could carry on for years, possibly even generations. For those in a mood to simply bathe in the warm waters of memory, "At the Video Store" does the trick, with Westby providing a sense of time and place with the documentary, offering thoughts from a decent variety of people involved in the industry or simply in awe of it. Structure and depth is more elusive with the endeavor, as the helmer goes for more of a scattergun approach when it comes to telling this tale, with the film lacking depth and patience as it speeds from one moment to the next. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Dracula (The Dirty Old Man)


Something went wrong with whatever 1969's "Dracula (The Dirty Old Man)" was originally intended to be. Instead of pursuing a lost cause, the producers elected to beat critics to the punch, following in the footsteps of Woody Allen's "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" by dubbing over most of the feature with goofy comedic lines, turning a bad sexploitation effort into funny business. It's a salvage job for an already bizarre picture, and whatever writer/director William Edwards originally had in mind for this no-budget take on the world of vampires and servants has been hastily reworked in the pursuit of laughs and cheap titillation. Humor isn't labored over in "Dracula (The Dirty Old Man)," with the whole endeavor slapdash, with perhaps mere hours devoted to taking something monstrous and turning it into tomfoolery. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Irreversible

IR 11

2002's "Irreversible" is specifically engineered to stress viewers out. This is the concept from writer/director Gaspar Noe, who looks to shake up the expectations of revenge cinema, using the gonzo attitude of youth and European sensibilities to fashion a brutal tale of vengeance that's told in reverse, working back from extreme violence into an extended understanding of relationships and discoveries. "Irreversible" is a difficult sit, requiring viewers to be fully aware of the hostility and viciousness Noe is eager to share, working to bring some sort of demented poetry to the viewing experience as the material bends over backwards to study the madness of humanity and life itself. It's bleak and punishing, but there's something wild about the feature that keeps it gripping, with the gimmick of it all actually connecting as intended, effectively disorienting viewers with shocking imagery and aural dread. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - 5 Women for the Killer


1974's "5 Women for the Killer" wins an award for "Most Unappealing Premise," asking viewers to embark on a tale about a serial killer who only targets pregnant women, mutilating their bodies in the process. It's not exactly a popcorn-munching type of story, and there's some relief that director Stelvio Massi ("Emergency Squad," "Hunted City") doesn't go crazy visualizing such horrors, keeping things relatively tasteful with this giallo production, which is more of a soap opera than a hard-driving chiller featuring the slaughter of innocents. It's not a riveting sit, but Massi captures some oddness well, and performances are committed, giving the picture something to connect to while a mystery is slowly tended to. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Tiger Cage 3


Third time isn't the charm for 1991's "Tiger Cage 3," which is another separate tale of underworld entanglement from director Woo-Ping Yuen, who returns to keep the brand name going for another chapter of violent entertainment. It's more cops vs. crooks activity in the second sequel, but the production isn't completely dedicated to the cause, softening the story with a talky tale of tragedy, revenge, and business dealings, limiting martial arts and gunplay to just a few extended sequences. "Tiger Cage 3" tries to deliver a human take on heroism and relationships, but it's more of a soap opera than an involving drama, delivering puzzling behaviors and plotting as it gives in to melodrama that's nowhere near as compelling as all the physical mayhem of the first two titles in this series. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Tiger Cage 2


When is a sequel not a sequel? When it's 1990's "Tiger Cage 2," which has nothing to do with the previous installment in terms of story or character. Instead, it's a reunion of sorts for the production team, with director Woo-ping Yuen overseeing another race across Hong Kong with star Donnie Yen, this time working on a more comedic take on violent happenings. The endeavor is attentive to action, keeping the characters on the move and constantly under threat, showcasing furious action choreography. However, "Tiger Cage 2" is also goofy, going broad with opposites attract antics that fully detract from the viewing experience. There's plenty of hostile encounters for fans of action cinema, but the not-a-sequel is also very attentive to levity, requiring viewing patience it doesn't earn. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Tiger Cage


1988's "Tiger Cage" looks to provide some voltage to viewers in the mood for supercop antics, this time focusing on the drug trade in Hong Kong, with a team of law enforcement types out to take down a defined enemy, encountering a far more insidious evil in the department itself. The picture is directed by genre legend Woo-Ping Yuen, best known to Western audiences as the action choreographer on "The Matrix" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The helmer brings righteous intensity to the endeavor, making sure to keep the story running along with incident and set pieces, while the screenplay is attentive to a certain element of surprise without getting too deep in mystery, submitting a corrupt cop tale with some punch, literally and dramatically. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Civil Dead


"The Civil Dead" is a different kind of ghost story. It's not about terror or tragedy, but loneliness, with the deceased figure offered here a man with nothing to do, clinging to the one person who's capable of seeing and interacting with him. It's more of a black comedy about stalking than a spooky movie, with co-writers Whitmer Thomas and Clay Tatum (who also directs) trying to find an offbeat way of exploring a spectral connection, and one that's entirely unwanted by at least one of the participants. "The Civil Dead" doesn't offer much in the way of sharp editing, but Thomas and Tatum have an idea worth exploring in this periodically amusing endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


UHD 4K Review - Skyline


Alien invasion movies don't need an excessive amount of fine-tuning to succeed. Sure, the finest features in the subgenre put in the time and effort to give audiences a rowdy ride of chills and spills, but as long as aliens focus on their furious attacks and a collection of screamy humans are dutifully riled up and on the run to safety, basic entertainment requirements are taken care of. "Skyline" seeks to challenge that theory, taking an encouraging premise of intergalactic war around Los Angeles and reducing it to bits of dismal, deadening CGI-laden chaos sandwiched between lengthy stretches of tedious, amateurish dramatic filler. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com