DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Home

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Co-writer/director Fine Troch goes where many moviemakers have gone before with 2016's "Home." It's the tale of troubled young people and their ill- formed support systems and coping mechanisms, with filmmakers such as Larry Clark spending their entire careers exploring the humiliations and explorations of adolescent characters. Troch doesn't go full exploitation with his picture, but she gets close, trying on some shock value for size as she examines a potent tale of abuse and despair. "Home" is compelling, helped along by an amateur cast capable of simulating teen troubles and beyond, and while Troch doesn't always have the best impulse control when depicting acts of domestic destruction, she taps into the feeling of powerlessness with striking precision at times. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Three Christs

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While he made a promising directorial debut with 1991's "Fried Green Tomatoes," Jon Avnet hasn't managed to match his initial creative and box office success. He's worked primarily in television in recent years, but the lasting stench of disasters such as 2008's "Righteous Kill" and 2007's "88 Minutes" remains. "Three Christs" is meant to slip Avnet back into the warm waters of personal psychological problems, exploring one doctor's quest to achieve a greater understanding of paranoid schizophrenia during a research project in 1959. The subject is interesting, exploring the depths of troubled minds trapped in an unforgiving care system. However, Avnet can't get the material moving in any compelling direction, creating a disappointingly plodding endeavor that's too concerned with melodramatic asides to get to the heart of mental illness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Radio Flyer

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Released in 2010, the book "You're the Director…You Figure It Out: The Life and Films of Richard Donner" provides real insight into the mind of the successful filmmaker. He's touched greatness on multiple occasions, guiding "Superman," "Lethal Weapon," and "The Goonies," and he's enjoyed his share of misfires, including box office disappointments "Inside Moves" and "Ladyhawke." The biography (written by James Christie) paints a specific portrait of Donner in the early 1990s, with the creative force hungry for a meaningful, dramatically ambitious hit after years overseeing blockbusters. "Radio Flyer" was meant to be such an opportunity. Handed control of the project after David Mickey Evans (who also scripted the high profile undertaking) wasn't delivering the goods as a first-time moviemaker, Donner was suddenly in command of a story that dared to merge the magical pursuits of childhood with the real-world horrors of abuse, dealing with a tonal challenge unlike anything he's encountered before. He poured his heart and soul into the endeavor, only to see it destroyed in test screenings, trashed by critics, and dumped by the studio. The loss floored Donner, but "Radio Flyer" has managed to acquire something of a fanbase, with those sensitive to the director's earnest intent able to embrace all the shortcomings of the picture, and celebrate its unnervingly accurate read of resilient juvenile energy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - L.A. Wars

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While "L.A. Wars" is technically a 1993 production, it mostly plays like something from 1985, when action movies created for the VHS market were really starting to take off, trying to create as financially responsible a ruckus as possible. For their introductory sequence, co-directors Tony Kandah and Martin Morris (who also script together) serve up a coke deal gone wrong, filling the screen with bullets and explosions, trying to sell the stuffing out of the title before viewers have fully settled in. It's that type of spunk that carries most of "L.A. Wars," which is exceedingly silly work, but determined to provide at least some level of non-stop excitement, keeping the endeavor stuffed with stunt work and steely characters, coming up with a low-budget ride that doesn't get by on I.Q. points, but offers a dead body for every star in the sky. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dr. Jekyll's Dungeon of Death

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The horrors of Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella, "Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," are significantly diluted for 1978's "Dr. Jekyll's Dungeon of Death." The title suggests an ominous viewing experience, detailing absolute finality in a basement setting. However, what director James Wood is actually offering is a loose appreciation for the original text, mounting his own martial arts exhibition as the potential for frights is replaced by choreographed fights. This is one bizarre feature, seemingly slapped together over a few weekends, with Wood keeping to the bare minimum of story and screen tension while offering large parts of the run time to a local karate school. There's a dungeon and there's some death, but the real Dr. Jekyll-ness of it all doesn't factor into the final cut. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Severed Arm

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1978's "Halloween" was a massive hit, turning the slasher genre into a trend that would spawn imitators for over a decade. Most hardcore horror fans generally look to 1974's "Black Christmas" as the feature that really got the ball rolling, delivering death one body at a time. What's interesting about "The Severed Arm" is how closely it plays to the conventions of the subgenre, coming out a year before "Black Christmas." It's an unheralded cinematic achievement, and a mark of distinction the production doesn't make the most of. Yes, there's a shadowy killer on the loose, stalking its victims slowly, delivering grisly exterminations with a sharp instrument. And that's it for thrills and chills in the movie, with co-writer/director Tom Alderman a bit more concerned about reaching a sellable run time than really dialing up the fright factor of this somewhat odd/somewhat familiar endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blood Games

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1990's "Blood Games" offers one of the more peculiar set-ups for a thriller I've ever encountered. While the material eventually settles into formula, depicting a forest battle between backwoods predators and female prey, the path to such a showdown makes its first stop at a rural baseball game, with the visitors a team of scantily clad ladies that drive around the country, battling local opponents. It's an underworld of sports betting with a side of Hooters-style teasing that gently launches the feature, giving director Tanya Rosenberg multiple opportunities to arrange sexploitation shots and examine the horrors of uncontrollable men. It's so weird, and yet, it's actually a fantastic way to commence "Blood Games," earning viewer interest with the unexpected before Rosenberg gives in to the predictability of genre demands. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Patty Hearst

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The saga of Patricia Hearst and her 1974 kidnapping has been explored in numerous media offerings, with journalists and dramatists drawn to the story's overt strangeness and ties to the Hearst legacy. For 1988's "Patty Hearst," screenwriter Nicholas Kazan goes straight to the source, adapting Hearst's 1982 autobiography, "Every Secret Thing." Director Paul Schrader takes the opportunity to probe into the mind of a kidnapped woman brought to her breaking point, examining days of imprisonment that eventually led to the birth of an unlikely "urban guerilla." Admittedly, the sheer oddity of the event is enough to fill a run time, but Schrader and Kazan struggle to locate the urgency of Hearst's transformation, getting lost in style without pinpointing compelling motivations, providing very little insight beyond what Hearst shares in her book. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Immortalizer

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Jordan Peele's "Get Out" received critical accolades, Oscar gold, and a sizable box office haul with its homage to "The Twilight Zone" episode, "The Trade-Ins." Imagine another pass at the premise, only without the social and racial commentary, the sleek cinematography, and the gradual rise of sinister business. 1989's "The Immortalizer" has rampaging mutants, it's that kind of movie, but it's interesting to examine another take on the premise of the old looking to be young again via surgery, with brain-swapping mischief offered more of a low-budget horror event from director Joel Bender, the man who gave the world "Gas Pump Girls." There's nothing subtle about "The Immortalizer," which largely gets by on scenes of wild behavior and mild chases, while Bender's periodic visits to the gore zone give the picture a kick when it needs it. It's not the maniac creation it could've been, but it has its moments, especially when the production embraces its sick side. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Greed

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Writer/director Michael Winterbottom has always held a great interest in highlighting troubled times around the world, with the growing issue of economic disparity a popular topic of his pictures. With "Greed," Winterbottom does away with any sort of subtlety, instead going for the throat with his vision of a billionaire celebrating his 60th birthday, with his grotesque life opened for study as a decadent party is planned in his honor. The material has its biting comedic moments, but Winterbottom is aiming for a more sobering depiction of the haves and have nots, constructing a briskly paced overview of unrepentant financial manipulation, workplace abuse, and the blind absurdity of privilege, reteaming with frequent collaborator Steve Coogan to assess the ruination of lives as the few retain everything they can get their hands on, while the many fight for survival. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Escape from L.A.

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Make no mistake: 1981's "Escape from New York" is an absolute classic. It's one of the best pictures from the decade and one of many jewels in director John Carpenter's crown, with the helmer putting in the work to turn a low-budget, western-tinged thriller into an insanely atmospheric triumph, overseeing star Kurt Russell's most iconic screen performance. Nothing is going to threaten that success, which is why it's a good idea to approach the 1996 sequel with a certain amount of understanding. "Escape from L.A." is meant to be a thrill ride with an old friend, with Carpenter suddenly flush with cash to make a Snake Plissken adventure, trying to compete with blockbuster standards with a brand name that, for extended portions of the original film, remained in the shadows. The reward for such patience is a semi-remake that's rich with anti-authoritarian attitude and big, loopy action, with Carpenter working out his weirdness while giving Russell another opportunity to project pure antihero ice as Snake. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Danger: Diabolik

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In the swinging sixties, Italian producers wanted in on the success of comic book properties brought to television and movies, but they ran into a fair share of trouble bringing "Danger: Diabolik" from the page to the screen. In a bind after dealing with production setbacks, Dino De Laurentiis pulled the effort out of a creative tailspin, passing the screen potential of the Italian comic series to director Mario Bava, who made it his personal mission to generate a stylish, strangely hostile take on the source material, finding ways to make the criminal the most enticing hero of 1968. Questions of right and wrong are blurred in "Danger: Diabolik," but Bava's work is crystal clear, delivering a wildly inventive display of filmmaking prowess, working all the angles to keep the endeavor visually interesting and the main character enjoyably corrupt. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Dallas Connection

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In 1993, Andy Sidaris elected to step down from his position as the director behind Malibu Bay Films. He was in his sixties at the time, and perhaps a little weary of the production grind, especially at the rate he was churning out features, spending 1993 assembling "Fit to Kill" and "Hard Hunted." Instead of giving up the business, depriving fans of broad action and bikini-clad antics, he turned to his son, Christian Drew Sidaris, to take the moviemaking baton, with 1994's "The Dallas Connection" his second offering as a filmmaker. As semi-sequel to "Enemy Gold," the new Sidaris offering attempts to downplay ridiculous violence, aiming to be more of a spy picture filled with assassination attempts and double-crossing characters. The helmer tries to keep things familiar with his frequently topless cast, but "The Dallas Connection" suffers from a mild case of creative fatigue. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Enemy Gold

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In 1993, Andy Sidaris elected to step down from his position as the director behind Malibu Bay Films. He was in his sixties at the time, and perhaps a little weary of the production grind, especially at the rate he was churning out features, spending 1993 assembling "Fit to Kill" and "Hard Hunted." Instead of giving up the business, depriving fans of broad action and bikini-clad antics, he turned to his son, Christian Drew Sidaris, to take the moviemaking baton, returning to video stores a year later with "Enemy Gold," debuting his new enterprise, Skyhawks Films. Already an important member of the family business, Christian makes a smooth transition to helming for "Enemy Gold," which doesn't stray far from the Malibu Bay Films to-do list of exploitation interests, offering the faithful a decent ride of violent encounters, sexuality, and hot tubbin'. It doesn't have the snap of previous chapters, but Christian makes an agreeable debut here, aiming for a mystery adventure in the exotic wilds of…Dallas. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Glengarry Glen Ross

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As a playwright, David Mamet is a force of nature, always interested in the trouble characters create for themselves and others, often using frank dialogue to best examine the corrosiveness of people. Adapting his play for the big screen, Mamet protects as much venom as possible for 1992's "Glengarry Glen Ross," with director James Foley in charge of shaking the staginess out of the material, giving it a cinematic charge that respects Mamet's inherent fire-breathing powers and adds dimension when needed. Creative goals are mostly met in "Glengarry Glen Ross," which provides a safe space for amazing actors to unleash themselves with Mamet-ian authority, clawing their way into bleak psychological spaces with barely concealed excitement, while Foley works diligently to preserve the original rhythm of the work, doing an impressive job with the jazzy rush of testosterone and workplace hostility Mamet aimed to expose with his original work. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Idle Hands

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1999's "Idle Hands" tries to be something different, which is an admirable task, especially in the post-"Scream" horror marketplace, where everything was looking to be younger and hipper, aimed at a teenage demographic. It remains an adolescent adventure, filled with pot humor, broheim interactions, and sudden sexuality, but director Rodman Flender tries to buck a few trends by making his movie disgusting. He's brought a large amount of bodily harm to "Idle Hands," and that's the good news. The bad news is the feature's sense of humor and casting interests, which cripples what clearly wants to be a rip-roaring genre ride of unpredictable behavior and violent highlights. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Lost Continent

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For 1968's "The Lost Continent," Hammer Films endeavors to take viewers to a mysterious place on Earth where monsters live and dark civilizations have developed undisturbed. The excitement is all there, if viewers are comfortable sitting around for over an hour of screen time while dull edges of drama are polished by a production in no hurry to show off its horror extremes. Welcome to "The Lost Continent," which provides Hammer's customary padding to such a startling degree, the creature feature aspects of the story almost intrude on the interpersonal problems of doomed travelers on a danger-plagued ship. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tea with the Dames

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I can't think of a movie more perfectly suited for a Sunday afternoon matinee than "Tea with the Dames." It's a film about friendship, camaraderie, and memory, taking viewers to the English countryside to spend 80 minutes with Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, and Eileen Atkins as they discuss themselves and others for director Roger Michell. While not without some moments of gravity, "Tea with the Dames" is as delicious as its sounds, breezing through easy banter that's been in play for decades, with cameras capturing a friendship among actresses that's developed with care and respect. Michell knows what he's doing here, wisely getting out of the way as the Dames feel around for topics, digging up personal history as they discuss their lives, offering fascinating perspectives and triggering unexpected bellylaughs along the way. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dolly Dearest

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"Child's Play" was released in 1988, and the little horror movie about a possessed doll managed to make some money during its theatrical run. At least more than anyone expected from a picture with such a silly concept. It proved itself with smart execution and a memorable killer in Chucky, inspiring multiple productions looking to attract the same attention with their own visions of pint-sized terror. 1991's "Dolly Dearest" is the most distinct of the knock-offs, with writer/director Maria Lease aiming to recreate a similar feel to "Child's Play," pitting a demonic plaything against a family initially unaware of the danger they're in. In terms of scares and basic pace, Lease doesn't come anywhere near the 1988 genre triumph, but she has a few ideas that work, including the design of the titular threat, which hides malevolence behind mass-produced innocence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sleepless

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Director Dario Argento tried to expand his career throughout the 1990s, inching away from his giallo productions to challenge himself and alter his reputation. The experiment didn't exactly work, and while some interesting endeavors were born during this decade, the Argento of old was back in business for 2001's "Sleepless," which returns the helmer to the business of black-gloved killers, eye-crossing mysteries, and plenty of gory events. "Sleepless" also delivers an unusually stately leading actor in Max Von Sydow, who classes up the joint with his usual professionalism and interest in character, giving the feature something extra while Argento sweats to fill an excessive run time. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com