DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Mafu Cage

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1978's "The Mafu Cage" began life as a play from writer Eric Westphal, offering tight characterization and a slow descent into madness that fits perfectly with the distance of theater, permitting audiences time and space to process the unfolding psychological mayhem. Director Karen Arthur's screen version of the work removes all dramatic buffers, pulling viewers into a world of mental illness and bodily harm, dealing with a story of imprisonment by turning the entire feature into a tight grip of claustrophobic events. "The Mafu Cage" is certainly different, with Arthur striving to create an avant-garde experience that's not easily defined or, at times, bearable. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Tamarind Seed

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Maturing as a filmmaker after spending time with the "Pink Panther" series, Blake Edwards tries his luck with a spy genre with 1974's "The Tamarind Seed," which opens with a James Bond-style credit sequence from Maurice Binder and features a John Barry score, but doesn't do much more when it comes to digging into cinematic influences. Instead, Edwards puts his faith into stars Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif, who supply just enough star power to get this unexpectedly dry thriller out of neutral on multiple occasions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Quatermass and the Pit

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The cinematic saga of Professor Quatermass and his innate ability to discover trouble from another planet comes to a close with 1967's "Quatermass and the Pit." While the initial two efforts were B&W productions with an American lead, Hammer Films goes full color and British with the second sequel, bringing in Andrew Keir as the professor, with Quatermass newly tasked to decode evidence of a Martian invasion that's been restarted during a mass transit excavation project. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Quatermass 2

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A sequel to 1955's "The Quatermass Xperiment," 1957's "Quatermass 2" returns actor Brian Donlevy to the titular role, this time sending the good professor out to investigate the appearance of strange meteorites and inspect the inner workings of a mysterious refinery. Val Guest returns to directorial duty, coming up with another reason to remain with the older detective and his particular sense of defiance when it comes to government orders and alien invasions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - An Acceptable Loss

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Directorial careers can be a strange thing, and Joe Chappelle has experienced a wild one. He made his first real mainstream impression with 1995's "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers," and segued into 1998's "Phantoms." The genre launch pad didn't ignite a hunger for his services, ending up helming "The Skulls II" before retreating from features all together, slipping into television to pay the bills. However, Chappelle managed to join shows such as "Fringe" and "The Wire," sharpening his talents with quality programs, and now he's back in theaters with "An Acceptable Loss," working from his own screenplay. Newly empowered to make a timely tale of political deception, Chappelle puts in a noticeable effort with the movie, which makes it halfway to thematic clarity before formula kicks in. Still, some elements do connect as intended in "An Acceptable Loss," displaying storytelling clarity where there wasn't much before. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Erlprince

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Writer/director Kuba Czekaj has a fascination with human development. He explored the trials of childhood in "Baby Bump," contorting a ride of innocence as it encounters the frightening abyss of puberty, coming up with an extremely underground cinema approach to the rituals of maturation. He returns to the subject with "The Erlprince," this time graduating to the teen years, which present him with even more emotional open range to explore with his experimental instincts, this time doing away with comedy to create a more sobering understanding of domestic control and juvenile psychology, using waves of science and fantasy to generate required abstraction while remaining interested in the lead character's unusual coping mechanisms. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

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Five years ago, I covered the theatrical release of "Ernest & Celestine," and fell deeply in love with the modest feature, adoring its sense of humor and richly define characters. The production was gorgeously animated as well, doing something special with a limited budget and position outside the Hollywood animation machine. Co-director Benjamin Renner returns (joined by Patrick Imbert) with "The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales," which offers an anthology take on colorful shenanigans involving anthropomorphic animals. While gentleness has been dialed down some, Renner retains his sense of humor, delivering a more cartoon-style romp with three different stories of farmyard creature concern, sold with strong artistry and performances, giving the co-helmer another delightful offering with a sly sense of French humor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Passing

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1984's "The Passing" is a patchwork quilt production from co-writer/director/star John Huckert. Here was a young man determined to making his helming dreams a reality, and beginning in the mid-1970s, he elected to develop his first short into a feature, hoping to expand on a sci-fi idea wrapped up tight in themes of friendship and mortality. Dealing with countless issues, including the death of one of his actors, Huckert still managed to craft something worth releasing, delivering a supremely strange viewing experience with "The Passing." Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Night Owl

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The vampire movie certainly needs a shake-up every now and then, keeping the subgenre fresh when staleness is so much easier for many filmmakers. With "Night Owl," writer/director Jeffrey Arsenault tries to make his mark on the legacy, arranging his own bloodsucker saga on the streets of New York City, following a troubled young man who's been cursed for decades, growing weary of the life he's known for a long time. "Night Owl" has a concept and a distinct setting in 1989 NYC, where the sounds of the city are changing over to the 1990s, and the streets are still littered with filth and horrors, permitting vampirism to thrive. What Arsenault doesn't have is timing, with the picture enduring more than a few complete stops as the helmer (making his feature-length debut) tries to figure out editing rhythms and performance tempos. There's no ambitious scale here, just low-budget events that teeter on the edge of randomness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Putney Swope

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While developing his skills as an irreverent moviemaker with an interest in experimental film, Robert Downey hit a special creative peak with 1969's "Putney Swope." While it's a comedy, interested in giving viewers a full sense of the absurd and the silly, the feature isn't a simple joke-a-minute experience, going above and beyond mere bits to challenge the world of marketing in the 1960s, also focusing on shifting racial attitudes of the decade. Downey does some serious barnstorming with the picture, which is all over the place, yet somehow doesn't feel chaotic, showing immense playfulness while remaining sharp, picking up on distinct personalities and corporate buffoonery while Downey conducts a bizarre cinematic symphony of impulsiveness, idiocy, and condemnation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Taking Tiger Mountain

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To quote Oliver Stone's "JFK," 1983's "Taking Tiger Mountain" is an "A mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma." Up is down, left is right in the picture, which only provides a vague sense of storytelling as it attempts to become the most esoteric endeavor of the 1980s. However, the actual effort can't compete with the saga of its creation, where director Tom Huckabee acquired an entire film shoot from 1973 (under the care of helmer Kent Smith), taking footage that wasn't assembled and featured no sound, gifting himself an editorial challenge to make something out of the initial work, which starred Bill Paxton, making his screen debut. It was a puzzle turned into a…well, a larger puzzle, as Huckabee elected to transform the B&W movie into a futureworld thriller, with only sound design and a few additional shots to help manipulate the initial footage into something baffling yet driven by a singular artistic vision. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fatso

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Already established as an actress with incredible range and taste in quality material, Anne Bancroft was searching for a change of pace in the late 1970s, trying to tap into her own family history and deep psychology with the screenplay for "Fatso." Instead of giving the writing away, Bancroft elected to take her position as the director of the project, making her debut behind the camera (joined by the first female cinematographer for a studio project, Brianne Murphy) with the 1980 effort. "Fatso" means well enough, with Bancroft striving to understand the root of overeating and the casual denial of obvious medical concerns, and she brings in Dom DeLuise for a proper acting challenge, gifting the notorious ham a chance to show off his dramatic side and test his romantic leading man skills. The problem here isn't professional achievements, but tone, as Bancroft spends the entire endeavor swinging from cartoon comedy to profound confrontations of self, ending up with a picture that's exhausting to watch, never achieving any of the ambitious goals its sets for itself. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - I'll Take Your Dead

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There's a decent premise in "I'll Take Your Dead" that's struggling to survive during the run time. Director Chad Archibald and screenwriter Jayme Laforest work with a fine idea for a horror picture, examining the troubled life of a man (Aiden Devine) who gets rid of dead bodies for criminals, trying to build a small fortune to help buy a better life for his 12-year-old daughter (Ava Preston). However, one of the deceased (Jess Salgueiro) being prepped for dissection isn't actually dead, with her presence raising all sorts of problems for the newly alert butcher. Sadly, instead of leaning into the macabre aspects of the plot, the production tries to go warm with the concept before it slides into cliché. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Monolith Monsters

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There are cinematic monsters for every star in the sky, but there comes a time for every horror fan when a break from malicious creatures is needed. 1957's "The Monolith Monsters" aims to provide a different kind of fright feature, eschewing matters of the flesh to offer sheer power from deep space. Meteor fragments are the major source of destruction in the picture, with little black shards scattered around a California desert town becoming a real issue when they get wet. In a way, "The Monolith Monsters" is a precursor to Joe Dante's "Gremlins," only instead of cuddly Mogwai turning into a reptilian menace, the film offers the strange sight of tiny rocks transforming into deadly towers, offering just the right amount of instability to threaten life on Earth. The production certainly wins points for originality. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hale County This Morning, This Evening

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Taking an educator position in Alabama, filmmaker RaMell Ross elected to carry a camera during his time in the community of Hale County. The documentary "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" has little linear momentum, with Ross electing to stitch together a feeling of the town in motion, dropping in and out of the lives of various citizens, but focused on the passage of time and how it changes everything is subtle ways. The feature strives to be present in the best way possible, capturing remarkable beauty and wonder in everyday events, while identifying pressures facing people just trying to make their way through life, dealing with dreams and crushing realities. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Silent Hill

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Video game adaptations aren't easy to master, forcing filmmakers to invent ways of taking a participatory experience and changing it to a passive viewing event. Many of these productions have failed, but for most gamers, 2006's "Silent Hill" stands out as the rare success story, with director Christophe Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary trying to master a specific approach that respects the exploratory origins of the original games, transferring that sense of mystery and approaching malevolence to the big screen. There's undeniable artistry to the movie, with Gans lovingly detailing this world with surreal touches and ultraviolence, trying to craft atmospheric immersion without resorting to cheap scares. However, such attention to the specifics of gaming delights results in a largely inert picture, and one that has major issues with dreadful dialogue, disappointing performances, and stabs at exposition that are not inclusive to those who haven't spent weeks of their lives in front of a television, mastering this macabre maze of blurring realities. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Black Friday

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For their final movie together at Universal Pictures, stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi barely share any screen time in 1940's "Black Friday," which features the men prominently billed, while the actual lead role is handed to Stanley Ridges. It's a strange situation of expectations not being met with the picture, which promises to present something more substantial with the Karloff and Lugosi, fitting them for a gangster effort with mild macabre happenings. It's weird science yet again for the duo, but the screenplay isn't very interested in Lugosi, who struggles with a lesser role in a minor film, with Karloff supplied with more screen time to showcase his range, portraying a doctor who's managed to stuff part of a criminal's mind into his best friend's dying body. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Raven

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Much like 1934's "The Black Cat," 1935's "The Raven" takes inspiration from the world of writer Edgar Allan Poe, refusing any direct adaptation to simply embrace the author's macabre imagination. However, "The Raven" goes to the next level of celebration, turning its lead character (portrayed by Bela Lugosi) into a demented fan of Poe's, building recreations of torture machines to use on unsuspecting dinner guests. It's the rare picture that actually pulls real-world creativity into its own fictional realm. Such a boost of madness is enough to keep the feature interesting when, at times, it feels like the production doesn't really care about storytelling details. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Invisible Ray

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Downplaying their success with horror entertainment, Universal Pictures turns to weird science to fuel 1936's "The Invisible Ray." The movie's opening card tries to sell the story as possible futureworld reality, but the basics of the production remain with genre tastes, reteaming Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a tale of galaxy power and damnation. However, instead of horrible monsters unleashed on society, "The Invisible Ray" offers a glowing Karloff on the verge of detonation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Black Cat

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Although both actors made their name in the cinematic realm of monsters, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi attempt a different style of menace for 1934's "The Black Cat." Director Edgar G. Ulmer has two incredible faces to utilize for this adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe short story ("suggested by" is the actual credit), and he gives the talent a little more room to detail distorted personalities with their distinctive styles, infusing the picture with a remarkable level of menace as the tale swings into unexpectedly bleak areas of revenge and higher power. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com