DVD/BLU-RAY

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


Blu-ray Review - Night of the Creeps

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For his directorial debut, Fred Dekker is determined to share his love of B-movies from the 1950s. "Night of the Creeps" is a creature feature from 1986 that tries to play modern with a cast of young characters dealing with love and bullying on a college campus, but the heart of the endeavor remains in past, as Dekker serves up a valentine to horror history with the production, doing whatever he can to celebrate his influences, which are numerous. "Night of the Creeps" is about a space slug takeover of a college campus, but Dekker only visits terror periodically, having more fun playing up the cinematic excitement of it all. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mia and the White Lion

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When encountering a movie about the relationship between lions and human, thoughts of 1981's "Roar" immediately come to mind. "Mia and the White Lion" isn't created out of chaos, with director Gilles de Maistre trying to make something similar to an old-fashioned Disney film with the effort, shooting the feature over three years to generate a natural relationship between the lead character (played by Daniah De Villiers) and Thor, a white lion who matures with his co-star. It's like "Boyhood," only with lions, and while the production's patience is fascinating, "Mia and the White Lion" isn't always dramatically sound, as de Maistre can't quite make storytelling as exciting as natural behaviors. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - We Die Young

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He's battled robots, M. Bison, Dolph Lundgren (multiple times), and he almost, in the mid-90s, went head-to-head with the abominable snowman. And now Jean-Claude Van Damme is going after the MS-13 gang. It's a sobering change of pace for the action star, as "We Die Young" intends to be a grittier endeavor, with a streetwise sense of horror from writer/director Lior Geller. Van Damme isn't the traditional hero here, but a broken man barely clinging to life, inspired to stand between the street gangs that control America's capital and the young lives threatened by violence. "We Die Young" isn't going to blow minds with its offering of chases and intimidation, but Lior sustains credible peril while examining an urban fight for survival. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - King of Thieves

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There's always room for a heist movie. It's an evergreen genre that's recently been tended to by the likes of "Ocean's 8" and "Widows," and now returns in "King of Thieves," which offers an English take on heavily planned criminal endeavors. From the outside looking in, the picture seems to have it all, submitting a story that takes place around London's diamond district, and the cast couldn't be better, with Michael Caine leading an ensemble of older actors playing up age-related issues as their characters participate in an elaborate theft. At least half of the film seems to understand the feisty appeal of Grumpy Old Men dealing with a new world of surveillance and security, but "King of Thieves" (based on a true story) doesn't stay lively long enough, suffering some dramatic balance issues as director James Marsh ("The Theory of Everything," "Man on Wire") peaks too soon with seemingly surefire material. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mutual Appreciation

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Writer/director Andrew Bujalski is currently entering a strange position in his career, newly in charge of movies that people are actually seeing, achieving some success with last year's "Support the Girls," and also taking a screenwriting credit on the upcoming Disney+ live-action remake of "Lady and the Tramp." Of course, Bujalski wasn't always in such a people-pleasing mood, launching his career with 2002's "Funny Ha Ha" (which featured intentionally distorted sound) and 2005's "Mutual Appreciation," which welcomes audiences into the world of three characters who spend their time conversing with one another. And that's it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - How to Make an American Quilt

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Winona Ryder was the "It Girl" of the early 1990s, participating in a succession of wonderful films from a wide range of directors, building a reputation for fine work and tasteful creative choices. There's was Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula," Gillian Armstrong's "Little Women," Ben Stiller's "Reality Bites," and Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands." But the actress's reign had to come to an end, and it did with 1995's "How to Make an America Quilt," which provided Ryder with her last hit movie for quite some time, soon losing her sharpness in endeavors such as "Boys" and "The Crucible." Of course, it would hard to flop in "How to Make an American Quilt," which finds Ryder joined by an ensemble of uniquely talented actresses questing to portray the idiosyncratic members of a quilting bee struggling with relationship woes and stained memories. It's an adaptation of a Whitney Otto novel (scripted by Jane Anderson), and director Jocelyn Moorhouse crafts a literary- minded feature that attempts to replicate the flow of a book, moving from chapter to chapter to explore the pain of silenced spirits and uncontrollable passions. Ryder's great here, but so is everyone else, contributing to a sensitive, expansive picture with an atypically honest assessment of mistakes made in the name of love. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Valentine: The Dark Avenger

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It's not easy to introduce a new superhero in an already packed marketplace. "Valentine: The Dark Avenger" is an Indonesian production with American filmmaking interests, finding the producers eager to create their own take on "The Dark Knight," only without the iconic battle between Batman and Joker. Instead of DC Universe familiarity, there's Valentine, a plucky amateur crime-fighter looking to make her presence known when baddie The Shadow rises to take control of Batavia City. "The Dark Avenger" doesn't have the budget or depth of a typical modern comic book adaptation (the material is credited to Skylar Comics), and it really doesn't have much drama either, preferring to do much of its speaking through martial art battles, which are often edited into a visual mush. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Shredder

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Slashers in a post-"Scream" world are difficult to digest. The self-referential approach doesn't quite work for horror movies, which needs a sense of sincerity and surprise to truly generate a proper fear factor. "Shredder" is a 2003 release that tries to be both aware and immersed in murderous intentions, with co-writer/director Greg Huson attempting to provide a gore fest for genre fans, but also one that's semi-comedic, hunting for a tone that permits him to be silly and scary. "Shredder" doesn't connect on multiple levels, but being humorous is one of its greatest failures, with Huson forcing his stale sense of humor on viewers, trying to find the "fun" in the middle of what should be a proper slaughterama in the snow. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Redcon-1

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It's a great, big zombie-infested world out there, and co-writer/director Chee Keong Cheung is trying to do something with it. "Redcon-1" has the disadvantage of being yet another tale of an undead uprising (or viral plague), taking the action to Britain with hopes to shake up expectations with atypical locations and a military approach to monster warfare. There's ambition to "Redcon-1," which strives to be a bit more emotionally grounded than the competition, but the helmer has serious issues with editing and cinematography, making things overlong and too shaky-cam, which works to lower viewer interest as the story unfolds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Hunted

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One day, someone is going to write a book about the career of Christopher Lambert, hopefully titled, "Why Him?" Here's an actor with a positively bizarre filmography, achieving his greatest success with 1986's "Highlander," where the Frenchman played an immortal Scotsman, showing proper physicality for the part, but never slam-dunking its emotional potential. Hollywood tried to do so much with Lambert, casting him in plenty of B- movies (such as "Fortress," "Gunmen," and "Knight Moves"), with the actor ultimately reaching the peak of industry support in 1995, with the release of "Mortal Kombat" and "The Hunted," with the latter returning the star to the dangerous ways of swordplay. Lambert remains well out of his range in the feature, but "The Hunted" is perhaps the second best of his Americanized efforts, adding some hard stares and mild comedy to what's largely a deadly serious investigation into honor and revenge concerning two rival ninja clans. Writer/director J.F. Lawton does relatively well with Lambert, but one can sense he's had enough of the actor as the picture unfolds, slowly pushing his character into the background when the opportunity arrives to deal with some wonderful Japanese actors. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood

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1980's "The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood" is the third chapter of a most unlikely franchise, following 1975's "The Happy Hooker" (starring Lynn Redgrave) and 1977's "The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington" (starring Joey Heatherton). The movies are based on a best-selling memoir by Xaviera Hollander, who cashed in on the sexual revolution, sharing tales of lust, love, and financial transactions, fueling fantasies for those on the outside of the prostitution business. Martine Beswick takes over as Xaviera for "The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood," which receives the full Cannon Films treatment as the series steps into the 1980s, bringing with it a farcical tone and strange supporting cast of television talents from the 1960s. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Eagle's Wing

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From Anthony Harvey, the director of "The Lion in Winter," 1979's "Eagle's Wing" hopes to give viewers a taste of the True West, going beyond simple frontier conflicts to delve into complex situations of deep psychology. It's a meditation on survival and connection, but Harvey also orders up chases and stunts, while cinematography by Billy Williams protects the glory of wide open spaces in their purest, untouched form. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blaze

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Ethan Hawke wanted to make a movie about a country singer who isn't widely known. The subject's name is Blaze Foley, and a portion of his life and times is recreated for "Blaze," which is co-written by his ex-wife, Sybil, giving the production a potential level of authenticity as it explores a deeply flawed man with special musical gift. Hawke takes the blessing and runs with it, delivering a picture that's not precisely a bio-pic, but a tone poem to a man who lived a very insular and problematic life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar

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While we live in the age of "Drag Race" and other programs that examine (and occasionally celebrate) the world of drag queen culture, perhaps it's hard to imagine that 24 years ago, a film like "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" was considered a major risk for Hollywood. While 1994's "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" managed to find business across the globe, the concept of putting major action stars in a road movie about helpful drag queens wasn't something the studios were rushing to make. Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment provided support for the project, giving Douglas Carter Beane's screenplay a chance to be realized without being watered down, while director Beeban Kidron provides production leadership, hoping to preserve elements and messages Beane works hard to communicate. However, while an appealing picture with a big heart, the core appeal of "To Wong Foo" are the actors, with Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes providing pure commitment to their parts, while John Leguizamo contributes the right kind of sass to sell the visual of three fabulous girls experiencing the challenge of a lifetime during a stay in small-town America. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Chosen

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Watching as Gregory Peck soared to new box office heights with 1976's "The Omen," Kirk Douglas decided he wanted in on the trend of satanic panic features. Enter the Italian Film Industry, offering the star of "Spartacus" a chance to participate in the subgenre with 1977's "The Chosen" (titled "Holocaust 2000" on the disc), with Douglas offered a role that has him decoding the apocalypse, racing against time to confront an evil he doesn't immediately understand. To be blunt, the picture is no "Omen." It's not even "Omen II," but "The Chosen" does have Douglas, who delivers a fully squeezed take on parental horror and corporate shame, giving everything to a B-movie guided by Alberto De Martino, helmer of "The Pumaman." Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Her Smell

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Writer/director Alex Ross Perry specializes in off-beat character examinations, and he's done depressive downfall with actress Elisabeth Moss before, in 2015's "Queen of Earth." Their collaboration was powerful then and remains vibrantly poisonous in "Her Smell," with Perry taking his fixation with mental illness to the alternative rock realm, dialing back the clock to the mid-1990s to examine the complete and utter erosion of a music star. Perry doesn't pull punches here, creating a deep sea dive into madness, with Moss going for broke in a turn that runs exclusively on pain and shame. "Her Smell" demands an audience with the ability to remain in the vortex of a nervous breakdown for 135 minutes, and those with the proper preparation are rewarded with a raw, often thrilling display of behavioral excess. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sinatra in Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home

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"Sinatra in Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home" is a 2018 documentary that explores the singer's history in the California city, where one of the most famous men in the world would go to get away from the grind of touring and celebrity. Director Leo Zahn presents a travelogue of sorts, armed with drones and file footage to piece together an understanding of Sinatra's backyard, tracking his multiple homes, favorite places, and philanthropic efforts in his lifelong quest to better the area, which provided him with a feeling of safety and community he craved. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Knife+Heart

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Co-writer/director Yann Gonzalez endeavors to recreate a classic 1970s giallo with "Knife+Heart," and while many filmmakers these days want to play in the fields of blood and style, Gonzalez almost achieves an accurate recreation of the subgenre's ferocity. It's a creepy picture at times, blessed with a strong visual presence that toys with Argento colors and ultraviolence, while star Vanessa Paradise gives the performance of her career here, making sure every morsel of pain is chewed in full as she heads wherever Gonzales leads. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Can't Stop the Music

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1980 was a special year. It was a time when producers wanted to give the world disco-laden musicals long after disco died, just barely missing the trend while spending an unfortunate amount of money to bring colorful fantasies to life. The year delivered "The Apple" and "Xanadu," but the first one out of the gate was "Can't Stop the Music," which was proudly promoted as the cinematic experience of the 1980s, while featuring talent from the 1970s. It's better known as the origin story for Village People, a singing group famous for hits such as "Macho Man" and "Y.M.C.A." It's their "Bohemian Rhapsody," only slightly more believable, with director Nancy Walker and co-producer Allan Carr using the camp factor of the band to launch their version of 1930s musical, doing whatever they can to maintain the fun factor of a production that's in dire need of a tighter edit and a 1978 release date. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com