DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Guns and Guts

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Director Rene Cardona Jr. wants to make a western with 1974's "Guns and Guts," and he spends most the run time trying to reinforce just how much of a western he's making. There are shoot-outs and card games, town tensions and prostitutes, and the first act of the feature is almost exclusively devoted to watching the actors engage in repeated scenes of fisticuffs. The opening of "Guns and Guts" is often remarkable to behold, as it really feels like the helmer is going to stretch his genre fetishes over the entire production, making for a delightfully simple and amusingly violent viewing experience. Sadly, the picture loses its lust for knuckle sandwiches as something of a story kicks in, though Cardona Jr.'s sheer passion for the cowboy way is worth a sit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hot Snake

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1976's "Hot Snake" certainly has a way of making an immediate impression. The opening scene has the villain of the picture stopping the transport of a coffin containing a military official. The bad guy shoots the escorts and rips off the widow's top, soon shooting her and raping the corpse. Director Fernando Duran Rojas gets cold-blooded in a hurry with the endeavor, which maintains a certain level of merciless while detailing a bizarre story of revenge and desert survival. Of course, as with most low-budget offerings, padding is king, but "Hot Snake" contains a decent amount of atmosphere and weirdness to sustain the viewing experience, giving spaghetti western fans an adequate dose of the hard stuff as leathery men set out to kill one another. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Kiss Me, Monster

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The Two Lips Detective Agency is back in 1969's "Kiss Me Monster," with the production picking up right where "Two Undercover Angels" left off. Director Jess Franco goes the back-to-back route to building a franchise, returning to Diane and Regina and their special way of conducting superspy activities, leading with their feminine charms. Once again, Franco isn't here to make something cohesive, he just wants it done, basically throwing whatever he can at the screen, with the final act reserved for exposition concerning a plot that isn't all that clear in the end. "Kiss Me Monster" has the obvious appeal of stars Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni, who bring some bubbly fun and cheeky fierceness to their roles, but Franco is quick to disrupt any entertainment value, stumbling through a very Bond-ian tale of world domination and duplicitous characters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Two Undercover Angels

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The 1960s belonged to James Bond. The literary character became a box office behemoth, capturing audience attention with spy game adventures featuring a roguish character and his never-ending quest to save the world. Bond dominated pop culture (and continues to do so to this day), and the success of the franchise inspired countless "Euro spy" imitators, with producers scrambling to make their own cheeky tales of danger and sex, hoping to make an easy profit. Joining the list of productions is 1969's "Two Undercover Angels," allowing prolific filmmaker Jess Franco to participate in a waning trend, forcing him to consider style and tone, giving him a brief break from his usual run-and-gun directorial habits. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Ravage

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1997's "Ravage" attempts to replicate the experience of watching a gritty Hollywood thriller with shot-on-video technology. It's an ambitious movie from co-writer/director Ronnie Sortor ("Sinistre"), who hopes to bring a little Michael Mann energy to what's basically a backyard bloodbath, arranging a loose revenge story to help inspire a steady display of shootouts and stunts, hoping to win viewers over with sheer violence. Sortor has the vision but not the execution with "Ravage," which can't outrun its amateur elements and limited resources. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dead North

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Specialists in fetish videos for a secretive mail-order audience, W.A.V.E. Productions doesn't necessarily want to be known as cheaply made entertainment for viewers with specific arousal needs. They hope to achieve some level of storytelling competency with their efforts, and director Gary Whitson (who founded the company) attempts to offer something approaching a chiller with 1991's "Dead North." There's a killer on the loose and a collection of couples and friends trying to enjoy themselves in the woods, but the slasher-y set-up doesn't actually represent the viewing experience. Whitson is more interested in constructing a soap opera featuring the ways of cheaters and seducers, doing so in the most painfully drawn-out manner possible with limiting shot-on-video production achievements. It's sold as something menacing, but "Dead North" quickly becomes a grand test of patience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hearts Beat Loud

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No matter what type of business "Hearts Beat Loud" does with Blu-ray sales, the film is guaranteed to find its audience one way or another. It's a sensitive endeavor about the communicative aspects of musicianship and songwriting, and it's similar to smaller movies like "Once" and "Sing Street," which also mixed troubled souls with the power of performance. The bonus here is that while constructed out of familiar working parts, "Hearts Beat Loud" is a lovely picture unafraid to touch on real emotions, using music to explore the fears of people on the precipice of enormous life changes. Co- writer/director Brett Haley has a terrific cast to help him achieve such tricky vulnerabilities, and for those who crave the musical arts, the feature delivers a rich sense of craftsmanship and passion behind the creation of songs. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Faults

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Throughout his career, actor Leland Orser hasn't made much of an impression. He was hit with typecasting for a long time, always the go-to guy to play twitchy, screechy types on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He's been wallpaper as well, playing one of the background characters in the "Taken" trilogy. "Faults" is the first truly substantial Leland Orser performance I've seen, asking more of the man than other productions would, and he's up for the challenge, providing a riveting depiction of frayed respectability and financial desperation colliding with professional responsibility. "Faults" is lucky to have such an unusual presence, as the rest of Riley Stearns's directorial debut tends to deflate when he's not around. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Don't Tell Her It's Me

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In 2012, Steve Guttenberg released a memoir, with "The Guttenberg Bible" detailing his quest to become a working actor in Hollywood, with dreams of achieving stardom. The book is attentive to the lean years of the 1970s, and his rise to screen prominence in the 1980s, but information beyond that isn't available, with Guttenberg trying to end on a slightly happier note of experience and fame. He made his mark with hits such as "Police Academy," "Cocoon," and "Three Men and a Baby," and he shares the strange ride of success, with particular attention to monetary offers, showing little shame when it came time to accept money gigs during his most in-demand years. The 1990s were less kind to Guttenberg, with 1990's "Don't Tell Her It's Me" (also known as "The Boyfriend School") a good example of a thespian chasing a paycheck instead of paying close attention to the material. Guttenberg (reportedly paid a million dollars to commit to the project) joins Shelley Long and Jami Gertz in an adaptation of a Sarah Bird novel (the author takes on screenwriting duties), working to conjure some kind of romantic comedy magic with an idiotic plot that's often far too cruel to register any warmth. That Guttenberg, or anyone, agreed to take part in this hopeless endeavor is amazing, triggering more post-screening conversation than the movie itself. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - The Incredible Melting Man

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Writer/director William Sachs is quick to remind fans of 1977's "The Incredible Melting Man" that the final cut of the feature doesn't represent his original vision. Sachs was hoping to create a comedic take on Atomic Age horror/sci-fi offerings, looking to pants a serious subgenre from the 1950s with a goofy approach from the 1970s. The helmer's vision was denied by studio executives, who wanted a more serious take on the birth of a screen monster, ordering reshoots to help transform a deliberately exaggerated effort into a more sinister one. "The Incredible Melting Man" is a confusing movie to watch due to this tinkering, but it doesn't seem to work in its original form either, as Sachs doesn't have the greatest imagination for anything he's attempting here, and his sense of pacing is abysmal, slowing the picture to a crawl, which does nothing to help build suspense. A man melts, no doubt, but he often takes forever to do so. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Terror Circus

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From the depths of drive-in cinema comes 1973's "Terror Circus" (also known as "Nightmare Circus"), which is credited to director Alan Rudolph. Every career has to start somewhere, and the "Trouble in Mind," "The Moderns," and "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle" helmer gets some early time behind the camera with this offering of Z-grade schlock. A true artist touch isn't present in the picture, which is mostly focused on the prolonged suffering of women, using the cover of a monster and missing persons movie to deliver some screen sadism for curious viewers. Those expecting something more substantial are left with a thin viewing experience that features no suspense or horror. It's crude exploitation without excitement. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Superior

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"Superior" opens with a visit to a crime scene, but the picture isn't committed to exploring the details of violence. Co-writer/director Erin Vassilopoulos is more invested in the story of twin sisters reuniting after a lengthy period of estrangement, examining the thawing ice between siblings who don't fully understand each other. "Superior" is really two stories trying to become one, but Vassilopoulos can't connect the different sides of the movie, making the human elements of the feature far more interesting than any thriller offerings. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sampo

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After exploring a world of folktale and spectacle in 1956's "Ilya Muromets," director Alexander Ptushko attempts to go deeper into an artful representation of fantasy with 1959's "Sampo," which was transformed into "The Day the Earth Froze" for its American release, arriving with 24 minutes of cuts, neutering the original version. The Blu-ray release of "Sampo" delivers Ptushko's initial vision for the feature, with the helmer delivering an impressive offering of cinematic imagination, once again showing outstanding commitment to a widescreen experience that's filled with magic, emotions, and surreal imagery. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - FernGully: The Last Rainforest

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In the early 1990s, environmental education was beginning to take hold in both schools and pop culture, with a particular emphasis on the plight of the rainforest, largely viewed as a core problem for Mother Earth's woes. "FernGully: The Last Rainforest" emerged as a sensitive call to arms from a major movie studio (debuting two months after Disney's deeply flawed but interesting rainforest adventure, "Medicine Man"), hoping to entertain family audiences while emphasizing a harsh message of deforestation and pollution threatening to destroy the magic of the world. The feature was met with some success, but didn't exactly create awareness the producers hoped for, reaching a sizable but not astronomical collection of young minds looking for a little guidance on the issue of planetary protection. Three decades later, the endeavor has managed to hang on to relevance by its fingernails, growing into a cult hit with thirtysomethings raised on repeated VHS screenings, now introducing the animated production to their own kids. Thankfully, "FernGully" retains its power and magical might all these years later. While the craftsmanship is a little rough around the edges, the effort to bring a vivid message of destruction is appealing, captured with a lively voice cast and the creation of a colorful pint-sized world for viewers to explore. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - High Desert Kill

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In the fading days of the television movie industry, Universal was still cranking out product for the small screen, with 1989's "High Desert Kill" presented as a genre exercise in line with an extended episode of "The Twilight Zone," offering a low-stakes mystery with touches of sci-fi. Director Harry Falk has the unenviable task of trying to make an extremely small budget work for a slightly ambitious idea, putting his faith in the cast to sell the pressure points of hunters in the wilds of New Mexico discovering that something not exactly human has joined them. If "Predator" went to therapy, that would be close to the tone of "High Desert Kill," which spends most of its screen time dealing with tough emotions and cartoony male bonding before slowly switching over to a more generic situation of survival. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Jack Be Nimble

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Director Gareth Maxwell (sharing a co-writing credit with Rex Pilgrim) attempts to bring a little bit of Dario Argento to New Zealand in 1993's "Jack Be Nimble." It's an extremely bizarre endeavor about abuse, psychic powers, and revenge, with Maxwell making a distinct effort to strip away formula when dealing with combustible characters on a mission of rage. He creates a stylish, gothic picture, but not always the most compelling one, getting a little lost with his big ideas, trusting the hysteria of the material will help support the viewing experience. Read the review at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Shriek of the Mutilated

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The Yeti. The fantasy creature has been apart of myth and entertainment for a very long time, with filmmakers drawn to the strangeness of details about the creature and the mystery of its movements. It's a big, scary looking beast that roams the wild, making it an easy fit for genre endeavors, especially ones looking to save a few bucks on the manufacturing of an elaborate monster. 1974's "Shriek of the Mutilated" features almost no mutilation, but it does hope to sell the fear factor of the Yeti, pitting a team of academics against the wrath of a behemoth. "Shriek of the Mutilated" holds some potential for horror, and it ends with some degree of weirdness, but suspense hasn't been invited to this big screen party, making for a periodically painful sit as director Michael Findlay mistakes lengthy, static conversations for riveting cinema.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Satan's Children

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1974's "Satan's Children" is a Floridian production, with director/producer Joe Wiezycki looking to enter the drive-in marketplace, coming up with his own take on the horrors of the Devil and followers who will do anything to gain favor with the Lord of Darkness. As it usually goes with this type of quickie endeavor, there's no filmmaking finesse present, with the production generating a collection of random moments and loose characterizations, with the glue of the feature homophobia in many forms. The legitimacy of such hostility is up to the viewer to decide, but Wiezycki is not skilled in the art of genre entertainment, creating an exceedingly boring viewing experience that has no suspense or surprises, mostly registering as a curious installment of Z-grade cinema from the murky depths of 1970s.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Rollerbabies

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1976's "Rollerbabies" is presented as a parody of 1975's "Rollerball," but director Carter Stevens is really doing his own thing with the endeavor. The film eventually gets around to roller skating, but the ride there is a strange one, filled with puns, vaudeville-inspired comedy, an act of telepathic oral sex, and a most bizarre use of ice cream to jazz up a bedroom encounter. One doesn't expect hospital corners when it comes to storytelling efforts in an adult movie, but "Rollerbabies" is all over the place at times, and while it's entertaining, the feature isn't quite as fun as it initially promises to be.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Mount of Venus

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1975's "The Mount of Venus" tries to have plenty of adult film fun on a shoestring budget. There's very little here to go on, with director Carter Stevens merely using some corners of a stage, trying to turn a few spaces into a visitation from Roman gods trying to make sense of humanity. Stevens favors comedy, his first love, while heated couplings are as limited as set design money, keeping the feature low on visual power, hoping to get by on occasional charms and the rare bit of weirdness.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com