DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Almost Summer

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1978's "Almost Summer" represents a transition in teen-centric storytelling, moving past the beach party movies of the 1960s while inching toward a more sympathetic understanding of adolescent concerns, as found in features throughout the 1980s. It wants to be many things for many audiences, which ultimately prevents the endeavor from becoming something truly memorable. Director Martin Davidson ("The Lords of Flatbush," "Eddie and the Cruisers") has a large collection of characters to manage, and an eager cast to make magic for the cameras, but the writing is often stuck while trying to be silly and sincere, becoming a sluggish, melodramatic study of growing pains and relationship challenges, also delving into the bitter world of politics and all the treachery that includes. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Lifeforce

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The question of who really directed 1982's "Poltergeist" remains an active mystery to this day. Tobe Hooper is the credited helmer, and some cast members have reinforced his leadership role during filming. Other production members have suggested co-writer/producer Steven Spielberg was the true creative guiding force, with Hooper more of an employee than a visionary. Perhaps the truth behind this strange collaboration will never be revealed, but "Poltergeist" was a crackerjack horror picture that employed tremendous style and furious surges of mayhem to help update a traditional haunted house tale. It was also a massive box office hit, giving Hooper a chance to become an in-demand director, with 1985's "Lifeforce" his follow- up project, and it's nowhere near the quality of the previous feature. Hooper takes full command of another genre endeavor, joined by co-writer Dan O'Bannon ("Alien"), and while he's offered a large budget and creative control from Cannon Films (trying to craft their first summer blockbuster), the director just doesn't get this extremely oddball movie off the ground. "Lifeforce" is an adaptation of a 1976 Colin Wilson novel, challenging the production to deal with the demands of literary storytelling and the potential of a sci-fi extravaganza. The project comes up short in many ways, often so excited to simply present the image of a nude female on the move, it neglects to build a rich sense of menace and intrigue when dealing with the enigmatic plans of space vampires and their attack on Earth. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sunnyside

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In the late 1970s, there was no bigger name than John Travolta. He successfully transitioned from a successful television show to big screen glory, scoring back-to-back hits with "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease," making him one of the most famous faces in Hollywood. John Travolta became a brand, an icon, and a superstar, but this is not the Travolta that appears in 1979's "Sunnyside." The producers couldn't tempt John Travolta into appearing in the low-budget gang picture, so they went the exploitation route, hiring his older brother, Joey, to make his acting debut in the movie, emphasizing similar looks and voices while selling a new Travolta to ticket-buyers hungry for the surname. The scheme didn't work for obvious reasons, but not helping the cause is the general meandering nature of "Sunnyside," which hopes to be a tragic understanding of a life handed over to the never-ending cycle of street violence, but mostly remains an airless, deathly dull viewing experience in need of sharper dramatic points and, well, a seasoned lead actor, preferably not named Travolta. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Games of Survival

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For his directorial debut, Armand Gazarian attempts to participate in the home video gold rush of the 1980s, assembling "Games of Survival" (titled "Game of Survival" on the Blu-ray packaging), which presents low-fi action for evenings of VHS rental roulette. Gazarian doesn't come armed with a major budget, locations, and actors, getting by on the bare minimum of technical achievements, electing to shoot the endeavor on 8mm, giving it the general atmosphere of a student production. "Games of Survival" doesn't aim high when it comes to dramatic engagement, but Gazarian is looking to land a basic actioner with sci-fi touches, trying his hardest to make some B-movie magic with grungy cinematography and modest fight choreography. There's a mild sense of appealing lunacy in play, but there's nothing here that's too challenging for genre fans. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Ilya Muromets

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1956's "Ilya Muromets" was intended to be a major moviegoing event for Russian audiences, with director Aleksandr Ptushko throwing everything he had into the creation of the Cinemascope epic, which is inspired by "Russian heroic folk tales." The feature wasn't welcomed with open arms in America, soon recut and retitled by Roger Corman (presenting the more eye-catching "The Sword and the Dragon"), who aimed to transform the endeavor into a matinee distraction. And a copy of the picture eventually found its way to the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" gang, who riffed the re- edit in a particularly amusing 1994 episode of the show. "Ilya Muromets" has now returned, restored by Mosfilm, who hope to present the effort the way it was originally seen by Russian viewers, reinforcing the amazing scope of the feature as Ptushko's imagination is celebrated throughout the viewing experience, with the helmer striving to bring fantasy to life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - No Resistance

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1994's "No Resistance" offers a look at Houston in the future, where gangs are plentiful, the economy is in disarray, and a man with a portable computer can infiltrate and manipulate any system he's paid to invade. So, basically, this is Houston, 1997, but for co-writer/director Tim Tomson, "No Resistance" is his chance to play with the world of cyberpunk, doing so with a shot-on-video thriller that looks to present heated confrontations and online warfare with a no-budget production effort, forcing Tomson to get as creative as possible with his limited resources. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - My Best Part

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Nicolas Maury has been acting for a few decades now, perhaps best known to international audiences from his turn in 2018's "Knife + Heart." Creating an acting opportunity for himself, Maury co-writes and directs 2020's "My Best Part," which puts him front and center in a drama about a long- suffering actor trying to take some type of control of his seemingly spiraling life. A thespian showcase is exactly what "My Best Part" is, allowing Maury to stretch as a screen presence, bringing in French film industry legend Nathalie Baye for support as he undertakes a character study with elements of dark humor and drama, questing to generate an appreciation for an emotionally wounded man and his many experiences with rejection and depression. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Coca-Cola Kid

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After making a name for himself with artier endeavors in the 1960s and '70s, director Dusan Makavejev aimed to establish a career for himself in the 1980s, settling down with slightly more accessible fare, including the 1981 dark comedy, "Montenegro." 1985's "The Coca-Cola Kid" was the second of Makavejev's offerings in the decade, presenting the helmer with more defined steps toward a mainstream hit, dealing with known actors and the exotic, idiosyncratic ways of Australia, which provides the picture with a special energy during a time of growing trendiness. "The Coca-Cola Kid" is based on short stories written by Frank Moorehouse (who also provides the screenplay), and the picture retains such narrative limitations, putting Makavejev in charge of conjuring a sense of playfulness for the movie while it struggles with a general disinterest in storytelling authority. Amusing interactions and a pleasing sense of location is in play here, keeping the effort buoyant enough to pass, and Makavejev retains much of his visual and tonal impishness, trying to twist the feature into something odd when the plot threatens to keep the whole thing a conventional fish-out-of-water study, with slight romantic comedy additions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Studio 666

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Leave it to a rock band to make the most entertaining horror comedy in recent memory. Foo Fighters have been around in one form or another for nearly 30 years, but there's something about a pandemic that inspires strange ideas. For frontman Dave Grohl, the downtime presented a chance to develop an idea for a demonic possession story, with screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes hired to flesh out the concept of a band experiencing a developing nightmare while attempting to record their latest album inside a haunted house. There's a single setting but lots of ideas for bodily harm in "Studio 666," which updates the concept of a "band movie" for genre fans, asking members of Foo Fighters to play slightly cartoonish versions of themselves while the tale delivers blasts of ultraviolence and moments of silliness. "Studio 666" is tremendous fun, and while it's aimed at the fanbase, there are gore zone delights for all. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mr. Jones

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"Mr. Jones" presents the story of journalist Gareth Jones, who not only managed to make his way into the Soviet Union during the early years of conflict before World War II, he witnessed the ravages of the Holodomor in Ukraine, exposed to the horrors of a man-made famine utilized by Joseph Stalin to destroy the country, using its riches as "gold" to demonstrate power to the rest of the world. Such a dire tale of political exposure isn't an easy sell, but in director Agnieszka Holland's hands, the feature becomes a riveting study of reporting and corruption that mirrors the world's struggles and horrors of today. "Mr. Jones" maintains a steady pace and sense of dramatic urgency throughout, giving Holland one of her most effective movies in years, and one smartly designed by screenwriter Andrea Chalupa (making a fine debut), who encourages suspense while delivering a powerful message on the value of the press. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Buster Keaton Rides Again

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In 1964, legendary screen comedian Buster Keaton was hired to make "The Railrodder," a silent short used to showcase the natural beauty and personality of Canada. Director Gerald Potterton (who would go on to helm 1981's "Heavy Metal") was put in charge of assembling the picture, teaming with Keaton, who was 69 years old, embarking on the creation of his 87th movie. Hoping to capture this moment in film history, director John Spotton was brought on to make a documentary, "Buster Keaton Rides Again," about the production experience, observing Keaton at his most unguarded as the icon toured the country, trying to perfect gags for "The Railrodder." Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Little Hours

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Writer/director Jeff Baena has made a positive impression during his emerging career, pulling off a horror comedy with "Life After Beth," and achieving a cinematic miracle with "Joshy," a movie about male bonding that wasn't basted in ugliness. "The Little Hours" proves to be his greatest tonal challenge yet, mounting a comedy that's not always pursuing laughs, and its target is repression found in organized religion. It's a gamble from Baena, likely alienating a great number of potential viewers right out of the gate, but he mostly sticks the landing, finding ways to scrape out the blasphemy by playing it all so broadly, making a film that certainly has the potential to reach farcical highs, but pulls back a bit too often, perhaps afraid to really dive into the weirdness of the material. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Ghost and the Darkness

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Stephen Hopkins isn't the most refined filmmaker, but there's always been something about his career that suggests he'd rather be making high art than genre entertainment. He broke through in Hollywood with his work on 1989's "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child," and built a reputation for violent thrillers with 1990's "Predator 2," 1993's "Judgement Night," and 1994's "Blown Away." All of these features have significant creative problems, but Hopkins still found gigs, and 1995's "The Ghost and the Darkness" seemed like a project capable of taking the helmer to the next level of respectability, offered material (scripted by William Goldman) that carries a frightening atmosphere while supported by some of the finest cast and crew in the business at the time, giving what's essentially another "Jaws" knock-off some true cinematic regality. "The Ghost and the Darkness" plays like a production aching to achieve event movie status, but it never quite reaches such ambition. It's an entertaining picture with a cracking pace for the first hour, but Hopkins is a strange choice to guide the endeavor, stuck trying to find a balance between the grisliness of the true story behind the Tsavo Man-Eaters experience and the character study of Goldman's writing, which is often obscured through mangled editorial moves. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Inspector Ike

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As pop culture deep cuts go in 2022, "Inspector Ike" certainly has the weirdest inspiration in recent memory. Co-writers Ikechukwu Ufomadu and Graham Mason (who also directs) head back to the 1970s, looking to parody the state of television mystery movies, inventing a faux world for a gifted NYC detective and his periodic run-ins with murder. The pair concoct a comedy, and one created on a shoestring budget, limiting the technical replication of the picture, but Ufomadu and Mason manage to score some hearty laughs with this extremely specific valentine to the "Columbo" world of small-screen cops and their expert ways with sleuthing. "Inspector Ike" isn't built for bigness, remaining a modest offering of silliness, and it largely succeeds through engaged, playful performances and occasional ideas that deliver on the promise of such a strange spoof. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mother Schmuckers

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Some credit is due to co-writer/co-directors Harpo and Lenny Guit, who certainly understand how to identify the exact tonality and level of humor found in "Mother Schmuckers," doing so right in the opening scene. We meet siblings Issachar (Maxi Delmelle) and Zabulon (Harpo Guit) while they mess around in a kitchen, with their mother, Cachemire (Claire Bodson), instinctively knowing the two are up to no good. Turns out, she's right, with the siblings in the process of cooking a lump of feces, preparing to taste it because the pair are morons. Mom catches the sight of it, and eventually throws up right on the camera lens. And this, dear readers, is how "Mother Schmuckers" begins, making for a long 65 minutes before the Guits find their way to a conclusion. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Mob

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The Blu-ray packaging for 1975's "The Mob" ("La Gammick") lists the film as "Almost completely unseen outside of Quebec." Not a lot of movies can make that claim, giving the endeavor a unique identity as a crime picture that never found a wide audience, remaining a Canadian viewing experience for a select crowd. Now unleashed on disc, "The Mob" has the challenge of meeting expectations, offering a story of a criminal where his violent actions aren't explored in a cinematic manner for the most part. He's the talkative type, keeping the feature to a series of conversations, confessions, and modest confrontations, which is about as Canadian as it gets. Expectations for something more explosive should be lowered, as co-writer/director Jacques Godbout enjoys playing more of a psychological game with his characters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Beauty Day

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"Jackass" is the success story. The MTV show was an immense hit, bringing the world of skate video shenanigans and backyard stunts to the masses, helping to inspire the early imagination of the YouTube generation. However, before Johnny Knoxville, there was Ralph Zavadil, an Ontario native who spent time between 1990 and 1995 working to entertain cable customers with his special brand of insanity. He became Cap'n Video, a figure of stunts and cartoonish behavior attempting to bring lunacy to the small screen, using a wild blend of humor and recklessness. Zavadil loved playing the part, and for five years, he was the king of his castle, offering a one-man-band production push to sell himself as an entertainer with an unusual appetite for destruction. "Beauty Day" is director Jay Cheel's effort to catch up with the star of "Cap'n Video," exploring a bizarre career and a weird man as he gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his cable debut. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Take Me Somewhere Nice

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A hunt for identity drives the plot of 2019's "Take Me Somewhere Nice," with writer/director Ena Sendijarevic offering a semi-biographical tale of exploration and isolation. The writing tracks the experiences of a young Dutch woman (Sara Luna Zoric) as she makes her way to Bosnia, hoping to find her estranged father after learning about his hospitalization. A road trip movie of sorts emerges, but the helmer isn't interested in a lighter understanding of travel. She maintains her distance with this static celebration of filmmaking, leaving the storytelling tremendously underwhelming. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com