DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - John From

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The whimsy and fixation of the teenage heart is explored in 2015's "John From," a production from Portugal which eschews American obsessiveness for something a little weirder. Co-writer/director Joao Nicolau picks a focal point in his main character, an adolescent girl, and remains there for the duration of the feature, investigating the daily experience of the age and personality, with the rituals of a summer crush seeping into the deceptive normality of this average existence. "John From" is deliberate, which takes some getting used to, but Nicolau's observational instincts are strong, finding ways to address normal teen habits and tweak them with oddity, burrowing deeper into a casually obsessive mind.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Frank McKlusky, C.I.

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In 2002, Jim Carrey wasn't entirely interested in being the Jim Carrey audiences wanted him to be. By this time, he was branching out with dramas like "The Truman Show" and "Man on the Moon," beginning to leave behind a career in broad comedies, requiring Hollywood to scramble like mad and find a new guy to make a proper big screen mess. The suits at Disney settled on Dave Sheridan, an unknown actor who generated some interest with turns in "Bubble Boy" and "Ghost World." Sheridan wasn't Carrey, but that wasn't going to stop the Mouse House from trying to pull off a successful makeover, fitting Sheridan for a wacky character in "Frank McKlusky, C.I." Carrey certainly made his share of duds, but he's never been involved in something this atrocious, finding Sheridan lost at sea trying to make a DOA script (by Mark Perez) and clueless direction from Arlene Sanford resemble something functional. While there are plenty of curious additions to the movie (which offers a supporting cast that includes Dolly Parton and Chyna), there's not nearly enough oddity to aid digestion of this cruelly unfunny disaster. It's one thing to mimic a Carrey comedy, it's another to completely misunderstand why people loved the star in the first place.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Journey of Natty Gann

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Disney was undergoing a turbulent change in leadership and corporate identity in the 1980s. It was a strange time for the studio, caught between maintaining family friendly entertainment they built their reputation on and trying to compete with other studios enjoying the riches of edgier product. 1985 alone was a bizarre year for Walt Disney Pictures, who tried to flex some creative muscles with "Return to Oz" and "The Black Cauldron" (creating a few nightmare machines in the process), while also remaining true to their roots with "The Journey of Natty Gann," a throwback effort to the heyday of heartwarming Disney entertainment, only this version of the plucky kid making her way in the world isn't nearly as candied as it initially seems, and thank goodness for that. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Day After

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If you're a certain age, you probably have a story about the night "The Day After" premiered on network television. The ABC production cut through national consciousness after it aired on November 20th, 1983, finally unleashed on a viewing audience curious about the threat of nuclear war but unprepared to face the realities of its wrath during prime time. It was event television at its most daring and direct, rewarded with massive viewership and ubiquitous conversation, even managing to influence foreign policy after it was revealed most of Washington D.C., including President Reagan, stopped everything to watch the drama. "The Day After" was intended to exploit and educate, but it managed to overwhelm with its power, successfully playing into fears of nuclear arms proliferation even while it held back on the truly gruesome particulars of annihilation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Liquid Assets

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It's always a little strange to come across an adult movie that almost views sex as an unnecessary distraction. 1982's "Liquid Assets," from Roberta Findlay and Walter Sear, would rather be a comedy than anything else, putting effort into the schemes of the plot and the timing of silliness, with this satire of the theater and tax cheats doing whatever it can to secure a laugh. Perhaps something more seductive should've been in order, but "Liquid Assets" has special determination and a unique target for lampooning to make it semi-successful as the film it wants to be.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Associate

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It's obvious that the success of 1992's "Sister Act" had a profound effect on the career of Whoopi Goldberg. She was already popular, accomplished all around and an Oscar winner, but the box office triumph of the singing nuns movie created the potential for a brand name, and Disney wanted to keep that magic going for years to come. It didn't last for long (1993's "Sister Act 2" was rejected by audiences), but as the 1990s rolled out, Goldberg toplined a few comedies for the studio (with Polygram financing), with 1996's "Eddie" and "The Associate" acting as a sort of career roof for Goldberg, who was singlehandedly in charge of selling the pictures to the public, with billing demands simply splashing "WHOOPI" on the posters to reel people in. The star was trying to rise in the ranks as a versatile comedic actress with her own fanbase, but with "The Associate," Goldberg was also trying to sneak in some messages on workplace sexism and patriarchal control of Wall Street and the insular world of New York City business. It's not an especially effective farce, but watching the film in 2018, and it's eerie to see how timely the material is, tackling today's concerns 22 years ago. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Taking Care of Business

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Disney was in the James Belushi business in 1990. Joining "Mr. Destiny" is "Taking Care of Business," the actor's second collaboration with the studio, and while "Mr. Destiny" was a shot at turning Belushi into a more traditional leading man, "Taking Care of Business" is right in the actor's wheelhouse, tasked with bringing to life a slightly oafish man with limited social skills and an appetite for party time fun. While the film is directed by Arthur Hiller, the respected helmer of "The Out-of-Towners," "Silver Streak," and "The Hospital," the project is more recognized today as the screenwriting debut of J.J. Abrams (then Jeffery Abrams), who launched his career (with co-writer Jill Mazursky) with this incredibly formulaic comedy, focusing primarily on creating a sitcom world for the big screen, crafting a movie that's starving for edge. There's Belushi and co-star Charles Grodin trying to do something here, but without a firm funny bone to dance on, the endeavor never comes to life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Mr. Destiny

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James Belushi has never been an easy guy to cast. In the 1980s, the actor built his career on wiseacre roles, portraying tough and dim guys who were quick with a quip, but he rarely found himself in the arms of the leading lady. 1990's "Mr. Destiny" was part of an effort to soften Belushi for mass acceptance, watering down his blue collar bluster with a role that required him to play an everyman in a fantasy world. Belushi has been better in different movies, but "Mr. Destiny" turns him into a teddy bear, which is unusual casting, tasking the star to generally go along with co- writer/director James Orr, ditching improvisational instincts to make nice in a film that wants to be loved, going all Capra to secure a sugary viewing experience about a basic human oversight: appreciation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The House of the Dead

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1978's "The House of the Dead" was originally released under the title "Alien Zone." The film doesn't contain any aliens and very few zones, making it strange name for the movie, but that's the fun of theatrical releases from desperate producers. "The House of the Dead" isn't better, but it's slightly more accurate title for the anthology effort, which presents four tales of death and denial from the comfort of a mortician's showroom floor. Screenwriter David O'Malley and director Sharron Miller have the vague shape of an omnibus chiller here, but they seem terrified to follow their ideas in full, leaving the feature a strange assortment of half-realized chapters in an unfinished picture. Some bits and pieces show promise, but the overall experience presented here is clouded by confusion and hesitation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Buddies

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The selling point of 1985's "Buddies" is its status as the first movie to confront the growing AIDS pandemic of the decade, coming out a few beats before television and indie film set out to explore the subject matter. Written and director by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., the picture deserves accolades for timing and its sincere handling of a troubling topic, taking a theatrical approach to the study of disease, fear, and human connection. It's a little rough around the edges, but "Buddies" has an impressive concern for life and love, with Bressan Jr. trying to articulate the frustration of living with an illness most have chosen to ignore, offering no help or comfort to those forced to deal with what was then a brutal death sentence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tiger by the Tail

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1970's "Tiger by the Tail" (released two years after being completed) gifts star Christopher George his own hardboiled detective story, putting him in a tough guy position that makes the most of his hard stares. It's hard to argue with the casting, with George a believably steely man portraying a character who can't seem to escape trouble. "Tiger by the Tail" plays to his thespian strengths, but the movie lacks a lot of chewiness the subgenre is known for, unfolding with a surprising amount of conversation instead of two-fisted conflict resolution, leaving the picture lacking a great of excitement, which is pretty amazing considering that the film opens with a brawl inside a Mexican brothel. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Human Experiments

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In the mid-1980s, 1979's "Human Experiments" was added to the UK's list of "Video Nasties," banning it from distribution due to perverse violence. It's difficult to understand this decision, as the film is hardly the torture-a-thon its box art and title suggests, and perhaps producers were delighted to suddenly be in possession of such forbidden fruit, newly empowered to sell the picture as aggressively as possible. The reality of "Human Experiments" is that it's not a particularly haunting endeavor, with director Gregory Goodell and writer Richard Rothstein aiming for something more sinister than graphic, keeping the effort well within television movie parameters for intensity. While sold as an agony machine and a women-in-prison feature, the effort never really settles anywhere specific, more eager to sample different moods than remain frightening for very long.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 1/1

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It's difficult to tell if "1/1" has autobiographical ties to writer/director Jeremy Phillips, but it certainly plays as much, emerging with a level of passion and personal perspective that's explosive at times. It's also a movie that doesn't invite outsiders into the intense psychological inspection, finding Phillips too concentrated on the construction of the film, forgetting to provide a reason why anyone should care about the story. It's an artful journey into the folds of depression, and Phillips is careful with every frame of the endeavor. As technically advanced as it is, "1/1" is also cold to the touch, making whatever inspired this effort difficult to discern as the helmer arranges a sensory assault that's tough to sit through. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Personal Problems

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It was promoted as a "Video Soap Opera," using the existing technology of the late 1970s to create a melodrama about a middle-class black family from New York City. 1980's "Personal Problems" was made for $40,000, created with the intention of selling the endeavor to public television for broadcast, giving screenwriter Ishmael Reed and director Bill Gunn ("Ganja & Hess") a chance to take their tiny project wherever they wanted, exploring all types of dramatic confrontations and family issues. Divided into "Volume 1" (93 minutes) and "Volume 2" (77 minutes), "Personal Problems" is an experimental dive into improvisation and video-based craftsmanship, with Gunn and Reed using the freedom of the format to examine banalities and insecurities, trying to remain as casual as possible to respect the natural rhythm of life. Sometimes it's a chore to sit through, but as free-form black cinema goes, there's a lot to treasure about the effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Fire Birds

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When "Top Gun" became a box office sensation in 1986, it inspired Hollywood to dream up their own takes on military might and stylish jingoism. It's not an easy recipe to follow, with the dramatic reach of "Top Gun" open for debate, but it certainly put a lot of scripts into development, with each project seeking to replicate what director Tony Scott managed to pull off with relative ease. 1990's "Fire Birds" is a little late to truly cash-in on the need for speed, but it has the drive to be the next big thing for action movies and military salesmanship, making heroes out of helicopter pilots out to protect America from harm, though personal issues and relationship woes come first. It's goofy, painfully simplistic, and partially miscast, but "Fire Birds" cannot be discounted as pure entertainment, given wings by stars Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones, who work very hard to make the insistent banality of this creation at least somewhat engaging with their pronounced idiosyncrasy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Martian Chronicles

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"The Martial Chronicles" aired as a miniseries on NBC in 1980. It's based on Ray Bradbury's collection of short stories, which were published in 1950, with the producers electing to preserve the author's sense of mystery and wonder without updating his science. It consists of three episodes, which contain what feels like 100 subplots all heading in opposite directions, making dramatic consistency impossible with this type of source material. However, screenwriter Richard Matheson certainly gives it a try, mashing Bradbury's ideas into television movie structure, laboring to keep the author's Big Ideas on the human experience while introducing a faint sense of narrative progression, which is immediately rejected. It's an ambitious project, but "The Martian Chronicles" isn't big on smooth transitions and dramatic swell, acting as a more of a sampler plate for Bradbury's vision of the future.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The House on Sorority Row

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1982's "The House on Sorority Row" is the next title on Scorpion Releasing's to-do list of updated scans, offering a new version of a title that was previously issued on Blu-ray in 2014. Unlike "Death Ship," the feature remains the same, delivering the same slasher cinema highlights and B-movie silliness as before, only here there's a refreshing of image and an updating of sound quality, giving the modest genre endeavor a more defined HD look.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Death Ship

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We now live in a world where there are two Blu-ray releases of 1980's "Death Ship." It seems the B-movie was a significant performer for Scorpion Releasing, who originally issued the film in 2012, giving fans a decent look at the production particulars with a comfortable visual experience. Times have changed, and Scorpion has returned with a fresh scan of the chiller (even including a previously deleted scene), collecting some additional supplementary materials to help beef up the new disc, which is an improvement, especially for fans of the picture, who are now offered a clearer look at all the oceanic carnage the endeavor provides. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - More American Graffiti

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1973's "American Graffiti" is a masterpiece. While writer/director George Lucas would go on to become a filmmaking legend with "Star Wars," his second film is just as enchanting, detailing a special night, the last of adolescence for a group of teenagers, in 1962. It's an evocative, charming, painfully relatable endeavor that showcased Lucas's skills with performance and atmosphere, pouring his heart into a semi-autobiographical picture that was boosted by a killer soundtrack and gauzy, engaging cinematography. "American Graffiti" ended with a sobering epilogue revealing the fates of the participants, but the movie was a smash hit, and with "Star Wars" securing its position as one of the most famous features of all time, Lucas elected to return to the creamy nostalgia of his earlier success, concocting "More American Graffiti" in 1979 with writer/director Bill L. Norton, looking to create the next logical step for characters experiencing the pure potential of tomorrow in the comfort of their hometown: complete disillusionment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Late Great Planet Earth

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Perhaps it's difficult to imagine a world without the internet connecting lives and creating immediacy, but for the 1970s, a non-wired world permitted many to make their move, cashing in with wild claims of apocalyptic fury to frighten those without the instant ability to research and rebuke such grim claims. Author Hal Lindsey struck gold with his 1970 book, "The Late Great Planet Earth," which merged biblical interpretation with end of the world fears. Lindsey tried to match up details from the Book of Revelations with modern political and environmental events, creating his "evidence" that something major was brewing on the horizon, suggesting the path was being paved for God's return to mankind. It was a hit book, beguiling readers with examples of current woes matching ancient dreams, and with all the money being made, there was no way Lindsey's work was going to skip a cinematic adaptation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com