DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Plague Dogs

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Director Martin Rosen wanted to make animated films for a slightly older audience, eschewing the lure of creating cartoons for all ages, trying to craft something distinct for crowds craving a more sophisticated look at the storytelling art form. 1979's "Watership Down" turned out be a hit for Rosen, with his gamble to craft a more severe tone for his adaptation of Richard Adams's celebrated novel paying off, creating a legion of fans that remains to this day. Pressing his luck, Rosen returns to Adams for his follow-up, taking on the considerable challenge of bringing "The Plague Dogs," his 1977 book, to the screen, and doing so with even more attention to the reality of dramatic entanglements for the main characters. If "Watership Down" was mildly unsettling, "The Plague Dogs" is likely to put many viewers into the fetal position, though Rosen manages such bleakness with wonderful artistry and voice talent, giving this summation of animal cruelty and survival need texture and soul as it deals with unthinkable horrors facing its cast of stressed animals. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Youngblood

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"Youngblood" was released in 1986, during a time when Rob Lowe was enjoying plenty of attention for his extreme good looks, pushed into the role of a teen dreamboat after his turn in "The Outsiders," while his appearance as the hot sax-wailing underachiever in "St. Elmo's Fire" transformed him into a star. It's hard not to see his role in "Youngblood" as an effort to butch up his screen appeal, participating in a junior league hockey drama that has the actor being authentic, romantic, and involved in several fights, even losing a tooth along the way. It's not Lowe's finest hour as an actor, but he does what he can with the feature, as writer/director Peter Markle is caught between his desire to showcase the rough ins and outs of the sport as it's played in the corners of Canada, and producers who want something along the lines of a chillier "Karate Kid," putting the star in an underdog position, requiring help from wizened elders. Markle has his creative successes here, but he's also pulled into the black hole of melodrama one too many times, diluting the real flavors of the material, which are always found on the ice, not in the heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - There's Nothing Out There

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The primary takeaway from 1991's "There's Nothing Out There" is how it predates 1996's "Scream" when it comes to self-aware horror films, making it uncomfortably clear that the Wes Craven production pulled things from writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky's work to help build what would go on to inspire a genre reawakening, this time finding movies armed with newfound marketplace consciousness. Perhaps Craven did steal from Kanefsky (it certainly looks to be the case), but such industry theft isn't the point here. "There's Nothing Out There" came first and did the frantic "horror rules" business a bit better, offering structure and comedy to a creature feature that gleefully spanks cliches to create a madcap survival romp. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Plague of the Zombies

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A longstanding home for horror entertainment, Hammer Films finds fertile creative ground with 1966's "The Plague of the Zombies," finding frights from the zombie genre. Tales of the undead are common today, but over 50 years ago, such an uprising was a unique treat, giving screenwriter Peter Bryan a shot to shake up the norm and present a movie that tries to play by Hammer rules, but shows more hustle when it comes to chills, also filling out this world with impressive technical achievements to support the black magic mayhem that slowly unfolds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Saturday the 14th

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When "Airplane!" was released during the summer of 1980, it became a massive hit (the fourth highest-grossing movie of the year), inspiring Hollywood to attempt to replicate the formula with other genres. The obvious choice for a prolonged pantsing was the horror genre, with another screaming success, "Friday the 13th," managing to shock the industry and become something of an event film for teenagers. Slasher entertainment was ripe for the mocking, and one of the first titles out of the gate was…not "Saturday the 14th." Despite its enticing, silly title, the endeavor offered a hard pass on all things Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, with writer/director Howard R. Cohen ("Space Raiders," "Time Trackers") electing to make an Abbott and Costello picture for the disco age, trying to revive dormant slapstick interests for a comedy adventure that utilizes horror, but doesn't quite satirize it. It's a very broad effort from Cohen, who seems convinced that all he needs to sell the wacky viewing experience is game actors and hoary jokes, leaving true sharpness of wit and timely targets to other productions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fiend

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Writer/director Don Dohler has enjoyed cult appreciation for his limited filmography, praised for his fierce independent spirit, finding much of his work captured on his own property, utilizing whatever's nearby to create sci-fi/horror pictures for nearly three decades (he passed away in 2006). 1978's "The Alien Factor" gave Dohler a career, solidifying his love for creepy tales of extraterrestrial invasion, with the no-budget endeavor generating attention with B-movie addicts. Dohler follows up his scrappy debut with 1980's "Fiend," which, if possible, looks even less produced than his previous effort, literally making the feature in his own basement, trying to stretch a reported $6,000 budget into a suitable chiller. "Fiend" makes "The Alien Factor" looks like a David Lean production, providing only the barest of directorial finesse and production coin. Dohler attempts to shape another tense meeting between worlds with his screenplay, but he's mostly made a talky endeavor that's low on scary stuff and personality, spinning its wheels while stuck in the mud pit of lethargic storytelling. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blind Date

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1984's "Blind Date" (not to be confused with the 1987 Blake Edwards feature) attempts to pull off a giallo-style atmosphere in the tight confines of Greece, with writer/director Nick Mastorakis liberally lifting from the Italians while setting up a playground of big screen sex and murder is his own backyard. The change is location is interesting but a little awkward, as is much of "Blind Date," which tries to be a techno-thriller without aiming high enough when it comes to sci-fi devices, and the serial killer side of things isn't particularly planned out in full. Mastorakis has an idea for a suitable chiller and he's determined to see it through, masterminding a whodunit that has no defined protagonist, just a pool of morally bankrupt people chasing each other around Athens, with one pushing mental illness into acts of barbarity. It's an odd movie, and one that's intermittently entertaining for those who are willing submit to Mastorakis's dented imagination for cutting-edge terror. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 10 to Midnight

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It's very strange to watch 1983's "10 to Midnight" in 2019. At the time of production, the goal of the movie was to condemn a legal system that permits known criminals to plead insanity, giving them a chance to escape severe charges, even released from prison after a short time, reunited with the world they wanted to destroy. Such rage is evident in the screenplay by William Roberts, who sets up a fairly simple tale of a madman tracked by cop who understands the full range of the perpetrator's guilt, but can't connect the dots for a proper arrest. What pops out from the feature today is its depiction of toxic masculinity and "beta male" rage, with the serial killer showcased here not a monster of mental fracture, but a damaged individual who can't wrap his mind around a society of women who want nothing to do with him and his distorted ways. In many ways, "10 to Midnight" is a prescient endeavor that identifies such subculture development long before it was organized by social media and message boards. That's not to give the film tons of credit, but watching "10 to Midnight" today is a lot creepier than it was probably meant to be. The unstoppable cop routine remains compelling, with star Charles Bronson doing what he does best: scowling at bad guys. However, there's something more interesting brewing here beneath obvious sleaze and police procedure, with director J. Lee Thompson tapping into violent insecurity to mastermind a proper opponent for his hero, who, interestingly, isn't a very noble man himself. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Munchie

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There are many great mysteries of filmmaking. What did Bill Murray whisper to Scarlett Johansson at the end of "Lost in Translation"? Is Deckard a replicant in the "Blade Runner" universe? And why is "Munchie" considered a sequel to "Munchies"? Only producer Roger Corman knows for sure, with his New Concorde studio needing something, anything to help support this family film offering from a company that typically specializes in more aggressive entertainment. 1992's "Munchie" has nothing to do with 1987's "Munchies," from tech credits to creature design, with co-writer/director Jim Wynorski tasked with engineering his own take on the genie in a bottle premise, making a cinematic mess with a three-foot-tall monster voiced by Dom DeLuise. The helmer isn't out to scare with this supposed second chapter in Corman's "Gremlins" rip-off universe, and he mercifully avoids trying to build on what came before, preferring to craft his own B-movie distraction that's admittedly painful to watch at times, but also offers periodic inspiration, emerging in the form of wisecracks, casting, and general impishness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Munchies

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In 1987, every video store in America had a poster for "Munchies" displayed somewhere. It was the VHS-era version of a Hidden Mickey, with the provocative image of a tiny monster looking up a model's skirt becoming a spotting game for some, giving producer Roger Corman the kind of title exposure he craves. It's not entirely surprising to learn that the film doesn't quite live up to the promise of its one-sheet, but that was Corman's thing during the 1980s, making promises with artwork that the features could never live up to (e.g. "Barbarian Queen," "Galaxy of Terror"). "Munchies" was created to cash-in on the global success of 1984's "Gremlins," with Corman alum Joe Dante using his B-movie education to create a summer triumph, skillfully merging horror and comedy into an irresistible multiplex event. The knock-off wasn't as fortunate, though it does have Tina Hirsch making her directorial debut, fresh off her time editing "Gremlins," giving her the upper hand when masterminding a low-budget replication. Hirsch strives to craft her own vision for hellraising creatures up to no good, but there are limits to Corman-financed magic, and they are found quickly in this mediocre endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Scarlet Letter

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While it seems like such a distant memory in 2019, there was a time in Hollywood when Demi Moore was the biggest actress around. She scored hits with "Indecent Proposal," "A Few Good Men," and "Disclosure," showcasing her ability to portray power onscreen with natural authority, and she rode such industry interests into major paydays with empowered characters found in "G.I. Jane" and "Striptease," but box office returns didn't follow her career explosion, and somewhere in the middle of all the press coverage and numerous film releases (including six credited parts in 1996), there was "The Scarlet Letter." Putting her faith into the creative instincts of director Roland Joffe, Moore set out to play the iconic character of Hester Prynne, the center figure of Puritan disturbance in Nathaniel Hawthorne's celebrated 1850 novel. She was trying to expand her range, offered a rare shot at a costume drama part, and while Moore strives to put in her best effort, she's often restrained by Joffe's bizarre creative choices, which turns a tale of moral and social decay and mob rule into a Harlequin romance novel, with screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart ("The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," "The Blue Lagoon") electing to expand on Hawthorne's ideas instead of strictly adapt them. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - When Harry Met Sally...

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Considering the mediocre quality of work he issues today (including "Shock and Awe," "And So It Goes," and "LBJ"), it's amazing to reflect on the career run director Rob Reiner enjoyed during the 1980s and the very early 1990s. He was on fire, creating classics with alarming regularity, including "This Is Spinal Tap," "Princess Bride," and "Stand by Me." And then there was 1989's "When Harry Met Sally...," a modest romantic comedy released during an event movie-heavy summer season that managed to become the sleeper hit of the year, also bringing Reiner's helming powers to a new level, teaming up with screenwriter Nora Ephron to deliver an examination of gender relationships as they're complicated by emotional ties and physical attraction. "When Harry Met Sally..." is hilarious, one the finest funny films of the decade, but Reiner manages to craft something silly and sincere, paying close attention to the wilds of human behavior and discomfort while tending to superb mischief, primarily engineered by co-star Billy Crystal. It's a gem, and one made from the heart, giving Reiner one last gasp of perfection before his filmography gradually headed toward the wall. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution

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Revolution comes in many shapes and sizes, but the music world tends to favor movements that show the most promise for profit, forcing those seeking representation to create their own rebellion, often using obscurity for security. "Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution" details such an effort to make something out of nothing, with director Yony Leyser adventuring into the world of Homocore/Queercore, using visual evidence and interviews with founding members of the new dawn to track the rise of gay participation and invention when it came to the choppy cultural waters of the punk scene of the 1980s and '90s. "Queercore: How to Punk a Revolution" is greatly informative, providing an eye-opening look at a subculture that was born out of frustration and developed into a monster of conformity requiring members of the uprising to return to the source, ultimately trying to destroy it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Silent Scream

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1979's "Silent Scream" makes a game attempt to replicate the work of Alfred Hitchcock, most notably "Psycho," offering a macabre tale of a house of horrors and a momma's boy, and all the murder that goes along with it. Director Denny Harris is no Hitchcock, and that's evident throughout the endeavor, which often struggles with stasis, trying to find some level of fear from characters investigating multiple rooms and engaging in sexual relationships. Horror isn't actually much of a priority for "Silent Scream," but Harris has moments of workable atmosphere, exploring spooky areas of an unnerving dwelling while young people go about their daily business of making bad decisions around obvious danger. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Izzy Gets the F*** Across Town

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With a title like "Izzy Gets the F*** Across Town," one would expect an energetic, take-no-prisoners viewing experience with a defined punk rock edge. What writer/director Christian Papierniak ultimately offers is a tame assessment of maturation and self-preservation found in the clouds of impulsive behavior. It's only a road movie in the briefest of moments, as Papierniak promises a farce but tries to get by on tedious characterization and a lack of successful humor. "Izzy" doesn't live up to its initial promise of chaos, finding the material far too meandering to make an impression, despite lead Mackenzie Davis's game attempt to make something sizable out of a rapidly deflating endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

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Kim Hinkel scripted the original "Texas Chain Saw Massacre," watching as the little southern horror movie developed into a behemoth at the box office, becoming a sensation at the time and, eventually, a classic. Hinkel was shut out of the two sequels that followed, but resurfaced in 1994 with renewed interest to reclaim his original creation. "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation" is Hinkel's ship and he's content to steer it into murky storytelling waters, hoping the brand name might cover for many issues with the screenplay and filmmaking. Henkel aims for reverence with a semi-remake, but he comes up short in the imagination department, finding the highlights of "The Next Generation" ones that simply recycle Hooper's ferocity and rural Texas madness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Atomic Cafe

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"Funny" is a word that's often associated with 1982's "The Atomic Café." Such promise of humor is stamped all over the promotion of the picture, with nervous distributors trying to lure viewers who wouldn't normally be interested in an 87-minute-long summary of American leaders lying to the public about the true destructive possibilities of an atomic bomb blast. Funny this movie most certainly isn't, but I suppose the actual toxicity of this darkness is subjective, with "The Atomic Café" more of a skillful assembly of footage than a knee-slapper. Directors Jayne Loader and Kevin and Pierce Rafferty spent years stitching together a look at the development of American paranoia and hubris, and they end up with an eye-opening examination of Atomic Age denial and experimentation, delivering, without narration, an extraordinary view of military power and those tasked with deflecting attention away from surefire dangers during a time of reckless experimentation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Critters 4

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In an effort to save some money and limit risk with the creation of a "Critters" sequel after 1988's "Critters 2: The Main Course" bombed during its theatrical release, New Line Cinema elected to take the series direct to video, hoping to meet the fanbase halfway by delivering prime Crite action directly to their living rooms. The studio also decided to make two movies for the price of one, shooting "Critters 3" and "Critters 4" back-to-back, with the last installment of the franchise (at least up to this point) handed over to director Rupert Harvey, who apparently didn't enjoy anything the series had been offering in its three previous chapters. "Critters 4" takes the action into space, unleashing the Crites on a space station, where they go about their daily business of bodily harm and reproducing in tighter confines, generating more of a haunted house viewing experience. At least that appears to be the idea behind the third sequel. What Harvey actually delivers is the worst "Critters" installment of the bunch, dropping humor and open air to play a tedious game of "Wait for the Crites," with the titular monsters barely in the endeavor, finding more attention place on tedious human concerns. This is no way to close out an amusing set of creature features. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Critters 3

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Of course, there's only one reason why people are still aware of 1991's "Critters 3." It's the one addition to the Crite saga that maintains outsider curiosity and fan endearment, and it's the only part of the feature that shows any sort of inspiration. That's right, when one thinks of the second sequel to "Critters," the only thing that comes to mind is…Crites in the big city! Okay, okay, perhaps the real reason there's still chatter about the effort is a supporting turn from Leonardo DiCaprio, who makes his film debut here, battling tiny monsters in a low-budget sequel a mere six years before he would hit a career grand slam in James Cameron's "Titanic." DiCaprio has come a long way since the direct-to-video endeavor and his refusal over the years to even discuss the movie is understandable, but there's really no shame in starting small. After all, while "Critters 3" doesn't maintain quality low-wattage frights and laughs like the two previous chapters, it does relatively well with the little it has to offer, making for an entertaining Crite attack offering that tries to bring a few new things to the franchise. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Critters 2: The Main Course

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When 1986's "Critters" managed to become a home video success (after mediocre box office results), New Line Cinema elected to go forward with a sequel. However, unlike many follow-ups from the day, money was actually spent to give a potential franchise a proper continuation, adding some coin to the budget and giving "Critters 2: The Main Course" a newfound appreciation of comedic extremes, with co-writer/director Mick Garris brought in to make Crites more mischievous, humans more appealing, and the brand name more alluring to genre fans. In a rare creative success story from the brand-heavy 1980s, "The Main Course" is a proper match to the original "Critters," having fun with itself while supplying all the monster movie violence and mayhem one could ever want from the series. It's a bigger, bolder endeavor, with Garris losing none of the sneaky appeal of the first film. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com