Blu-ray Review - Gay USA


1977's "Gay USA" is a documentary that initially presents itself as a study of Pride Parade activity across the country, with cameras visiting celebrations in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego. However, director Arthur J. Bressan Jr. ("Buddies") has much more in mind for the picture, which seeks to appreciate the state of the LGBTQIA+ community during this moment in time, sending interviewers into the crowds to better understand personal stories and deep feelings. "Gay USA" is a remarkable document of a time and place, with a heartfelt approach to reinforcing the solidarity of Pride Parades and what they mean to individuals used to living in a state of fear and confusion brought on by community violence, hateful organizations, and power-hungry leaders. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - D.A.R.Y.L.


In many ways, Steven Spielberg dominated the entertainment industry in the 1980s. He made blockbusters that delighted all audiences, and even scored a global sensation with the release of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," scoring huge box office and launching a wave of similar productions, with other producers trying to capture the hearts and minds of kid audiences flocking to multiplexes. 1985's "D.A.R.Y.L." isn't a Spielberg endeavor, but it's certainly taking advantage of the mogul's moviemaking triumphs, presenting a tale of a young robotic boy and his quest to live a regular life with his adoptive family and mischievous best friend. Director Simon Wincer ("Free Willy," "Quigley Down Under") hopes to blend danger and heartwarming relationships with the effort, which is pushed along by entertaining reveals in its first hour, getting to understand the child's computer abilities and his interactions with human caretakers. "D.A.R.Y.L." stumbles some in its last act, which turns the feature into a more action-packed offering, but the gentleness of the picture supports an enjoyable viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - eXistenZ


After finding his way through the turns of fetish and fixation in 1996's "Crash," David Cronenberg doesn't stray far from the flesh with his follow-up, 1999's "eXistenZ." For this round of specialized horror, the writer/director explores the ways of virtual reality video games, sending viewers into a strange world of fleshy game systems and twitchy players capable of physically plugging into adventures that threaten to corrupt humanity. Cronenberg remains close to his filmmaking interests in "eXistenZ," but he's confident with this odyssey into unreality, delivering a unique take on the immersion of gaming and the dangers of such submission. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Southern Comfort


1981's "Southern Comfort" was marketed as a viewing experience similar to 1972's "Deliverance," once again pitting masculine men of adventure against rural folk who don't take kindly to strangers. In the hands of co-writer/director Walter Hill, the picture sticks with genre trappings but also pays close attention to character, following National Guard soldiers as they create a violent mess in the Louisiana swamps they soon can't escape from. It's a small-scale horror movie in many ways, playing like a semi-slasher without pronounced suspense, as Hill keeps the feature low-key and irritable, enjoying the slow march into frustration as the characters evolve from men on a mission to strangers desperate for survival. Games of power and command are played, and this is not a film that gallops from moment to moment. It's a slow-burn experience, which doesn't always work for the endeavor, but Hill concentrates on relationships and attitudes, finding some interesting acts of hostility, madness, and anger to work with as he explores the dynamics of the Vietnam War in the swampland of America. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Fatal Games


In the great slasher cinema race of the 1980s, the marketplace was filled with strange characters and bizarre weapons. 1984's "Fatal Games" looks to join the fun by taking its version of absolute terror to a school for athletes, where a masked killer is trying to pick off the students with a javelin. It's a pretty cumbersome weapon, but the javelin is part of the ride of "Fatal Games," which is as routine as it gets when it comes to cooking up horror happenings, but there's a certain oddness to the picture that keeps it mildly interesting. It's not a shining example of the subgenre, but the effort wins when it tries to sell absolute silliness with a straight face. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Little Darlings


Summer camp cinema received a boost of popularity with the success of 1979's "Meatballs," which provided an inspired round of campground shenanigans and undersexed characters, supported by the star appeal of Bill Murray. 1980's "Little Darlings" initially seems as though it's headed in the same creative direction, once again returning to the great outdoors with teen players only interested in the mysteries of the opposite sex as they go about their daily adventures. The screenplay by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young is happy to indulge a little silliness when introducing the ensemble and the location, but "Little Darlings" sobers up quickly, daring to be a film about female sexuality and relationships that takes emotions seriously. There's bravery to the feature that's wonderful to see, even when director Ron Maxwell can't always balance the tone of the endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Red Rock West


Career-wise, Nicolas Cage was in a strange place in the early 1990s. Finding himself elevated to star status with 1987's "Raising Arizona" and "Moonstruck," Cage struggled to maintain momentum, caught between his interest in strange projects ("Vampire's Kiss," "Zandalee") and more visible Hollywood titles ("Fire Birds," "Honeymoon in Vegas"). For 1993's "Red Rock West," Cage finds a comfortable middle ground, participating in a noir exercise from co-writer/director John Dahl (who clearly loves the subgenre), delivering a measured lead performance with a few thespian explosions along the way. Cage is the glue that keeps "Red Rock West" together, providing dramatic support for a screenplay that's a little too wild with turns at times, but remains an engrossing viewing experience with a terrific sense of escalation in its first half. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Thinner


The business of Stephen King adaptations was booming in the 1990s, with the occasional box office success ("Misery") and critical darling ("The Shawshank Redemption") refreshing interest in the prolific author's work. 1996's "Thinner" is another one of the bunch, taking inspiration from a 1984 book written under King's pseudonym, Richard Bachman, with the writer exploring the panic of an obese man dealing with a curse that forces him to shed weight at a nightmarish speed. The premise has potential for something cinematically interesting, providing a thorough creative challenge to manufacture such a distinct vision for body horror. "Thinner" is instead handed to co-writer/director Tom Holland ("Child's Play," "The Temp"), who goes the sledgehammer route with the movie, turning pages of detail and disturbing behavior into a cartoon exploration of desperation. Suspense is missing from the picture, along with a sense of the bizarre, as Holland goes for painful exaggeration with the endeavor. He's also stuck with subpar makeup work for the central journey of an overweight man as he turns into a skeleton, with Hollywood magic missing the mark as star Robert John Burke has to physically work with an ill-fitting transformation in a supremely underwhelming effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Funeral Home


A Canadian production from 1981, "Funeral Home" (a.k.a. "Cries in the Night," which is the title on the Blu-ray presentation) dares to enter the then red-hot horror marketplace with a picture that contains extraordinarily little scary business. A few kills are present, and there's a black cat marching around the location, but screenwriter Ida Nelson and director William Fruet offer surprisingly little in the way of frights with the endeavor. "Funeral Home" is more of a missing persons mystery blended with a few drops of "Psycho," with the production focused on the investigative potential of the material instead of building a level of suspense. More of a T.V. movie than a chiller, the effort is capably performed by its cast, but there's lifelessness here that's bewildering, making for a tough sit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Forced Vengeance


After a career push to turn him into a drive-in theater hero in the late 1970s, Chuck Norris enters the 1980s with greater focus on conquering multiplexes and international audiences. Building on the mild success of 1980's "The Octagon" and 1981's "An Eye for an Eye," Norris smashes into 1982 with two pictures, with "Forced Vengeance" following "Silent Rage," giving the martial arts star a chance to show his stuff in the more exotic location of Hong Kong. The villains are up to no good (the heroes also act questionably) when it comes to collecting rival casinos, and it's up to one man out to protect his loved ones from direct threats. Co-writer/director James Fargo ("Voyage of the Rock Aliens," "Every Which Way but Loose," "The Enforcer") doesn't get ambitious with "Forced Vengeance," keeping the effort down to the basics in Norris-style entertainment, putting the lead in a series of action poses as his character seeks to deliver acts of intimidation before offerings of butt-kickery. There's no significant creative challenge presented here, and not all of Fargo's ideas are acceptable, but there's a welcome simplicity to the endeavor that keeps it compelling. And Norris is alert here, providing hearty showdowns and hostile retorts, doing his one-man-army routine with some level of enthusiasm. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Telefon


After playing a man of the Old West in 1977's "The White Buffalo," hoping to find success with a "Jaws"-like tale of a hunter and a monster animal on the loose, Charles Bronson finds a polar opposite acting opportunity in "Telefon," released in the same year. Of course, Bronson isn't one to push himself too far as a thespian, preferring to remain in his range, even when dealing with plots of increasing craziness. This adaptation of a Walter Wager novel (credited to Peter Hyams and Stirling Silliphant) certainly qualifies as bonkers, finding the star portraying a Russian spy looking to stop the rise of sleeper agents in the U.S., hoping to prevent World War III as a lunatic, armed with a line of poetry, looks to cause unimaginable chaos. It's telephoned-based horror in the feature, which arrives under the direction of Don Siegel (who's billed with his handwritten signature), and the veteran helmer isn't too interested in amplifying suspense for the endeavor. As Cold War thrillers go, "Telefon" has tremendous potential, even as wacky as it is, but Siegel doesn't have the eye of the tiger here. He prefers to keep screen activity intermittent and Bronson more subdued than usual, refusing to go crazy with a premise that invites it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - St. Ives


The 1970s were good to Charles Bronson. Working his way into leading man parts, Bronson ran with the opportunity, taking as many employment opportunities as possible while developing a loyal fan base responsive to his steely screen presence. He made 21 movies during the decade, mostly sticking with genre entertainment that made the most of his reserved acting style, often finding himself in heroic roles as a man of action dealing with the evils of the world. 1976's "St. Ives" is a slight change of pace for the star, with this adaptation of a 1972 Oliver Bleeck novel putting Bronson in detective mode, portraying a middle man caught between the police and criminals when special information is stolen from a wealthy man. Bronson does Bronson in "St. Ives," but he's great fun to watch as a cautious man stuck in a strange situation. The feature doesn't quite understand that less is more, but director J. Lee Thompson (who would go on to make eight more films with Bronson) keeps things exciting for an hour and change, adding elements of danger and red herrings as the eponymous character tries to make sense of everything that's coming for him. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Blood Feast (2016)


1963's "Blood Feast" isn't a classic film, but it remains an important one in horror circles. Director Herschell Gordon Lewis wanted to stir up some controversy to help sell tickets, and he found it with "Blood Feast," which was an early endeavor to weaponize gore in a way, offering an unrepentant display of blood and guts for audiences to enjoy…if they dared. In 2024, the feature is comical, but time hasn't diluted much of its gonzo attitude, watching Lewis push the boundaries of violence to attract attention. For a 2016 remake, director Marcel Walz and screenwriter Philip Lilienschwarz try to recapture the spirit of the original picture while generally rethinking almost all of its plot and characters. This "Blood Feast" takes a dull movie and puts it right to sleep, watching Walz boldly refuse any sort of pace or level of suspense to the effort. There's grisliness, no doubt, but the do-over is a colossal bore that takes its sweet time to go nowhere, finding Lewis's take on the hunt for a human dinner much more engaging that this patience- testing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Dog Who Stopped the War


The horrors of combat are handed the family film treatment in 1984's "The Dog Who Stopped the War." A Canadian production, the picture looks to understand the strange ways of childhood as neighborhood kids gather to battle one another in a grand scheme of conflict, with snowballs replacing more violent weapons. Director Andre Melancon has the unenviable task of corralling a large group of child actors to help realize this study of playful aggression, and he manages to extract some impressive performances for the feature, which goes from comedic events to a sobering conclusion. "The Dog Who Stopped the War" miraculously holds together during its run time, with Melancon finding a way to preserve the material's messages on the end of innocence while maintaining a heightened reality with this community of reluctant combatants. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Sons of Steel


MTV grew into a dominating force of style during the 1980s, finding music videos going from a curiosity or simple marketing tool into cinematic experiences that helped to influence moviemaking throughout the decade. Such visual power was used by many and abused by even more, and this sense of flashiness dominates 1988's "Sons of Steel," an Australian production from writer/director Gary L. Keady. The helmer tries to merge punky happenings in the nuclear age with a grungy Duran Duran video, aiming to create a chaotic adventure across time with an extremely limited budget. "Sons of Steel" has a vision for bigness when it comes to end-of-days action and performance, but Keady doesn't have the seniority to master the challenge of such ambitious, comic book-style material. His inexperience shows during the viewing event, which quickly goes from a tolerable curiosity to an absolute drag. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Scrapbook


2000's "Scrapbook" is "based on actual events." These situations are never identified, with violence and suffering basically driving the viewing experience, technically qualifying most movies as "based on actual events." Screenwriter Tommy Biondo (who passed away in 1999) has some personal issues to work through in the picture, which explores the merciless ways of a serial killer (played by Biondo) and his obsession with his latest catch, spending time torturing a young woman in his remote farmhouse. And that's about it for dramatic urgency in "Scrapbook," with the shot-on- video endeavor completely made up of scenes where one character torments the other character, with Biondo passing on story and suspense to make what's basically a fetish film that's extraordinarily tedious to watch. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia


2012's "Ernest & Celestine" (released in America in 2014) was a complete surprise. The animated French picture was small, preferring delicate artistry over expensive imagery, electing to put its energy into personality. The feature was an absolute delight, one of the best films of the year, and little was expected of the movie after melting hearts and hitting the funny bone the first time around. A decade later, there's "Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia," a sequel from a different creative team, out to recreate the pleasures of the original picture while finding a new event for the eponymous pals to manage. "A Trip to Gibberitia" is more plot oriented than its predecessor, but the follow-up is nearly as fantastic, returning to character quirks and connections while opening up this lovable world with fresh challenges for animal friends and, now, family. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Queen of Earth


Writer/director Alex Ross Perry doesn't make easy movies. For 2014's "Listen Up Philip," he submitted one of the most unpleasant lead characters of the film year. For "Queen of Earth," he explores the abyss of mental illness. He's not the cheery type, but Perry has a way of making these dramatic explorations worthwhile, with periodic blips of profundity. Carried by a wonderfully ragged lead performance from Elisabeth Moss, "Queen of Earth" steps away from a clinical understanding of depression to go semi-Polanski, treating the fractured experience of a complete unraveling with a full immersion into paranoia and hopelessness, emerging with a secure study of friendship and phobia that feels organically communicated yet sharply cinematic. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - King on Screen


Since the release of "Carrie" in 1976, adaptations of Stephen King novels and short stories have become almost a regular event. Such tales of horror and heartbreak have become catnip to filmmakers, especially those raised on the author's work in print form, finally receiving a chance to do something with King's vast imagination. "King on Screen" is a documentary about the writer and his experiences with filmed entertainment, and while he doesn't appear in interview form, King's presence is felt throughout the endeavor, which seeks to identify just what about his writing often results in cinematic magic. Director Daphne Baiwir doesn't provide a comprehensive examination of the subject, but she chooses her topics wisely, delivering an interesting ride back into King Country, sitting down with many of the men responsible for translating these pages into occasionally terrific movies. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Skateboard


1978's "Skateboard" (a.k.a. "Skateboard: The Movie") is a production trying to capitalize on a trend. The world of skateboarding is explored here, with co-writer/director George Gage bringing viewers to Los Angeles, where the kids are showing off their moves on four wheels, while a desperate man with an enormous debt hopes to exploit such talent for his own financial gain. "Skateboard" is a quickie production, offering a threadbare plot and sketchily drawn characters, but it's not meant to be much more than a showcase for the sport, captured here during its 1970s heyday, with subculture superstar Tony Alva claiming a supporting role. Skateboarding footage is key here, adding a sense of excitement and showmanship to the endeavor, which noticeably struggles with anything that isn't about following sporting accomplishments. It's not the most electric offering of drama, with Gage and co-writer Richard A. Wolf (the future king of television, Dick Wolf, making his professional debut) struggling to pour some foundation for a feature that's best with pure physical activity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com