Blu-ray Review - The Great Smokey Roadblock


Adventures highlighting the travel plans of rebellious truckers were all the rage in the 1970s, but only one production had the smarts to cast one of the greatest actors of all time, Henry Fonda, in the leading role. 1977's "The Great Smokey Roadblock" (titled "The Last of the Cowboys" on the disc) offers Fonda the part of a sickly man facing his mortality, taking off on one last mission across America to help friends new and old while avoiding trouble from local cops and younger rivals. Writer/director John Leone isn't making high-art with the endeavor, and his command of tone leaves a lot to be desired, with "The Great Smokey Roadblock" unsure if it wants to be deadly serious or slightly madcap. It doesn't come together with any sort of distinction, but the movie does have Fonda, who gives a little extra to the production, playing up the story's death march severity and its interest in wackiness with professional ease. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Oscar


At the height of his fame, a dramatic and action star known around the world, Sylvester Stallone wanted to change things up, trying on a comedy for size to expand his thespian horizons. 1984's "Rhinestone" bombed at the box office and scared the star away from pronounced silly business for years to come, retreating to the comfort of Rambo sequels and easy money from Cannon Films. While a cheeky turn in 1989's "Tango & Cash" permitted Stallone to showcase his snarkier side, it was 1991's "Oscar" that found him diving back into the challenge of funny business, this time paring with director John Landis, who was following up his successful work on "Coming to America." The helmer wanted to make a farce, only to be faced with the acting limitations of Stallone, who wasn't known for his fast mouth and limber movement. Landis works very hard to support his star through this endeavor, which tries to simulate the blazing speed and wit of a classic comedy from the 1930s, and achieves a good portion of its creative goals, giving Stallone plenty of co-stars to bounce off of, while Landis orchestrates fine timing for "Oscar," which isn't all that hilarious, but it's consistently entertaining. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Shot


It all began in the early 1970s when a gang of students at the University of Illinois decided they wanted to move from making short documentaries to a major motion picture. Devouring the supercop movies of the day, writer/director Mitch Brown and producer Nate Kohn settled on "Shot," which attempts to make a "French Connection"-style ruckus with only a $15,000 budget to work with, leaning on University resources to see the project to completion. Created solely by college students (one of them being Chuck Russell, who would go on to a wildly uneven directorial career) trying to create a calling card for Hollywood employment, "Shot" is a weird but engaging compilation of stunts, shootouts, and cops and robbers, watching Kohn and Brown working within their means to assemble a smashmouth actioner while in the middle of rural Illinois, giving the feature the first of many distinctive marks. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Zama


"Zama" is a period piece, an adaptation of a novel by Antonio di Benedetto, handed over to respected Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel ("The Headless Woman," "The Holy Girl"), who makes a return to screens after a near-decade break from fictional storytelling. Perhaps fueled by her own career set-backs, Martel pours her perspective into "Zama," which examines the days of a Spanish officer (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) in colonial South America trying to get himself out of professional and psychological stasis, running into all kinds of problems as the surroundings start to poison his mind. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Country


Responding to the growing crisis in the farmlands of America during the 1980s, Hollywood tried to identify the pressure put on farmers to protect their lands from predatory banking practices built on unrealistic business expectations. While the subject matter was timely and critical of government agriculture policies, stories of family upheaval and financial disaster also provided premium drama, offering filmmakers a chance to delve into rural lives that are rarely defined in full. In 1984 there was "The River," with Mel Gibson and Sissy Spacek, and "Country," which gifted Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard a chance to stretch by portraying a farming couple suddenly under siege by threats of foreclosure and a loss of their way of life. Scripted by William D. Wittliff ("Legends of the Fall," "Barbarosa"), "Country" pushes as far as it can with its bleak observance of failure and humiliation, trying to remain communicative about the human spirit while taking the central crisis as serious as a Disney production can. It's not a cheery viewing experience, but Wittliff grasps the hardscrabble living experience and household tensions, while Lange and Shepard deliver some of their finest work in showy but sincere roles that depict the death of the American Dream.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Blame It on the Bellboy


There's no one way to start a comedy, but perhaps a cruel murder isn't the best way to commence 1992's "Blame It on the Bellboy," which wants to be a rip-roaring farce, only to spend its introductory period detailing loss of life. Of course, this is one of many issues hounding the feature, which intends to pay tribute to the wacky comedies of yesteryear, pitting a collection of characters suffering through life-altering misunderstandings against one another, setting them loose in the tourist paradise of Venice, Italy. Writer/director Mark Herman doesn't seem to be making a dark endeavor, but there's unshakable gloominess to "Blame It on the Bellboy," which works through violence, death, prostitution, and unbearable loneliness when it isn't trying to be hilarious with hoary jokes and painfully exaggerated performances. Herman's trying to replicate something specific here, but his timing and tone are way off. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story


Actor/stuntman Kane Hodder is primarily known for his work on the "Friday the 13th" series, portraying Jason Voorhees for four movies, starting with 1987's "The New Blood." He's celebrated for his reworking of Jason's monster stomp, taking a figure of horror cinema and turning him into an icon. "To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story" sets out to humanize Hodder, to expose his real side after decades spent behind mask and makeup. Director Derek Dennis Herbert strives to understand what makes Hodder tick, using guidance from the subject's 2011 autobiography to inspire this documentary, which employs a great number of famous faces and close friends to explore Hodder's personality and professional triumphs, while the man himself sits down to share harrowing tales of medical and social challenges while helped to shape the genre legend that remains today.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Cradle Will Rock


Tim Robbins starred in Robert Altman's "The Player," with the 1992 movie managing to boost his career critically and creatively. In 1999, Robbins attempted to repay the favor by making "Cradle Will Rock," an ambitious picture about politics, passion, and the arts that's clearly influenced by Altman's oeuvre, with Robbins trying to pull off a sophisticated cinematic braid that ties performance, music, and storytelling reach together. It's a messy film, taking a very long time to go nowhere specific, but the ride is what matters most to the helmer, who delivers an intelligent, intermittently charged journey into America during the 1930s, investigating the churn of class and political divide while creating an evocative look at the shining light of the theater scene in New York City as it's attacked by government forces trying to stifle radical thought. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - The Rich Man's Wife


Branded a star on the rise in the 1990s, Halle Berry graduated quickly to major studios roles, with Hollywood spending the better part of the decade figuring out just what to do with the actress, who achieved some visibility in "Boomerang," "Jungle Fever," and "The Flintstones." I'm not sure Berry was ready to carry her own movie with 1996's "The Rich Man's Wife," and the production basically agrees, with writer/director Amy Holden Jones left with little thespian oomph as she tries to manufacture a classic thriller for a modern age. Berry is limp here, backed by several key miscastings, leaving Jones with little room to take something traditional and give it significant personality, helping to up what are weirdly low stakes for a thriller. "The Rich Man's Wife" is a drag, but one with potential, working half-speed on a few promising ideas, only to have Jones weighed down by the actors and the feature's increasing reliance on ludicrousness to connect the dots.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Mac and Me


There have been many movies trying to cash-in on the success of 1982's "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," but few have been quite as obvious as 1988's "Mac and Me." The producers are determined to replicate Steven Spielberg's box-office-busting success, coming up with a slight variation on the formula of the lonely boy and his lost alien pal. However, instead of using creativity, money, and magic to shape the feature, co-writer/director Stewart Raffill marches forward with a highly bizarre rip-off that's hanging on for dear life, throwing anything at the screen to see what might appeal to the target demographic of young kids. "Mac and Me" is awful and infamously so, with longstanding cult appeal helping to cushion the crushingly bad ideas found in the endeavor.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami


Grace Jones has been a recording artist and general pop culture figure for over 40 years, but those who've stood outside her fame would probably find it difficult to identify what makes the icon tick. "Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami" isn't a career overview or a very in-depth biographical investigation, but director Sophie Fiennes makes it a priority to deliver a seldom seen side of the artist as she approaches the age of 70, following her as she records a new album, dominates the stage, does the promotional rounds, and pays a visit to her family in Jamaica. "Bloodlight and Bami" offers outstanding concert sequences to refresh appreciation for Jones's talents and blazing sense of style, but it's also an intimate study of temperament and trauma, with the subject unafraid to showcase her impatience with world as she quests to realize her art. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Deep Rising


1998's "Deep Rising" didn't have an easy time finding an audience during its initial theatrical release. It came out a year after "The Relic" (which delivered a similar monster-in-a-contained-area premise), a month after "Titanic" (which satiated audiences hungry to see a massive ship endure a slow destruction), and two weeks after "Hard Rain" (which also enjoyed some Jet Ski action in tight hallways). The planets didn't align for writer/director Stephen Sommers, but this noisy ode to B-movies of the past eventually found something of a following on home video and basic cable, and it's not hard to see why, with the helmer arranging plenty of mayhem, quips, and gore to delight those in the mood for something violent but cheeky. Though the true comedic value of "Deep Rising" is up for debate. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Love Me Deadly


Love can be a complicated thing, especially when it involves dead people. Necrophilia is not a common subject for a horror film, but there are a few notable examples, including 1987's Nekromantik," but "Love Me Deadly" doesn't play the fetish for scares, instead offering a soap opera take on a woman's relationship with the deceased, rooting the illness somewhere personal, avoiding pure shock value for something slightly softer. Director Jacques Lacerte seems to be on mission to make a slightly more accessible tale of unimaginable trauma, but his restraint doesn't mesh well with the feature's assortment of half-realized ideas and B-movie construction. "Love Me Deadly" isn't ghastly or enlightening, it's just slow and silly, working itself into a lather as a way to display some level of emotional value for a picture that's essentially about a woman who turns to the touch of the dead to deal with childhood issues. Now where's the fun in that? Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - John From


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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