DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Commando Ninja

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We've watched as Canadian and American filmmakers have created valentines to the old-school world of action cinema from the 1980s, but 2018's "Commando Ninja" comes from France, with writer/director Benjamin Combes trying his hardest to funnel his adoration for everything from that decade and beyond into 68 minutes of silly fun. Blood flows and references fly in the feature, which barely has a plot or a point, simply summoning some mild conflict to help launch a series of inside jokes and cinematic tributes, primarily to the Arnold Schwarzenegger years of baddie-bustin', muscle-pumping mayhem. "Commando Ninja" is no gem, but there's appeal in its goofiness, watching Combes labor to fit something recognizable into every frame of this picture. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Vigil

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"The Vigil" tracks the experiences of a shomer hired to watch over the body of a recently deceased man. The production explains what a shomer is at the beginning of the movie, helping those unfamiliar with Orthodox Jewish rituals to better understand the position, which carries immense importance when protecting the dead from evil spirits looking to claim them. There's a distinct religious angle to writer/director Keith Thomas's picture, but there's just as much pure genre filmmaking in play. "The Vigil" is a ghost story, exploring spooky encounters and darkly lit rooms, and it's a highly effective one, well-crafted on a low budget. Thomas wants a little more from the event than simple frights, weaving in elements of guilt and shame to supercharge the haunting that brings the lead character to the edge of sanity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - WNUF Halloween Special

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2013's "WNUF Halloween Special" is an offering of strangeness from director Chris LaMartina. Inspired by the business of local television in the 1980s, LaMartina has elected to recreate the viewing experience, using unknown actors and large amounts of stock footage to manufacture a holiday special involving a reporter and his quest to get to the bottom of a murder case by visiting a haunted house. And most of the picture plays out with a great level of realism, exposing LaMartina's quest to trick casual viewers and delight those with fond memories of small-time television production and numerous commercial breaks. "WNUF Halloween Special" is an inspired gem that doesn't offer much more than immersion into a bygone world of evening news and station personalities, with the endeavor toying with the specifics of the business while gradually creating a tale of Halloween horror. It's found footage with purpose, securing knowing laughs and a few blasts of nostalgia while aiming to be weird and real without ruining the whole thing with excessive winks. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Girls School Screamers

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Hoping to make his dreaming of film direction come true, John P. Finnegan elected to try his luck with genre moviemaking in the mid-1980s, hoping to ride a trend of spooky tales aimed at young audiences. His initial offering is 1985's "Girls School Screamers," which isn't nearly as relentlessly icky as similar features, aiming to dial down grotesqueries to play up suspense elements of the screenplay (which he wrote). There's a vague sense of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock in play during "Girls School Screamers," which gets off to a relatively strong start, doing well with character introductions and storytelling, getting things up and running with decent efficiency and personality. Finnegan doesn't maintain early momentum, leading to an underwhelming second half of simplistic scares and kooky gross-outs, but he shows some life with parts of the endeavor, and that's good enough to please when it comes to this style of entertainment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Percy

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1971's "Percy" is an adaptation of a novel by Raymond Hitchcock, and let's all be thankful for that. The story of a man who undergoes a penis transplant, emerging from the surgery with a desire to find the original member donor, isn't something that would likely pair well with an original screenplay, as the premise leaves itself wide open for raunchy antics and crude comedy. With some literary guidance, the screenplay (credited to Hugh Leonard, with uncredited work from Terence Feely and Michael Palin, which explains a distinct Monty Python reference early in the picture) actually remains relatively calm considering the weirdness of the story, trying to find emotions to work with, not broad antics involving the cravings of fresh genitals. That's not to suggest "Percy" is a particularly satisfying movie, but it's definitely not the wild ride initial scenes promise it to be. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fool for Love

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1985's "Fool for Love" is a continuation of director Robert Altman's interest in theatrical projects, allowing him to keep creating movies that favor his artistic strengths, including his work with actors. Teaming with Cannon Films (in a rare non-Chuck Norris production), Altman turns to a play written by Sam Shepard for inspiration, persuading the playwright to appear in a leading role, co-starring with Kim Basinger and Harry Dean Stanton in this story of an impossible relationship and all the psychological disease contained within it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Deadlock (1970)

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1971's "Deadlock" is writer/director Roland Klick's version of a spaghetti western, with the German production heading to Israel to deal with rising tensions among three men looking to take possession of a suitcase filled with cash. However, Leone-esque swells are few and far between in the release, as Klick is pursuing more of a slow-burn endeavor, reveling in extended scenes of intimidation and cruelty. It's not a freak-out from the helmer, but a movie that requires patience it doesn't always earn, finding Klick getting lost in the process of making "Deadlock" instead of working to generate tension within his story. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fantasm Comes Again

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1976's "Fantasm" was a small movie that made big money, reaching its intended audience with its collection of softcore titillation. 1977's "Fantasm Comes Again" isn't a continuation of the original feature, which tried to sell itself as a psychological experience, but more of a rehash, with director Colin Eggleston ("Long Weekend") and writer Ross Dimsey trying to get away with the same viewing experience, armed with a larger budget and room to experiment with vignettes concerning forbidden desires. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fantasm

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While Richard Franklin went on to achieve some career success with hits such as "Patrick," "Road Games," and "Psycho II," he started small, exploring a world of softcore entertainment in 1976's "Fantasm." A playful take on the rise of adult cinema in the 1970s, "Fantasm" isn't meant to be heavy, with Franklin (credited here as "Richard Bruce") and writer Ross Dimsey trying to explore the world of female fantasies without reaching the depths of perversion, offering vignettes that detail possible sexual adventures and necessary distractions. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Auntie Lee's Meat Pies

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Director Joseph F. Robertson honed his craft in the world of adult entertainment, so it makes sense that his foray into B-movies is a porno-like viewing experience that strives to be both ridiculous and bizarre. "Auntie Lee's Meat Pies" is very reminiscent of a Troma picture, and while Robertson isn't big on technical skill and editorial command, he knows when to rein in this oddball, backwoods version of "Sweeney Todd," only instead of a mad barber, there's a crazed aunt who lives with child-like muscle, various nieces, and maintains authority over her "bakery." "Auntie Lee's Meat Pies" doesn't live up to its potential, but it's also not completely slapdash, trying to squeeze in some style and thespian conviction to give the viewing experience a dash of substance as a John Waters film threatens to break out at any moment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tough Guys Don't Dance

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Before its theatrical release, 1987's "Tough Guys Don't Dance" was marketed as an event from writer/director Norman Mailer, returning to filmmaking after 17-year absence, adapting his own successful book. After the feature's release, "Tough Guys Don't Dance" was suddenly regarded as high camp, with Mailer himself owning the endeavor as some kind of dark comedy. It's difficult to believe Mailer originally had something wacky in mind with this movie, but he certainly ended up with something uniquely confident in suspect creative decisions, offering a messy slice of detective fiction that occasionally transforms into "Twin Peaks," only without David Lynch's masterful control of the abstract. Mailer is up to something with the project, but he's not interested in letting viewers join him. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Rancho Deluxe

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1975's "Rancho Deluxe" is often labeled as a comedy, and there's some evidence in the screenplay by Thomas McGuane that laughter was the intended response to some of the more oddball situations found in the film. Director Frank Perry ("The Swimmer," "David and Lisa") is accomplished helmer who works exceptionally well with actors, but I'm not sure he got the memo that "Rancho Deluxe" was meant to be something more lighthearted, or at least moderately absurd. He treats the material like a drama while the writing aims to cut loose with characters in various states of unrest, creating a picture that's at odds with itself, unable to decide on a single tone, so it simply has all the tones, making for an anarchic feature, like a Robert Altman movie, only without the practice. There are elements to savor in the effort, but Perry seems lost here, laboring to understand McGuane's vision while ignoring it at the same time. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - She Freak

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1967's "She Freak" opens with a declaration that the production is strictly a fictional story, with no connection to the reality of carnival life. It's a suspicious note of legal panic to add to the start of the feature, which is essentially a remake of Tod Browning's "Freaks," only with a lot more footage of everyday life with a traveling carnival. In fact, most of the movie focuses on the loading and unloading of rides and stages, and director Byron Mabe frequently steps away from the plot to simply walk the property, soaking up the atmosphere (and beef up his run time). It's a simplistic tale of manipulation, but "She Freak" offers a time capsule viewing experience for those interested in the way carnivals were during unregulated times, keeping it compelling, even when nothing of note is happening on-screen. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Killer's Delight

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1978's "Killer's Delight" (titled "The Sport Killer" on the Blu-ray) is a Ted Bundy story before everyone understood exactly who Ted Bundy was. The saga of the serial killer and his fondness for murdering helpless women has been explored in numerous movies and T.V. shows, but writer Maralyn Thoma and director Jeremy Hoenack are basically the first in line with "Killer's Delight," though the picture only takes a vague inspiration from the crime story. The production is more of a detective tale with a few exploitation interests, and while the feature arranges a series of deadly encounters and some sleuthing, Hoenack doesn't exactly crank up the tension with this manhunt adventure, keeping things oddly slack as deadly games are played. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Awaken

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Director Tom Lowe tries to pull viewers away from the pains of everyday life with "Awaken," which is a sensorial experience that examines the beauty and wonders of the world through the use of slow-motion and time-lapse cinematography. It's an experience in sight and sound, not storytelling, with the picture trying to continue the work of director Godfrey Reggio (who serves as an executive producer here, alongside Terrence Malick), who once stunned audiences with "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Powaqqatsi," which also explored the strange movements of humans and nature, with Lowe venturing into the wild with powerful cameras, trying to grasp the mystery and beauty of Earthly treasures. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - A Dim Valley

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Introductions are always important, helping the audience find the mood of the picture and begin to process characterizations as onscreen personalities start their journey. Writer/director Brandon Colvin isn't a fan of such immediate impressions, opening the endeavor with ten minutes of a man getting hurt after falling off his bike, also showing a friend his ability to trigger a click in his jaw. This material represents a good portion of "A Dim Valley," with Colvin in no hurry to introduce screen tension, motivations, or even a plot for this wandering effort, which is primarily about a marijuana- thwacked odyssey into the indie film unknown. "A Dim Valley" is strictly for audiences in an altered state of mind, working with vagueness to such a degree, I'm not even sure Colvin had anything written down before he started shooting the feature. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Oh, God! You Devil

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Apparently 1980's "Oh, God! Book II" wasn't quite the box office dud it originally appeared to be. Producers weren't done with George Burns in the eponymous role, but they waited four years to mount "Oh, God! You Devil," which returns the comedian to big screen action as the cigar-chomping deity, with the actor also playing Satan for this round of heavenly intervention. There's also a creative decision to avoid rehashing the original movie, with writer Andrew Bergman breaking away from expectations with his Faustian bargain plot, focusing on the Devil's attempts to collect on a soul contract signed by a depressed songwriter (Ted Wass) looking to become a rock god. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Oh, God! Book II

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1977's "Oh, God!" was a little film from Warner Brothers that turned into a very big deal, becoming the ninth highest grossing movie of the year (right above "Annie Hall" and below "The Spy Who Loved Me"). It charmed audiences and, against all odds, turned senior comedian George Burns into a pop culture figure. A sequel was inevitable, and the story could logically continue with God and Jerry (John Denver) and their quest to restore faith across America. However, it didn't work out that way, with studio suits electing to basically remake the original endeavor with 1980's "Oh, God! Book II," which replaces Jerry with Tracy (Louanne), an 11-year-old girl who's visited by the wisecracking deity, put in charge of selling God to the country. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Oh, God!

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After taking a seven-year-long break from feature film direction after he unleashed the weirdness of "Where's Poppa?" on audiences, Carl Reiner decides to go a little softer on ticket-buyers, pairing with writer Larry Gelbart for 1977's "Oh, God!" An adaptation of a book by Avery Corman, the picture tries to create entertainment out of a potential nightmare, tracking the increasing panic of grocery store assistant manager Jerry (John Denver) as he's contacted by God (George Burns), asked to "spread the word" and give faith a boost during increasingly dark times. Reiner is here to make sure such a chilling premise remains approachable, giving "Oh, God!" an aimable vibe as jokes and belief come together, making some magic with the on-screen team of Denver and Burns. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dreambuilders

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"Dreambuilders" is very reminiscent of "Inside Out," the 2015 Pixar Animation Studios hit that took audiences inside the mind of characters to meet their emotions, following their misadventures through the lively world of memories and general brain activity. I'm fairly sure the filmmakers behind "Dreambuilders" won't mind the comparison, as the Danish production is working hard to give off a Pixar vibe, combining cartoon antics with emotional trauma, only this odyssey takes place inside a dream space – a production area also explored in "Inside Out." Similarities are plentiful, but director Kim Hagen Jensen (who previously worked on "Rock-A-Doodle," "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest," and "A Troll in Central Park") makes a valiant attempt to create his own movie with a neat idea about the world beyond dreams, and creatures who make the magic happen. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com