DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Luz

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It doesn't come as a tremendous surprise to learn that "Luz" is actually a thesis film from writer/director Tilman Singer. The German production doesn't aim to go big with its tale of possession and obsession, preferring to play everything with a slow-burn study of performance as tensions rise in small rooms. It's largely inexplicable, with Singer playing homage to Euro cinema brain-bleeders of the 1980s with the picture trying to reach a specific audience with its avant-garde antics. It's all a great big question mark of behavior, history, and domination, and while "Luz" has something, it visibly struggles to fill a scant 65-minute-long run time, with Singer clearly trying to taffy-pull a minor idea into something major, leaning into the stillness of the effort instead of developing its level of dread. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Fraternity Vacation

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Directorial careers can be very strange, with most helmers struggling to find work, jumping from project to project just to maintain a living. James Frawley (who passed away in 2019) is in possession of that kind of wild resume, primarily working in television, laboring to make lackluster shows presentable. And then, in 1979, Frawley was offered a shot to guide "The Muppet Movie," allowing Jim Henson a chance to focus on performance and puppet work while someone else managed day-to-day business. Frawley ended up with one of the best films of the year and arguably the finest Muppet cinematic endeavor of all time. However, he couldn't get anything going with such a credit, returning to television, with his next theatrical offering being 1985's "Fraternity Vacation," taking command of a teen horndog production meant to be made as cheaply and quickly as possible to compete with the rising tide of R-rated comedies that delivered juvenile antics and naked bodies. It's difficult to understand what Frawley was thinking when he accepted the job, besides collecting a paycheck, suddenly in charge of realizing a simplistic screenplay (by Lindsay Harrison) and supporting limited actors, stuck with pure formula to make multiplex (and VHS) fodder. Where's Kermit when you need him? Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Paradise Hills

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Alice Waddington makes her feature-length directorial debut with "Paradise Hills," and it's a stunner in many ways. She's created a fantasy world of re- education with screenwriters Nacho Vigalondo and Brian DeLeeuw, finding a way to deal with gender submission troubles while creating a futureworld environment of hostility thinly veiled by hospitality. The production has its storytelling issues, happy to throw everything at the screen without explaining a great deal of it, but Waddington also strives for a visual experience, offering terrific design elements throughout. "Paradise Hills" has something to say about the state of oppressed females, heading into a sci-fi direction to explore a survival tale that's loaded with screen detail and summons the eternal burn of frustration as it transforms into revolution. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Public Affairs

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Co-writer/director Henri Pachard aims to skewer politics with 1983's "Public Affairs." He's not exactly remaking "The Candidate," but Pachard has distinct ideas to share when exploring the absurdity of politicians and their behavior on and off the stage. Being an adult movie, there's time set aside for all sorts of couplings and randy behavior, but "Public Affairs" is a cynical picture, often using its offerings of sex to help define corrupt behavior and examine the gamesmanship involved when manipulations come for the press and the people of America. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Legend of the White Snake

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Taking the essential elements of "The Legend of the White Snake," a Chinese fable (inspiring many interpretations, including Tsui Hark's "Green Snake"), directors Amp Wong and Ji Zhao try to create an animated epic with "White Snake." The picture delivers a lush realm of visual possibilities, dealing with towering offerings of fantasy and intimate moments of romance. "White Snake" is striking, but it's always more impressive as spectacle, unable to connect on an emotional level. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Pet Sematary Two

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An adaptation of a Stephen King novel, 1989's "Pet Sematary" (scripted by the author) had a defined beginning, middle, and end. There was little room for a sequel, but the movie ended up a surprise hit for Paramount Picture, who craved a return to Ludlow, Maine, hoping to scoop up some easy sequel bucks. 1992's "Pet Sematary Two" (identified as "Pet Sematary II" in the film) isn't blessed with the return of King to help keep the story on track. Actually, King took is name off the feature, and it's easy to understand why, with returning helmer Mary Lambert trying to make her own bloody mess with the brand name, eschewing franchise intensity to fool around with a semi-comedic tone for a premise that doesn't trigger many laughs. Lambert doesn't really have a creative direction with "Pet Sematary Two," showing little control over tone, performance, and message as she tanks the sequel, almost on purpose. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Peace Killers

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It's Hippies vs. Bikers for 1971's "The Peace Killers," with director Douglas Schwartz and screenwriter Michael Berk (the pair would go on to co-create "Baywatch") trying to locate some sense of moral and philosophical foundation as they detail all sorts of behavioral awfulness. It's heavy-handed all the way, but interestingly ambitious, watching the production attempt to comment on the futility of violence while indulging it for the drive-in crowds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Nightingale

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Writer/director Jennifer Kent made a dynamic impression with her feature-length filmmaking debut, 2014's "The Babadook." It was a masterful picture, marrying the extremes of horror and parenthood into a suffocating, frightening viewing experience, presenting Kent as a major talent to watch. It's unfair to pin expectations to Kent's follow-up, but it's impossible to escape the efficiency of "The Babadook" while watching "The Nightingale," which retains the helmer's fondness for suffering, but also remains an overlong, somewhat repetitive effort, trying to master period Australian ruin without tight editing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - A Thousand and One Erotic Nights

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1982's "A Thousand and One Erotic Nights" makes a valiant attempt to be a respectable, borderline epic adult movie, and one that tries to treat its source material with some degree of respect. Writer/director Edwin Brown sets out to do something saucy with "One Thousand and One Nights," a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales that doesn't immediately translate to sexual interplay, but the production puts in the effort to create something entertaining, varied, and, whenever possible, technically proficient, with Brown hoping to elevate his endeavor with cinematic emphasis wherever he can get away with it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Hot Dog...The Movie

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Sensing a gap in the marketplace, writer/producer Mike Marvin attempts to use the world of freestyle skiing for his own take on "Animal House," dreaming up 1984's "Hot Dog…The Movie." What Marvin lacks in screenwriting prowess he makes up for in sheer enthusiasm for the sport and horndog cinema, working to assemble his own take on the subgenre, blending copious amounts of nudity and high jinks with a distinct display of athleticism, stunts, and speed. "Hot Dog…The Movie" isn't high art by any means, and the film often believes it's more amusing than it really is, but it does retain entertainment value as the production figures out what kind of story it wants to tell between mountain battles, coming up with a slightly meandering endeavor that periodically comes to life when it achieves even a mild amount of focus on sellable elements. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Slumber Party Massacre

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While it's not highly lauded in horror circles, there's something about 1982's "The Slumber Party Massacre" that's kept the film alive and kicking for almost 40 years, enjoying modest cult appreciation. The project began life as a parody, and one written by feminist author Rita Mae Brown, who endeavored to pants the slasher genre with her own take on abusive happenings with young girls and the men who enjoy killing them. Such ambition didn't make its way to the big screen, with Brown's vision soon reworked by director Amy Holden Jones, who ditched satiric interests to make a relatively straightforward chiller for executive producer Roger Corman. Instead of poking fun at horror formula, Jones simply utilizes it to complete her helming debut, laboring to fill a 76-minute-long run time with basic chases and casualties, depending on actor Michael Villella to do his duty at the villain Russ Thorn, who terrorizes a collection of high school girls with an industrial drill. "The Slumber Party Massacre" doesn't offer anything fresh or exciting, with Holden keeping to a tight schedule of panic and expiration, clinging to the obvious symbolism of the drill and its phallic representation. Sadly, the movie doesn't have much in the way of pace or scares, only finding intermittent inspiration when violence does occur, giving Holden something to concentrate on as the rest of the picture flattens when dealing with dull characters, weak banter, and a primary threat who should be featured with more regularity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The House That Jack Built

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Throughout his career, writer/director Lars von Trier has treasured every chance to upset his audience. He's an artful filmmaker, but one who enjoys being provocative, taking viewers to dark, strange places where human barbarity can thrive. Sometimes, this makes for unforgettable cinema. "The House That Jack Built" is not one of those golden occasions, with von Trier going inward to craft a tale about a serial killer struggling with his own vision for savagery. "The House That Jack Built" is repellant, but predictably so, taking a torturous 153 minutes to keep hitting the same beats of mutilation and commentary, while von Trier puts this thinly veiled examination of his own career into the hands of star Matt Dillon, who's not built for the uniquely suffocating screen spaces European cinema is capable of producing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Another Day of Life

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Spending a whopping ten years in production, "Another Day of Life" endeavors to share the experiences of Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who strived to dissect and report on the Angolan Civil War in 1975. Aiming for a more artful (and less expensive) way to detail such a perilous journey, directors Raul de la Fuente and Damian Nenow turn to motion capture animation to bring the tale to life, giving them access to visual elasticity as the story winds through bitter realities and growing nightmares. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Body Parts

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Adapting a French novel by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, co-writer/director Eric Red aims to create a classier style of horror movie with 1991's "Body Parts." One could argue the picture isn't very scary at all, showing more effectiveness as a Hitchcockian thriller concerning a good man's interactions with a bad arm. Red isn't a refined filmmaker, and he wrestles with his B-movie instincts here, endeavoring to make a considered character piece that also doubles as cinematic excitement. Nail-biting material doesn't dominate "Body Parts," as Red has better luck with mystery elements, generating more interest in the central puzzle of transplant surgery and donor shock than the visceral detours of the feature, which play into snoozy slasher routine. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Zombie Island Massacre

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I'm sure somewhere there's a story about the making of 1984's "Zombie Island Massacre." It's doubtful this was the picture's original title, with Troma Films getting their grubby hands on the movie for distribution, putting their specialized spin on marketing efforts that emphasized undead happenings that aren't actually in the feature. Of course, this is nothing new for Troma, as the company always makes a mad dash to the easiest sellable elements with hopes to turn acquisition pennies into box office nickels. However, with "Zombie Island Massacre," there's a little more on the menu than a genre stomp, finding the screenplay offering a hazy game of misdirection to best secure some level of surprise as a horror endeavor gradually becomes an episode of "Miami Vice." It's strange work that doesn't do well with expectations, but more relaxed minds willing to accept a move away from straight- up frights might finds something different here. Not outstanding, just different. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Flesh-Eating Mothers

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1988's "Flesh-Eating Mothers" isn't a scary movie, even though it deals with a somewhat serious topic of infidelity and the plague of sexually transmitted diseases. Co-writer/director James Aviles isn't comfortable treating such issues with any sort of dramatic concentration, instead trying to make a genre ride with the endeavor, which is always hunting for laughs to best support the rather gruesome plot. "Flesh-Eating Mothers" has a great title, as eye-catching as can be, and Aviles has a vision for ridiculousness for the feature, which is most fun when it has something to do, dealing with cannibalistic moms and the kids they devour. It's only a shame there isn't more effort from Aviles to fill the film with incident, as it takes one too many breathers during the run time, more concerned about making it to 90 minutes than providing a propulsive sense of twisted entertainment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Wave

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"The Wave" approaches ideas on conscience and karmic balance through the cinematic reverberations of psychedelic drugs. Director Gille Klabin is prepared to take the audience on a special mind-bending ride, armed with distinct visuals and doses of CGI, while instructing star Justin Long to capture the finer points of mental and physical alarm as his character is sent through time and space to deal with his issues as a human being in a dangerous position of power. "The Wave" has a simple message of personal inventory to study, and Klabin tries to capture audience attention through bursts of chaos, hoping to wind up the feature as a manic sprint through different realities. It's not an especially ambitious production, and not entirely compelling either, but it does have a certain energy at times to keep it going, with Long working hard to communicate the inner melt of a troubled man. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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Trying to compete with the big titles of American slasher entertainment in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Canada delivers "My Bloody Valentine," which was partially funded by taxpayer money. In return for government coin, viewers receive an idiosyncratic horror endeavor, where a pack of twentysomething miners and the women who love them are forced to survive the dangers of Valentine's Day, dodging pickaxe swings from a forgotten killer who's returned to make sure nobody celebrates the holiday. Director George Mihalka has a distinct setting for the tale, which takes place in a remote mining town, with most of the action heading into the depths to take advantage of dark passageways and claustrophobic spaces. While it lacks production polish, "My Bloody Valentine" has a different sort of appreciation for character and masked menace, while Mihalka serves up the gore with a few inventive kills, trying to remain as intense as possible within subgenre expectations. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Rabid (2019)

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While director David Cronenberg mastered his own remake with 1986's "The Fly," it's difficult to imagine anyone having the bravery to rework one of his pictures. Jen and Sylvia Soska step up to the challenge of reinterpretation with "Rabid," which is an update of a 1977 Cronenberg hit, and a particularly gruesome one at that. The Soska Sisters are no strangers to the gore zone, and while they can't possibly outgun Cronenberg, they remain respectful of his strangeness, doing very well with the ghoulish oddity of the material, finding some fresh ideas with old ideas. "Rabid" delivers the violent goods with enthusiasm, with the Soskas once again commanding an engaging, grotesque genre offering, continuing their impressive run of B- movie delights. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Summer Days with Coo

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The cover art for the Blu-ray release of 2007's depicts a loveable moment between a young boy and the Kappa, or water monster, he's befriended. The actual movie is a bit more sobering than the sunny image suggests, with the picture an adaptation of novels by Masao Kogure, offering a deeper understanding of the central relationship as it's challenged by cruelty and chaos over one distinctly adventurous season. Yes, there's cute stuff in here too, but director Keiichi Hara isn't trying to make another "E.T." with the story, willing to maintain its heavier violence to deliver a more nuanced exploration of a unique visitation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com