DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Cellar

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"The Cellar" had a rocky ride to a release. Screenwriter John Woodward was initially hired to direct the feature, adapting a short story from author David Henry Keller. The job proved to be too much for him to handle, with Woodward fired after a few days on the set, replaced by Kevin Tenney, who previously helmed "Witchboard" and "Night of the Demons." Tenney's job involved reworking the script and managing a speedy shoot for the low- budget picture, emerging with his version of a tale involving a family's fight for survival against an evil Native American-bred entity living in the muck under their rural Texas house. Tenney tried to deliver something sellable, but the producers didn't trust his vision, eventually restructuring the story and adding scenes to beef up the mystical aspects of the endeavor, eventually getting the film out into the world on VHS to inspire sleepover rental choices everywhere. Now, with this Blu-ray release, viewers are invited to see Tenney's original version of "The Cellar," which isn't a satisfying genre offering, suggesting the material simply wasn't meant to be, no matter the edit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Frat House

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1979's "Frat House" was created to capitalize on the raging success of 1978's "Animal House." The adult film industry wasn't about to let a collegiate setting for tomfoolery and bedroom antics go to waste, inspiring the production to generate its own sense of playfulness, with the full title of the endeavor being "Natural Lamporn's "Frat House." See what they did there? Writer/director "Sven Conrad" (aka David Worth, who would go on to helm "Kickboxer") doesn't have the time or money to really give the Universal Pictures release a proper pantsing, but he organizes a lighthearted effort that's more in love with silent comedies than National Lampoon, dealing with pure zaniness between scenes of sexual gymnastics and disco fantasies. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Heavenly Desire

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1979's "Heavenly Desire" isn't a remake of 1978's "Heaven Can Wait," but the production certainly wouldn't mind if the Warren Beatty hit came to mind during the viewing experience. It offers a return to limbo for two characters caught between places of eternal rest, only here the goal for the duo is entrance to a place called "Hooker Heaven," which is actually Hell. There are many unanswered questions found in the picture, but director Jaacov Jaacovi doesn't offer much more than lighthearted adult entertainment with a slight spiritual twist, working in as much slapstick as possible while aiming to deliver a film with some noticeable heat. There's strangeness all around "Heavenly Desire," which tends to find its rhythm with nonsense, keeping things peculiar without blocking the bedroom view. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Taxi Girls

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1979's "Taxi Girls" takes viewers into a heated battle between cab companies working the streets of Hollywood. However, only the ladies of Pink Taxi have previous experience with streetwalking. "Taxi Girls" is a semi-comedy about the lives of prostitutes who decide to make their illegal business passably legitimate to outsiders, with the screenplay detailing the lives of employees who spend their days driving around, picking up customers for some quick action before dropping them off at their destination. It's the ideal scenario for adult entertainment, exploring the formation and commencement of a ridiculous plan for employment, and it's all quite amusing before a third act turn into violence dampens the cheery spirit of the endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Ironmaster

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Movie producers love a hit, especially when success belongs to another feature. The urgency to replicate an impressive box office take is found in 1983's "Ironmaster," which makes an attempt to become the next "Quest for Fire." The 1981 Jean-Jacques Annaud picture surprised a lot of people when it found an audience, and "Ironmaster" is here to sustain such excitement, only without the "science fantasy" angle that made the original prehistoric adventure endeavor so memorable. Director Umberto Lenzi keeps the cavemen and the mystery of the time period, but generally drops everything else, working to make more of an actioner instead, and one that details the formation of metal-based combat. There are more conversations in "Ironmaster," and a lot more ridiculous behavior, with Lenzi overseeing a repetitive effort that launches with enthusiasm but gradually runs out of things to do. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blastfighter

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"Blastfighter" is an odd title for a picture about a man who's armed with a super gun, but doesn't even use the thing until the final ten minutes of the movie. Director Lamberto Bava sets up a potent revenge story in the opening moments of the feature, but soon transitions to something of a "Deliverance" homage with the 1984 release, putting star Michael Sopkiw through survival challenges near the Chattooga River in Georgia, even recruiting original "banjo man" Billy Redden for a cameo to keep up the comparisons. Unfortunately, Bava is no John Boorman, and while "Blastfighter" has select moments of compelling violence and steely performances, it's not a cohesive celebration of good vs. evil, dealing with undefined storytelling and blurred areas of heroism, and there's the long delay to the inevitable, keeping the endeavor more about breathlessness and bad dubbing than a rousing display of backwoods vengeance. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Last Gasp

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Robert Patrick has experienced an erratic career of highs and lows, and he spent most of the 1990s trying to find his place in the industry after scoring the role of a lifetime, portraying in unstoppable T-1000 in James Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." After reaching such a career triumph, Patrick became a working actor in need of employment, eventually finding his way to "Last Gasp," a strange 1995 DTV offering that blends indigenous tribal violence with a detective story, and one that also takes time to add some softcore sex scenes. Patrick puts in some effort, portraying a ruthless businessman undergoing a supernatural change, and he's the big draw of the endeavor, which often struggles to work up excitement over the lunacy it's selling. "Last Gasp" isn't a hoot, but it provides a few decent turns of plot to keep things passably interesting. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Prostitution Clandestine

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In a slightly more playful mood, director Alain Payet strives to have a little fun with the oddities of the sex industry in 1975's "Prostitution Clandestine." Perhaps describing the endeavor as fun is overstating things slightly, but there's slightly less heaviness than "Furies Sexuelles," with Payet taking more of an episodic route with the feature, examining the experiences of photo models who also work as prostitutes, using this special cover to prevent exposure to authorities, leaving them at the mercy of the legal system. It's not exactly silly, but the Payet tries to keep things moving along, loading the effort with plenty of kinky connections and bedroom encounters, and its semi-lightness is welcoming. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Furies Sexuelles

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1976's "Furies Sexuelles" is not a movie for a casual evening of adult entertainment. Director Alain Payet attempts to bring darkness to the picture, which concerns the psychological and physical destruction of a woman turning to prostitution to solve her financial problems, getting in too deep with distorted male sexuality and all the violence it contains. Payet endeavors to make a film that follows certain adult cinema demands, but he's also interested in creating a rough ride of kink play and disturbing behavior, offering more of a dramatic feature than one focused solely on titillation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - 400 Bullets

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Director Tom Paton has spent the last few years attempting to find his way through the film business with small-scale action and sci-fi endeavors ("Black Site," "G-Loc"), working with technology and small spaces to create escapism that favors some degree of excitement. With "400 Bullets," Paton (who also scripts) tries to remain earthbound, turning his attention to a double-cross story set during wartime troubles. The helmer wisely whittles down narrative complications to just a handful of pressure points, leaving the rest of the feature to mano a mano battles, shootouts, and light conversation. "400 Bullets" doesn't do anything new, but Paton handles familiar business with enthusiasm, looking to jazz up the norm with raw violence, eschewing tightly choreographed mayhem for screen hostility that reflects the urgent, confusing survival situation at hand. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Running Time

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Co-writer/director Josh Becker aims to take his Hitchcock fandom to the next level in 1997's "Running Time," which attempts the same illusion of a long, single-take feature that was found in 1948's "Rope" (and various imitators). Instead of offering a dramatic examination of a crime, Becker and co-writer Peter Choi decide to put the audience into the middle of dangerous business, launching a real-time heist movie that follows star Bruce Campbell around the Los Angeles area, portraying a man with a plan facing an hour of his life where everything goes wrong. "Running Time" has an enticing gimmick, and it's superbly executed by Becker, who really sells the feeling of unbroken screen activity. It helps to have a supercharged premise filled with thinning patience and hostile characters, and when it's locked in suspense mode, the endeavor is riveting. Becker and Choi can't maintain such pace, even for a scant run time of 69 minutes, but they get the effort moving in a major way, earning viewer interest in the unfolding nightmare of mishaps. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Death Promise

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1977's "Death Promise" is a martial arts-infused revenge story that might come across as very familiar to anyone who happens to be a fan of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill." Perhaps the feature was a direct influence on the 2003 action bonanza, offering a similar tale of vengeance featuring an episodic climb to justice and a to-do list of targets, with the bad guys connected in a secretive chain of evildoing. It's easy to see how Tarantino improved on the idea, but "Death Promise" has a unique perspective of its own, examining the frustrations of life in New York City tenement buildings, where the poor live in squalor while rich landlords toy with the properties and the inhabitants. It's a terrific foundation for a ferocious thriller, and while the production can't exactly wind up all the way due to lack of filmmaking finesse and a lean budget, it does reasonably well as a B-movie offering of karate authority and inventive kills, giving the whole shebang some interesting enthusiasm. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Rush Week

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The worlds of "Animal House" and slasher cinema collide in 1989's "Rush Week," which hopes to throw a big screen party while still tending to the slaughter of young characters. Screenwriters Russell V. Manzatt and Michael W. Leighton aren't invested in originality, dealing with sameness of suspects and a killer on the loose, but they have enthusiasm for genre filmmaking, creating a collection of odd personalities and professional drives, while Bralver (a longtime stunt man who worked on "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," "Road House," and "Battlestar Galactica") tries to make his feature-length directing debut something different, investing in as much style and physical activity as the limited budget allows. There's some genuine moviemaking hustle going on in "Rush Week," which isn't the norm for this type of entertainment, giving it a little extra emphasis while it manages horror formula. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Another Round

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After trying his luck with a more spectacle-oriented tale of a submarine disaster with 2018's "The Command" (a.k.a. "Kursk"), director Thomas Vinterberg returns to his indie roots with "Another Round." The filmmaker goes bleak with a story concerning four men and their abuse of alcohol for therapeutic purposes, creating a screenplay (with Tobias Lindholm) that examines the state of emotional stasis facing some middle-aged men, who play an extended game of justification just to feel again. Vinterberg make a semi-return to his Dogme 95 roots with the endeavor, going raw and real with the feature, which touches on a few areas of dark comedy before returning to the messiness of people dealing with personal issues and troubled relationships. In a career full of interesting movies, "Another Round" emerges as one of Vinterberg's finest efforts. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Honor Killing

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"Honor Killing" is a triple threat offering from Mercedes the Muse, who takes on directing, acting, and screenwriting duties, endeavoring to pay tribute to the underground cinema scene of the 1960s and '70s. She dreams up a revenge story to follow, and works with digital tinkering to create a "grindhouse" look to the film, which is meant to resemble a battered print. There's ambition to celebrate the power of feminist might in cult cinema, but Mercedes the Muse has no discernable artistic ability, content to make viewers suffer through the longest 67 minutes of their lives as she cooks up a dreary, incoherent, and amateurish picture about one woman's quest to kill all predatory men. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Amazons

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While 1985's "Barbarian Queen" was mostly an exercise to photograph topless women and stage swordfights, 1986's "Amazons" aims a little higher in the storytelling department. That's not to suggest producer Roger Corman is giving up his sexploitation ways, but the screenplay by Charles Saunders (adapting his own short story) tries to conjure a complex fantasy world to explore, laboring to become a "Lord of the Rings"-style epic on a meager Corman budget. "Amazons" is unexpectedly ambitious, but its imagination isn't always a participatory event, finding Saunders lost in own world- building while director Alejandro Sessa tries to make sense of it all, resulting in an intriguing but confusing odyssey into a sword-hunting, battle-ready Arthurian-tinged adventure that also makes time to watch actresses bathe. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Barbarian Queen

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Producer Roger Corman was never one to turn down a trend. For 1985's "Barbarian Queen," the idea was to ride the profitability of hits like "Conan the Barbarian" and "The Sword and the Sorcerer," with Corman launching his own line of warrior epics, this time selecting a female lead to help change the atmosphere of the picture. Star Lana Clarkson makes for an impressive hero in the feature, using his statuesque presence to liven up "Barbarian Queen," which dreams of becoming a violent tale of revenge and rescue, but lacks the cash to do something hugely impressive, forcing director Hector Olivera to scramble with limited resources. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Big Bust-Out

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"The Big Bust-Out" is a 1972 Italian production that found its way into the hands of Roger Corman. Sensing an opportunity to make a quick buck, Corman chopped over 20 minutes out of the movie and oversaw a marketing campaign that emphasized the film's displays of nudity, sexual assault, and action, attempting to lure exploitation fanatics into theaters. The idea was to add another "women in prison" picture to his growing roster of hits (joining titles such as "The Big Bird Cage" and "The Big Doll House") but Corman isn't working with homegrown material here. He's trying to transform "The Big Bust-Out" into a perfectly sleazy romp when the actual feature is more of a depressing viewing experience, highlighting all kinds of suffering and death, keeping things quite grim while the new edit gradually mangles the story. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Pinocchio

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1883's "The Adventures of Pinocchio" is a beloved book from author Carlo Collodi, bringing a vivid tale of behavior and consequences to readers of all ages. It's also a public domain tale open to anyone with interest in adapting the work. Over the decades, numerous versions of the story have been manufactured for film, radio, television, and the stage, with no shortage of creative people looking to leave their fingerprints on Collodi's most famous creation. Perhaps sensing he has to come up with something memorable to compete in a crowded marketplace, co-writer/director Matteo Garrone ("Gomorrah") tries to respect the source material with his version of "Pinocchio," restoring Collodi's plotting and darkness while delivering a vivid study of animal kingdom activity. Those accustomed to the softness of previous takes might be overwhelmed by this picture, which is imaginatively made with amazing technical achievements, but not an endeavor that touches the heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Queer Japan

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Director Graham Kolbeins finds an interesting subject matter for his documentary, "Queer Japan." He travels to the country to explore its burgeoning LGBTQ+ culture, getting past the image of a reserved, conservative Japan to detail the inner workings of what many hope is something of a revolution, offering an equal presence for all. Kolbeins captures the lives of those who crave the same ideal, exploring artists, politicians, and activists as they attempt to be seen in their own special ways. "Queer Japan" offers numerous interviews with a wide range of people, offering a heartfelt understanding of need and representation, with Kolbeins working to identify what makes these individuals and gatherings so special, offering exposure to subcultures previously concealed. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com