Blu-ray Review - Memories Within Miss Aggie


Director Gerard Damiano enjoys toying with taboos. While achieving his greatest success in adult cinema ("Deep Throat"), the helmer has never actually seemed like he enjoys his work, often attempting to break down eroticism to its most pained points of submission and madness. Attempting to follow a second hit ("The Devil in Miss Jones") with another brain-bleeder, Damiano touches on isolation and insanity with "Memories Within Miss Aggie," which isn't even remotely sensual despite multiple sequences of sexual activity. It's more of psychological horror movie, and one can feel Damiano's eyes rolling when he has to deal with hardcore couplings, showing far more interest in chills and shocks while building a "Psycho"-esque story of one woman's gradual disconnect from reality. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Cabin Boy


While Chris Elliott developed a cult following during his years as the resident weirdo on "Late Night with David Letterman," there was no guarantee his audience was going to follow him once he left the beloved talk show. There was the problematic run of the Fox comedy, "Get a Life," but 1994's "Cabin Boy" was the real test of Elliott's lasting appeal, challenging fans to actually make a trip to the multiplex and spend money on his alt-comedy antics, with co-producer Tim Burton adding some creative legitimacy to the Disney production. "Cabin Boy" was a spectacular bomb 24 years ago, becoming an industry punchline, and it's easy to see why the movie failed to entice anyone beyond the completely devoted into theaters. It's not that the picture is lazy, it certainly isn't, but it's entirely dependent on Elliott's ability to be the center of attention, which isn't the best use of his particular sense of humor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The House on Tombstone Hill


First and foremost, 1989's "The House on Tombstone Hill" has a bit of trouble with titles. It was shot as "The Road," and presented on Blu-ray as "The Dead Come Home." The feature was ultimately sold to the video market as "Dead Dudes in the House," with Troma Films electing to entice renters not paying close attention to the details of the picture by pushing the effort as a hip-hop comedy, with title font that resembles a UPN pilot. It's a wild, wacky world of identification for the endeavor, with "The House on Tombstone Hill" the most accurate description of the material, which plays like a slasher version of an HGTV show, pitting home rehabbers against a ghostly opponent who enjoys killing those with big plans for her house. Writer/director James Riffel aims to please with a low-budget chiller, and while the movie has pacing and overcrowding issues, the helmer understands gore zone needs, keeping the feature excitable with violent encounters and panicking characters, offering a simple ride of single location terror. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Western


In an interesting creative quest, writer/director Valeska Grisebach takes the mood, characters, and conventions of the American western movie and replants them near Eastern Europe. She keeps the attitude and the bulging masculinity, but the setting has changed, finding that most of what's used in American cinema applies everywhere with a little finesse. "Western" sustains such experimentation throughout its run time, with Grisebach crafting an effective experiment that eventually becomes its own dramatic creation, and one that's deepened with unusual, pained characters and a Bulgarian setting that's not normally associated with cowboy adventures. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Body Melt


1993's "Body Melt" is one of Australia's rare forays into gross-out territory during the decade, with co-writer/director Philip Brophy aiming to generate is own swirling brew of liquefied body parts, social commentary, and regional extremity. Brophy's backed by quite a varied cast and a solid team of energized tech departments, aiming to make the feature appropriately disgusting and slick for a B-movie, with the effort retaining all sorts of disgusting visuals while maintaining a professional edge, missing the questionable grunginess this type of entertainment usually provides. "Body Melt" isn't big on story or connective tissue between subplots, but it does maintain menace, often the cheeky sort, giving the viewer exactly what the title promises, tricked out some with a defined Aussie sensibility. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - The Miniaturist


A BBC production, "The Miniaturist" is an adaption of Jessie Burton's 2014 novel, which explored the mystery and shock of a young woman pushed into an arranged marriage in 1686, experiencing a rush of turmoil in Amsterdam while dealing with an enigmatic craftsman using miniature dolls and furniture to communicate with the new bride. The material has been hammered into place over three episodes of crisis and suspicion, with Burton's plotting making an easy transition to the ways of BBC programming, which always seems to favor period settings, tight corsets, and characters experiencing all types of strife. "The Miniaturist" starts out very strong, but it struggles to maintain energy and shock value as it distributes horrors to most of its players, often electing to go the soap opera route out of fear of losing its audience with a more sophisticated take on an interestingly bizarre tale of stalking and identity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Return of the Living Dead: Part II


Perhaps writer/director Ken Wiederhorn just wasn't in the mood to manufacture an intense sequel to 1985's "Return of the Living Dead," possibly fearful that he couldn't recreate the limited magic helmer Dan O'Bannon brought to the original picture. The first film wasn't a sobering look at the birth of a zombie apocalypse, but a grungy, gory genre romp that dived into complete goofiness from time to time. 1988's "Return of the Living Dead: Part II" does away with any seriousness, becoming a slapstick comedy that just so happens to detail the premier horror experience of running away from the undead. Wiederhorn goes wild with "Part II," invested in making a gut-buster, not a fright machine, offering a rather severe tonal change that demands viewers relax a lot of expectations, especially for anything even remotely scary. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Once Upon a Crime


We all know Eugene Levy as an ace comedian with a lengthy history of dynamite performances, even securing legend status with his work on "SCTV." However, in the 1990s, Levy was looking to build a directorial career for himself, stepping behind the camera to try his hand at crafting funny business using his distinctive sense of humor. 1992's "Once Upon a Crime" is Levy's big feature-length helming debut, and to secure some interest in the creative endeavor, he's collected quite a cast to help bring the screenplay (co-written by Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers) to life. Trouble is, "Once Upon a Crime" fails to follow through on its initial promise, with Levy so concerned about achieving the speed of a proper farce, he misses nailing as many jokes as possible. The picture isn't very funny, which feels like a crime itself, wasting considerable talents on fruitless mischief often performed at top volume. One can easily sense Levy's intent with the project, but the results are disheartening to watch. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - A Thousand Acres


Make no mistake, Jocelyn Moorhouse is a very talented filmmaker. She's proved herself with pictures such as "Proof," "How to Make an American Quilt," and the recent Kate Winslet dark comedy, "The Dressmaker." Most helmers have rough patches, and Moorhouse finds hers with 1997's "A Thousand Acres," which not only gives her an impressive cast to manage, but there's the source material, with the feature an adaptation of a 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Jane Smiley, which originally attempted to rework the characters and themes of Shakespeare's "King Lear," moving the setting to a family farm in the 1990s. I doubt few directors could successfully carry the pressure to realize a beloved, respected book, but Moorhouse stumbles particularly hard here, showing uncharacteristic ineptitude with performances and basic editing, making a laborious soap opera that's loaded with half-baked drama and characterization. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Dear Dead Delilah


With a title like "Dear Dead Delilah" (not to be confused with the recent Blu-ray release of "Deadly Daphne's Revenge"), there's a certain expectation put in place for a sinister tale of murder, with the possibility of a ghost story setting. Writer/director John Farris doesn't exactly pursue a hardcore tale of diabolical happenings, preferring to settle into the dismissive ways of southern folk in Tennessee as they deal with plantation life, a hidden inheritance, and a rising body count due to the presence of an ax-swinging killer. Farris prefers family business over chopped-up bodies, making "Dear Dead Delilah" more of a psychodrama than a slasher film. There's some disappointment with the end results, but Farris isn't completely removed from the demands of the genre, putting together a few suspenseful scenes, one genuinely weird kill, and nurtures fine performances from the cast, with lead Agnes Moorehead giving the helmer more than he deserves as the titular woman, who's very much alive during the endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Wildling


Co-writer/director Fritz Bohm crafts a Grimm Brothers-like tale in "Wildling," which doesn't set out to redefine the monster movie, enjoying a chance to play in the subgenre sandbox while dreaming up a few fresh ideas of its own. It's a dark picture, often quite literally, and one with a plan to sneak up on audiences with scenes of unexplained behavior and baffling personalities, with hopes that when clarification sets in, the feature will have a tight grip on viewers. "Wildling" gets mostly there thanks to a chilling tone and capable performances, and while Bohm doesn't always have the most original vision for the central metamorphosis, there's a momentum to the endeavor that's compelling, and its general direction toward macabre discoveries is periodically hair-raising. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Pyewacket


A few years ago, writer/director Adam MacDonald made his helming debut with "Backcountry." There have been many killer bear pictures, but MacDonald's endeavor was one of the best, mixing the brutality of nature and the terror of survival, managing to do something thrilling with familiar genre elements. With "Pyewacket," an odd title for sure, MacDonald turns his attention to the pains of adolescence, with the main character dealing with social concerns, motherly influence, and good old fashioned dark magic. A slow-burn chiller with an excellent sense of creepiness, "Pyewacket" handles evil and angst with tremendous skill. MacDonald doesn't have much money to bring the nightmare to life, but he's an inventive moviemaker with a refreshing concentration on behavior, not overt shocks, giving the feature a dramatic foundation before it all goes to Hell. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Cured


There's a lot of competition out there for the zombie lover's dollar, inspiring filmmakers to find new and interesting ways to refresh genre particulars, refusing to submit the same old stomp to moviegoers demanding a little more from their flesh-chewing entertainment. Making his directorial debut for "The Cured" is David Freyne (who also scripts), who twists the subgenre in a more allegorical fashion, using the menace of "infected" types to explore political history in Ireland and the violent extremism that plagues all corners of the world today. "The Cured" isn't light, bloody fun, retaining an impressively curated heaviness about it, with Freyne laboring to making something different with familiar working parts, coming up with an impressively forbidding tone and emotional urgency to reach beyond expectations. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Serpent's Lair


1995's "Serpent's Lair" is marketed as another offering for the erotic thriller scrapheap, with its ready-made Blockbuster Video elements making it catnip for fans of the subgenre scanning the bottom shelf for something saucy. However, screenwriter Marc Rosenberg and director Jeffrey Reiner aren't committed to a prolonged display of bare skin and orgasmic faces, trying to bend the material into more of a horror experience, finding inspiration from the succubus, a demon who uses sexuality to attract victims. Rosenberg and Reiner aren't exactly making "Hellraiser" here, but they have the right idea for the first hour of the movie, keeping "Serpent's Lair" stocked with strange lustiness and potential threat, while using star Jeff Fahey's talents wisely, keeping the actor in eye-bulging meltdown mode. The film eventually takes itself a bit too seriously, but there's something resembling a ride provided here, working through crazy seductions and demonic paranoia with reasonable speed and enthusiasm. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Wonder Women


'70s cinema doesn't get more '70s than "Wonder Women." It's an ego-stroke production from 1973, with co-writer/director Robert Vincent O'Neill assembling a bizarre thriller that's steeped in weird science, loaded with scantily clad women, set in Manila, scored to thumpy funk jams, and delivers stunts where actual safety standards were set aside to capture the intensity of recklessness. Perhaps it's not the first movie that comes to mind when discussing the thickness of era-specific influence, but O'Neill initially tries to make something exciting, coming out the other end with a true curiosity that muddies empowerment displays and sexuality, but is frequently willing to endanger lives to provide some cheap thrills. "Wonder Women" is pretty much everything exploitation should be, with the production maintaining focus on sellable mayhem, not dramatic consistency. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Smashing Time


1967's "Smashing Time" is a romp about Swinging London, and it does whatever it can to project a mood of comedic insanity, trying very hard to be the liveliest viewing experience of its release year. Director Desmond Davis offers no restraint here, giving the movie over to a moment in time when the city was exploding with fashion, music, and attitude, sending stars Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham on an odyssey of thespian bigness that's remarkably exhausting to watch. "Smashing Time" is ready to loved and appreciated as a satiric overview of a cultural movement, but about halfway through the endeavor, it starts to feel like a runaway train that's run out of track. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

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