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

Blu-ray Review - Mr. Destiny


James Belushi has never been an easy guy to cast. In the 1980s, the actor built his career on wiseacre roles, portraying tough and dim guys who were quick with a quip, but he rarely found himself in the arms of the leading lady. 1990's "Mr. Destiny" was part of an effort to soften Belushi for mass acceptance, watering down his blue collar bluster with a role that required him to play an everyman in a fantasy world. Belushi has been better in different movies, but "Mr. Destiny" turns him into a teddy bear, which is unusual casting, tasking the star to generally go along with co- writer/director James Orr, ditching improvisational instincts to make nice in a film that wants to be loved, going all Capra to secure a sugary viewing experience about a basic human oversight: appreciation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The House of the Dead


1978's "The House of the Dead" was originally released under the title "Alien Zone." The film doesn't contain any aliens and very few zones, making it strange name for the movie, but that's the fun of theatrical releases from desperate producers. "The House of the Dead" isn't better, but it's slightly more accurate title for the anthology effort, which presents four tales of death and denial from the comfort of a mortician's showroom floor. Screenwriter David O'Malley and director Sharron Miller have the vague shape of an omnibus chiller here, but they seem terrified to follow their ideas in full, leaving the feature a strange assortment of half-realized chapters in an unfinished picture. Some bits and pieces show promise, but the overall experience presented here is clouded by confusion and hesitation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Buddies


The selling point of 1985's "Buddies" is its status as the first movie to confront the growing AIDS pandemic of the decade, coming out a few beats before television and indie film set out to explore the subject matter. Written and director by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., the picture deserves accolades for timing and its sincere handling of a troubling topic, taking a theatrical approach to the study of disease, fear, and human connection. It's a little rough around the edges, but "Buddies" has an impressive concern for life and love, with Bressan Jr. trying to articulate the frustration of living with an illness most have chosen to ignore, offering no help or comfort to those forced to deal with what was then a brutal death sentence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Tiger by the Tail


1970's "Tiger by the Tail" (released two years after being completed) gifts star Christopher George his own hardboiled detective story, putting him in a tough guy position that makes the most of his hard stares. It's hard to argue with the casting, with George a believably steely man portraying a character who can't seem to escape trouble. "Tiger by the Tail" plays to his thespian strengths, but the movie lacks a lot of chewiness the subgenre is known for, unfolding with a surprising amount of conversation instead of two-fisted conflict resolution, leaving the picture lacking a great of excitement, which is pretty amazing considering that the film opens with a brawl inside a Mexican brothel. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Human Experiments


In the mid-1980s, 1979's "Human Experiments" was added to the UK's list of "Video Nasties," banning it from distribution due to perverse violence. It's difficult to understand this decision, as the film is hardly the torture-a-thon its box art and title suggests, and perhaps producers were delighted to suddenly be in possession of such forbidden fruit, newly empowered to sell the picture as aggressively as possible. The reality of "Human Experiments" is that it's not a particularly haunting endeavor, with director Gregory Goodell and writer Richard Rothstein aiming for something more sinister than graphic, keeping the effort well within television movie parameters for intensity. While sold as an agony machine and a women-in-prison feature, the effort never really settles anywhere specific, more eager to sample different moods than remain frightening for very long.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - 1/1


It's difficult to tell if "1/1" has autobiographical ties to writer/director Jeremy Phillips, but it certainly plays as much, emerging with a level of passion and personal perspective that's explosive at times. It's also a movie that doesn't invite outsiders into the intense psychological inspection, finding Phillips too concentrated on the construction of the film, forgetting to provide a reason why anyone should care about the story. It's an artful journey into the folds of depression, and Phillips is careful with every frame of the endeavor. As technically advanced as it is, "1/1" is also cold to the touch, making whatever inspired this effort difficult to discern as the helmer arranges a sensory assault that's tough to sit through. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Personal Problems


It was promoted as a "Video Soap Opera," using the existing technology of the late 1970s to create a melodrama about a middle-class black family from New York City. 1980's "Personal Problems" was made for $40,000, created with the intention of selling the endeavor to public television for broadcast, giving screenwriter Ishmael Reed and director Bill Gunn ("Ganja & Hess") a chance to take their tiny project wherever they wanted, exploring all types of dramatic confrontations and family issues. Divided into "Volume 1" (93 minutes) and "Volume 2" (77 minutes), "Personal Problems" is an experimental dive into improvisation and video-based craftsmanship, with Gunn and Reed using the freedom of the format to examine banalities and insecurities, trying to remain as casual as possible to respect the natural rhythm of life. Sometimes it's a chore to sit through, but as free-form black cinema goes, there's a lot to treasure about the effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Fire Birds


When "Top Gun" became a box office sensation in 1986, it inspired Hollywood to dream up their own takes on military might and stylish jingoism. It's not an easy recipe to follow, with the dramatic reach of "Top Gun" open for debate, but it certainly put a lot of scripts into development, with each project seeking to replicate what director Tony Scott managed to pull off with relative ease. 1990's "Fire Birds" is a little late to truly cash-in on the need for speed, but it has the drive to be the next big thing for action movies and military salesmanship, making heroes out of helicopter pilots out to protect America from harm, though personal issues and relationship woes come first. It's goofy, painfully simplistic, and partially miscast, but "Fire Birds" cannot be discounted as pure entertainment, given wings by stars Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones, who work very hard to make the insistent banality of this creation at least somewhat engaging with their pronounced idiosyncrasy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - The Martian Chronicles


"The Martial Chronicles" aired as a miniseries on NBC in 1980. It's based on Ray Bradbury's collection of short stories, which were published in 1950, with the producers electing to preserve the author's sense of mystery and wonder without updating his science. It consists of three episodes, which contain what feels like 100 subplots all heading in opposite directions, making dramatic consistency impossible with this type of source material. However, screenwriter Richard Matheson certainly gives it a try, mashing Bradbury's ideas into television movie structure, laboring to keep the author's Big Ideas on the human experience while introducing a faint sense of narrative progression, which is immediately rejected. It's an ambitious project, but "The Martian Chronicles" isn't big on smooth transitions and dramatic swell, acting as a more of a sampler plate for Bradbury's vision of the future.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The House on Sorority Row


1982's "The House on Sorority Row" is the next title on Scorpion Releasing's to-do list of updated scans, offering a new version of a title that was previously issued on Blu-ray in 2014. Unlike "Death Ship," the feature remains the same, delivering the same slasher cinema highlights and B-movie silliness as before, only here there's a refreshing of image and an updating of sound quality, giving the modest genre endeavor a more defined HD look.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Death Ship


We now live in a world where there are two Blu-ray releases of 1980's "Death Ship." It seems the B-movie was a significant performer for Scorpion Releasing, who originally issued the film in 2012, giving fans a decent look at the production particulars with a comfortable visual experience. Times have changed, and Scorpion has returned with a fresh scan of the chiller (even including a previously deleted scene), collecting some additional supplementary materials to help beef up the new disc, which is an improvement, especially for fans of the picture, who are now offered a clearer look at all the oceanic carnage the endeavor provides. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - More American Graffiti


1973's "American Graffiti" is a masterpiece. While writer/director George Lucas would go on to become a filmmaking legend with "Star Wars," his second film is just as enchanting, detailing a special night, the last of adolescence for a group of teenagers, in 1962. It's an evocative, charming, painfully relatable endeavor that showcased Lucas's skills with performance and atmosphere, pouring his heart into a semi-autobiographical picture that was boosted by a killer soundtrack and gauzy, engaging cinematography. "American Graffiti" ended with a sobering epilogue revealing the fates of the participants, but the movie was a smash hit, and with "Star Wars" securing its position as one of the most famous features of all time, Lucas elected to return to the creamy nostalgia of his earlier success, concocting "More American Graffiti" in 1979 with writer/director Bill L. Norton, looking to create the next logical step for characters experiencing the pure potential of tomorrow in the comfort of their hometown: complete disillusionment. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Late Great Planet Earth


Perhaps it's difficult to imagine a world without the internet connecting lives and creating immediacy, but for the 1970s, a non-wired world permitted many to make their move, cashing in with wild claims of apocalyptic fury to frighten those without the instant ability to research and rebuke such grim claims. Author Hal Lindsey struck gold with his 1970 book, "The Late Great Planet Earth," which merged biblical interpretation with end of the world fears. Lindsey tried to match up details from the Book of Revelations with modern political and environmental events, creating his "evidence" that something major was brewing on the horizon, suggesting the path was being paved for God's return to mankind. It was a hit book, beguiling readers with examples of current woes matching ancient dreams, and with all the money being made, there was no way Lindsey's work was going to skip a cinematic adaptation.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Jericho Mile


The Michael Mann we know today is a beloved craftsman of sleek, violent tales of masculinity and world disorder. His reputation is monolithic, amassing a passionate fanbase that's been willing to forgive his recent career missteps. It's hard to image a helming legacy that's grown into event movie status started off so small, but 1979's "The Jericho Mile" is the first feature-length endeavor from Mann, who made his debut with a modest but potent television movie that was created for ABC, but often plays like something prepared for PBS. Early obsessions with imprisonment and boiling points are present here, but Mann is working on a much smaller scale, confined to a single prison location, challenging him to get into the heads of his characters, using such intensity of thought to propel the effort, keeping a film about running as claustrophobic as possible for network television. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2


Last January, Kino Lorber released "The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966), which explored the debut of the titular character, showcasing how he was developed and his antics refined by the creative forces at Depatie-Freleng. In "Volume 2 (1966-1968)," focus remains on the Pink Panther and his extreme habit of pursuing trouble whenever he can find it. While Depatie-Freleng (and director Hawley Pratt) mostly stay true to the proven animated formula of bop-bang-boom cartoonery, this round of "Pink Panther" shorts takes some time to swim around in the warm waters of the counterculture, with a few selections trying out psychedelic visuals and stories that concern the Pink Panther battling the limits of reality, giving the mischievous cat a few acid trips to go with his daily diet of destruction and easily triggered irritability. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - Night of the Lepus


1972's "Night of the Lepus" is best described as the "Killer Rabbit Movie," and that's pretty much the viewing experience director William F. Claxton provides. While based on a novel by Russell Braddon, the picture generally goes its own way with an animal attack premise, playing into ecological fears and cinematic history by pitting runaway rabbits against a small town of understandably panicked people. "Night of the Lepus" isn't refined entertainment, and once it sets up the central crisis, drama fades away, with Claxton clearing the way for lengthy rampage sequences that utilize crude special effects and bizarre creative choices, watching the production work to make rabbits the most fearsome villains of the film year. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 

Blu-ray Review - On the Beach at Night Alone


Sang-soo Hong is a celebrated and prolific South Korean filmmaker, creator of pictures such as "The Day He Arrives" and "Right Now, Wrong Then." For South Korean audiences and international film enthusiasts, Hong is a fixture of tabloid journalism, having embarked on an affair with frequent collaborator Min-hee Kim, finding love with the actress while still married to his wife. The situation has fueled headlines, and now finds a place in Hong's work, with "On the Beach at Night Alone" an insular, confessional look at the touchy situation, with Hong analyzing his life choices with help from Kim, who claims the lead role. It's couple's therapy in a way, but "On the Beach at Night Alone" doesn't become a joint effort, finding Hong focusing on Kim's journey through the wilds of regret, loneliness, and longing, speaking for the situation, not herself.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Body of Evidence


The influence of European cinema crept into Hollywood during the 1980s, emerging in the form of the erotic thriller, which blended harsher elements of violence with softer bedroom appetites, giving audiences a sampling of chills and titillation. A good portion of these productions were built for the burgeoning VHS rental market and late night cable programming, giving viewers a chance to enjoy the product without the discomfort of sitting in a theater with strangers. Theatrical forays were rare, but they managed to burst forth on occasion, and certainly 1992's "Basic Instinct" turned the subgenre into a potential gold mine, giving producers the foolhardy idea that they could replicate Paul Verhoeven's specialized, Euro-stained madness. While 1993's "Body of Evidence" isn't a direct response to "Basic Instinct," it certainly aspires to find the same audience, offering its own take on murder, kink, and suspicion with decidedly lower voltage. While helmer Uli Edel is no stranger to the ways of lustful behavior, previously guiding 1989's "Last Exit to Brooklyn," his vision isn't as distinct for this studio assignment, unable to rise above the crummy raw materials he's been handed and transform painful mediocrity into riveting cinema.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com