Blu-ray Review - The Oregonian


After building his confidence with a series of shorts, writer/director Calvin Lee Reeder mounts his first feature-length movie with 2011's "The Oregonian." A fan of underground cinema, Reeder hopes to brings some mind-scrambling stuff to the endeavor, which is kinda-sorta a take on "Carnival of Souls," following the freak-out experiences of a young woman marching through a mysterious area of potential madness after surviving a car accident. Reeder tries to make a distinct impression with the surreal viewing experience, investing in an aggressive sound design and inscrutable imagery, hoping to reach an audience that lives for this kind of thing. Or at least has the patience to sit through it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - A White Dress for Mariale


1972's "A White Dress for Mariale" offers an Agatha Christie-style set-up for danger, sending a collection of disparate characters to a secluded place to deal with one another and the presence of a murderer coming after them. We've been here before, but director Romano Scavolini tries to bend psychology with the endeavor, which doesn't even get to any point of suspense until the hour mark. It's a long drive to a crisis situation for "A White Dress for Mariale," which doesn't reward the patience required to get through the film, but Scavolini certainly tries to bring style and threatening elements to the effort, offering an interestingly shot feature that's appreciable on a technical level, but not always on a dramatic one. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Nine Guests for a Crime


1977's "Nine Guests for a Crime" is a traditional whodunit, taking inspiration from Agatha Christie books as it arranges deadly games of paranoia and exposure involving a large group of characters stuck on a remote island. The concept is nothing new, and the production doesn't try to jazz up the movie with psychedelic detours or excessive violence. Suspense is present, along with a typically convoluted mystery, but director Ferdinando Baldi looks to create a more sensual mood of sexual gamesmanship with the effort, and he has the natural appeal of the island location. "Nine Guests for a Crime" is a thunderous offering of screen tension, but it works in spurts of hostile relationships and malicious behavior, offering some welcome agitation to help with the murder investigation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Voyage Into Space


For some, 1970's "Voyage Into Space" is pure nostalgia, as the feature repeatedly aired on television throughout the decade, becoming comfort food for kids fresh out of school. The picture is stitched together from a handful of episodes of "Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot," a Japanese series that aired for 26 episodes in 1967 and 1968. The show walked through the experiences of a young boy suddenly in command of a gigantic, atomic- powered robot, asked to join a special squad dedicated to fighting alien invaders. "Voyage Into Space" does away with any dramatic connective tissue, simply covering the basics of Johnny's discovery and Earth's fight against massive monsters. It's a kaiju highlight reel, and for select viewers, that's all it should be. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Kid Brother


1987's "The Kid Brother" is a Japanese production from a French-Canadian director about an American boy. It's already an unusual picture, but the movie becomes even more interesting with its star, bringing young Kenny Easterday to the screen, showcasing his atypical life as a human without a lower half. Born with sacral agenesis, Kenny's legs and hips were amputated as a baby, forcing him to move around on his hands, which provides the central image and story for "The Kid Brother," which is a film about the making of a documentary, but also a drama about the wear and tear of family relationships. There's a lot to unpack in Claude Gagnon's endeavor, which is mostly interested in Kenny's experience, working with the amateur actor to detail a 13-year-old's processing of attention and independence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Cornshukker


Writer/director Brando Snider wanted a cult-ready movie to call his own, bringing "The Cornshukker" to life in 1997. It's an extremely bizarre effort that's heavily influenced by the work of David Lynch and other masters of surreal cinema. Intent is there to melt minds with a display of weird imagery and random encounters, and for those who demand their cinema to be inscrutable, Snider's film is certainly something. I'm not sure what, exactly, but something. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Natural Enemies


Director Jeff Kanew is perhaps best known as the helmer of 1984's "Revenge of the Nerds," creating a hit film about goofy underdogs trying to survive their college experience. Kanew was also responsible for 1986's "Tough Guys" and 1989's "Troop Beverly Hills," with the latter endeavor recently elevated to classic status by some viewers, becoming a beloved title. The helmer offered a light touch with vanilla entertainment, making pictures meant to reach a wide audience. However, during his formative years as a director, Kanew was much more interested in the bleakest material he could find. 1979's "Natural Enemies" is an adaptation of a Julius Horwitz novel, detailing the final day of a man preparing to murder his wife and three kids before committing suicide. Where's Booger when you need him? Instead, there's Hal Holbrook, who delivers a deeply committed lead performance in "Natural Enemies," willing to go to frightening levels of despair and confusion, supporting a somewhat dry but intriguing viewing experience that deals directly with the horrors of being alive. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Streets of Death


In 1986, writer/director Jeff Hathcock endeavored to make a crime story with "Night Ripper," exploring the developing nightmare of a madman targeting female victims, with the serial killer causing panic in the big city, putting cops and average citizens on the hunt to prevent additional loss of life. To deal with a limited budget and interest in a traditional Hollywood approach, Hathcock elected to make the movie a shot-on-video production, which doesn't pair well with noir-ish touches and suspenseful intent. Registering the experience as a win, Hathcock returns with 1988's "Streets of Death," which is also about a serial killer (two of them this time) targeting female victims, causing panic in the big city, putting cops and average citizens on the hunt to prevent additional loss of life. The helmer isn't afraid to repeat himself with the effort, which is also an SOV offering of stiff acting and iffy creative achievements. Hathcock strives to construct a puzzle of characters and motivations, dealing openly with exploitation interests, but "Streets of Death" isn't a stunning tale of procedure and torture, as the amateurishness of it all tends to wear down potential audience involvement. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - After Blue


After 2017's "The Wild Boys," there was some curiosity from cineastes to know what director Bertrand Mandico was going to come up with next. His first foray into dreamlike cinema made him a favorite for some, and, it turns out, he's not ready to move on, continuing with his avant-garde ways with "After Blue." A case could be made for shameless repetition, but Mandico's fan base probably doesn't see it that way, with the helmer once again arranging an odyssey into artful filmmaking, newly inspired to explore life on an alien planet while paying tribute to western tales of survival. "After Blue" doesn't have an entry point when it comes to storytelling, but that appears to be the idea here, with Mandico once again trying to stun with his intense visuals and love for the unknown. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - You Can't Kill Meme


A documentary is meant to be an educational experience. It typically presents a topic, working to bring new ideas to viewers perhaps unaware of the subject, delivering information to help the audience best appreciate the analysis constructed by the filmmaker. 2021's "You Can't Kill Meme" doesn't offer such development, with director Hayley Garrigus (making her helming debut) looking to explore the world of "memetic magic," only doing so without much concern for those new to a universe of manipulation and mental illness. It's the rare documentary where one has to fully understand the details of the subject to understand the documentary. "You Can't Kill Meme" is niche work from Garrigus, who doesn't have a master plan for the endeavor, bouncing around random topics and meeting various personalities, attempting to be eloquent about the ways of chaos without really putting in the effort to craft a cohesive and welcoming picture. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Guns and Guts


Director Rene Cardona Jr. wants to make a western with 1974's "Guns and Guts," and he spends most the run time trying to reinforce just how much of a western he's making. There are shoot-outs and card games, town tensions and prostitutes, and the first act of the feature is almost exclusively devoted to watching the actors engage in repeated scenes of fisticuffs. The opening of "Guns and Guts" is often remarkable to behold, as it really feels like the helmer is going to stretch his genre fetishes over the entire production, making for a delightfully simple and amusingly violent viewing experience. Sadly, the picture loses its lust for knuckle sandwiches as something of a story kicks in, though Cardona Jr.'s sheer passion for the cowboy way is worth a sit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Hot Snake


1976's "Hot Snake" certainly has a way of making an immediate impression. The opening scene has the villain of the picture stopping the transport of a coffin containing a military official. The bad guy shoots the escorts and rips off the widow's top, soon shooting her and raping the corpse. Director Fernando Duran Rojas gets cold-blooded in a hurry with the endeavor, which maintains a certain level of merciless while detailing a bizarre story of revenge and desert survival. Of course, as with most low-budget offerings, padding is king, but "Hot Snake" contains a decent amount of atmosphere and weirdness to sustain the viewing experience, giving spaghetti western fans an adequate dose of the hard stuff as leathery men set out to kill one another. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Kiss Me, Monster


The Two Lips Detective Agency is back in 1969's "Kiss Me Monster," with the production picking up right where "Two Undercover Angels" left off. Director Jess Franco goes the back-to-back route to building a franchise, returning to Diane and Regina and their special way of conducting superspy activities, leading with their feminine charms. Once again, Franco isn't here to make something cohesive, he just wants it done, basically throwing whatever he can at the screen, with the final act reserved for exposition concerning a plot that isn't all that clear in the end. "Kiss Me Monster" has the obvious appeal of stars Janine Reynaud and Rosanna Yanni, who bring some bubbly fun and cheeky fierceness to their roles, but Franco is quick to disrupt any entertainment value, stumbling through a very Bond-ian tale of world domination and duplicitous characters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Two Undercover Angels


The 1960s belonged to James Bond. The literary character became a box office behemoth, capturing audience attention with spy game adventures featuring a roguish character and his never-ending quest to save the world. Bond dominated pop culture (and continues to do so to this day), and the success of the franchise inspired countless "Euro spy" imitators, with producers scrambling to make their own cheeky tales of danger and sex, hoping to make an easy profit. Joining the list of productions is 1969's "Two Undercover Angels," allowing prolific filmmaker Jess Franco to participate in a waning trend, forcing him to consider style and tone, giving him a brief break from his usual run-and-gun directorial habits. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Ravage


1997's "Ravage" attempts to replicate the experience of watching a gritty Hollywood thriller with shot-on-video technology. It's an ambitious movie from co-writer/director Ronnie Sortor ("Sinistre"), who hopes to bring a little Michael Mann energy to what's basically a backyard bloodbath, arranging a loose revenge story to help inspire a steady display of shootouts and stunts, hoping to win viewers over with sheer violence. Sortor has the vision but not the execution with "Ravage," which can't outrun its amateur elements and limited resources. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Dead North


Specialists in fetish videos for a secretive mail-order audience, W.A.V.E. Productions doesn't necessarily want to be known as cheaply made entertainment for viewers with specific arousal needs. They hope to achieve some level of storytelling competency with their efforts, and director Gary Whitson (who founded the company) attempts to offer something approaching a chiller with 1991's "Dead North." There's a killer on the loose and a collection of couples and friends trying to enjoy themselves in the woods, but the slasher-y set-up doesn't actually represent the viewing experience. Whitson is more interested in constructing a soap opera featuring the ways of cheaters and seducers, doing so in the most painfully drawn-out manner possible with limiting shot-on-video production achievements. It's sold as something menacing, but "Dead North" quickly becomes a grand test of patience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Hearts Beat Loud


No matter what type of business "Hearts Beat Loud" does with Blu-ray sales, the film is guaranteed to find its audience one way or another. It's a sensitive endeavor about the communicative aspects of musicianship and songwriting, and it's similar to smaller movies like "Once" and "Sing Street," which also mixed troubled souls with the power of performance. The bonus here is that while constructed out of familiar working parts, "Hearts Beat Loud" is a lovely picture unafraid to touch on real emotions, using music to explore the fears of people on the precipice of enormous life changes. Co- writer/director Brett Haley has a terrific cast to help him achieve such tricky vulnerabilities, and for those who crave the musical arts, the feature delivers a rich sense of craftsmanship and passion behind the creation of songs. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Faults


Throughout his career, actor Leland Orser hasn't made much of an impression. He was hit with typecasting for a long time, always the go-to guy to play twitchy, screechy types on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He's been wallpaper as well, playing one of the background characters in the "Taken" trilogy. "Faults" is the first truly substantial Leland Orser performance I've seen, asking more of the man than other productions would, and he's up for the challenge, providing a riveting depiction of frayed respectability and financial desperation colliding with professional responsibility. "Faults" is lucky to have such an unusual presence, as the rest of Riley Stearns's directorial debut tends to deflate when he's not around. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Don't Tell Her It's Me


In 2012, Steve Guttenberg released a memoir, with "The Guttenberg Bible" detailing his quest to become a working actor in Hollywood, with dreams of achieving stardom. The book is attentive to the lean years of the 1970s, and his rise to screen prominence in the 1980s, but information beyond that isn't available, with Guttenberg trying to end on a slightly happier note of experience and fame. He made his mark with hits such as "Police Academy," "Cocoon," and "Three Men and a Baby," and he shares the strange ride of success, with particular attention to monetary offers, showing little shame when it came time to accept money gigs during his most in-demand years. The 1990s were less kind to Guttenberg, with 1990's "Don't Tell Her It's Me" (also known as "The Boyfriend School") a good example of a thespian chasing a paycheck instead of paying close attention to the material. Guttenberg (reportedly paid a million dollars to commit to the project) joins Shelley Long and Jami Gertz in an adaptation of a Sarah Bird novel (the author takes on screenwriting duties), working to conjure some kind of romantic comedy magic with an idiotic plot that's often far too cruel to register any warmth. That Guttenberg, or anyone, agreed to take part in this hopeless endeavor is amazing, triggering more post-screening conversation than the movie itself. Read the review at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - The Incredible Melting Man


Writer/director William Sachs is quick to remind fans of 1977's "The Incredible Melting Man" that the final cut of the feature doesn't represent his original vision. Sachs was hoping to create a comedic take on Atomic Age horror/sci-fi offerings, looking to pants a serious subgenre from the 1950s with a goofy approach from the 1970s. The helmer's vision was denied by studio executives, who wanted a more serious take on the birth of a screen monster, ordering reshoots to help transform a deliberately exaggerated effort into a more sinister one. "The Incredible Melting Man" is a confusing movie to watch due to this tinkering, but it doesn't seem to work in its original form either, as Sachs doesn't have the greatest imagination for anything he's attempting here, and his sense of pacing is abysmal, slowing the picture to a crawl, which does nothing to help build suspense. A man melts, no doubt, but he often takes forever to do so. Read the review at Blu-ray.com