Sunday, November 29, 2015

MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground

Italy, France/1969
Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Harry Alan Towers
Starring: Romina Powers, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski
Color/124 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:
Limited Edition 3 Disc BD/DVD/CD Combo Pack

The Film
Justine and her older sister Juliette are left orphaned after their father is forced to leave the country and their mother dies and are removed from their convent where they're training to be nuns. The sisters quickly take different roads in life as Juliette shacks up at a brothel and takes to a life of crime while Justine clutches on to her innocence and virginity while she's put through trial of physical and sexual abuse and torture, framed for murder, forced into a gang of fugitives just to name a few as told by the Marquis De Sade himself.

JUSTINE is Jess Franco's biggest production and it certainly feels and looks like it with lavish costuming, big sets dripping with gorgeous dressing and a substantial amount of locations and cast members. The film looks beautiful and despite a few "Franco being Franco" moments (including a needless quick zoom to a totally out of focus eyeball) this is a stylish and skillfully made production. Unfortunately the star Romina Powers is either totally disconnected from the material or blissfully (for her own sake) unaware that she's making a movie. She has a perfect look for the character of Justine as she has a naturally innocent look but she's as wooden as wooden can get and doesn't emote any of the tasteless brutality that she endures again and again.

The script can be blamed for that however as much of the straight forward mean spirited nature the original story has toward Justine is lightened and there is a moment of reprieve for Justine in the film where she meets a man who has a genuine love for her and wants to protect her. It leaves the film being a bit uneven and awkward at times. Jack Palance and Mercedes McCambridge play supporting roles who both kill it with their respective performances. As the story goes Palance was drunk on red wine by 7am each morning and that very well may have lead to his totally bizarre and off the fucking wall performance while McCambridge owns the screen during her scenes as a powerful leader of a band of thieves and swindlers. If Romina Powers had half the charisma or talent as McCambridge she could have won an Oscar for this film. The film still succeeds in adapting the De Sade story, with a performance from Klaus Kinski himself as the author locked up in a prison having hallucinatory visions of naked chained women bleeding from their necks and covered in sweat.

JUSTINE is worthy of praise as the good certainly outweighs the bad and will live on as one of Jess Franco's most attractive and lavish productions. It makes me think about how incredibly some of his horror films could have looked and how big their scope could have been had he had the budget he had on JUSTINE.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground takes what is arguably Jess Franco's most visually stimulating and lush production and give it the Blu-ray release it deserves with a stunning anamorphic widescreen transfer keeping the film's original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and vivid while there is excellent detail level in textures and surfaces. You can almost feel the scratchiness of the wool garb! Skin tones are fleshy and natural with no signs of waxiness or excessive digital scrubbing. The film's natural grain structure is kept gracefully in tact and there's really nothing that could have been done better on this disc from a visual standpoint. And the English DST-HD mono audio is largely the same with a crisp and clear track that is free of any background noise or distortions. The dialogue and beautiful score from Bruno Nicolai are beautifully complimentary and have a great mix.

Please Note: Screen shots are taken from the DVD copy of the film and do NOT represent the quality of the Blu-ray transfer.

The Extras
-"The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine" - Interviews with Co-writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers (20 minutes)
-Stephen Thrower On JUSTINE - Interview with Stephen Thrower author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (18 minutes)
-French Trailer
-Poster and Still Gallery
-Booklet by Stephen Thrower
-CD Soundtrack
-DVD Copy of the Film

The Bottom Line
This period piece adapted from the story of the same name is sometimes sleazy, sometimes excellent and sometimes a misfire. Those misfires are quickly followed up by more sleaze and excellence most of the time which lands JUSTINE as a perhaps under appreciated piece of Franco's filmography and one that will hopefully gain some attention from this gorgeous Blu-ray release.


Monday, November 23, 2015

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (Blu-ray Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Written By: James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier, Jason Filiatrault
Starring: George Buza, Zoe De Grand Maison, William Shatner
Color/107 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: November 24, 2015

The Film
Christmas isn't all reindeer, presents and yuletide cheer. There's a darker side to the 25th of December including The Krampus, occult versions of the Nativity, killer zombie elves and a simple disdain for the holiday. This isn't a wonderful life, this is A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY.

Anthology films and horror have gone hand in hand since well, the first anthology horror film but this may be the first Christmas horror anthology film, at least that I can remember. A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY features four stories of holiday fear. Unfortunately all four stories play congruently as opposed to the standard format of one story playing to its conclusion and moving on to the next. This breaks up the individual segments for no apparent reason which makes the movie feel as there's simply too much going on at any given time.

The segments themselves aren't bad, it is just the way in which the entire film is presented that drags it down. Each segment is decent but sadly most of them miss out on the gorgeous and sometimes wonderfully gaudy Christmas aesthetic. The tacky decorations can lend a beautifully colorful look and feel to a set but there's little of that to be seen. What we do see is a simple but effectively vicious looking Krampus, some killer zombie elves that look like they came from Satan's version of Lucky Charms and a grizzly and badass Santa Claus. Oh and a pretty hot sex scene with a possessed girl humping her friend's brains out. Nothing says Christmas like a little fully clothed sex, right?

 A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a nice mix of horror tropes that has good special effects and make up and good costuming. It also has a solid comic relief segment that pops up every so often with William Shatner playing Dangerous Dan, the local radio station host who tries to spread Christmas cheer while getting hammered on egg nog. While I don't think A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY would be any sort of classic had it been presented in a traditional anthology format, I think it would have been a bit more successful in its execution but either way it is an entertaining holiday horror movie.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment's Blu-ray of A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vibrant while whites are beautiful without being "hot" and black levels are deep and inky with no signs of blocking. Detail level is strong in surfaces and textures and skin tones are fleshy and natural. The PQ is excellent and the audio is no different with a DST-HD 5.1 master audio mix. The mix is strong with dialogue and soundtrack levels being properly complimentary. There's no damage or distractions to the crystal clear audio. This is how a modern movie should look and sound on Blu-ray.

The Extras
The lone extra is a 15 minute behind the scenes featurette.

The Bottom Line
Christmas horror films are a bit of a hot property at the moment and A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY will be able to stand up tall and proud among them even if it doesn't use the holiday setting to the extent I was hoping for.


Sunday, November 22, 2015


Directed By: Nathan Rumler
Written By: Nathan Rumler
Starring: Lauren Abbott, James Bell, Terence Lee Cover

Review by Shawn Wolfe

There are two types of people in this world. Those who ask "Why would you watch a movie called FANGBONER?" and those who ask "How could you not?". Fortunately, I'm in the latter camp. FANGBONER is a very difficult movie to describe, but I'll attempt it. FANGBONER begins with our main character Dick waking up from a hard night of partying only to find that his member has been mutilated. He soon comes to the conclusion that he and a woman he's been seeing have been infected with a form of vampirism which requires them to feed off of the genitals of their victims. After coming to terms with their new disease, they go about trying to find unsuspecting people to feast upon, unaware that they are being tracked by the extraterrestrial originator of their terrible condition.

FANGBONER could easily have been an awful experience. It's a very low budget film and it shows. The dialogue is awkward, the actors' deliveries are sometimes painful, and the whole movie has a very cheap look to it. Yet, FANGBONER somehow exudes a charm that shouldn't be possible for a dick-joke filled film of it's caliber. The movie is filled with an array of characters that while sometimes bizarre, are never boring. And the soundtrack (featuring bands such as Polkadot Cadaver and Knives Out) is pretty darn good. At several points, I found myself either laughing out loud or wincing at the gore on the screen. I even watched the film twice before I wrote this review. FANGBONER is obviously not a film for everyone, but if you enjoy a hefty side of cheese with your gore you should definitely seek it out.

Friday, November 20, 2015

SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (Blu-ray Review) - Troma

Directed By: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written By: Charles Kaufman, Andrew Osborne, Jeffrey W. Sass
Starring: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden
Color/105 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 10, 2015

The Film
Harry Griswold is a sergeant with the NYPD, he's a hot dog loving Bronx boy who is about to learn his destiny - harnessing thousands year old powers that will transform him into a superhuman Kabukiman sent to protect New York and the world from ultimate evil with his arsenal of weapons and powers including deadly chopsticks, sushi and Geisha fans.

First a bit of background - While filming The Toxic Avenger 2 in Japan Troma presidents Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz were approached by Japanese financiers connected to Namco to create a Japanese superhero since the first Toxic Avenger film was a big hit in Japan. Namco became a producer and SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD was greenlit with a 1.5 million dollar budget, the biggest budget Troma had ever worked with.

Ideas differed for the film as Michael Herz and the Namco boys wanted a more family friendly, mainstream oriented film while Lloyd Kaufman wanted to go the traditional Troma route filled with offensive material, dark comedy and sex and violence. Kaufman won the battle (mostly) and SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD would end up being R-rated and the Namco boys pulled their distribution leaving the future of the film up in the air until it was finally released theatrically in 1996 despite being screened at Cannes upon its initial completion.

I find SGT. KABUKIMAN to be one of Troma's most iconic characters that could stand toe to toe with Toxie had it been granted sequels in the way The Toxic Avenger was. Now, there's really no denying Toxie is the Troma icon, but Kabukiman is no slouch and neither is the film. Sure the film starts out with a confusing set of astrological circumstances to turn our everyday cop into the striped-bathrobe wearing superhero but that's part of the charm. Planets are in houses, Jupiter has a hole that tigers are jumping through and some other bullshit immediately tell the viewer they're in for classic Troma fare. The movie is gory complete with its own head crushing scene, and its sleazy with a daytime public rape attempt. It's silly and stupid with some cultural stereotypes and cliches on full display. We even have Brick Bronsky! BRICK BRONSKY! I dare not say his name a third time.

The movie is a bit uneven at times because there still seems to be a bit of hokey family friendly attempts thrown in which on a first time viewing may pull the viewer out of the film briefly but I think it adds to the charm once you get to know the film. And you can't dislike the original use of the trademark Troma car crash, can you? No, I think not.

SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD was the first step in Troma attempting to break into the mainstream, something they'd have an unexpected bit of success with a few short years later with The Toxic Crusaders cartoon and brand. While Troma found the crack that allowed a Troma product to squeeze through on to TV sets, video game systems (despite the games being damn near unplayable) and toy chests in homes across America perhaps the timing just wasn't right in 1990 for SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD to be the movie that made "Troma" be a weird word that parents in their 50s and 60s now somehow remember, but they aren't sure where from. Who knows what the world would be like if Micahel Herz and the Namco financiers had won the battle over the film and made Kabukiman an international superhero and icon.

The Audio &a Video
Troma gives SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD a beautiful full 1080p HD presentation. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a healthy and natural grain structure giving the movie an actual film look. Colors are sharp and vibrant while black levels are deep and come across with no signs of compression issues or blocking. Skin tones aren't at all waxy and detail level is strong in textures and surfaces. The English audio mix is well done as the dialogue comes across loud and clear and the soundtrack is complimentary without ever drowning it out. I didn't notice any damage to the audio but there is a constant whirring in the background similar to that of a running projector that is a bit distracting and annoying at first until you tune it out.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary
-Interview With Star Rick Gianasi
-New Introduction By Lloyd Kaufman
-Full Episode Of KABUKIMAN'S COCKTAIL CORNER (Troma's new web series)
-Kabukiman Cocktail Karaoke
-Original Trailer
-Highlights From Tromadance 2015
-Stupid Moments In Troma History

The Bottom Line
Kabukiman is one of Troma's most iconic characters and it's great to see him shine in HD with an awesome release like he deserves to.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Directed By: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written By: Brian DeLeeuw, Adam Egypt Mortimer
Starring: Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Maestro Harrell
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 3, 2015

The Film
Lincoln is a teen being tortured by bullying. When he's sent to a secluded school for troubled teens he thinks he'll find some refuge but the bullying continues until he summons a ghost of a girl named Moira who committed suicide after being victimized by bullies years ago and Lincoln takes revenge on his tormentors through Moira.

Here's my initial review of SOME KIND OF HATE from a few months back -

My feelings remain largely the same but knowing what to expect as far as the embarrassingly cookie cutter teen cliches that really pulled me out of the movie made it a bit more palatable this time around. The movie still feels 15 minutes longer than it actually is but the violence and kill sequences were a bit more entertaining on a 2nd viewing as they are quite bloody and have a certain meanness to them.

I'm still no fan of SOME KIND OF HATE but I think I can now see how there would be a fanbase to the film and can see the parts viewers would enjoy.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment deliver a fantastic looking and sounding DVD that would only be surpassed by the Blu-ray counterpart. The DVD features strong colors, deep black levels with no signs of blocking or compression issues and a clean picture. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is clear and mixed well. The soundtrack and dialogue are complimentary and never drown each other out. There's no annoying background noise or damage to the audio.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Adam Egypt Mortimer and Co-Writer Brian DeLeeuw
-Audio Commentary with Stars Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Sierra McCormick, and Director/Co-Writer Adam Egypt Mortimer
-Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary from Adam Egypt Mortimer

The Bottom Line
RLJ Entertainment gives us a quality release for a film I'm not too keen on but the special features make it worth checking out for yourself.


Monday, November 16, 2015

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3 (Blu-ray Review) - Troma

Directed By: Eric Louzil
Written By: Lloyd Kaufman, Carl Morano, Matt Unger
Starring: Brick Bronsky, Lisa Star, John Tallman
Color/102 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 13, 2015

The Film
The mayor of Tromaville gives birth to identical twin boys, Adlai and Dick but Dick is kidnapped from the hospital and raised by evil conglomerates hellbent on turning Tromaville into a toxic wasteland by committing a crime and framing Adlai.

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SUBHUMANOID is more mutant meltdown madness. Filled with plenty of hilariously stupid jokes, more Brick Bronsky than you know what to do with and all of the raunchy stuff that makes us love Troma, this was a great end to the trilogy until the series was revived a few years back.

The plot is very loosely based on Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors at least as far as the separated twins and mistaken identity plot device goes. More realistically it gives Bronsky a triple threat of roles to show off his incredible (or not so) acting abilities but he's a lovable cornball in this and is certainly the star of the show.

If you're reading this you're probably familiar enough with the trilogy to know what you're in for - gross out gore, people melting, a giant mutant squirrel, lots of boobs, high energy, offensive humor and Brick fuckin' Bronsky. What else is there to say?

The Audio & Video
Troma has done a nice job bringing the NUKE 'EM HIGH films to Blu-ray so far and this is no exception. The 1080p full HD anamorphic widescreen transfer has strong details in surfaces and textures along with a natural but vivid and vibrant color reproduction. Skin tones are fleshy and not at all waxy. There's a thin layer of digital noise over the picture that takes away from the detail at times but it's nothing major. The HD 2.0 audio mix is clear and well mixed. There's no damage to the soundtrack but there is a bit of background noise throughout the film that sounds like the whirring of a projector. It's never distracting and after a while you tune it out but it is noticeable to begin with. Overall I'm quite pleased with this Blu-ray presentation of THE CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3.

The Extras
-Director's Commentary
-Interview With Troma Star Lisa Gaye
-Trailers of the Nuke Em High saga

The Bottom Line
The NUKE 'EM HIGH movies are some of Troma's best work and this Blu-ray is at the head of Troma's class.


Saturday, November 14, 2015


Directed By: Luigi Pastore
Written By: Luigi Pastore, Antonio Tentori
Starring: Federico Amorosi, Sharon Alessandri, Nikol Brown
Color/80 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 10, 2015

The Film
After being told a stay in the mental hospital will do him some a man's madness comes to the surface and he goes on a vicious killing spree recording his actions on his own video camera.

SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED is cold and without remorse for the audience. Filled with nudity, and numerous extremely bloody murder set pieces, skillfully made by Italy's special effects master Sergio Stivaletti. Blood is splattered from wall to wall and ceiling to floor time after time. The killer grows frustrated with his actions but doesn't have the ability to control himself which is the single thing the audience can latch on to otherwise it is basically just a string of murders.

A giallo this is not. Our killer is never revealed and his motives are kept mostly secretive. There's no investigation into the killer or red herrings to throw us off the trail of the killer's true identity. The film was obviously influenced by giallo films and perhaps more specifically the films of Dario Argento as the violence rivals Argento's gialli but the writing simply isn't up to snuff. The direction is something that is an obvious influence from Argento with extreme closeups of eyeballs, and room wide pans following a character along with the sexualization of certain murders.

Stylistically speaking SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED has a lot going for it but that's about it as the story is paper thin. At only 80 minutes, including credits, it doesn't run long enough to wear out its welcome but any longer and this would have become a test of patience as it becomes a waiting game for the next kill to arrive. The movie is driven by a pounding original score from Claudio Simonetti, and even showcases his former band Daemonia in a concert scene. The score is great and is definitely one of the high points of the film.

A better script would have allowed director Luigi Pastore's visual flare to really mean something in the big picture but the style mostly goes to waste on the subpar story. Pastore shows a lot of promise in the director's chair and I hope to see more from him in the future.

The Audio & Video
Troma gives SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED its long overdue North American debut on DVD with a respectable release. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is clean and seems true to the original photography which is quite colorful at times. The DVD doesn't let the colors shine as an HD presentation would but the disc doesn't look bad. The Italian audio is handled with a 2.0 stereo mix with forced English subtitles. The audio is crisp and mixed well letting the intense score shine through when it needs to. The subtitles are translated well aside from the occasional spelling error.

The Extras
-"Symphony In Blood Red: A Look At Italian Giallo" - A documentary on the making of the film clocking in at over 48 minutes. It is subtitled in English but instead of traditional subtitles these are scrolling along the bottom of the screen and change speeds as the speaker talks.
-"The Backstage" - A behind the scenes look at the creation of the film, including a lot of special effects work clocking in at about 6 minutes
-"The Sound Recording" - 55 glorious seconds spent watching the actors record their lines in a vocal booth
-Original Trailer
-"Tromatic Extras" including a clip of Dario Argento taken from Direct Your Own Damn Movie, Tromadance 2015 Highlights, a trailer for Lloyd Kaufman's new web series and a music video directed by Lloyd Kaufman called "Faggot".

The Bottom Line
Gore hounds will eat this one up and for good reason as the splatter is fast and furious and with style.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

UNCANNY (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ

Directed By: Matthew Leutwyler
Written By: Shahin Chandrasoma
Starring: Mark Webber, Lucy Griffiths, David Clayton Rogers
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 3 2015

The Film
David Kressen is a bit of a genius and for the last decade he has lived a secluded life with his inventions including the most lifelike artificial intelligence creation ever, a robot named Adam. When reporter Joy Andrews is granted access to David and his work she is attracted to his work and its creator but fears Adam may be learning to feel emotions of jealousy and anger toward her.

Simple yet effective, UNCANNY is a small scale film that does everything right. The main cast of three which is filled out with Rainn Wilson in a supporting role at the end, are fantastic and carry the screenplay with grace. The characters are interesting and developed throughout the movie giving the audience a group to really care about.

There's not a lot going on here, most of the movie happens in the character development and a few key scenes but it is perfectly paced and is full of enough surprises and small thought provoking moments to keep the audience fully engaged from start to finish.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment give us a nice DVD with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and a clean picture quality. Colors and flesh tones are good along with black levels being deep. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround audio is free of any damage or background noise and has a great mix job.

The Extras
A selection of deleted scenes is included.

The Bottom Line
UNCANNY is a sci-fi film built on good acting, a good screenplay and character development and is deserving of your attention.

UNCANNY is available HERE

Monday, November 9, 2015

STRANGE INVADERS (Blu-ray Review) - Twilight Time

Directed By: Michael Laughlin
Written By: Bill Condon, Michael Laughlin, Walter Davis
Starring: Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid
Color/93 Minutes/PG
Region FREE
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Limited Edition: 3,000

The Film
In 1958 a race of aliens land in small town Centerville, Illinois and take control of the town, posing as normal human citizens. Fast forward to 1983 and a professor goes to Centerville looking for his ex-wife and discovers the town is stuck in 1958 and is home to some sort of beings not of this world. After narrowly escaping with his life the professor sees a photo of the aliens in a tabloid and he and the tabloid editor quickly become the target of these aliens and return to the town to find the truth.

STRANGE INVADERS is a love letter to the sci-fi invasion flicks of the 1950s by way of the special effects driven B-horror movies of the 80s. Clunky in its presentation, the film feels choppy in its editing. The story is a simple and effective one but suffers from a rather unsatisfying ending. Add in the wooden acting from everyone involved and STRANGE INVADERS really could be a total disaster but it has an endearing charm about it that helped me overlook many of its problems similar to those space invasion movie it is paying homage to.

The best part of STRANGE INVADERS is how well done the effects and art direction are. This movie is colorful with beautiful hues of pink, blue and purple all over the place and the makeup and special effects are expertly crafted. The design of the alien is memorable, fitting in with the color scheme perfectly and the numerous skin ripping scenes are eye popping and have just enough gross out factor to make it something special.

Unfortunately even the best parts of the movie are plagued by a puzzling decision in the cinematographers decision to use a foggy filter over the entire film which mutes the colors quite a bit. I guess the idea of filter is to add a dreamy quality or perhaps even a nostalgic touch but it isn't attractive and is frankly a bit annoying. STRANGE INVADERS isn't amazing, it relies on its effects and a very basic story to succeed and it does get a passing grade despite many missteps. It would fit nicely among a marathon including similar cheesy horror flicks from the 1980s such as Night Of The Creeps, Night Of The Comet and Invaders From Mars though I think all of those films are superior.

The Audio & Video
Twilight Time releases STRANGE INVADERS with its standard limited to 3,000 copies edition and features a full 1080p HD 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The Blu-ray features a natural film look with nice color reproduction but the film's photographic style dampens the colors affect and fine detail can get lost in wider shots that otherwise may have been there. Twilight Time's disc looks about as good as you could ask for given the film's natural look. The audio is handled with a DTS-HD mono Master Audio track that sounds pristine. There's no damage or background noise present and the dialogue and soundtrack are complimentary. This audio track is all about taking the original mix and making it sound as perfect as it can and not about trying to create fancy new multichannel mixes.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with director Michael Laughlin and writer Bill Condon
-Isolated Score Track
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Fully Illustrated Booklet

The Bottom Line
Not the piece of classic 80s B-movie cheese I was hoping for but STRANGE INVADERS is still entertaining enough and presented with enough care for me to recommend this limited edition release.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

GET MEAN (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground

Directed By: Ferdinando Baldi
Written By: Ferdinando Baldi, Lloyd Battista, Wolf Lowenthal
Starring: Tony Anthony, Diana Lorys, Lloyd Battista
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 27, 2015
Limited Editon: 2,000

The Film
When a cowboy gets dragged by his horse into a deserted ghost town he meets a gypsy family that offers him a fortune to return a princess back home to Spain but upon getting to Spain he's immediately thrown head over heels (and heels over head!) into a war between barbarians, vikings, the Moors and must complete an epic quest to receive any of the money promised to him.

In one of the more bizarre and unexpected plots a movie has ever thrown at me, I'm not entirely sure what to make of GET MEAN. Tony Anthony reprises his role of The Stranger for the fourth time in a film that would get shelved for decades. There's no need to see the previous Stranger films to be able to perfectly follow along. Well, as much as you can follow this bizarre mish mash of spaghetti western, sword and sandal peplum film and Looney Tunes cartoon.

GET MEAN is entertaining in its absurd and comical presentation filled with oddball characters including a Shakespeare-reciting warlord and Indiana Jones esque adventures. It's a well made film from director Ferdinando Baldi who made his living skipping from genre to genre with the changing of fads in film. He directed another spaghetti western in the Blue Underground library, Texas Adios, along with the underrated Django, Prepare A Coffin. He would again collaborate with star Tony Anthony, who plays quite the opposite type of lead from Clint Eastwood or Franco Nero, in 1981's Comin' At Ya! and 83's Treasure Of The Four Crowns which were big parts of the 3D revival.

GET MEAN was a bit of an experiment hoping to be able to take a successful western hero out of his natural habitat that was at the end of its cycle and faced severely declining ticket sales, and put him in other exotic locations and adventures selling tickets solely on The Stranger name alone. Admittedly the idea failed and that was the end for The Stranger. At least now we're able to see the anything goes, more is more (except the budget, though you wouldn't know from watching) bizarre production that is GET MEAN.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground delivers GET MEAN on Blu-ray with a full 1080p HD, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Overall picture quality is very good with a healthy grain structure giving the movie a natural film look. The picture is clean with little to no speckling noticeable. Detail level is good and at times great, while colors are natural without appearing too hot. The PQ can best be described as "natural". The English audio is delivered through a mono DTS-HD track that sounds great most of the time. Early on in the film there's a bit of damage to the audio likely from the source material and not from the work done on the Blu-ray. Otherwise the mix is great and levels are steady with a crisp and clear soundtrack throughout.

Please note - Screen grabs have been taken from the DVD version of the film and do not represent the  superior quality of the Blu-ray HD version of the film.

The Extras
-"Tony & I": An interview with director Ferdinando Baldi (8 Minutes) - Baldi briefly discusses his history with Tony Anthony and their friendship and love of cinema including how Anthony played a big role in reviving 3D in the 1980s.
-"The Story Of The Stranger": Interview with producer and star Tony Anthony (23 Minutes) - A new interview with Tony Anthony as he discusses GET MEAN for the first time ever in an interview along with other career anecdotes.
-"Looking For Richard": Interview with co-writer/star Lloyd Battista )(12 Minutes) - A lively sit down with Battista who delivers stories of his time making movies with his friend Tony Anthony and how the movies were made
-"Beating A Dead Horse": An interview with Executive Producer Ronald J. Schneider (10 Minutes) - Stories of trying to get GET MEAN financed after the spaghetti western market essentially crashed. This is especially interesting for those interested in the inner workings of getting a movie made from a financial standpoint.
-Deleted Scenes
-Theatrical Trailer
-French Trailer
-Radio Spots
-Poster and Still Gallery
-Booklet with essays on the Stranger film series by Howard Hughes
-DVD copy of the film

The Bottom Line
I'm not sure how they pulled it off but GET MEAN is one wild entertaining ride that could have easily been a total disaster. Credit is due to the cast and crew for making a crazy movie and to Blue Underground for rescuing this film from obscurity and securing its safe place in genre film history with a great BD presentation.

GET MEAN is available HERE

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

PAY THE GHOST (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Uli Edel
Written By: Tim Lebbon, Dan Kay
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 10, 2015

The Film
Mike Lawford (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Kristen (Sarah Wayne Callies) have had their lives and marriage fall apart over the last year when their son Charley went missing at a Halloween carnival near their home in New York City. As Halloween approaches again they begin to see ghostly images of Charley and reconnect in hopes of figuring out the strange occurrences and finally finding their son but they quickly find out that their journey is going to bring them head first into a centuries old Samhain curse.

PAY THE GHOST doesn't deviate too far from what you'd probably expect this movie to be. It's filled with Nicolas Cage making ridiculous facial expressions, some cliche horror movie moments often done with questionable CGI, a Nic Cage freak out, and a few moments that are really pretty good. The Halloween carnival scenes are short but really capture an dangerous and creepy atmosphere. The scenes with Nicolas Cage literally crossing over to the other side are beautiful in scope and look larger than life.

The third act becomes a less polished version of Insidious for better or worse. I've seen the first two Insidious films and am not at all a fan of them but the path PAY THE GHOST took didn't bother me with it's striking simularities to those films at times, perhaps because I don't think PAY THE GHOST could have been anything more than it already was and comparisons to a disappointing and vastly underwhelming hit franchise.

The Audio & Video
RLJ Entertainment deliver PAY THE GHOST on DVD with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that features an intentionally cold color palette heavy in greys and washed out hues adding to the style and feeling of the film. Picture quality is good with just a few trace moments of blocking during the scenes with heavy black levels. The English audio comes in with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that sounds fine. There's not an awful lot going on to give your sound system a workout but the dialogue and soundtrack are always mixed very well and levels are steady.

The Extras
Someone didn't pay the ghost enough to get special features.

The Bottom Line
Decent acting, a signature Nic Cage spazz out, a couple striking visuals are the high points for an otherwise middle of the road horror thriller that may have overachieved in even being that.

PAY THE GHOST is available HERE

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

DEAD WOMAN'S HOLLOW (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Libby McDermott
Written By: John Taylor
Starring: Charles Dawson, Mel Heflin, Sarah Snyder
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: June 23, 2015

The Film
DEAD WOMAN'S HOLLOW doesn't waste any time bringing the viewer crashing down into a cold and brutal world as a bruised and bloody woman walks naked down a series of train tracks until she is found. We then get to watch the rest of the film in which a man hunts and kills a pair of girls on the Appalachian Trail when he discovers they're lesbian lovers. The local sheriff begins to piece together clues from other unsolved disappearances on the trail in an attempt to discover the identity of the killer before anymore lives are lost.

There's some spotty moments in the script and weak acting but in spite of that DEAD WOMAN'S HOLLOW still worked for me as a tense horror thriller based on a true crime. The photography is one of my favorite things about the film as it is harsh and generates an instant feeling the viewer can relate to, or has to relate to.

I only wish the script had been reworked with another writer to make the film less stilted and forced as I think a stronger and more natural script would have organically elevated the performances and in turn raised DEAD WOMAN'S HOLLOW up a notch. Regardless, this is a solid indie horror thriller well worth a viewing.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing gives us another one of their signature rock solid DVDs. The anamorphic widescreen transfer has good color reproduction and solid black levels. The picture is clean and crisp. The English audio is handled with a 2.0 stereo track that is free of any background noise or distortions and has a clear and stable mix.

The Extras
Wild Eye Releasing previews

The Bottom Line
Flawed but worthwhile.