Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WITNESS THE RISE OF THE KING WHEN KONG: SKULL ISLAND ARRIVES ONTO ULTRA HD BLU-RAY, BLU-RAY 3D COMBO PACK, BLU-RAY COMBO PACK, DVD AND DIGITAL FROM WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT

KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) 

Own it early on Digital on June 20th
Blu-ray debuts on July 18th

See the origins of one of the most powerful monster myths of all when “Kong: Skull Island” arrives onto Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital. This compelling, original adventure from director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (“The Kings of Summer”) tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful.

“Kong: Skull Island” stars Tom Hiddleston (“The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World”), Oscar® nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Best Supporting Actor, “The Color Purple,” 1994, “Pulp Fiction,”), John Goodman (“Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Argo”), Oscar winner Brie Larson (Best Actress, “Room,” 2015) and Oscar nominee John C. Reilly (Best Supporting Actor,“Chicago,”  2003).


Vogt-Roberts directed the film from a story by John Gatins and Dan Gilroy and a screenplay by Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein. “Kong: Skull Island” is produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent, Jon Jashni and Alex Garcia, with Eric McLeod and Edward Cheng serving as executive producers.


To fully immerse audiences in the mysterious Skull Island, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and his team filmed across three continents over six months, capturing its primordial landscapes on Oahu, Hawaii, Australia’s Gold Coast and Vietnam, filming across multiple locations, some of which have never before been seen on film.


“Kong: Skull Island” will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $44.95, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack for $44.95, Blu-ray Combo Pack for $35.99 and DVD for $28.98. The Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the theatrical version in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc also featuring the theatrical version. The Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in 3D hi-definition and hi-definition; the Blu-ray Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in hi-definition on Blu-ray; and the DVD features the theatrical version in standard definition. The Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack include a digital version of the movie.  Fans can also own “Kong: Skull Island” via purchase from digital retailers beginning June 20.


Additionally, all of the special features, including interviews with filmmakers, new original shorts, featurettes, and deleted scenes, can be experienced in an entirely new, dynamic and immersive manner on tablets and mobile phones using the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App, available for both iOS and Android devices. When a Combo Pack is purchased and the digital movie is redeemed, or the digital movie is purchased from an UltraViolet retailer, the Warner Bros. Movies All Access App allows users to watch the movie and simultaneously experience synchronized content related to any scene, simply by rotating their device. Synchronized content is presented on the same screen while the movie is playing, thus enabling users to quickly learn more about any scene, such as actor biographies, scene locations, fun trivia, or image galleries. Also, users can share movie clips with friends on social media and experience other immersive content. The Movies All Access app is available for download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

The Blu-ray discs of “Kong: Skull Island” will feature a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead. To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar; however, Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

SYNOPSIS
This compelling, original adventure tells the story of a diverse team of scientists, soldiers and adventurers uniting to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific, as dangerous as it is beautiful. Cut off from everything they know, the team ventures into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape a primal Eden in which humanity does not belong.




BLU-RAY AND DVD ELEMENTS

“Kong: Skull Island” Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray Combo Pack contain the following special features:
· Director’s Commentary
· Creating a King: Realizing an Icon
· Creating a King: Summoning a God
· Monarch Files 2.0
· Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler
· Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography
· On Location: Vietnam
· Deleted Scenes

“Kong: Skull Island” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
· Director’s Commentary
· Creating a King: Realizing an Icon
· Creating a King: Summoning a God
· Monarch Files 2.0
· Tom Hiddleston: The Intrepid Traveler
· Through the Lens: Brie Larson’s Photography
· On Location: Vietnam
· Deleted Scenes

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS
On June 20, “Kong: Skull Island” will be available to own for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on favorite devices from select digital retailers including Amazon, CinemaNow, FandangoNow, iTunes, PlayStation, Vudu, Xbox and others. On July 18, “Kong: Skull Island” will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

ABOUT DIGITAL

*Digital movies or TV episodes allow fans to watch a digital version of their movie or TV show anywhere, on their favorite devices. Digital movies or TV episodes are included with the purchase of specially marked Blu-ray discs. With digital, consumers are able to instantly stream and download movies and TV shows to TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones through retail services like CinemaNow, Flixster Video, Vudu and more. For more information on compatible devices and services go to wb.com/digitalmoviefaq. Consult a digital retailer for details and requirements and for a list of digital-compatible devices.

PRODUCT SRP

Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack - $44.95
Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack - $44.95
Blu-ray Combo Pack - $35.99
DVD Amaray (WS)- $28.98

Standard Street Date: July 18, 2017
EST Street Date: June 20, 2017
DVD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French
BD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese
DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French, Canadian French
BD Subtitles: English, Latin Spanish, Parisian French, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for brief strong language
DLBY/SURR   DLBY/DGTL   [CC]

CHEECH AND CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE (1980) (Blu-ray Review)

CHEECH AND CHONG'S NEXT MOVIE (1980)

Label: Shout! Factory/Shout Select 

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Tommy Chong
Cast: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Cassandra Peterson, Edie McClurg, Phil Hartman, John Paragon, Paul Reubens 

The Cheech and Chong movies were my introduction to the joys of r-rated stoner comedy and irreverent humor, I clearly remember marathoning the first three films on VHS when I was just a kid, it was on a sleepover at the Woodard's house, friends of the family, whose kids were around my age even if we were not close. It was a memorable night, one that culminated with one of my first deep adolescent make-out session, a weird and wonderful night with occasional breaks in the fumbling make-out session as the pretty young lady would make me cookies in her Easy Bake oven, we were that young! Needless to stay that night has stuck with me for decades, for various reasons, but I walked away from it with a love for the movies of Cheech and Chong and a series of awkward post make-out middle school encounters with the young lady, it turned out that it would be a one-night only romance, and apparently one that weirded us both out, as we spoke very little for the next seven years of school, right up till our graduation, and sadly she died not long after that in a car accident.

Anyway, 'nuff about my doomed adolescent romance, the sequel to Up In Smoke (1978) opens with our stoner-duo, low-rider dude Cheech and and his more laid back stoner friend Chong, illegally siphoning gas for their "borrowed" car, getting high while debating the merits of their current employment situations before blowing themselves up in a ball of fire, something having to do with gas fumes and lighting a joint I guess. From there the movie plays out as a series of humorous vignettes/sketches about the lovable losers as they set about creating their own brand of acid-rock and going to the unemployment office for a government handouts, a fun scene that culminates with Chong doing the nasty with a foxy girlfriend Donna (Evelyn Guerrero, The Toolbox Murders) on the floor of her office and an encounter with the "Man of 10,000 Sound Effects" Michael Winslow (from the Police Academy films), in his first on-screen role if my memory serves. 

The movie has very little plot other than the L.A. weed-heads looking to score weed and poontang, the pair are sort of separated for a large portion of the movie as Cheech kicks Chong out of their rundown house so he can score with Donna, sending Chong to pick-up his far out cousin Red (Marin in a dual role) while Cheech stays at home cleaning-up, ironing clothes, drinking tequila and eventually falling asleep, having a series of surreal doped-up dreams, including some strange Aztec necrophilia! Meanwhile Chong and yahoo Red embark on a series of wild L.A. adventures, beginning with Red being kicked-out of his hotel, with the obnoxious desk clerk (Paul Reubens, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure) holding his belongings for ransom until Red can pay for his room. When Chong learns that one of his duffel bags contains 20 pounds of primo homegrown weed the two plot to get it back, and once they do they embark on another series of scattershot L.A. adventures, heading to a brothel before being kicked out, hanging with one of the whores named Candy (Betty Kennedy) at a music shop where they jam out, then hooking up with a hip richie-rich woman named Gloria (Cheech's wife Rikki Marin, Nice Dreams), who takes the trio home to her parents sprawling mansion. Gloria's mother is played by the always shrill and funny Edie McClurg (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and her father (Sy Kramer) just happens to be one of Candy's best clients at the whorehouse, with a penchant for tying her up, the horrifying encounter making him squirm in his seat over dinner.

Eventually all five end up in the families Rolls Royce smoking and giant-sized joint and headed for a comedy club where they once again encounter an angry Pee-wee Herman, ruining his set by taking it over, and causing him to be thrown out by a huge female bouncer (Faith Minton, The Wanderers). The episodic mess of a film ends with Red and Chong on the run from the law in a Ferrari, headed to his fabled field of week, ending with an alien abduction, yup, you heard me right, it goes there, but it doesn't end there. The aliens are super cool and give the pair a bag of "space coke", which Chong takes back to Cheech, literally sending the pair through the roof. 

The movie starts off strong, like the predecessor the narrative is loose, but Cheech and Chong are hilarious, but the introduction of Red is when it begins to lose some steam in my opinion, he's just not that interesting of a character to watch, it feels padded, and I would have rather has our leads together on this adventure, it a bad idea and the movie suffers for it. I still like it but it's a step down from Up In Smoke, but still funny, just more flawed and padded. 

Audio/Video: The 70's stoner comedy classic arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory as part of their Shout Select line, I don't think this is a new transfer from Shout!, but probably an HD master straight from Universal. The image is fairly crisp and pleasing, while there's not a lot of depth the grain is nicely managed and there's some decent fine detail. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio exports the stoner jams, dialogue and Mark Davis (The Night Before) score nicely, also featuring songs great tunes from The Pretenders, Jimmy Reed, The Champs and Ray Charles among others, it has a great soundtrack, plus some Cheech and Chong originals like "Mexican American" and "Beaner". Optional English subtitles are included. 

For those curious, this version does not contain any of the legendary TV version footage, known as the "diamond" cut, containing additional scenes not included on the theatrical release, which if memory serves included an animated intro and scenes of them boarding the alien ship at the end. However, this is the original theatrical release with the original music score and dialogue intact, which had been altered on some previous home video releases. While I know fans were clamoring for the TV edit of this to be included I do commend Shout for rectifying the altered dialogue and music and staying true to the original theatrical version. 


Onto the extras we have the theatrical trailer, five minutes of radio spots and a brand new 19-min interview with Cheech Marin who speaks about the making of the movie, the influence of the L.A. characters they observed on the streets, the difference between making comedy albums and the movies, working with the Groundlings crew, how in real life that he and Chong were both very disciplined, health conscious and reserved. It's a good listen, would have loved a commentary or some input from writer/director/actor Tommy Chong, but what we do get is good. The release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase, with a sleeve of reversible artwork, both significant improvements over the awful 2003 DVD artwork from Universal.   

Special Features: 

- NEW Interview With Cheech Marin (19 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) 
- Radio Spots (5 min


The movie is totally disjointed, directed by Tommy Chong himself, the movie doesn't have a lot of visual flair or style, but the comedy is strong and it always makes me laugh, a lot. Marin and Chong were pioneers of irreverent stoner comedy, both on LP and on film, and while the movie narrative is disjointed as Hell it still works for me on the whole, this is a fun, crude stoner jam. 3/5

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1974) (Blu-ray Review)

VOODOO BLACK EXORCIST (1974) 

Label: The Film Detective

Rating: R
Region Code: A
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Manuel Caño 
Cast: Aldo Sambrell, Fernando Sanchez, Eva León

This voodoo mummy schlock-epic comes to us from director Manuel Caño (The Swamp of the Ravens) and opens with a pair of sneaky lovers Guedé Nibo (Aldo Sambrell, A Bullet For The General) and Kenya (Eva León, Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) clandestinely meeting on the edge of the water on an Caribbean island, they canoodle in a canoe for a bit before they are caught by her angry father, or husband, I couldn't quite place the relationship honestly. 

Hilariously, and horrendously, both Guedé and Kenya are played in straight-up blackface, and full body, makeup! As they splash around in the surf during the ensuing fight between Guedé and the angry old man the makeup washes off in splotches, right away this movie screams at you, "you're watching a bad movie!". Anyway, the old man ends up falling on a knife, killed by accident, and the Caribbean tribe the lovers belong to punish them for their deadly indiscretion. During a tribal ceremony, in which they are plenty of topless women and tiki torches, Kenya is decapitated and her head is passed around like a morbid sports trophy, while Guedé is poisoned and buried alive in wooden sarcophagus in the bowels of a cave. We're given some awful narration that explains that in one thousand years ...or maybe two thousand, that Guedé Nibo "will seek his beloved, blood will be spilled, everything will start again.", or some such horseshit.

Of course, a thousand years later ...or maybe two, the sarcophagus has been unearthed and is in the possession of Professor Kessling (Alfredo Mayo), it is being loaded onto a luxury cruise ship headed for Port au Prince, and it turns out that narrator wasn't wrong about that blood flowing.  At night the cruise ship entertainment reenacts a tribal voodoo ceremony and sure 'nuff mummified Guedé rises from his sarcophagus and wanders out onto the deck of the ship where he is rejuvenated by the ocean sun, also turning quite a bit whiter than he appeared a thousand years ago, though well-tanned. He also manages to acquire a swanky gold Nehru jacket, which looks conspicuous to say the least. While cruising the ship Guedé recognizes Kessling's assistant/lover Sylvia (Léon) as the reincarnation of hs beloved Kenya, and she too is a few shades whiter than she appeared earlier, I guess we can at least be thankful both were not in blackface for the whole damn movie!

From here Guedé embarks on a murder spree on the cruise ship, he seems to need to kill to maintain his youth, and his victims are aplenty, including decapitating a ship steward who conveniently turns out to be the reincarnated form of the man who lobbed off the head of Kenya a thousand years earlier. Guedé takes the guy's head and places it in Sylvia's bed Godfather style, as a token of his vengeance, which doesn't go over so well with her. 

As the bodies begin to pile-up a local detective arrives on scene, Dominguez (Fernando Sancho, Return of The Blind Dead), perhaps one of the most inept detective of all time, a slob who chooses to sip gin and observe while the blood flows freely around him. The story is also populated by some colorful side character, a thick and attractive fire-eating dancer (Tanyeka Stadler), the clairvoyant Mrs. Thorndike (María Antonia del Río, The Beasts of Terror), whose tarot cards early on predict that a mysterious stranger will bring death aboard the ship, which is true enough.

The whole 70's imhotep on a cruise ship shindig has the feel of a standard issue mummy film, what with the mummy finding the reincarnated form of his former lover in modern times circa '74, the ageless story of a love that spans the ages. I liked the idea that he had to kill to maintain his youthful visage, the make-up effects seems done with sculpted clay and time-lapse photography, its low-budget but somewhat effective. While the movie has few inspired moments on the whole the things is way too corny and kitschy to be taken seriously for long, I mean it begins with blackface, c'mon. At one point Guedé intercepts a science colleague of Kessling's at the airport, throwing him under the crushing wheel of a steamroller, co-opting his identity, which Kessling realizes right away, but Guedé manages to coerce the professor's loyalty by providing him with valuable insights into the primitive past. Perhaps the silliest of the film's numerous silly moments would be when someone goes up against the mummy with a damn fire hose, spraying him down with high-pressure water, too funny, and a WTF ending that has the cops taking a flamethrower to the mummy, burning his intended victim alive in the process, too, no one seeming to care even a little bit that they just flash fried an innocent woman. 


Audio/Video: Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) arrives on Blu-ray in the proper 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio courtesy of The Film Detective, with a brand new 2K scan of 35mm archival print. Seeing it in widescreen for the first time, after years of public domain pan and scan presentations, was nice even if it's not optimal. The source is soft and has some chunky, even grainy, pocked with print damage by way of green nicks and scratches running throughout.  The dubbed-English audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD MA 2.0 that does the job and that's about it, the score is not very remarkable, but I did dig the fuzzed-out guitar title song from Fernando García Morcillo (The Cannibal Man). There are also optional English subtitles. 

As with all of The Film Detectives Blu-ray releases this is not a pressed disc, but a manufactured-on-demand BD-R, with a professionally printed sleeve. There are not special features, this is a bare-bones disc, not even a trailer. 

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1973) has never looked better on home video, but it is still a bad BAD movie with plenty of kitsch and unintentional humor, cheap special effects and an odd abundance of attractive cinematography. A total trashy 70's horror film loaded with topless tribal dancing and unintentional hilarity, while it's certainly entertaining it just is not a good movie, bad movie connoisseurs should have a blast with this one. 2/5

Friday, May 19, 2017

Supernatural Shocker "Don't Knock Twice" Makes Blu-ray Debut June 6th from Scream Factory

DON'T KNOCK TWICE (2016) 

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray and DVD Combo Available Exclusively
at Walmart June 6th, 2017 from Scream Factory
Available Everywhere August 1st, 2017

A wild supernatural shocker that delivers a barrage of nonstop jolts and searing nightmare images, Don’t Knock Twice makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut as a Walmart exclusive on June 6th, 2017, from Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight. The Blu-ray + DVD Combo will be available everywhere August 1st,  2017.  This visceral film also includes a making-of featurette and the theatrical trailer as bonus features.

When troubled teen Chloe (Lucy Boynton, Sing Street) defies a local legend’s warning and knocks at the door of a long-abandoned house, she unleashes a horror beyond her darkest nightmares – the vengeance of a relentless child-stealing witch. With nowhere else to turn, Chloe heads for the country home of her estranged mother, Jess (Katee Sackhoff, Battlestar Galactica) – a recovering addict who is desperate to reconnect with her daughter. Now, mother and daughter must once again learn to trust each other if they have any hope of surviving the relentless force shadowing Chloe.   

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

FROM HELL IT CAME (1957) (Blu-ray Review)

FROM HELL IT CAME (1957)
Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 71 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Dan Milner
Cast: Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer, Robert Swan, Baynes Barron, Suzanne Ridgeway, Mark Sheeler, Lee Rhodes, Grace Mathews, Tani Marsh, Chester Hayes, Lenmana Guerin 

Synopsis: Beware Tabonga! On a remote South Seas island, no one is safe from this hideous...and unique...monster. Tabonga is part man, part tree, all doom. Formerly an island prince, he was unjustly put to death by a witch doctor. Now he's returned to life with roots, branches and a vengeance. Against natives. Against visiting American scientists who investigate the tree's radioactive green sap. Against anyone unwise enough to expect a tree to stay put. A macabre medley of creature feature, Polynesian kitsch and Atomic Age cautionary tale, From Hell It Came is the killer-tree movie you woodn't want to miss!

This 50's atomic age monster/jungle voodoo mash-up features a group of American scientist on a South Pacific island, ostensibly there to do research on the radioactive fallout from nearby atomic weapons test, but they've also committed to help find cure for the black plague which has afflicted the local indigenous people, whom are played with all the appalling stereotypical and condescending tanned awfulness you'd expect from the 50's film. At the top of the b-picture we have the tribe's prince, Kimo (Gregg Palmer), being executed for the poisoning of his chieftain father, the ceremony has all the campy charm of a 3rd grade lulua complete with hula skirts and tiki torches. Kimo is staked to the ground and a ceremonial dagger is plunged into his heart, but not before he swears he will have his vengeance from beyond the grave, in a way that is part Salem Witch Trial and sort of along the lines of Obi Wan's  “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine" speech from Star Wars. Turns out that poor Kimo was framed by the the tribes medicine man, a rival, and his own damned wife, the sexy liar Korey (Suzanne Ridgway, The She-Creature), who betrays Kimo for the chance to marry the new chief.

After killing him they bury him in the ground, and soon a strange wooden faced figure begins to sprout from soil, said to the dreaded Tobanga, a tree of terror! The trio of scientist, Dr. William Arnold (Tod Andrews), cute lady doc Terry Mason (Tina Carver) and Dr. Clark (John McNamara), along with a the horny Cockney widow Mae Kilgore (Linda Watkins) and the ex-communicated local servant girl Naomi (Tani Marsh), look into the growing tree menace. While noting that the wooden growth is strange the science-types do not believing it will rise from the ground and take it's wooden revenge as foretold by the indigenous people, but of course they are so wrong.

The movie is a bit plodding at the beginning, it drags along like a 50s soap opera for far too long with widow Mae Kilgore shamelessly begging to be examined by the hands of a handsome doctor, there a burgeoning romance between two of the docs, and the tribe offers some minor menace towards the Americans as they are wary of the American medicine, which they blame for killing their chief. Then there's the lovely native Naomi speaking at length about how she was cast out of the tribe because of her mixed heritage, and loads of science mumbo-jumbo about radiation and the plague, but once the knotty and vengeful stump emerges things pick up considerably, beginning with a native-girl cat fight! 

Eventually Tobanga uproots himself and sets about having his revenge as promised by Kimo, the lurching tree stump is a hoot, the kitsch factor come on full-tilt with this scowling wooden golem, complete with an exterior beating heart and the very same dagger used to kill Kimo protruding from said heart. The damn thing moves so slow you almost have to fall into it's arms for it to get you, and that's exactly what happens, tossing his first victim, that lying bitch Korey, into some quicksand. Other encounters have a native warrior chucking a spear from three-feet away only to miss, and Tobonga hiding among the trees, clever tree, and snatching the science lady. 

The design of the Tobonga creature is, in my humble opinion, pretty awesome, a deeply grooved wooden visage with loads of texture, that creepy exterior heart pumping away, and large goofy eyes and a permanent scowl plastered on its face. The damn thing is silly as shit, but also loads of bad b-movie fun, which is a good summation of this movie, a movie so over-the-top with z-grade awfulness that it has somehow manages to come all the way back around to becoming good, in a bad way.   

Audio/Video: This clunker from Hell arrives on Blu-ray from the cinema archivists  over at the Warner Archive with a brand new 2017 2K restoration, presented in the original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The black and white image looks crisp and nicely detailed, the grain can be a bit chunky during a few scenes, but this is a nice upgrade from their previous DVD. The nooks and crannies of Tabonga's rubber-barked visage look fantastic, with a ever-present scowl on his wooden face, and the tiki-fashion of the island natives have never looked more machine made, like they pulled them right off the shelf at the local Woolworth's department store back in the day. The black and white image looks wonderful, nicely detailed and with good contrast. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono audio does the job, but just that, cleanly and crisply exported, within the limits of the source material. The Darrell Calker score, like the dialogue and creature, is good for a few laughs with some odd choices peppered throughout, optional English Subtitles are provided. The only extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the movie.  


Warner Archive have been swooning me as of late with loads of b-movie offerings on Blu-ray, we've seen crisp 1080p presentations of menacing artificial intelligence, stop-motion dinosaur action, and now a wonderfully awful slice of kitschy treevenge, they're doing the cinema Lord's work, and I love 'em for it, keep it up! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1983) (Blu-ray Review)

SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1983) 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: English PCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Cast: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Andrea Marcovicci, Deborah Pratt, Michael Ironside
Director: Lamont Johnson 

Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone hit the cinema back in '83 as part of the 80s 3D revival, the same year as Jaws 3D, Friday the 13th 3D, and Amityville 3D, the Canadian slice of sci-fi was produced by Ivan Reitman a few years before his success with Ghostbusters. It's set in the 22nd century, where somewhere in space a luxury space cruiser explodes and is destroyed for reasons unknown, the lone survivors are a trio of Earth women who escape in a lifepod, they land on a nearby habitable planet, Terra XI, where they are quickly kidnapped by a group of pirate-scavengers known as "scavs". 


Out in space salvage ship captain Wolff (Peter Strauss, XXX: State of the Union) receives the call for the safe return of the women, a large credit-reward has been issued for their safe return, so he and his sexy android engineer Chalmers (Andrea Marcovicci, The Stuff) head towards Terra VI, arriving on the planet's surface in a space-jeep, called a "scrambler", but it's not long before poor Chalmers is taken out in a battle with the space pirates, during which the trio of Earth women are stolen away by another group of scavs, a rival faction called the "zoners", who abduct the women via rocket powered hang-gliders!  The Zoners take the women to the planet's half-man/half-machine ruler, Overlord, portrayed by a heavily make-upped Michael Ironside (Visiting Hours), almost unrecognizable under all the prosthetic make-up. Overlord rules the wastelands with an iron-fist along with his evil sidekick, a mad scientist known as The Chemist (Hrant Alianak, Pontypool). 


With his android destroyed Wolff is on his own until he meets a spunky Earth orphan named  Niki (Molly Ringwald, Sixteen Candles) who offers to guide him through the wastelands in in exchange for some food and wheeled transportation, together they set out to recover the Earth girls, having to contend with more bands of deformed mutants, amphibious warrior women, and other Mad Max-styled menaces, plus a fellow salvager named Washington (Ernie Hudson, Ghostbusters).


The kernel of this movie probably started off as a pulpy maple-blooded Star Wars knock-off with a rogue salvage captain in space, but somehow it ends up more along the lines of a Mad Max/Road Warrior on another planet with apocalyptic wastelands and vicious, and a bit goofy, desert dwelling menaces. It's cheap, it's rough, and is not very good, but I do find it fun in a bad movie sort of way, if you have any love for the cheapie Italian post-apocalyptic movies like Exterminators in the Year 3000 then this might be worth a watch, but keep in mind that it's PG-rated and there's no blood or gore, this one is pretty sanitized for the kiddies. 


Not helping is that the movie is sort of dull, not just the action, but also the visuals are really hit or miss, there's some cool shots in space with miniature ships and corny explosions at the beginning, but this thing anchors on planet Terra VI quickly. There are some cool armored vehicles, mutants with various weapons, and a villainous lair for the Overlord complete with a "thunderdome" styles maze of death, but those exterior shots on the planet's surface are bathed in red which makes it an eyesore to watch, but the shots off the planet's surface and in the interior of caves and alien architecture are kinda cool, like when Niki and Wolff go up against a band of amphibious warrior women, only to be interrupted by a dragon-snake sort of thing, the setting is cool, the women look like extras in the Motley Crue "Looks That Kills: video, but that dragon thing looks damn awful. Sure, we get a cool shot or two, like a cool looking matte painting of the alien skyline, but more often than not the movie fails to deliver, as dull looking as the plot is derivative and confused. 


Strauss and Ringwald are just okay, Strauss takes the movie way too seriously, and Ringwald is just an annoying brat who I found hard to stomach, and that's coming from someone who has had a crush on Reinwald from the age of ten! Her character sputters off corny space-lingo like a galactic version of Heather's. She's probably lucky that John Hughes tapped her for Sixteen Candles the following year or she might have ended up in more dreck like this.


This review probably paint a poor image for the film, but it is very bad, but if you like myself find joy in the Roger Corman produced lo-fi sci-fi films of the 70s and you just happen to dig post-apocalyptic dreck, this is not without it's own brand of 80's cheese awesomeness. 

Audio/Video: Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone (1983) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment. The film has a bit of a storied history, originally presented in the cinema as a 3D movie framed in 2.35:1, but also screened in 2D in 1.85:1 from what I gather. It has been formerly released on DVD by Columbia Pictures in 2001 in the 1.85 aspect ratio. The presentation from Mill Creek is advertised as 1.78, which is a re-framing, and the image does seem to lose some minor information on all sides when compared to the 1.85:1 framed DVD, which is unfortunate, especially when some are already bumming about the fact that they aren't getting the 3D presentation. When this title was announced I know a lot of the forums were clamoring for a 3D release, but did anyone really think Mill Creek would be going all out for this Canadian slice of sci-fi schlock? The source and transfer look problematic, there's some chunky grain, noise artifacts, and grit and debris to contend with, the image is flat with poor depth and contrast, and fine detail is lacking. The image is not helped by the use of a red filter during the exterior shots on the planet's surface, the interior shots are more pleasing, but not significantly, but at least they're not bathed in red.  


Audio on the disc is limited to a lossless LPCM 2.0 stereo track, it's a crisp and clean stereo presentation that handles the action sequences and sound effects with some nice depth, the Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters, Heavy Metal) score sounds nicely buoyant. Optional English subtitles are provided. There are no extras on the disc, not even a start-up menu, you slip the disc and it starts to play. While Mill Creek, to my knowledge, have never produced any extras for their releases, unless it was supplied by the licensor, I wish they would maybe do a signature series with a few extras for fans, they have a decent catalog to pull from and it's a great value-add. One thing they did right was the artwork, totally digging the illustration, a big improvement over the 2001 DVD in my opinion.   


Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone (1983) is a pulpy post-Star Wars slice of Canadian schlock cinema, there's maple flowing through it's veins, but there's also a healthy dose of cheese. It feels more like a PG-version of an Italian post-apocalyptic Mad Max knock-off than a Star Wars knock-off, this is sub Ice Pirates stuff, but if you love bad b-movies this should fit the bill for a Friday night cheese-fest. The disc from Mill Creek is not great, but it is a slight improvement over the previously available DVD, but not by much, it's presented in the wrong aspect ratio and with no extras, not even a trailer. If you can find it for under $10 this might be worth the upgrade, it's also available on DVD as a double-bill with 80's fantasy film Krull from Mill Creek. 2/5  


MANHATTAN UNDYING Starring Luke Grimes and Sarah Roemer Coming to VOD, Digital and DVD On June 6th, 2017


MANHATTAN UNDYING
    
Directed by: Babak Payami
Written by: Matt Deller 
Cast: Luke Grimes (Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades of Grey, American Sniper) and Sarah Roemer (Disturbia, Hachi: A Dog's Tale, Fired Up!)


Synopsis: Max is a talented young painter with a cult following for his hyper-realist style. Frustrated, he is squandering his life with drugs and excess until he learns that he has only weeks to live with advanced lung cancer. He decides to work on one last masterpiece instead of clinging to life with rigorous medical treatment. Vivian is a beautiful vampire preying on men who objectify women. She yearns to see her herself and understand the infatuation of her victims. Vivian and Max's paths cross when she appears in his studio so he can paint her portrait. Max seeks to find immortality in his final work inspired by Vivian while Vivian struggles to model for him. Their deep understanding and common plight develops into an impossible love. They both face a challenge of choosing between immortality or eternal love.




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