Thursday, January 18, 2018

GEOSTORM (2017) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Bros.
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 109 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with  English, Latin Spanish, Parisian French, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widscreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Dean Devlin
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Ed Harris, Andy Garcia

Synopsis: After an unprecedented series of natural disasters threatened the planet, the world’s leaders came together to create an intricate network of satellites to control the global climate and keep everyone safe. But now, something has gone wrong—the system built to protect the Earth is attacking it, and it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide geostorm wipes out everything...and everyone along with it.

Disaster movies have been around since the advent of cinema, but they really seemed to take root in the seventies when I was a kid, that decade saw a lot of bloated, star-studded catastrophe film, we got everything from swarms of killer bees, sinking of gigantic boats and the dangers of air travel, always with huge casts of stars who seemingly needed a easy payday. These movies have almost always put the asses of moviegoers in the seats. In the 90's we had Twister (1996) and Independence Day (1996), then the ought's brought us The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009), and  San Andreas (2015). Arguably the worst of these is the inflated and overly dumb sequel to ID4, Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) - a mind-numbing slice of invading alien sci-fi, a film that sapped all my apocalyptic enthusiasm at the cinemas when I took my son to it. It was just so damn dumb, but the more I watch these big budget disaster pics the more I realize that, yeah, these are supposed to be just big, dumb movies, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Which brings us to the very big, and very dumb Geostorm (2017), a climate/technology gone wrong disaster pic that has the kernel of good idea that wouldn't seem out of place on an episode of the dystopian tech TV anthology Black Mirror, here we have a series of satellites that form a net around the Earth that monitors and controls weather systems around the world, preventing catastrophic weather patterns, but something goes wrong...  add to that equation a silly, sensationalistic Syfy channel name like GEOSTORM - a worldwide storm! Now add writer/director Dean Devlin (the writer of ID4, Godzilla, Independence Day: Resurgence, ugh) to the disaster-epic mixing bowl in his directorial debut and you have one of the dumbest and poorly executed of all the big-budget disaster movies, and that's saying something my friends, this thing make 2012 (2009) and San Adreas (2015) seem like apocalyptic masterpieces by comparison - actually no it doesn't, that's just review hyperbole, and if you've seen those movies you know they are not.  

I'll give it that it's eye-candy to a degree, but there's so much green screen and digital special effects that at times it just feels like a cut scene from a video game without the character and story development. What the movie does offer is some fun weather-related mayhem, such as an Afghanistan village being frozen in an instant, the same happens in Brazil, a fire-nado (total Syfy stuff right there!) in Hong Kong, and in Mumbai a massive typhoon threatens to topple the high-tech hi-rises. A lot of that sort of thing, it's fun as onscreen action that makes you sort of forget how dumb it all is, but not really. As eye-candy goes I didn't much care for any of the natural disaster stuff, it was all so familiar, the scenes of Gerard Butler and his team in space were slightly more entertaining, a mix of actual sets and cool digital special effects offer some decent visuals - even if there's way too may fiery explosions in the airless vacuum of space! 

The cast features some notable names, Gerrard Butler is no stranger to this sort of big-budget hokum, having appeared in Olympus Has Fallen (2009) and Gods of Egypt (2016) just to name a few, he's always likable but there's not much to do about such a poorly written set of characters, including a the US President played by Andy Garcia (The Godfather III) and a Secretary of State played by Ed Harris (Knightriders), who are clearly here for the payday, and I don't blame them, movie stars have been appearing in these epic piles of disaster dreck for ages.

The mystery of the movie is who's sabotaged the satellite system to cause of the destructive weather on Earth, and about 10-minutes into the movie my son leaned over and told me exactly who he though was the culprit - and he was right, it wasn't too hard to figure out. 

Audio/Video: Geostorm (2017) arrives on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital from Warner Bros. in 1080p HD framed in 2.40:1 widescreen. The visuals are sharp and crisp, the Blu-ray presentation is top-notch, I didn't think much of the movie or the overwhelming digital special effects but they are reproduced with all the technical proficiency you would expect from the HD format. 

The original press release promised at Dolby Atmos® audio track, but that's not the case with the retail product, we get a DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, like the visuals, it's a cacophonous din of destruction and big-budget chaos, if you're looking for a loud  home theater experience this one delivers the goods. 

Special Features:
- “Wreaking Havoc: Cutting edge visual effects, research and technology create the world of Geostorm (7 min) HD
- Search for Answers: Inspired by his daughter’s question of why can’t global warming be stopped, Director Dean Devlin retraces the creative journey that led to Geostorm. (4 min) HD
- An International Event: A global cast opens up about the secrets behind Geostorm (6 min) HD 

Geostorm (2017) really is a hot pile of disaster-shit, but if this sort of massive, big-budget, dumb as a box of rocks, world-wide destruction floats your apocalyptic pontoon boat then by all means have it my friends, I myself enjoy quite a few bad b-movies, just don't invite me over for a re-watch of this unless there's a case of Guinness Stout on hand, and then it's only a maybe.

Own 'Justice League' on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on March 13th, or Own It Early on Digital on February 13th!


Includes BONUS SCENES not seen in theaters!

Own it early on Digital on February 13th
Blu-ray debuts on March 13th

Warner Bros. Pictures’ and DC Entertainment’s epic action adventure “Justice League” is arriving in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-Ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital. Directed by Zack Snyder, the film stars the famed lineup of DC Super Heroes: Ben Affleck as Batman, Henry Cavill as Superman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, Jason Momoa as Aquaman, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.

“Justice League” will be available on 4K 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 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack features an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the theatrical version in 4K 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 high definition and high definition; the Blu-ray Combo Pack features the theatrical version of the film in high definition on Blu-ray; and the DVD features the theatrical version in standard definition. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack will include a digital version of the movie. Fans can also own “Justice League” via purchase from digital retailers beginning February 13, 2018.

4K Ultra HD showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.

The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of “Justice League” will feature Dolby VisionTM HDR that dramatically expands the color palette and contrast range, and uses dynamic metadata to automatically optimize the picture for every screen, frame by frame.

Also, the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D discs of “Justice League” 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. Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment.

Additionally, all the special features, including interviews with filmmakers and featurettes, 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.

“Justice League” will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.


“Justice League” 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack contains the following special features:

- Road to Justice: Journey alongside DC comic creators as they explore over fifty years of the Justice League, from comic books to animated adventures to their cinematic debut.
- Heart of Justice: Discover the heart, soul and mind of the Justice League, as the cast and filmmakers share their admiration for DC’s iconic Trinity: Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman
- Technology of the Justice League: From Batman’s arsenal to Cyborg’s alien tech, interface with the Justice League database to learn their most advanced secrets.
- Justice League: The New Heroes: Join Ray Fisher on a personal tour to meet the newest members of the Justice League: Aquaman, the Flash and Cyborg.
- The Return of Superman
- Bonus scenes not seen in theaters
- Steppenwolf the Conqueror: Join actor Ciarán Hinds and the filmmakers as they reveal the story behind mankind’s ancient enemy and the Justice League’s greatest challenge.
- Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
- Scene Studies: Wonder Woman’s Rescue: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
- Scene Studies: Heroes Park: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
- Scene Studies: The Tunnel Battle: Take a closer look at the filmmaking process behind Justice League’s most visually exciting and action-packed sequences
- Suit Up: The Look of the League - Costume Designer Michael
Wilkinson explores the innovation and artistry that goes into creating the costumes of DC’s iconic heroes.

“Justice League” Standard Definition DVD contains the following special features:
- Road to Justice
- Heart of Justice
- Technology of the Justice League
- Justice League: The New Heroes
- Steppenwolf the Conqueror
- Scene Studies: Revisiting the Amazons
- Scene Studies: Wonder Woman’s Rescue
- Scene Studies: Heroes Park
- Scene Studies: The Tunnel Battle
- Suit Up: The Look of the League

On February 13, “Justice League” 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. On March 13, “Justice League” will be made available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

Movies Anywhere simplifies and enhances the digital movie collection and viewing experience by allowing consumers to access their favorite digital movies in one place when purchased or redeemed through participating digital retailers. Movies Anywhere brings together the movies from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, The Walt Disney Studios (including Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm), Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Participating digital retailers at launch are Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu. Movies Anywhere offers a library of over 7,300 digital movies at launch, including new releases, and will continue to expand the consumer experience as more content providers, digital retailers and platforms are added. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can connect their Movies Anywhere account with participating digital retailers and enjoy their favorite digital movies from the comfort of their living room and across multiple devices and platforms, including Amazon Fire devices, Android devices, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Roku® devices and popular browsers. Consumers can also redeem digital codes found in eligible Blu-ray and DVD disc packages from participating studios and enjoy them through Movies Anywhere. Movies Anywhere is available to residents of the United States, its territories, and certain associated states. For more information, visit


4K Ultra HD 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: March 13, 2018
EST Street Date: February 13, 2018
DVD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French
BD Languages: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese
DVD Subtitles: English SDH, Latin Spanish, Parisian French
BD Subtitles: English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese
Running Time: 120 minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action

Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. But despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

“Justice League” also stars Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jeremy Irons as Alfred, Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, and J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon.

The screenplay is by Chris Terrio and Joss Whedon, story by Chris Terrio & Zack Snyder, based on characters from DC, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger.

The film’s producers are Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Jon Berg and Geoff Johns, with executive producers Jim Rowe, Ben Affleck, Wesley Coller, Curtis Kanemoto, Daniel S. Kaminsky and Chris Terrio.

The behind-the-scenes team includes director of photography Fabian Wagner (“Game of Thrones”), production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, editor David Brenner, Oscar-nominated costume designer Michael Wilkinson (“American Hustle”) and visual effects supervisor John “DJ” DesJardin; and Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson (“Kong: Skull Island,” “United 93”) and Oscar-winning editor Martin Walsh (“Wonder Woman,” “Chicago”). The music is by Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman (“Milk,” “Men in Black”).

Step into a serial killer’s twisted world when the dark crime thriller, 'Hangman', arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital), DVD, and Digital February 27th from Lionsgate. 

HANGMAN (2017)

Street Date: 2/27/18
Blu-ray™ SRP: $21.99
DVD SRP: $19.98

Step into a serial killer’s twisted world when the dark crime thriller, Hangman, arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital), DVD, and Digital February 27 from Lionsgate. The film is currently available On Demand. Academy Award® winner Al Pacino (Best Actor, Scent of a Woman, 1992) stars as a homicide detective on the hunt to catch a psychotic and ruthless serial killer who is playing a deadly version of the hangman game. The film’s all-star cast also includes Karl Urban and Brittany Snow. From the producer of Live Free or Die Hard and Lord of War, director Johnny Martin, and writers Michael Caissie and Charles Huttinger, the Hangman Blu-ray and DVD includes two insightful featurettes and will be available for the suggested retail price of $21.99 and $19.98, respectively.

Decorated homicide detective Ray Archer (Al Pacino) partners with criminal profiler Will Ruiney (Karl Urban) to catch one of the city's notoriously vicious serial killers, who is playing a twisted version of the child’s game hangman, while journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow) reports on the crime spree, shadowing the detectives.

- “Al Pacino: Insight from a Hollywood Legend” Featurette
- “Hangman: In Their Own Words” Featurette

Al Pacino The Godfather, Scarface, Heat
Karl Urban Dredd, Star Trek franchise
Brittany Snow Pitch Perfect franchise, Hairspray

Year of Production: 2017
Title Copyright: © 2017 Hangman Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for violent content, bloody images, and language
Genre: Thriller
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 99 minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition 16x9 Widescreen 2.40:1 Presentation
DVD Format: 16x9 Widescreen 2.40:1 Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master AudioTM
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio



Label: Full Moon Features
Region: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 75 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widecsreen
Director: Charles Band
Cast: George Appleby, Tonya Kay, Paul Logan, Kevin Scott Allen , Tania Fox, Alynxia America, Lilou Vos, Daniele Romer, Kyle Devero, Allen Perada

Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017) is what I believe to be the final entry in the Axis trilogy of Puppet Master films, I kind of enjoyed the first entry Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010) but apparently didn't love it enough to seek out the sequel Puppet Master X: Axis Rising (2012), so I came into this one with a narrative deficit. This entry was bolstered by an indiegogo campaign that raised additional money to finish up the special effects, it then aired in three half hour segments on Full Moon's streaming service, and debuted back in October on the El Rey network, so it's had an interesting life leading up to this Blu-ray release. 

The movie itself opens with the death of Danny (Kip Canyon, a gay porno name if I've ever heard one!) and Beth (Jean Louise O'Sullivan, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver) from the previous Axis films, they're both shot dead by a treacherous American officer in the opening scene, but they're avenged within seconds by another soldier, the all-American Brooks (Paul Logan, The Horde), who shoots and kills their assassin, recovering Toulon's trunk, inside it are the surviving puppets. Brooks reports back to his commanding officer Gen. Kip Hansford (Allen Perada, Body Snatchers) who aligns Brooks with a Russian dwarf mystic named Dr. Ivan (George Appleby, Ravenwolf Towers), and together they assemble a special Nazi-crushing unit, sort of like the X-Men of the Puppet Master universe. We have Dr. Ivan the occult-mystic, his clairvoyant daughter Elisa (Tania Fox) and the sex-magic priestess Georgina (Alynxia America, TV's Sex Sent Me to the ER). The American allies are pitted against a group of Nazis, who also have their own dark powers, we have Doktor Gerde Ernst (Tonya Kay, Creepy Van) and Sturmbahnfurher Krabke (Kevin Scott Allen) the latter of whom wields an ancient form of old God Cthulhu magic, which manifests itself in a wispy red clouds, allowing him to have control others and torture them. The Nazi super-team is rounded up by the syringe-fingered Oberheller Friede Steitze played by Lilou Vos, who up till this point I only new as the "Netflix for lunatics" girl from the Full Moon streaming service promos. While watching the film my son was quick to quip that they stole the syringe-finger from A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1993), at which point I knew I was a good horror-dad, my kid knows his shit! The Nazis also have their own trio of evil-puppets, which I guess debuted in the last film, we have the werewolf Weremacht, a big busted babe Bombshell who's iron bra hides a pair of guns, and the unstoppable tank-like Blitzkrieg.

The film is just eighty-five minutes long but I found that it still felt a bit long in the tooth at that, Charles Band's direction is not so much stylish as bathed in colored gel lighting to give it some cheap production value bathed in purple, red, green and blue lighting, perhaps hiding the low-budget limitations of a period setting. It's not awful, I'll even say it has some promising
moments, including some delightfully over-the-top Nazi-vamping from Allen and Kay, the latter of whom I would love see in a women-in-prison film as a wicked warden, she's be great!

It's a cheapie for sure, but Band manages to make it look decent with the colored gel lighting and decent puppet work from the 1313FX team, including John Devlin and John Lechago (director of Bio Slime). While decent the marionette affects are still pale compared to the great stop-motion work that David Allen (Robot Jox) was doing for the first handful of Puppet Master movies, he set the bar high, but since Puppet Master 5 the puppets just haven't had the life they once had. Sure, some of the new puppet creation designs are cool, but they don't have the stop-motion spark of life that Allen brought to them, they're puppeteered, which dials it down several notches as far as articulation and expressions go. That the puppets are even as cool as they are here I guess can be credited to the contributors to the indiegogo campaign that bolstered the effects budget, so thanks for that donors! There's some minor gore and bloodshed here, not a bunch and not too gory, but a handful of decent stabs and digital squibs are thrown in there.

Audio/Video: Puppet Master: Axis Termination (2017) arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features looking solid in it's 1080P HD widescreen (1.78:1) presentation, the image darkly lit film has good black levels the swaths of colored lighting are reproduced well, shot on digital there's no grain management issues, a very looking digital source. As usual per Full Moon HD releases we do not get a lossless audio option, choosing to go with both surround and stereo Dolby Digital presentations, for a lossy track it does just fine, dialogue and the Richard Band (Re-Animator)score are well-balanced and clean.

Onto the extras we get a 4-min spotlight on director Charles Band directing scenes, another 2-min spotlight with actress Jean Louise O'Sullivan who says kind words of Band and her time on the Axis franchise, an 8-min FX featurette, the actors promoting the film for a few minutes, a 3-min piece with the indie-a-go-go contributors who were cast in small roles, and a selection of Full Moon Trailers. This single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the usual Photoshop collage of puppets from the film, the disc itself features a photo collage of the characters and puppets that can also be found on the backside of the Blu-ray artwork.         

Special Features:

- Director Spotlight: Charles Band (4 min) HD
- Monstercraft: Inside 1313FX (8 min) HD
- Actor's Spotlight: Jean Louise O'Sullivan (2 min) HD 
- Things Actors Say (2 min) HD 
- On Set with the Indiegogo Contributors (3 min) HD
- Full Moon Trailers: Ravenwolf Towers (2 min) HD, Killjoy Psycho Circus (2 min) HD, Puppet Master (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 2 (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 3 (2 min) HD, Puppet Master X (2 min) HD, Head of the Family (2 min) HD, Spectres (2 min) HD  

pretty much settled into the fact about a decade ago that there would never be another Puppet Master entry as good as Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge (1991), or the two films that preceded it, but I keep coming into these new entries with a horror-heart chock full of hope and nostalgia. Sure, I'm disappointed pretty much every time to a large extent, this film drags despite the short running time and promising superhero/occult trappings, but there's still something inherently dumb and fun about this series. It's not a great film, not even a very good Puppet Master entry, but I do admire that Full Moon keep chipping away at the franchise for better or worse, though this is without a doubt a lesser entry, but not the worst, lets just say it's in the bottom third for me.  


2-Disc Collector's Edition 

Label: Scream Factory
Region: A

Rating: R, Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes, 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2:35:1)
Director: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis,  Gemma Ward, Glenn Howerton

Scream Factory has announced the March 6th Blu-ray release of The Strangers [Collector’s Edition]. Bonus features include new HD masters derived from the 2K digital intermediate for both the theatrical and unrated versions, interviews with the cast and crew, new interviews with writer/director Bryan Bertino, actors Kip Weeks and Laura Margolis, editor Kevin Greutert, as well as deleted scenes, TV spots, the theatrical trailer, and still gallery.

Explore your worst fears with this shocking suspense thriller inspired by disturbing true events. After a 4 a.m. knock at the door and a haunting voice, Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler, The Leftovers) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman, Underworld) find that their remote getaway becomes a night of psychological terror as three masked strangers invade. Faced with inscrutable tormentors, Kristen and James must go beyond what they think they’re able to endure if they have any hope to survive.

Special Features:

Disc One:
- NEW HD master of the theatrical cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
- The Element of Terror – interviews with the cast and crew
- Strangers at the Door – interviews with writer/director Bryan Bertino and the cast
- Deleted Scenes
- TV Spots
- Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:
- NEW HD master of the unrated cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
- NEW Defining Moments – an interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino
- NEW All the Right Moves – an interview with actor Kip Weeks (Man in the Mask)
- NEW Brains and Brawn – an interview with actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl)
- NEW Deep Cuts - an interview with editor Kevin Greutert
- Still Gallery

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) (2-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

2-Disc Collector's Edition

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13, Unrated
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Sam Raimi
Cast: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, David Paymer, Adriana Barraza

Sam Raimi's long-awaited return to horror following three mega-budget Spider-Man movies was a welcomed trip to the cinema for me, opening with a pre-credit sequence set in the late-60's we have a Latino couple bringing their cursed son to the home of spiritual medium Shaun San Dena to cleanse him of an evil spirit, the young boy having been cursed by a gypsy following an act of petty larceny. The scene is a fantastic opener, it comes fast and furious with an up-front gut-punch and slams a Drag Me To Hell title card up in your face, it certainly sets a tone. Moving ahead to current day we meet bank loan officer Christine Brown (Alison Lohman, White Oleander) who is chomping at the bit for an assistant manager promotion, but her boss Jim Jacks (David Paymar, Night of the Creeps) has pitted her against office newcomer Stu (Reggie Lee, Tropic Thunder), a sycophant ass-kisser, a real conniving backstabber who is actively working against Christine to snag the promotion for himself. In an effort to prove she can make the tough choices required of management she turns down elderly gypsy woman Sylvia Ganush's (Lorna Raver, TV's The Young and the Restless) request for a third extension on her mortgage, the woman pleads with Christine but she turns her away. Embarrassed after what she perceives as being shamed the gypsy makes quite a scene, attacking the loan officer before  being escorted from the bank by security. At the end of the work day Christine walks to her car in a dark underground garage, where she  finds the surprisingly spry and vicious elderly woman waiting for her, the gypsy attacks her in a flurry of old had fury, cursing her with a demonic entity called the Lamia. The scene in the parking garage is pure vintage Raimi, with Christine defending herself with a stapler in close-quarters combat with he Hungarian woman, it's awesomely edited in a barrage of stylized action.

After surviving the attack Christine and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long, Tusk) happen upon a fortune teller named Rham Jas (Dileep Rao, Inception) who becomes alarmingly frightened by what he sees in the poor girl's future, informing her that she has been cursed with the Lamia, a powerful evil spirit that will torment her for three days before dragging her to Hell. Nice guy Clay does his best to dismiss the warning, he's way to straight-laced to believe in any of this mystical curse bullshit, but nonetheless Christine begins to have nightmares and visions of the gypsy woman attacking her, also plagued by a taunting shadow spirit of the Lamia. She once again seeks the help of the fortune teller, and with his guidance offers up her beloved kitten as an animal sacrifice to rid herself of the curse, however, when her feline sacrifice fails to illicit the preferred outcome the fortune teller sends her to the medium from the start of the film. 

As the movie plays out Christine suffers from physical, visual and auditory abuse by the evil spirit who is inching ever closer, which make a dinner date with Clay's disapproving mother (Molly Cheek, American Pie)all the more awkward, especially when an eye emerges from her home baked slice of cake at the dinner table, causing the cursed Christine to flip her wig and make quite a scene. This might be a PG-13 rated movie but Raimi packs it with mouthfuls of gooey disgustingness, there's A LOT of spew being injected into poor Christine's mouth, from green embalming from a cadaver's mouth to grub-infested soil and eyeballs, it's gag-reflex inducing slice of horror-comedy that might upset a few stomachs along the way. The special effects are a mixed bag of practical, puppets and digital, some of the digital draws attention to itself but for the most part this thing stands up nine years after the fact, not too shabby at all.

There are loads of nods to Raimi's Evil Dead films, the way he puts his starlet Lohman through the wringer definitely recalls his torturous treatment of Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn), she's put through Hell before possibly being dragged there! The gore is toned down for the PG-13 rating but Raimi manages to sneak a lot of gross stuff into this one just by toning down the colors of the fluids here I think, the unrated cut offering more blood-colored gore as opposed to brownish in the theatrical, watching the theatrical version I wasn't too aware of the PG-13 rating, there's even a great overwrought nosebleed gag that turns into a geyser. The unrated cut offers some extended scenes with slightly more viscera, my favorite being the cat-sacrifice, it's way bloodier in the unrated version. There's a lot of great set pieces here, including the séance at the home of medium Shaun San Dena (Adriana Barraza, Babel) that goes bat-shit insane with the Lamia possessing a goat and one of the guests, it's both hilarious and also nerve-rattling, a cacophonous blend of visuals, gooey loony toon gags, and a slashing string score.

Audio/Video: Drag Me To Hell (2009) arrives on two-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory as part of their Collector's Edition series, showcasing both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film - both running 99 minutes - with new HD masters sourced from the 2K digital intermediate. The previous Universal Blu-ray was pretty fantastic to begin with, so the the image here is not surprisingly crisp and clean, as it was shot on digital it doesn't have traditional grain structures or inherent film flaws,  it has a pleasing clarity to it and looks great in motion. Colors come through strong with nice vibrancy and the black levels when called upon are deep and inky - no complaints whatsoever. Disc one contains the original theatrical  cut, disc two carrying the unrated cut of the film, both versions look identical to my eyes. 

Onto the audio Scream Factory offer up a choice of DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 track with optional English subtitles. The sound design for this movie is simply amazing, from Christopher Young's excellent and wonderfully dramatic,string laden score to the sound of flies buzzing around the room this thing packs a wallop on the surround system, loved it.  

Onto the extra we begin with disc one, the theatrical cut, which offers up the 35-minute production diary, which was the only extra on the Universal Blu-ray, adding some vintage EPK interviews and a trailer and TV spots. Onto disc two we get the unrated version with some meatier/new extras, beginning with an interview with star Alison Lohman who speaks about working with Sam Raimi and Lorna Raver, noting she was not into horror film and didn't know much about Raimi going in, having to trust his slapstick instinct since she had none, and not realizing how much Raimi had tortured Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell in the past, but feeling should could relate, as she suffered from stress disorder shingles following the shoot!  There's also a great interview with Lorna Raver who played the gypsy Sylvia Ganush, she also had no knowledge of Raimi's works prior to the shoot, describing a twinkle in Raimi's eye that usually indicated something mischievous was abut to transpire.  Composer Christopher Young shows up for a 17-min chat about his score, beginning by recalling his first viewing of the Evil Dead and knowing right then that he and Raimi were kindred spirits and that he wanted to work with him at some point. He describes the score and various themes used in the movie, his process and Raimi's way of cuing him into what he needed from the score. The second disc is buttoned up with an image gallery

This 2-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring a new eye-catching illustration from the CRP Group (Firestarter, Rabid, Species), the b-side featuring the original movie poster. This release comes with a limited edition slipcase (o-card) featuring the new illustration, the 2-discs featuring excerpts of the same artworks on the reversible sleeve. 

Special Features:
Disc One:
- NEW HD master of the theatrical cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
- Production Diaries - with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with co- writer/director Sam Raimi, actors Allison Lohman, Justin Long, David Paymer, Dileep Rao, Lorna Raver, special effects guru Greg Nicotero, director of photography Peter Deming, and more… (35 min) HD
- Vintage interviews with director Sam Raimi and actors Alison Lohman and Justin Long (23 min) HD
- TV Spots (1 min) HD
- Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:
- NEW HD master of the unrated cut taken from the 2K digital intermediate
-NEW To Hell and Back – an interview with actress Alison Lohman (12 min)HD
- NEW Curses! – an interview with actress Lorna Raver (16 min)HD
- NEW Hitting All The Right Notes – an interview with composer Christopher Young (17 min)HD
- Still Gallery (2 min)

I loved Drag Me To Hell (2009) when it first arrived in the cinemas, and it has become one of my favorite Raimi films, it has legs and holds up to repeated viewings. Sure, it's a bit derivative of Raimi's earlier horror films, but that's also what I love about it.  This 2-disc set looks and sounds great, but then again so did the Universal disc, the new extras don't feature any new Sam Raimi input so the double-dip worthiness of it is debatable if you already own the previous release. Surprisingly there's not any input from special make-up team of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero who worked on the film, but if you're looking to upgrade this has some nice shelf appeal and the new artwork looks great, but the new extras aren't essential in my opinion, if it had a new Raimi interview or commentary it would easily have been an essential upgrade, but this is still an excellent release. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1976)  (Full Moon Blu-ray Review)


Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Lina Romay, Monica Swinn, Martine Stedil, Eric Falk, Paul Muller

Barbed Wire Dolls (1976) is widely considered one of the most outrageous women-in-prison films of all time, it was the first team-up between Franco and Swedish producer Erwin C. Dietrich When the producer saw the finished cut of the film he declared that it was unreleasable as is - surely not the first or last time the Spanish euro-cult auteur heard that I am sure - but Franco turned him around and the pair had a great string of exploitation films to follow. 

In this seedy WI.P classic Maria (Lina Romay, The Hot Nights of Linda) is sent to an island prison for the murder of her incestuous father, the prison is run by a diabolical lesbo-warden (Monica Swinn, The Duke of Burgundy) who has a penchant for wearing a monocle, reading Nazi literature in bed, and walking around in some seriously demented wardrobes, her preference is for short-shorts and jackboots. She also enjoys the company of women, namely that of her prisoner's whenever the urge arises, occasionally darting her tongue into some ambiguous places in the process. The movie doesn't get much if any set-up, but the standard WIP tropes apply, we have a wicked warden and a group of mostly nude young women, who are subjected to the cruel tortures and erotic delights of the warden and her equally wicked underlings, the diabolical Dr. Costa (Paul Muller, She Killed in Ecstasy) and the pervy torturer Nestor (Eric Faulk, Blue Rita), the latter of whom subjects the women to whippings, beatings and electrocution via the nude women being tied down to a metal bed spring box hooked up to an electrical current. When the women are electrocuted they begin flailing wildly and screaming in pain as the lights dim off and on, it's good, lurid exploitation stuff. 

Lina Romay has that wonderful wide-eyed innocence I love about her, plus that voluptuous 70's body of hers is a major turn on for me, she has something about her that always get under the skin, a lot of it has to do with the way her mouth frames her teeth, but I'm just weird that way, she's a stunner! The nudity in this one is wall-to-wall, including not just her but three other female prisoners, we have the ginger duo of the truly bonkers Ingrid (Peggy Markoff, Swedish Nympho Slaves), who thinks she's a Queen,  the more mean-spirited Rosaria (Beni Cardoso, The Girl from Rio) - who in one scene masturbates with a lit cigarette! - and a blond inmate named Bertha (Martine Stedil, Women Behind Bars), all of whom eventually team-up with newcomer Maria for a daring prison break they get the best of the lustful Dr. Costas who is too blinded by his libido to see what's coming.   

The story is mighty threadbare, most WIP films are, but even by that anemic standard this one has no real drive, perhaps even more plotless than Franco's Women in Cell Block 9 (1978). Where it succeeds is amping up the lurid sexploitation with lots of seedy violence and torture thrown in for cheap titillation, and that's all right by me. A scene worth noting, and not for anything good, is a flashback/dream of Maria's father, played by director Jess Franco, chasing her around with thoughts of daughterly lust on his mind. The scene plays out in slow-motion, but the camera is not slowed down, nope, Franco and Romay play the scene moving themselves in slow motion in a Vaseline lensed slice of hilarious strangeness, the effect completely fails, so much so that it's laughable. As much as I do love Franco there's does always tend to be something sort of unintentionally funny about a moment or two, and not just the crazy use of zoom lensing. 

The island prison's relaxed dress code is also suspect in a campy way, sure we get the expected women prisoners without clothing, but the Warden is never seen fully clothed, not even once, when she's not parading around in her jackboots and short-shorts she's in a see-through negligee or less, and during the island escape the guards pursue the women through the jungle topless, including the a woman guard, small things like that just bring a smile to my face - it doesn't have to make sense, it just has to be fun, and despite the depravity of this lurid slice of WIP cinema, it is a good bit of ridiculous fun. 

Barbed Wire Dolls (1976) is a ton of WIP fun, it's super-sleazy even by the usual Jess Franco standards, but not quite on par with the hardcore stuff he did, but there's still plenty of tortured titties, naughty finger and whip penetration and gratuitous crotch shots, but as I've said,  it's not up there with the x-rated cut of The Hot Night of Linda, but it has loads of what a WIP needs to be salaciously entertaining.
Audio/Video: Jess Franco's Barbed Wire Dolls (1976) arrives on Blu-ray from the original 35mm negative, restored by Swiss producer Erwin C. Dietrich's from the original vault elements, Full Moon licensed this from Acot who also released region-free BLu-rays of these titles in the U.K.. The results look great, this is a Franco cheapie but the guy had an eye for such exploitation flare and the movie was lensed nicely, but of course there's plenty of zoom lens which Franco loved. Overall the PQ is great, grain is nicely managed, it's sharp, and the colors and flesh tones look natural, it's a great looking Blu-ray. I think it leans towards the greens but not unnaturally so. 

The only audio option on the disc is an English-dubbed Dolby Digital track, sadly we get no lossless audio option, which is unfortunate, but it's a capable lossy track with good fidelity. The dubbed English comes through nicely, with obvious dub limitations, and the Walter Baumgartner (Jack the Ripper) sounds good in the mix, there are no subtitles options.

These were released in the UK by Ascot with extras not included here what we do get is a 34-minute interview conducted by former Fangoria editor Chris Alexander with The Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland, whose film started out as a remake of Franco's Lorna the Exorcist (1974), he ended up going another direction but the he's still a passionate fan of euro-cult and Franco in particular.
Then we get a VHS sourced trailer reel of Franco films and a trailer for the movie itself running two-minutes and change. 

Special Features: 
- 2014 Audio Interview with The Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland discussing the films of Jess Franco, conducted by Chris Alexander. (24 min) 
Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min)
- Vintage Jess Franco VHS Trailer Reel: The Oasis of the Living Dead, Demoniac, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, The Screaming Dead, Erotikill, The Invisible Dead 

I've been asking Full Moon to bring their Jess Franco Collection DVD releases to Blu-ray for awhile now, I'm not taking credit for it, just saying what I already knew, that I wasn't the only one clamoring for these to get the HD upgrade from a U.S. distributor, glad to see it happening with the release of  Barbed Wire Dolls (1976). I prefer Franco's more artsy and somewhat surreal erotic thrillers, She Killed in Ecstasy is still a favorite,  but I do love his seedier WIP films, from the game-changing 99 Women (1969) to this slice of sexed-up sleaze, it's all prime Franco to me.