Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BAND OF THE HAND (Blu-ray Review - Mill Creek Entertainment)

Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser
Written By: Leo Garen & Jack Baran
Starring: Stephen Lang, James Remar, Michael Carmine
Color/110 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: January 10, 2017

The Film
A group of five teens who are among the worst juvenile delinquents in the system are due to be processed as adults if they don't participate in a rehabilitation/survivalist program led by a Native American Vietnam War veteran named Tiger Joe (Stephen Lang) in the Florida Everglades. The group must learn teamwork, loyalty, trust and togetherness to survive their trials. Upon completion the group is awarded with a home in a violent Miami neighborhood to rebuild and start a new life. However the house is used as a drug den and a prostitute hideout by the local gang leader Cream (Laurence Fishburne). The group must fight for their new home and for each other in a violent and over the top series of fistfights, shootouts and explosive encounters with the drug pushers.

BAND OF THE HAND didn't start out quite as I anticipated. I expected a more straight forward action exploitation film but the time dedicated to developing the teen characters and their relationships with Tiger Joe really paid off and make BAND OF THE HAND a better overall film that really engages the viewer and gives them a reason to really care about these reformed troubled youths. I expected a lot of shoot outs and fights, which there are plenty of but the excitement early on is more of an adventure film with quicksand, deadly snakes and wild boars attacking the group as they learn teamwork and loyalty.

Producer Michael Mann has made some classic action and thriller films such as Heat and Manhunter and undoubtedly had a hand in helping director Paul Michael Glaser make not only an exciting film but one that is also a really solid production. The acting is good, including James Remar who made his name as Ajax in The Warriors several years earlier and Michael Carmine who unfortunately only made a handful of other appearances in films and television. The young Laurence Fishburne is also notable for his time on screen as Cream the head of the local drug game. He shows the talent that would make him the Hollywood staple he has since become.

BAND OF THE HAND eventually becomes the action film it promises to be as the third act is nearly one long action sequence that gets bigger and bigger and in true 80s fashion does become a bit campy and over the top but never to the point where the film falls off and loses you. It pulls the theme together and makes BAND OF THE HAND a piece of 80s brotherhood action that deserves to be seen. If there's a subgenre called "Protect-Your-'Hoodsploitation" BAND OF THE HAND will fit right in and if there's not there should be.

The Audio & Video
Mill Creek gives BAND OF THE HAND it's first proper home video release after a cropped full screen DVD and a MOD DVD-r we finally have an anamorphic widescreen, factory pressed release and in HD no less. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks sharp with good detail level and vibrant colors. Skin tones look healthy and natural while black levels are handled well and are pretty deep. The audio is handled with a Dolby Digital mix that is crisp and well balanced. There's virtually no issues with any sort of damage or distortions. I'm very pleased with how this disc turned out.

The Extras
Bare bones disc with reversible cover art.

The Bottom Line
BAND OF THE HAND is a mashup of the best 80s action and revenge tropes blended together for a movie ripe for rediscovery. Mill Creek's release is sadly void of any special features but the quality A/V work is enough to warrant a recommendation especially at its bargain bin price point.

BAND OF THE HAND is available HERE

Sunday, January 15, 2017

CHILDREN OF THE CORN Franchise Retrospective Part 4: Revelation, Remake, Genesis

CHILDREN OF THE CORN: REVELATIONS was the film of the 21st century and managed to hit a new low for the new millennium. This is a generic straight to video affair filled with every bad horror cliche you can think of and overflowing with CGI that looks like it straight from a Windows 98 program, especially during the climax when corn stalks begin sprouting up in the lobby of the apartment building. Holy hell is it awful. Awful pretty much sums up the whole production though as it barely ties back to the original film in any way.

The plot revolves around a woman going to visit her grandmother who ends up missing from her apartment that is soon to be condemned. The residents of the apartment building are being knocked off by these ghostly children who look like they have to sneeze throughout the entire time. The kids terrorize the woman for quarters to play Sega's House Of The Dead at the corner market. No, I'm not joking at all. Michael Ironside plays a priest and there's not much else to say about this one. Clocking in at only 82 minutes it should have been a breeze to sit through but instead I was struggling to make it until the end and checked how much time was left no less than three times.

It would be another 8 years before we were blessed with another film but this time it all went back to the beginning with a remake that Stephen King wanted nothing to do with. The man is not stupid. This film premiered on Syfy Channel on September 26, 2009 and I would be one of about 8 people to tune in. Why? Well I had nothing better to do I suppose. I'll be blunt with you dear reader, I'm not going back and watching this one again. I had every intention of watching it again but I can't bring myself to do it. I have to salvage some shred of sanity and self worth, especially since there's still another film to go. I was dreading this one because I vividly remember it being total shit. Are you surprised? It has a crappy cheap look, the acting was bad and if I remember correctly it was based a lot less in the supernatural and more around real life cults. It didn't help. Trash is trash.

2011 gave us the 9th and final (to date) entry in the franchise, CHILDREN OF THE CORN: GENESIS. This direct to video sequel from Dimension pictures was written and directed by Joel Soisson and is an absolute snoozer. Allie and Tim's car break down in the middle of the Californian desert and the only house around is owned by a man named Preacher (Billy Drago) and his Russian mail order bride wife. They allow Allie and Tim to stay the night until they can hitch a ride to town in the morning but overnight strange things start to happen when Allie discovers a young boy being chained up in the shed and some sort of sex dungeon in another out building. When they confront Preacher about it he gives them some religious mumbo jumbo about being from Gatlin so he knows about the powers of He Who Walks Behind The Rows and all of the same tired bullshit that these movies try to string together.

Eventually Allie and Tim die in a car crash on the highway after stealing a cop car to escape Preacher when the chains on a trailer carrying brand new cars break and one by one cars come flying off the back and into oncoming traffic. This was all at the hands of the evil boy in the shed and his new toy truck. The entire situation could have been avoided had Tim simply hit the fucking brakes and stopped following a trailer that has cars flying off the back instead of trying to avoid every single one at highway speeds. These assholes deserve everything they got. Allie survives the crash and is brought back to Preacher by one of his followers and is sent to the shed with the boy to seemingly give birth to another corn child without putting up a single ounce of fight.

Allie must have recently watched these movies and lost all fighting spirit and will much like I have because these movies are mentally draining. GENESIS at least looks like it was made with decent equipment and the acting is passable aside from Billy Drago just chewing up the scenery every chance he gets with a stupid scowl on his face that makes him look more like an unfortunate stroke victim but the movie is so fucking uneventful that I was hoping the giant dick monster from part 3 might pop up to save me from seeing another corn stalk doll being made. My time spent walking behind the rows has shown me one thing and it's a giant corn stalk shaped turd that this series makes up. The first film is decent, worth a watch perhaps but is nothing more than a bottom half Stephen King adaptation and part 2 may be mildly entertaining for how bad and cheesy it is but any sense of fun or entertainment is quickly stopped there and I certainly wouldn't consider recommending part 2 even though it's the second best movie in the franchise. In fact I suggest you steer clear of the whole damn thing. Forget these movies exist and don't waste your time with a bunch of bullshit movies that are boring, bad, void of any sort of passion. Oh yeah, there's an entire opening scene that has fuckall to do with the rest of the movie. So it's like 2 shitty movies in one! Winner winner!

Film Scores
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (Remake) - 2/10

Children Of The Corn Retrospective Part 1
Children Of The Corn Retrospective Part 2

Thursday, January 12, 2017

ATOMICA To Be Released In March From SYFY Films


In Theaters March 17, 2017 and on VOD and Digital HD March 21, 2017

NEW YORK, NY -- January 11, 2017 -- Syfy Films is pleased to announce the release of the anticipated sci-fi thriller ATOMICA, in theaters on March 17, 2017 and on VOD and Digital HD on March 21, 2017.  The film is directed by Dagen Merrill (“Beneath,” “Broken Hill,” “Murder in the Dark”) and written by Kevin Burke (“Ultimate Spider-Man,” Marvel’s “Avengers Assemble,” “Beneath”), Fred Fernandez-Armesto and Adam Gyngell. The cast includes Dominic Monaghan (the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Pet”), Tom Sizemore (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Black Hawk Down”) and Sarah Habel (“Hostel: Part III,” USA Network’s “Rush”).
In ATOMICA, when communications go offline at a remote nuclear power plant isolated in the desert, a young safety inspector, Abby Dixon, is forced to fly out to bring them back online. Once inside the facility, mysterious clues and strange behavior cause Abby to have doubts about the sanity and, perhaps, identities of the two employees onsite.

ATOMICA is produced by Jaime Burke (“The Pact,” “The Possession of Michael King”) and Vahan Paretchan (“The Millionaire Tour”) and executive produced by Simon Chen, Kieth Merrill (“Broken Hill,” “The 12 Dogs of Christmas”), Shawn Sackman, Barry G. Walker (“Solara,” “Finding Harmony”) and Dominic Monaghan.

For more information on the film, please visit https://www.facebook.com/AtomicaMovie.


Directed By: Stacy Title
Written By: Jonathan Penner
Starring: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas
In Theaters January 13, 2017

Following an opening scene set in the late 60s of a man who has seemingly lost his mind and is on a rampage through the neighborhood with a shotgun killing several people before himself in a scene that looked and felt like it was ripped straight from the reels of It Follows. Fast forward to present day and three college students move in to an old house off campus where they're quickly haunted by strange entity called The Bye Bye Man who will haunt your dreams and play mind games with you until you commit horrible acts simply for uttering his name. If you hear his name spoken or speak it out loud yourself you're also cursed with this demon. Sounds like a more PG-13 version of It follows almost, right?

Well that's where the similarities end because THE BYE BYE MAN is among the worst horror films I've ever seen in theaters. It borders on, but sadly never quite gets to so bad it's hilarious. You may find yourself laughing occasionally but it's more out of self preservation than anything actually funny.  The acting in this film, from top to bottom, including Faye Dunaway and Carrie Ann Moss in supporting roles, is just plain awful, which doesn't begin to truly describe it. No, the actors weren't working with a great, or even good, or hell even a passable script here as Jonathan Penner's screenplay was below amateur. It didn't help the actors out with believable lines or the film itself out by not having head scratching moments such as when a dog printed on the wall paper turns toward the camera and howls. That moment was silly in the absolute worst way. This screenplay would have left the finest actors up shit's creek but it made Goddamn fools of this cast. Most of which Cressida Bonas who played Sasha, the female lead and delivered every single line like a shy little child talking to grown ups. The more experienced Douglas Smith and Lucien Laviscount who co-star as best friends living with Sasha are barely better. The overacting is abundant but no scene may have stolen the show, again in the absolute worst way, than Smith's Elliot driving while sniveling and belting some emotional song about love and death and pounding the steering wheel. It's laughable but never funny and finds a way to be even worse when it precedes the most obvious car crash that was telegraphed from a mile away.

The complete and total ineptitude of this film can be summed up by Elliot realizing that "Don't say it, don't think it" isn't just some clever tag line the film's marketing team came up with and decided needed to be scrawled just about everywhere you look in the movie- in drawers, on walls, in books, on windows, and make it's way into every other sentence spoke, but this is actually the way to beat the curse and stay alive! Ding ding ding we have a winner folks! This generically named demon gets his power from the fear when you speak his name. Now I'm sure somewhere, sometime, someone has uttered "bye bye, man" to a friend but that's a plot hole we'll just leave gaping. So problem solved, we don't speak his name and don't think about this demon with an incredibly lazy design or his pet dog with Nintendo 64 graphics that shows up sometimes and only at the end of the movie starts to eat a corpses head, and we're golden right? Well, wrong. It seems after Elliott magically discovers this fucking secret, that isn't a secret at all but a fucking warning from the man decades earlier (holy shit what a fucking revelation we have on our hands, folks!) it seems that "Bye Bye Man" is all he can fucking say. Or Try to say. Or Try not to say. It didn't really make much sense.

The things that did make sense were the little curve balls the film threw at you from the Bye Bye Man's point of view of messing with his victims which may work on these college assholes but anyone with half a brain saw the giant "gasp" moment in the finale coming as they had just used the same little trick and plot device no more than five minutes earlier. Finkle is Einhorn... Einhorn is Finkle!

And there's so many other moments that just don't make fucking sense in one way or another. Either within the story, such as why is the house on fire at the end out of nowhere? Or why did they decide that was a great idea such as the lady cop winking at John and then being completely dumbfounded that he awkwardly winks back. Now this moment has nothing to do in the grand scheme of things but it's one of countless moments that just pile up and up and up. You be asking yourself, but what about the jumps scares? Surely a PG-13 rated supernatural horror film has plenty of jump scares, right? Yes it does and surprise! They're not effective. Hell, they barely have any affect on the characters in the movie let alone the audience. I sure hope Doug Jones did something cool with the money he got from this because he's too good to be wasting his time in bullshit like THE BYE BYE MAN.

Repeat it to yourself: "Don't say it, don't think it" and if you're lucky maybe you'll forget this steaming pile of shit exists.

Monday, January 9, 2017

TABOO 2 and TABOO 3 Double Feature (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1982, 1984
Directed By: Kirdy Stevens
Written By: Helene Terrie
Starring: Kay Parker, Dorothy LeMay, Jerry Butler
Color/191 Minutes/X
Region FREE
Release Date: November 29, 2016

The Films
The TABOO films are classic vintage American smut for a reason. They're well made, they're sexy as hell and they focus on characters we can relate to. Kay Parker starred as a sexually frustrated mother lusting after her college bound son in the original film which culminated in a wildly dreamy and satisfying scene. It was a fantastic film but there were so many more twists and turns a series based in incestuous fetish could take and so much more money to make that there had to be sequels.

TABOO 2 features Junior, a friend of Paul from the original film who has learned of his relationship with his mother and decides he is going to act out on his own lust for his younger sister. TABOO 2 is a lot more straight forward and even exploitative in that Junior damn near throws himself on top of his sister while groping, grabbing and rubbing her against her will. It all feels uncomfortable but eventually Sherry gives in to her brother's advances and can't get enough despite her parents finding out the hard way. And while they're fucking each other their lust spreads to their respective parents as Junior wants his mother, Sherry chases after her disapproving father who is disgusted and appalled by the entire situation.

TABOO 3 brings Kay Parker as Barbara back into a starring role but this time she is the object of her other son Jimmy's lust as he is jealous of his brother Paul's relationship with their mother. While that's going on her friend Joyce has totally accepted her sexual relationship with her own son and loves it and gives her the same advice when Barbara comes to her for help after she begins to crave Jimmy.

TABOO 2 and 3 may not have the signature artistic scene that the first film does, but it is dripping with everything else that the original film has. These films are sexy and kinky, they have solid scripts and competent acting to carry out believable films and not just fucking for the sake of fucking. The soundtracks are a bit funky and groovy and the direction from Kirdy Stevens shows more skill than just pointing the camera at a thrusting pelvis and calling it a day.

Despite Kay Parker playing a background role in TABOO 2 it may be my favorite of the three as it brings the fetish to new heights incorporating an entire family and brings a bit of humor in as well. Part three is held back by an unnecessary rock band subplot that does allow for more sex scenes but the entire angle doesn't do much to further the main theme of the series and that's the real reason anyone interested in the TABOO series takes the time to watch them. I can't say too much bad about these films though, even at their lowest point I still massively enjoy them and fully understand why they're held in such high regard for 80s smut.

The Audio & Video
Keeping their tracking record of beautifully preserving some of the finest vintage adult films alive and well, Vinegar Syndrome has once again released Blu-ray that is nothing less than stellar. The films have been given a new 2K scan and restoration from 35mm vault elements and look excellent. There is some minor spotting and the occasional age related line but that doesn't detract from the sharp, highly detailed and naturally colored image quality. Skin tones have a lush quality with no waxiness. The English DTS-HD Mono Master Audio mix is crisp and very well mixed. The soundtrack and the dialogue are complimentary and there's virtually no signs of damage or background noise.

The Extras
-Video interview with actor Blake Palmer
-Original theatrical trailer for TABOO 2
-Kay Parker's personal TABOO 3 script

The Bottom Line
These sequels take the incest kink ball that the first film introduced in 1980 and run with it, ramping up the sex factor exponentially. Maybe they're not the iconic film that the original is but they're a lot of sexy fun and shouldn't be ignored by fans of the first.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

COUNTER CLOCKWISE (DVD Review) - Artsploitation Films

Directed By: George Moise
Written By: Michael Kopelow, George Moise, Walter Moise
Starring: Michael Kopelow, Frank Simms, Alice Rietveld
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: December 13, 2016

The Film
Time travel can be a tricky thing especially when you fall in to it by accident when all you really meant to do was teleport your dog across your laboratory. And then there's the issue that you teleported yourself into the future where your wife and sister are dead and you're the lone suspect so you have to return to before everything went wrong and solve the crime at the same time. Time travel is a real pain in the ass.

Not only is time travel a pain in the ass it's also a difficult theme to tackle for a film and keep a tight, well managed story together. It's even harder to do that on a small independent film budget but that's exactly what director and co-writer George Moise pulls off. Moise's direction is stylish and smooth which blends his own photography that doesn't let its budget hold it back from being creative and not without innovation. The script interlaces timelines seamlessly which creates a much more pleasant ride and viewing experience than shoddier screenplays would allow.

Moise gets help from a talented cast lead by Michael Kopelow who truly is fantastic in his role as he frantically tries to put together the pieces of rival science labs and the murders of his loved ones. He's genuinely funny as well which makes the usually subtle, but at times overtly silly humor, work in the confines of this thriller. Michael Kopelow has no problem carrying the bulk of the picture but he's supported by a more than capable group of supporting actors including Joy Rinaldi who is absolutely hilarious as his wine loving mother who is excited for her birthday party, his friend and partner Ceil played by Alice Rietveld, and his enemies Bruno Amato who is great as the muscle and Frank Simms as Roman the main antagonist who has a great line about washing your hands before you take a piss.

One thing I loved about COUNTER CLOCKWISE is that it gets more and more interesting as the film goes along. It doesn't lose steam too early and leave you waiting for the conclusion and hoping it wraps up soon. I was engaged the entire time and excited to see the next turn and how the alternate timelines would blend together. If there's one thing I will nitpick about it's that a couple of the locations, mainly dealing with the villains' locations were underdressed and were the only thing in the movie that I ever found myself questioning the legitimacy of. This isn't a major deal and I understand how a budget doesn't always allow everything to be done up big.

COUNTER CLOCKWISE is a damn entertaining movie with production values that exceed its indie film status.

The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films gives COUNTER CLOCKWISE a home on DVD with a mostly nice looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image is crisp and clean giving way to nice detail and colors. Darker scenes are plagued by a bit of blocking but nothing too extreme. The 5.1 Dolby surround mix is clear and strong. The mix is done well and there's no damage or imperfections to speak of.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Director George Moise
-Audio Commentary with Director George Moise and Editor Walter Moise
-Audio Commentary with Director George Moise and star Michael Kopelow
-"Making Of" Documentary - An extremely well done 27 minute behind the scenes.
-Deleted Scenes with optional audio commentary

The Bottom Line
COUNTER CLOCKWISE is a rock solid time travel piece that is smart and funny at the proper time and the DVD features enough extra content to keep you interested and digging in for hours after. This is an easy recommendation.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

NEVER OPEN THE DOOR (Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Vito Trabucco
Written By: Christopher Maltauro, Vito Trabucco
Starring: Jessica Sonneborn, Mike Wood, Deborah Venegas
Black & White/64 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: December 6, 2016

The Film
A group of friends spending Thanksgiving together at a secluded house in the forest have their good time shaken when a stranger bangs at the door and spits blood all over one of the girls and collapses upon entering the house managing only to point at one of the men and say "never open the door" before dying. What follows is a horrifically bizarre night of twisted timelines, fake identities and bloodshed.

NEVER OPEN THE DOOR lost me almost as soon as the creative and well done opening credit sequence was over. The credits had an almost German Expressionistic look and feel to them and I'm always a fan of a director taking time to make his credit sequence something special. As soon as they end we're submitted to a sequence lasting several minutes of a POV shot of something sprinting through the woods interlaced with the six friends sitting around the dinner table and the entire time I asked myself why these people are friends. They all seem to absolutely despise each other deep down but disguise it on the surface as good natured ribbing. Friends can rip on friends and laugh it off but these people were taking every chance they could to lay in to someone else, down their entire existence or even try to one up everyone there, including their wife who just announced her pregnancy. It's quite obvious nobody in this group really respects each other and frankly most of them weren't very likable either. With no reason to care about any of these people or how their night turns out the only thing left to keep me interested was the identity of the stranger and why this is all happening in the first place.

Unfortunately the script just doesn't do it. A mish mash of psychological horror, characters turning evil and disappearing and reappearing, random men stalking the house in the shadows and piss poor CGI effects all fail to be interesting. The cast is uneven, perhaps as a result of a screenplay that has characters changing so often they could never settle in. The cinematography is the easily the best technical aspect of the film. It's a stark, understated black and white look that adds a dream like feeling that helps the overall atmosphere of the film. Sadly that's all I've got to say about Vito Trabucco's NEVER OPEN THE DOOR, it has a bit of style that I admire but the idea puts the writing in to the deep end of the pool with no floaties and it can't swim.

The Audio & Video
The Blu-ray from Maltauro Entertainment looks quite good, letting the stark photography of the film which is it's best quality, shine. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is clean and has good detail levels while black levels are deep with no signs of compression or blocking. The English audio mix is stable and steady coming through strong and clear. There's no distracting imperfections to mention.

The Extras
-Interview with Director Vito Trabucco
-Interview with Producer Christopher Maltauro
-Interview with actress Jessica Sonneborn
-Photo Gallery

The Bottom Line
NEVER OPEN THE DOOR is unsuccessful foundation in setting up likable, realistic characters which doesn't allow for it's loftier ambitions to have a chance. It's an obvious skip when my favorite part of the film is the opening credits sequence.