Monday, February 26, 2018

BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND (Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Bill Norton
Written By: Clifford Green, Ellen Green
Starring: William Katt, Sean Young, Patrick McGoohan
Color/95 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: February 13, 2018

The Film
A pair of American scientists find themselves in the African jungle after discovering a series of dinosaur fossils. The natives give the pair clues and reassurance that the legend of the dinosaurs is real and before long they have found a living breathing pair of Brontosauruses and a young hatchling deep in the jungle. Unfortunately their discovery quickly turns into a fight to keep the dinosaurs alive as an evil and corrupt scientist has also found out about their discovery and is more interested in profits and his own devious intentions rather than the vast knowledge that could be gained from such a discovery.

Sean Young and William Katt star as the duo that discover the dinosaurs and are a likable pair with great chemistry. They're an easy couple to latch on to and cheer for to save the dinosaurs and their own relationship. Patrick McGoohan is perfectly despicable as their villainous counterpart who lusts after fame and fortune instead of learning from the prehistoric creatures that were long thought extinct. McGoohan has paired up with an African military group that provides the firepower and eventually kills one of the adult dinosaurs. Katt and Young turn to the local tribes who view the dinosaurs as almost god-like legends for help in rescuing the baby and the mother before they're transported away from their jungle home.

BABY was produced by Disney's Touchstone Pictures division which gave the film some breathing room to be more adventurous and violent. And while there are multiple shootouts and fight scenes with some minor explosions and this isn't technically a true Disney picture there are some very Disney flourishes that keep things child friendly. It's equal parts a fantasy and adventure and while I wouldn't suggest the toddlers watch it I think it's plenty safe enough for any child in elementary school. Released in 1985, the film features practical dinosaur effects that aren't too shabby for its time. You have to remember that this was several years before Stan Winston turned the special effects world on its head with his work on Jurassic Park. If you're expecting that level of work or try to compare it to the work done in the Spielberg classic you're going to be sorely disappointed. If you're able to accept the effects for when they were done I think they're fine and perfectly believable in spite of the fact that this film is showing its age more and more with each passing year.

BABY received negative reviews upon its release and hasn't been too lovingly accepted over the years but has developed a small cult following. It honestly surprises me that it's so harshly critiqued and there's a large disdain for it because I have always found it be an entertaining adventure film that may not be a classic or ever held in exceptionally high regard but is a fun little romp through the jungle with a few dinos in tow.

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber has delivered BABY: SECRET OF THE LOST LEGEND to Blu-ray for its second release in high definition, previously having been released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek. This release features a serviceable HD transfer that seems to be from an older master. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features a good color palette but for a film set in such a lush and colorful landscape it's disappointing that the visuals aren't more breathtaking. Skin tones are healthy with no waxiness and details is decent but never exceptionally strong. There are two audio options including a 5.1 surround and a 2.0 stereo mix. The 5.1 is nice for surround diehards but lacks anything to really make it essential. The 2.0 mix is crisp and clear and definitely a pleasing listening experience. There's no background noise or distortions.

The Extras
Extra features include a pair of interviews with director Bill Norton and star William Katt and is rounded out by the original theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line
Despite being a bit dated, BABY still serves as an entertaining jungle adventure with a message of appreciating and preserving nature and life that all ages can enjoy.


Monday, February 19, 2018

FUGITIVE GIRLS (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: A.C Stephen
Written By: A.C. Stephen, Ed Wood
Starring: Rene Bond, Tallie Chochrane, Jabie Abercrombie
Color/96 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Limited Edition of 2,500

The Film
After being wrongly convicted of a robbery and murder who boyfriend committed Dee is sent to prison and shares a room with four more hardened convicts who have concocted a plan to break out and retrieve a stash of money one hid before being incarcerated. Dee quickly learns that prison isn't just sitting around waiting to be released as the leader of the group forces sex upon her and then forces her into joining them in their jailbreak which leads the entire freedom starved group on a bloody sex fueled rampage across the state in search of the stash of cash before the police can track them down.

Known for making sexploitation films, FUGITIVE GIRLS aka FIVE LOOSE WOMEN may be director A.C. Stephens' least sexually and nudity driven film but that's not to say we're left high and dry. The film opens with a scene of Dee and her boyfriend rolling around in the sheets before he decides he needs a bottle of booze which is the event that landed her in jail. Then on her first night in jail Dee is forced into a lesbian affair in a fairly length scene. FUGITIVE GIRLS may not be driven by skin but our group of women live up to their alternate title name being loose, willing and ready. As the group makes their escape they encounter various groups who they use and abuse starting off with a group of hippies partying and camping out that they are totally disgusted by because of their Earth loving ways and end up getting lice from the clothes they steal from them. I'm not sure if this scene was meant to be humorous but I got a few good laughs at the hippies' expense. The girls' cruelty and do-whatever-it-takes attitude begins to show here but becomes more apparent when they encounter men that they tempt with their bodies before hurting and killing them to get what they need from them.

Stephen and Ed Wood do a nice job giving each of the five girls a distinct personality and relationship to the rest of the gang so that it's not just the same character five times over. The group has a collective goal but each has their own motive and tactics to get there. There's racial tensions and sexual tensions that keep the movie grounded in a harsh reality. It's not Shakespeare but it is a pretty well written exploitation film. And then there are moments that remind you this is a B-movie such as when Kat (Tallie Cochrane) clearly instructs one of the girls to go do something to which she agrees and moments later it is another girl returning from the task. Whoops! A minor fault with no real implications in anything but this isn't perfect filmmaking. Much like the story it's showing it's down and dirty but totally competent and believable. I love these girls and I love this movie.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome delivers this exploitation classic to Blu-ray with a brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm negative giving way to a beautiful picture throughout. The image is clean with a natural grain structure and healthy and vivid colors. Detail level is high giving from facial close-ups to clothing, textures and various surfaces. Black levels are deep with no signs of compression issues. The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix sounds crisp and clear and is pleasing to the ear. The soundtrack meshes well with dialogue as to not overpower it but remain present in the mix. There's no issues with distortion, crackling or popping. English SDH subtitles are included.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey and famed exploitation filmmaker Frank Henenlotter
-Archival audio interview with star Tallie Cochrane, moderated by Casey Scott
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Original Promo Trailer
-Reversible "Five Loose Women" Artwork

The Bottom Line
Exploitation fans and Ed Wood followers need FUGITIVE GIRLS in their collection. It's not only another film written by the infamous director but it's a highly entertaining and exciting slice of 1970s genre fare.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Fangoria Making A Comeback


Cinestate’s asset acquisition of Fangoria set to resurrect the most prominent horror magazine to its glory days as a print publication.

DALLAS, TX (February 15, 2018) –– Fangoria Magazine is returning from its digital grave and back into print where it belongs. Thanks to a new investment, a new Editor-in-Chief, and a new Publisher, the world’s highest-profile horror movie magazine is reemerging as a collectible quarterly with the first issue set to drop this fall in time for Halloween. 
Cinestate, the Texas-based entertainment company, completed the deal to acquire all the assets and trademarks of the Fangoria brand, including the magazine, from The Brooklyn Company. Cinestate CEO Dallas Sonnier diligently courted the previous publisher Thomas DeFeo for several months, with the two signing an agreement that turned over the rights to Sonnier & Cinestate.
Sonnier’s first move as the new Publisher was to hire his favorite film writer Phil Nobile Jr. as the Editor-in-Chief of Fangoria Magazine. Nobile comes to Fangoria from his role as Editor-At-Large for the website Birth.Movies.Death., and as a writer/producer for Stage 3 Productions in Philadelphia, where he created a feature-length documentary on John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN. Nobile will also act as the Creative Director for the entire Fangoria brand.
“There needs to be a Fangoria,” says Nobile. “The magazine was a constant presence in the genre since 1979 - and then one day it was gone. That felt, to us, tragically incorrect. Fango was, for multiple generations, a privileged window into the world of horror. It gave us access to filmmakers’ processes and secrets, opened our eyes to movies we might have otherwise missed, and nurtured a wave of talent that’s out there driving the genre today. I’m proud and excited to be part of the team that’s bringing this institution back.”
As part of the arrangement, Cinestate controls all material from over 300 issues of Fangoria Magazine, including articles, photos, and exclusive interviews, spanning the past 39 years. The contents of the now-infamous Fangoria storage unit in New York, a veritable treasure trove of horror history collected over decades by former staff, has arrived at the Cinestate offices to be sorted and cataloged. 
Nobile and Sonnier quickly approached and landed deals with popular Fangoria legends Tony Timpone and Michael Gingold to return to the magazine with their own columns, and to consult for the company. Additionally, the publication already has excited commitments from contributors including frequent Cinestate collaborator S. Craig Zahler (BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99), Ashlee Blackwell (Graveyard Shift Sisters), Samuel Zimmerman (Curator, Shudder), Grady Hendrix (PAPERBACKS FROM HELL), Meredith Borders (former Editorial Director of Birth.Movies.Death.), Rebekah McKendry (academic and horror historian), and Preston Fassel (whose project OUR LADY OF THE INFERNO is currently in development at Cinestate). Nobile shall further curate a diverse roster of voices for the new iteration of the legendary publication. 
“We are fully committed to restoring faith in Fangoria with the horror fan community, so many of whom bought subscriptions, but never received their magazines. We have also been reaching out to previous Fangoria contributors to introduce ourselves and invite them back into the tent for future collaborations. This is a process, but we are confident in our ability to earn back trust and be good partners in a brand that personally means so much to so many awesome people,” states Sonnier.
Sonnier was able to complete the Fangoria asset acquisition and fuel growth in Cinestate by raising over $5 million of investment for his company. The primary investor in Cinestate is a member of a prominent Texas family that wishes to remain anonymous. As part of the deal, Cinestate also acquired the assets and trademarks to out-of-print publications Starlog and Gorezone. 
A full staff is in place and operating from the Cinestate offices in Dallas, TX. Zack Parker, formerly of Shudder, joins Fangoria as the Director of Brand Management, along with Jessica Safavimehr as Associate Publisher and Ashley Detmering as Art Director. Nobile will be based out of New Jersey. The team is dedicated to putting Fangoria back where it belongs – in print. 
“When I read Fangoria as a kid, it was a special ritual. I had to save up for it, and then I had to find it. And bringing it home ten times a year became a kind of sacrament, poring over every photograph on every page, reading that whole thing front to back, then doing it again,” Nobile says. “We want to restore that analog thrill to readers. We want to duplicate the excitement that I remember bubbling up around a new issue of Fango, put that excitement in an envelope and mail it to our subscribers. Fangoria is not something that competes with online blogs. Fangoria is not an algorithm. Fangoria is something you hold in your hands, something you spend a bit of time with in the real world. That’s what it was for decades, and that’s what we’re going to make it again.”
Cinestate will further develop Fangoria into a brand for producing movies and podcasts, as well as publishing horror novels. Cinestate VP Amanda Presmyk will head up production on a slate of Fangoria-presented horror movies that Sonnier will bring to the table for Cinestate’s new label. 
Cinestate is currently in post on a gonzo reimagining of the PUPPET MASTER franchise, as well as Zahler’s next movie DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE for Lionsgate starring Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn. Cinestate also published its first novel in January – Zahler’s HUG CHICKENPENNY: THE PANEGYRIC OF AN ANOMALOUS CHILD, which is being developed into a feature by Zahler, Cinestate and the Jim Henson Company.


Cinestate is a Dallas-based entertainment company founded by movie producer Dallas Sonnier (BONE TOMAHAWK, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99) that seeks to improve upon the status quo in three key ways: cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with visionary creators who want to see their projects made faithfully and distributed widely; eliminating the arbitrary separation between the mediums of books and film; and minimizing unnecessary production costs while fiercely protecting our creators' work.
For more information, check out Cinestate on social media - @cinestatement


At the height of its popularity, Fangoria Magazine was the most renowned horror publication in the world. Fangoria rose to prominence by running exclusive interviews with horror filmmakers and offering behind-the-scenes photos and stories that were otherwise unavailable to fans in the era before the internet. The brand would eventually rise to become a force itself in the horror world, hosting its own awards show, sponsoring and hosting numerous horror conventions, producing films, and printing its own line of comics. While the past decade has not been kind to the brand, Fangoria continues to remain an important part of the lives of filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, James Gunn, Eli Roth and many others, who look back on the “golden years” of Fangoria with admiration and reverence.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I Kill Giants Poster Premiere and Trailer

Directed by Anders Walter
Written by Joe Kelly

 Starring Zoe Saldana, Imogen Poots, Madison Wolfe, Sydney Wade

Barbara Thorson (Madison Wolfe) is a teenage girl who escapes the realities of school and a troubled family life by retreating into her magical world of fighting evil giants. With the help of her new friend Sophia (Sydney Wade) and her school counselor (Zoe Saldana), Barbara learns to face her fears and battle the giants that threaten her world.

In Theaters and On Demand / Digital HD March 23, 2018

 Run Time:  106 Minutes   |  Rating:  Not Rated

Monday, February 5, 2018

VICTOR CROWLEY (2017) Review

Directed By: Adam Green
Written By: Adam Green
Starring: Parry Chen, Laura Ortiz, Kane Hodder
On Blu-ray and DVD February 6, 2018

Adam Green's Hatchet series has relied on buckets of blood and a tone that successfully toes the line of comedy and serious slasher film. The laughs are not at the expense of the scare and fully add to an atmosphere and vibe that I would describe as a "party slasher". This is the type of horror movie designed to have a raucous crowd, hooting and hollering with each and every exceedingly gory kill sequence. The story is presented straight but light enough so that it isn't down beat and designed more to thrill the viewer than to chill them. The first three installments in the franchise have been largely successful at this with groups of characters that are developed enough, or just plain likable enough that we connect with them and care about them. From Deon Richmond's longing for a Moons Over My Hammy from Denny's in the first film to Colton Dunn's biscuit song in part 2, we're given reasons to enjoy the time we spend with these people that are merely scraps for the meat grinder in true slasher film fashion. I won't pretend the films are perfect but I have an absolute blast with them and proudly sing their praises so when I heard the surprise news that a forth installment was not only announced but actually already finished and screening I couldn't wait to get my hands on another gore soaked adventure into Honey Island Swamp.

Titled after the monstrous, deformed, undead murderer of the swamp, VICTOR CROWLEY wastes no time bringing the comedy in to the film with a bit of a prequel gross out gag that quickly turns in to the gore fest we're used to and then it keeps going. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors VICTOR CROWLEY is a gore hound's wet dream. Arterial blood sprays are common place and limbs fly around like beads at Mardi Gras. People are scalped, stomped, mutilated with a hammer (claw end of course) and just plain fucked up. The special effects aren't going to pass for real life but they're well done and incredibly fun and fully believable. This is the meat and potatoes of the Hatchet series and writer/director Adam Green knows how to deliver it in droves. His monstrous creation and titular character Victor Crowley looks menacing with his design here. He's hulking and massive, his deformed and mutilated face are horrifying. Kane Hodder returns to wear the suit and provide the kills in a way it seems only he can. I do have to say that the quality of the makeup and suit look to be on the cheap side. The design is good but the execution is lacking in the scenes where we get a long clear look at Crowley, of which there are plenty. 

On a similar note, the sets and production also feel lacking and look and feel way too much like a soundstage and too little like an actual swamp. The film is comprised almost entirely of medium shots using which exposes how little to each little set location there really is. I like the look and design of the swamp, especially the areas in which the tours have set up their attractions in but we never get a good look at any area that looks to be more than ten or twelve yards across. The size of those set pieces are a small complaint compared to how much time is spent in the fuselage of a crashed airplane. I'd estimate that 2/3 of the movie is spent inside this plane as Crowley picks off someone one by one as they try to make their escape or he goes after inside the plane. The pacing is really off at these moments when we're left with a group of survivors doing basically nothing and all we can do is hope someone dies soon so the movie progresses. Eventually it does and a lot of bodies drop in a small amount of time which again feels oddly paced. 

The group of characters in VICTOR CROWLEY are a very uneven group as far as likability goes. As far as I'm concerned Parry Shen is a total star in these movies. He's been in each film as different characters and returns in his role of Andrew from part 3, now shilling a book of his tale of survival from the events a decade earlier. Shen is naturally funny without having to try too hard and forcing it, he's also able to bring a well rounded performance that is both strong and vulnerable. He excels in all situations and is easily the best part of the series front to back. Laura Ortiz makes her debut in the franchise as Rose, a character that started out being a bit grating for me but by the end I was totally on her side and rooting for her. Ortiz will be a familiar face to Adam Green followers as she starred in his sitcom series Holliston and also appeared in his segment for the anthology horror film Chillerama. She brings a cute ditsy and sometimes clueless type humor to the picture that ends up working more as the film moves along. There's plenty of other characters and familiar faces that stand out like Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) as Parry Shen's agent. Her forced accent is unbearable and I found myself disappointed in how much I loathed her. I was more disappointed in how quickly Tezz Yancey comes and goes. He's fantastic in his very limited screen time and I would have loved to see how his character reacted to Victor Crowley.  

I found VICTOR CROWLEY to be a mixed bag with the gory kills appealing to the lowest common denominator part of my brain and having major gripes with some of the writing such as a major part toward the end of the film that makes no logical sense and has no place in the timeline of the movie that only serves as a convenient way to set up the climax. This also happens earlier in the film when *SPOILER the plane crashes for no reason. One second it's flying fine, the next there's a brief mention of slight turbulence and then it's plunging toward the swamp. *END SPOILER There are some stylish choices here and some unfortunate cutaways. There's one scene where we watch Crowley stalk a victim through the windows of the downed plane, slowly going in and out of view as he passes each window and metal body section of the plane. I felt that was a golden opportunity for an original kill sequence and stylish scene but it was more of a wasted opportunity than a victory in creativity. VICTOR CROWLEY also introduces ideas that long time fans of the fans will question (random spell resurrection?) and it works more as a set up to a possible part 5 than it does on its own, something I don't think any of the previous films suffered from, but it is still a ride light in tone and covered in blood.

For my money VICTOR CROWLEY is the most heavily flawed film in the Hatchet series but there's enough gore and cheap thrills to entertain fans of the series.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Trailer Premiere for IFC Midnight's MIDNIGHTERS

Directed by Julius Ramsay

Written by Alston Ramsay

Starring Alex Essoe, Perla Haney-Jardine, Dylan McTee, Ward Horton, Andrew Rothenberg and Joseph Anderson

 A New Year's night becomes a long day’s journey into dread for one unlucky couple in the nerve-twisting feature debut from "The Walking Dead" and “Krypton" director Julius Ramsay.

In Theaters and Available On Demand And Digital HD March 2, 2018