Friday, August 31, 2018

BOSS NIGGER Blu-ray Review

Directed By: Jack Arnold
Written By: Fred Williamson
Starring: Fred Williamson, D'Urville Martin, William Smith
Color/93 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: August 14, 2018

The Film
Two bounty hunters named Boss (Fred Williamson) and Amos (D'Urville Martin) save a woman named Clara Mae while she's being attacked by bandits and find a letter naming him sheriff of a nearby town. The mayor of the town has little control and answers to a gang leader named Jed Clayton (William Smith) out of fear. Despite Boss and Amos wanting to clean up the town and get their reward for bringing Jed Clayton to justice the mayor and most of the townspeople want no part of two black men running the law. BOSS NIGGER is a story of race and revenge.

This was the third film in a series of black westerns starring Fred Williamson. It was preceded by The Legend Of Nigger Charley and The Soul Of Nigger Charley but follows its own story as opposed to being a sequel to those films. BOSS NIGGER is the most polished film of the bunch and Fred Williamson is definitely more comfortable in front of the camera than he was in the earlier films having really honed in his performance and personality. Veteran director Jack Arnold makes a slick and at times stylish production, using the dusty wooden exteriors and dark, gaudy interiors to his advantage. Arnold is best known for directing some of the best science fiction and horror films of the 1950s including the timeless The Creature From The Black Lagoon but was no stranger to the western genre having directed episodes across various western TV series and a few feature films as well. The style and tone on display in BOSS NIGGER is much different from anything that Arnold made in the 50s as the western reinvented itself after the spaghetti western craze and became a much dirtier and more violent affair. Add in that this was a blaxploitation film featuring two black stars battling a white town who doesn't appreciate their services coming from a script written by one of the stars and Jack Arnold could very easily have been lost with how to handle it.

Thankfully he was not. He handled Fred Williamson's script well and that script was a solid one. While playing to most of the tropes of spaghetti westerns Williamson was able to craft a script that deals with racial tensions and race relations of the 1970s but didn't make the film feel forced around it even if it is the main theme of the film. After all the film's tagline so brazenly and proudly exclaims "White man's town, black man's law!". And the black men make it their law, even adding in dashes of humor at times particularly with D'Urville Martin who excelled at making me chuckle as he happily arrests the more uppity white folks in town for anything from saying the N-word to him or simply not returning a good morning gesture. All that Boss and Amos were asking for was some respect but it never came. Things only get worse until Jed Clayton really steps in to the picture. William Smith was no stranger to playing a white antagonist in blaxploitation films and turns in another good role here, especially his final showdown with Boss which is not only emotional but also powerful in its message and stylish in its execution by Jack Arnold. "That was for Poncho, that was for Clara Mae, and this is for me!". Just thinking of it gets me riled up.

That final showdown would not be where the credits rolled and the film ends somewhat ambiguously but with a clear message. BOSS NIGGER does have a political and social voice as many blaxploitation films did but it's also simply a well made western with some good performances and characters and moments that will stick with you. And to top if off it is has a great theme song.

What more could you ask for?

The Audio & Video
Kit Parker Films releases BOSS NIGGER through MVD in the film's first HD presentation on home video. The Blu-ray features a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that isn't perfect but looks good overall. Colors are strong and lifelike but color timing fluctuates a bit between the warm natural look to that with a very light green hue. It's very minor but it is there. The image is generally sharp enough but softness intermittently pops up. The transfer has just a bit of speckling on an otherwise clean image. Black levels leave a bit to be desired but detail is rather good throughout.

The Audio comes across in a crisp and well mixed LPCM 2.0 track that sounds great. I didn't notice any distortions or damage to the track and the dialogue and funky western inspired soundtrack compliment each other nicely.

The Extras
-"A Conversation With Fred Williamson" - An archival interview conducted by Joel Blumberg clocking in at nearly a half hour
-Jack Arnold Tribute by Myrl Schreibman
-"A Boss Memory" - Interview with producer Myrl Schreibman
-Original trailer

The Bottom Line
Blaxploitation films and revisionist westerns are still under represented on Blu-ray so it is great to get a solid HD presentation of BOSS NIGGER. Expand your horizons a bit and give this one a look because it's a very good blaxploitation western mashup.

BOSS NIGGER is available HERE

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Comet TV and Charge! TV September Viewing Guide

September is shaping up to be a big month for Comet TV and the Charge network with Godzilla double features, Dr. Who airings and now Comet TV is the home of the cult classic TV series Space: 1999!

Over on Charge there will be a month long celebration of the Rocky franchise including marathons of every film! Yo Adrian, Charge did it!

Download the full Comet and Charge viewing guide HERE

Beyond Fest: Cronenberg With Cronenberg!

Career-spanning, 13-film retrospective includes event screenings including guests Debbie Harry, Geena Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Howard Shore.
LOS ANGELES, (August 28, 2018) - Beyond Fest, the highest-attended genre film festival in the U.S., is excited to announce Cronenberg with Cronenberg: A Retrospective of the New Flesh- an exhaustive,13-film celebration of the legendary autuer’s career. Returning to Los Angeles for the first time in a decade, David Cronenberg will be in attendance for three, special event screenings at the legendary Egyptian Theatre where he will be joined by actors, collaborators, and guest moderators.

Co-presented by Telefilm Canada, the American Cinematheque’s partner for the annual Canada Now film festival, and with the support of the Consulate General of CanadaCronenberg on Cronenberg opens on Saturday, September 29th with The Shaping of Rage, an all-day marathon of David Cronenberg’s early films, SHIVERS, RABID, THE BROOD, and SCANNERS, presented sequentially and on 35mm. That evening, Cronenberg will be joined by long-time collaborator Howard Shore for a 30thanniversary screening of DEAD RINGERS with director Mick Garris moderating a post screening Q&A.

A spotlight shines on giant bugs on Sunday, September 30thwith a double bill of THE FLY and NAKED LUNCH where Cronenberg will be joined with THE FLY’s Geena Davis and the composer of both films, Howard Shore.

Cronenberg’s groundbreaking approach to the distorted world of virtual reality is exaimined on Monday, October 1stwith a double bill of VIDEODROME and EXISTENZ. Cronenberg will be joined in person by composer Howard Shore and his two lead actresses, Debbie Harry and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Director Leigh Whannell will moderate the Q&A between films.

“David Cronenberg has been a visionary master of the art of cinema for over four decades,” said Beyond Fest Co-Founder, Christian Parkes. “Screening these iconic films here in L.A. with his collaborators and partners is an absolute dream. Unless Kubrick is in hiding, we will probably quit after this.”

In addition to the screening events at the Egyptian Theatre, there are two double bills at the Aero Theatre: A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE & EASTERN PROMISES and CRASH & SPIDER. All 13 films screened during Cronenberg with Cronenberg: A Retrospective of the New Fleshwill be on 35mm film. 

To commemorate Cronenberg’s presence at Beyond Fest, renowned artist Alan Hynes has created an exclusive print and industry-leading collectibles brand, Mondo, have created a series of Cronenberg-related products that will be exclusively available at the festival.

Tickets for Cronenberg with Cronenberg: A Retrospective of the New Fleshwill be made available for purchase through Fandango and the American Cinematheque at 10 a.m., Saturday, September  1st.

Theremaining slate for Beyond Fest 2018 will be announced shortly.

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada
Runtime: 87 min.
Year: 1976
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada / USA
Runtime: 91 min.
Year: 1977
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada 
Runtime: 92 min.
Year: 1979
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada 
Runtime: 103 min.
Year: 1981
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: USA
Runtime: 102 min.
Year: 2017
GUESTS: David Cronenberg, Howard Shore

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: USA / UK / Canada
Runtime: 96 min.
Year: 1986 
GUESTS: David Cronenberg, Howard Shore, Geena Davis 
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canad / UK / Japan
Runtime: 115 min.
Year: 1991
GUESTS: David Cronenberg, Howard Shore, (Geena Davis)
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada
Runtime: 87 min.
Year: 1983
GUESTS: David Cronenberg, Howard Shore, Debie Harry (Jennifer Jason Leigh)
Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada / UK / France
Runtime: 97 min.
Year: 1999
GUESTS: David Cronenberg, Howard Shore, Jennifer Jason Leigh (Debbie Harry) 

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: USA / Germany / Canada
Runtime: 96 min.
Year: 2005

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: UK / Canada / USA
Runtime: 101 min.
Year: 2007

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada / UK / France
Runtime: 98 min.
Year: 2002

Director: David Cronenberg
Country: Canada / UK
Runtime: 100 min.
Year: 1996

Monday, August 27, 2018

STRAIGHT TO HELL - Blu-ray Review (Kino Studio Classics

Directed By: Alex Cox
Written By: Dick Rude, Alex Cox
Starring: Sy Richardson, Joe Strummer, Dick Rude
Color/91 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: August 28, 2018

The Film
What do you get when you combine the comedic anarchy of Mel Brooks with a "don't give a fuck what you think" punk rock attitude and roll it up in to a spaghetti western spoof that someone like Quentin Tarantino would worship? You get something along the lines of Alex Cox's STRAIGHT TO HELL.

Four bumbling criminals blow their job by being hungover and letting their target check out of his hotel before they could get to him so to make it up to their boss they rob a bank and barely escape. Their car breaks down in the Mexican desert so they bury the cash and hideout in what they thought was a deserted town. It's not ghosts they have to worry about here but maybe the undead would be better than dealing with a lot of kill-happy, cowboys that have been exposed to too much sun and are all hopped up on coffee.

Alex Cox is a well known cult filmmaker having made films such as Repo Man and Sid And Nancy which have amassed huge followings and have even found themselves among the ranks of the Criterion Collection. He's also a huge fan of the spaghetti western genre, he's provided commentary tracks to various films and even written a book on the subject. He has proven himself a very versatile filmmaker that can make great films in many styles and tones so it is no surprise that he wanted to make a spoof of the spaghetti western genre in a more contemporary setting. It's also made up of quite a cast of characters, largely filled with various musicians such as Joe Strummer of The Clash, Elvis Costello, The Pogues and Courtney Love as the female lead. This cast of non-actors add a bit to the chaos of the movie as you can only wrangle their performances so much. Even the more trained and traditional actors give wild performances but with a bit more polish to them.

STRAIGHT TO HELL is hilarious with the comedy coming from all angles and starting from the very beginning and never letting up. The cast that Cox uses definitely plays a big role in the vibe and attitude of the film. The overall story is a pretty typical western with the hunt for a hidden fortune, double crossing, a tough female love interest but it's all contorted into a zany and wacky affair. It also features some splattery violence that catches you off guard at first but quickly blends in to the madness. Story takes a bit of a backseat at times with a few stretches of film that went so far into left field that it lost me for a bit and that was okay because I was having enough fun that just spending time in this wackjob of a town was enough for me.

It may not be the most accessible film ever produced as it really does scream "cult" in every aspect of its production and not everyone is cut out to watch these types of movies. Whether it is the punk rock cast, the over the top violence, a pregnant and shrieking Courtney Love or just how bizarre the entire affair is, it definitely has a limited audience. One person that definitely enjoyed it was Quentin Tarantino as it is immediately evident how it influenced him on his early work, especially Pulp Fiction. Maybe STRAIGHT TO HELL is a bit too self indulgent and maybe Alex Cox gave too few fucks to make a traditionally good film and the bad reviews it received upon its release reflect that but for as much as I think Alex Cox was seriously loving every second of making this film I appreciate how bonkers it is and I had a lot of fun watching it.

The Audio & Video
STRAIGHT TO HELL arrives on Blu-ray with a new 2K restoration from Kino's Studio Classics line with great success. The anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 transfer has great picture quality and is sharp and clear, with no dirt, scratches or other debris. The desert setting is hot and sweaty and the fine details of the dirt, sand and broken down town textures are on point. Colors are vibrant with deep black levels and no signs of pixelation or blocking issues. the audio comes across in a DTS-HD Master Audio mix that sounds crystal clear. There's plenty of shoot outs and explosions to give your sound system some content to show off with while dialogue and music compliment each other nicely.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with co-writer/director Alex cox and co-writer/star Dick Rude
-"Back To Hell" - Making-of documentary
-"Black Hills" - A vintage tour of filming locations
-"Straight To Hell Returns" trailer

The Bottom Line
STRAIGHT TO HELL isn't the smoothest ride in town but that's what makes it memorable and gives it a distinct personality. This movie is wild and I dig it. Recommended!


Friday, August 24, 2018

DEEP RISING 20th Anniversary Blu-ray Review (Kino Studio Classics)

Directed By: Stephen Sommers
Written By: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Head
Color/106 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: August 21, 2018

The Film
A group of hijackers target the most luxurious cruise ship ever built on its maiden voyage but find that all of the passengers have vanished. They're not alone however and they quickly find a terrifying creature from the ocean depths is on board and is more deadly than anything they could have imagined.

DEEP RISING was another movie in a line of mid to late 90s creature feature revivals that featured everything from killer snakes and insects to mythic gods and sharks. The setting could be anywhere from land to sea and even sky but the monster movie returned during that time thanks in part to CGI becoming an increasingly common special effects tactic that saved time and money over practical effects. There were pros and cons to using computer effects that still stand to this day but the return of these types of monster movies that are reminiscent of the monster movies that were staples of drive-ins during the 1950s was welcomed as far as I'm concerned. Stephen Sommers has been responsible for some huge productions that were massive box office smashes like the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies and the more recent under the radar cult hit Odd Thomas that starred the late Anton Yelchin. DEEP RISING had a decent box office return despite being largely panned by critics as a cheap Alien knockoff. And it might be an Alien knockoff but it had effects that were top notch for its time and was quite a sharp looking film. More importantly it was a lot of fun.

Sure, if you want to dig in to DEEP RISING on an analytical level you can pick it apart. You can note that Treat Williams is far more of a supporting player than a dashing, charismatic leading man. You can look at the group of hijackers and play "Bad Guy Bingo" with their stereotypes and you can pick apart the lapse in logic in how the giant sea creature manages to be everywhere on the boat at any given time. You can do all that but then you'd be showing yourself to be the uptight party pooper that you really are. DEEP RISING asks you to do one thing; enjoy. Enjoy the shootouts that tear entire rooms on the cruise ship to shreds at the slightest hint of a sound. Enjoy Famke Janssen looking smoking hot. Enjoy that this movie puts the pedal to the metal and never lets up or slows down. Enjoy the tentacle monster and enjoy how it turns its victims into a gloppy mess of blood and guts.

Oh that feeding room scene!

There was one question I had before watching DEEP RISING for this review - Would it hold up? It has been two full decades since its release and I wondered if it would hold up to modern eyes and scrutiny. Despite effects that are aging poorly and some questionable casting choices I found DEEP RISING to be a proper example of the 90s creature feature revival for better and for worse. Thankfully DEEP RISING knows what it is and succeeds at staying true to its identity. It's loud and proud and quite a bit of monster madness fun.

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber has released DEEP RISING under its Studio Classics banner with a new 4K scan and restoration that blows any previous home video release of the film out of the water. Colors are strong and dark levels are deep. Detail is good, but finer details could be a bit more realized. The gore remains a strong visual point for the film which should delight viewers as it is properly gooey and gross. Skin tones look healthy as well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix sounds properly powerful  with all sorts of screaming, gun blasts and various other knocks, crashes and booms to give your system a workout. The dialogue comes through crisp and clear despite the boisterous sound effects showing off how well the mix job on this Blu-ray is.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary by director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay
-Interviews with stars Wes Studi, Kevin O'Connor, and Anthony Heald
-Interview with second unit director Dean Cundey
-Interview with visual effects artist John Berton of ILM
-Interview visual effects artist Van Ling
-Interview with special effects make up artist Brad Proctor
-Interview with special effects make up artist Doug Marrow
-Interview with director of photography Howard Atherton
-ILM behind-the-scenes
-Image gallery

The Bottom Line
Nineties creature features have been unfairly maligned over the years because of their dated effects work but some of them hold up as entertaining and exciting horror thrillers and DEEP RISING is certainly one of them and Kino has given us what I consider to be a definitive edition to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary.

DEEP RISING is available HERE

Friday, August 17, 2018


Directed By: Sonny Laguna, Tommy Wiklund
Written By: S. Craig Zahler
Starring: Thomas Lennon, Jenny Pellicer, Nelson Franklin
On VOD and Digital HD August 17

In a small Texas town in 1989 a German puppet maker is killed by police after his puppets commit a pair of murders. The puppet maker was Andre Toulon (Udo Kier), a Nazi who left Germany for America shortly after the end of World War II. Toulon used all forms of science and the occult to engineer his puppets to be deadly killing machines with a psychic link to do him to do his bidding. Now thirty years after his death a convention is being held in the town he died in and collectors from all over have come to buy and sell the puppets of Andre Toulon ignorant to the danger their valuable possessions pose.

Edgar (Thomas Lennon) along with his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and boss and best friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) attend the Andre Toulon convention to sell his deceased brother's old Andre Toulon puppet but after returning to his hotel room he finds the puppet missing. When the police arrive to investigate they find that many other guests' puppets have also gone missing and that missing puppets is the least of their concern as many guests have been brutally murdered. The puppets have returned to life and with their implements of death they are carrying out the wishes of their Nazi creator.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH follows in the footsteps of Full Moon Features' flagship franchise that began in 1989 with creator and director's Charles Band's horror film concerning an old hotel full of psychics who are investigating the death of a colleague who discovered murderous World War II era puppets. The film spawned ten sequels many of which retaining the WWII setting or theme and were video store era staples. Fans fell in love with Blade, Torch, Pinhead and all of Andre Toulon's other creations that split their time between being villains and antiheroes but there's no mistake that Andre Toulon and his puppets have never been nastier than they are in THE LITTLEST REICH. This reboot from writer S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk) and directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund who previously directed the Swedish horror film Wither together gives a fresh start to the series but honors its Full Moon roots and history.

I have a love/hate relationship with the franchise. I think the first three films are pretty great and the fourth and fifth entries take a more supernatural turn and are entertaining. Then the bottom fall out and the quality of the films takes a steep decline eventually turning in to nothing but a clip show before returning to its WWII roots with some rather poor and obviously low budget affairs in the "Axis Trilogy". The series was long overdue for a fresh voice and I put faith in S. Craig Zahler immediate upon hearing of his involvement. He has become a name to watch after his western horror film Bone Tomahawk and his ultra violent prison thriller Brawl In Cell Block 99 both of which have been well received by genre film critics and fans alike. Add in the duo of Laguna and Wiklund helming the film and you have a team that has recent horror success under their belt to try and breathe new life to a franchise that has been drowning for several entries.

And that they did. PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is the Puppet Master film fans have been waiting for over 20 years. The story is mean spirited as the puppets target Jews, gypsies and homosexuals and kill anyone else that just plain gets in their way. This ethnic cleansing attempted by the puppets can be a bit uncomfortable at times but in the same way that a rape/revenge film is uncomfortable and eventually satisfying when the attacker(s) get their comeuppance. And they deserve everything they get and more. The puppets slice, burn, decapitate and disembowel their victims with blood, limbs and innards flying everywhere. This is easily the goriest Puppet Master film to date, and it isn't even close. The extreme violence is presented in a way that lightens the tone of the film so that it is easily digestible. Plus any movie with Udo Kier and Barbara Crampton gets a little bonus.

I felt like a kid again getting excited over a decapitated head falling into a toilet and a pile of guts falling out of a sliced stomach. The special effects from Tate Steinsiek are not only plentiful but well done as well. Something that plagued the Puppet Master franchise as the series went on was the puppeteering and the look and movement of the puppets. At their worst it looked as if they were dolls being held and shaken around by a hand just off screen until they jumped toward a victim and I use the term "jump" very loosely. It was more of being randomly tossed in the direction of a victim. That was one fear I had that would carry over to this entry and in some instances the movement of the puppets isn't so hot but more often than not the puppets have really decent looking movement and animation which pleased the hell out of me. The music also pleased the hell out of me. Richard Band provided the score and theme for the original franchise and provides a theme here as well but the majority of the music was handled by Italian maestro and frequent Lucio Fulci collaborator Fabio Frizzi and his score adds a foreboding atmosphere that I'd never felt in a Puppet Master film before. Frizzi's work really is top notch and along with the ultra gory moments it was reminiscent of some of the classic Fulci moments.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH does have its flaws and setbacks. While I think the set up of the story is fine the writing has holes in it that are frustrating such as Andre Toulon's connection with the puppets and how he is manipulating them after his apparent death and why he has waited 30 years to bring them back to life. The film does end with a "to be continued" which could eventually lead to some insight and fill in some gaps but it was frustrating at times. The puppets themselves have several distinct styles and designs but each of those has different versions running around simply to create a higher number of puppets. This feels like a cop out to me but when I get to see Torch (or in this case Kaiser) totally melt the flesh from a few faces I'll let some things slide like minor continuity errors and some sporadically awkward editing.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH might be unnecessarily mean and could have easily left the Nazi theme out this time around but they made it work. The film's positives vastly outweigh the negatives and along with easily being the best entry in two decades it is also the most entertaining and I'm fully on board for another.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2 (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Ken Wiederhorn
Written By: Ken Wiederhorn
Starring: James Karen, Thom Mathews, Michael Kenworthy
Color/89 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: August 14, 2018

The Film
Following in the footsteps of the original Return Of The Living Dead, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2 has a similar set up and plot revolving around a group of people fighting to survive a zombie outbreak after a toxic gas has been unleashed from a lost Army container. Unlike the first film that while having a healthy dose of comedy was definitely geared toward adult audiences with plenty of gore and nudity, the sequel is based more in comedy than horror and is a much more family friendly affair.

Writer and director Ken Wiederhorn is best known for his work in the horror genre having helmed films such as the Nazi zombie drive-in staple Shock Waves and the early 80s serial killer flick Eyes Of A Stranger, Wiederhorn's most notable and popular work is RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2. Ironically Wiederhorn isn't much of a fan of the horror genre and has gone on record many times stating that. Knowing that it is obvious why he took this sequel in a decidedly more humorous and family friendly direction concerned more about laughs than shocks. From the opening ten minutes of the film it is immediately apparent that this is not going to be a tonal rehash of the first film as we're quickly introduced to a trio of kids, not old enough to be in high school. Along with the youthful presence is a whimsical score that wouldn't be out of place in a children adventure movie like The Goonies.

Fans of the first film may have been thrown for a loop early on but I suspect a wave of comfort (and slight confusion as well) washed over them when James Karen and Thom Mathews appeared on screen. These two played a classic duo in the original and despite having died make their return as different characters in the sequel albeit in similar roles. They even repeat their classic "Watch your tongue boy, if you like this job!" "Like this job!?" exchange much to my personal delight. Then the zombies start coming and any remaining doubt that this isn't going to be like the first film is erased as the slapstick is introduced. Instead of making these zombies menacing and scary Ken Wiederhorn has them bumbling around the graveyard, stepping on each other's heads as they climb out of their resting places, falling into empty graves and eventually driving military jeeps around town while flailing about.

These zombies are still dangerous and gross. These undead monsters want brains and will chase you down to get them. Like the first film these zombies run and even a gunshot to the head won't stop them. There's a bit of gore on display to keep a slight edge to the film and make-up effects artist Kenny Myers and his team created dozens of decayed designs that I think are overlooked in the world of zombie design because they're in a more comedic film. That's not Kenny Myers' fault who I think did a superb job in keeping the horror aspects of this horror movie in tact enough so that it works because without the horror in this movie it would be a big goofy mess. And while it is goofy it's goofy in a charming way and there's enough horror to keep things moving along at a nice pace. If there's one thing RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2 could never be accused of it is being slow or boring. There's always something to laugh at or get excited by.

Yes, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2 is a wacky departure from the first film and no, it is not a slice of counter culture goodness that the first film is but it is a wildly entertaining film that has its tongue planted firmly in cheek and after nearly a quarter century of me being a fan of it I think I can safely call it timeless. It is funny in ways that will always be funny and the scary bits are scary in ways that will always be scary. It may not be as good as the first but I will shout it from the mountaintops that I love RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART 2.

The Audio & Video
Scream Factory has restored the film with a new 2K scan of the original interpositive to very nice results. The film has always had a hazy and soft look from the way it was lit and photographed and that remains the case here but that doesn't detract from the obvious and sizable upgrade over the old DVD release of the film. Colors are vivid but realistic while detail is enhanced quite a bit which makes the zombies look even more ghoulish. Black levels are appropriately dark and there's no signs of pixelation or blocking up. The DTS-HD Master Audio is crystal clear and provides a crisp listening experience. The mix is perfectly done letting the dialogue come through loud and clear while the music shines when it needs to. The audio is free of any sort of damage or distortions like crackling, popping, or hissing.

The Extras
I... Want... Your... Brains!!! Whoops, I mean special features and there are plenty of them.

-Audio commentary with star Suzanne Snyder
-Audio commentary with Gary Smart (Co-author of The Complete History Of The Return Of The Living Dead) and filmmaker Christopher Griffiths
-Audio commentary with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn and actor Thor Van Lingen
-"Back To The Dead" - Featurette with special effects supervisor Kenny Myers (and others)
-"The Laughing Dead" - Featurette with writer/director Ken Wiederhorn
-"They Won't Stay Dead" - a look at ROTLD2
-"Undead Melodies" - Featurette with composer J. Peter Robinson
-Archival featurette from the set
-Archival interviews
-Interview with actor Troy Fromin
-Behind-the-scenes footage
-Theatrical trailer
-Teaser trailer
-TV Spots
-Poster artwork still gallery
-Special effects makeup still gallery

The Bottom Line
This sequel's Blu-ray release was long overdue but Scream Factory made the wait worth it with a release featuring a great transfer and a slew of special features that definitely lives up to its "Collector's Edition" banner. And let us not overlook that the movie finally has been released with its original soundtrack for the first time since the VHS days. If you have any brains you'd go get it now.


Monday, August 6, 2018

BREAKING IN (Unviersal Home Video Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: James McTeigue
Written By: Ryan Engle
Starring: Gabrielle Union, Billy Burke, Richard Cabral
Color/88 Minutes/PG-13
Region A
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD

The Film
After the recent death of her father a mother (Gabrielle Union) brings her kids to his sprawling estate to prepare it for sale but find that the house is already occupied by a group of criminals looking for the safe they believe is hidden and full of cash. With her family in mortal danger Union must fight back to save their lives.

Let's start with the good, shall we? Gabrielle Union is pretty decent here, capable of handling the physical and emotional sides of her character well. The on-location shooting at a real house gives a sense of realism to the film even if the house is an absolute mansion compound with state of the art of security that no normal person could ever dream of affording. Director James McTeigue makes good use of the location. Otherwise the film sets itself up to be a digestible slice of Hollywood despite being something unremarkable or particularly memorable and that is perfectly fine. Not every movie has to be groundbreaking or a new spin on a genre. BREAKING IN, for the first half of the film was on its way to being that.

And then the bottom dropped out.

The second half of BREAKING IN is a train wreck filled with plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon, editing that if I called it sloppy I'd be extremely kind and forgiving because it is really just plain awful, performances from the cast that are simply not good but to be fair that's really due in part to the writing at this point as well. The entire movie asks you to overlook so many inconsistencies for the sake of convenience for itself and the situations it wants to set up that it is downright insulting.

Cookie cutter isn't necessarily a bad thing. I like when my cookies are the same size and I know what to expect when I bite in to them. You won't win any fancy awards or be the next big thing making cookie cutter cookies but you can at least make a product that the party will enjoy. BREAKING IN is the equivalent to biting into a cookie and finding out that chocolate chip is actually a cockroach and nobody wants to eat a cockroach.

The Audio & Video
Universal's Blu-ray of BREAKING IN is gorgeous. The 1080p presentation looks stellar, with deep, inky black levels that show no signs of compression or blocking issues. Colors are vivid and lifelike while detail levels are very high including finer detail like facial hair and surface textures. The audio is crisp and clear with a strong mix across the 5.1 lossless audio mix. From a technical standpoint this release is top notch.

The Extras
There are several featurettes included in the release taking us behind the scenes to look at various aspects of the filmmaking including Gabrielle Union's performance and her role as a protective mother, James McTeigue's direction and use of the real life location the movie was produced in and the film's action scenes. Also included is an alternate opening and deleted and extended scenes each with optional commentary from the director and a full length audio commentary track from the director and writer.

The Bottom Line
BREAKING IN had the potential to be a standard but altogether successful home invasion thriller but it completely falls apart and descends into the type of movie that if you're not rolling your eyes at it you're simply staring wide-eyed at the screen in amazement of how ludicrous what you're watching is.

BREAKING IN is available HERE

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Bill Zebub Announces New Film: The Most Offensive Movie Ever Made

Bill Zebub has made dozens upon dozens of films and has been distributed all over the world. He's been a B-movie king for decades with titles such as Holocaust Cannibal, Dickshark, Santa Claus: Serial Rapist and Antfarm Dickhole under his belt you can bet you're in for something special. He's also also someone I've shared a couple too many drinks and plenty of laughs with at conventions and can tell you he's good people. The point is if you support his upcoming film Clowna Nostra you will be supporting independent art and you can rest assured that you will get everything you are owed.

Check out the IndieGoGo HERE

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

FLORA (Mill Creek Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Sasha Louis Vukovic
Written By: Sasha Louis Vukovic
Starring: Teresa Marie Doran, Dan Lin, Sari Mercer
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: August 7, 2018

The Film
Set in 1929, a team on an expedition to an uncharted forest to map the terrain and document the local plant life finds the team that arrived before them have gone missing. They realize that the native flora contain a deadly bacteria and that their lives depend on escaping the mysterious forest with limited supplies as they're being attacked by nature itself.

FLORA is an ambitious debut project for writer/director Sasha Louis Vukovic who was pretty freshly out of film school when this production went underway. Not only did he take on a period piece but he focused the film on an invisible antagonist which makes the audience focus entirely on the story and doesn't give himself any wall to hide behind as he could have with a more special effects driven horror movie. And to his credit I think Vukovic is largely successful. FLORA is a tense thriller, with fleshed out characters who have genuine intentions and purpose within the film. There are a few moments where the direction gets a bit too into itself and goes for flare over simple effectiveness. I chalk this up to a new director trying to show what he's capable of and I understand that but it's not always necessary. Sasha Vukovic is a young director and I think he'll be able to dial in his style and feel out when to reel it in a bit in the future.

The cast is comprised of a group with limited experience and like their director, there's more to praise than to critique. Instances of stilted performances are spread amongst a believable ensemble who are more than up to the task of not only a dramatic but at times a physical performance as well with plenty of sprinting and carrying heavy equipment through the actual Canadian forest this movie was shot in. A period piece is only as believable as the set dressing and wardrobe and that is tough to accomplish with millions of dollars let alone with the $120,000 (Canadian) budget that the film had according to IMDB and I never once questioned that this film was taking place in the late 1920s. I applaud the Vukovic's writing and costuming of Olivia Ball to make sure the characters spoke and wore the era.

FLORA isn't perfect but it is quite good. Sometimes less is more and in separate instances FLORA both adheres to that rule and breaks it. The script has questionable character decisions and potential plot bumps if not holes regarding this unseen organism but I found myself engaged, entertained and totally invested by this adventure in minimalist horror that reminded me of M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening if The Happening if Shyamalan had written a script that was worth a damn. FLORA is a debut that avoids many of the stumbling blocks a young rookie director and writer fall victim of and is a promising start. I hope Sasha Vukovic works more in the horror and thriller genres in the coming years.

The Audio & Video
Mill Creek gives FLORA a home on Blu-ray and it looks very nice. The digital photography shines in the 2.00:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with the lush greens of the forest popping and engulfing the screen. Skin tones look fleshy and natural with no signs of waxiness or pink coloring. There are no noticeable issues with black levels clumping up or becoming pixelated. The 5.1 DTS-HD audio mix sounds fantastic with the beautiful score shining through when it needs to be more in the foreground but blending nicely with the dialogue the rest of the time. The audio is crisp and clear with no distortion issues.

The Extras
Bonus features include a short behind the scenes featurette which provide a bit of insight into the development of the film and its production. Also included are deleted scenes and an audio commentary track with writer/director Sasha Louis Vukovic and stars Teresa Marie Doran and Dan Lin.

The Bottom Line
FLORA had success on the festival circuit and deservedly so. It now has a very respectable home on Blu-ray and I think it deserves a place on every horror fan's watch list.

FLORA is available HERE