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The Larry Fessenden Collection (Scream Factory)
A scientist and his wife head to the country so he can do some radical animal experimentation, but their relationship crumbles as his work intensifies in No Telling. Sam is a lonely, drunk New Yorker who finds comfort in a mysterious woman’s fangs in Habit. A family heads into the Catskills for a vacation but finds local conflict, tragedy, and legend in Wendigo. A team of oil company field workers in Alaska fall victim to an unknown force emerging from beneath the quickly melting ice in The Last Winter.
The four films in this collection may be something of a mixed bag, but they’re never less than interesting. The set’s worth it for The Last Winter alone (along with its numerous new extra features) as the film is an utterly fantastic piece of eco-terror, but it should be a blind buy for Fessenden fans anyway. Scream Factory has produced a tremendous collection of extras, new and old, to accompany new HD transfers and commentaries from Fessenden. He offers insight into each film and supplement while showering his co-collaborators with recognition.
[Blu-ray extras: HD transfers, commentaries, making ofs, deleted scenes, short films, music videos, interviews]
Back to the Future ‐ 30th Anniversary Trilogy
Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) doesn’t have the easiest of lives, but he makes do with his goofy family, lovely girlfriend, and the friendship of an eccentric scientist named Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd). A tragedy in the present leads to an adventure in the past, the future, and the even more distant past! Good times are had by all except for a prick named Biff.
I’m still not entirely sold on the quality of part 2, but the first film remains an absolute gem while the third is still a sweet rom-com-western. Yes, this is something of a double/triple dip as Universal’s 25th Anniversary release of the trilogy is still perfectly fine. This new set includes all of those past special features and adds several new ones including a fun little short film featuring the return of Doc Brown and two episodes of the animated series.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: New short film, new featurettes, documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, music videos, commentaries]
Demonoid (Vinegar Syndrome)
An American and his wife Jennifer (Samantha Eggar) accidentally unleash a demon from a Mexican mine. It appears in the form of a severed hand that kills people and possesses others ‐ before making them cut off their own hand to continue the dance all over again. The hand is ultimately after Jennifer, so she joins forces with a priest (Stuart Whitman) to stop the fingering evil once and for all.
Oliver Stone’s The Hand got more press, but this is a more entertaining film thanks to some fun gory bits, fairly impressive hand effects, and other demonic antics. It plays in some ways like Fallen as the demon moves from one hand to the next, but instead of simple touch it requires the hand be separated from the body each time. It all goes in some goofy directions, but it remains entertaining, and when’s the last time you saw a horror movie with a car chase?! Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray is a beautifully-produced release featuring not only a new HD scan of the film but a new scan of the longer, alternate cut (Macabra) as well.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, alternate international version, interview with director, reversible cover art]
My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series
Tim O’Hara (Bill Bixby) is a newspaper reporter on the lookout for the next big story, and he finds it when he stumbles upon a UFO crash site and the martian (Ray Walston) behind the wheel. Knowing no one will believe him, and not willing to risk the martian’s incarceration at the hands of the government, Tim instead invites the alien into his home until his ship can be repaired. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship as Tim’s career gets a boost from having a partner capable of reading minds, turning invisible, and more. Goodbye martian, hello Uncle Martin.
I’m more of a Courtship of Eddie’s Father / Picket Fences guy, but there’s still a lot to love about Bixby and Walston riffing back and forth. Mid-’60s sitcoms weren’t known for their cutting edge comedy, and this one is no exception ‐ it’s more physical gags and wisecracks ‐ but innocent, good-natured comedy has its place too. Humorously, there’s a fun Back to the Future connection too in that the show’s third season sees the pair time travel back to the old west where they spend a few episodes trying to get back home. The rest of the season (the first in color) is heavy on other trouble-causing gadgets which often lead to their own entertaining scenarios.
[DVD extras: Behind the scenes, commercials, test footage, interviews, featurettes, pilot episodes]
Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (Scream Factory)
Brayker (William Sadler) is a drifter who arrives in town with a maniac known only as the Collector (Billy Zane) hot on his tail. The latter is after something the former has in his possession, something that may just determine the fate of humanity, and Brayker is forced to make his last stand from the confines of an old hotel populated by a motley crew of locals.
The first of Universal’s three Tales from the Crypt movies ‐ yeah, I didn’t know they made a third one (Ritual) either ‐ is still the best as it mixes fantastic creature/gore effects, a fun story, and a great sense of humor together with a terrific cast. There are big laughs, exciting action beats, and a monstrously entertaining performance by Zane, and it’s easily as good as the best episodes of the HBO series. Scream Factory has loaded their HD release with plentiful extras, the best of which is a making of doc that explores both the good and bad times experienced on the production.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, making of, interviews]
Frightmare (Vinegar Syndrome)
Conrad Radzoff is a horror film icon, but when he dies and is put to rest in a personalized mausoleum some film school fools come up with a brilliant idea. They steal the body for a night of partying. His widow takes their action poorly, and with the help of a medium she restores her dead hubby to life. They didn’t plan on him returning with a blood-lust though. This early ’80s horror film features a young Jeffrey Combs in a supporting role and a handful of entertaining visuals, but there’s not much else to recommend it. Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray is a great gift for the film’s fans though as they’ve restored the picture and added in some new extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, interviews, commentaries, reversible cover art]
Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) meet under humorously stressful conditions but soon fall in love anyway. All seems well until Mina becomes pregnant and starts growing increasingly and excessively concerned for the child’s well-being. Things get worse once their son is born, and soon the couple are fighting for what each of them believes is best for the child. Both leads do strong, emotional work here, and the story is continually engaging, but it’s also frustrating in the early going as Mina’s behavior is more annoying than dramatically satisfying. Still, it’s a bumpy road that leads to down a fascinating road.
[DVD extras: None]
I Spit on Your Grave III: Vengeance Is Mine
Jennifer (Sarah Butler) was assaulted years ago and dealt a violent and decisive revenge against her attackers, but now she’s living a new life under an assumed name. When her friend is murdered and the justice system fails, she sets out to right the wrong with some good old fashioned vigilante justice. And then she acquires a taste for it. I skipped the two previous Spit films ‐ the actual rape/revenge ones ‐ but actually found quite a bit to enjoy about this second sequel. Rapid-cut flashbacks aside we’re not made to watch any sexual assaults here, and instead we’re given a graphic, female-led take on Death Wish as Jennifer goes looking for men to punish. Did I mention it’s graphic? Because sweet jesus there’s a scene involving a mouth, a member, and a knife that is not pleasant. There’s a sense of humor here too, and while it doesn’t always feel right it works for the character more often than not. And then there’s the scene with the lubed pipe…
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
It’s been decades since rampaging dinosaurs broke loose of their theme park enclosures and ate some people, so clearly that means it’s time to try again. The park is under new management and has been making guests go “wow” for a few years now, but when the numbers aren’t growing to shareholder expectations the decision is made to genetically create a new dinosaur. And just like that, people are back on the menu. Solid CG, ridiculous action scenes, utter silliness, casual disregard for human life, this is definitely a summer blockbuster. It may be the third highest grossing film of all time ‐ shame on you all ‐ but it’s also only the third best Jurassic Park film. Universal’s HD presentation is big, bold, and beautiful though, so fans will be pleased.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
Mike Tyson Mysteries: Season One
Mike Tyson has always valued justice, obviously, so it’s a natural fit when he hits the streets to help those in need. Along with a pigeon, a ghost, and an adopted daughter he rights wrongs, solves mysteries, and brings joy to those around him. Kind of. Adult Swim continues to find the fun in the absurd, and their latest plays like an inebriated mix of Unsolved Mysteries and the Mister T cartoon. Season one only features ten episodes that collectively clock in at under two hours, but the laughs are plentiful.
[DVD extras: None]
Northern Limit Line
The modern world neared a new war in late June of 2002 when North Korean patrol boats attacked a South Korean battleship. The incident nearly inflamed an international incident, and the smaller story at the center of it all is the one being told here. Exciting naval action, albeit with CG assists, combine with a dramatic (and melodramatic) character beats for an interesting slice of modern warfare.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Quentin (Nate Wolff) loves Margo (Cara Delevingne), and he has for some time. It’s not a reciprocated emotion, but the two are friends, and Quentin accepts that as the best he can do. Things change though when a night of fun sees Margo disappear the next morning. He’s been chasing her for years, but now it seems she might just need to be found. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars made a splash with its heartfelt and humorous take on the “cancer girl” story line, but this follow-up (from one of his novels) never quite manages to be all that compelling. While the story and romance leave something to be desired, Wolff is wholly worth watching as he exudes an effortless charm while stumbling through teenage tribulations.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurettes, gag reel]
Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (Scream Factory)
Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) is a private investigator hired to find a church secretary’s (Erika Eleniak) missing brother (Corey Feldman), but when the trail leads to a house of ill repute a lost boy becomes the least of Rafe’s problems. These ladies of the night are vampires! The second Tales from the Crypt film is a visible mess in many ways ‐ story, character, etc ‐ but there’s still plenty of fun to be had thanks to an abundance of wise cracks and gory bits. It’s funny, but light, but Scream Factory’s new Blu is worth picking up for the making of doc. Cast and crew talk openly about the production woes, the personality clashes, and how much of a pain in the ass Miller was during filming.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of]
The Vatican Tapes
A young woman begins acting odd and destructive, and it’s not long before those around her realize the cause is the devil himself. Her behavior draws the attention of a local priest (Michael Pena) and the Vatican itself, but as men of the cloth try to work their wizardry the evil proves itself far more powerful than they expected. Director Mark Neveldine sans Taylor adds some flash to an otherwise typical possession tale ‐ as does the always reliable Pena ‐ but there’s just nothing new to say here. The insistence on presenting some of the film as video footage is no help either.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
The Angulo boys were like most siblings in their desires to play and watch movies together, but unlike most others these brothers lived almost the entirety of their lives inside their apartment. Their parents discouraged contact of any kind with strangers, and it wasn’t until one of the boys snuck out into the world that they finally got to experience lives that include the outside world. The story behind this documentary is as fascinating as it is tragic, but the limitations of their youth led to increased creativity that appears to be serving them now. I had hoped it would end with one or both of the parents being tossed out the high-rise’s window, but spoiler, that does not happen.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, making of, short films, featurette]
Z for Zachariah
Ann (Margot Robie) is the last woman on Earth. Well, she was for a while after the nuclear war, but she soon discovers a man (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Then she finds another man (Chris Pine). Humanity is barely hanging on after the war, but can it survive a love triangle? This adaptation of the bestselling YA novel presents a lush and lonely world populated by beautiful people and suspenseful dilemmas, but the central conflict it creates feels forced at times as it hurtles towards the only conclusion that feels right.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, deleted scenes, interviews]
Alex of Venice, The Benoit Jacquot Collection, A Good Marriage, Kwaidan (Criterion), The Lifeguard, Nurse Jackie: Season Seven, Rotor DR1, Testament of Youth, Transformers: Robots in Disguise