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Rey Ciso was once the most celebrated film editor in the world, but ever since a lapse in judgement while working on the longest film ever made left him four fingers short he’s been relegated to cutting trashy genre movies for no-talent hacks. When cast members on his latest project start turning up dead the cop investigating the crimes immediately sets his sights on Rey forcing the editor into a race against time to identify the real culprit before it’s too late. His efforts are complicated by several factors including the possibility that he may be the murderer after all.
Not only is this Astron-6's best film yet, it’s also one of best comedy/horror hybrids to bloody up the screen in years. It’s a balls-out homage to Italian giallo and horror films loaded with references to genre classics splashed liberally throughout alongside gore, naked flesh, and big laughs. As great and fun as the visuals are they don’t come at the expense of the script. While it succeeds in poking fun and having laughs at the expense of Italian genre films it actually works as an entertaining example in its own right. It’s certainly no weirder than Argento’s Phenomena and no less violent than Fulci’s The New York Ripper. They deliver a legitimate story here, one with mystery and character and exposed genitalia, but they weave it through with smartly comedic dialogue ‐ “In ancient Roman times, editors were considered to be bridges to the netherworld!” ‐ making for a fun and funny experience for genre fans.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, making of, featurettes, deleted scenes]
10 to Midnight (Twilight Time)
Det. Kessler (Charles Bronson) is working a murder case with no leads or evidence, and it’s not long before the single crime reveals a serial killer at work. The psycho is quickly revealed to be a young man with few social graces and a bone to pick with the petty women of the world who he feels have spurned his attention, but as Kessler closes in the rules of law become more of an obstacle than an aid.
This is top five (leading man) Bronson for me as it works to create a thriller equal parts sleazy, trashy, creepy, and occasionally fun. The supporting cast is early ’80s perfection ‐ Andrew Stevens, Geoffrey Lewis, Lisa Eilbacher ‐ and director J. Lee Thompson (Cape Fear, The Guns of Navarone, and a whopping eight Bronson films) fills the screen with gratuitous nudity and reckless concern for law & order. The killer’s slight nod toward Ted Bundy adds an unusually unsettling element to a Cannon Films production that helps this rise above the usual action fare. Order from Twilight Time Movies.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
At Close Range (Twilight Time)
Brad Jr. (Sean Penn) is a young punk who along with his brother (Chris Penn) wiles away his days in Pennsylvania with booze, drugs, and other sketchy antics, but when their criminal father (Christopher Walken) comes back to town their lives take a dark turn. The brothers and their friends find themselves pulled slowly under the charismatic thief’s wing with unfortunate results.
Director James Foley brings a tragic true story to the screen and captures the bleak reality of the poverty and lack of morality that led to it all. Penn is fantastic here, and Walken doesn’t let the seriousness of the tale get in the way of him delivering a handful of pure Walken moments. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out that this is prime short-haired Mary Stuart Masterson material, and honestly that alone is some kind of wonderful. Order from Twilight Time Movies.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th
The makers of the excellent Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy return with an equally in-depth look at the Friday the 13th films. Divided into chapters, one per film, this doc is an essential source of material and information for fans of the series. Interviews with dozens of players illustrate each film’s production covering details big and small. We learn how the whole thing got started and hear from everyone from directors to writers to effects guys to the cast, and the anecdotes are engrossing and consistently fun.
Information as innocuous as the fact that “Jason” was almost “Josh” exists alongside more serious revelations like that of Adrienne King’s brush with a violent stalker. Disagreements abound as participants let loose with their thoughts on the films’ logic, Jason’s hockey mask, and what they thought of each other. Ted White played Jason in Part 4 and has some hilarious thoughts on little Corey Feldman ‐ this is especially funny as Feldman actually narrates the entire doc. It’s a treasure trove of information spread across two discs and while certain parties declined to participate those who did more than make up for their absence. Even without them this nearly seven hour doc is never boring and consistently engaging and illustrative of the enthusiasm, creativity, and professionalism that both cast and crew put into the films.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Emperor of the North (Twilight Time)
The Great Depression left millions out of work and desperate to survive, and it also saw the rise of the hobo ‐ unemployed and homeless men traveling the country by stealing rides on freight trains. The railroad companies didn’t take kindly to freeloaders and sanctioned their conductors, the railway men, with eliminating the ride thieves by any means necessary. Lee Marvin is the top hobo, Ernest Borgnine is the top railway man, and only one will survive this trip.
Director Robert Aldritch (The Dirty Dozen, The Longest Yard) crafts an enormous battle of wills between two men on and off a near-constantly moving platform, and while numerous big stunts punctuate the film it finds some of its thrills by placing its lead actors atop and beneath a moving train. It’s an exciting watch, but there’s also an offbeat sense of humor running through it all with its look at a world barely glimpsed by the modern world. Keith Carradine’s performance as an apprentice hobo occasionally grates, but his talents shine through as things progress. Order from Twilight Time Movies.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
The Age of Adaline
Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is 29 years old, and she has been for the past 79 years. An auto accident in 1937 involving snowflakes, cold water, and lightning alters her riboflavin levels, and from that point on her body becomes immune to the ravages of time. She moves every decade and uses forged identities to prevent anyone from discovering her secret, and it becomes clear that aside from her daughter (Ellen Burstyn, quickly cornering the market on characters who appear older than their parent), her dog, and a blind friend, she lives a life of self-imposed emotional isolation. Unnecessary flashbacks, redundant narration, and a flat romance hurt the film dramatically, but Lively and Harrison Ford give strong performances that almost counterbalance the problems. It’s also far better shot than it is written.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
James (Hayden Christensen) is trying to make a life as a mechanic and owner of his own garage, but a tough economy has other plans. Things grow even more difficult when his older brother Frankie (Adrien Brody) is released from prison and immediately falls back into his old ways with a score that promises to drag James down too this time. This tale of brotherly devotion has been done to death, and there’s little deviation here aside from the inclusion of a Heat-like gunfight in the street. The brothers are so cliched at this point, that the time spent leading up to Frankie’s incredibly poor decision is wasted as we know exactly what’s heading our way. It doesn’t help that the film opens in medias res and then reaches that scene just twenty minutes into the damn movie.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette]
Blue Bloods: The Fifth Season
New York City’s premiere crime-fighting family, the Reagans, continues to stand up for the people on the streets, in the courts, and behind the scenes. Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, and Bridget Moynihan headline what amounts to a mix of police procedural and Parenthood, for better or worse, and they remain the core reason to tune in to the show.
[DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, commentaries]
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season Two
Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and the rest of the police officers of the 99th Precinct continue their efforts to have fun, give each playful grief, and occasionally catch criminals. The personal interactions continue to evolve too as love blossoms, we risk losing a beloved member of the team, and we learn more about Captain Holt’s (Andre Braugher) life and past. Two seasons in and this remains one of the funnier shows on network television thanks to some sharp writing and a very funny cast. Two jokes out of every three land, but the performers often bring the funny even when the gags don’t. The will they/won’t they romance angle isn’t as successful and grows tiresome at times, but it’s a small price to pay for the rapid-fire wit on display throughout.
[DVD extras: Deleted scenes]
An attempted bank robbery brings a handful of people, both strangers and acquaintances, together as the fruition of someone else’s plan. The first clue that this is going to be a pretty bad film is the presence of Vinnie Jones, but while you’re tempted to keep watching for Michael Pare and Sean Astin I wouldn’t recommend it. This is the kind of film where Danny Glover plays a powerful crime lord with a female bodyguard named Katana whose weapon of choice is, wait for it, a katana. The action sequences can only be called that by default, and it’s clear that nobody wants to be here. Well, aside from Jones.
[DVD extras: None]
Dressed to Kill (Criterion)
A frustrated housewife (Angie Dickinson) is found slashed to death in an elevator, and only a charming prostitute/witness (Nancy Allen) and the smart, introverted son of the deceased (Keith Gordon) can solve the murder. Brian De Palma’s 1980 hit is one of his most devoted homages to Alfred Hitchcock, boasting a narrative openly indebted to Psycho, Vertigo, and Marnie. De Palma effectively uses the throwback thriller framework for numerous stunningly realized set pieces that utilize every instrument in the De Palma toolbox, from split-screens to tracking shots, here fully available in the film’s uncensored cut. But despite its formal accomplishments, Dressed to Kill is a truly mixed bag. Controversial upon its release, the film’s social politics (especially regarding its transgender killer) have, to put it mildly, aged very badly. ‐ Landon Palmer
Blu-ray/DVD extras: New interview with De Palma by Noah Baumbach; new and archival interviews with cast and crew; making-of documentary; demonstration of the film’s censorship history; storyboard gallery; illustrated booklet with essay
Fat City (Twilight Time)
Tully (Stacy Keach) has seen the heights of success as a boxer in the ring, but recent years have seen him barely scraping by. Ernie (Jeff Bridges), by contrast, is a young fighter on the rise. Their paths cross, but victory is far from assured for either man. John Huston directs this grounded ode to America’s blue collar struggle to achieve dreams well out of reach, and it’s powered by two strong lead performances. It’s an affecting boxing film, but it’s far from the typical sports film in that this isn’t really a tale of underdogs and heroes. Order from Twilight Time Movies.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
Gotham: The Complete First Season
Detective James Gordon is new to the Gotham Police Department, but it’s not long before he makes it his very personal mission to clean up the streets. It starts with a promise to a young boy who just lost his parents to the violent actions of a street criminal, and that boy is Bruce Wayne. The CW’s latest DC Comics series has caught on well with fans, and it’s easy to see why. It has a sharp style and digs deep into Gotham’s lore as it reveals the backstories of notorious villains like Catwoman, Riddler, The Joker and others. It’s a bit less successful for non-fans ‐ well, for me at least ‐ because it’s a prequel to a tale I’m familiar enough with to know that these characters are all still going to be around once Wayne grows up and takes matters into his own hands. That doesn’t make it dull, but it does make it anti-climactic. Ultimately it’s best viewed as its own story, one more interested in being a noir procedural than a superhero story.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Haven: Season 5 Volume 1
The small East coast town of Haven continues to experience more than its fair share of troubles as newcomer no more Audrey appears gone forever. In her place, and in her body, is an evil woman who may very well be responsible for all that has befallen the community. It still makes me laugh that this show continues to market itself as “based on The Colorado Kid by Stephen King” because it has never been even the slightest bit related to that short novel. The book isn’t good, so that’s not a problem, but why even pretend? It’s essentially The Lawnmower Man all over again. That annoyance aside the show is actually a pretty engaging sci-fi mystery telling a wide-ranging tale that will hopefully get wrapped up in this final season. As for the disc release itself I’ve never been a fan of seasons being split up and offered in halves, so this is a rental at best.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
Homeland: The Complete Fourth Season
Carrie (Claire Danes) has graduated to CIA Station Chief and appears on the road to recovery after her near career-ending relationship with a complicated ginger, but the quest for an incredibly dangerous terrorist once again brings her close to the edge. The show continues to boast some engaging writing in regard to the main storyline, but Carrie’s shtick also continues to grate. What was once a fresh take on a troubled heroine threatens to grow more frustrating than entertaining. Still, the action beats are exciting and well staged, and Rupert Friend’s Quinn becomes the character to watch for.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Morituris: Legions of the Dead
Two female friends accept an offer from three boys to attend a midnight rave in a remote rural locale, but when they arrive it becomes clear that the girls have been deceived. The men proceed to rape, beat and humiliate them for what feels like an eternity, but as bad as the girls’ night is going it’s about to get a whole lot worse. Undead gladiators rise from their graves and begin their own assault on all five of the trespassers. Touted as a mix of ’80s Italian horror, Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, and practical gore showcase, the film fails to reach any of those heights. The acting and script are rough, the sexual assault is graphic and never-ending, and it’s impossible to care about anyone’s fate. The gore effects are fine but minimal in their range. But hey, if nothing else at least it blatantly lifts the most infamous scene from Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho novel in all of its acid and rodent-filled glory.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Trailer, reversible cover art]
Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) has been a very bad man, and he’s about to pay the price for murdering numerous families ‐ he’s about to be executed. He has a secret though, and when the electric chair switch is thrown Pinker becomes an electric madman capable of moving through electrical outlets and television programs. The only man who can stop him is someone with an odd connection. Wes Craven’s stab at creating a new serial killer franchise failed to catch on at the time of its release, but there’s fun to be had here. It’s goofy ‐ more Elm Street 3 than Elm Street 1 ‐ and Pileggi has a great time hamming it up as Pinker, but that sense of humor plays havoc with the films attempts at terror. Craven’s script also has some fun criticizing our obsession with TV culture which adds an entertaining layer to the mayhem. Fans of the film will be pleased with Scream Factory’s release which delivers a vibrant picture alongside some great new special features.
Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurette, trailer, gallery
Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season
Dean and Sam Winchester continue their epic quest to find and eradicate the monsters roaming the Earth, but that journey has come at a cost. Angels and demons have joined the fray bringing the brothers up to and beyond the point of death itself, and recent revelations suggest Earthbound troubles may pale in comparison to what’s happening in Heaven itself. The CW’s longest-running show (probably) remains one of its more entertaining even as the fun “monster of the week” formula is steadily replaced by it ongoing long-form narrative. That bigger story has its own appeal, but as with the series this one owes a large debt to (The X-Files) I’ll always be a bigger fan of the various one-off monsters and mysteries.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, gag reel]
Angst, Beyond the Mask, Love at First Fight, Paper Planes
Related Topics: DC Comics