Thursday, August 29, 2019

THE NEW KIDS (1985) (Retro-VHS Blu-ray review)

THE NEW KIDS (1985) 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Cast: James Spader, Lori Loughlin, Shannon Presby, Eric Stolz

Synopsis: Abby McWilliams' (Lori Loughlin, TV's Full House) nightmare begins when she attracts the unwanted attention of teenage psychopath Eddie Dutra (James Spader, TV's The Blacklist). Turned down for a date, Eddie destroys Abby's home, vandalizes her uncle's car and nearly stomps her brother to death. But it's only when he kidnaps Abby from the school dance, that Eddie shows his true feelings. Fueled by cocaine and armed with a shotgun, Eddie's lust turns to uncontrollable rage, as he takes Abby on a date from hell, in this terror-packed thrill-ride from the director of Friday the 13th

Nasty 80's gem The New Kids (1985) was directed by Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), the film concerns newly orphaned teen sibling Abby (Lori Loughlin, Amityville 3-D) and Loren McWilliams (Shannon Presley) whose parents were killed in an accident. After the funeral the siblings move to rural Florida to live with their uncle Charlie (Eddie Jones, C.H.U.D.) and aunt Fay (Lucy Martin), who run a small-time gas station/roadside attraction called Santa's Funland.

They settle into school there and things looks good at first, they easily make friends and Abby starts dating Mark (Eric Stoltz, The Fly II) and Loren begins dating the Sheriff's daughter Karen (Paige Lyn Price, Silent Madness). things begin to sour when Abby draws the unwanted attention of albino bad-boy Eddie Dutra (James Spader, Wolf), a drug-addicted teenager who is the leader of a group of redneck teen-delinquents, his underlings include Gideon (John Philbin, Return of the Living Dead), Moonie (David H. MacDonald, Joy of Sex), Gordo and Joe Bob.

The delinquents begin to make life hell for the siblings, vandalizing their uncle's amusement park, peeping Abby in the shower, and beating the snot out of Loren in the bathroom at school. This mischief culminates in a violent kidnap of Abby from the school dance, bringing the film to a violent and over-the-top finale that takes place at uncle Charlie amusement park where the teen thugs menace the sibling and their family with shotguns, the threat of immolation and a vicious bloodthirsty pit-bull. 

This film is a fun product of the eighties that has some nasty exploitation elements, starring the sweet-faced Lori Loughlin and the always reliable 80's teen-psycho James Spader, the latter appearing here as a pale bleached-blonde with a creepy but not all together authentic Southern drawl. The gang of teen bullies get more than they bargained for though, the sibling's late father (a too short lived Tom Atkins, Night of the Creeps) trained them in self-defense, so they're not about to sit back and take the abuse from the redneck bullies, resulting in some satisfying carnage, including a decapitation by a kiddie-sized rollercoaster ride!  

Audio/Video: The New Kids (1985) and has long been on my list of film in need of a Blu-ray upgrade, and we finally get it from budget-distributors Mill Creek Entertainment through their licensing agreement with Sony. The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in 1080p HD, the image is surprisingly strong, I was expecting serviceable from an older master, but this has the look of a newer HD scan, it's a solid upgrade in regard to clarity, colors and black levels, with a good looking grain levels throughout. I didn't detect much of any evidence of digital tinkering no compression artifacts, this should be very pleasing, especially for under ten bucks!  

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo track with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is always crisp and clean, and the score from Lalo Schifrin (Rollercoaster) sounds terrific, as do the cheesy 80's tunes from Bill Wray, Brock Walsh, Jess Harnell and Miriam Cutler. 

Unfortunately there are no extras on the disc, which is a shame, this is a film with an interesting pedigree both behind and in front of the camera, if this had been in the hands of a different distributor there could have been some interesting extras. As it is we get a static menu with the option to watch with or without subtitles. Another distributor giving this an extras-laden release at a later date is not out of the realm of possibility, both Mill Creek Entertainment and Scream Factory have released Blu-rays of hag-sploitation classic Strait-Jacket (1964)and the sci-fi slasher Brainscan (1994), so it might happen, with someone Scream Factory packing on the desirable extras.

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard issue Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the same artwork as the previous DVD release, plus a Retro VHS slipcover featuring the original illustrated movie poster artwork, the disc artwork is an excerpt of the illustrated slipcover. 

The New Kids (1985) is a entertaining slice of highschool teen exploitation, it's a bit uneven as far as tone goes, but I enjoy the trajectory from new kids at school drama to full-on nasty revenger at the end.


GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS (2019) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 132 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widesceen (2.40:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Atmos 7.1, English, Latin Spanish, Canadian French, Brazilian Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, Millie Bobby Brown, Bradley Whitford, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson Jr., David Strathairn, Ken Watanabe, Ziyi Zhang

Synopsis: The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) picks-up five years after the events of Gareth Edward's Godzilla (2014), the planet is now aware that Titans exist, and the crypto-zoological organization Monarch has been locating, quarantining and examining these titanic creatures as they've located them hibernating around the globe. This time around we're given a new set of characters to follow, we have paleobiologist Dr. Emma 
Russell (Vera Farmiga, TV's Bates Motel) working for Monarch, along with her teen daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown, Netflix's Stranger Things). She's been working on a device called the Orca which can transmit frequencies that could potentially attract or alter Titan behavior, which we get to see in action when she uses it to calm down a new winged-Titan dubbed Mothra, which has been kept hidden away in a South American Monarch base located inside an ancient Yunnan Temple. At the start of the film Dr. Russell and Madison are then kidnapped by an eco-terrorist organization lead by Alan Jonah (Charles Dance, HBO's Game of Thrones),a  former British MI-6 agent who believes the only way to save the Earth from destruction at the hands of humans is to unleash all the Titans, which would cause worldwide destruction and re-balance the natural order. 

Dr. Russell's ex-husband Dr. Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler, Super 8) reluctantly re-teams with Monarch to recover his former wife and daughter, though he feels that all the Titans should be exterminated, not protected, as his son Andrew perished during the final battle from the first film. The terrorist succeed in unleashing the Titans, these include the Godzilla ally Mothra, and his enemies, the volcanic fire-bird Rodan and the three-headed dragon Ghidorah a.k.a. "Monster Zero", with the film culminating in a battle for Titan supremacy between Godzilla and his arch-nemesis Ghidorah. 

This film delivers on the Titan carnage in a way that I think surpasses Godzilla (2014), it's almost overwhelming the amount of giant-sized carnage we get with this entry, and I am alright with that, because I felt we didn't get enough carnage in the first film. The fact that we get three more legendary Toho-Titans should be enough to please fans of the long-running monster series, and I dig the creature design updates, which is a big bonus, as I was not a fan of the MUTOS from Godzilla (2014), I found those angular designs lacking.

The weakest part of the film for me are the human characters, sure it grounds the action to a degree but it just gets in the way of the Titan action in my opinion, with characters that only serve to drop unnecessary exposition, though having someone of the caliber of Bradley Whitford (Get Out) dropping quips does give the film a campy, tongue-in-cheek charm that I didn't mind. Both David Strathairn (L.A. Confidential) and Ken Watanabe (Inception) reprise their roles from he first film, with Watanabe at least getting a bit of substance, briefly exploring Godzilla's Atlantean undersea lair before nuking it! Even the main characters, the Russell family, don't have all that much to do, and what they actually get around to doing isn't all that important, their all plot machinations to get us to the royal monster rumbles, delivering expository dialogue dumps and emotional support when needed, and then falling to the wayside. Another bit of an issue for me is that there are too many characters crowding the film, it wasn't until after I watched the film several times that I realized Zhang Ziyi (House of Flying Daggers) actually played two different characters in the movie. She plays twin sisters Dr. Ilene Chen and Dr. Ling Chen, both working for Monarch at different facilities, but because we bounce around so much from facility to facility I lost track of where we were and who was who. They're supposed to be descendants of the Mothra fairy twins, but they're more an Easter Egg for vintage Toho fans than an actual thing in this film, possibly setting something up for later entries in this Monsterverse. 

That human element aside the film delivers big-time on the carnage and mayhem, the scale of this sucker is epic, with big set-pieces and plenty of non-stop big-monster action,  as a fan of the classic Toho films, this film delivers the most fulfilling American Godzilla film we have had to date.   

Audio/Video: Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. looking gorgeous, every frame is lush and nicely detailed, framed in 2.40:1 widescreen. The image is a bit desaturated at times by design but there are splashes of color that wow with deep black levels and a pleasing amount of shadow detail throughout. I imagine the 4K UltraHD release of this is even more stunning, I might have to upgrade at some point.

Audio comes by way of a robust Dolby Atmos track with a DolbyTrueHD 7.1 core, that really sent a rumble through the house with exciting surround activity during the epic battle sequences. The score from Bear McCreary (10 Cloverfield Lane) gives the film plenty of thematic support when called upon, optional English subtitles are provided. 

We get a bunch of extras on this one, multi-part featuretes exploring the evolution f the titans, the various set pieces, the tech of the Monarch organization, a Millie Bobby Brown featurette, a look at the mythology of monsters, a look at this Monstereverse, deleted scenes and an audio commentary with the director, writer and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr. which gets into the nitty-gritty of the making of the film, pointing out Easter Eggs and touching on scenes that didn't make the final cut. For a new film the extras here are pretty great, well above what we usually see for such a recent film, which I appreciated. 

The 2-disc Blu-ray+DVD+Digital combo arrives in a standard dual-hub Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, which is mirrored on the accompanying slipcase.  Inside there's a Movies Anywhere HD digital redemption code for the film with the same set of extras, which s cool. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by Director Michael Dougherty, screenwriter Zach Shields and and actor O’Shea Jackson Jr.
- Monsters 101 4-Part Featurette: Godzilla: Nature's Fearsome Guardian  (1 min), Mothra: Queen of the Monsters (2 min), King Ghidorah: The Living Extinction Machine (2 min), Rodan: Airborne God of Fire (1 min)
- Evolution of the Titans 4-Part Featurette: Godzilla 2.0 (9 min), Making Morthra (7 min), Creating Ghidorah (2 min), Re-imagining Rodan (5 min)
- Monarch in Action 5-Part Featurette: The Yunnan Temple (7 min), Castle Bravo (6 min), The Antarctic Base (6 min), The Isla de Mara Volcano (6 min), The Undersea Lair (7 min)
- Millie Bobby Brown: Force of Nature (4 min) 
- Monster Tech: Monarch Joins the Fight (8 min) 
- Monsters Are Real (14 min) 
- Welcome to the Monsterverse (4 min) 
- Deleted Scenes (5 min) 
- Warner Bros. Trailers: Detective Pikachu (3 min), Doctor Sleep (3 min)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters Theatrical Trailers: Life (2 min), Supremacy (2 min), Over the Rainbow (2 min), Wonder Rumble (5 min)

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) on the whole delivered what I was looking for in a Godzilla film, we get plenty of epic titan carnage, cool creature designs, and visually stunning scenes of mass destruction. Sure, it is overstuffed with overly dramatic, often needless, human characters that slow the film down a bit but at the end of the day the mass scale destruction and titan-sized monster carnage left me with a big ol' smile on my face, so this gets a big recommend from me!