Saturday, March 28, 2020




It is certainly a strange age we're living  through right now, with this plague upon us we've had to alter our lives to some degree or another. Like myself I am sure a lot of you are locked away in your homes and watching a lot of TV and movies while we observe "social distancing". To those of you keeping away from the masses and doing what needs to be done to do to keep this thing as controlled as we can I say to you - keep it up! Stay strong, avoid going out if you can, and binge all those TV series you've fallen behind with, watch a bunch of shitty movies, and maybe dig out those dusty old board games from the family room closet. I now find myself working from home for the first time ever, and I totally dig it, but I am anti-social anyway. I think I am actually way more productive when I have one of my favorite films on in the background, or listening to podcast, while I tap out reports on the keyboard, something I unfortunately  cannot do at work usually. I do wish each and everyone one of you the best, please stay safe, don't overreact and use common sense. Stay sanitized, keep away from public gatherings, and if you're one of those "essential employees" that cannot escape working in public spaces or among others I salute you. Thank you for everything that you do, whether your'e in the medical field, food service, working in any sort of store, I want you to know that I appreciate that you're out there doing what you do, now go watch some movies!


ULTRAMAN ORB: THE ORIGIN SAGA (2016-2017) the 12-episode series lands on a 2-disc Blu-ray set containing the bonus episode Ultra Fight Orb (30 min), which is the only extra on the set. The episodes are presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo with optional English subtitles, we also get a slipcover and a digital code for the series on the movieSPREE streaming service. While I love the aesthetic of the vintage Ultraman series these contemporary incarnations feel a bit too much like the 90's Power Rangers series for my tastes. The story this time around involves a pair of planets at war with each other in distant outer space,  there's a princess with a psychic-link to an Earth scientist, a quest for the power of light, and a bad-guy who thinks he can solve all the problems of the cosmos by eliminating free will. The plot is actually quite intricate but the visuals just don't appeal to me the same way as the vintage series does, I am the same way with comics books when I was younger, even if I dug the story if I couldn't get into the artwork it's a non-starter, but if you're a fan of these more recent series this should be pleasing. (Mill Creek Entertainment)  

THE NINES (2006)  stars Ryan Renyolds (Dead Pool) a few years before he was a huge deal, just a year after Waiting... (2005). It starts with Reynolds as a fading TV star on an ill-advised crack-spree, during which he accidentally burns down his house and wrecks his car. In the aftermath he's placed under house arrest under the watchful eye of his publicist played by Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids), who is so dang cute here. Not long after he meets his lonely neighbor (Hope Davis, American Splendor) and they begin a fling of sorts. Things seem to be going alright for him but he begins noticing the number nine popping up in all facets of his daily life, and he's hearing voices. The ambitious film is a three-part story with each act featuring Reynolds as a different character, we see him again as a struggling TV screenwriter trying to get a TV pilot made, and again as a famous video game creator stranded with his wife and kid on a winding mountain road. Both Davis and McCarthy show up playing different characters n each segment, each time feuding with each other, all of it somehow intertwined. When all is revealed I have to say I was not all that impressed, it's the sort of film that's aiming for the distant stars but only ends up landing on the moon, but I can enjoy an ambitious failure to a deghree, and so I did this film. Reynolds, not surprisingly, is charming and  charismatic, plus the supporting cast is outstanding with appearances from Elle Fanning (Neon Demon), Octavia Spenser (Ma) and David Denman (Brightburn). The 1080p widescreen presentation like the film itself is just alright but not stellar, it's definitely not anything to write home about and there are no extras, but at least you can pick it up on the cheap. (Mill Creek Entertainment)

GHOST KILLERS VS BLOODY MARY (2018) is Brazilian indie splatter-comedy that was a ton of fun. It might be a bit long in the tooth for a comedy but the humor and gore FX throughout were highly enjoyable. In it we have a group of amateur ghost hunters, going by the name Ghoul Hunters with a logo that is very similar to a very famous 80's ghost-hunting team, hired by a desperate highschool principle to battle the supernatural entity that has beset his school. It's a fun premise and it's well-executed with some very cool practical FX, fans of the early films of Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and Peter Jackson (Bad Taste) are sure to appreciate the kindred spirit of it. The film is presented in scope widescreen with  Portuguese audio and English subtitles, no extras. (Dark Sky Entertainment)
INFECTION (2019) is another foreign indie flick being distributed by Dark Sky Films, this one about an outbreak of a new strain of rabies in Valenzuela. It's not a film that offers anything new to the genre, if you've seen The Crazies, 28 Days Later or [REC.] you have seen it all before and you've seen it done better, though I do give credit to the first-time director, while it lacks originality it has scope, suspense and some decent looking rage-zombies, in addition to a emotional core that never keeps things focused and entertaining. (Dark Sky Films)

BONES (2001) starring rapper Snoop Dogg as a 70's ghetto-gangster murdered by a corrupt cop and a rival gangster when he refuses to allow drugs to be peddled in his neighborhood. He's accidentally resurrected decades later when a music promoter opens a nightclub in the supernatural gangsters former headquarters.  Directed by Ernest Dickerson (Demon Knight) the urban nightmare is not without it's charms, channeling a bit of Candyman, Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Snoop Dogg as the spirit back to have his revenge on those who betrayed him looks to be having fun. The ace up it's sleeve though is bringing in bad-ass blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier (Coffy) as Bones former lover whii is also a psychic, I will watch just about anything she appears in. The tongue-in-cheek humor and old school Gothic visuals are fantastic, even if the early 00's digital FX are terribly dated. This is not a Collector's Edition but Scream Factory have packed this release with a wealth of new and archival extras that make this an attractive release even if you're only mildly into the film itself. (Scream Factory) 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

FIT TO KILL (1993) (Mill Creek Entertainment Blu-ray Review)

FIT TO KILL (1993) 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 94 Minutes 
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Andy Sidaris
Cast: Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, Geoffrey Moore, Bruce Penhall,Tony Peck, Cynthia Brimhall, Rodrigo Obregón, Michael J. Shane, Ava Cadell, Skip Ward, Chu Chu Malave, Richard Cansino, Carolyn Liu, Brett Baxter Clark

Fit To Kill (1993) is the eighth titty-filled film in a series of tongue-in-cheek action-fantasies from horn-dog director Andy Sidaris. At the start of the film we find the bikini-clad L.E.T.H.A.L. agents Donna (Dona Speir, Dragnet) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez, Picasso Trigger) splashing around beneath a waterfall, then spinning on a dime into a

training exercise with their male counterparts, and surprisingly that is not a euphemism for sex. Something I noticed right away with this film is that brings back the use of remote-controlled vehicles, which were conspicuously absent from Hard Hunted (1992). The R/C stuff has long been a bit of a trademark of the director, and he really crams as many as he can into this one. We get a remote-controlled car, a motorcycle, and there's even an R/C helicopter aerial dog fight!  

Being a direct sequel to Hard Hunted (1992) we see the return of bad-guy Kane (Geoffrey Moore, Fire, Ice & Dynamite), still playing the villain with a bit of his father's 007 style, there's even a strange fantasy sequence that looks like a promo-shoot for a Bond film. 
The plot this time is more of the same, the bad-ass L.E.T.H.A.L. cuties must prevent Kane from stealing an infamous Russian jewel from an Asian crooked businessman named Chang (Aki Aleong, Kuffs). Chang's holding a big gala event to present the jewel back to a Russians diplomat played by Sidaris regular Rodrigo Obregón (Hard Hunted). Also back are the bumbling hitmen Chu Chi Malave (Mausoleum) and Richard Cansino
 (Hard Hunted) as the typically goofy codenamed Evel and Kenevil, fucking things up in the usual explosive way.

Notably this was the last of the Sidaris  films to star longtime headliners, and former Playboy Playmates, Dona Speir and Roberta Vasquez as the sexy L.E.T.H.A.L. agents Donna and Nicole, and they will be missed, I have grown quite fond of them. While they were on their this film marked the introduction of Penthouse Pet Julie Strain (Enemy Gold) as the leggy Blu Steele, a fem-fatale who is memorably introduced doing sexy yoga-type stuff at the top of the Aladdin 
overlooking Las Vegas. 

Audio/Video: Fit To Kill (1993) arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment with a spiffy-looking 4k restoration prepared by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA). Like the previous restorations it's a good looking image with a healthy grain structure. Colors are vivid, and the skin tones looks natural throughout. The 1080p image is framed in 1.78:1 widescreen. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA  2.0 stereo audio that sounds good, it's clean and well-balanced with optional English Subtitles. 

All the extras are ported over from the previous special edition DVDs, we get an introduction for the film from director Andy Sidaris who is joined by the typically topless Julie Strain, plus we get an audio commentary from the director and his producer wife, plus 22-mins of Malibu Bay trailers. The accompanying 39-min behind-the-scenes featurette is great, it even features a clip from the Monster-vision TV program with Joe Bob Briggs, and we get a cool Easter Egg filled with nudity. Like the other films on the set this release also comes with a digital code of the film for Mill Creek Entertainment streaming service movieSPREE.

Special Features: 
- All new 4K transfer by the American Genre Film Archive
- Introduction by Director Andy Sidaris & Julie Strain (2 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Andy and Arlene Sidaris
- Malibu Bay Trailers: Hard Hunted, Hard Ticket To Hawaii, Malibu Express, Picasso Trigger, Return To Savage Beach, Savage Beach, The Dallas Connection, Day of the Warrior, Do Or Die, Enemy Gold, Fit To Kill, Guns (22 min) 
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (39 min) 
- Easter Egg (1 min) 

Fit To Kill (1993) might be bittersweet with the sexy leads leaving the series, but it's still a ton o' fun, we get the usual tongue-in-cheek humor, lots of goofy action and plenty of eye-candy. It's got all the stuff we've come to expect from the series and even a bit more. 

More Screenshots from th Blu-ray:

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

THE HAUNTING (1999) (Umbrella Entertainment Blu-ray Review)


Label: Umbrella Entertainment 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: M
Duration: 101 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jon De Bont
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Owen Wilson, Marian Seldes, Bruce Dern, Alix Koromzay, Todd Field, Virginia Madsen, Tom Irwin, Charles Gunning 

In this is the slick-looking remake Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963), both based on Shirley Jackson's novel "The Haunting of Hill House" (1959), college professor Dr. Marrow (Liam Neeson, Darkman) hosts three subjects - Theo (Catherine Zeta-Jones, High Fidelity), Nell (Lili Taylor, The Addiction) and Luke (Owen Wilson, The Royal Tenenbaums) - at the sprawling Hill House mansion, as part of a clinical study of insomnia. As the group settle in for the night Dr. Marrow reveals the tragic history of the mansion, a Victorian structure built by a 19th century textile tycoon named Hugh Crain who built it for his new wife and their future children. Before he was able to realize his dream of having children with his wife she hung herself, afterward the grieving Crain continued to build onto the mansion for years, becoming a recluse, with strange local rumors persisting about the goings-on at the house, including the eerie sounds of children coming from the property. 

Nell seems eerily attracted to the sprawling mansion, feeling as though she'd been there before, and certainly strange things begin happening soon enough, with Dr. Marrow's assistant Mary(Alix Koromzay, Mimicnearly losing an eye when a ghostly-wound string from a harpsichord whips her in the eye, having to be take away to the hospital by another assistant named Todd (Todd Fields, Eyes wide Shut).

Eventually the trio of insomniacs come to believe there's more afoot than insomnia research, and they're not wrong. Turns out that the doctor is studying the effects of fear, hence the strange haunted setting, but even the doctor is unprepared for the supernatural happenings they encounter inside Hill House as the dwelling begins to come to life around them, revealing the mansion's horrific secrets.

Visually this film is an absolute knockout, the sprawling Gothic mansion looks fantastic from top-to-bottom with the long eerie hallways, the intricate design of the interiors, the looming exteriors, all of which is wonderfully captured on film by cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub (Stargate). Adding to the eerie charm is a gorgeous score from Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen) that adds to the eerie charms.

Where the film is less engaging is the script, the casting, and the dated late-nineties digital effects. I am not sure why they decided that a sleep-study was the best way to get these characters together inside the mansion, the original film sets it up so simply with paranormal investigators looking to explore the supernatural. This remake goes with an overly convoluted sleep-study set-up, it seems to be a change for the sake of change, but certainly not an improvement. There's a few also too many characters that prove  to be inconsequential, beginning with the sister of Nell played by Virginia Madsen (Candyman) who comes and goes in a matter of minutes. Also there and gone are the doctor's assistants, and the properties caretakers, one of whom is played by Bruce Dern (The 'Burbs). Liam Neeson is a bit too stiff, while poor Owen Wilson has nothing do except wander the halls of the mansion looking lost. Catherine Zeta-Jones (High Fidelity) has never done much for me, here she has a vibe that brought to mind a less sarcastic version of Margot Kidder's "Barb" from Black Christmas (1974), a sexy, free-spirit who in the end doesn't have all that much to do. I did like Lili Taylor (The Addiction) as the grieving and fragile Nell, who is strangely drawn to the spirits within the mansion, she turns in the best performance of the bunch. 

There were precious few movies from the late-90's that were using digital FX on a large scale that hold up well and The Haunting is no different. While the original film was subtle and creepy this is full-tilt 90's movie making, not subtle at all, but with a few good creepy moments at least. The best stuff  is the smaller scares, like when we have ghostly cherubs surfing along the fabric of curtains and sheets, we saw a similar effect in Peter Jackson's The Frighteners (1996). The last fifteen minute of the film is the house quite literally coming alive and  the digital effects are all over the place, things definitely get a bit wonky with the CGI effects reaching beyond, this is the stuff that badly dates the film, when something a bit more subtle would have aged a bit better.

Audio/Video: The Haunting (1999) makes it worldwide Blu-ray debut from Umbrella Entertainment under license from Paramount Pictures, 
 it's a region-free disc even though it's labeled as region B. The film is presented in 1080p HD and framed in 2.35:1 widescreen, looking to be from an older scan of the film with some mild DNR having been applied, but I still found it to be a solid looking transfer. The source is in fantastic shape with no blemishes, the colors are pleasing, and black levels are strong throughout. Audio on the disc comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1, but sadly we get no subtitle options. The dialogue is delivered clean and crisp with the Jerry Goldsmith (Gremlins) score probably benefitting the most, it sounds great. There's plenty of low-end on this one with some excellent use of the surrounds, this is a very strong audio presentation.

No extras on this one, not even a trailer. The single-disc release comes housed in an oversized keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork, both sides featuring the same original poster only one option losing the unsightly ratings logo box on the front cover, which is always  appreciated.

The Haunting (1999) is only a pale reflection of the original but it at least offers some gorgeous Gothic visuals, grand set-design and a wonderful Jerry Goldsmith score. I thought the  supernatural elements were weak and the dated digital FX certainly hurt the overall impact, but all in all not bad for a glossy 90's ghost-story, but not great either.

More Screenshots from the Blu-ray.