Aug 092013
 
Well, I didn't plan it that way, but I didn't update my DVD Late Show website in either June nor July. Heck, before this week I hadn't posted a new review since early May. Sure, I had reasons why DVD reviewing had to be pushed to the back-burner - May and June were devoted to finishing up some overdue comics scripts, and July was mostly just too damned hot to write - but I hate that the site was neglected for so long (again). I may not have a lot of readers, but I owe them better than that.

Anyway, this week, I've gotten back to it, and have posted reviews of Warner's new Charlie Chan Collection, Anchor Bay's Solomon Kane Blu-ray, and the Bomba The Jungle Boy collection from Warner Archive (all of which I've mentioned here at one time or another).

Later today, I hope to have a review of Synapse Films' terrific Hands Of The Ripper Blu-ray/DVD combo... and maybe one more.

I'm going to try and keep making regular updates for a while - I have a lot of discs on my desk to review. Stuff like the Adventures of Superboy - Season Three, Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming, The Beasts Are On The Streets, The Name Of The Game Is...Kill!, Captain Caveman - The Complete Series, Hangar 18, Fortress and Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan on Blu-ray... plus a whole lot more. Stay tuned!
Jun 202013
 
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I love goofy action movies (particularly those of the 80s and early 90s), and that a few months ago, I was particularly looking forward to Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand and Jason Statham's Parker. Well, last month, I picked up the Blu-ray editions of both of those films, and wanted to just post a few thoughts here.

I pretty much loved The Last Stand. Yes, the story defies logic, but 1.) so what? and 2.) I really don't care when it's this much fun. I thought Arnold was great in his role of small-town sheriff, mentoring a small crew of deputies, and while the real action doesn't kick in until the third act, it's well-staged and executed by director Kim Jee-Woon, his stunt team, and the aging Arnold. The rest of the cast was adequate (I almost always enjoy Luis Guzman, and he's got a fun gag with Arnold's Conan sword), and I thought that actress Jaimie Alexander (Sif from Thor) was particularly good.

As for Parker, well, it turned out pretty much as I expected. It was an okay Jason Statham action flick and a poor adaptation of Donald "Richard Stark" Westlake's literary antihero. The filmmakers made the same mistake that nearly everyone has in adapting the character to film: they made him too human. The character in Westlake's novels is almost a machine, an unemotional, taciturn professional criminal with laserlike focus on the job at hand, whether it's a heist or revenge against someone who's wronged him. Here, they have the character verbalize (at least twice!) a "code of honor" that is both nonsensical and completely out of character. Too bad.

Statham does a professional job with what he's given, and I can't blame him for the mis-characterization. No, that falls fully on the script by John J. McLaughlin and the pedestrian direction of Taylor Hackford. Surprisingly, I thought Jennifer Lopez was pretty good.

Anyway, the movie has its moments, and I don't hate it, but it is a disappointment. Maybe they'll get it right next time.
Apr 092013
 
After a couple of months laying fallow, the DVD Late Show review site roars back to life this week, with a slew of new articles - and a new Blu-ray Giveaway!

I don't really have a good excuse for the two month+ hiatus - it was mostly the result of seasonal depression and creative burnout, I think - but I'm back to work, and hope to both catch up with some of the genre DVDs and Blu-rays that have piled up on my desk and stay current with new releases.

Monday saw reviews of the new Shout! Factory/Scream Factory Blu-ray edition of Stuart Gordon's 80s horror classic From Beyond, and the Blue Underground DVD release of the 1972 Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western, The Grand Duel. Today, I plan to post reviews of Westworld and Gorgo on Blu-ray and the Warner Archive MOD release of the 1974 Wonder Woman television pilot, starring Cathy Lee Crosby as the star-spangled Amazon.

Also on the way are reviews of the Westworld sequel, Futureworld, recently released on Blu-ray, VCI Entertainment's two-volume Creepy Creature Double Features and Overtime, and more. Stay tuned!
Jul 312012
 
Yeah, I know. I was laid up for much of July and that really knocked my schedule and plans all out of whack. Anyway, I'm posting reviews again over at DVD Late Show, and I'd really appreciate it if you clicked over there and took a look. So far this week, I've posted reviews of 1978 The Invisible Man television series DVDs and the incredible Twins Of Evil Blu-ray from Synapse Films.

I'm hoping to get a couple more TV series DVD reviews posted this week (Harry O and Federal Men), along with coverage of a bunch of recent Asylum flicks, and posts on several new cult film Blu-ray releases, including the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Barbarella, Outland, and Robert Rodriguez' The Faculty. Stay tuned... and wish me luck!
Jun 282012
 
My wife recently bought us an inexpensive Phillips DVD player that will play multi-region discs. As movie buffs, it had frustrated us for some time that some of the films we wanted were available in other parts of the world, but not in the U.S.  Films like Solomon Kane, for example.Of course, while the Internet and a credit card makes ordering products from overseas a simple as a click of the mouse, we've already discovered a few small hazards of International purchases. On the plus side, so far we've found exceptionally reasonable prices for many of the DVDs we want. Even with shipping, they've been cheaper than I would expect to pay for a comparable domestic product. But, on the minus side, many online retailers (including giants like Amazon UK) are infuriatingly vague in regard to such details as what aspect ratio the films are are presented, what language they're in, and whether they've been enhanced for 16x9 widescreen displays.

Anyway, I digress. As may be obvious from my posts here of late, I've been in a mood for 80s-early 90s-stye action films. One that I've really been wanting to see again is the 1986 Cannon Films flick, Avenging Force, starring the guys from American Ninja (another favorite), Michael Dudikoff and the late, great Steve James. Unfortunately, the movie has never been released on DVD in U.S.  Fortunately, it was released in England, and an affordable copy was available for me to order through Amazon UK, and it showed up here in Maine today.  I was a little disappointed to discover that it isn't in widescreen (damn those vague product descriptions, anyway!), but what the hell. It's better than nothing - and certainly better than paying twice as much for an old, worn-out VHS tape.

Watched it this evening. It was the first time I'd seen Avenging Force since I caught it in the 80s on one of the Pay-cable television stations. It's fun - Dudikoff and James had good chemistry here and in the American Ninja flicks they did together, and the direction by Cannon mainstay Sam Firstenberg is competent and professional. It has some decent action scenes, and great, picturesque New Orleans/Louisiana bayou locations. The final sequences, set in a very scary swamp during a rainstorm, were very well staged, especially for a Firstenberg flick.

Coincidentally, the New Orleans locations and Most Dangerous Game story element of rich and powerful men hunting human beings for sport prefigure similar elements in John Woo's 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, Hard Target. At least, I assume it's coincidental.

Surprisingly, Avenging Force has a notably different tone from the other Cannon action films of the time, as the villains aren't foreign terrorists or Russkies, but a domestic right wing supremacist group. The ending is odd, too - quite blatantly leaving the door open for a sequel (or series).

Interestingly, Dudikoff's character has the same name ("Matt Hunter") as Chuck Norris' character in Invasion U.S.A., made by the same studio the year before - although he's quite differently written in Force than he was in Invasion. I wonder if Cannon was toying with creating another in-house franchise...?
Jun 192012
 

For three years, I patiently waited for an American distributor to pick it up. Never happened. And, despite the temptation, I even virtuously avoided illegal downloads and unauthorized YouTube vids -- but -- I could wait no longer! Once Brandi told me she'd bought us a multi-region DVD player, I scooted over to Amazon UK and ordered a Region 2 PAL DVD of 2009's Solomon Kane, based on the character created by Robert E. Howard.

Even with shipping, it only cost me five and a half bucks, American.

The disc arrived today, and I watched it this evening with Brandi.

Although not strictly faithful to the Word, Solomon Kane nonetheless captures the spirit of the Bob Howard pulp stories in a way that no other REH adaptation has yet approached. The screenplay is a bit too Hollywood boilerplate - and, thus, predictable - but the film as a whole rises above its script's over-familiar conventions and is, ultimately, a superior entertainment. Production design, casting, photography and musical score are well above par.

James Purefoy is note-perfect as the dour Puritan swordsman, and director Michael Bassett keeps the film moving at a fair clip while still allowing the characters time to earn the audience's sympathy/empathy. Also notable is the terrific musical score by Klaus Badelt and the gorgeous cinematography by Dan Lausten.

As for the special effects, yeah, there are a few dodgy CGI bits in the beginning and some cartoon demons in there, but it is a sword & sorcery saga, after all. I've heard more than a few complaints about the end of the film, but it mostly worked for me. Compared to every big budget Hollywood fantasy film I've seen in the last 5+ years, the climactic scene of Solomon Kane was positively restrained in its use of CGI; it was hardly the sort of pixelated overkill/cartoon orgy that's become de rigueur these days.

It's not Van Helsing. It's not Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. It's a very modern, surprisingly mainstream special effects adventure film, and I cannot fathom why it hasn't garnered an official U.S. release. If the suits considered it too dark, or the character too obscure, or Purefoy too unknown  for wide theatrical distribution, I sorta get it. But it doesn't explain why it hasn't shown up on SyFy or on DVD.  I'm sure there's some good reason for it, but it's a mystery  to me.

In short, though Solomon Kane is not a perfect film, nor a literal adaptation of Howard's prose, I loved the movie. Best sword & sorcery flick I've seen in ages, and far better than the most recent Conan film.

I suspect the gentleman from Cross Plains would have gotten a kick out of it, too.
Jun 022012
 
Well, a full 15 years after it came out, I finally got to see the Mark Dacascos action film, Drive (not to be confused with the more recent Ryan Gosling film of the same title). Standard B-movie plot and acting, but the best Hong Kong-styled action and fight scenes I've ever seen in a U.S. film. Terrific stuntwork and Dacascos is friggin' amazing!

The 1997 movie was directed by Steve Wang (Kung Fu Rascals, Guyver), and co-starred  Kadeem Hardison and the late Brittany Murphy. I can't say I was a fan of Murphy's, but she's just delightful in this movie. Villain John Pyper-Ferguson (who, interestingly, was in the 2011 Drive, as well, although Brandi and I know him from The Adventures Of Brisco County), makes a great heavy and has most of the best lines.

Too bad the U.S. DVD is cut by 10 minutes and presented in the wrong aspect ratio. We're finally getting a Region-Free DVD player, so maybe I'll save up and order the uncut UK version (which also has different music, I understand) one of these days.

ADDENDUM: I just ordered the Region 2 widescreen version from Amazon UK for less than $10 American - shipping included! Cool!
Apr 032012
 
Yeah, I'm plugging my DVD Late Show review site again. And I won't stop plugging it until the traffic on that site equals the readership here. Frankly, if you read my self-indulgent, obsessive pop culture crap here at Atomic Pulp, you'll almost certainly enjoy reading my DVD and Blu-ray reviews, so you should definitely be checking out DVD Late Show regularly anyway.

Well, since my last update here, I've posted reviews of the documentary Corman's World, chronicling the career of maverick B-movie mogul Roger Corman; the 1954 "techno-thriller" Gog; the 1942 wartime adventure serial, Don Winslow of The Coast Guard; and the made for SyFy channel creature feature, Camel Spiders. On deck for tomorrow is the 1985 revenge flick, Thou Shalt Not Kill... Except, with more reviews coming later in the week.

Check 'em out!
Mar 152012
 
I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but what was intended to be a two-week break at the end of December for the holidays somehow grew into an unplanned 3-month hiatus at my DVD Late Show site. For some reason, time just kept slipping away from me, discs kept piling up, and I simply couldn't muster the energy or focus to write up reviews.

Well, whatever the hell was wrong with me, I seem to have gotten over it at last. Today I posted two new reviews at DVD Late Show - Apollo 18 and Sugar Hill - and intend to get at least one more online before the end of the day, with two more to be posted tomorrow. In order to catch up, I'll be mixing discs that came out over the last three months or so with new releases and advance reviews over the next few weeks and will try like hell to update the site at least twice a week.

Among the many titles you can look forward to seeing reviewed on the site in the next few weeks are 2-Headed Shark Attack, Captain Power And The Soldiers Of the Future - The Complete Series, Zaat!,The Dead, Godzilla (The Criterion Edition), Cleopatra Jones And The Casino Of Gold, The Slams, Corman's World, Chillerama, Zombie Apocalypse, Gog, Doctor Blood's Coffin, Camel Spiders and Zone Troopers....

Stay tuned!
Feb 192012
 
After ordering the 50's Mike Hammer show the other night, I didn't plan to buy any more DVDs for at least a week or two. That was before going household shopping with Brandi last night and finding the complete, 3-season, 117-episode Lee Marvin series M Squad (1957-60) on sale new for only twenty bucks ($100 off the SRP) at our local warehouse store.

From long and sad experience, I knew that if I passed it up then, I would never find it that cheap again, so... yep, I bought it - with Brandi's blessing. I'm a lucky guy that way.

So far, I've watched a half-dozen episodes, and while I'm really enjoying the show, with its jazzy musical score and Marvin's tough-as-nails portrayal of Chicago Police Detective Lt. Frank Ballinger, it is a little distracting how obvious it is that M Squad was the template that the 70's spoof Police Squad was based on. In fact, the opening scenes of the first episode are nigh-identical to the beginning of the first episode of Police Squad. Marvin's character (and voice-over narration) are also very clearly the model for Leslie Nielsen's Lieutenant Frank Drebin.

Picture and audio quality aren't that great (another reason to be grateful for the low price I paid) and vary from episode to episode, but frankly, I think we're lucky that the show survives at all. 

Apparently, while Universal licensed the show out for DVD to Timeless Media, they didn't provide the company with any source prints, so the company had to use beat-up 16mm syndication prints that had been in circulation since the 50s. And even then, they were only able to get their hands on 100 of the 117 episodes, so they actually put a call out to private collectors in order to get copies of the 17 remaining shows.

It's great stuff. When my Mike Hammer discs show up, I'll have to start alternating between shows for some serious 50s crime overload!

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